Sarris: These saber-savvy San Francisco Giants

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on September 27, 2012:

The Giants? They’re just a bunch of stat geeks. Look at some of the aspects of their play on the field, and it’s clear that this is not a club that sticks only with tradition. Talk to Bobby Evans, Vice President of Baseball Operations, and you get a sense of a team with a strong process that includes inputs from both the old and the new school of baseball. And this isn’t some sort of new phenomenon in San Francisco.

Some of their most innovative moves have come recently. Look at their lineups against left-handed and right-handed pitchers this year, and you’ll see a team rife with platoons. Though taking the platoon advantage is no new thing, it’s possible that they are taking it to new heights. Only two players on the team (Buster Posey and Angel Pagan) will cross the 600-PA threshold this year. That’s on par with a rebuilding team like the Astros (one) and Cubs (two), and less than most of the other contenders like the Braves (five) or Brewers (five). Yes, the Nationals (three) and Reds (two) are similar, but there have been more injuries on those teams.

The Giants, on the other hand, were built to take advantage of their depth. Utility bats like Joaquin Arias and Ryan Theriot were specific acquisitions that the team targeted this offseason because of their versatility and handedness. “Having seen [Brandon] Crawford‘s defense and having known that he struggled at the plate, especially against lefties, we absolutely wanted a right-handed utility infielder,” said Bobby Evans. And so the Giants went into the season planning for platoons at first base, second base, in right field, and at shortstop — rare for a contender, but a strong way to take the platoon advantage as often as possible.

That philosophy extended to the bullpen this season. It may not have been by plan, but the Giants are currently employing a platoon at closer. That unique situation is one that the sabermetric community has desired for some time. Some have dabbled, but few have stuck with the plan for any length of time.

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Originally published: September 27, 2012. Last Updated: September 27, 2012.