After a blistering start on offense that saw the San Francisco Giants briefly sustain run production exceeding six runs per game, their bats have gone mostly quiet, causing fans to blame hitting coach Hensley Muelens. The Giants’ recent 12-run outburst in a much needed win at Coors Field might not have been an anomaly, but one game won’t spell the team-wide slump San Francisco has endured over the past two weeks.
The Giants needed a confidence booster on the road at high altitude after dropping four of their first five games during their second trip of the season. San Francisco had scored an atrociously unacceptable ten runs in the six games leading up to their 12-run explosion, dropping five games in the process. The offensive woes plaguing San Francisco during that stretch of games was eerily similar to what the team endured in 2013, when they suffered their first losing season since 2008.
Aside from lead-off hitter Angel Pagan, slugging first baseman Brandon Belt and power-hitting outfielder Michael Morse, the Giants have been pitiful at the plate. Five of the Giants’ eight everyday players have posted averages of .258 or worse, including 2012 MVP Buster Posey (.229) and 2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval (.165). Neither player appears close to figuring it out at the dish, prompting angry Giants fans to point the finger at Muelens.
At the professional level of baseball, the impact of hitting coaches is marginal at best. Big league players ascend to the highest level of competition in their sport for good reason: Their mechanics have been honed to the point of being able to sustain success over the long-haul of a 162-game season. While coaches certainly play a big part in helping younger players develop their skill sets, they are not responsible for maintaining player success at the big league level. That responsibility falls right where the bat does: squarely on a player’s shoulder.
The fact that Giants fans continuously blame Muelens for ugly team-wide slumps signifies a lack of intelligence within a segment of the fanbase. San Francisco boasts one of the most knowledgeable baseball fanbases in the nation, but callers on local radio sports talk shows seem to think that firing Muelens and hiring Barry Bonds is somehow going to turn erratic-hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford into a perennial .300 hitter. That sentiment is simply misguided.
Slumps are part of the game. Unfortunately for the Giants, this band of former misfits has become prone to going cold as a unit. Hitting is contagious, though. The Giants’ recent 12-run outburst in a hitter-friendly ballpark was exactly what the doctor ordered for their slumping lineup. At the same time, it would be foolish to think San Francisco is going to suddenly start bashing five home runs per game. The Giants have been terrible as of late, but they’re just one-half game out of first place in the NL West.