Thursday marked the 20th game of the 2019 season, and the San Francisco Giants still haven’t scored in the first inning.
After the Rockies scored two runs on Monday, the Giants became the last team in the majors with zero first-inning runs this season.
So we decided it was time to run down some numbers on the Giants in the first inning this season.
- The Giants are hitting .095 (6 for 63) in the first inning.
- The Giants have six hits (all singles), two walks and one hit by pitch in the first inning this season (.091 OBP).
- Of the nine first-inning base runners that Giants have had this season, three came in the same game (April 11 vs. Rockies. Duggar led off with single but was caught stealing. Posey then had a two-out single and Belt a two-out walk).
- In 20 games, the Giants have put a runner into scoring position once — in the aforementioned game.
- Three of the Giants’ first-inning hits are from Steven Duggar in consecutive games from April 11-13.
- In all three of those aforementioned games, Duggar was erased on the base paths (caught stealing, two double plays).
- The Giants have gone down in order in 12 of 20 games, including seven in a row from March 31 to April 8.
- The Giants have sent just three batters to the plate in the first inning in 15 of 20 games.
- The Giants have averaged 13.15 pitches seen in the first inning this season.
- If you exclude the 27-pitch first inning the Giants had against the Rockies’ Jon Gray on April 11, the Giants have averaged 12.42 pitches seen in the first inning.
- OPS+ split rates a batter’s success against the league average. An OPS+ of 100 or greater indicates a batter is doing better than the league average — less than 100 worse than league average. The Giants’ first-inning OPS+ split is -31.
- If you think this first-inning struggle is just an early-season fluke, the Giants hit .229 in the first inning in 2018, only worse in the seventh (.228) and ninth (.154) innings.
It appears as if the San Francisco Giants have come full circle.
The Giants started the spring with Mac Williamson has the presumptive left fielder.
But Mac didn’t impress new team president Farhan Zaidi this spring, and eventually would be designated for assignment. (Mac cleared waivers and is playing at Sacramento).
But even before that, Zaidi started looking for other options.
He acquired Matt Joyce on March 20, but then traded Joyce to the Braves on March 23.
He acquired Michael Reed on March 23 from the Twins, then he designated Reed for assignment last Tuesday. Reed re-signed with the Giants after clearing waivers and is now playing in Sacramento.
He acquired Connor Joe on March 21, then he designated Joe for assignment on Monday after making another trade – this time acquiring Tyler Austin from the Twins.
So what kind of player is Tyler Austin? Well, on the surface, he looks a lot like … Mac Williamson.
Austin is a 27-year-old right-handed power hitter who stands 6-2, 220 pounds.
Williamson is 28 years old, right-handed, who is 6-4, 237 pounds.
Their numbers in the minors look very similar. Austin has a few more ABs in the minors as he was drafted out of high school in 2010. Williamson was drafted out of Wake Forest in 2012.
Their major league numbers are also similar. Austin has hit for more power, but also has struck out more.
So for all the Giants fans who wanted to see Mac Williamson in left field for the Giants, you got your wish, sort of.
You’ll just see Mac in the form of Tyler Austin.
The best news of the first week of the 2019 baseball season, at least for this Giants fan, came Thursday morning when it was reported that Mac Williamson cleared waivers and will head to Triple-A Sacramento.
Yeah, I know, the news isn’t exactly Second Coming kind of news, but it’s been a rough first week of the 2019 season. So we’ll take what we can get.
I was very surprised when the Giants DFA’d Williamson prior to opening day as most projected him to at least get a shot to show what he could do in left field for the Giants.
Instead, the Giants went with 13 pitchers and tried to plug their left-field hole with the likes of Connor Joe, Michael Reed, Yangervis Solarte among others.
It hasn’t gone well.
Left-field continues to be the black hole in a rather darkish lineup in 2019.
Giants left fielders this season are batting .045 (1 for 22) with an OBP of .125 and eight strikeouts. The lone hit came Wednesday night, when Gerardo Parra got his first start in left of the season.
By comparison, Giants pitchers – PITCHERS – are batting .167 (2 for 12).
So any help the Giants can get, whether it be on the lineup or down in Sacramento, would be appreciated.
Williamson came into spring as the expected starting left field. But the Giants wanted him to show them something during the spring, perhaps a repeat of his 2018 spring when he hit .318 after reworking his swing the previous winter.
However, Williamson hit .237 (14 for 63) with one home run, two doubles, two walks and 18 strikeouts. Right now, .237 looks mighty sweet considering what current left fielders have been doing.
I don’t know if Williamson can be an everyday major league hitter or not. Quite frankly, we just haven’t seen enough of him.
Injuries and opportunities (or lack thereof) have halted Williamson’s progress all the way through the Giants’ system.
Williamson was drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Wake Forest.
He hit .342 with 7 home runs in 29 games in short-season A Salem-Keizer in 2012.
He hit .292 with 25 home runs in 136 games in high-A San Jose in 2013.
He earned a trip to spring training in 2014 and the plan was for him to move to Double-A Richmond. However, an elbow injury kept him at San Jose so he could DH. He hit .318 with three home runs in 23 games with San Jose before Tommy John surgery ended his season.
Recovered in 2015, he hit .293 with five home runs in 69 games for Double-A Richmond, earning a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento. He hit .249 with eight home runs in 54 games for the RiverCats. He received a sip of coffee with the Giants in September, getting into 10 games.
The 2016 season saw Williamson put on the recall yo-yo.
After opening the season at Triple-A, he got recalled on April 15 by the Giants before being demoted on April 22, got recalled on May 2, sent back on May 9, recalled on June 2, sent back June 14.
He finally got a sustained shot at playing time after getting recalled again on June 21. In 34 games, he hit .256 with .365 on-base percentage with 6 home runs and 14 RBI.
But then on July 31, Willamson hurt his shoulder diving for ball in the outfielder and was placed on the DL. He didn’t return to the Giants until roster expanded in September. Clearly, he wasn’t healthy, going 1 for 14 before returning to the DL to end the season.
After another solid spring in 2017 (he hit .324), a quad injury put him on the DL to open the season. By April 19, the Giants sent him to the minors for a rehab assignment, which became a demotion to Triple-A on April 25.
Then he went back on the minor-league yo-yo – recalled May 15, sent back May 30, recalled July 8, sent back July 10.
He got another September call-up. After batting .156 (5 for32) in his earlier (brief) call-ups, Williamson hit .306 (11 for 38) down the stretch.
Willamson spent the following offseason reworking his swing with hitting guru Doug Latta. He hit .318 with four home runs in 44 spring at-bats, but with one option left, the Giants sent Williamson back to Sacramento, where hit hit .487 with six home runs in 11 games with the Rivercats.
That, along with an injury to Hunter Pence, led the Giants to recall Williamson.
He belted three home runs and hit .316 in his first five games with the Giants. But then he stumbled over the bullpen mounds (by the way, the Giants are one of two teams with bullpen mounds in the field of play in the majors – the A’s are the other. Not good company to keep) and crashed head-first into the padded wall.
That led to a month-long stint on the DL. When Williamson returned, he hit .187 over 23 games before his season came to an end on June 22 when it was clear he was not fully recovered from his concussion.
Williamson arrived at spring this year full recovered, but his red-hot, retooled swing didn’t come with him. So he was DFA’d.
Now he gets to go to Sacramento and show that he deserves one more – and perhaps this time prolonged – opportunity to show what he can do in the majors.
Because up to this point, injury and opportunity have robbed Williamson of that chance.
San Francisco Giants fans got their wish on Tuesday. They found someone better than Michael Reed, which really should not have been that hard.
The Giants designated Reed for assignment to make room for outfielder Kevin Pillar, who was acquired in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for utility man Alen Hanson, reliever Derek Law and minor-league pitcher Juan De Paula.
The price for Pillar wasn’t too steep. Hanson had been DFA’d last week when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Law was DFA’d this past winter, cleared waivers and was sent back to the minors. De Paula was acquired by the Giants from the Yankees in the Andrew McCutchen trade. De Paula, who is 21, has not pitched above low-A ball.
In Pillar, the Giants got an excellent defensive outfielder, a right-handed outfielder with the ability to spell Steven Duggar in center field.
That’s the role Reed was supposed to fill when he was acquired from the Twins the final week of spring training after the other options this spring did not pan out.
Drew Ferguson, a Rule 5 pickup, couldn’t hit and was sent back to the Astros. And the only thing Cameron Maybin could hit was apparently bars. After being hit with a DUI in Arizona, he was released after signing a minor-league deal.
Then Reed had what could be the worst hitting performance of any San Francisco Giants position player ever.
In four games in this young 2019 season, Reed went 0 for 8 with six strikeouts in eight plate appearances. That included one start, batting in the leadoff spot, no less.
Assuming Reed doesn’t clear waivers, accept an assignment to Triple-A Sacramento and eventually get another chance with the Giants, that will be quite an impressive Giants career for Reed.
The last player to have at least eight at-bats in his Giants tenure without collecting a hit was Dan Uggla, who went 0 for 11 with six strikeouts in 2014.
Uggla did eventually receive a World Series ring, so Reed has that to hope for – although I wouldn’t hold my breath.
However, Uggla did receive one walk in 12 plate appearances with the Giants and scored a run.
To find another Giants hitter who had at least eight plate appearances in his Giants tenure without collecting a hit or a walk, you’d have to go back a long way.
In fact, if you tracked all the way back to when the Giants arrived in San Francisco in 1958, you wouldn’t find another hitter to match Reed’s futility as a Giant.
You’d find several hitters who went hitless in their tenure as a Giant.
- Gordon Beckham went 0 for 5 with a sacrifice fly and two strikeouts in six plate appearance over three games as a Giant in 2016.
- Cole Gillespie went 0 for 9 with a walk in 10 plate appearances in three games as a Giant in 2013.
- Doug Clark went 0 for 5 with a walk in six plate appearances in eight games as a Giant in 2005.
- Andres Santana went 0 for 2 with an RBI in two plate appearances in six games as a Giant in 1990.
- Mackey Sasser went 0 for 4 in four plate appearances over two games as a Giant in 1987.
- Chris Jones went 0 for 1 in one plate appearance over three games as a Giant in 1986.
- Bob Kearney went 0 for 0 with a walk in one plate appearance over two games as a Giant in 1979.
- Art Gardner went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in three plate appearances over seven games as a Giant in 1978.
- Dick Phillip went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout in four plate appearances over five games as a Giant in 1962.
- Neil Wilson went 0 for 10 with a walk and a strikeout in 11 plate appearances over six games as a Giant in 1960.
- Roger McCardell went 0 for 4 in four plate appearances over four games as a Giant in 1959.
- And Nick Testa went 0 for 0 in no plate appearance in one game as a Giant in 1958 – kind of the San Francisco version of Moonlight Graham.
But to find a Giants player who had eight or more plate appearances with a hit or a walk for his entire Giants tenure, you’d have to go all the way back to 1942 when the Giants were playing in New York.
That’s when Howie Moss went 0 for 14 with four strikeouts in 14 plate appearances over seven games as a Giant.
Moss was one of the more feared hitters of the International League in the 1940s, playing for the Baltimore Orioles. He had three failed major league tryouts – in 1942 with the Giants and then two in 1946 with the Reds and Indians. For his major league career, Moss hit .097 (7 for 72) in 22 games.
The Opening Day lineup of the San Francisco Giants has been announced.
- CF Steven Duggar
- 1B Brandon Belt
- 3B Evan Longoria
- C Buster Posey
- SS Brandon Crawford
- LF Connor Joe
- RF Michael Reed
- 2B Joe Panik
- P Madison Bumgarner
That’s the ninth consecutive Giants opening day for Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, the eighth straight for Brandon Crawford, fifth consecutive for Joe Panik and second straight for Evan Longoria.
The other positions are different from last year, including left field.
Congratulations, Connor Joe. You are the 13th different Opening Day starting left fielder for the Giants over the past 13 Opening Days.
We knew that the Giants’ very unusual streak was going to continue for a 13th year when last year’s Opening Day left fielder – Hunter Pence – signed with the Rangers in the offseason.
Many of us thought that starting left fielder would be Mac Williamson, who was designated for assignment Thursday morning, and not Connor Joe. But don’t feel too bad for Mac.
Being named the Opening Day left fielder practically guarantees that player won’t be playing for the Giants in 2020, if not completely out of baseball.
That’s been the other part of this trend.
Of the 12 players who have preceded Joe as the starting left field on Opening Day for the Giants, 11 were off the Giants’ roster the following season. And seven of those players never played another game in the majors the season following getting that Opening Day start.
Let’s run down the list.
2007 – Barry Bonds
Bonds was not re-signed in 2008 and never played another big-league game.
2008 – Dave Roberts
Yeah, THAT Dave Roberts. Roberts also wasn’t re-signed in 2009 and never played another big-league game.
2009 – Fred Lewis
Lewis was traded to the Blue Jays in 2010. He played 110 games for the Jays in 2010, 81 for the Reds in 2011 and 18 for the Mets in 2012 before finishing his playing days for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and three independent league teams.
2010 – Mark DeRosa
DeRosa is the only player on this list to return to the Giants the year following his Opening Day start. He’d play in 47 games for the Giants in 2011 before reinjuring his wrist and ending his season. He’d play 48 games for the Nationals in 2012 and 88 for the Jays in 2013.
2011 – Pat Burrell
Burrell did not re-sign with the Giants in 2012 and never played another big-league game.
2012 – Aubrey Huff
Huff did not re-sign with the Giants 2013 and never played another big-league game.
2013 — Andres Torres
Torres was not re-signed by the Giants in 2014 and never played another big-league game
2014 – Mike Morse
Morse signed with the Marlins in 2015. He’d play 53 games in Miami plus another 45 for the Pirates in 2015. He’d play another six in for the Bucs in 2016 before playing 24 more back with Giants in 2017.
2015 – Nori Aoki
Aoki did not re-sign with the Giants in 2016. He played 118 games for the Mariners in 2016, 35 for the Astros, 12 for the Jays and 27 for the Mets in 2017.
2016 – Angel Pagan
Pagan was not re-signed by the Giants in 2017 and has not appeared in another big-league game
2017 – Jarrett Parker
Parker was designated for assignment by the Giants in 2018. He signed a minor-league deal with the Angels but has not appeared in another big-league game
2018 – Hunter Pence
Pence signed a minor-league deal with the Rangers in 2019 and will be the Opening Day lineup for the Rangers as the designated hitter.
Here’s another stat about this post-Barry Bonds trend: In 2008, Amy Gutierrez was hired as the sideline reporter for Giants game by NBC Bay Area.
Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.
Fans of the San Francisco Giants head into Opening Day with one question: Is there any hope for the 2019 season.
If you believe Baseball America’s PECOTA projections, the answer is a resounding “no.”
PECOTA projects the Giants in last place in the NL West at 74-88. FanGraphs doesn’t think much more about the Giants – 76-86.
PECOTA has actually really accurate in projecting the Giants’ outcomes recently.
From 2014 to 2016, PECOTA projections were virtually spot on.
In 2014, the Giants were projected 87-75 and finished 88-74. In 2015, projected 84-78, actual 84-78. And 2016, projected 87-75, actual 87-75.
In the past two seasons, PECOTA’s projections have been more off the mark with the Giants, but that’s not necessarily good news for fans in 2019.
In 2017, PECOTA projected an 86-76 finish for the Giants, who finished a woeful 64-98.
Last season, the Giants were projected 83-79 and finished 73-89.
When you consider how a dreadful month of September skewed the Giants’ final record, that 83-79 projection doesn’t look too far off.
From April to August, the Giants were never more than five games over or under .500. They finished August at .500.
But in September – after Buster Posey played his last game (Aug. 24) before hip surgery and Andrew McCutchen was traded to the Yankees (Aug. 31) – the Giants basically threw in the towel and finished 5-21.
The Giants lost their first 11 games of September, won four of their next five, then finished the season by losing nine of their last 10.
So the Giants were more like an 80-82 team than 73-89, and that puts them within range of the 83-79 PECOTA projection.
So how did Baseball America arrive at its projections? Well, it undoubtedly came down to two factors.
- Factor 1: The Giants’ offensive woes in 2018.
The Giants ranked 14th in the National League in runs, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. In all cases, the team that ranked last was the 63-98 Miami Marlins.
- Factor 2: What did the Giants do to improve the offense in the offseason?
Um, let’s take a look at the additions on offense: Gerardo Parra, Yangervis Solarte, Eric Kratz, Connor Joe and Michael Reed. Not exactly a who’s who of offensive prowess.
So putting those two factors together, it’s easy to see why anyone would conclude the 2019 Giants won’t finish much better than the 2018 version.
But there’s one factor that was not accounted for – injuries.
Injuries are part of any season. But in 2018, they were particularly damaging for the Giants.
Here’s a look at time spent on the DL in 2018 by key Giant contributors.
And the above chart doesn’t take into account nagging injuries like the hip injury that sapped Buster Posey of his strength (and eventually ended his season early) nor does it factor the shoulder injury that led to Brandon Crawford’s second-half collapse (remember he was an All-Star at midseason).
Injuries played a key role in the Giants’ offensive production of 4.15 runs per game in the first half of the season drop to 3.27 runs in the second half.
Unlike the Marlins’ roster of untested young players, the Giants’ lineup is peppered with proven producers. It includes one MVP, 13 All-Star appearances and six Silver Sluggers.
Now while one could rightly argue that the better days of these hitters are in the past, it’s also been shown that provided they can stay healthy, they can still be productive players.
It is not farfetched to expect the Giants’ infield of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria to outperform their 2018 numbers. All – save for Crawford – enjoyed healthy and productive springs.
However, the outfield remains a big question mark.
An outfield of Steven Duggar, Gerardo Parra and Connor Joe/Michael Reed/Yangervis Solarte won’t fill anyone with excitement.
But it’s not a big leap to expect Duggar to outperform 2018 center fielders of Austin Jackson/Gorkys Hernandez/Duggar.
The left field contingent of Joe/Reed/Solarte is not exciting. But the bar set by 2018 left fielders was set pretty low. Left fielders in 2018 hit a combined .230/.278/.343. The .621 OPS was the Giants’ second-worst position, only surpassed by .614 of second baseman.
Of course, the biggest loss would appear to come in right field, where the Giants basically replace Andrew McCutchen with Gerardo Parra.
Even if you only count McCutchen’s numbers in San Francisco, Cutch still outperformed Parra in 2018 with an OPS of .772 to .714.
And you might say Parra played for the Rockies in 2018, so his offensive numbers were padded from playing in Colorado. They may be true except that Parra performed better on the road than at Coors — .739 road OPS to .682 home OPS.
So while an offensive dropoff is expected in right field with Parra instead of McCutchen, but it might not be as precipitous as one might expect.
Also, Parra has shown an ability to hit at Oracle Park with a .310/.350/.399 slash line (.749 OPS) in 217 career plate appearances.
As it was last year, pitching will be the key factor in determining whether the Giants remain competitive or not.
The Giants ranked seventh in the NL in team ERA (3.95), eighth in WHIP (1.31). Those numbers get slightly better when looking at the bullpen – sixth in ERA (3.79) and sixth in WHIP (1.29).
Those numbers were not good enough to elevate the Giants into a playoff contender, but it did keep the Giants in the conversation for five months.
The Giants also have more pitching depth than in 2018 with the likes of Andrew Suarez, Ty Blach, Ray Black and Pat Venditte down at Triple-A.
And when the injury bug come calling – or more importantly to keep the bug at bay by keeping starters fresh – team president Farhan Zaidi has added quality players to serve as backups, led by catcher Eric Kratz and utility man Yangervis Solarte. Zaidi is hoping to strike gold with Connor Joe and Michael Reed.
But ultimately, Zaidi decided that other teams’ cast-offs were better than the Giants’ fringe players.
So 2019 begins with a large cloud of uncertainty. But it doesn’t mean some hope lies beneath those clouds.
The best-case scenario would be for the Giants to repeat what they did in 2018 – hanging around .500 for most the season – that could make the Giants buyers at the trade deadline to get into the playoff race.
The worst-case is they become an afterthought by the start of summer, and start moving players – starting with Madison Bumgarner.
If nothing else, the opening weeks of the season will be interesting to watch.
The San Francisco Giants’ final 25-man roster for Opening Day started to come a little more into focus late Monday night, when the team announced pitcher Chris Stratton had been traded to the Angels for left-handed reliever Williams Jerez.
The team also announced that pitcher Andrew Suarez was optioned to the minors. Those two moves basically set the starting rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Derek Holland, Dereck Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Jeff Samardzija, although the only two rotation spots that have been announced were Bumgarner (set to start Thursday’s opener in San Diego) and Rodriguez (scheduled to start Saturday).
Manager Bruce Bochy said he’d announce the rotation on Monday, but stopped short of doing so because the Stratton deal was announced until almost midnight.
After adding Jerez to the roster, the Giants are down to 31 players to select the final 25.
Jerez has one option left, so it’s safe to assume he’s headed to Sacramento. Ty Blach, who got lit up Monday night against the A’s, also has options, so he’s a safe bet to head to the minors. The fact that Donovan Solano has not been released indicates that he did not have an opt-out into his minor league deal, so we can guess he’s headed to Sacramento as well.
That brings the 31 down to 28.
Now to determine who the last three cuts are there are three questions that need to be answered:
- Is there another trade (or more) still to come?
- Are the Giants keeping two catchers or three?
- Are the Giants keeping 12 pitchers or 13?
So if the answer to the first question is “no” and the answer to the second question to “2” and third is “13” then the last three cuts logically would be:
- C Tom Murphy (he was a waiver claim from Rockies on Sunday)
- IF Alen Hanson (with Yangervis Solarte told he made the team, there appears no room for Hanson)
- IF/OF Connor Joe or IF Pablo Sandoval (Sandoval has sentiment – he’s a favorite of Bochy – and the fact he’s a switch-hitter working for him. Joe has the fact he’s six years younger and can play in the outfield working for him)
Now if the Giants decide to keep three catchers – and this point I think they will – then there’s no way they go with 13 pitchers. If that’s the case, the final three cuts would have to be:
- IF Alen Hanson
- IF/OF Connor Joe or OF Pablo Sandoval
- P Travis Bergren, P Trevor Gott or P Mark Melancon. Bergren is the lone lefty in this group, and the Giants figure to keep three lefties (Will Smith and Tony Watson are the other two). So it figures Bergren is safe. So that narrows it down to Gott and Melancon. If spring stats determined this decision, the Giants would keep Gott. He has allowed just one unearned run in 11.2 innings this spring with 13 strikeouts. Melancon gave up nine runs (seven earned), three home runs in 6.2 innings with five strikeouts. But Melancon has two years and $28 million left on his contract. And before the Giants give up on that investment, they’ll need to determine that Melancon is beyond hope. And given the arms the Giants have at Triple-A, it just doesn’t figure they’ll make that move. So we’d say Gott is the final cut.)
It figures – barring another trade or waiver acquisition – that Michael Reed makes the team. I just can’t see the Giants opening the season without four true outfielders. Then they would also have Solarte and perhaps Joe to play outfield, increasing odds that Joe makes squad over Sandoval. Brandon Belt has also played outfield in past, but did not play out there this spring.
San Francisco Giants current roster
(number in parenthesis shows how many options player has lefter; R5 denotes player is a Rule 5 selection; *-denotes a non-roster player who has been told he has made the team)
Starting pitchers (5)
- LH Madison Bumgarner
- LH Derek Holland
- RH Dereck Rodriguez (3)
- LH Drew Pomeranz
- RH Jeff Samardzija
Relief pitchers (10)
- LH Travis Bergen (R5)
- LH Ty Blach (2)
- RH Sam Dyson
- RH Trevor Gott
- LH Williams Jerez (1)
- RH Mark Melancon
- RH Reyes Moronta (2)
- LH Will Smith
- LH Tony Watson
- RH Nick Vincent*
- Erik Kratz
- Tom Murphy
- Buster Posey
- Brandon Belt
- Brandon Crawford
- Alen Hanson
- Connor Joe (R5)
- Evan Longoria
- Joe Panik (3)
- Pablo Sandoval
- Donovan Solano
- Yangervis Solarte*
- Steven Duggar (3)
- Michael Reed
- Mac Williamson
- Gerardo Parra*