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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.

Opening day is a blast for San Francisco Giants

Denard Span, Gregor Blanco, Gregor Blanco

San Francisco Giants’ Denard Span, right, is created by teammates Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford after hitting a three-run home run off Milwaukee Brewers’ Ariel Pena during the eighth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

As great as Opening Day, there’s only one thing that can make it greater.

When your team actually wins on Opening Day.

Well, Giants fans, you don’t have to worry about when the first win of 2016 will come. It arrived in a big way Monday as the Giants hit four home runs, including back-to-back-to-back shots by Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey in the eighth inning as the Giants rolled to a 12-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Life is good. The Giants are 1-0.

We can set aside any concerns … like how Madison Bumgarner’s springs struggles continued.

Bumgarner walked in a run in the first inning and allowed leadoff home runs in the second and third inning. Despite battling flu-like systems, Bumgarner gutted out five innings, allowing three runs and walking a career-high five. He also fanned six, including the last three batters he faced.

“I think, without question, the flu bug caught up to him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I was worried about him. It was obvious that it was tough sledding. He’s not going to say anything and still won’t, but he found a way to get through it. He gave us five.”

The Giants didn’t need Bumgarner to be his best on Monday because the hitters came to hit.

After the Brewers took 1-0 after one inning, the Giants scored in every inning from second to fifth, bookended by Matt Duffy’s two-single in the second and two-run homer in the sixth.

“It’s just that — potential,” Duffy said. “But we understand that we can hit, top to bottom.”

That became evident in the eighth when the Giants broken the game open with five runs, including consecutive home runs by Span, Panik and Posey, the first back-to-back-to-back shots by the Giants since Barry Bonds, Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz on July 20, 2006. It was also the first time a team went back-to-back-to-back on Opening Day since the 1997 San Diego Padres, also managed by Bruce Bochy.

Other notes

  • Monday marked the first time in major league history both teams batted the pitcher in the eighth spot on Opening Day. Bumgarner walked and scored a run in three plate appearances.
  • Span became the first Giants to have five RBI in his debut since RBI became an official stat in 1920. He became the first Giants to drive in five runs on Opening Day since Barry Bonds in 2002.
  • The 12 runs were the most the Giants have scored on Opening Day since scoring 13 in a 16-13 loss to the Padres in 1983.
  • Johnny Cueto makes his Giants debut on Tuesday when he faces the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson at 5:10 p.m.

 

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.

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