At 59-34, the SF Giants have the best winning percentage in MLB. There are many reasons for this, but they excel in a key measure that tends to correlate with a team’s overall record. In fact, they excel in almost every facet of the game. However, there is one category that has stood out among the rest since President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi joined the organization in the winter of 2018.
The walk-to-kill ratio (BB / K) is a clear indicator of an attack’s ability to control the strike zone. Since Zaidi took the lead in the front office, offense has steadily improved in this metric. In 2018, the last season under Bobby Evans, the Giants finished with the 28th best BB / K ratio in MLB, posting an abysmal 0.31 ratio. In Zaidi’s first season with the Giants, the offense recorded a 0.33 BB / K ratio, rising to 23rd in the MLB. Last year, that brand took another significant step forward, hitting 0.39 BB / K (18th best in MLB) as the team barely missed the playoffs. Now, in 2021, as strikeouts in the league continue to rise, the Giants are posting a 0.42 BB / K ratio, which is the sixth-best rate in the league.
It’s easy to see why Zaidi could have prioritized this metric so much. There remains a stark contrast between teams that control the strike zone well and those that don’t when it comes to win-loss records. For example, here are the five teams with better BB / K ratios than the Giants:
The worst record of the five teams listed above is the Yankees with a winning percentage of 0.522. Many would say their list is much stronger than what their list suggested. Two of the five teams (Astros – AL West, White Sox – AL Central) lead their respective divisions. The Dodgers (0.611 winning percentages) and Padres (0.573 winning percentages) are said to lead almost every division in baseball, but are stuck behind the Giants in Western NL.
On the other side of the coin, the five worst teams in terms of BB / K are listed below:
Of the five worst teams in this category, none currently has a record of .500 or better. The Angels (.495) and Cubs (.489) hover around that mid-level mark, but the remaining three teams are well below .500. In the case of the Marlins (NL East) and the Orioles (AL East), they comfortably sit last in their respective divisions.
Fans have talked a lot about Zaidi’s penchant for players with high walk rates and, relatively, relatively low strikeout rates. This seemed to be one of the main reasons the franchise was so excited to acquire players like LaMonte Wade Jr. and Jason Vosler this offseason. After three seasons of roster changes, the Giants are finally getting closer to Zaidi’s vision. In 2020, they posted a walk rate of 8.6%, and that rating rose to 10.3% in 2021, ultimately helping them to post one of MLB’s top ten BB / K rates.
The SF Giants keep finding ways to win. They’ve leaned on the depth and it seems like someone new is the hero every night. In order for that person to become the hero, it takes a selective eye and control of the strike zone. The Giants have done it better than most teams this season and the results have followed.