The 2012 San Francisco Giants rank just above the middle of the National League in hitting, finishing seventh in team OPS (Reds were sixth). Keep in mind the Giants’ home field is severely favorable to pitchers, while the Reds play their games in a Little League park. Nonetheless, San Francisco hit more home scored more runs this season than the Reds. They were also 4th in the NL in stolen bases (Reds were 14th). The Giants have ways to win this season other than pitching arms.

[The Reds hit the fewest home runs of any team in baseball in the months of September/October. The Washington Harpers hit 53, your Reds hit all of 22. Wonderful.]

While it isn’t exactly your grandfather’s Giants teams (Mays, McCovey, Cepeda), the 2012 group has plenty of pop.

Through August 15, Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera was leading the league in batting average (.346) when he tested positive for testosterone. With Ryan Braun’s miracle cup apparently unavailable, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games, essentially ending his season. Yet, San Francisco has shown decent resilience playing without him. A couple weeks ago, Cabrera voluntarily removed himself from consideration for the batting title. While this bought him some goodwill with Giants fans and did clear the way for one of his teammates to win the title, no one  will mistake Cabrera for Tony Bennett at the Venetian.

Here is the Cabrera-free lineup that manager Bruce Bochy will probably send on the field Saturday night against Johnny Cueto:

Angel Pagan (S) CF – .288/.338/.440
Marco Scutaro (R) 2B – .362/.408/.549
Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B – .283/.342/.447
Buster Posey (R) C – .336/.408/.549
Hunter Pence (R) RF – .219/.287/.354
Brandon Belt (L) 1B – .275/.360/.421
Xavier Nady (R) LF – .240/.333/.400
Brandon Crawford (L) SS – .248/.304/.349

Angel Pagan (31) leads San Francisco in runs scored (95) and stolen bases (29). Pagan also hit a remarkable 15 triples this year, aided by the cavernous power alleys at AT&T Park. He’s a switch-hitter whose best side (.296/.351/.448) is vs. RHP. In particular, Pagan is 4 for 7 against Cueto. Not that you should give any weight to past hitter-pitcher matchups.

[Dave Cameron at Fangraphs summarizes the research on the predictive value of past hitter-pitcher matchups: “Batter/Pitcher match-up data has been shown to have no predictive value. In The Book, Tango, Lichtman and Dolphin devote an entire chapter to looking for evidence that previous results of specific batter/pitcher match-ups would predict future results in those same match-ups. It wasn’t there. Despite looking at the 30 most extreme examples of matched-pairs where the batter had dominated the pitcher over a three-year period, the group was barely better than average in the fourth season against those same pitchers. When looking at the flip side, where pitchers had dominated the hitters, the results were the same. Most interesting is that there was little difference in actual future performance by the 30 hitters who had dominated their rivals versus those who had been dominated by opposing pitchers. Even at the extremes, specific batter/pitcher data showed no real usefulness in projecting future results.” Rest assured that despite the overwhelming research, Dusty Baker will use this meaningless data to determine the postseason roster, the starting nine, the batting order and pinch hitters, like it’s the word of Hank Aaron.] 

Marco Scutaro (36) was acquired from the Rockies at the end of July and he’s hit well in his two months with San Francisco, ending the season with an 18-game hitting streak. Scutaro is credited with having a major impact on the Giants, providing “reliable defense and timely hitting,” and more than earning the $2.1 million in salary the Giants picked up in the trade. The Giants are Scutaro’s eighth major league franchise and he also played for the Venezualan team in the World Baseball Classic. Scutaro was once featured in the documentary A Player to Be Named Later. True story.

As a switch hitter, Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval (26) has a higher average against LHP, but more power vs. RHP (.275/.344/.465). You probably saw the video of the acrobatic catch the Panda made during the Giants division-clinching game against the Padres. He fell into the third base dugout catching a pop-up off the bat of Yonder Alonso – all while blowing a bubble. The multi-talented Sandoval also has a unique handshake for every Giants teammate.

Catcher Buster Posey (25) is a frontrunner to win the NL-MVP award. His .336 average was good enough to win the league batting title (JoeyMVP hit .337 but sadly, lacked enough plate appearances to be eligible). Posey was the first San Francisco player to lead the league in hitting since Barry Bonds* in 2004. After being named NL-Rookie of the year in 2010, Posey missed most of 2011 after suffering a gruesome broken ankle from a collision while blocking home plate (story/pictures, video).

Hunter Pence (29) was traded to the Giants from the Phillies at the trade deadline. Pence hasn’t hit very well for San Francisco, with a .219 batting average. But he does have a boatload of RBI, mostly due to the opportunities created by hitting behind Posey. Pence realizes the connection, “They’re walking Posey a lot with runners on base,” Pence said. “One reason I’m getting all those opportunities is because they’re walking him.” His manager, Bruce Bochy, takes the paleolithic view: “Average is overrated to me,” Bochy said. “I like damage and driving in runs. That’s how you win ballgames.” Pence is the only member of the Giants with more than 10 PA against Cueto (Pence has 30).

Brandon Belt (24) is the Giants’ top rookie position player. Like Drew Stubbs, he played college ball for the University of Texas. Belt has seen regular playing time the past four months and hit particularly well in August and September. Belt usually plays first base but may start in LF in Game Three if/when Tim Lincecum pitches. Lincecum and catcher, Buster Posey haven’t seen eye-to-eye this season, so Posey moves from behind the plate to first base when the two-time Cy Young winner is on the mound. Because Belt is hitting too well to bench, he moves from first to left field. And Belt’s nickname is “Baby Giraffe.” You know what they say about men with long necks.

[According to the fountain of questionable wisdom that is Wikipedia, the main theory for why giraffes have such long necks is known as the sexual selection hypothesis, which proposes that the long necks evolved as a secondary sexual characteristic, giving males an advantage in “necking” contests to establish dominance and obtain access to sexually receptive females. However, one objection is that it fails to explain why female giraffes also have long necks.]

Xavier Nady (33) started 2012 playing for the Washington Harpers. The Giants picked him up on September 1 and his 53 PA for San Francisco have been fairly underwhelming. Nady may share time in the outfield with speedster Gregor Blanco (L). Nady does have a home run in one of his few AB vs. Cueto, (which you know, if you’ve been reading carefully, could not be more meaningless).

Brandon Crawford (25) is a standard good-field/no-hit shortstop. Bochy and the Bay area press are talking Crawford up as a potential Gold Glove winner. Crawford has hit better (.260/.327/.370) since the All-Star break. Compare those numbers to what Zack Cozart (.238/.272/.385) has produced over that time.

In summary, the Giants offense is a bit above average for the National League. They have a couple dangerous hitters (Posey, Sandoval) and a few other solid veterany citizens (Pagan, Scutaro, Pence). But the Reds talented pitching staff should be able to keep them under reasonable control, especially in the games on the Bay.