MoreSplashHits is alive!!!
After a long, cold, quiet winter, we’ve decided that it’s time to start blogging baseball again.
And with Opening Day still three weeks away, there is plenty of time to get back into regular-season form.
So let’s start first by getting caught up.
The Giants had a busy offseason with three major free-agent signings: pitcher Jeff Samardzija, pitcher Johnny Cueto and outfielder Denard Span.
Gone are pitchers Mike Leake, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson (retired), Jeremy Affeldt (retired), Yusmeiro Petit, outfielders Marlon Byrd and Alejandro de Aza and catcher Hector Sanchez, among others.
Despite all of that flux, the Giants came to spring training with much of its 2016 roster decisions already in place.
Starting lineup: 1B Brandon Belt, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Matt Duffy, C Buster Posey, CF Denard Span, RF Hunter Pence, LF Angel Paga/Gregor Blanco.
Starting rotation: LH Madison Bumgarner, RH Jeff Samardzija, RH Johnny Cueto, RH Jake Peavy, RH Matt Cain.
Even the bullpen looks pretty firm with RH Santiago Casilla, RH Sergio Romo, LH Javier Lopez, RH George Kontos, LH Josh Osich, RH Hunter Strickland and RH Chris Heston.
One of the five bench spots is held down by the Pagan/Blanco platoon.
At least one other spot will go to the backup catcher: Andrew Susac, Trevor Brown or journeyman George Kottaras.
At least two other spots will go to reserve infielders. Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson are the leading candidates to claim those jobs, but veteran Conor Gillaspie was brought in to compete for a spot.
That leaves the final bench spot potentially for a fifth outfielder. The Giants brought in veteran Kyle Blanks to provide some right-handed pop on the bench, something they were missing last season. Rookie Mac Williamson has been solid this spring, hitting .344 with four home runs and 11 RBI. Left-handed Jarrett Parker is another option.
But the Giants could decide to keep three catchers, allowing them to use Susac as the RH bench bat.
Those are things to be watching in the closing weeks of spring training.
First, we heard it was going to be last Wednesday.
Then, no, it was Friday.
Then possibly on Saturday.
And now it’s Monday, the Giants have a day off, and we still don’t know when second baseman Freddy Sanchez will play his first game in the field.
It won’t be Tuesday. Wednesday?
Bochy said Sanchez was still throwing tentatively during his last full-speed infield drill last week, and the manager wants to see him game-ready in practice before putting him into a game.
“Once he takes a good infield and feels like he can play in a game, we’ll put him out there,” Bochy said. “But not until then.”
Sanchez could take infield practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, then take a day off, and could be ready to play the next day. But the uncertainty has led Bochy to admit that his second baseman could open the season on the DL.
“We’re down to two weeks, and he hasn’t gotten out there yet,” Bochy said. “We’re still optimistic that we’ll get him out there, but each day that goes by the possibility grows a little bit that he’s not going to be ready.”
Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot and Emmanuel Burriss are battling for backup infield jobs. It figures that only two will make the team. Henry Schulman of the SF Chronicle said Theriot has not looked good in the field or at the plate this spring. Theriot is hitting .200 (6 for 30).
The Giants covet Theriot for his experience, his right-hand bat and his ability to hit lefties. But they have also starting give shortstop Brandon Crawford more opportunities this spring against lefties. Crawford hit his first spring home run off a lefty, the Mariners’ Hong-Chih Kuo.
“Any home run feels good,” Crawford said. “That is came off a lefty, it probably feels better.”
Burriss went 2 for 2 with a triple and a walk Sunday, raising his spring average to .441 (15 for 34). He also has five steals.
If Sanchez opens on the DL, all three infielders should make the team. Another option is to put Ryan Vogelsong on the DL to open the season, activating him on April 15 when the Giants first need a No. 5 starter.
Then, the Giants could open the season with 11 pitchers, allowing them to keep an additional position player on the roster at least for the first nine days of the season.
- Brandon Belt had a double in three at-bats, leaving his spring average as .368 as Aubrey Huff sat out with a sore back.
- Madison Bumgarner looked ready for the season, giving up four hits and no walks in five scoreless innings. He wanted to pitch into the six, but Sunday’s less-than-ideal conditions led Bochy to have MadBum finish his day with 20 pitches in the bullpen.
- Clay Hensley gave up three rusn on three hits in one inning, although two runs were unearned.
The Giants will keep their rotation intact by having Matt Cain throw a minor-league game Monday. Barry Zito will get the start Tuesday against the Diamondbacks at 1:10 p.m.
Well, the Giants are 21-16, exactly where they should be at this point in the season, according to MoreSplashHits theory of winning series at home and playing .500 on the road.
After Thursday’s win over Arizona, the Giants have played five home series. If they won 2 of 3 in each of those series, they would have a home record of 10-5 right now.
They have a record of 10-5 right now, thanks to a 6-0 homestand that included sweeps over the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
And they are 11-11 on the road — exactly .500.
But that’s where the expected stats stop. How the Giants got to their 21-16 record is pretty strange.
The Giants have amassed a 21-16 record while scoring 128 runs and giving up 126. If not for the Giants’ 10-0 win over the Dodgers in the third game of the season, the Giants actually would have been outscored by their opponents.
According to Bill James’ Pythagorean W-L record, the Giants should be 19-18. This stat helps measure a team’s luck. If their record is better than their Pythagorean record, their a little lucky.
OK, we’ll give James that.
But when you look at the Giants home games, the numbers get even stranger.
The Giants are 10-5 and have been outscored at home by seven runs.
That’s because nine of the Giants’ 10 wins have been one-run victories, including five walk-off victories.
The Giants are a major-league best 12-3 in one-run games. They are 9-0 in one-run games at home.
The bottom line is this: The Giants are 21-16 and in first place in the NL West despite hitting .236 as a team (ranked 12th in the NL), scoring 128 runs (15th in the NL) and have a team OBP of .305 (also 15th in the NL).
Some might say the Giants are lucky to be 21-16 right now, and that they’re more lucky than good.
But we these offensive numbers HAVE TO get better. And the schedule gets a bit more favorable in June, when the Giants have a 10-game homestand, and again in July, when they have stretch in which they play 13 of 17 games at home.
And they should have Pablo Sandoval back in the mix in June.
So if luck has played a role in their 21-16 start, we’ll take it. I don’t know if it’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s certainly better to be 21-16 than 16-21.
If there were a sobering part of the Giants’ recent string of wins, it’s that they entered Tuesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks having won five of their last six games by either scoring the go-ahead run in their last at-bat or by shutout.
So how did they open against the Snakes? By taking the lead in their final at-bat AND by shutout.
Is it selfish to ask the Giants for a boring 7-2 victory?
Maybe, but we’ll take the 1-0 victory over the Giants.
With his eight scoreless innings Tuesday, Tim Lincecum now has not allowed a run in his past 17 innings of work.
Before the game, the Giants got some good news for their scuffling offense when outfielder Andres Torres and infielder Mark DeRosa came off the disabled list.
The surprising news came on which two players the Giants sent down to make room for Torres and DeRosa: infielders Ryan Rohlinger and Emmanuel Burriss.
We knew Rohlinger was going. He had hardly played since getting called up when Pablo Sandoval went on the shelf. But the decision to keep outfielder Darren Ford.
It leaves the Giants very thin on infielders on the bench. With Torres and DeRosa in the lineup Tuesday, it left the Giants with a bench that consisted of catcher Eli Whiteside, infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielders Pat Burrell, Darren Ford and Nate Schierholtz.
While admitting that keeping three reserve outfielders is unusual, manager Bruce Bochy said he kept Ford because he brings a dynamic that the Giants are sorely missing: Speed.
At least on Tuesday, Bochy was right.
In the bottom of the ninth after Buster Posey led off with a walk, Bochy had Ford run for Posey.
Ford stole second base without a throw. Then one out later, Ford scored on a double down the left field line by Cody Ross. If Bochy had stayed with Posey, it would have been runners on second and third with one out — instead of a 1-0 victory.
The win was Giants’ fourth in a row, and sixth in their last seven. It improved the Giants’ home record to 8-5 on the season. Of those eight home wins, seven are one-run wins, including five walk-off wins. Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Rockies was the lone “yawner” at home.
So, really, Giants. Could we please get a 7-2 victory?
There’s no denying it. The Giants are struggling.
Giants fans are celebrating the fact that Aubrey Huff is no longer hitting below .200. They can’t say the same for Cody Ross or Miguel Tejada. In fact, the 6-7-8 hitters in Thursday’s lineup were all hitting under .200 (Ross, Tejada and Eli Whiteside).
But not only are the Giants hitters in a slump, so is manager Bruce Bochy.
The skipper has not made solid contact when trying to put on plays to help a lineup struggling to put runs on the board.
On Tuesday, we saw Bochy more animated than we’re used to see him, when he angrily kicked a dugout step when the Giants failed to get a runner home from third with no one out in the ninth inning of a 6-6 ball game.
Or maybe he was upset with himself for not putting on a play.
Here’s how it went down.
Leading off the top of the ninth, the Giants had a rare combination of speed with Emmanuel Burriss and Darren Ford leading off.
The problem with these two speedsters is that they first must get on base. But Burriss and Ford both accomplished that feat — by hitting the ball a combined 75 feet.
First Burriss reached on a swinging bunt. Then he stole second base.
Ford tried to bunt him over to third, which he did. But his bunt was so good, it allowed Ford to reach first.
So now the Giants had runners on first and third and no outs. Bochy let Rowand swing away to get a run home. Not a bad strategy as Rowand was one of the hotter hitters in the Giants lineup during the road trip.
But Rowand popped out in foul territory to Mets first baseman Ike Davis.
Then came Miguel Tejada — he of the sub-.200 batting average. Instead of putting on a play like a suicide squeeze or safety squeeze, utilizing Burriss’ speed and Tejada’s ability to put a good bunt down (we’ve seen it a couple of times this season), Bochy let Tejada swing away.
He popped out. The only surprise there is that he didn’t strike out.
Then after Mike Fontenot (the most feared No. 3 hitter in the majors) walked, Buster Posey popped out to end the inning.
Then came Wednesday. The Giants had Nate Schierholtz on third and Tejada on first with one out and Cody Ross at the plate.
Ross had worked the count full when Giants announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow had this exchange:
Mike Krukow: “Well, do you start Tejada (from first base)?”
Duane Kuiper: “I do not.”
Krukow: “You’re bettting on contact. And Cody Ross already has swung through two fastballs. That’s what you’re looking at if you’re Bruce Bochy.”
Makes sense. Except Bochy must have been in the toilet during those first two whiffs by Ross because he sent Tejada.
Ross swung and missed for strike three, Tejada was hung out to try and Schierholtz tried to make something happen by breaking to the plate. But he was thrown out.
So Bochy has been aggressive when he should have been conservative, and conservative when he should have been aggressive.
Fortunately, those two previous situations came in Giant wins.
Let’s hope that a return home this week helps the Giants break out of their hitting slump. Because Bochy’s batting average is not so hot right now either.
Things have been so discouraging with the big club that we haven’t been very inspired to throw up some more posts recently.
Then we thought that maybe there’s some encouraging news down on the Farm. So here it is.
Brandon Belt, 1b-of, Fresno (AAA): Ok, so we know Belt can hit minor-league pitching. In his first eight games since being sent down to Triple-A, Belt is hitting .458 with two home runs and 8 RBI. He has eight walks and seven strikeouts. His OBP is .594 and he’s slugging .833 for an OPS of 1.427. Belt has been playing more OF than 1B since heading to Fresno, partly to prepare him to play there when he returns to the bigs and partly to keep Brett Pill in the Fresno lineup.
Brett Pill, 1b, Fresno (AAA): Pill continues to hit at Fresno, batting .360 with 4 HRs and 23 RBI. His OPS is .950.
Thomas Neal, of, Fresno (AAA): Neal continues to play well after a slow start with a foot injury. He’s hitting .333 through 12 games. But 10 of his 13 hits are singles, he’s only drawn two walks and stolen just one base.
Connor Gillaspie, 3B, Fresno (AAA): The next option in the farm system at 3B while Pablo Sandoval is on the shelf, Gillaspie has shown more discipline at the plate. He’s hitting .273 over the past 10 games with an OBP of .400. For the season, he’s hitting .261 with 2 HRs and 17 RBI with an OBP of .356.
Steve Edlefsen, P, Fresno (AAA): The Fresno bullpen has been good, led by Edlefsen, who has a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings of relief. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 10/1. That’s good because of the five starting pitchers still at Fresno, four have ERAs over 5.00.
Charlie Culberson, 2b, Richmond (AA): Culberson remains the bright spot on a roster in which only two players have batting averages above .240. Culberson is hitting .292 with 1 HR and 9 RBI. He’s scored 10 runs in 23 games. He’s still striking out too much, 9 times in past 10 games. But he’s starting to works some walks (5 in past 10).
Eric Surkamp, p, Richmond (AA): We’re guessin the league Richmond plays in is a pitchers’ league. Because the Flying Squirrels have three starting pitchers with ERAs under 2.22. Surkamp is 0-2 despite a 2.21 ERA. He’s struck out 31 batters in 20 1/3 innings of work. Justin Fitzgerald is 2-0 with 1.45 ERA, but he’s walked 12 for a team-high WHIP of 1.66.
Gary Brown, of, San Jose (A): Brown continues to play well with .333 average through 23 games. He’s 17 of 23 in stolen base attempts, and has scored a team-high 20 runs. He’s also worked 10 walks for an OBP of .418.
Chris Dominguez, 3b, San Jose (A): Dominguez remains San Jose’s big power pat with 6 HRs and 18 RBI in 24 games. But he’s also struck out a staggering 29 times.
Zach Wheeler, p, San Jose (A): Wheeler is 2-0 with 3.38 ERA and his strikeout-to-walk ration is 27/6 in 21 1/3 innings.
Kelvin Marte, p, San Jose (A): Marte is 3-1 with 0.94 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.
The old baseball adage says “speed never goes on a slump.” That’s good, because as Giants fans know all too well free-swinging hitters often go on a slump.
The Giants snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in 10 innings despite failing to deliver a run-scoring hit.
The Giants scored their three runs on two sacrifice flies and fielder’s choice — although a baserunner’s choice might be a better description.
And that baserunner was Darren Ford.
Ford entered Sunday’s game in the top of the eighth inning when manager Bruce Bochy put him in as a pinch-runner for Aaron Rowand, after Rowand opened the eighth with a single to left.
Ford was looking to steal a base. And he was breaking to second when Freddy Sanchez hit a slow grounder to shortstop. However, with Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno covering second base, the ball was hit into the space vacated by Cedeno and into the outifeld, allowing Ford to race to third base. One out later, Ford scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ford potentially saved a run when he ran down a ball hit into the right-center field gap by Matt Diaz. Off the crack of the bat, the hit looked like a sure double until Ford caught it … and made it look routine.
In the top of the 10th, with Nate Schierholtz on second and no outs, Ford was asked to bunt Schierholtz to third. However, there were two problems with Ford’s bunt. First, it was bunted too firmly; secondly, it was bunted to first baseman Lyle Overbay. When bunting a runner over to third, the bunter should make the third baseman field the ball. But Ford bunted to Overbay, who threw Schierholtz out at third.
Now, Ford was one first base with one out and looking to redeem himself with a stolen base. Pirates pitcher Joel Hanrahan was aware of that, but his pickoff throw was wide of the mark. It sailed up the right field line, and Ford was able to advance all the way to third base.
That forced the Pirates to bring the infield in. Sanchez then rolled a grounder to second baseman Neil Walker, who froze Ford at third before throwing softly to first. Seeing that, Ford seized on the opportunity and raced home. A startled Overbay threw home, but his throw was late (and off the mark), and Ford scored the go-ahead run.
Bochy called the play “one of the most impressive displays of speed I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.”
We don’t know if Bochy’s comment was simply hyberbole, or it’s been simply too long since the manager has seen any displays of speed from his team.
The Giants stole 55 bases last season, tied for 15th (i.e. last) in the National League. Andres Torres stole 26 of those 55 bases.
TRIVIA TIME: Which Giant ranked second on the team in stolen bases last season?
This season, the Giants are 9 of 15 in stolen base attempts and rank 14th in the NL.
With the Giants severe lack of speed, Ford’s display Tuesday will leave many Giants fans calling for the team to find a way to keep Ford on the team for the rest of the season.
To that MoreSplashHits says: Slow Down!
Ford’s speed is definitely a weapon. But remember, he still has not collected his first big-league hit. He did have a single plate appearance during his September call-up last year. He is 0 for 5 with one walk this season.
Speed is great, but it doesn’t do you much good if you can’t get on base. The Giants need Ford to develop as a hitter. He was off to solid start at Triple-A Fresno this season before he got called up to the bigs.
This stint with the Giants could stunt Ford’s development at the plate. With Torres “a longshot” to rejoin the team the during this road trip, Ford will remain with the club at least until May 6.
Until then, we hope to see more displays of speed from Ford. Because it was surely a sight for sore eyes of Giants fans.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Aubrey Huff was 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts in 2010.