San Francisco Giants’ stretch of easy games just got a little easier

Madison Bumgarner

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday April 11, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

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.

Ichiro Suzuki vs. Pete Rose: Who is the REAL all-time hits leader?

Ichiro Suzuki

Miami Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki takes batting practice prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

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.

How many San Francisco Giants does it take to equal one Barry Bonds? 19

San Francisco Giants' Denard Span, right, celebrates after hitting a home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 13, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants’ Denard Span, right, celebrates after hitting a home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 13, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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

Is it too much to ask for San Francisco Giants fans to enjoy a nice relaxing lopsided win?

Brandon Belt, Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt, right, celebrates with Joe Panik (12) after hitting a two run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

How will San Francisco Giants’ top pick Bryan Reynolds fare? Let’s take a look at history

BRey

The Commodores play Virginia in Game 2 of a best-of-three series to determine the winner of the College World Series. Photo by Joe Howell.

  • For the first time in more than a decade, the San Francisco Giants didn’t have a top-30 pick in the first-year player draft.So the Giants were pleasantly surprised to see Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds still on the board when they made the 59th pick in the 2016 draft.

    “We were very happy he was available for us in the second round, and I must say we wer surprised he was getting to us,” Giants scouting director John Barr told the San Jose Mercury News. “We felt he was a guy more than likely would be gone before we could select.”

    The Giants had Reynolds, a switch-hitting center fielder, rated as a first-round player. But they forfeited their first-round pick when they signed Jeff Samardzija as a free agent last winter.

    A three-year starter at Vanderbilt, Reynolds hit .346 in the Cape Cod League, and the Giants see him as a top-of-the-lineup player.

    The scouting community rated Reynolds as a safe pick with somewhat low ceiling, much like the way Joe Panik was rated when the Giants were said to “reach” to pick him in the first round in 2011.

    But the Giants actually have a decent track record in the draft in recent years. Every first-player-drafted by San Francisco Giants from 2006-2012 made it to the majors, even Gary Brown.

    So how might Reynolds fare? Well, let’s take a look at how players take in the top-60 picks by the Giants have fared in the last 10 years.

    Certainly, the Giants have struck gold in the draft, but those have largely been top-10 picks: Tim Lincecum (No. 10, 2006), Madison Bumgarner (No. 10, 2007) and Buster Posey (No. 5, 2008). I’d also rate Joe Panik (No. 29, 2011) is a solid find.

    Several other players taken in the top-60 in recent years have used to acquire key players in trades. Charlie Culberson (No. 51, 2007) was traded for Marco Scutaro in 2012, Tim Alderson (No. 22, 2007) was dealt for Freddy Sanchez in 2009, Zach Wheeler (No. 6, 2009) was traded for Carlos Beltran in 2011 and Tommy Joseph (No. 55, 2009) was part of the Hunter Pence deal in 2012.

    But, of course, there have been players who made marginal or no big-league contributions to the Giants: Emmanuel Burris (No. 33, 2006), Wendell Fairley (No. 29, 2007), Nick Noonan (No. 32, 2007), Jackson Williams (No. 43, 2007), Conor Gillaspie (No. 37, 2008) and Gary Brown (No. 24, 2010).

    The jury is still out on players drafted since 2011.

 

  • RHP Kyle Crick (No. 49, 2011) was a top-100 prospect in 2013-15. But his inability to harness his control has not allowed him to rise above Double-A. He’s currently 1-4 with 4.91 ERA at Double-A Richmond.
  • RHP Chris Stratton (No. 20, 2012) made his big-league debut this season for the Giants. He has thrown two scoreless innings out of the bullpen and currently remains in the bullpen, although he seems like Bruce Bochy’s last option there.
  • SS Christian Arroyo (No. 25, 2013) was drafted right out of high school and he’s produced all along the line in the minors. He’s currently the No. 62 prospect by Baseball America. He’s hitting .288 for Double-A Richmond, similar to what Matt Duffy hit when he got called up two years ago. Don’t look for that with Arroyo, as he’s only 21.
  • RHP Tyler Beede (No. 14, 2014) was drafted out of Vanderbilt two years ago. After a bumpy start this season at Double-A Richmond, he currently 4-3 with 3.05 ERA. But he has produced quality starts in his last five outings. Since the start of May, his ERA is 2.25.
  • C Aramis Garcia (No. 52, 2014) has been on a slow track since being drafted out of Florida International University. But he’s having his best offensive season of his minor league career. He’s hitting .298 with .359 OBP with one home run and 14 RBI in 84 at-bats for Long-A San Jose.
  • RHP Phil Bickford, No. 18, 2015) is at Low-A Augusta, where he is 2-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 10 starts. He has 62 strikeouts to 14 walks in 53 innings. And he’s only 20 years old.
  • 1B Chris Shaw (No. 31, 2015) is turning heads in down at Class A San Jose, where he has 13 home runs, 46 RBI, batting .294 with a .363 OBP in 55 games. He hit 12 home runs in 46 games in Shortseason-A Salem-Keizer last season.

Brandon Belt snaps Splash Hit drought, so we start blogging again.

Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt

I feel like Gandhi with a big cheeseburger.

Wait. He was a Hindu. A nice bowl of chutney.

After two months of a self-imposed hiatus on blogging, I’m back at after Brandon Belt ended the longest drought of Splash Hits in the 16-year history of AT&T Park.

I mean, after all, this blog is called MoreSplashHits.

When Belt hit a David Price pitch into McCovey Cove in the fourth inning on Wednesday, it broke a 112-game drought without a Splash Hit.

It was Splash Hit No. 69. Belt also hit Splash Hit No. 68, but that was on Sept. 25, 2014.

The 112-game drought was the second-longest drought between two non-Barry Bonds Splash Hits. That was 146 games between 2001 and 2003.

It also means that there are almost as many Barry Bonds Splash Hits (35) as non-Barry Bonds Splash Hits (34).

There was some symmetry with this home run. For example:

It was Belt’s fifth Splash Hit, putting him third on this list of players with the most Splash Hits. Next on the list is Pablo Sandoval, who had seven. Sandoval now plays for the Red Sox, the team against whom Belt homered on Wednesday.

The last Splash Hit by someone other than Belt was by Travis Ishikawa on Sept. 12, 2014.

Ishikawa, who was released by the White Sox on May 24, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Wednesday. He’ll head to Triple-A Sacramento.

Belt’s home run Wednesday tied the game at 1-1. The Giants went on to win 2-1 on Mac Williamson’s first career home run, which went over the cars on the left-field wall.

Best possible tribute for the return of Barry Bonds to AT&T: A Splash Hit

MVPBonds

Barry Bonds is returning to AT&T Park in uniform for the first time since playing the final game of his major league career on Sept. 26, 1997.

By the way, he went 0 for 3 in a loss to the Padres that day.

But Friday he returns in a different uniform, that of the Miami Marlins. He took a job as one of the Marlins’ hitting coaches, and the Marlins come to town with the Giants riding a five-game losing streak.

And what would be a better tribute to the all-time home run leader — yeah, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, one thing is unequivocal: Barry Bonds hit more home runs than any other player in Major League history — than for a member of the San Francisco Giants to hit a ball into McCovey Cove.

There have been 68 Splash Hits since the Giants opened their bayside ballpark in 2000 — 35 of those were supplied by Barry Bonds.

But it has been 92 games since the last Splash Hit.

The 2015 season was the first season in which the Giants went Splash Hit-less.

The 92-game Splashless streak is the longest in stadium history for the Giants.

But the current streak is just the fourth-longest streak between two Splash Hits not hit by Barry Bonds.

Here’s the list

  • 146 — between Felipe Crespo’s Splash Hit on May 28, 2001 and J.T. Snow’s Splash Hit on June 5, 2003.
  • 109 — between Randy Winn’s Splash Hit on Sept. 14, 2005 and Ryan Klesko’s Splash Hit on May 21, 2007
  • 105 — between the opening of the stadium on April 11, 2000 and Felipe Crespo’s Splash Hit on May 28, 2001.
  • 92 — between Brandon Belt’s Splash Hit on Sept. 25, 2014 and now.

Barry Bonds’ final Splash Hits came on Aug. 8, 2007. That was career home run No. 757, and it came one day after he hit his record-breaking 756th home run.

There have been 23 Splash Hits since then, six by current Giants — four from Belt and two from Brandon Crawford.

There could be no better tribute for Barry’s return to AT&T than to end the drought and have someone, anyone, deliver Splash Hit No. 69.

For Barry.

An open letter of thanks from a Giants fan to the Boston Red Sox for signing Pablo Sandoval

Boston Red Sox' Pablo Sandoval, left, and David Ortiz talk before the Red Sox plays the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Boston Red Sox’ Pablo Sandoval, left, and David Ortiz talk before the Red Sox plays the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Dear Boston Red Sox,

 

I know times might be a little bit tough right now in Beantown, so I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that you are appreciated.

So, from a four-decade-long San Francisco Giants fan, I would just like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to you, on behalf of all Giants fans, for signing Pablo Sandoval away from the Giants in November 2015.

Sandoval, aka Kung Fu Panda, was a fan favorite in San Francisco for seven seasons. Panda Hats were everywhere. He was a two-time all-star, the 2012 World Series MVP, he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game, he was one of only two position players to play on all three of the Giants world championship teams and he caught the final out of the 2014 World Series.

But through all those good times, there were issues with Sandoval. The Giants were well aware about how Sandoval’s weight would fluctuate more than Kirstie Alley. Truly, Sandoval could have landed a spokesman gig for Jenny Craig, if anyone could understand what the fudge he was saying (OK, given the context of this letter, we understand that the use of the word “fudge” was probably insensitive. I apologize.)

Sandoval’s weight struggle would often correlate to becoming a defensive liability and prolonged slumps at the plate. It was evident during the 2010 World Series run when Sandoval was relegated to the bench.

So Sandoval spent that offseason on an exercise regimen that produced a sleeker and more slender Panda for the 2011 season.

But by the end of that season, the plumper Panda began to return. While his agents and the Giants were working on a new contract that would cover his arbitration years, Sandoval saw his weight jump 21 pounds in 21 days during the holidays in his native Venezuela.

Knowing that the Giants would have eyes on him, Sandoval went back to his trainer in Arizona to embark on a crash course in fitness, working out seven days a week, often three times a day.

The result of that offseason was a three-year, $17 million contract. Sandoval was an All-Star in 2012 and World Series MVP.

But video emerged in the offseason after the 2012 season showing Sandoval in the Venezuela World Series, as big as ever. After manager Bruce Bochy threatened to sit him the following spring training until he got in shape, Sandoval said he needed to get his weight under control.

By August 2013, Sandoval revealded that he had lost 22 points in six weeks after hiring his brother to be his personal chef. “Everything healthy,” Sandoval said at the time. His brother “goes everywhere with me.”

Fast-forward to spring training 2014 when the Giants and Sandoval were working on a contract extension that would keep him in a Giants uniform for years to come. Sandoval’s agent wanted a deal similar to the one the Giants gave Hunter Pence the previous fall.The Giants were so sure.

Then Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, said:

“The weight issues he had before, you’ll never see that again. He will have his trainer with him until he retires.”

That’s like an addict, while leaving rehab, saying that his dependency issues are a thing of the past. In fact, that’s exactly what Sandoval’s former trainer, Eric Banning, told the Boston Herald earlier this week.

On Sandoval’s eating issues, Banning said: “He needs to be smart enough to say there’s a problem. It’s like the alcoholic that won’t admit he’s an alcoholic. Well, you can’t address that you’re an alcoholic if you don’t ever admit there’s a problem.”

Banning went even further, adding: ““He’s proven to me and shown consistently that he’s got to have somebody like me holding his hand doing that (monitoring his eating). And it’s not an exercise thing, it’s an eating thing.”

Banning worked with Sandoval during the winters of 2011 and 2012. But Banning hasn’t been in contact with the Panda since he got that three-year deal from the Giants prior to the 2012 season.

That should have been a red flag on a major concern the Giants had: What would Sandoval do about his weight after being given a long-term deal?

Despite that, the Giants were in the mix to re-sign Sandoval after the 2014 season, along with the Red Sox and Padres. They matched the Red Sox offer of six years, $95 million and reportedly showed a willingness to go to $100 million.

But Sandoval turned them down and took the Red Sox offer, saying he wanted a “new challenge.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Red Sox.

The Giants left Sandoval go. That opened the door for Matt Duffy, who was the runner-up for the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year award.

With the draft pick they got from Sandoval signing with the Red Sox, the Giants took Chris Shaw, a left-handed hitting first baseman from Boston College. Shaw hit .287 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in 46 games with short-season Class A Salem-Keizer last summer. He’s hitting .292 early this season with High-A San Jose.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Sandoval – after saying that he didn’t miss anyone back in San Francisco except Bruce Bochy and maybe Hunter Pence — labored through the 2015 season, hitting .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI – all career lows for Sandoval since becoming a full-time player in 2009, despite playing in the far more hitter friendly confines of Fenway Park. And Sandoval had become a defensive liability at third base.

Sandoval’s struggles continued into this spring, leading the Red Sox to have the Panda start the 2016 season as a bench player.

That led Sandoval’s new agent, Rick Thurman, to declare:  “That’s like leaving a Ferrari in a garage.”

Wait, Rick. Is Sandoval the Ferrari or the garage in that analogy?

Then last week there was the video of Sandoval swinging at a pitch and popping his belt.

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A couple of days later Sandoval developed a mysterious shoulder injury, and the Red Sox putting him on the DL without him even having an MRI. It’s almost like if Sandoval had complained of the sniffles, the Red Sox would have claimed he had pneumonia without taking his temperature.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Herald wrote: “Certainly, this new, mysterious shoulder ailment has set the team back as far as trying to deal him. It also raised a few eyebrows from Sox rivals, even in the procedural manner in which they placed him on the disabled list, and the league is reviewing that process.”

The Red Sox will send Sandoval to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday. We have no doubt that Andrews will recommend Sandoval lose some weight.

The DL move has allowed the Red Sox to kick the Panda issue down the road, as the option of trading doesn’t seem in play, even as rumors involving the Padres continue to circulate. Cafardo said on AL executive doesn’t think Sandoval has any value.

The Red Sox still owe Sandoval $77 million. And while we know the Sox have deep pockets, deep enough to eat the rest of Sandoval’s contract (again, we’re sorry if the use of the word “eat” given the context of this letter is insensitive), we Giants fans are left with the relief that it’s issue the Giants don’t have to deal with.

And that’s all because of you, dear Red Sox, for stepping in during November of 2014 and saving us.

So, once again, thank you.

Sincerely

A San Francisco Giants fan since 1973

 

 

 

MLB Network’s Billy Ripken is 100 percent, absolutely spot-on with analysis of slide rule

Daniel Murphy, Nick Markakis

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There has been a lot of chatter by baseball analysts on the new slide rule at second base after the first week. A lot of noise from former players.

Harold Reynolds, Mark DeRosa, Preston Wilson, Eric Byrnes, Eric Karros, Frank Thomas, et al. And almost uniformly, former players don’t like the new slide rule, basically because it is not the style of baseball they were used to playing.

Well, no duh. It isn’t. There has been a rule change.

Finally, we got some analysis that is absolutely, 100 percent, complete accurate, spot-on from a very unexpected source … MLB Network’s Billy Ripken.

Ripken broke down the new slide rule with examples of its enforcement in the opening week of the season, and every point he makes is excellent.

Here’s is his breakdown:

In his breakdown, Ripken said:

MLB is being consistent with its interpretation of this rule, calling to the letter of the law.

YES! MLB learned this two years ago with the home plate collision rule. MLB tried to give players some latitude in the enforcement of the rule. The result was sometimes it was ruled one way, then the next day it would be called the other way. This caused a lot of confusion. By enforcing the rule as it is written causes no confusion, and players and teams will learn it faster.

Ripken says he was not on board with the rule at home plate a couple of seasons back. Then he says “But last year, I didn’t miss any blow-ups. No catcher go steam-rolled, and I didn’t miss it.”

YES! We’ve been saying this for years. In fact, we even blogged about it TWO YEARS AGO. Read it yourself.

On the Colby Rasmus play, which was not going to be a double play, Ripken says MLB needs to put the onus on the baserunner and the team. “Have some court awareness. If it’s not going to be a double play, slide into the second base.”

YES! That’s the one thing people upset about this call that people weren’t saying. They didn’t like it was a tough way to end the game. They didn’t like that the Brewers weren’t going to turn a double play. But no one was saying that then made Rasmus’ slide a dumb slide. The fault there was on Rasmus. And that’s what MLB is trying to teach players: There is no advantage in breaking this rule, so you’re better off following it. Rasmus would have been better off following the rule here.

He showed an example of Jose Bautista adjusting his slide from last week, when he was called for interference, to this week, when he successfully broke up a double play with a legal slide, by the new rule. Ripken said he liked how Bautista learned from one situation to another “whether he likes it or not, it is the rule.”

YES! We’ve said this, too. Players and teams must learn the rule and abide by it. Here’s another blog post.

If MLB keeps calling it the same way, within two weeks, we won’t be seeing this controversial plays because players will begin to adhere to the rule.

YES! Completely agree. Once players learn there is no advantage in breaking the rule, they won’t break the rule. And, guess what? You won’t miss it. The only time you will notice it is when players break the rule.

Ripken said he was never a supporter of the neighborhood play. “The base is there for a reason.”

YES! I have never been a fan of the neighborhood play. That’s because the neighborhood plays doesn’t — and more importantly HAS NEVER — resided in the rulebook. Neither has the idea of the a “legal slide” is one in which the runner can reach out and touch the base. Look it up. They aren’t there. In fact, the opposite is there. Here is the rulebook.

Rule 5.09 (a) Retiring a batter

The batter is out when:

(13) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interferes with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.

Well, that seems pretty clear. Why are we even having this discussion? Oh, there is a comment after the rule, which reads:

Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously, this is an umpire’s judgement play.

See, that’s where we get into trouble. The play has to not only be “deliberate” but also “unwarranted” and “unsportsmanlike.”

So the interpretation of this rule is born about of the rough and tumble days of the early 20th century when Ty Cobb would sharpen his spikes and gash at infielders. So baseball rules that Cobb’s actions are now unwarranted and unsportsmanlike. And now the interpretation is broadened to allow take-out slides as long as runner can slide and reach out and touch the base. This falls under the “umpire’s judgment” and a very loose interpretation of the three-foot wide baseline rule. But then you also need to protect the infielders, so the umpire’s judgment also included the neighborhood play. This wasn’t written into the rule, but adopted as practice by umpires under the “umpire’s judgment.” But what it actually did was move baseball further away from the original letter of the rule to protect players, when all you needed to do was enforce the rule as written.

And you do that by sticking with “deliberate” and removing “unwarranted” and “unsportsmanlike.”

The advent of replay allows us also to remove the umpire’s judgment. In an age when baserunners can be called off from coming off the bag for a fraction of a second, we can also take a look a plays at second base.

While safety is a big part of this new rule, you can’t underplay the impact that replay has made and a return to the true, original intent of the rulebook.

Last week, Giants fans were upset when second baseman Joe Panik was ruled to have come off the bag early. I responded that if first baseman Brandon Belt’s foot had come off first base before receiving the throw from Panik — and replays confirmed that — no one would have been upset. The same idea is at play at second base.

I also heard Eric Karros, sighting a comment by Mets manager Terry Collins, that he felt this new rule would result in infielders being hurt by “being comfortable around the bag.”

Having covering amateur baseball for 25 years, where the take-out slide is not legal — I can tell you this is utter hogwash. Like the home plate rule, in time, you won’t miss take-out slides, and this is just an attempt by a player lost in the past grasping at straws to try to make an argument against a change.

We will see far fewer injuries around second base under this year’s rule than we would under previous years’ rules.

And that’s the point.

So well done Billy Ripken. You are my new favorite baseball analyst.

Until you say something stupid.

After tough loss, here are projections sure to cheer up San Francisco Giants fans

Bruce Bochy

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy during a baseball game between the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco, Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Any loss is tough.

Any loss to the Dodgers is especially hard.

A loss to the Dodgers when it looked like the Giants had it won, well that’s almost unbearable.

But that’s what San Francisco Giants were faced with Saturday afternoon when the Dodgers rallied to beat the Giants 3-2 in 10 innings.

Things looked sticky when Santiago Casilla loaded the bases with one out and Adrian Gonzalez coming to bat while protecting a 2-1 lead in the ninth.

Casilla was looking for a strikeout or a pop-up. But what he really wanted was a double-play ball. And that’s exactly what he got when Gonzalez hit a grounder to second. But on a slick and rainy infield, second baseman Kelby Tomlinson mishandled the grounder, leading to only one out instead of two, and allowing the Dodgers to tie the game.

Rough.

Luckily, MoreSplashHits’ team of analysts have come up with some projections based on trends so far this young 2016 season that may brighten the hearts of any Giants faithful.

Our analysts are projecting:

  • The Giants will win on Sunday.
  • The Giants will score 12 runs on Sunday.
  • The first two things will happen provided the Giants don’t score first on Sunday.

Let’s take a closer look at these projections.

GIANTS WILL WIN ON SUNDAY: The trend so far this season has gone like this: The Giants won on Monday, they won on Tuesday, but they lost on Wednesday. The Giants won on Thursday and won on Friday, but lost on Saturday. So the trends say the Giants will win on Sunday … on their way to 108-54 season.

GIANTS WILL SCORE 12 RUNS: The Giants scored 12 runs on Monday, then played a one-run game on Tuesday and played another one-run game on Wednesday. The Giants scored 12 runs again on Thursday, then played a one-run game on Friday and another one-run game on Saturday. So trends indicate the Giants will score 12 runs on Sunday, with a five-run eighth inning.

GIANTS SHOULDN’T SCORE FIRST: Scoring first in a game is generally regarded as a good thing. It’s no fun trying to play from behind. In fact last season, the Giants were 57-32 when scoring first, and 27-46 when the opponent scored first. But this season, it’s the exact opposite. The Giants are 0-2 this season when they score first, but 4-0 when the opponent scores first. So our analysts project that the Dodgers will score first on Sunday, but will still lose. And that makes perfect sense, considering that they will be giving up 12 runs to the Giants.

So rest well, Giants fans, tomorrow will be a brighter day.

Brandon Belt’s contract extension offers insight into Giants’ future

NLCS Giants Cardinals Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Do you like the look of the 2016 San Francisco Giants? Hopefully you do because they are going to be together for a while.

The San Francisco Giants and first baseman Brandon Belt have come to terms on a contract extension for six years, $79 million.

The deal locks in seven of their eight starting position players through the 2018 season. Consider:

  • 1B Brandon Belt (signed through 2021)
  • 2B Joe Panik (team control through 2020)
  • SS Brandon Crawford (signed through 2021)
  • 3B Matt Duffy (team control though 2020)
  • C Buster Posey (signed through 2021)
  • LF Angel Pagan (signed through 2016)
  • CF Denard Span (signed through 2018; team option 2019)
  • RF Hunter Pence (signed through 2018)

On the good side, it means consistency over the next couple of years. The down side is, there’s a logjam for players coming up through the system.

Here are positions players listed among the Giants’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, and where they are opening the 2016 season.

  • SS Christian Arroyo (AA)
  • SS Lucius Fox (low-A)
  • 1B Chris Shaw (high-A)
  • OF Mac Williamson (AAA)
  • C Aramis Garcia (high-A)
  • SS Jalen Miller (low-A)
  • OF Jarrett Parker (AAA)
  • OF/IF Hunter Cole (AA)
  • 2B Austin Slater (AA)
  • OF Ronnie Jebavy (high-A)
  • OF Dylan Davis (low-A)

And this list doesn’t include players no longer considered prospects like IF Kelby Tomlinson and C Andrew Susac.

It’s great to have depth in the system, and it also allows that none of the Giants’ current prospects will be rushed to the majors.

It also means you likely won’t be seeing many of the above listed players in San Francisco black and orange any time soon, except for perhaps the outfielders like Williamson or Parker.

The Giants made a major offseason commitment with free agents. They are committing a fair amount to their own products.

Belt’s signing means the Giants aren’t likely to make a big splash in free agency in the near future.

Pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Cain are under contract through 2017 (Cueto has an opt-out; Cain has a team option the team is likely not to exercise). Jake Peavy will be a free agent, and the Giants are hopeful that some within the system can fill that void like Chris Heston, Clayton Blackburn or Chris Stratton.

In the bullpen, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are potential free agents after 2016. But the rest of the bullpen is under team control through 2019, and the Giants have a ton potential bullpen candidates in the system.

Great home opener for Giants capped by epic call from Jon Miller

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Jon Miller is a Hall of Fame announcer, and he proved it Thursday during the Giants’ home opener against the Dodgers with a Hall of Fame save.

The Giants were leading 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded. Hunter Pence came to the plate against the Dodgers’ Pedro Baez.

On a 1-0 pitcher, Pence sent the ball sailing over the left-center field fence for a grand slam and a 12-6 lead.

This is Jon Miller’s epic call.

If you didn’t want to listen, it went something like this:

“Swing and there’s a high drive, deep left-center field.

It’s on its way.

Adios Pelota!

A grand slam for Buster Posey …. ‘s good friend, Hunter Pence.”

Whoops. Posey had just struck out ahead of Pence.

Anyway, the blast capped a five-run eighth inning – the second five-run eighth inning for the Giants in this new season – as the Giants rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers 12-6.

If you want to watch, Pence’s blast with Duane Kuiper’s call, it’s here.

Notes

BUNTING ON OPENING DAY: The Giants used three of their four bench players as pinch-hitters Thursday. And the first two bunted. Kelby Tomlinson bunted for a single in the fifth inning, and Ehire Adrianza sacrificed two runners over in the sixth, setting up Angel Pagan’s go-ahead two-run single.

THIN BENCH: The use of Adrianza in the sixth was interesting because if left manager Bruce Bochy with no available reserve infielders. Had Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford or Matt Duffy been hurt or ejected in the last three innings, Gregor Blanco would have had to play the infield. Or, I suppose, they could have moved Buster Posey around the infield. He did play all eight positions in a college game at Florida State.

OUT HELPS GIANTS: While there were a lot of key at-bats that produced hits, one overlooked at-bat the produced an out for the Giants also proved pivotal. In the fifth after the Giants had scored three runs off Dodgers’ starter Alex Wood and had runners on first and third, Brandon Belt grounded to second to end the inning. That allowed Wood to stay in the game. He likely would have come out if Belt had reached. Wood then batted in the top of the sixth, a 1-2-3 inning by Chris Heston. He came out to pitch the sixth, gave up singles to Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford before getting the hook. Those hits sparked a four-run inning that gave the Giants a 7-3 lead.

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The death of the neighborhood play proved costly for the Giants in the second inning. An apparent inning-ending double play was wiped out when a replay review confirmed that Joe Panik’s foot came off the bag before receiving the throw from Crawford, resulting in a run scored by the Dodgers. While many Giants fans voiced their frustration, that is the rule now. But here’s another way of looking at it. If Brandon Belt’s foot came off the bag while receiving a throw, and replay confirmed that, no one would have made a peep. This play at second is exactly the same thing.

FRIDAY: Matt Cain makes his first start of the season when he faces Dodgers rookie Ross Stripling, who will be making his big-league debut. Stripling has never pitched above Double-A, going 3-6 with 3.88 ERA for Double-A Tulsa in 2015. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

Welcome to the San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto

San Fransisco Giants’ Johnny Cueto pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Johnny Cueto, who signed a six-year, $130 million contract in the offseason, made a solid debut for the Giants, holding the Brewers to one run on six hits, no walks — we’ll say that again NO WALKS — and four strikeouts over seven innings as the Giants beat the Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday.

Cueto said he felt no pressure going into his Giants debut.

“No, no, why should I feel any type of pressure? That’s just another game,” he said.

Cueto got into a bit of trouble in the second inning after the Brewers puts runners on the corners with no outs. Cueto got Ramon Flores to hit into a double play, allowing Jonathan Lucroy to score. But that was it as Cueto kept the Brewers hitters off-balance.

“He just has great savvy, stuff, everything,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s enjoyable to watch.”

Cueto said it was a great start to his Giants career.

“I felt very comfortable since Day 1. I’m going to be here for a long time based on the contract that I signed,” Cueto said. “It’s good that I had a good outing, especially the first one.”

Wait?!? A long time?? Doesn’t Cueto’s contract have an opt-out clause after 2017??

Hmmmmm.

Cueto’s win was the first by a Dominican Giants pitcher since Sergio Valdez did it 21 years ago.

It was also a far better debut than the Giants’ last big free-agent pitcher they signed: Barry Zito.

After signing a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2007, Zito gave up two runs in five innings in a 7-0 loss to the Padres. It didn’t get much better after that.

Cueto also had a fun exchange with the Brewers’ Ryan Braun.

In the third inning, Cueto struck out Braun on a 3-2 changeup. Afterwards, Braun smiled at Cueto and said “Good pitch.”

When Cueto started Braun out with the same changeup in the sixth, Braun smacked it into left-center for a double. Cueto smiled back at Braun.

Watch the exchange here:

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=574650783&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

THE OFFENSE: The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson did well to keep Giants hitters off-balance. After scoring 12 on Opening Day, the Giants managed just two on Tuesday. Brandon Crawford belted a solo home run in the second, and Matt Duffy added an RBI groundout in the third.

THE BULLPEN: After Cueto left after the seventh inning, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla went six up and six down in the eighth and ninth innings.

THE DEFENSE: Right fielder Hunter Pence couldn’t catch a liner by Chris Carter in the second. But by keeping the ball for going to the wall, he was able to hold Carter to a single. That proved to be a key play when Carter was a erased on a double play that scored Lucroy.

The Brewers got Jonathan Villar to third in the bottom of the third. But Villar was erased at home trying to score on a grounder by Domingo Santana. Crawford, playing in, fielded the grounder but threw home on the wrong side of the plate. Buster Posey caught the ball and placed a perfect sweep tag on Villar for the out.

“It was a great, great tag there by Buster,” Crawford said. “Obviously if that doesn’t happen, it’s the tying run and who knows, we might still be playing right now. So, that was definitely a little thing early in the game that ended up mattering in the outcome.”

WEDNESDAY: Jeff Samardzija makes his Giants debut. Instead of facing Matt Garza, who was placed on the DL with shoulder troubles, he will face Taylor Jungmann. Samardzija may have some different faces playing behind him as Bochy said he planned to rest some starters after the flu bug swept through the clubhouse and the Giants return to San Francisco for their home opener on Thursday. Wednesday’s first pitch at 10:40 a.m.

Chase Utley’s slide against Padres was not a dirty slide, but it was an illegal slide

utleyslide

Even though he’s supposed to be serving a two-game suspension, Chase Utley’s name popped up a couple of times on Opening Day.

The first occurrence came in the initial application of the “Chase Utley Rule.” In the Braves-Nationals game, the Braves’ Nick Markakis ran himself into a double play when he was ruled to have illegally contacted Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy with a take-out slide.

Markakis was on first when Hector Olivera hit a ground to third. Markakis was forced out at second, but his slide went wide of the bag at second base, taking out the legs of Murphy. A double play was ruled as Markakis was ruled for interference because, even though we was able to contact second base, he slid past the bag, making the slide illegal according to the new rule.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez stepped out of the dugout for a moment, but that was only to allow the Braves to take a look at the play. Once the Braves saw that Murphy was on the bag when he received the throw, Gonzalez returned to the dugout. No argument.

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves' Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In the Dodgers-Padres game, Utley was trying to score from first on a double into the left-field corner. As Utley ran down the third-base line to home plate, he ran inside the baseline, then slide into home with his legs out wide toward Padres catcher Derek Norris as he reached back to the plate. Norris was able to catch the throw and tag Utley out.

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The reaction to the play ranged from “Utley with another dirty slide” or “Utley is human garbage” to “Oh, get over yourself. This was a good heads-up baseball play. Stop coddling baseball players.”

As is usually the case, these stances on both sides of the issue are wrong.

First, was this a dirty slide? No.

Utley was not trying to injure Norris or was the slide reckless enough to potentially injure Norris, like Utley’s slide in the playoffs last fall against the Mets’ Ruben Tejada.

Secondly, was this a good heads-up baseball play? No.

It was an illegal slide.

It’s an illegal slide in 2016. An illegal slide in 2014. An illegal slide 30 years ago … if you actually take time to read the rule book.

According to rule 7.08 (b), any runner is out when he intentionally interferes with a thrown ball or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball.

On this play, Utley tried to do both.

The problem with this rule comes with the interpretation. Umpires will say they can’t read minds and determine a player’s true intent. Because of that, players have been allowed a huge amount of latitude on plays like these, causing only the most egregious violations of the rule to be called. And that has led to the current quandary.

On this play, Utley’s intent is obvious. No runner coming home after rounding third base ever runs inside the baseline unless he is trying to avoid a tag at home.

But Utley wasn’t trying to avoid a tag as he ran directly toward Norris and his tag.

What Utley’s intent here was – and even those folks on Utley’s side of this argument agree with this – was to A) potentially block Norris’ line of sight to the ball coming in; B) hope to get into the ball’s flight path to Norris and possibly be hit by the thrown ball; C) if all that fails, try to disrupt Norris’ attempt to catch the ball and make the tag.

In these three scenarios, A is still OK. But B and C are illegal, and Utley’s attempt to cause these things to happen is obvious.

Fortunately for the Padres, Utley’s attempts went for naught and Norris caught the ball and applied the tag.

The ironic part of this play is that if Utley went directly into home plate, or even tried a sweep slide on the OTHER SIDE of the baseline, he may have stood a much better chance of being safe.

But this rule is not complicated. And umpires need to stop giving the runners the latitude, and start giving the benefit of the doubt to the fielder.

The job of the runner is to do one of two things: attempt to get the base as quickly as possible in order to beat the throw, OR attempt to avoid the tag. If runners are determined to do anything other than that, they are out.

Our advanced analytics team projects how the San Francisco Giants will fare in 2016

paragdThe 2016 baseball season is opening.

And that means it’s prediction time. Everyone is making his or her picks to win the World Series.

The Cubs.

The Astros.

The Mets.

The Royals.

The Dodgers (gimme a break).

And this is also the time of year when MoreSplashHits makes its prediction on how many games the Giants will win in 2016.

But instead of just going with our gut, this year MoreSplashHits turned it over to its advanced analytics team (advanced analytics being all the rage right now).

Our advanced analytics have been crunching the numbers, looking at trends to project how the Giants will do this season.

And here is the result.

neGchart

The advanced analytics team says ….

The Giants will win between 88 and 94 games.

The Giants will make the postseason.

The Giants will win the World Series.

See you all on Market Street this fall.

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San Francisco Giants’ 2016 opening day roster all but set

San Francisco Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (37) hits during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

San Francisco Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (37) hits during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Well, we talk about when camp open that the Giants’ roster battles like would lack drama this spring.

And that’s a good thing.

It means that there weren’t any big injuries that would prompt some drama.

The Giants made moves on Sunday as they head into the final week of spring training that pretty much locked their opening day 25-man roster.

Because the Giants open the season with 23 games in the first 24 days – a very good thing for us fans, but not so great for the players – the Giants decided to keep 13 pitchers.

We thought that the acquisition of strong arms like Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto might preclude the Giants from opening the season with a short bench. But the schedule changed their thinking.

There really aren’t many chances that the weather could help with their busy early schedule – perhaps a three-game set in Colorado in the middle of the month.

So Cory Gearrin makes the club to reinforce the bullpen. It also keeps the Giants from a tough decision, as Gearrin was out of options. This will at least buy the Giants a couple of weeks to make a call on that.

It also means the Giants won’t carry a fifth outfielder. That means Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker will open the season in Sacramento.

Also heading to Fresno is Conor Gillaspie, despite having a very good spring. But Gillaspie is a corner infielder (3B-1B) and other options – Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson – provide more flexibility. Plus Gillaspie would need to be added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full. Tomlinson’s strong push late in the spring made that decision easier for the Giants.

That leaves one decision that really isn’t a decision at all. And that decision involves a backup catcher: Trevor Brown or Andrew Susac. Susac hasn’t played in a week because of his surgically repaired wrist, while Brown picked up the Barney Nugent Award as being the most impressive player in his first big league camp.

So barring any developments in the final week, here is your 2016 Opening Day roster.

Starting lineup: 1B Brandon Belt, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Matt Duffy, C Buster Posey, LF Angel Pagan, CF Denard Span, RF Hunter Pence.

Bench: OF Gregor Blanco, IF Ehire Andriaza, IF Kelby Tomlinson, C Trevor Brown.

Starting rotation: LH Madison Bumgarner, RH Jeff Samardzija, RH Johnny Cueto, RH Jake Peavy, RH Matt Cain.

Bullpen: RH Santiago Casilla, RH Sergio Romo, RH Hunter Stickland, RH George Kontos, RH Chris Heston, RH Cory Gearrin, LH Javier Lopez, LH Josh Osich.

At least we can say this about Johnny Cueto: He’s not a Dodger

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=554578783&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

Giants fans tuned Monday night to watch Johnny Cueto pitch after he was hit hard in his first spring start.

In his second spring start, Cueto got hit hard ….  In the head.

Cueto’s first pitch Monday night was sent right back at him by Oakland’s Billy Burns. The liner hit Cueto in the forehead, rebounded over the second baseman’s glove into shallow right-center for a leadoff double.

Cueto dropped to all fours, then looked out to the outfield rubbing his forehead, as manager Bruce Bochy and the medical staff raced out to check on him.

“There’s nothing that scares me more than that, that line drive up the middle,” Bochy said. “First night game, first pitch of the game. I was up as soon as it touched him, and I’m hoping it was what it was, more of a glancing blow. Still, it caught him pretty good.”

Cueto quickly got on his feet and told trainers he was fine and wanted to continue.

When play resumed, Cueto appeared confused when he started after a dribbler between the mound and first base off the bat of the next hitter Mark Canha. But then he backed off thinking first baseman Brandon Belt would field the ball. The play went for an infield single.

Josh Reddick followed that with a long three-run home run.

Cueto got out of the rest of the inning with a strikeout and two infield grounders.

He allowed just an infield single in the second. In the third, he gave up a double and a walk, finishing with 38 pitches. After Reddick’s home run, Reddick’s double in the third was the only ball to leave the infield.

Bochy said Cueto will be monitored for concussions symptoms over the next few days, but was only treated for the contusion.

“He was fine out there,” Bochy said. “He answered all the questions. He wanted to stay out there. … Guess it shows how tough he is, in a Spring Training game.”

More Splash Hits emerges from baseball hibernation

hibernatioMoreSplashHits 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.

San Francisco Giants about to set new precedent on the lack of Splash Hits

Brandon Crawford has two career Splash Hits, both in 2014.

Brandon Crawford has two career Splash Hits, both in 2014.

As the San Francisco Giants began a four-game home series against the Washington Nationals, there are very close to setting a new precedent at AT&T Park.

If the Giants don’t hit a Splash Hit in the series against the Nationals, it will mark the longest they have gone into a season without putting one into McCovey Cove since the ballpark opened in 2000.

The Giants have never gone an entire season without at least one Splash Hits — remember a Splash Hit is defined as a ball that is hit into San Francisco Bay on the fly, no rebounds.

The fewest Splash Hits the Giants have recorded in a season is one. That was accomplished twice — once in 2013 when Pablo Sandoval hit the lone Splash Hit and in 2006 when the king of Splash Hits — Barry Bonds — put one into the drink.

In fact, that 2006 season marks the latest date of the first Splash Hit of the season. It occurred on Aug. 21, 2006, when Bonds belted one of Arizona’s Livan Hernandez.

The Giants do not have a Splash Hit in 2015. The last Splash Hit was recorded on Sept. 25 of last season by Brandon Belt.

This comes after a 2014 season in which the Giants hit five Splash Hits, the most in the post-Bonds era.

But it’s not like it’s all about the Giants. Giants opponents also have not hit a ball into the bay this season.

That also has never happened. Opponents have hit at least one into the bay in every one of the 15 seasons at AT&T Park. It almost happened in 2009, until Arizona’s Miguel Montero hit one on Sept. 29.

And again, this after opponents hit eight balls into the bay in 2014, including Bryce Harper’s shot off Hunter Strickland in the division series last October. That is the most by opponents in one season.

So as a blog named to honor Splash Hits, MoreSplashHits declares that it’s about time the Giants got busy about hitting one into the bay.

After 16-5 stretch, the San Francisco Giants now face a month-long gauntlet in playoff push

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, left, and San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence celebrate after defeating the Atlanta Braves 6-1in a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, left, and San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence celebrate after defeating the Atlanta Braves 6-1in a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Following their 6-1 win Wednesday over the Atlanta Braves, the San Francisco Giants have completed a 21-game stretch with a 16-5 record.

It’s a pretty good run, right? Of course it is. When the Giants started this run on July 10, they were at .500 (43-43) and 5.5 games out of first place in the NL West.

Now they are 11 games over .500 (59-48)  and two games out of first place in the NL West  and a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the second wild-card spot.

(OK, you all must be waiting for the “but” so here it comes)

But … we would hope the Giants would finish the previous 21-game stretch with a good record. Those 21 games came against six teams with losing records and one — the Rangers — that is one-game above .500 thanks to their current four-game winning streak.

But the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Padres, Athletics, Brewers, and Braves are currently a combined 52 games below .500.

Well, the fun run ended Wednesday in Atlanta.

Starting Thursday in Chicago, the Giants will play 26 games over the next 28 days against six teams all with winning records.

  • Chicago Cubs 58-48
  • Houston Astros 60-49
  • Washington Nationals 55-51
  • St. Louis Cardinals 67-39
  • Pittsburgh Pirates 62-44
  • Los Angeles Dodgers 61-46

The Giants are 17-15 this season against teams that currently have a winning record; 42-33 against teams with losing records.

That 17-15 record is padded by a nice 9-3 mark against the Dodgers.

But the Giants are also 0-3 against the Nationals and 0-3 against the Pirates. They are 1-1 against the Astros. They have not yet faced the Cubs or Cardinals and will play 13 of their next 26 against those two teams, starting with a four-game series at Wrigley this weekend.

After they clear this gauntlet of contenders, which will end with a three-game set in Chavez Ravine Aug. 31-Sept. 2, things again get easier for the Giants, as 25 of their last 29 games against teams that currently have losing records (only a four-game set against the Dodgers at AT&T Park Sept. 28-Oct. 1 breaks up that string).

So if the Giants are going to remain contenders in NL West and NL wild-card race, they will need to keep their heads above water over the next four weeks.

MoreSplashHits predicts NL All-Star players for 2015 midsummer’s classic

Buster Posey has experience with big hits in Cincinnati.

Buster Posey has experience with big hits in Cincinnati.

The starters for the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati will be announced Sunday night, with the reserves announced on Monday.

So there’s still time for MoreSplashHits to make our predictions.

These predictions are based on the notion that the leaders released earlier this week will remain unchanged. That is unlikely to happen.

Usually, there is a huge surge in voting in the final days which can have a big impact on the final results.

The closest vote is at third base, where Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals held a narrow lead over Todd Frazier of the Reds.

But, again, we base these picks on the latest standings. We’ll throw in caveats at the bottom

STARTERS, BASED ON FAN VOTING RELEASED ON JUNE 30

C – Buster Posey, SF
1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Arz
2B – Dee Gordon, Mia
SS – Jhonny Peralta, StL
3B – Matt Carpenter, StL
OF – Bryce Harper, Was
OF – Giancarlo Stanton, Mia
OF – Matt Holliday, StL

RESERVES, SELECTED BY PLAYERS

C – Yadier Molina, StL
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, LA
2B – Howie Kendrick, LA
SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Col
3B – Todd Frazier, Cin
OF – Andrew McCutcheon, Pit
OF – Ryan Braun, Mil
OF – Joc Pederson, LA
SP – Max Scherzer, Was
SP – Gerrit Cole, Pit
SP – Michael Wacha, StL
SP – Zach Greinke, LA
SP – Madison Bumgarner, SF
RP – Trevor Rosenthal, StL
RP – Mark Melancon, Pit
RP – Aroldis Chapman, CIn

MANAGERS’ PICKS

P – Shelby Miller, Atl
P – Jacob deGrom, NY
P – Jonathan Papelbon, Phi
P – AJ Burnett, Pit
P – Matt Harvey, NY
PP – Justin Upton, SD
PP – Anthony Rizzo, Chi
PP – Nolan Arenado, Col
PP – Francisco Cervelli, Pit

None of the starting pitchers selected here as scheduled to pitch the Sunday before the All-Star Game, which would disqualify them from participating. So it would appear there would be few all-star replacements.

I really think Giants manager Bruce Bochy would like to select Brandon Crawford to the team. But it looks like that will be contigent on Matt Carpenter winning the fan vote. If Frazier wins the fan vote, as he should, then that allows the players to pick the deserving Nolan Arenado, and opens a spot for Bochy to take Crawford.

The manager only gets to pick four position players. Under this scenario, I have Bochy taking Justin Upton and Anthony Rizzo (both deserving) as their teams’ lone representative. I have Bochy taking Arenado, as a deserving player, and Cervelli as the third catcher. I’m sure Bochy does not want Buster Posey catching more than three innings, creating a need for a third catcher. In Bochy’s previous two All-Star games as manager with the Giants, he took three catchers, although in 2013 he took his third catcher as an injury replacement for a non-catcher.

He could do that again to get Crawford on the team.

As far as other Giants go, the only other player with a shot of making the team is second baseman Joe Panik. If Bochy can get Crawford on the team, looking for Bochy to nominate Panik as one of the five players to be candidates for the fans Final Vote.

Also look for the Nationals’ Denard Span and Pirates’ Starling Marte to be added to the roster for the injured Matt Holliday and Giancarlo Stanton.

Peavy, Lollis and maybe Osich join San Francisco Giants active roster

Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy

I didn’t know there was anything wrong with Tim Hudson.

He’s going on the disabled list.

I do know there’s something wrong with Santiago Casilla.

He is NOT going on the disabled list.

As the San Francisco Giants arrived in Washington D.C. for a weekend series with the Nationals, a bevy of roster moves followed them.

As expected, Jake Peavy was activated from the disabled list after spending more than two months there recovering from a back strain that plagued him in spring training.

Hudson was placed on the DL with a right shoulder strain. He’s also battled a sore hip. But basically, the official diagnosis is that Hudson is suffering from heiskindofoldsowewillgivehimabreakitis.

In a more surprising move, the Giants designated Travis Ishikawa for assignment about week after the hero of the NLCS was called up from Sacramento. Ishikawa was 0 for 5 with a walk in his most recent stint.

It’s the second time this season Ishikawa has been DFA’d. Assuming he clears waivers — again — Ishikawa likely will head back to Sacramento.

Taking his place on the roster will be outfielder Ryan Lollis.

Lollis will be making his major league debut after seven seasons in the Giants’ farm system. The 28-year-old was drafted in the 37th round of the 2009 draft by the Giants.

Lollis was hitting .358 with a very impressive .431 OBP through three levels of the minors this season. With Triple-A Sacramento, Lollis was hitting .353 with a .422 OBP in 116 PAs over 32 games. He has two home runs and 11 RBI, and can play all three outfield positions, something Ishikawa could not.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle also reported that relief pitcher Josh Osich was in Washington, although an official move has not been announced.

Schulman reports that Casilla, who blew a two-run lead Wednesday without recording an out, will not be going on the DL. Manager Bruce Bochy will give Casilla a couple of days off to rest a sore shoulder.

The Giants will need to create room for Osich not only on the 25-man active roster, but also the 40-man roster, as Osich is not currently on the 40-man list.

Correct call made in Giants-Dodgers game despite gaffe of third-base coach Roberto Kelly

From left, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly argues with third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth as San Francisco Giants third base coach Roberto Kelly and Gregor Blanco wait for resolution in the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in San Francisco. San Francisco won, 3-2. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

From left, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly argues with third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth as San Francisco Giants third base coach Roberto Kelly and Gregor Blanco wait for resolution in the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in San Francisco. San Francisco won, 3-2. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had a legitmate beef on Wednesday night.

But, ultimately, the correct call was made in the bizarre play involving Giants third-base coach Roberto Kelly and Gregor Blanco in the ninth inning.

OK, let’s set up the play.

With runners on first and second and one out in the ninth of a 2-2 tie, Brandon Belt shot a single into left field. Blanco, on second base, got a late break on the line drive and had no intention on trying to score as he rounded third base.

But as he rounded the base, Blanco bumped into Kelly, who was standing about six feet from the base.

Mattingly came out to argue interference with third-base umpire and crew chief Fieldin Culbreth, as Blanco clearly came in contatct with Kelly.

“The third-base coach blocked him,” Mattingly said. “I guess that’s the way I’ve been taught – the third-base coach is not allowed to block the runner from continuing on. It’s obviously interference and they missed the call, basically. I don’t know who was supposed to be watching but they weren’t.”

He continued: “He didn’t see it. He was watching the play. I don’t know why the third-base ump is watching the play. There’s nothing for him to watch. It’s a ground ball to left. I don’t know who’s watching to see if he touched the base. I really don’t know what the umpires’ responsibilities are there. But I do know there’s no way in baseball they allow the third-base coach to come up and basically block the runner from going forward, and that’s what happened tonight. That’s obviously a missed call. It’s not reviewable from their explanation.”

It seems that the Dodgers’ main beef is based on the idea that Culbreth didn’t see the play, because he wasn’t looking. And he wasn’t.

filedn

But let’s take a look at the facts.

  • FACT: Blanco bumped into Kelly.
  • FACT: Culbreth didn’t see it.
  • FACT: Blanco was not attempting to score.
  • FACT: Kelly did not prevent Blanco from attempting to score, not did he assist him in getting back to third
  • FACT: There was no play at third base by the Dodgers.

So, it would appear that the Dodgers were hoping to get bailed out of a ninth-inning jam not by a play that they made, but by a technicality or an umpire’s interpretation.

But one problem. Here’s the rule concerning the play from the MLB rulebook.

Rule 7.09
It is interference by a batter or runner when …
(g) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

So, by the rule, Culbreth’s ruling was correct.

“Don came out and asked me did I see him grab him,” Culbreth said “I told him no, I did not see him grab him. . . . The rule is pretty specific in the fact that he had to touch and physically grab him and assist him in returning to the base. That did not happen. If he doesn’t physically assist him in returning to the base then there’s no interference.”

Blanco concurred: “It wasn’t like he stopped me. I was stopping on third. I don’t feel he was stopping me at all.”

The problem comes in that some umpires would have seen the contact and ruled Blanco out … simply on the basis of stupidity.

There is absolutely no reason for Kelly to be standings THAT close to third base. There is no reason for contact to ever happen in that circumstance.

But it’s another example of a learning curve for Kelly, who made the move from first-base coach to third-base coach to replace the retired Tim Flannery.

You may remember on Opening Day, Kelly got Nori Aoki thrown out with a late stop sign.

On that play, Aoki was rounding third on a double by Joe Panik, when Kelly threw up a late stop sign. That led to Aoki to get caught too far off of third base. He was thrown out in the resulting rundown.

Not surprising, a few days later Aoki scored on a play when he blew threw a Kelly stop sign.

Kelly’s still learning his new job. Hopefully, it doesn’t cost the Giants in the future.

Tim Lincecum gets new haircut and look back to many sides of Timmy

Tim Lincecum's new haircut on Friday, via Instagram

Tim Lincecum’s new haircut on Friday, via Instagram

The Giants have lost their first four home games of 2015.

The Giants have lost seven straight games overall.

The Giants, at 3-8, are off to one of the worst starts by a defending World Series champion in history.

So what is there to blog about?

Well, Tim Lincecum’s hair, of course!

The Giants right-hander lopped off his long mane for a more slick-back look on Friday.

So we thought it might be a good time to look back on the many sides of Timmy through the years.

You’ve gotta Timmy, the first-round draft pick in 2006.

timdraft

And Timmy in 2008, the first of his two Cy Young years.

tim2008

Timmy hoisting the first of his World Series trophies, in 2010.

2010WS

Timmy at his second World Series parade in 2012.

World Series Giants Parade Baseball

The clean-cut Timmy, with glasses to boot in 2013.

tim2013

And the mustachio’d Timmy in 2014.

timm2014

The San Franciso Giants’ 0-3 home start is not their worst ever … yet

Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado, left, rounds the bases after his three-run home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum, right, during the first inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, left, rounds the bases after his three-run home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum, right, during the first inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The San Francisco lost on Wednesday … again. It was their sixth straight loss, their third straight at home.

Fans at AT&T Park haven’t been able to cheer a win in 2015. And you’re probably wondering if their 0-3 start the Giants’ worst home start ever.

Well, the answer is no. In fact, it’s not even the worst start in their current home park.

Back in 2000, the opening season in the Giants’ home by the bay — then Pacific Bell Park — the Giants opened the home season by being swept by the Dodgers in three games.

Then the Giants lost two more to the Arizona Diamondbacks to end their first homestand of the year at 0-5.

They went on the road, came back and lost to the Montreal Expos, pushing their home record to 0-6.

The Giants won their first game at Pacific Bell Park on April 29.

So let’s hope the 2015 Giants aren’t looking for their first home win on April 29.

But, again, here’s a silver lining.

The 2000 Giants rebounded from the poor home start to win 97 games and the National League West Division championship.

Giants open home schedule with fewest runs scored since 1911

San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan, right, scores past Colorado Rockies catcher Nick Hundley on a sacrifice fly by Matt Duffy during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants’ Angel Pagan, right, scores past Colorado Rockies catcher Nick Hundley on a sacrifice fly by Matt Duffy during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The San Francisco Giants’ offensive ineptness has reached historic levels.

Monday’s loss to the Colorado Rockies in the home opener was just the ninth time in franchise history, dating back to 1883, that the Giants have been shut out in their home opener, and only the third time in San Francisco Giants history.

The Giants looked like they might set a franchise record by being shut out in their first two home contests.

The Giants didn’t push across their first run at home this season until the eighth inning in a 4-1 loss to the Rockies on Tuesday.

Of course, it took two outs for the Giants to get a run home. After the Giants put the first two runners on in the eighth, Angel Pagan alertly advanced to third on an incredible catch by Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado in foul territory. Pagan scored on a more traditional sacrifice fly to the outfield by Matt Duffy.

The 16 consecutive scoreless innings to open the home schedule are the most by the Giants since 1914.

Five of the previous eight times the Giants have been shutout at home occurred before 1914 (1890, 1907, 1909, 1911, 1913). Baseball reference does list box scores before 1914, so we don’t know if 16 consecutive scoreless innings are the most in franchise history.

But we do know this: the one run scored in the Giants’ first two home games of the season tied a franchise record, matching the total from the 1911 season.

If you’re looking for good news, in 1911 the Giants won their third home game of the season and went on to capture the National League pennant.

So maybe it’s a sign. We can only hope.

Don’t worry: History shows Madison Bumgarner will be just fine in his next start

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday April 11, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday April 11, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

 

Saturday night was a rough day for Madison Bumgarner.

MadBum got tagged for five runs on eight hits in three innings in the Giants’ 10-2 loss to the Padres.

You can already hear the talking heads and bloggers going on and on about Saturday’s game is an example of how Bumgarner is feeling the effects of last year’s deep playoff run and high number of innings pitched.

But we’ve seen this before.

Bumgarner said afterwards that his mechanics were off, causing all of his pitches to go flat. Even so, the Padres didn’t exactly light him up.

The Padres’ first-inning rally started with a broken-bat, chalk-finder double by Matt Kemp. A couple of seeing-eye singles resulted in a 2-0 lead.

In the third, more seeing-eye singles and soft liners that dropped in front of outfielders led to three more runs. In all, it was Kemp’s double and nine singles.

Not great. But let’s pump the brakes on the something-is-wrong-with-MadBum talk.

We’ll remind you that after two starts, Clayton Kershaw has a 5.84 ERA, which is worse than Bumgarner’s 5.40.

And we’ve seen this before from Bumgarner. This was Bumgarner’s ninth career start in which he allowed more earned runs than innings pitched.

And we’ve seen him bounce back.

In the eight follow-up starts that came after those rough outings, Bumgarner has gone 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA. That includes his start in the 2012 World Series when he followed up his ugly start in Game 1 of the NLCS with a gem in Game 2 of the Series.

In the one loss, Bumgarner gave up two earned runs in eight innings, but lost because the Giants didn’t score any runs.

And all eight of those follow-up starts came at home. Bumgarner’s next start will come Thursday at home against the Diamondbacks.

Here’s the breakdown of those starts:

  • Aug. 25, 2010 (Cin) — 2.2 IP, 7 ER (8 R) 7 H, 1 BB, 3 K
    Next: Aug. 31 (Col) — 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 2 K
  • June 21, 2011 (Min) — 0.1 IP, 8 ER, 9 H, 1 K
    Next: June 26 (Cle) — 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 11 K, win
  • July 30, 2011 (at Cin) — 4 IP, 5 ER (7 R), 7 H, 3 BB, 4 K
    Next: Aug. 4 (Phi) — 8 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 9 K, loss
  • July 4, 2012 (at (Was) — 5 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 7 K
    Next: July 13 (Hou) — 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, win
  • Sep. 11, 2012 (at Col) — 4.1 IP, 5 ER, 11 H, 1 BB, 2 K,
    Next: Sept. 17 (Col) — 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 6 K, win
  • Oct. 14, 2012 (StL) – 3.2 IP, 6 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 2 K
    Next: Oct. 25 (Det) – 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K, win
  • May 17, 2013 (at Col) — 4.2 IP, 7 ER (9 R) 8 H, 2 BB, 4 K
    Next: May 22 (Was) — 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K
  • July 28, 2014 (Pit) — 4 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 K
    Next: 9 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K, win

The combined numbers from Bumgarner’s follow-up starts:

57 IP, 7 ER, 17 BB, 51 K, 5-1

So relax. MadBum will be fine.

The sticky situation between the Padres’ Derek Norris and the Giants’ Angel Pagan

Derek Norris of the Padres and Angel Pagan of the Giants

Derek Norris of the Padres and Angel Pagan of the Giants

You can call it the greatest overreaction to a piece of gum since Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

gum

In the top of the ninth inning of a 0-0 tie, the Giants’ Angel Pagan and Padres catcher Derek Norris got into a jawing match that resulted in both dugouts being warned by home plate umpire Tripp Gibson.

But what could have sparked a near-brawl between the Giants and Padres?

“It was something really small,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “You can ask them. It was kind of silly, to be honest. It was intense out there.”

OK. So Pagan was asked by reporters.

“It was everything for a piece of gum,” he said.

As Pagan came to bat in the ninth, he looked down in the batter’s box, picked up something small and appeared to fling it at Norris’ shinguard. Norris took offense to that and stood up to tell Pagan about it, and Pagan barked back.

Pagan said the small item was a piece of gum. He was trying to fling it away, but it stuck to his glove and hit Norris.

Afterwards Pagan said: “ That’s his game face. I respect that. … He didn’t have to take that position.”

Norris wasn’t having any of that, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin: “He was just being kind of dickhead, and I don’t take kindly to that. … I don’t come into center field and throw gum at him when he’s playing defense.”

Derek. It was gum. GUM!!

Padres pitcher Craig Kimbrel followed that up by buzzing Pagan high and tight.

“I just happened,” Kimbrel said. “I was wild today.”

He was smiling when he said that.

But it didn’t end there. Pagan then followed by lining a 3-2 pitch into center field for a leadoff triple.

After sliding into third, Pagan celebrated loudly — in the direction of the Giants dugout, or Kimbrel, who was backing up third on the play, or both.

San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan pumps his fist after sliding into third with a triple as umpire Greg Gibson signals safe in the ninth inning of a baseball game won 1-0 by Giants over the San Diego Padres in 12 innings Thursday, April 9, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

San Francisco Giants’ Angel Pagan pumps his fist after sliding into third with a triple as umpire Greg Gibson signals safe in the ninth inning of a baseball game won 1-0 by Giants over the San Diego Padres in 12 innings Thursday, April 9, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Kimbrel then stared down Pagan.

But Kimbrel got the last laugh, getting Brandon Crawford to pop up and Casey McGehee to hit into an inning-ending double play with Pagan still on third.

As he was leaving the field, Kimbrel barked at Pagan.

Just another fun day at Petco Park with the Giants and the Padres.

Oh, and by the way, the Giants won 1-0 in 12 innings.

“It was a great game overall,” Pagan said. “It was a very fun game, interesting, fun. Everything.”

Chris Heston’s unlikely road to San Francisco Giants’ rotation leads to victory

San Francisco Giants' Chris Heston throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Francisco Giants’ Chris Heston throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The San Francisco Giants were in need of some good news. And it came from an unlikely source — Chris Heston.

The rookie right-hander pitched six solid innings to propel the Giants to a 5-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

Coming into Wednesday, the Giants were unsure of the health of Jake Peavy and Brandon Belt and placed Matt Cain on the disabled list.

Heston was called up to fill in Cain’s spot. But after Peavy looked good in his bullpen session before Wednesday’s game — putting him on course to start Sunday in San Diego — it looked as if Heston’s start Wednesday would be a spot start with Ryan Vogelsong filling Cain’s spot in the rotation after Peavy’s return.

But then Heston did what he did Wednesday. He gave up two unearned runs on three hits and two walks on 91 pitches over six innings. He was the first rookie pitcher to start a game for the Giants in the opening week of the season since Matt Cain in 2006. He became the first rookie pitcher to start and win a game in Week 1 since Kurt Ainsworth in 2003.

The first unearned run was his own fault. Heston hit A.J. Pollock with a pitch in the first inning, then allowed Pollock go to third on an errant pickoff throw. Pollock scored on a groundout.

“The first inning started to unravel a little bit, kind of a little shaky there,” Heston said. “But I was able settle down and get back into it.”

In the sixth, he gave up a laser double to Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt advanced to third on a pitch (which should have been caught by Hector Sanchez) and scored on a passed ball by Sanchez.

And now it looks as if Heston will start Monday in the home opener against the Rockies.

“We’re not moving him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We need him right now. What a shot in the arm for us.”

It is an unlikely outcome given Heston’s bumpy road to this point.

Heston was drafted in the 47th round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft by the Twins, out of Seminole Community College in Florida. He did not sign and remained at Seminole. He was drafted in the 29th round of the 2008 Draft by the Nationals, but passed on the Nats to attend East Carolina.

The Giants drafted him in the 12th round of the 2009 Draft, and Heston signed. His pro career got off to a bumpy start, going 1-5 in Rookie ball in 2009 and 5-13 for Class A Augusta in 2010.

But things started to come together in 2011 when he went 12-4 with 3.16 ERA for Class A San Jose. He went 9-8 with a 2.24 ERA and 1.103 WHIP for Double-A Richmond in 2012, earning an Eastern League All-Star nod.

He was added to the Giants’ 40-man roster that offseason, but success didn’t follow him to Triple-A in 2013. He went 7-6 with a 5.80 ERA in 2013 and was released in August of that year to create room on the 40-man roster.

Heston re-signed with the Giants and went 12-9 with a 3.38 ERA for Triple-A Fresno last season, earning a September call-up. He started the final game of the 2014 regular season, giving up three runs in four innings against the Rockies.

He spent the past offseason bulking up — something he said the Giants have been pushing him to do for several off seasons — and it paid off this spring. He impressed the Giants, going 1-0 with 2.40 ERA with 10 strikeouts and one walk in 15 innings.

He was set to open the Triple-A season with Sacramento when Cain’s trip to the DL prompted his call-up to face the Diamondbacks.

Where does it go from here? Well, we’ll get a better idea on Monday.

Opening Day: Seven positives (and a big negative) to take away from Giants’ 5-4 win over Diamondbacks

San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner warms up during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, April 6, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner warms up during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, April 6, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Opening Day. Everything is exaggerated on Opening Day.

Winners are crowned champions. Losers are dreaming about next year. At least in the eyes of the fans.

For the second consecutive season, the Giants opened the season with a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4. Madison Bumgarner picked up the win as the Giants had to sweat through an eighth inning that almost saw the D-back erase a 5-1 on deficit.

While it is only one game about of a 162, we thought we’d look a seven positives that could be taken from Monday’s opener.

  1. The Giants won. Hey, a win’s a win’s a win, even if it is over the lowly Snakes. We’ll take it, especially on Opening Day.
  2. The Giants punched out 13 hits — nine singles and four doubles. With a shortage of power, especially with Hunter Pence out, the Giants will need to string together hits for rallies.
  3. The top of the order produced: Nori Aoki, Joe Panik and Angel Pagan went a combined 8 for 14 with four runs.
  4. Casey McGehee (2 for 3) got two more hits and three fewer strikeouts (0 to 3) than Pablo Sandoval did on opening day.
  5. Madison Bumgarner was his usual MadBum, but still good enough to limit the Diamondbacks to one run on six hits over seven innings.
  6. They played good defense: No errors, turned two double plays. Another key to the season.
  7. Santiago Casilla looked really good, setting down Arizona’s 1-2-3 hitters in order to record the save in the ninth.

OK so it wasn’t all puppy dog tails and rainbows. Here are a couple of concerns.

The biggest concern came out of something that involved two players who didn’t play Monday. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, both slated to start Games 2 and 3 for the Arizona series, won’t pitch in the series.

Peavy has a sore back. He’s hoping that rest and treatment will allow him to make his next scheduled start this weekend in San Diego.
Cain’s situation is a little more worrisome. Cain was diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm, an injury that will sideline him for two weeks.

The good news is the Giants have some pitching depth in the rotation. Ryan Vogelsong will start in place of Peavy on Tuesday, but the Giants haven’t made a call on who to replace Cain on Wednesday.

One option would be to move up Tim Lincecum, slated to pitch Friday in San Diego. Lincecum only pitched one scoreless inning of relief in the Bay Bridge series, so bringing him back on three days rest shouldn’t be a big concern. However, the idea of Lincecum facing Paul Goldschmidt in Arizona doesn’t warm the heart.

The other option is to put Cain on the DL and call up a pitcher from Triple-A to start in his place. Chris Heston had a solid spring.

Bruce Bochy said he’d prefer to leave Yusmeiro Petit in the bullpen, rather than thin about the bullpen.

Setting the table for San Francisco Giants 2015 spring training

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum (55) stretches during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum (55) stretches during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The pitchers and catchers reported to camp last week. Now, the rest of the team is reporting.

So I guess it’s time to emerge from my baseball blogging hibernation.

Well, since we last chatted, back in October when the Giants were wrapping up their third World Series championship in five years, the Giants’ offseason could be wrapped up like this.

Imagine last fall’s roster.

Now imagine that the Giants traded away Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse for Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki.

Not thrilled with that trade? Well, that was the Giants’ offseason in a nutshell.

The Giants allowed Sandoval and Morse leave via free agency, gaining a June draft pick for Sandoval. They traded from McGehee and signed Aoki. Then they brought back Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo and Travis Ishikawa.

  • The Giants are counting on a full return of Angel Pagan, who missed the back half of 2014 with a back injury.
  • They are hoping Brandon Belt has the breakout year that they hoped from him in 2014 when his season was shortened by first a broken hand and then a concussion.
  • They hope for a full return of Matt Cain, who missed the last half of the season after getting bone chips removed from his elbow.
  • They hope Tim Lincecum can refind his form that makes him a significant contributor to the rotation.
  • And they Joe Panik doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump.

That’s a lot of hoping. But here is out the 2015 roster is shaping up as spring training gets into full gear.

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Angel Pagan
LF Nori Aoki
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
3B Casey McGehee
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford

BENCH

IF Joaquin Arias
IF Ehire Adrianza or Matt Duffy
OF Gregor Blanco
IF-OF Travis Ishikawa
C Hector Sanchez or Andrew Susac

STARTING ROTATION

LH Madison Bumgarner
RH Matt Cain
RH Tim Hudson
RH Jake Peavy
RH Tim Lincecum, RH Ryan Vogelsong or RH Yusmeiro Petit

BULLPEN

RH Santiago Casilla
RH Sergio Romo
LH Jeremy Affeldt
LH Javier Lopez
LH Jean Machi
RH Tim Lincecum, RH Ryan Vogelsong or RH Yusmeiro Petit
RH Tim Lincecum, RH Ryan Vogelsong or RH Yusmeiro Petit

OTHER PLAYERS ON 40-MAN ROSTER

RHP Ray Black
RHP Erik Cordier
RHP Joan Gregorio
RHP Cody Hall
RHP Chris Heston
RHP George Kontos
RHP Derek Law
RHP Hunter Strickland
3B Adam Duvall
OF Daniel Carbonell
OF Jarrett Parker
OF Gary Brown
OF Juan Perez

NON-ROSTER INVITEES

LHP TY Blach, RHP Clayton Blackburn, RHP Brett Bochy, RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Cody Gearin, RHP Juan Gutierrez, LHP Braulio Lara, LHP Adalberto Mejia, LHP Steven Okert, RHP Curtis Patch, RHP Chris Stratton, LHP Nik Turley, C Aramis Garcia, C Guillermo Quiroz, C Ty Ross, IF Christian Arroyo, IF Mitch Delfino, IF Brandon Hicks, IF Kelby Tomlinson, IF Carlos Triunfel, OF Justin Maxwell, OF Mac Williamson

Where does Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off homer rank among Giants’ most memorable postseason blasts?

San Francisco Giants Travis Ishikawa reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants won 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Giants Travis Ishikawa reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants won 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Travis Ishikawa sent the Giants to the National League pennant with his home run of Michael Wacha in Game 5 of the National League championship series.

It conjured up memories of Bobby Thomson’ Shot-Heard-‘Round-The-World in 1951.

But where does it rank among postseason home runs by the San Francisco Giants over the past 25 years.

My Giants fandom is about 40 years old. So I thought back to some of the most memorable postseason home runs the Giants have hit since 1987, their first postseason appearance in 16 years at that time.

I came up with 10. The complete list of blasts is listed at the bottom. So look over these home runs then cast your vote for the most memorable.

 

thrill

Will Clark, grand slam, fourth inning, Game 1 of the 1989 NLCS vs. Chicago

Clark had already hit a solo home run in the third when he came up against in the fourth and the Giants leading 4-3. The Cubs’ Greg Maddux looked as if he might escaped a bases loaded jam when he got Robby Thompson to pop up for the second out. Cubs manager Don Zimmer came out to talk to Maddux. On the on-base cirle with Kevin Mitchell, Clark says he read Maddux’s lips and saw “fastball.” Clark hit the first pitch into the right field bleachers for a grand slam. The Giants went on to win 11-3. And since then, pitchers now cover the mouths with their gloves during conferences on the mound.

barry

Barry Bonds, solo home run, second inning, Game 1 of the 2002 World Series vs. Anaheim

After the Giants went down in order in the first inning, Bonds made the first plate appearance in the World Series in his long career. Instead of pitching around Bonds, as teams had done all season, the Angels’ Jerrod Washburn decided to challenge Bonds. Bonds answered with a long drive into right field that left Washburn shrugging his shoulders. The Giants would go on to win 4-3.

cody

Cody Ross, solo home run, fifth inning, Game 1 of 2010 NLCS vs. Philadelphia

The Giants were facing Roy Halladay, who would go on to win the 2010 NL Cy Young. In his previous start, Hallday became the second pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter when he beat the Reds. Ross was batting eighth in the lineup (BEHIND Mike Fontenot). He took Halladay deep in the third for the Giants’ first hit of the game. The game was tied 1-1 when Ross came up again in the fifth. He sent a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a 2-1 lead the Giants would not relinquish on way to a 4-3 win.

uribe

Juan Uribe, solo home run, eighth inning, Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS vs. Philadelphia

The Giants fell behind early 2-0, but rallied to tie the game in third. Then Jonathan Sanchez got the early hook, and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson kept the Phillies off the board for seven innings. But the game was still tied until Uribe came up against Ryan Madson with two-out in the eight. Uribe took Madson’s first pitch and sent it over the right-field fence for a home run and a 3-2 lead. That would be the final, and the Giants were off to the World Series.

The Top 10 List of Non-Giants Who Should Be on Every Giants Fan's Christmas Card List: No. 4, Cliff Lee

Edgar Renteria, three-run homer, seventh inning, Game 5 of the 2010 World Series vs. Texas

With the Giants one win from a World Series title, Tim Lincecum and the Rangers’ Cliff Lee put up zeroes for six innings. But in the seventh, Cody Ross and Juan Uribe singled. Aubrey Huff bunted them over, but Pat Burrell struck out. Then Renteria, who spent much of the season on the DL with various injuries, got ahead 2-0, then sent a drive into left-center that cleared the fence for a 3-0 lead. The Giants would go on to win 3-1 for their first World Championship since 1954.

busta
Buster Posey, grand slam, fifth inning, Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS vs. Cincinnati

The Giants dropped the first games of the series at home, then found a way to squeak out a 2-1 win in Game 3 on a 10th-inning error. After winning Game 4, they found themselves facing an old nemisis in Mat Latos. The Giants pushed across two runs in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead when the loaded the bases. Posey came up and worked the count to 2-2 before sending the next pitch into the upper deck in left for a 6-0 lead. The Reds rallied back to make it 6-4 before the Giants closed out the series, making Posey’s slam the big hit.

 

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball’s World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Pablo Sandoval, solo home run, fifth inning, Game 1 of the 2012 World Series vs. Detroit

Sandoval had alredy taken Justin Verlander deep twice — a solo shot to center in the first inning and a two-run poke to left in the third — when he came up against Al Albuquerque in the fifth. Then he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three home runs in World Series game when he took Albuquerque out to center.

craw

Brandon Crawford, grand slam, fourth inning, Wild Card Game vs. Pittsburgh

Crawford became the fourth San Francisco Giant to hit a postseason grand slam when he took Edinson Volquez’s 1-2 pitch out to right to give the Giants a 4-0 lead en rout to an 8-0 win in a wild-card elimination game against the Pirates.

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Brandon Belt, solo home run, 18th inning, Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Washington

After the Giants rallied in the ninth to score and run and force extra innings and after Yusmeiro Petit’s six shutout innings of relief, Belt led off the 18th and took Tanner Roark’s 3-2 pitch out deep to right. Belt, who missed much of the season with a broken finger and later a concussion, had only recently returned to the lineup to deliver in a big spot. The Giants won 2-1 and took a 2-0 series lead.

NLCS Cardinals Giants Baseball

Travis Ishikawa, three-run home run, ninth inning, Game 5 of the NLCS vs. St. Louis

Since playing a key reserve role on the 2010 Giants World Series team, Ishikawa had been designated for assignment by the Giants, Orioles, Yankees, White Sox and Pirates. He had bounced around the minors and twice contemplated retirement, even as recently as earlier this summer when languishing at Triple-A Fresno. But injuries led to his call-up in July. Even though he had only played 11 games in the outfield in his big league career, Ishikawa started all but one of the Giants’ postseason games this fall in left field. He misplayed a ball hit by John Jay earlier in the game for the Cardinals’ first run. But ready for redemption when he came up with two on and one out in the ninth of a 3-3 tie. Ishikawa sent Michael Wacha’s 2-0 pitch just over the wall in right for the Giants’ first postseason walk-off home run since Bobby Thomson’s blast in 1951.

All of Giants’ postseason home runs since 1987

1987 NLCS vs. StL
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 1
Will Clark, Game 2
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 2
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 3
Harry Spilman, Game 3
Bob Brenly, Game 4
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 4
Robby Thompson Game 4
Kevin Mitchell, Game 5

1989 NLCS vs. Chi
Will Clark (2), Game 1
Kevin Mitchell, Game 1
Kevin Mitchell, Game 2
Robby Thompson, Game 2
Matt Williams, Game 2
Robby Thompson, Game 3
Matt Williams, Game 4

1989 World Sries vs. Oak
Bill Bathe, Game 3
Matt Williams, Game 3
Greg Litton, Game 4
Kevin Mitchell, Game 4

1987 NLDS vs. Fla
Bill Mueller, Game 1
Brian Johnson, Game 2
Jeff Kent (2), Game 3

2000 NLDS vs. NYM
Ellis Burks, Game 1
J.T. Snow, Game 2

2002 NLDS vs. Atl
Rich Aurilia, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 2
JT Snow, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Rich Aurilia, Game 4
Barry Bonds, Game 5

2002 NLCS vs. StL
David Bell, Game 1
Kenny Lofton, Game 1
Benito Santiago, Game 1
Rich Aurilia (2), Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Benito Santiago, Game 4

2002 World Series vs. Ana
Barry Bonds, Game 1
Reggie Sanders, Game 1
JT Snow Game 1
David Bell, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 2
Jeff Kent, Game 2
Reggie Sanders, Game 2
Rich Aurilia, Game 3
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Rich Aurilia Game 5
Jeff Kent (2), Game 5
Barry Bonds, Game 6
Shawon Dunston, Game 6

2010 NLDS vs. Atl
Pat Burrell, Game 2
Cody Ross, Game 4

2010 NLCS vs. Phi
Cody Ross (2), Game 1
Cody Ross, Game 2
Juan Uribe, Game 6

2010 World Series vs. Texas
Juan Uribe, Game 1
Edgar Renteria, Game 2
Cody Ross, Game 3
Andres Torres, Game 3
Aubrey Huff, Game 4
Buster Posey, Game 4
Edgar Renteria, Game 5

2012 NLDS vs. Cin
Buster Posey, Game 1
Gregor Blanco, Game 4
Angel Pagan, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 4
Buster Posey, Game 5

2012 NLCS vs. StL
Angel Pagan, Game 2
Hunter Pence, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 5
Brandon Belt, Game 7

2012 World Series vs. Det
Pablo Sandoval (3), Game 1
Buster Posey, Game 4

2014 Wild Card vs. Pit
Brandon Crawford

2014 NLDS vs. Was
Brandon Belt, Game 2

2014 NLCS
Joe Panik, Game 5
Mike Morse, Game 5
Travis Ishikawa, Game 5

Giants’ Bruce Bochy needs to take new approach with Hunter Strickland

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Adams hits a home run during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Adams hits a home run during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Hunter Strickland’s journey to baseball’s biggest stage is an interesting one.

When the Giants called him up in September, some folks were christening Strickland as the Giants’ new “closer of the future,” replacing the recently traded Heath Hembree.

Strickland was big. He threw hard (like 100 mph hard) and he threw strikes.

After a particularly impressive save outing of the 13th inning win over the Dodgers, even Giants closer Santiago Casilla was calling Strickland the Giants’ new closer.

Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland

Well, not so fast.

Before we document Strickland’s issue, let’s first look at his past.

Drafted in the 18th round of the 2007 draft, Strickland signed with the Red Sox right out of high school in Georgia.

In his days with the Red Sox, his fastball was reported to top out at 94 mph and be clocked regularly in the upper 80s to low 90s.

He had mixed results as a starting pitcher when he was traded in 2009 to the Pirates, who regarded him as a sleeper prospect.

After never rising abov high A-ball, he missed all of 2011 with shoulder problems.

He returned in 2012 and remained a starter for the Pirates’ A-ball team. He was promoted to Double-A midseason and moved to the bullpen.

He was added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster in November 2012, but designated for assignment at the end of spring training the following March. The Giants claimed him and sent him to Class A San Jose.

He was 1-0 with 0.86 ERA in 20 relief appearances before blowing out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery in June. The Giants released him in July, but re-signed him to a minor-league deal in August.

He was back and throwing hard in spring training. He was sent to Double-A Richmond, where he was 1-1 with 2.02 ERA in 35.2 innings with 48 strikeouts and four walks when the Giants called him up in September when rosters expanded.

Now 26, Strickland made nine appearances in September, throwing 7 innings, giving up no runs on five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. Right-handers hit .200 off him (3 for 15), as did lefties (2 for 10, 2B). However, righties struck out seven times while lefties whiffed just twice.

But in the postseason a serious hole has been exposed in Strickland.

In the postseason, right-handed batters are 1 for 10 with a walk and three strikeouts. Pretty good.

But against left-handers, well….

Lefties are 4 for 7 with four home runs and two strikeouts.

In the playoffs, manager Bruce Bochy has been using Strickland like a new toy, rolling him out in high-stress situations or to pitch a full inning. One of the homers Strickland gave up tied the game. The other, on Sunday night, gave the opponents the lead.

Maybe he needs to take another approach.

On Sunday, Bochy’s options were limited. Having exhausted his two lefties already, he brought in Strickland to face righty Matt Holiday to end the seventh. Strickland picked off Kolten Wong instead.

With the game tied, Bochy didn’t want to his pen again, so he stuck with Strickland. Strickland got Holliday out, then came lefty Matt Adams.

Strickland throws hard, but straight. And this is not Double-A. Big-league hitters can hit anything straight, even if it’s approaching 100 mph.

Against Adams, Strickland made a bad choice or bad pitch.

Unlike against the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, when Strickland fell behind 2-1 and 3-1, Strikland got ahead
Adams 1-2, dropping in a pair of sliders.

Strickland’s next pitch should have been OUT of the strike zone. Up high or outside. Maybe both. Show him the fastball. If he chases, great. If not, you set him up for another slider. If you walk him, big whoop. Go after righties Jhonny Peralta and Tony Cruz.

Instead he shot one straight down the middle, and Adams took him deep (SEE ABOVE PHOTO).

Strickland has to be smarter.

Bochy needs to be smarter.

If the matchup is right, go to Strickland. If not, find another option.

Play to his strengths. This is not the right time for on-the-job training.

San Francisco Giants 2014 motto must be: “Somehow, Someway”

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The 2014 San Francisco Giants’ motto should be: “Somehow, Someway.”

The Giants’ inexplicable postseason run continued Saturday with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

The Giants again did not tear the ball of the cover. They did manage eight hits, but here is how they scored their three runs.

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter can't catch an RBI single by San Francisco Giants' Travis Ishikawa during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter can’t catch an RBI single by San Francisco Giants’ Travis Ishikawa during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • A ducksnort bloop single off the Magic Wandoo of Travis Ishikawa.
  • An error.
  • A sacrifice fly.
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter can't catch a ball hit by San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco as the Giants' Brandon Belt advances during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter can’t catch a ball hit by San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco as the Giants’ Brandon Belt advances during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And the Giants’ two-run “rally” in the second inning was started on a double by Pablo Sandoval that originally landed in the glove of Cardinals right fielder Randal Grichuk, but popped out after Grichuk hit the wall and then the ground.

The Giants’ third-inning run was aided when second baseman Kolten Wong failed to cleanly field a potential double-play ball off the bat of Hunter Pence. The Cardinals only got one out on the play, so no error, but it made Brandon Belt’s subsequent sacrifice fly possible.

 

This follows the Giants’ final four runs scored in the Division Series against the Nationals, which were scored on …

  • A wild pitch.
  • A groundout.
  • A walk.
  • A sacrifice fly.

The Giants even caught a break when Madison Bumgarner appeared to balk in a run in the seventh inning. But the umpires didn’t call a balk, probably because only the Giants are allowed to score a run on a balk.

It’s hard to figure.

The Giants went 15-61 in games in which they scored three runs or fewer. They were 73-13 when scoring four runs or more, second best in the NL this season (The Nationals had the best mark).

From June 3 to Aug. 25, the Giants went 1-35 in games in which they scored three runs or fewer.

But in the postseason, the Giants are now 4-1 in games in which they score three runs or fewer.

They have scored 12 runs total in their last five postseason games. Yet they find themselves with a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

After going 5 for 40 (.125) with runners in scoring position in the series with the Nationals, the Giants added a 2-for-11 night with RISP on Saturday. And one of those hits didn’t score a run.

But here’s one stat to note. In the Division Series, the Giants struck out the fewest times of the four NL teams in the LDS round. And it’s not even close. The Nationals struck out 39 times in 172 plate appearances, the Cardinals struck out 37 times in 138 PAs, the Dodgers stuck out 36 times in 155 PAs and the Giants struck out 24 in 175 PAs.

And as the old adage goes “Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”

The other stat is the more obvious one: the pitching.

Giants pitching has an 1.14 ERA in the postseason.

The starting pitching has been even better: 0.64 ERA.

At some point, you have to expect the Giants bats to come alive.

Perhaps that will come in Game 2 on Sunday.

Some fans need fresh perspective on San Francisco Giants making the 2014 postseason

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The San Francisco Giants are back in the postseason, for the third time in five years.

Now I’ve been a Giants fan for 40 years. And this is only the second tim in that four-decade span that the Giants have made the postseason three times in five years (they made it three times in four years in 2000, 2002 and 2003).

And yet, there are a lot of Giants who are not excited about the fact the Giants are in the postseason. Not sure why.

Maybe it’s because the Giants didn’t win the NL West.

Maybe it’s because making the playoffs just means a one-game elimination situation.

Maybe it’s because the Giants blew a 9.5-game division lead.

Maybe it’s because the Giants were SOOOOO bad in June and July.

Maybe it’s because the Giants didn’t clinch a playoff berth by winning a game. Instead, they clinched because of a Brewers loss that followed five Giants losses over six games.

Maybe it’s because injuries have left the Giants’ prospects in the postseason so tenuous.

Who know. But really, I think that some Giant fans need a fresh prospective.

Let’s think back to spring training in March. What would you think of the Giants’ chances of making the postseason if the following things came true?

  • Matt Cain’s season would be over by the All-Star break.
  • Tim Lincecum’s final start would happen on Aug. 23.
  • Angel Pagan would spend two months on the DL and be limited to 96 games.
  • Marco Scutaro would be a non-factor in 2014.
  • Brandon Belt would miss 102 games and hit .241 in the games he did play in.
  • Michael Morse would hit just two home runs after the All-Star break and miss nearly the entire month of September.
  • Sergio Romo would lose his closer’s job in June and never regain it.
  • Brandon Crawford would make a career-high 21 errors.
  • The only player the Giants would acquire by trade is a pitcher who was 1-9 with 4.72 ERA.

Given those facts, what would you have thought the Giants would have finished in 2014.

70-92?

76-86? (Last year’s record).

81-81? I would think that a winning season would have been considered a stretch, given the above facts.

Yet, despite ALL of those hurdles, the Giants finished 88-74 and they are in the playoffs, sending their best pitcher to the mound to win an elimination game.

We’ll remind you the Giants won six consecutive elimination games on their way to the 2012 world championship.

So while there may be a lot of reasons to think the Giants won’t go far this October, there is really one reason to think they will.

They’re the Giants.

And if you need another reason to believe that, well, go root for the A’s.

No matter what White Sox — or Andrew Baggarly — say, San Francisco Giants did not beat Chicago White Sox on a ‘technicality’

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, right, reaches to tag San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, right, reaches to tag San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

During last offseason, Major League Baseball wanted to implement a rule that would prevent home-plate collisions. The rule would be simple and straightforward.

The catcher is not allowed to block the plate. The runner is not allowed to blow up the catcher. The only time home-plate collisions would happen was when the flight of the ball drew the catcher into the runner’s path, making any collision accidental and unavoidable.

But that wasn’t good enough for old-school catchers and managers. They said “How can we teach our catchers how not to block the plate in just six weeks of spring training when that’s how they’ve been playing the position forever (forever meaning in their pro careers, because blocking the plate was not part of the game they played in Little League, high school or college)?”

So MLB waffled a bit, adding a line into the new rule that catchers could still block the plate, if they had possession of the ball. And a can of worms was opened.

Given that sliver of light, old-school managers did not worry about teaching their catchers about where best to position themselves to be in compliance with the new rule. They simply told their catchers to play the position as they have always played it, and make MLB rule that they were doing it incorrectly.

In the first half of the season, MLB gave catchers the benefit of the doubt. The onus was on the runner to avoid contact. Catchers kept blocking the plate like they always had.

But then runners started to complain. Was there a new rule or wasn’t there one? And MLB started to listen. So after the All-Star break, we started to see a swing in how these plays were being ruled on replay.

If the catcher was in the runners path without the ball and didn’t give the runner a path to the plate, the runner would be ruled safe. It didn’t matter how far ahead of the runner that the ball arrived to the plate.

In short, if teams weren’t going to get their catchers to position themselves correctly in compliance with the new rule, MLB was going to do it for them.

And if you’re on the wrong end of one of these calls, you don’t like it. Just like White Sox manager Robin Ventura found himself in when umpires overturned a call in which the Giants’ Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate in the seventh inning on Tuesday.

The play resulted in a 1-1 tie, and the Giants went on to score six more times in the inning en route to a 7-1 win. And Ventura was livid.

“You look at the spirit of the rule of what they’re trying to do and what it’s actually doing, and it’s a joke,” said Ventura, who was ejected for arguing and kicking dirt on the plate after a review that lasted nearly five minutes. “We obviously disagreed with it, and we got hosed today.”

Ventura continued: “They don’t take into consideration that the guy was out by a longshot.”

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! At what point did Ventura start to disagree with this rule. If you rewind back to Tuesday night’s game, Ventura found himself on the opposite end of a similar play.

In the 10th inning, Chicago’s Jordan Danks were ruled out at the plate on a tag by Buster Posey. Ventura came out to have the play to review to see if Posey blocked Danks’ path to the plate, even though Danks was out by a longshot.

One problem, however. The review showed that Posey didn’t block the plate, that he did leave Danks a pathway to the plate.

And why is this? Well, it’s because that’s how the Giants have taught their catchers to position themselves on plays on the plate. They instruct their catchers to get out IN FRONT OF home plate, between home plate and the pitchers mound, field the throw, then apply a sweep tag. That’s what Posey did.

Now fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon. White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers did not get out in front of home plate. He stood right over it. And when he went to field the throw from first baseman Jose Abreu, Flowers left leg clearly blocked off the entire plate from the oncoming Blanco. Flowers even admitted this much, but said that’s not the point.

Except it IS the point.

Some have said the Giants won Wednesday on a “technicality” including CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly, who called the ruling “lasso-sized legal loophole.”

This is what Flowers said: “I don’t think anybody has an understanding of this rule,. That’s not the purpose of this rule. The purpose of this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It’s not when a guy is out by 30 feet. ‘Oh, he blocked the plate?’ That had no impact on him being safe or out. And there’s no clarification on that.”

There. Flowers just proved my point, even if he didn’t intend to, when he said “this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It’s not when a guy is out by 30 feet.”

Flowers was referring to the Scott Cousins play — I call it the Cousins play because the responsibility for that collision was completely on Cousins — that prematurely Posey’s season in May 2011.

Here are three irrefutable points about the Cousins/Posey play.

  • Posey was NOT blocking the plate on that play.
  • Posey DID leave Cousins a lane to the plate.
  • Cousins did believe he would be out by 30 feet. He felt that from where right fielder Nate Schierholtz was throwing the ball, Cousins would be out easily. His only recourse was to try to dislodge the ball from Posey. As it turned out, Posey got caught with a short hop that he didn’t handle cleanly.

And that’s the point of the new rule. MLB wants catchers to leave runners a lane, so they don’t feel like their only course of action is collide with the catcher. And leaving a lane is all determined by where the catcher sets up to receive the throw.

So here’s another question for Flowers. If Blanco was going to be out by a longshot, why was Flowers even blocking the plate in the first place?

“I had two seconds to get from behind home plate to catch (and) make a tag, and I’m supposed to be able to make sure I don’t block the plate, catch the ball and make the tag, all within two seconds on an infield dribbler?” Flowers said. “That’s not realistic. That play doesn’t make any sense.”

But it is realistic, if it’s a play that you have been trained on doing correctly. Buster Posey had time to do it correctly Tuesday night because he’s been trained to do that. Flowers, likely because the White Sox have not made it a priority, appeared as if he hasn’t been trained on this.

So MLB gave him, and the White Sox, a valuable lesson. And they got what they deserved.

And that’s not a technicality.

Instead of trading prospects, San Francisco Giants call up a pair from Double-A for playoff push

Matt Duffy

Matt Duffy

When Matt Duffy and Jarrett Parker were told Thursday not to board the Richmond Flying Squirrels team bus for Altoona, they thought that they had been traded as part of a deadline deal.

That would be completely logical.

Instead, both Class AA players were getting promoted to the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants made no deadline deals Thursday to go with the acquisition of Jake Peavy. Instead, the Giants will make a playoff push with the players they have.

That started Friday, when Duffy, an infielder, and Parker, an outfielder, were called up to fill the roster spots vacated when second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Tyler Colvin were designated for assignment.

It was the first time since August of 2011 that the Giants have promoted a player midseason from Double-A. Back then it was pitcher Erik Surkamp.

A position player had not been called up from Double-A since Darren Ford earned a September call-up in 2010 as used strictly as a pinch-runner and defender.

The Giants are expecting Duffy and Parker to contribute more than that.

As for Duffy, the move is intriguing. Duffy, drafted as a shortstop, was an 18th-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2012. He has hit at every level: .247/.361 OBP in shortseason A Salem-Keizer in 2012, .307/.405 for Low-A Augusta in 2013, .292/.342 in high-A San Jose in 2013.

He’s hitting .332 with .398 OBP for Double-A Richmond in a pitcher-friendly Eastern League. He led Richmond in hitting by a long shot. And through his minor-league career, he’s walked about as much as he has struck out.

Jarrett Parker is another story. Parker, a second-round pick in 2010, has struggled at the start of every season in the minors, then recovered toward respectability. He hit .253 for San Jose in 2011, .247 for San Jose in 2012, .245 for Richmond in 2013 and .275 with 12 HRs and 58 RBI in 99 games for Richmond this year.

But he’s a big-time swing-and-miss guy: 144 Ks in 127 games in 2011, 175 Ks in 122 games in 2012, 161 Ks in 131 games in 2013, and 103 Ks already in 99 games in 2014.

But he may not be with the club for long. Brandon Belt is expected to be activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list this weekend. When that happens, look for Parker to return to Richmond.

Even if the Giants opt to jettison Travis Ishikawa when Belt returns, look to Parker to get a return bus trip to Richmond by next week when Angel Pagan is expected back from the DL.

Pagan played in an Arizona Rookie League game Friday night, and looked good. Barring setbacks, Pagan could return to the Giants when they arrive in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

But Duffy, as one of two middle infield reserves — along with Joaquin Arias — figures to stick around longer. At least until Ehire Adrianza comes off the disabled list. But that likely won’t happen until the Giants return from this 10-game road trip.

As for Uggla and Colvin, their stints with the Giants may not be over. If both players clear waivers, and they should (Uggla for sure), they could be sent to Fresno, if they accept the assignment.

Report: San Francisco Giants acquire Jake Peavy, which can’t be good news

Boston Red Sox's Jake Peavy, left, delivers a pitch to Houston Astros' Jose Altuve in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Boston Red Sox’s Jake Peavy, left, delivers a pitch to Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the San Francisco Giants are finalizing a deal to bring veteran pitcher Jake Peavy to the Giants.

Details are still being worked out, according to the report. But the Red Sox will reportedly get minor league pitchers Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar.

The details being worked out likely involve money and other provisions. Peavy is making $14.5 million this season with the Red Sox, meaning he is still owed about $6 million. He has a player option of $15 million for 2015, but he is unlikely to reach the milestones to make that option vest. He would basically have to double his current innings output of 124 innings this season to allow that option to kick in.

Normally when Giants GM Brian Sabaen makes these midseason deals, I reserved judgment, preferring to defer to his better judgment.

The Giants have made several midseason deals over the past few years. Not all of the deals have worked out as the Giants hoped, but at least the Giants didn’t have to give up much to get them.

I wrote about this earlier, listing the prospects the Giants have given up in midseason deals the past five years. Really, only Zack Wheeler has amounted to anything, and the jury is still out on him.

But I’m going to say now that I don’t like this deal. To me, it represents of harbinger of bad news.

And here’s why.

CAIN SITUATION MUST BE BAD: When Matt Cain went on the disabled list after the All-Star break, manager Bruce Bochy said Cain could be down “one week, two weeks …. eight weeks. We just don’t know.” The Giants have been cagy with health reports of their players. So when they say they don’t know, we have to conclude they at least suspect. And the consumation of this deal must indicate they suspect that Cain may not return this season.

THE PRICE WAS TOO HIGH: In giving up Escobar and Hembree, the Giants parted with their No. 2 and No. 11 prospects, according to MLB.com’s preseason list of prospects. Both pitchers have appeared to be on the fast track to the majors in recent spring trainings. Escobar, 22, was thought to be in position to get a call-up this season, but he’s had a rough season in Triple-A. He’s 3-8 with 5.11 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 111 innings at Fresno. Hembree, 25, was thought to be the Giants “closer of the future” a couple of springs ago. But this season represents his third at the Triple-A level. He is 1-3 with 3.89 ERA, 18 saves and 46 strikeouts in 39.1 innings this season with Fresno. He was recently named a PCL All-Star. He did have a brief stint with the Giants in 2013, throwing 7.2 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts. So I might have been OK giving up one of these two pitchers, along with some lower-level prospects, for Peavy. But giving up both?

THIS AIN’T THE SAME JAKE PEAVY: This has not been a good season for Peavy, 33, in Boston. He’s 1-9 with 4.72 ERA in 20 starts. He leads the American League in home runs allowed with 20. Here are most stats for 2014 to sample

  • His ERA+ of 83 is the lowest of his big-league career.
    His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.81 is his highest since his second big-league season in 2003 when he was 22.
    His WHIP of 1.427 is the highest of his career.
    His Hit Allowed Rate of 9.5 is the second highest of his career.
    His HR Allowed Rate of 1.5 is the highest of his career.
    His Walk Rate of 3.3 is his highest since 2002.
    His Strikeout Rate of 7.3 is his lowest since 2002.

Looking for good news?

The Giants are clearly hoping that a return to the National League, where he hasn’t pitched since 2009, will do Peavy good. His four starts against NL teams this season have all been quality starts.

They are also hoping that pitching in AT&T Park will provide better results than pitching in Fenway.

Well, Peavy is 14-2 with 2.21 ERA against the Dodgers in his career also looked good to the Giants. Although it should be pointed out that most of those starts occurred in 2009 or earlier when Peavy was a different pitcher and the Dodgers were a different team. Peavy did limit the Dodgers to one run on three hits in a complete game win in Dodger Stadium last August.

And for good news, Peavy make be on the mound when the Giants face the Dodgers on Sunday night, instead of Yusmeiro Petit.

A look at prospects San Francisco Giants traded away in recent midseason deals

New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler follows through with a pitch against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 20, 2014, in San Diego.  (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler follows through with a pitch against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 20, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

As the Giants consider making a midseason season trade to bolster the run toward the 2014 playoffs, it might be a good idea to look at what happened to the prospects the Giants traded away in midseason deals over the past five years.
2009 Tim Alderson (for Freddy Sanchez)

Alderson was the Giants’ No. 2 pitching prospect (behind Madison Bumgarner) when he was traded to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez. Alderson never made it to the big leagues and was traded to the Orioles organization in July 2013. He was 2-4 with 6.12 ERA for the O’s Triple-A affiliate this season before being released. He signed with the A’s and is currently pitching in Class A Stockton.

2010 Joe Martinez and John Bowker (Javier Lopez)

Martinez, a decent long reliever/spot starter with the Giants, made five appearances with the Pirates in 2010. He spent most of the next three seasons in the minors with the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Indians. He was 0-3 with 16.36 ERA with the Angels’ Triple-A team before retiring this April at age 31. Bowker played for the Pirates’ Triple-A team after being acquired in the trade and earned a September call-up. He made the Pirates 2011 roster as a reserve, but spent most of the season in the minors before being traded to the Phillies late that season. In 2012, he went to play in Japan.

2010 Dan Turpen (Ramon Ramirez)

Turpen, a reliever never, made it out of the minors, first with the Red Sox, then Rockies and currently Twins. He’s pitching for the Twins’ Double-A team.

2010 Evan Crawford (Mike Fontenot)

An outfielder, Crawford never made it above Class A ball. He’s currently playing Independent ball in the Frontier League.

2011 Henry Sosa, Jason Stoffel (Jeff Keppinger)

Sosa made a brief appearance with the Astros in 2011. He was later released and signed with the Dodgers this season. He is 1-2 with 3.72 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Albuquerque. Stoffel, a reliever, is still in the Astros’ system. He’s 2-3 with 2.91 ERA this season for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

2011 Thomas Neal (Orlando Cabrera)

Neal, an outfielder, spent 2011 and most of 2012 in the minors before earning a September callup from the Indians. He was released in January 2013 and signed with the Yankees, earning a couple of brief promotions in June and July of 2013. The Cubs claimed him off waivers in August of that year. He signed a minor-league deal with the Reds in 2014. He’s hitting .254 in 80 games for the Reds’ Triple-A team.

2011 Zack Wheeler (Carlos Beltran)

The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler was the Giants’ top prospect when he was dealt to the Mets for Beltran. Wheeler was promoted in 2013, going 7-5 with 3.42 ERA in 17 starts. He is 5-8 with 3.78 ERA in 20 starts this season for the Mets.

2012 Charlie Culberson (Marco Scutaro)

Culberson has bounced back-and-forth between the Rockies and Triple-A since being acquired. He is hitting .188 with 2 HR and 12 RBI in 61 games for the Rockies this season.

2012 Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin (Hunter Pence)

Schierholtz hit .273 with 1 HR and 5 RBI for the Phillies after the trade in 2012. He signed as a free agent with the Cubs in 2013, hitting 21 HRs, 68 RBI and .251. He had 5 HR, 31 RBI and is hitting .199 this season for the Cubs. Joseph, a catcher, was the key piece in the Pence deal. But he has not realized his potential yet as concussion injuries have slowed his progress. He hit .209 in 21 games for Triple-A Leigh Valley last year. He’s hitting .282 in 21 games for Double-A Reading this season. Rosin pitched 2013 in Double-A before being taken by the Mets in 2013 Rule 5 Draft and traded to the Dodgers. He was on the Dodgers’ opening day roster, but never appeared in a game before being claimed off waivers by the Rangers in late March. He pitched in three games before being DFA’d by the Rangers in April and returned to the Phillies. He is 2-5 with a 4.46 ERA as a reliever for the Philles’ Double-A and Triple-A teams this season.

San Francisco Giants have a magic number and it’s four

four

We’re past the All-Star break. Time to start talking about magic numbers, right?

OK, maybe not. But there is a magic number for the Giants and winning baseball games … at least in the past month.

It’s four.

That the number of runs you have to hope the Giants score tonight against the Phillies. Or any night for that matter.

Since June 20, the Giants are 11-0 when they score four runs or more in a game.

When they don’t, they are 0-15.

Not an earth-shattering stat exactly.

For the season, the Giants are 40-10 when they score 4 or more runs in a game, and 10-34 when they do not.

But here’s one stat that I thought was interesting.

When opponents score two runs in a game, exactly two runs, the Giants this season are 8-9.

EIGHT AND NINE when the opponent scores just two runs.

Not like you had to explain that stat to Matt Cain or Ryan Vogelsong.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

As San Francisco Giants revolving door turns: Cain, Belt out; Uggla, Kontos, Duvall, Petit in

Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla

As the post All-Star break began, San Francisco Giants fans were lifted with some hope.

The Giants had a modest three-game winning streak. It appeared they were starting to get healthy with the return of Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro.

But then the reality of Monday hit like a rock.

The Giants placed Matt Cain on the disabled list for the third time this season. And it felt very similar to his first two trips.

Before the All-Star break, Cain was reshuffled in the rotation to the No. 5 spot. Manager Bruce Bochy said, at the time, there was no specific reason for this and that the Giants just wanted to give Cain more time.

Then came news Friday of Cain’s “cranky elbow,” but that he was still expected to start Tuesday against the Phillies.

Then came news of his third DL stint on Monday with elbow inflammation. Cain is eligible to return from the DL Sunday against the Dodgers, but at this point it looks very doubtful.

It was like deja vu from his first two stints, first with a finger laceration and later with a hamstring strain. First reports said “yeah, he’ll be OK and make his next start” followed by “DL time.”

So Yusmeiro Petit gets the call again to fill in for Cain.

On the surface, you can say Petit’s 3-3 record and 3.86 ERA this season is better than Cain’s 2-7 mark and 4.18 ERA. But then you look at Petit’s relief/start splits.

He’s 2-1 with 2.45 ERA in relief and 1-2 with a 5.81 ERA in his five starts.

George Kontos, who has been pitching very well lately in Fresno, gets the call to fill Cain’s roster spot.

Then came news that Belt would be placed on the seven-day concussion DL. Belt was hit in the face with a thrown ball during batting practice on Saturday. Belt was looking to receive a throw from shortstop when another one came in from second base.

Figures.

Belt started the game Saturday and came out of the game with dizziness. He’ll be eligible to return on Sunday vs. the Dodgers.

Adam Duvall got the call to fill Belt’s roster spot. Duvall, who got called up in June, has hit 3 HRs, 11 RBI and .310 in his last 10 games with Fresno.

And, finally, the Giants took a flyer on veteran second baseman Dan Uggla.

When Uggla was released by the Braves last week, several Giants fans on Twitter was screaming for the Giants NOT to sign him. They compared him to Brandon Hicks, except older and not nearly as good a fielder.

But given their options at second base, it’s a no-risk move to sign Uggla to a minor-league deal and send him to Fresno in an effort to find his stroke.

Uggla has an Aug. 1 opt-out date. That means if he hasn’t been called up to the Giants by then, he can opt-out of his deal and find a better one somewhere else.

It gives the Giants about 10 days to see if Uggla can help.

The best-case scenario is that the Giants catch a little lightning-in-a-bottle with Uggla, similar to what they did in 2010 with Pat Burrell and Cody Ross.

At worst, Uggla spends 10 days in Fresno. That should be long enough.

Everyone hits in Fresno. Juan Perez is hitting .337 in Fresno. Hicks is hitting .333 since he got sent to Fresno.

If in 10 days Uggla isn’t hitting in Fresno, let him take his opt-out.

Is Tim Lincecum back? Well, you could say The Freak has never been better

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws in the first inning of their baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws in the first inning of their baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

All of the talk around San Francisco these days revolves around one question.

“Is Tim Lincecum back?”

After two Cy Young seasons and two world championship seasons, Giants fans want to know if The Freak is back to his form from 2008-11 after a very bumpy stretch since 2012.

Well, one way to answer that question is to say Tim Lincecum has, in fact, never been better.

After his past four starts since June 25, Tim Lincecum’s stats are as follows …

  • 4-0
  • 30.1 innings pitched
  • 10 hits allowed
  • 1 earned run
  • 9 walks
  • 24 strikeouts
  • 0.30 ERA

Now compare that to his best four-start stretches over his career.

July 16-Aug. 1, 2007: 2-0, 26.1 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 13 BB, 26 K, 1.37 ERA

April 19-May 4, 2008: 2-1, 27.1 IP, 24 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 23 K, 0.99 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of four)

Aug. 12-27, 2008: 3-0, 27.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 12 BB, 35 K, 0.98 ERA

July 27-Aug. 12, 2009: 2-0, 32.2 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 37 K, 1.10 ERA

April 5-23, 2010: 4-0, 27 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 32 K, 1.00 ERA

May 4-21, 2011: 2-1, 29.2 IP, 21 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 30 K, 0.91 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of 4)

July 9-28, 2011: 3-1, 25 IP, 15 H, 3 ER, 15 BB, 26 K, 1.08 ERA

Aug. 7-24, 2011: 3-1, 29.2 IP, 18 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 29 K, 0.91 ERA

Clearly, he’s never had a four-game stretch that was as good as his current run in terms of run prevention. In fact, it’s not even close.

It’s also important to note that his strikeout rate on the current stretch is not as high as in his previous impressive stretches.

But also in only two of the previous stretches did Lincecum give up fewer walks than his current streak, and in none of his previous stretches did he allow fewer hits than his current one. Again, it’s not even close.

So is Tim Lincecum back to being the pitcher he was in 2008-11.

No. He’s a different pitcher. But he’s getting the results.

Now some folks out there are still a bit skeptical, and they take Lincecum’s recent run with a grain of salt.

Freak me once, shame on you. Freak me twice …

They’ll point out that with all of his recent success, his ERA still sits at 3.66. Lincecum hasn’t had an in-season ERA that low (after May 1) since the end of the 2011 season.

But consider this. If you remove Lincecum’s two worst starts of the season (April 9 vs. Arizona, 4 IP, 7 ER; June 3 vs. Cincinnati, 4.1 IP, 8 ER), and Lincecum’s ERA drops down to 2.86. That represents 17 of his 19 starts.

Also consider he has posted quality starts in six of his past seven starts (just missing one — 6 IP, 4 ER — vs. Arizona on June 20), and in nine of his past 12 starts. And one of those non-quality starts was when he was lifted after 96 pitches despite throwing five scoreless innings vs. the Cubs.

Yes, Lincecum still has a big home-road disparity in his numbers. But 9 of his last 12 starts at home. So it’s hard to tell if his recent success is due to pitching so often at home, or if his high road numbers are due to the fact that he made four road starts prior to May 8, and only three since, when he has started to figure out how to pitch without being overpowering.

So while the jury is still out for some, we are impressed and encouraged by Lincecum’s recent success.

Will he be the Cy Young-winning super stud of 2008-09?

Maybe not. But can he be a top-of-the-rotation quality starter?

We’re beginning to think “yes.”

Brian Sabean’s inability to fortify bench in offseason is cause of San Francisco Giants’ midseason slide

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy adjusts his cap after his team was retired in order  during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Denver on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The Rockies won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy adjusts his cap after his team was retired in order during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Denver on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The Rockies won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Brian Sabean made this bed. Now, we all have to sleep in it.

Luckily, with the way the Giants are playing, the ZZZZ’s coming easily.

Last offseason, the Giants went into the offseason with some basic questions

  • Who will replace Barry Zito in the rotation?
  • Would the Giants re-sign Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and/or Javier Lopez?
  • Who is going to play left field?

The Giants answered those questions by signing Tim Hudson and Michael Morse and bring back Lincecum, Vogelsong and Lopez.

And, for the most part, those moves have worked out for the Giants. Most fans smart enough to realize the Giants were going to be in on top-of-the-market free agents, like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, would agree with that.

But there was one area I kept waiting for the Giants front-office to address. And it wasn’t an area that was going to cost of ton of money, and yet would pay big dividends down the road.

And that is the bench. And more specificially, the infield bench.

Now, the Giants were expecting that Marco Scutaro would be ready to open the season. But when you have a 39-year-old second baseman with a history of back trouble, wouldn’t want some insurance?

And Giants fan watched the likes of Tony Abreu and Joaquin Arias last year and knew that there were better options to serve as Scutaro’s backups.

I watched as Emilio Bonifacio signed with the Cubs, Skip Schumaker signed with the Reds, Mark Ellis signed with Cardinals. I even wondered why the Giants weren’t in on Justin Turner when he received a non-roster invite by the Dodgers to Spring Training.

So who did Sabean bring in? Brandon Hicks, an infielder with 55 games of big-league experience and a career batting average of .133.

In fact, the entire bench the Giants broke camp with was not all that impressive: Hector Sanchez, Arias, Ehire Andrianza, Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez.

But the Giants poor benched was masked in the opening weeks of the season as the Giants … a) got off to hot start at plate, particularly with power; b) stayed healthy; c) caught lightning-in-bottle with Hicks’ unexpected power output.

And then the Giants’ power output cooled off, injuries came (first to Brandon Belt, then Angel Pagan) and Hicks’ offensive production completely dried up.

Now, when manager Bruce Bochy looks for alternatives to spark the lineup, he’s finding a bench that is bare.

How bare? Consider this.

I took the “ideal” starting lineup of every National League team (this is the lineup each team hoped to put onto the field to begin the season provided everyone was healthy), then subtracted the production of those players (and batting production from pitchers) from the total production of the team this season to measure the production of each team’s bench and midseason minor-league callups.

In doing that, I found, with no great surprise, the Giants have the third-worst bench batting average in the NL at .201 through July 4.

To make matters worse, the two teams that rank lower in bench production than the Giants have not depended on their bench that much.

The Cardinals had the worst bench batting average in the NL. But the Cardinals have had the third-fewest bench at-bats this season. The Phillies are No. 2 in bench batting average and No. 2 in fewest bench ABs.

However, the Giants have the third-worst bench batting average, but have required the third-most bench ABs in the National League.

So they have one of the worst benches in the league, and they’ve had to depend on that bench more than most of the teams in the league.

That’s a bad combination.

SO what’s the solution?

Well, they can get healthy. The Giants are hopeful that both Scutaro and Pagan will be able to return to the lineup after the All-Star Break. In a couple of days, Pablo Sandoval should be able to return.

Apart from that, they need to improve the depth of this roster. And that won’t cost a truckload of money or gut the farm system.

Remember in 2010, the Giants added the likes of Cody Ross and Mike Fontenot. In 2012, it was Scutaro. When acquired, none of these deals with thought to be blockbusters. But they did produce two NLCS MVPs and key cogs in those title runs.

And they need a little luck. For every Cody Ross, there’s a Jose Guillen. For every Scutaro, there’s an Orlando Cabrera.

But the answer to the Giants’ woes may not be that far away. Sabean missed his chance to deal with this shortcoming in the offseason. But he gets his second chance as the trade deadline approaches.

Adam Duvall and other San Francisco Giants who hit home run in first big-league game

San Francisco Giants' Adam Duvall at bat during their baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 26, 2014, in San Francisco. The game was his first in the major league. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants’ Adam Duvall at bat during their baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 26, 2014, in San Francisco. The game was his first in the major league. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With Adam Duvall in the lineup today against the St. Louis Cardinals — which might be the last game we see Duvall play with Giants for a while with Brandon Belt due off the DL Friday — we thought we’d commemorate the players who hit a home run for the San Francisco Giants in their big-league debut.

  • Adam Duvall, June 26, 2014 (Mike Leake, Cin)
  • Brett Pill, Sept. 6, 2011 (Wade LeBlanc, SD)
  • a-Brandon Crawford, May 27, 2011 (Marco Estrada, Mil)
  • John Bowker, April 12, 2008 (Todd Wellemeyer, StL)
  • Eliezar Alfonzo, June 3, 2006 (Orlando Hernandez, NYM)
  • b-Will Clark, April 8, 1996 (Nolan Ryan, Hou)
  • Randy Kutcher, June 19, 1986 (Craig Leffterts, SD)
  • c-Johnnie LeMaster, Sept. 2, 1975 (Don Sutton, LAD)
  • b-John Montefusco, Sept. 3, 1974 (Charlie Hough, LAD)
  • a-Bobby Bonds, June 25, 1968 (John Purdin, LAD)
  • Orlando Cepeda, April 15, 1958 (Don Bessent, LAD)

Notes

a-grand slam
b-first big-league plate appearance
c-inside-the-park home run

Joe Panik finally becomes a San Francisco Giants, but for how long?

panik

On Saturday, fans got what they’ve been begging the Giants to do for almost a month now — second baseman Joe Panik was called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Panik was the first player the Giants drafted after winning the 2010 World Series (the 29th pick of June 2011 draft out of St. John’s).

Originally drafted as a shortstop, the Giants have been looking at Panik at second base for a while now.

Panik tore up of the Northwest League, hitting .341 in 69 games for Salem-Keizer. He hit .297 in 130 games at Class A San Jose, before hitting .257 last year in 137 games for Richmond in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League.

But in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Panik has hit .321 with a .382 OBP, 5 home runs, 45 RBI in 74 games for Fresno.

Early in the year, fans weren’t clamoring for Panik. Second baseman Brandon Hicks wasn’t hitting great, but what he did hit, he hit hard — belting eight home runs in his first 41 games.

But since hitting his last home run on May 23, Hicks has just seven hits in 62 at-bats (that’s a .113 average to you and me).

And with other second base options (Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza) not hitting much better, it BEGGED the question “Why not Joe Panik?”

After hemming and hawing for a couple of weeks with some pretty lame excuses, the Giants finally acquiesced and called up Panik on Saturday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll get some consistent starts at 2B, beginning on Sunday.

To make room for Panik, the Giants optioned OF Juan Perez to Fresno (no shocker there) and they designated P Jake Dunning for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster (bit of a surprise there; I was looking at Erik Cordier).

Panik doesn’t bring the power that Hicks has shown. He has five home runs in 326 PA’s for Fresno this year in the hitter-friendly PCL. But has never hit more than seven home runs in any of his four minor-league seasons.

But he is a contact guy. He has 94 hits this season in Fresno against 33 strikeouts (Hicks has 33 hits to 72 strikeouts by comparison). And Panik has 27 walks. Over his minor league career he has 171 walks to 180 strikeouts in 410 games.

Think of him like a younger — much younger — Marco Scutaro.

Now, we get to see if those numbers translate to the big leagues. It doesn’t often. For every Buster Posey, the Giants have had their share of Charlie Culberson, Conner Gillaspie, Nick Noonan and Roger Kieschnick.

The other question is “how long will Panik remain with the Giants?”

Brandon Belt looked good taking BP in Arizona Friday. The thinking is he’ll start a rehab assignment soon, and he could be back with the club before the end of the month.

Then what?

The Giants have a roster full of players who are out of options, meaning they can’t be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Juan Perez is the only position player to be sent to Fresno from the big-league roster this season, and he’s been shipped off to Fresno to make room for Panik.

What would the Giants do to make room for Belt, if it isn’t sending Panik back to Fresno?

Add Santiago Casilla to San Francisco Giants’ bad history of key injuries in month of May

San Francisco Giants' Santiago Casilla, center, is helped up after falling while running out a ground out against the Colorado Rockies in the top of the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Santiago Casilla, center, is helped up after falling while running out a ground out against the Colorado Rockies in the top of the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring?

Well, for the San Francisco Giants, significant injuries. At least that’s been true over the past few seasons.

Mark DeRosa, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan. All suffered significant injuries that cost them weeks of playing time in May.

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Santiago Casilla, center, is helped off the field after injuring himself while running out a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Santiago Casilla, center, is helped off the field after injuring himself while running out a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Wednesday’s injury may have been the most frustrating.

In the top of the ninth, after he had just escaped a bases-loaded jam with the help of a double play ball, Santiago Casilla came to the plate for the first time since 2012.

Manager Bruce Bochy said afterwards that he gave Casilla instructions not to swing. But Casilla went up there hacking, working the count full before hitting a chopper up the middle. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki charged the ball and threw to first. Casilla raced down the baseline with his hair on fire, as if they play were in Game 7 of the World Series.

It was a game in May, and the Giants were leading 5-1. Just before he reached the bag, Casilla pulled up, then fell over the bag and began writhing in pain. Casilla suffered a hamstring injury so bad that he could not put wait on the leg and had to be helped off the field by two trainers.

And this came after starter Matt Cain left the game early when he felt his hamstring tighten up.

Casilla is definitely going on the DL. For how long, we won’t know until an MRI is performed Thursday. But it didn’t look good. By the looks of things, if the Giants get Casilla back before the All-Star break, they would be lucky.

But it seems to follow a disturbing trend of key injuries suffered by Giants in the month of May.

Here’s a look back at others since 2010:

2010

Mark DeRosa: Prior to the 2010 season, Mark DeRosa signed a two-year, $12 million deal to be a veteran presence in the lineup. But in May of 2010, DeRosa went on the DL with a wrist injury that ended his 2010 season after playing 26 games in 2010. He came back to play 47 games in 2011, mostly as a reserve. He also started a DL stint in May 2011.

Edgar Renteria: Renteria went on the DL twice in May 2010, the first on May 7 with a strained groin. He returned May 22, played three games then went back on the DL with a strained hamstring for about a month. He would return, suffer other injuries, but return in the postseason to deliver one of the biggest hits in Giants history in Game 5 of the World Series.

2011

Buster Posey: The biggest May injury was Posey’s season-injury ankle injury on May 26 when he got plowed by Scott Cousins.

2012

Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt went on the DL May 2 with a sprained knee sustained when his 4-year-old son lept into his arms after Affeldt returned home after a game. Now, granted, the injury occurred in late April, but Affeldt went on the DL in May. Affeldt missed the minimum, so it wasn’t major injury, but worth mentioning.

Pablo Sandoval: Almost a year after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand, Sandoval breaks the hamate bone in his left hand, leaving a game early against the Marlins on May 2. He would be out until June 9.

2013

Santiago Casilla: This isn’t the first time Casilla visited the DL in May. Last season, he went on DL on May 21 with a cyst in his right knee and did not return from the DL until July 14.

Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong was off to a bad start in 2013. But he looked to be turning things around with his best start of the season, throwing five shutout innings against the Nationals. Then he broke his hand swinging at a pitch at the plate. He would be out until Aug. 9.

Angel Pagan: Pagan supplied perhaps the most exciting play of the 2013 season for the Giants when he won a game against the Rockies with a 10th-inning, inside-the-park home run. But Pagan hurt his hamstring on the play on May 25. They waited until June 7 to put him on the DL. He tried to return later in June, but aggravated the injury on June 20 playing for Class San Jose. He would later have surgery and be out until Aug. 30.

2014

Brandon Belt: Belt went on the DL after suffering a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Paul Maholm on May 9. He’s not expected back until late June, at the earliest.

Friday Farm Report: Andrew Susac makes Baseball America’s Hot Sheet

Giants fans are always on the lookout for the next hot prospect in their farm system.

Well, this week at least, Basseball America says that’s Andrew Susac.

susacSusac was No. 8 on Baseball America’s Hot Sheet this week. As BA puts it, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week.

Susac worked his way onto the list with a week in which he hit 6 for 19 (.316) with four home runs, 7 RBI, two walks and six strikeouts.

Susac is now hitting .314 for the season with a .404 OBP and 1.015 OPS. In 22 games in Fresno, he’s now hit half as many home runs (six) than he did last season at Double-A Richmond (12).

Now, Fresno is a hitter-friendly environment, and Richmond is more pitcher-friendly. But the offensive spike for Susac is encouraging, considering that it followed a stretch when he missed some time with concussion-like symptoms after taking a foul ball to the mask.

Still, John Manuel of Baseball America has been impressed.

“I saw him in the fall league last year, and I knew we were light on him in our rankings and in our Giants top 10 rankings,” Manuel said on MLB Network’s The Rundown. “He should have been in the Giants top 10 prospects.”

It’s worth noting that CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly supplied those rankings to Baseball America.

“He’s got power the other way,” Manuel said. “I saw him hit a home run to right-center field at Scottsdale Stadium while doing a game on (MLB Network). I could see him in the big leagues sooner than later with Brandon Belt on the disabled list.”

Matt Yallof of MLB Network noted that at 24 the clock was ticking on Susac as a prospect.

But not really. When the Giants drafted Susac in the second round of the 2011, he was recovering from a knee injury that ended his season at Oregon State.

Susac did not play in 2011. He played 2012 in Class A San Jose (hitting .244 with 9 HRs in 102 games) and 2013 in Double-A Richmond (.256 with 12 HRs in 84 games). So he’s right where he needs to be in his first season in Triple-A.

As far as getting a call-up to the bigs? Well, like Adam Duvall, the Giants would rather see Susac continue to get regular at-bats and playing time in Fresno than ride the bench in San Francisco. Improving his defense is something the Giants would like to see from Susac.

But he does become a viable option if the Giants need his bat later this season.

Other prospects in Fresno

  • 3B ADAM DUVALL: Duvall continues to tear it up. He’s hitting .359 with .419 OBP and an OPS of 1.419 over the past 10 games, with 6 HRs and 14 RBI. He’s been playing a little bit at 1B while the Grizzlies other 1B has been on the mend.
  • 2B JOE PANIK: Panik has cooled a little, hitting .282 over the past 10 games. He’s still hitting .314 for the season with a .381 OBP. He has 16 walks against 18 strikeouts. With Marco Scutaro out, Panik remains an option should something happen to Brandon Hicks.
  • OF GARY BROWN: Uh oh. After a good start to the season, Brown has begun to slip. He’s hitting .179 (7 for 39) over the past 10 games. He’s hitting .267 for the season with 31 Ks against 15 BBs.
  • P EDWIN ESCOBAR: Escobar was thought to be at the front of the line to get called up if the Giants needed a starter. But he’s struggled this season (1-4, 5.18 ERA). Opponents are hitting .308 against this season. The PCL is a hitter friendly league but you’d like to see better numbers than that from Escobar.
  • P CHRIS HESTON: Heston may have been in Escobar’s position last year, but struggled with a 5.80 ERA. He’s 3-2 with 3.40 ERA this season with 31 strikeouts against 10 walks. He’s allowed 15 earned runs, but many of those runs have scored on the five home runs he’s allowed in seven starts.

 

Celebrating Splash Hits from Brandon Crawford, Tyler Colvin with some fun facts

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford (35) is congratulated by third base coach Tim Flannery after hitting a two-run home run off of Atlanta Braves pitcher David Carpenter during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Giants won 10-4. (AP Photo)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Crawford (35) is congratulated by third base coach Tim Flannery after hitting a two-run home run off of Atlanta Braves pitcher David Carpenter during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Giants won 10-4. (AP Photo)

Home runs have been coming fast and furious for the Giants this season, and that means More Splash Hits.

Of course, we like that.

Brandon Crawford belted the 66th Splash Hit at AT&T Park in the Giants’ 10-4 win over the Braves on Wednesday.

It came on the heels of Tyler Colvin hitting the 65th Splash Hit in Monday’s win over the Braves.

It’s the first time two Splash Hits have been hit so close to another since Barry Bonds smacked Splash Hits on consecutive days on April 12 and 13, 2004.

 

Here are some other fun facts about the Giants and Splash Hits this season:

  • With three Splash Hits this season, it’s the first time the Giants have had that many in a season since hitting five in 2011, and it’s only May 15.
  • It is only the second time that the Giants have hit three Splash Hits by May 14. The other time was in 2000, the season the park opened, when Barry Bonds hit two Splash Hits in one game on May 10 to give him three for the season.
  • It’s the second time two different Giants have hit Splash Hits two days apart since Felipe Crespo and Bonds hit Splash Hits on May 28 and May 30, 2001.
  • Colvin became the first Giant to hit a Splash Hit in his home debut with the Giants.
  • Colvin became the 18th different player to record a Splash Hit (Splash Hits are defined as home runs into the bay hit by a Giants player).
  • Crawford moved into a six-way tie for fourth on the all-time list of Splash Hits with his second.
  • If Crawford hits another Splash Hit this season, he will become the second player to record three or more in a second. Bonds did it five times (six in 2000, nine in 2001, six in 2002, six in 2003, four in 2004).

Why so many people were dead wrong about the game-winning play and review for Pirates in win over San Francisco Giants

Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte, left, begins his slide as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey as gets the throw during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Marte was called out but the call was overturned upon review. It was a walk-off triple, and an error, allowing Marte to score. The Pirates won 2-1.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte, left, begins his slide as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey as gets the throw during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Marte was called out but the call was overturned upon review. It was a walk-off triple, and an error, allowing Marte to score. The Pirates won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Now, that was a tough way for a six-game winning streak to end.

A two-out triple and error allowed Starling Marte to race around the bases and score the winning run in a 2-1 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.

To make matters worse, Marte was called out at the plate, but the call was reversed on replay — the first time that a game has been decided by a review reversal.

You had to figure it would happen to Giants.

There was a lot of conjecture and debate about the final play on talk radio and Twitter, as Giants fans were looking for someone to pin the blame on.

So let’s look at the suspects:

HUNTER PENCE: Some fans said that Pence could have played the ball better off the wall in right. The ball bounced away from Pence after hitting the wall, allowing Marte to take third.

I believe Pence misjudged the carry on this ball. When it came off Marte’s bat, I thought that Pence would catch the ball on the warning track. I think Pence thought the same thing, which put him in a bad spot to play the ball off the wall.

So could he have played the ball better? Yes. But really it would have meant the difference between Marte at second or Marte at third. And with two out, a base hit is the most likely way Marte would have scored with two out. And a hit to the outfield scores Marte from second or third.

TIM HUDSON: Other fans said that Hudson should have been in a better position to back up the throw to third.

Again, OK, fine. But as a veteran pitcher, I don’t really think that Hudson thought there would be or should have been a throw into third. Is that an excuse? Not really. On a play like that, there’s no other place a pitcher should be than backing up a throw into third on a ball hit to right. But I’m not about to pin this one on Hudson, given the way he pitched when the Giants needed him to give the bullpen some much needed rest.

PABLO SANDOVAL: Given his struggles at the plate, fans are just looking for a reason to make The Panda into The Goat. But not on this play. Fans said Sandoval should have done all he could to block the ball. But the throw was a bad one, forcing Sandoval to lunge for the ball. He actually did a great job to get up quickly, get to the ball and make a spot-on throw home. Sandoval was not at fault.

BUSTER POSEY: This one drove me the most nuts. Fans were howling that Posey should have blocked Marte’s path to the plate. Some were blaming the new rule on blocking the plate, in which case they were wrong TWICE. For one, the new rule does not prevent a catcher from blocking the plate once he has the ball, and on this play, Posey had the ball early enough to block the plate within the rules. Secondly, regardless of the rule and what it allows, the Giants have instructed Posey for more than two years to avoid contact at the plate. Even if it means allowing a run — even the winning run — to score, they would much rather have a healthy Posey. And that’s the right call. Other fans thought Posey should have made a better tag, placing the tag on the hand or arm and not on the body. Well, looking at the replay, Posey did attempt to tag Marte on his left hand or arm, but Marte alerted pulled that hand back to his body to avoid the tag, leaving Posey to tag his chest. That allowed Marte to slip his right hand onto the plate.

If there was a way to fault Posey, it was his positioning at the plate. When Posey took the throw, he was standing right over home plate. When Marte came in with his slide, Posey backed away from him to avoid contact, applying the tag in a matador-like style. Again, this is likely a by-product of the Giants telling him to avoid contact. But a better way of that to happen is for Posey to position himself in fair territory and up the line to third to shorten the length of the thrown from Sandoval. This would have given Marte a lane to the plate, as the rule stipulates, but would have allowed Posey to make the tag earlier. The only question here is whether Posey could have done that and still retained a line of sight from Sandoval.

THE UMPIRES: Other fans were screaming that they hate replay. But I can assure you, that if the replay had allowed the Giants to win, they would love it. Replay is here to make sure calls are correct. As Jon Miller said in the post-game, in the entire history of the game, that play would have been called out because the throw beat Marte to the plate. It wouldn’t have mattered where the tag was, unless Marte made a more obvious attempt to avoid the tag. But now, with replay, it matters where the tag is. And that’s the way it should be.

The Giants were saying afterward they thought the replay was inconclusive and should not have been overturned. That’s more their hearts talking. The Giants had a play reviewed earlier this season ruled inconclusive that the Giants felt clearly showed that the call on the field should have been overturned. But that was in the first couple of weeks of the season, when the replay ump was far more reluctant to overturn calls on the field. But now they are willing to make the closer calls on replay. And in this case, the replay showed he was safe.

EHIRE ADRIANZA: If you were looking for the real culprit, you should look no further than Adrianza. This was another case of situational baseball, much like the plays earlier this season by Sandoval when he charged a slow roller and made an ill-advised and errant throw to first, allowing a run to score. The best play here would have been to eat the ball. The situation would have been different had their been one out or no outs. A runner at third with less than two outs is a much different situation. It’s a risk vs. reward situation, and the reward goes up with less than two outs. But with two outs, you don’t need to be a hero. You need to trust your pitcher to get that third out. There really wasn’t a play on Marte at third, and the risk of something bad happening outweighed the reward.

Just your garden variety weird, weird, weird win for San Francisco Giants in Pittsburgh

San Francisco Giants' Jean Machi lays down a bunt during the 13th inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Tuesday , May 6, 2014. Giants' Hunter Pence on the misplayed bunt and the Giants went on to win in 13 innings, 11-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

San Francisco Giants’ Jean Machi lays down a bunt during the 13th inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Tuesday , May 6, 2014. Giants’ Hunter Pence on the misplayed bunt and the Giants went on to win in 13 innings, 11-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Giants had hit a home run in their last 11 consecutive games entering Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.

They had hit 21 home runs over that 11-game span.

Home runs had accounted for 30 of the 49 runs the Giants scored over that 11-game span.

Home runs had accounted for 32 of the last 38 runs the Giants had scored on the road since April 5.

But that all ended Monday in the most unusual fashion.

The Giants rallied from an 8-2 deficit and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-10 in 13 innings, extending their current win streak to six games.

They smacked out 20 hits — none of which were home runs.

It was the first time since July 25, 1961 that the Giants had 20 or more hits in a game without hitting a home run. That was a 16-7 win in, of all places, Pittsburgh.

Forbes Field was a monstrous field, nothing like PNC Park.

Bruce Bochy flushed his bench by the ninth inning, burning Juan Perez and Ehire Adrianza as pinch-runners. Perez stayed in the game for left-fielder Michael Morse.

Madison Bumgarner was used as a pinch-hitter. He grounded out. Santiago Casilla threw 40 pitches in two innings of relief, including a 14-pitch at-bat to Neil Walker that ended with a strikeout.

Angel Pagan had three hits, so did Hunter Pence, so did Buster Posey. Hector Sanchez had four hits.

And with all those hits, the Giants’ game-winning rally in the 13th produced a run without a hit. The key plate appearance was made by a relief pitcher — Jean Machi — who had just one previous plate appearance in the big leagues. That was last season. He struck out.

He only had two at-bats in the minors. But he got a hit — a double and an RBI.

The weirdness for Machi started on the mound.

Machi entered the game in the 11th inning. After allowing a single to Andrew McCutchen and striking out Pedro Alvarez, he fielded a comebacker by Sterling Marte. Machi turned and threw to second, but his throw hit umpire Jerry Davis for an error. Machi then got Ike Davis to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the 12th inning, Gerrit Cole hit a comebacker to Machi, who deflected the ball to second baseman Brandon Hicks, allowing Cole to reach on an infield single.

After striking out Jose Tabata, Machi deflected another ball hit up the middle, one that would have been a custom-made double play to Hicks. Instead, the deflected ball allowed Jordy Mercer to reach on an infield single.

Then Machi got Chris Stewart to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the top of the 13th, Hunter Pence started things with a one-out walk. Then Perez, and his whopping .059 batting average, received a gift. He was hit by a pitch.

Manager Bruce Bochy then left Machi in the game to sacrifice the runners over, something he’s never even attempted in 13 seasons of professional baseball.

Machi put down the perfect bunt. Pitcher Jared Hughes fielded the bunt, slipped a bit on the grass, then threw errantly to first, allowing Pence to score the go-ahead run.

Then after Sanchez struck out, Machi advanced to second on defensive indifference — not a stolen base. The rally ended after an intentional walk to Brandon Belt and a strikeout by Brandon Hicks.

After Sergio Romo locked down the save, Machi found himself leading the National League in wins by improving his mark to 5-0 on the season.

Jean Machi is now 5-0 with a 0.53 ERA. And one sacrifice bunt.

All this from a guy who was best known to Giants fans for breaking wind in the bullpen after getting called up to Triple-A last season.

Weird.

machi

There’s a good chance you are on the wrong side of the argument regarding Santiago Casilla

CasillaSantiago 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?

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