San Francisco Giants Solo Homer Streak Concerning, but Big Improvement

May 12, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) hits a walk off home run during the seventeenth inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
May 12, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) hits a walk off home run during the seventeenth inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco Giants have found their power stroke, and even though it’s mostly been limited to solo home runs, it’s still a huge improvement.

The San Francisco Giants have played their best baseball of the season over the past week, and a 5-2 homestand can certainly be partially attributed to a surprising surge in power. They took three out of four against the Cincinnati Reds and followed by taking two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the team hit at least one home run in all seven games.

The Giants’ streak stretches a bit farther back as well, extending to the team’s series in New York against the Mets. The team hit four home runs in the Big Apple, at least one in all three games, making their home run streak a quite respectable 10 games.

This uptick in home run power has seemingly come out of nowhere. It was almost as if the team couldn’t buy a home run in April, hitting just 16 out of the park in 26 games for the month to rank 29th in baseball and last in the National League. They did most of their damage in the first week or so of the month, as well. In the last 19 games of April,  San Francisco left the park just seven times.

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May has been a different story for the team. In just 16 games this month, they’ve surpassed the home run total from last month, hitting 17 out of the park. That ranks them tied for 17th in baseball and ninth in the NL.

But the problem lies in how the Giants are hitting those home runs. The solo home run has been their longball of choice, and it is cause for concern. Of their 17 home runs this month, 15 have been of the single-run variety. Of their 33 home runs over the course of the entire season, 27 have been worth one run. Five of the six other home runs have been two-run shots.

All 10 home runs hit on the homestand were solo homers, and they’ve hit 13 one-run jobs in a row. The last non-solo home run came off the bat of Hunter Pence, who took Jacob deGrom deep for two runs in the first inning of their series opener in New York.

The Giants’ lack of power with runners on base is quite confusing and a bit concerning. Their six home runs with runners on ranks last, and they are the only team in baseball without double-digit home runs in the category. They aren’t just having trouble hitting home runs with runners on, they’re having trouble hitting in those situations at all. Their .236 average with at least one duck on the pond is 26th, and their .319 slugging percentage is dead last.

With runners in scoring position, the team’s average ticks up to .241 (good for 20th), but they still have just three home runs in such situations. The Kansas City Royals, the least-potent offense in baseball, have hit four with runners in scoring position.

In 42 games, the Giants don’t have a three-run home run, and have one grand slam. That one came off the bat of Brandon Belt on April 7th as part of a two-dinger day.

But for a team that has struggled so badly to score runs at multiple points this season, and barely left the park at all for a long stretch in April, the fact that they’re hitting home runs at all is a vast improvement. Hitting solo home runs is much, much better than simply not hitting home runs at all.

Buster Posey‘s power surge may be the most impressive of all. After hitting just one home run in April, and three extra-base hits total, Posey has found his homer stroke with a shortened stride in his swing that has worked wonders. He’s hit six home runs in 15 May games, including a pair over this past homestand, the most prominent being his 17th-inning walk-off blast against the Reds in a game where he was in the squat to catch 269 pitches.

Brandon Belt has also joined Posey in this home run chase, hitting four on the homestand to pass Posey’s seven on the season with eight. A season after the Giants didn’t have a single 20-home run hitter for the first time since 2008, both Belt and Posey are well beyond pace to pass 20. Belt’s eight puts him on pace to squeak past 30, which would make him the team’s first 30-home run man since the great Barry Bonds hit 45 in 2004.

So yes, it is confounding and concerning for a team to stick so exclusively to hitting solo home runs. But there is no denying that it can be called a major improvement, and a big part of their recent success.

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Even though Belt, Posey, Denard Span, Justin Ruggiano, and Eduardo Nuñez combined for 10 solo home runs on the homestand, each and every one of those home runs felt good. They felt that way because for so long, home runs weren’t part of the Giants’ arsenal at all. Three-run home runs are great for a team, but solo home runs are better than no one home runs at all.