It’s been eight years since the San Francisco Giants have opened the season at home.
That’s by choice by the Giants. They’d rather play games at home later in the season than earlier, so they are willing to give Opening Day to other clubs.
But it’s worked for the Giants. In the seven home openers since the Giants’ last Opening Day at home, they have won six times — twice in walk-off fashion.
What kind of excitement will the home opener in 2017 bring? Who knows, but let’s take a look at the past seven home openers.
April 7, 2016 – GIANTS 12, DODGERS 6
Jake Peavy made the start as the Dodgers took a 4-0 lead in the fifth before the Giants scored three in the fifth and four in the sixth to rally. Joe Panik and Buster Posey were 3 for 5, and Hunter Pence went deep.
April 13, 2015 – ROCKIES 2, GIANTS 0
After seven games on the road in Arizona and San Diego (sound familiar?), the Giants hoisted their 2014 World Series championship banner. Then they were shut out by Eddie Butler and four relievers as the Giants would lose their first five home games of 2015, part of an eight-game losing streak.
April 8, 2014 – GIANTS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 3
The Giants scored twice in the first inning, Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run — batting in the No. 2 hole — and Tim Hudson won his AT&T Park Giants debut.
April 5, 2013 – GIANTS 1, CARDINALS 0
The Giants raised their 2012 World Series banner, then shut out the Cardinals as Barry Zito re-created his gem from Game 5 on the National League Championship Series from the previous fall.
April 13, 2012 – GIANTS 5, PIRATES 0
The Giants scored twice in the first inning and Matt Cain did the rest, throwing a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.
April 8, 2011 – GIANTS 5, CARDINALS 4, 12 inn.
The Giants hoisted their 2010 World Series banner, then pulled out the first of two back-to-back walk-off wins as Aaron Rowand, again, singled home Nate Schierholtz in the bottom of the 11th.
April 9, 2010 — GIANTS 5, BRAVES 4, 13 inn.
Trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Edgar Renteria offered a preview of future heroics with a two-run home run off Braves closer Billy Wagner to tie. In the 13th run, Aaron Rowand singled home Juan Uribe with two outs for the walk-off win.
Almost one week into the season, the San Francisco Giants have discovered that maybe Chris Marrero isn’t their best option in left field against left-handed pitching.
Heading into Saturday’s game against the San Diego Padres, Giants left fielders collectively — and that includes Marrero, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Aaron Hill — are 0 for 20 with 10 strikeouts, one walk and one sacrifice fly.
By comparison, Giants pitchers are 3 for 10 with just four strikeouts.
With other options like Michael Morse and Mac Williamson still battling injuries and maybe a month away from being options, the Giants continued to seek out alternatives.
On Saturday, they found one in Melvin Upton Jr. (aka B.J. Upton).
Upton was released by the Blue Jays out of spring training last week. And when that happened, the Giants didn’t appear interested. Instead, they signed Drew Stubbs, who released by the Twins.
But when Marrero’s early struggles led manager Bruce Bochy to give Aaron Hill his first career start in left field on Friday, it became clear the Giants would need to explore other options.
And that led them to sign Upton.
Upton has had a very up-and-down career. After a solid start with the Rays, his move to the National League was a disaster during his two seasons with the Braves, with whom he hit .184 and .208 in 2013 and 2014.
Things got better when he moved to San Diego, where he hit .259 in 2015 and .256 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 92 games with the Padres before being traded in a deadline deal to Toronto. Things didn’t go so well there. He hit just .196 in 57 games for the Jays before being released at the end of spring training this season.
Upton not only gives the Giants a right-handed hitting option to throw into the left field mix, but he’s also made more than 1,112 career starts in center, providing some needed depth there.
According to Twitter reports, Upton signed a minor-league deal with the Giants and will report to Triple-A Sacramento to shake off some of the rust.
An interesting dialogue occurred before Wednesday’s game between the media and Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
The topic of discussion was the manipulation of the starting rotation for the Dodgers series on April 24-27.
Most interesting was that Bochy didn’t respond to the media inquiry by saying: “Dudes! I’m worried about today’s game, not one three weeks away.”
But the skipper took a different tact and fielded the questions.
The question revolved around whether Bochy would use two off days that bookend a two-game series in Kansas City on April 18-19 to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation (currently occupied by Matt Cain) to set up the possibility of the Giants sending their top four starters into that series vs. their NL West rivals.
If the Giants stay on their regular turn, the Giants would send Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore into the April 24-27 series at AT&T Park.
Bochy responded that he generally doesn’t like to monkey with the rotation so that his pitchers stay on their normal routines. And that’s true. In his years as Giants skipper, Bochy has rarely used off days to skip spots in his rotation, unless injury forced his hand.
However, Bochy added that he would consider having Ty Blach start in place of Cain in certain situations. One of those situations could be against the Dodgers, who struggle notoriously against lefties. That was evidenced by their shutout loss against the Padres’ Clayton Richard on Tuesday.
But another thing to consider is that Giants have two series against the Dodgers over the next few weeks. San Francisco travels into Chavez Ravine for three games on May 1-3.
If the Giants skipped Cain in Kansas City and started their front four in the April series at AT&T Park, it would mean they would start Moore, Jeff Samardzija and the No. 5 spot in the May series.
However, if they stayed on turn, then it would be Cueto, Moore and Samardzija.
So, either way, the most lefties that Giants could throw at the Dodgers over those seven games is four, and both would involve swapping Blach for Cain.
Bochy did qualify his remarks by adding that the Dodgers series was still a long way off.
And he’s right. We don’t what decision the Giants may arrive at, or be forced to arrive at, by then.
Cain’s first two starts of the season will come Friday in San Diego and next Wednesday at home vs. Arizona. If those two starts don’t go well for the veteran, the Giants could use the off days around those Kansas City dates to reassess their starting rotation, regardless of potential matchups against the Dodgers.
Hot takes after the Giants’ 8-6 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.
- Many fans were upset that Brandon Belt’s error in the fifth inning that allowed Arizona two score two runs cost the Giants the game. But remember that on Tuesday it was an Arizona error on a potential inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Cueto that sparked the Giants’ five-run inning. So you win some, you lose some.
- I was actually surprised that Bochy send Matt Moore out to pitch in the sixth. The error notwithstanding, the Diamondbacks were starting to make solid contact in the fifth when they tied the game. At 85 pitches and having to labor through the fifth in his first start of the year, I would have thought Bochy would have hooked Moore and gone to the pen. Remember, he pulled Bumgarner after 88 pitches on Sunday, although that was after seven innings of work. Moore may have been pulled had the Giants not gone 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. Moore was slated to bat fourth that inning. As it was, Moore was charged with two more runs in the sixth, although the bullpen didn’t help him with inherited runners.
- The struggles in left field continued Wednesday as they went 0 for 5 with two more strikeouts, making LFs 0 for 14 with 10 strikeouts on the season. Chris Marrero should get the start against Thursday against lefty Robbie Ray.
- The Giants signed another veteran outfielder Wednesday. Drew Stubbs was signed to provide organizational depth at center field. The Giants currently carry two true center fielders in Denard Span and Gorkys Hernandez, although Jarrett Parker can play center in a pinch. Justin Ruggiano is at Triple-A Sacramento and can play all three outfield positions. Stubbs, who was recently cut by the Twins, can make $1 million plus bonuses if he gets called up by the Giants. He’ll start at extended spring training before joining Sacramento.
It’s early. Two games. And as such, it’s easy to read too much into early stats and trends.
But there’s one that could be a worrisome harbinger for the San Francisco Giants.
Coming into the 2017 season, the Giants had one unsettled position in their starting lineup: left field.
And while many Giants fans had hoped the team would improve that position through free agency or trade, the Giants preferred to fill that spot from within — with Jarrett Parker or Mac Williamson or both.
The Giants entered camp with that intention, bringing in some veterans for support.
By the end of spring, all had performed well — Parker, Williamson, Mike Morse and Chris Marrero. Williamson (quad) and Morse (hamstring) had their springs ended early by injury and aren’t expected back until late April at the earliest.
That left the Giants to open the season with a left-field platoon of Parker and Marrero, but early results have not been good — proving once again that success in spring training does not always translate into success in the regular season.
In 10 plate appearances in the first two games of the season, Giants left fielders — which includes Gorkys Hernandez — had struck out eight times.
Eight Ks in 10 PAs.
The left fielders have represented 42 percent of all Giants strikeouts in the first two games of the seaso (8 of 19).
By comparsion, Giants pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto) have not had a single strikeout in six plate appearances in two games.
Here’s how they compare:
- LF 0-9, SF, RBI, 8 Ks, 0 BB
- SP 3-5, 2 HR, 3 runs, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K
Again, it’s early. A 3-for-5 game can change these numbers quickly for Giants left fielders. But the lopsided nature of all those Ks is disturbing.
The Giants will see a mixed bag of righties and lefties over the next few days.
- RH Taijuan Walker (Parker)
- LH Robbie Ray (Marrero)
- RH Luis Perdomo (Parker)
- RH Jhoulys Chacin (Parker)
- LH Clayton Richard (Marrero)
The calendar says 2017, but it still feels a lot like 2016.
The San Francisco Giants blew a major league-high 32 saves in 2016.
So far in 2017, they have two blown saves, and they’ve only played one game.
Derek Law gave up the tying run in the bottom of the eighth against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And then after the Giants seized the lead back in the top of the ninth thanks to a Joe Panik triple, the Giants blew another save in the ninth when new closer Mark Melancon gave up two runs – all with two outs – as the Giants fell to the Diamondbacks 6-5.
Yes, 6-5 – the same score that ended the Giants’ 2016 campaign.
All of this overshadowed a history-making day by Madison Bumgarner when the big lefty became the first pitcher in major league history to hit two home runs on Opening Day.
He became the first Giant to hit multiple home runs on Opening Day since Barry Bonds in 2002.
He became the fifth Giant since 1920 to hit multiple Opening Day home runs, joining Bonds, Matt Williams, Willie Mays and Bob Elliott.
But all of that was long forgotten because the Giants have not yet solved their bullpen issues.
It started in the eighth when Bumgarner was pulled after seven innings and 88 pitches.
Manager Bruce Bochy’s first option out of the pen was Derek Law. That’s not a bad choice looking at Law’s 2016 body work. Law was 4-2 with 2.13 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 55 innings with 0.964 WHIP.
But Law has looked off this spring, posting 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings.
Yes, we know that spring stats don’t mean anything. But it also must be taken into consideration that just because games go from being exhibitions to counting doesn’t mean that a struggling pitcher can just flip the switch and be good again.
Law walked almost as many batters in 10.2 innings this spring (8) as he did all of last season (9).
Even Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was surprised that the Giants sent Steven Okert to the minors instead of Law to open the season, just to give Law a little more time to find his touch.
But no. The Giants kept Law. And then to put a cherry on top, Bochy put him into the first game as the eighth-inning set-up guy.
And guess what? I didn’t work out.
Law gave up two crisp singles to AJ Pollock and Chris Owings. Then he gave up a seeing-eye single to Paul Goldschmidt to tie the game. Three batters, three hits, no outs.
Lefty Ty Blach came in to face Jake Lamb and got Lamb to hit into a double play. Hunter Strickland entered and got Yasmani Tomas to hit a comebacker. Inning over.
The Giants went up 5-4 in the ninth and brought on new closer Mark Melancon to close it out. Melancon got two quick outs before giving up a double to Jeff Mathis (aided by some less-than-stellar outfield defense by Gorkys Hernandez, in the game for his defense), a single to Daniel Descalso, a single to Pollock and a game-winning single to Owings.
Of course, all of these bullpen struggles could have been a non-issue if the Giants also have brought out another big piece of their 2016 woes – batting with runners in scoring position.
The Giants were 1 for 10 with RISP on Sunday, and that doesn’t even include the two outs they made that scored runs – sacrifice flies by Panik and Conor Gillaspie.
The Giants had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth off a struggling Fernando Rodney with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford coming up. But Posey flied to shallow right and Crawford hit a one-foot groundout in front of the plate.
Ugh. Enough with 2016 already.
Let’s move on with 2017. The season continues Tuesday.
So in preparing a blog post about decision the Giants have to make in cutting down to their Opening Day 25-man roster, I stumbled upon a blog post about last year’s final cutdown.
According to McCovey Chronicles:
“Also sent down? Chris Stratton (aka The Only Good Starting Pitcher In Camp), Mike Broadway (The Best Reliever In Camp), Ty Blach (About As Good As Josh Osich), and Clayton Blackburn (The Next and Future Prospect). None of the six non-roster invitees made it, either. Farewell, Connor Gilles–Conor Gillas–you know who I’m talking about.”
Everyone wants to see prospects get their shots. But sometimes, it’s better to wait.
Let’s take a look how those projections from last year’s spring worked out.
Stratton: After posting a 1.80 ERA last spring, Stratton went 12-6 with 3.87 ERA in Triple-A Sacramento. He posted a 3.60 ERA in 7 appearances for the Giants in his September call-up.
Broadway: Posted a 3.94 ERA in 29.2 relief innings in Triple-A before posting a 11.81 ERA in four September appearances for the Giants. He was released after the end of the season and signed with the Nationals.
Blach: Went 14-7 with a 3.43 ERA for Triple-A. He went 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA in four appearances (two starts) during the Giants’ postseason run last season and made the team’s playoff roster. He is in the running for a rotation spot this spring.
Blackburn: Went 7-10 with a 4.36 for Sacramento and did not make a big league appearance.
Oh, and that Gilles- Gillaspie guy? He opened the season in Sacramento, but was called up to the major league club by late April and spent the rest of the season with the Giants as a quality backup and performed some last-season and postseason heroics.
The moral to this look back Memory Lane is that more often than not prospects coming off a solid spring don’t always translate into instant big league season. In fact, more often than not, they don’t. And the best thing to do with prospects coming off a hot spring is to send them to the minors and call them up when necessity calls for it or when they’ve shown they ready for it.
Look back at 2010. Buster Posey hit .315 that spring and everyone wanted Buster on the big league roster. But the Giants only like to keep rookies on the big league roster when they are going to play, and the Giants had a veteran catcher in Bengie Molina.
So Buster went to Triple-A. He got called up in late May, went on to win Rookie of the Year and help the Giants to their first World Series title in 54 years.
The very next spring, everyone wanted Brandon Belt to make the big league roster after hitting .282 with power that spring. The Giants granted the fans their wish and kept Belt on the big club, forcing Aubrey Huff to play in the outfield.
But Belt hit .192 in 17 games before being sent to the minors before April was over.
Now, let’s fast-forward to this spring and the case of Jae-gyun Hwang.
Hwang had enjoyed a very nice spring, and that’s a good thing. Hwang won the the Barney Nugent Award given to the player “in his first big league camp whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.”
Hwang has enjoyed a very nice spring. He’s hit .349 with 5 homers and 15 RBI. But hitting in Arizona doesn’t not always equate into hitting in San Francisco, and we’ve seen many players struggle to make that transition.
Hwang is not your normal 21-year-old rookie. He’s a 10-year veteran in Korea, hitting .330 with 26 HRs and 104 RBI last season.
Still, it’s not the majors. So it’s not a terrible idea to take time to assess when Hwang brings to the club. That’s what the Giants have done this spring. A third baseman by trade, the Giants have played Hwang at first base and left field this spring as they hope he can be right-handed option who could spell Belt at first or Jarrett Parker in left.
The Giants came into this spring with their Opening Roster lineup pretty much set, at least in the field, when Belt is at first, Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at short and Eduardo Nunez at third base.
Hwang was brought in to provide some depth this season and as possible option to start in 2018. Christian Arroyo is another option there.
So it is not unwise for the Giants to go with Nunez at third with Gillaspie and Aaron Hill in reserve, and send Hwang to Sacramento to start. If things continue to go well, we might see Hwang in San Francisco by Memorial Day or Fourth of July.
That’s not what the fans want. If they see a prospect, especially one who has not experienced any failure in the bigs, they want them playing – even starting for the Giants. That is, until that player fails in the bigs, then they want to see the next prospect.
But patience is a virtue. And good things come to those who wait.
From 1993 to 2007, the San Francisco Giants’ Opening Day left fielder was Barry Bonds every year except one.
That was in 2005 when Pedro Feliz started in left field when Bonds was rehabbing a knee injury that all but wiped out his 2005 season.
But since Bonds’ retirement after 2007 season, left field has been a carousel of different players.
There have been nine different players to start in left field for the Giants in those nine Opening Days since Bonds’ retirement.
Trivia time: Can you name those nine players who have started in left field on opening day since 2008? (Answer below).
Well in 2017, that number will move to 10, regardless of who starts in left field. At this point, it looks like that will be Jarrett Parker.
But there was some news Tuesday regarding some consistency in left field.
Barry Bonds is back.
The MLB all-time career home run leader — yeah, that’s an unmitigated fact so stick it you baseball revisionists — rejoined the club as a special adviser to club president and CEO Larry Baer.
While Bonds did serve as a spring training instructor in 2014, this is his first official capacity with the club since it decided not to offer him a contract after the 2007 season.
That decision did not sit well with Bonds, who still wanted to play at age 43 and chase the 3,000-hit milestone. He finished his career with 2,935 hits.
Bonds worked last season as one of the Marlins’ hitting instructor but was let go at season’s end.
“I am excited to be back home with the Giants and join the team in an official capacity,” Bonds said in a statement. “San Francisco has always been my home and the Giants will always be my family. I look forward to spending time with the team, young players in the system as well as the Bay Area community.”
After spending the next week as a spring training instructor, Bonds’ role will include representing the organization in various community events and touring the team’s Minor League affiliates to work with prospects.
As the king of Splash Hits, MoreSplashHits welcomes the return of Bonds and hopes it leads to something bigger.
To start with, that includes retiring his number. It’s an idea Baer said will be discussed.
“It’s on the table for coming attractions,” Baer told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Giants have a standing policy that the only numbers they retire are for players who have reached the Hall of Fame.
To date that includes Bill Terry (3), Mel Ott (4), Carl Hubbell (11), Monte Irvin (20), Willie Mays (24), Juan Marichal (27), Orlando Cepeda (30), Gaylord Perry (36) Jackie Robinson (42 – hey, he was traded to the Giants in 1957), Willie McCovey (44), along with Christy Mathewson and John McGraw (both pre-dated uniform numbers).
MoreSplashHits agrees in principle with this policy. I mean, the Giants don’t want to become the Portland Trail Blazers of MLB. Among the 12 numbers retired by the Blazers is the No. 30 of Bob Gross, or as he’s better known around the rest of the country, “Who?”
However, Bonds has been kept out of the Hall of Fame, largely thanks to a block of old farts in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Among voters who publicly released their ballots, Bonds received 60.2 percent of the vote. However, his final percentage was 53.8 percent. That’s because Bonds only earned 38.3 percent of the vote among voters who lacked the stones or the mental faculties to release their vote publicly.
But no more. Beginning next year, all voters must release their ballots to the public. That fact, and the provision that BWAA members lose their Hall of Fame vote after 10 years of inactivity (i.e. old farts) should help get Bonds elected. Even with that, it will take a few years for Bonds to close the more than 21-point chasm between his current vote total and the 75 percent needed for election.
So the Giants simply need to forgo the HOF election provision and retire Bonds’ number.
No Giant has worn No. 25 since Bonds’ last season in San Francisco in 2007. So for intents and purposes, it’s been retired now for almost 10 years. Make it official. Put his number on the wall.
Barry Bonds, without the possible exception of his godfather Willie Mays, is the greatest Giant of them all.
His number should be retired.
OK, now for the trivia answer. Ready?
- 2008: Dave Roberts
- 2009: Fred Lewis
- 2010: Mark DeRosa
- 2011: Pat Burrell
- 2012: Aubrey Huff (did you block that one from your memory? If so, we apologize)
- 2013: Andres Torres
- 2014: Michael Morse
- 2015: Norichika Aoki
- 2016: Angel Pagan