Brandon Belt

Giants’ top 8 most surprising May performances

Brandon Belt SF Giants

This is getting a little ridiculous.

  • A record of 20-7.
  • 5.15 runs scored per game while allowing just 3.37.
  • Four straight home shutouts.
  • They’re hitting .298/.352/.446 as a team, including pitchers, partly because Madison Bumgarner has registered an OPS of .879 … so far. His next start is scheduled for May 31.
  • All of the current starters (and Bumgarner) except Angel Pagan have a sOPS+ of 124 or higher. (That’s OPS compared to the league average — 100 is considered average.)

What a month May has been. It’s gone so well, no one has uttered an “odd year” joke or complaint in weeks. That’ll change if the Giants go into one of their patented “June swoons,” but it’s hard to imagine a team that’s rolling like this to fall apart entirely.

/looks at April numbers

//notices that the Giants’ record last May was 20-9 and they went 10-16 in June

///makes plans for long vacation after the NBA Finals

The month isn’t over yet, so if we believe that arbitrary start and end dates control what happens to a roster of 25 players who go through slumps and hot streaks at different times, the Giants have a few more days of loveliness before crashing back to earth. Until then, here’s a list of the most surprising individual performances in May.

8. Nori Aoki: .347/.404/.463, 2 HR, 5 SB

Aoki was one of the rare Giants who was hitting in April, but two homers?!?! I have a funny feeling that he’s going to be the one to come up with the team’s first Splash Hit of 2015. That’d be No. 69, btw.

7. Javier Lopez: 7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 8 K, 0.714 WHIP, .366 OPS

Hitters are 2-for-23 this month against Lopez with three walks. Righties are only hitting .133 against him for the season and his ERA this year is 1.42, so it’s not like he came out of nowhere this month. Still, he deserves a mention after ending last night’s close-game-that-turned-into-a-blowout with a 1-2-3 ninth. Nick Markakis had no clue against Lopez, and Freddie Freeman didn’t look that much better. Lopez wasn’t horrible in 2014, but he didn’t look like quite the same guy. However, with the way he’s pitching at age 37, he looks like one of those lefty specialists that could stick around well into his 40s. (He’s under contract next year for $5 million.)

6. Gregor Blanco: .327/.382/.531, 2 SB

Blanco started out slowly, hitting .229 in April with just five extra-base hits, and he looked to be the odd man out when Hunter Pence returned. But Justin Maxwell cooled off and Blanco heated up, with averages that are almost identical to Buster Posey’s (.326/.400/.494), even though Posey got on base in every game he played this month … until last night, when Posey went 0-for-4.

5. Santiago Casilla: 11 IP, 0.00 ERA, 13 K, 1.091 WHIP, .523 OPS, 8 saves

Casilla didn’t have a bad April (2.79 ERA), but he was shakier than that stat indicates. He gave up a home run, 10 hits and four walks in 9.2 innings. He also hit two guys and had an OPS against of .798. With Sergio Romo pitching as well as ever while the Giants were struggling, it looked like there might be a change at closer before too long. That won’t be happening, not with Casilla looking close to perfect while Romo has regressed.

4. Matt Duffy: .329/.356/.443, 2 HR

The 24-year-old was (fire emoji) with guys on base: 15 RBI in 19 games (17 starts). But what’s really crazy is he was so much better and faster than Casey McGehee, he convinced the Giants to option a veteran to Sacramento while keeping the 24-year-old who skipped Triple-A.

3. Tim Lincecum: 30.2 IP, 2.05 ERA, 24 K, 1.076 WHIP, .568 OPS

Did anyone feel like Lincecum would follow up a decent first month with numbers like these? I’m not raising my hand. Lincecum has only allowed 19 hits in May (including four doubles and three homers). While that may be partly due to luck (.195 BABIP, plus an inordinate number of ridiculously good catches by Pagan either near or against the center field wall), 21 shutout innings at home in a month is pretty freaking good.

2. Brandon Belt: .340/.394/.670, 6 HR

Belt had a .353 BABIP in April while hitting .235, which means he rarely put the ball in play. He had no homers and two doubles in April. Two. That was back when 94% of KNBR’s regular callers were ready to trade him for a new third baseman and move Posey to first (incidentally, the percentage of callers who still believe they should do this has dropped to 53%).

Belt has 13 doubles in May. His six homers have come in his last 13 games. He has 11 multi-hit games in May, including last night when he hit a gorgeous opposite-field home run against a really tough starter in Shelby Miller, an ace-type who wasn’t fooling Belt at all.

1. Ryan Vogelsong: 31.2 IP, 1.14 ERA, 21 K, 0.947 WHIP, .525 OPS

Vogelsong was done in the eyes of many (not mine, for the record) when he allowed 15 extra-base hits (eight homers) and ended April with a 9.31 ERA. He dropped that XBH allowed total to seven this month, with just one home run allowed.

From the verge of forced retirement to contending for pitcher of the month. Vogelsong will never grow a beard again.

***

Honorable mention: Brandon Crawford (21 RBI and .913 OPS after a strong April); Joe Panik (keeps getting better); Hunter Pence (hasn’t skipped a beat since regenerating his left arm); Yusmeiro Petit (2.81 ERA after looking a little off in April); Hunter Strickland (only three games, but wow).

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