SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have lost 13 of their last 16 games at Wrigley Field, averaging exactly three runs per game. So in many ways, Tuesday's 5-3 loss fit right in with what you've watched in recent years.
But there was something about the performance that was still relatively new and encouraging.
The first two runs came on an opposite-field homer from Austin Slater. The third came when Kevin Pillar yanked a Cole Hamels pitch deep into the bleachers in left, giving him 18 for the season.
Pillar's homer was the 60th of the season by a Giants outfielder, which already far exceeds last year's total of 44. Giants outfielders, led by Pillar and Mike Yastrzemski, have 23 homers in the second half alone. They have come a long, long way from 2018, and even from the first half of this season.
"We weren't getting a lot of production from the outfield in the early going, and you look at what we're doing now. Whoever I put out in the outfield, they're doing a great job, they're defending and doing damage with the bat," manager Bruce Bochy said over the weekend. "All that production that you need from the outfield, we're getting it now."
Bochy is getting so much from his current quartet that the Giants don't currently have room for Jaylin Davis, who has nine homers in 16 games since joining Triple-A Sacramento. For now the staff is leaning heavily on Pillar, who plays just about every inning, Yastrzemski and Slater. Alex Dickerson helped turn the season around in June, and while he has struggled since returning from an oblique injury, Dickerson's OPS as a Giant remains above 1.100.
Ask Bochy about his outfielders, though, and it's not just the offense that stands out. After years of subpar defense in center and infielders getting time in left, the Giants have solidified their outfield defense.
They're second in the NL with 27 outfield assists and second with 22 Defensive Runs Saved. That's 26 DRS better than last year's outfield. The defensive component gets folded into Wins Above Replacement, and that's the clearest way to show the differences year over year.
Last year's outfield combined for 0.1 WAR. This year's is already at 4.0 WAR, even with a number of DFA'd players dragging down the overall numbers. In the second half, Giants outfielders have accounted for 3.8 WAR, ranking third in the Majors behind just the Yankees and Dodgers.
"They're solid all-around players who can play the whole game," Bochy said of his current outfielders. "They're guys who have a lot of range out there and get good reads. They know how to play the game."