There’s some good news in the injury front for the San Francisco Giants, which has been a bit of a rarity recently.
Reliever Sergio Romo appears very close to being ready to being activated from the disabled list.
Romo has been on the DL since mid-April with a flexor strain in his right elbow.
Romo pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Sacramento on Friday in the second of back-to-back appearances for the reliever. Romo had a 3.18 ERA with 19 strikeouts and one walk in 11.1 innings during his minor-league rehab stint which began in late May, then put on hold until mid-June.
Assuming Romo shows no ill effects from his back-to-back outings, he appears ready to be activated by the Giants, a nice boost to a beleaguered bullpen.
But there’s a catch.
When Romo experience his setback in late May, the Giants transferred him to the 60-day DL, temporarily removing him from the Giants’ 40-man roster.
When the Giants put Joe Panik on the seven-day concussion DL, they activated Ruben Tejada from Triple-A, adding him to the 40-man roster. Pitcher Chris Heston was moved to the 60-day DL to create room on the 40-man roster for Tejada.
Then a couple of days later, infielder Ramiro Pena suffers a sprained ankle in a collision with outfielder Mac Williamson, sidelining him for 5-7 days. So the Giants called up infielder Grant Green. To create room for Green on the 40-man roster, pitcher Jake Smith was designated for assignment.
Those moves have left the Giants with limited options when it comes to creating a spot on the 40-man for Romo if he is activated from the 60-day DL.
So here are the options.
Place Hunter Pence on the 60-day DL: When Pence went on the DL with a hamstring injury, he was expected to be out until August, so putting him on the 60-day DL would make him eligible to return Aug. 1. However, Pence is healing quickly, so the Giants want to leave the option open for him to return in July if possible.
DFA another minor leaguer: The minor league players on the the 40-man include pitchers Ty Blach, Ray Black, Clayton Blackburn, Mike Broadway, Kyle Crick and Joan Gregorio, Adalberto Mejia and Chris Stratton, and catcher Andrew Susac. Crick, a former top prospect, is the only player still in Double-A. Blach, Blackburn, Gregorio and Mejia have been starting at Triple-A Sacramento. Broadway and Stratton have had stints in the majors this season. There isn’t a player on this list who jumps out as a DFA candidate.
DFA Green or Tejada: Tejada is 0 for 7 with three walks in three games since joining the Giants. Green is 4 for 9 in two games. Tejada is better the glove man. If either is DFA’d, it’s likely both would clear waivers and could return to Sacramento. But before the Giants do that, they need to know that Pena or Panik is ready to return. But that won’t happen until Tuesday or Wednesday.
So Sergio’s return may have to wait until the Giants have some better answers elsewhere on the roster.
This is an issue that comes up on Twitter every time the San Francisco Giants play in an American League park.
Why not just let Madison Bumgarner hit for himself instead of replacing him with a designated hitter?
I don’t think we ever thought it would go beyond Twitter banter. But today it did.
The Giants will become the first team to intentionally opt against using a designated hitter when playing in an American Park since 1976 when Bumgarner will bat for himself against the Oakland A’s on Thursday night.
Ever since the DH was first inacted by the American League in 1973, only four pitchers have hit for themselves instead of using a designated hitter: Fergie Jenkins of the Texas Rangers (1974), Ken Holtzman of the Oakland A’s (1975) and Ken Brett of the Chicago White Sox (twice in 1976). Andy Sonnanstine of the Tampa Bay Rays did it in 2009, but that was not by design but become of a lineup mixup.
Oddly enough, Sonnantine was one of only two pitcher to get a hit when hitting for the designated hitter when he went 1 for 3 in a 7-5 win over the Indians on May 17, 2009. Jenkins got that other hit.
So pitchers hitting in place of DHs are 2 for 13 (.154), which is probably why no one has done it on purpose in 30 years.
And then there’s the Giants.
“He’s a good hitter, he’s dangerous and we’re facing a lefty (in Oakland’s Dillon Overton),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bumgarner is only hitting .175 this season, after hitting .247 last year and .258 in 2014. But he does have two home runs, five RBI and five walks.
But this decision has as much to do with the sorry state of affairs with the Giants lineup as anything.
Hunter Pence on the DL. Matt Duffy on the DL. Kelby Tommlinson on the DL. Joe Panik on the 7-day concussion DL. To make matters worse, Ramiro Pena left last night’s game after colliding with outfielder Mac Williamson.
So the options are limited.
No lineup has been announced, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it look something like this.
CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
1B Brandon Belt
C Buster Posey
SS Brandon Crawford
RF Mac Williamson
3B Conor Gillaspie
P Madison Bumgarner
2B Ruben Tejada
So Bochy’s decision boiled down to this: Do you want Trevor Brown in the DH spot (as Buster usually catches MadBum)? Or do you want MadBum hitting?
- Trevor Brown has a slash line of .258/.301/.412; Bumgarner .175/.261/.350
- Trevor Brown hits a home run once every 24 plate appearances this season; Bumgarner once every 20.
- Bumgarner strikes out 42.5 percent of the time; Brown 21.6 percent of the time.
- Bumgarner walks 12.5 percent of the time; Brown 5.2 percent.
But because the Giants have been going with the lean four-player bench, having Brown DH would leave them with two healthy players on the bench: Gregor Blanco and Jarrett Parker.
Given that the Giants are in a three-game skid with two games of paltry offense, Bochy is looking for anything to provide a spark.
That’s why MadBum hits.
When Hunter Pence went back on the disabled list on June 2 — and expected to miss two months — the question was raised.
How would the San Francisco Giants survive without Hunter Pence?
The answer so far has been: Not so bad.
The Giants are 11-4 since June 2, thanks largely to their current eight-game winning streak.
The Giants are 27-8 in their last 35 games, the best 35-game mark for any San Francisco Giants team, best for the franchise since 1954.
They now have two eight-game winning streaks, which bookend that 27-8 stretch. They are 16-6 without Hunter Pence in the starting lineup for that 35-game stretch.
So how are the Giants pulling this off?
Two things: Excellent starting pitching and a weak schedule.
After the Giants took two of three from the Dodgers last week, they embarked on a 25-game stretch in which they would play 21 games against teams with sub-.500 records.
The only games against teams with winning records were the upcoming four against the Pirates.
That’s because when the Giants started on the 25-game stretch, the Pirates were hovering just above .500.
But now the Pirates have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11, and their record sits at 33-36 as the Giants arrive in town.
That makes 25 of 25 games against teams with losing records.
And the Giants are set up nicely heading into Pittsburgh with Madison Bumgarner (8-2), Johnny Cueto (10-1) and Jeff Samardzija (8-4) slated to start the first three games, while the Pirates counter with Jeff Locke (5-5), the celebrated TBA and Francisco Liriano (4-7). The Pirates’ ace Gerrit Cole is on the disabled list (So no shots of Cole facing his brother-in-law Brandon Crawford. Sorry).
Monday’s starter Locke has allowed 18 earned runs over his last two starts. Bumgarner has allowed 20 earned runs ALL SEASON.
This 25-game stretch (with games against the likes of the Brewers, Rays, Bucs, Phillies, A’s, Snakes, Rox and Padres) for the Giants would take them through July 17.
The Giants hope to have Pence back two weeks later.
There are a lot of headlines around baseball today that go something like this.
“Ichiro Suzuki all-time hits leader”
That statement can be made on the presumption of combining Ichiro’s 2979 hits in the major leagues and adding the 1,278 hits he collected in nine seasons in Japan’s Pacific League.
And as you may expect, that idea doesn’t warm the heart of one Pete Rose.
“I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro,” Rose said. “He’s had a Hall of Fame career. But the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits.”
When it comes down to deciding who is the hits king of baseball, perhaps it’s not best to try to compare Ichiro to Pete Rose. Maybe it’s better to try to compare Rose to Ichiro.
If Ichiro collects another 21 hits and reaches 3,000, he would become only member of the 30-man 3,000-hit club who made his major league debut in his age 27 season.
In fact, no current member of the 3,000-hit club ever made his debut after his age 24 season (Cap Anson and Wade Boggs).
So what if you compared the members of the 3,000-hit club on how many hits they collected after the age-26 season.
Obviously, Ichiro has 2,979 hits using that metric. But he would not be the all-time MLB hit leader by that measure.
That title belongs to … Pete Rose with 3,357. Ichiro would be second. The next on the list is Honus Wagner with 2,766.
Now Rose topped the list because he played into his 45 season. If you also pulled out the hits he collected after his age-42 season (Ichiro is in his age-42 season), Rose still leads with 3,091. And that means Ichiro would need to collect another 112 hits by the rest of the season to catch Rose by that measurement, giving him 156 for the season. He is currently on a pace to finish the with 129.
So, Pete Rose still reigns as the all-time hits leader.
But the accomplishments of Ichiro Suzuki should not be understated.
History was made Monday night at AT&T Park.
The Giants’ Denard Span hit the first leadoff Splash Hit by a San Francisco Giant in the 17-year history of AT&T Park when he opened the bottom of the first Monday by putting a ball into McCovey Cove. The Giants went on to win 11-5, improving the franchise’s record to 48-20 in games they hit a Splash Hits, including the last eight.
You can watch it here.
After going 112 games between Splash Hits – the longest such drought in stadium history – it only took only four games for the Giants to get another.
Brandon Belt his Splash Hit No. 69 on Wednesday. Span hit No. 70 on Monday.
In doing so, Span became the 20th Giant to record a Splash Hit.
It also meant the number of Splash Hits by Barry Bonds matched the number by players other than Bonds: 35 each.
So in other words, it takes 19 Giants to equal one Barry Bonds. Here is how it breaks down.
Barry Bonds 35
Everyone else 35
- Pablo Sandoval 7
- Brandon Belt 5
- Brandon Crawford 2
- Aubrey Huff 2
- Andres Torres 2
- Ryan Klesko 2
- Michael Tucker 2
- Felipe Crespo 2
- JT Snow 1
- Jose Cruz Jr. 1
- A.J. Pierzynski 1
- Randy Winn 1
- Fred Lewis 1
- John Bowker 1
- Nate Schierholtz 1
- Carlos Beltran 1
- Tyler Colvin 1
- Travis Ishikawa 1
- Denard Span 1
San Francisco Giants fans can’t complain (but that doesn’t stop them). It’s been a good season so far for the Giants.
Entering Monday’s game against the Brewers, the Giants are 38-26 and hold a five-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West.
But can I make one little suggestion?
Dear Giants, how about a nice, six-run victory every once in a while?
The Giants have supplied their fans with a lot of excitement in 2016. Maybe too much for our blood pressure.
- The Giants’ win over the Dodgers on Sunday night was their 15th one-run win of the season, tying the Phillies for the most in the majors.
- It was the 22nd one-run game the Giants have been involved in this season, putting them fourth in the majors behind the Reds (24), Astros (23) and Padres (23).
- Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Giants’ fifth extra-inning win of the season, second-most in the majors behind the Astros (6).
- Saturday’s win was also the Giants’ sixth walk-off win of the season, most in the majors this season.
- In fact, the Giants have won just three of their last seven games – all three wins were by one-run, including two 2-1 victories.
So, either you can say the Giants are clutch or fortuitous.
Their +3 record against their pythagorean record might indicate that latter.
But there could be good news ahead.
Starting with Monday’s game against the Brewers, the Giants will play 21 of their 25 games against teams currently with a losing record.
The Giants are 24-13 against teams with a losing record this season. Of course, if you removed the Padres from that, the Giants are just 15-13.
So there’s a chance for the Giants to actually pad their lead in the NL West, while they wait for injured players like Hunter Pence and Sergio Romo to return.
Santiago Casilla has been an enigma for the San Francisco Giants this season. And even more enigmatic is how San Francisco Giants regard their team’s closer.
The vitriol spilled over on social media Friday night after Casilla gave up a solo home run to a struggling Justin Turner in the top of the ninth inning, allowing the Los Angeles Dodgers to beat the Giants 3-2 at AT&T Park.
It left most Giants fans in one of two camps.
Camp A: “Casilla is a disaster,” “I’ve had enough of Casilla,” “We need to find a new closer.”
Camp B fans will point to Casilla’s long track record of solid seasons and certain statistics that would seem to indicate the Camp A folks are wrong. Camp B folks get upset when manager Bruce Bochy pulls Casilla in the ninth inning WITH THE LEAD, something he’s done twice this season. “You don’t do that to your closer,” they said.
So who’s right?
Well, to put it simply, neither. They are both wrong. And here’s why.
First, let’s go down memory lane.
Brian Wilson was the Giants’ closer from late in 2007 to early in 2012, when he blew out his elbow.
Initially, Bochy said the Giants would use a bullpen-by-committee in the ninth inning, but quickly Casilla took over the closer roll and was sporting a 1.32 ERA by June 18. But by July 18, his ERA ballooned to 3.34 and he was replaced by Sergio Romo in the closer roll.
Romo held that job until the end of June in 2014 when his ERA sat at 5.01 and he had five blown saves in 27 opportunities. Casilla took over, recorded 17 saves in the final three months of the season and finished with 1.70 ERA.
Casilla remained the closer in 2015, ranking fourth in the National League with 38 saves. That’s the good stat. The bad stat was that out of 28 MLB relievers with 20 or more saves in 2015, Casilla ranked 22nd in save percentage.
That trend has continued into 2016. Out of 26 MLB relievers with 11 or more saves, Casilla ranked 23rd in save percentage. His four blown saves are second-most in the majors.
But Casilla’ enigmatic pitching personality goes deeper than that.
Casilla’s 2016 ERA of 2.96 is the highest of his seven-year Giants career when he posted annual ERAs of 1.95, 1.74, 2.84, 2.16, 1.70 and 2.79. But it’s not THAT much higher, his supporters will say. And that’s true. It’s certainly not the 5.01 ERA Romo had when he got yanked as closer in 2014.
And here’s a stat that will likely stun the anti-Casilla crowd: His 2016 WHIP of 1.11 is the second-best WHIP since he became a regular major leaguer in 2007, only surpassed by his 0.86 in 2014.
Casilla has added to his pitching repertoire recently. He’s always had his two-seam fastball and hard-breaking slider. Now, he tosses in the occasional curveball and changeup. And that has led to his strikeout rate to climb. Last year he fanned 9.6 per 9 innings, a career-high. This year, the number has jumped to 11.5. And his 2016 walk rate of 2.6 is the second-lowest of his career.
So what’s going wrong in 2016. Well, we can narrow that down to his home run rate, which currently sits 1.5 per 9 innings, a career-high. His next highest is 1.1, last posted in in 2012.
Casilla has always struggled with control of his pitches. But this year, instead of missing out of the strike zone, he’s missing in it.
All four of the home runs he’s allowed this season have been allowed at AT&T Park. Three of the four were allowed to the first batter Casilla faced. It’s the main reason why he has a 4.50 ERA at AT&T Park this season and 0.87 ERA on the road.
That’s Casilla in a nutshell: Really good or really mediocre.
OK, so you want to get rid of Casilla as closer. What other options do the Giants have?
Cory Gearrin? The journeyman pitcher has done well this season (2.36 ERA) bouncing back from injury. He has the lowest WHIP of the Giants’ bullpen (0.94), but his K/9 is low for a closer (6.4).
Hunter Strickland? I think the Giants viewed Strickland as a closer of the future, but I’m not sure they think he’s there yet. He has a 3.22 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and the lowest FIP among Giants relievers (1.92). He also got off to a rough start in 2016. But since the start of May, he has a 2.08 ERA.
Sergio Romo? He’s on the DL and is not expected back until later this month at the earliest.
You want a trade? Well, at this point in the season, a trade means one of two things: Paying a very, very high price in prospects and/or acquiring a pitcher with a ton of baggage (in the form of pricey contract and stats uglier than Casilla’s). The Giants won’t pursue that route until after the All-Star break.
So then what’s the solution?
It’s a bullpen-by-committee with Casilla the lead option in the ninth.
If you haven’t had the need to play matchups to get out of tight spots in the seventh or eighth, play matchups in the ninth. That likely will more situations like what happened Wednesday against the Red Sox, when Casilla faced the first two batters, then Javier Lopez faced two lefties and Strickland got the save getting one batter on one pitch.
Casilla, and his supporters, just need to deal with that. Casilla is a good relief pitcher, but he’s no Mariano Rivera, locked-down, game-over closer. So he has not earned the right to get that ninth inning while everyone else in the bullpen sits and watches. You don’t blow four saves in two months and expect to get that right.
Casilla has been very good against right-handed batters. They are hitting .182 against him this season, and the home run by Turner was the first by a RH batter this season against Casilla. Righties have slugged .255 vs. Casilla this season.
But lefties, it’s a different story. Lefties are hitting .278 with .333 OBP and .611 slugging. That’s a .944 OPS, boys and girls. That’s precisely the reason Bochy hooked Casilla the other day when the tying run was on second and David Ortiz was coming to the plate. Ortiz’s track record, especially against righties, combined with Casilla’s numbers against lefties, the math didn’t add up.
So going forward, I’m fine with giving the ball to Casilla in the ninth, particularly when righties are coming up. But you always have someone in the bullpen ready to go. And at the first sign of trouble with lefties coming up, you make the move.
Oh, and to all those folks who lost their marbles when Bochy hooked Casilla with the lead in the ninth? Both times Bochy did that, the Giants won.
Let me repeat that.
THE …. GIANTS …. WON.
Isn’t that what we’re after here?