Giants

After fight, Strickland denies intentionally throwing at Harper

After fight, Strickland denies intentionally throwing at Harper

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a certain rhythm to a baseball brawl. A player gets drilled and inches toward the mound, often at the invitation of the man who threw the pitch. The catcher rushes to get in the way as both benches and bullpens clear. Within five seconds, most baseball “fights” turn into a “hold me back” tournament. 

Monday’s showdown between Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper was not your normal baseball fight, in part because it was a long time coming. 

Three years after Harper twice took Strickland deep in the NLDS, the second homer leading to a stare down and primal screams from the Nationals’ best player, the two met again. Strickland’s first pitch to Harper since that series was a 98 mph fastball directly at the hip. Harper charged the mound and both players connected with shots before sanity was restored.

Strickland was waiting for reporters when the clubhouse opened after a 3-0 loss. He denied any intent.

“Obviously I’ve left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him and he’s taken advantage of that. It was mostly to go inside and obviously I got it in a little bit too far,” Strickland said. “I didn’t expect that (fight) but it’s part of the game and that’s what he decided to do.”

There’s no upside in coming out and saying you flat-out tried to hit a guy, but actions spoke louder than words during the fight and afterward. Buster Posey didn’t move as Harper charged his pitcher, as if to say, this is your mess. Bruce Bochy said he talked to Strickland after the fight to reiterate that this was not the situation to seek payback.

“We’re trying to win a ballgame,” Bochy said. “It’s 2-0 and I had to talk to him. Obviously we don’t take or do things that are out of the ordinary from what I want. We go out there and try to win a ballgame. It’s a situation where I needed to talk to him and make sure that we’re straight with something. We did talk.”

Bochy called the incident “unfortunate” and said a couple of times that “it looks bad.”

“You have two guys that probably don’t care for each other much,” he said.  

No, they certainly don’t, but that’s nothing new. This started in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS, when Harper, already one of the league’s better hitters, took Strickland, then a rookie, deep. Three games later he hit a game-tying shot into McCovey Cove, watching it as it soared into the dark night. He stared Strickland down as he rounded second and yelled back at the mound as he took his gear off in the dugout. 

It’s unclear why that first incident quite turned out the way it did. There was some speculation that Harper was reacting to Strickland saying after Game 1 that he would throw Harper more fastballs. After the second homer, Harper looked out at the field and yelled, "Let's go! Again!" Either way, nothing more came of that first tussle. The Giants eliminated the Nationals and went on to win the World Series. Harper and Strickland didn’t square off in either of the past two seasons. 

With two outs in the eighth Monday, they finally faced off again. After taking the pitch off the hip, Harper pointed his bat and then flung it down. The players exchanged expletives and Strickland stood with a calm expression on his face, his glove dropped to the ground. Harper threw his helmet toward second and Strickland got the first shot in, an open-handed right to the face. Harper got one good punch in before players from both sides collided on the mound. 

“It’s go time,” Strickland said. “You’ve got to protect yourself and stand your own grand, you know.”

Harper told Nationals reporter that this was probably the first time he was certain a pitcher was going to throw at him.

“One thing I’ve got to say about Strickland: He hit me in the right spot. I do respect him for that. He didn’t come up and in at my face or anything like that, which some guys do," Harper said. "So I respect him on that level, because he could’ve come up and in and got me somewhere you don’t want to get hit. He got me on the hip. But there’s some times where it’s just not relevant. That was a spot where it wasn’t relevant. It was three years ago, over 1,000 days. I don’t know why he’s thinking about it.”

Strickland claimed he wasn’t thinking about 2014, even if the connection was immediate to anyone watching. 

“I can see how that kind of stands in people’s minds, but that’s the past,” he said. “Like I said, I left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him and he’s taken advantage of that. Obviously I’d rather miss in than over the plate.”

 

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

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AP

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down. 

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

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AP

Former A's slugger Gomes offers Ohtani scouting report: 'Big fan of the dude'

Former A's left fielder/DH and Bay Area native, Jonny Gomes, last played Major League Baseball in 2015. The next year, Gomes looked to continue his career in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. 

Gomes struggled in Japan, batting just .169 in 18 games. While in Japan though, Gomes saw firsthand the two-way talent of Shohei Ohtani. 

"The dude throws 100 miles per hour consistently," Gomes said Tuesday to MLB Network Radio. "That plays."

With MLB, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreeing to a new posting system, Ohtani should soon be available as a free agent to MLB teams. Gomes was adamant that Ohtani will live up to the hype. 

"If you have the arm speed to throw 100 miles per hour, guess what your slider's gonna do -- yikes. And he also has a split, which is yikes with that arm speed. And he also has a changeup, and he also has a curveball. You're talking about five plus, plus, plus pitches.

"If he was in the draft, I think it would be a no-brainer right now that he'd be No. 1 overall," Gomes said. 

Since turning pro as an 18-year-old, Ohtani has been a dominant force on the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 42-15 career record with a 2.52 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. 

What makes Ohtani, 23, so intriguing is that he's not only the best pitcher in Japan, he may be the best hitter too. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs in 65 games. The left fielder/DH owns a .286/.358/.500 career slash line with 48 home runs. 

"Now hitting wise, is it gonna transfer, is it not? I've seen the dude hit a fly ball that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome," Gomes remembers. "So, what does that tell you? That bat speed's there, that power's there, that he's generating a lot out front.

"To be able to hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome is way more impressive than hitting any other roof in the states. It would be like hitting the roof in Seattle when it was closed, it's way up there."

Everyone knows about Ohtani off-the-charts talent. The stats are there. What we don't know as much about is his personality. Gomes does and he believes his leadership will make him be a star in the states. 

"I'm a big fan of the dude," Gomes says. "I saw his work ethic, I saw how players treated him, I saw how respectful he was. Over there it's all about seniority. Granted he was the biggest star on the field at any given moment, but still gave the utmost respect to seniority guys on his ball club."