The Giants took a two-run first-inning lead in their season finale Sunday in a manner that befit their season. Angel Pagan lined a soft single to left field. Kelby Tomlinson singled sharply to left. Matt Duffy shot a line drive over the head of Rockies first baseman Wilin Rosario to score Pagan. Buster Posey chopped a single up the middle to drive in Tomlinson.
This year’s Giants team will not be remembered as an offensive juggernaut. But after closing their season with a 7-3 loss to Colorado on Sunday, they could lay claim to one piece of hitting distinction. The Giants finished the season with a National League-best batting average of .267 – edging the Rockies’ .265 – marking the first time they have led the league in average since 1993.
The Giants’ offensive philosophy is shaped by their home stadium. Understanding that the ball doesn’t carry much at AT&T Park, the Giants put an emphasis on stringing hits together and building innings. For that reason, hitting coach Hensley Meulens said, the batting average lead is a nice feather in the Giants’ cap.
“The most important thing is that we didn’t make the playoffs,” Meulens said earlier this weekend. “(But) it’s just an indication of how consistent guys were all year.
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“I’ve been talking with (the hitters) one on one, telling them how impressed I am. We’ve talked about it for a number of years, going into spring training, everybody jumping on board with keeping the line moving, putting the ball in play. I tip my cap to them because they bought into the system, bought into the approach, and it paid off.”
Meulens pointed out the Giants led the league in average despite missing some of their better hitters for long stretches due to injuries. Hunter Pence, a career .284 hitter, played in just 52 games. Joe Panik hit .312 but played in just three games after Aug. 1 because of back issues. Nori Aoki hit .317 in the first half but wound up missing 69 games.
Tomlinson came up to replace Panik and hit .303 in his first 54 big-league games. Duffy batted over .300 for four consecutive months and finished at .295 for the season. Posey remains a model of offensive consistency, finishing his season batting .318 with 19 homers and 95 RBIs. Shortstop Brandon Crawford topped the .250 mark for the first time in his career, finishing at .256.
“No matter who we put out there, we had so many injuries, and everybody that came and filled spots kept it going,” Meulens said. “They’ve gotta be proud of themselves for that.”
Meulens said he met with the Giants’ hitters individually over the last few days to present them with a synopsis of their seasons and tips for what to work on during the winter. At those meetings, Meulens said he also showed each hitter a list of where the Giants ranked this season in the National League hitting in certain situations. Entering Sunday’s finale, those included:
First in two-strike hitting (.194), first in two-out hitting (.268), tied for first in hitting with runners in scoring position (.277), first in hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs (.273), second in hitting with a runner on third and two outs (.271) and third hitting with the bases loaded (.303).
One area where Meulens said the Giants can improve next year is hitting with a runner on third and less than two outs: They ranked eighth this season with a .306 average.
Overall, though, Meulens termed it a “very, very consistent and solid season offensively for most of the guys,” and said he made sure to deliver that message to the hitters.
“Everybody can get better,” Meulens said. “That’s just one part of what the entire picture looks like. We have to do all this stuff, run the bases, pitch, play defense and offense.
“But there’s all kinds of good things that happened this year,” he said. “You can look it up.”