SAN FRANCISCO - When you listen to Brian Sabean refer to his lineup as a "1960s offense," it's easy to think he's talking about the lack of home run power. But Sabean and the rest in the front office have been doing this long enough to know that aiming for the seats is not the path to prosperity in this ballpark.
Triples Alley is not going away, and generally, that's been a good thing for this lineup. In past successful seasons, the Giants have taken advantage of the gaps, supplementing a pitching-and-defense core by getting the kinds of hits that pad your slugging percentage without clearing the wall.
The 2012 Giants had six players reach 25 doubles and six with at least five triples. Angel Pagan tripled 15 times that season and Melky Cabrera had 10 before his suspension was handed down. Two years later, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence picked up 10 triples apiece and Gregor Blanco had six. Six members of that team reached 20 doubles. The 2016 Wild Card team had seven players with at least 20 doubles and five with at least five triples, led by Crawford with 11. Brandon Belt raced to third eight times that season and Joe Panik did so seven times.
When the Giants took the field Sunday, their leader in triples was Alen Hanson, who started the year in the minors but has four triples in backup duty. The only other player with at least three triples was Gregor Blanco, who hasn't been in the majors since June 1. Four Giants have 20 doubles and two more might get there, but overall this is a team that's simply not nearly as dynamic as past versions.
Sabean knows it. Bruce Bochy does, too. That's why he was so excited Sunday when one of his starters roped a ball into a gap and eased into third standing up.
"I think this is a great park for him," Bochy said of Steven Duggar.
That might be underselling it. This is the perfect park for the rookie outfielder, who had a two-run triple in the fourth Sunday that was the difference in a 3-1 win over the Rangers.
The triple was Duggar's first in the big leagues, but going forward, that certainly should be among the most lethal parts of his game. Duggar has 11 doubles in 135 big league at-bats and few have reached the wall. He already is using his speed to turn one bag into two, and next year the Giants expect a bit more. Given a full season, there's no reason to think that Duggar can't once again give them a player who pushes for double-digit triples.
"If he hits it into the gap, it's probably going to be a triple with his speed," Bochy said.
Duggar's go-ahead triple didn't even reach Triples Alley. The Rangers were playing him a shade over towards left, and he hit one that landed on the track about halfway between dead center and the 421 sign that's automatically three bags. For Duggar, this was automatically three bags. Two runs scored as he eased into third, his helmet popping off as he tried to slow down.
"That was the first real charge I've put into one in that gap," Duggar said. "Lots of fun. I saw the center fielder over when I hit it and saw this was my first chance to stretch it. A lot of fun, for sure."
The play made it easy to imagine a future moment that will be even more fun. Duggar has the swing to pepper Triples Alley, and the speed to take advantage of any bobble out there and go for four. Just as Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco so often put pressure on Tim Flannery to make decisions at third, Duggar should do the same with Ron Wotus. It's something he has thought about.
"If it was a little more to the right and got back in there (in Triples Alley), potentially," he said.
Duggar hasn't had an inside-the-parker homer since high school, noting that most college and minor-league parks aren't built with such large alleys. AT&T Park was, and on Sunday the Giants took advantage twice. Evan Longoria also tripled and scored on a passed ball.
The plays should serve as a reminder for a front office trying to figure out how to once again reload. The sexiest names on the market are home run hitters, but with a little creativity, and a few more players who fit this park like Duggar does, perhaps the Giants can once again build an offense that's not out of place in this era.