Power a potential boost for Giants' lineup

Balanced, gap-to-gap offense has lacked home run threats

Power a potential boost for Giants' lineup

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Certainly, batted balls travel farther in Arizona. And Spring Training statistics are illusory, since they're largely being compiled by players who won't be with clubs once the regular season begins.

It's still worth noting that the Giants entered Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs with 33 home runs, the most among National League teams in either the Cactus or Grapefruit Leagues. San Francisco added to that total as Matt Duffy cleared the left-center-field barrier with a third-inning drive off Cubs starter John Lackey.

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This is essentially the same Giants club that ranked 12th in the league with 136 homers last season. The contrast suggests that San Francisco can hit more homers this season and upgrade the offense.

"The potential is there," Duffy said. "It's only that. It's a possibility."

At least it's a realistic one. Much will depend on the factor that will determine the Giants' fortunes in virtually all areas this season: health.

Right fielder Hunter Pence is a primary example. He led the club with 27 homers in 2013, the most by any Giant not named Barry Bonds since Jeff Kent hit 37 in 2002. Pence added 20 homers in 2014, two fewer than Buster Posey's team-high total. Then wrist and oblique injuries limited Pence to 52 games last season, when he totaled just nine homers.

Pence, along with Posey and first baseman Brandon Belt, form the nucleus of sluggers by this team's standards. That contingent may have grown. Giants general manager Bobby Evans pointed out the significance of shortstop Brandon Crawford's team-leading 21 homers last season.

"We haven't historically depended upon him for his power, even though we know it's in there and we got to see it last year. So I think that adds another element," Evans said.

Referring to Crawford's two home runs in 38 Cactus League at-bats, Evans noted, "We've seen the power even this spring from him. So I think that you have to start adding to that list of those core three for power."

It's widely accepted and statistically proven that playing home games at AT&T Park mutes the Giants' power. Obviously, Giants hitters notice the park's influence most of all.

"Buster and I were talking about it maybe a week ago," Crawford said. "If we were in just an average park for hitters, we'd have three or four guys probably with 25-plus home runs. So we definitely have some power, all the way through the lineup."

The Giants' intermittent power shouldn't be interpreted as lack of offensive skill. Last year, they led the NL in batting average (.267) for only the third time since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. They also topped the league in on-base percentage (.326), ranked fourth in slugging percentage (.406) and scored the fifth-most runs (696).

Citing the gap-to-gap proficiency displayed by several Giants, Evans summarized the team's offense in positive terms.

"It does give you some depth to a lineup that isn't without power," Evans said. "We have some good hitters on the team. That's really how we're built. I think we're balanced. They're also good hitters; they're not just power guys. I think that the power is part of their game. It's not their total game. I think that makes them all the more fun to watch."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.