SAN FRANCISCO You know Angel Pagan has been the hottest hitter on the Giants in August. And you know Buster Posey has been sizzling ever since the All-Star break.But do you know who is hitting .352 over his last 28 games, and .371 over his last 19?Think for a minute.(Music plays.)Its Brandon Belt. The Giants first baseman has quietly lifted his average from.229 on July 24 up to a respectable .265. And his on-base percentage is up to .362, which is second only to Posey (.403) among Giants hitters who arent suspended.With all the talk of how the Giants would replace Melky Cabrera, there wasnt much mention of the resurgence of Belt. Thats partly because hes done it without hitting homers he hasnt hit one since June 23, and he has just four all year but Belt doesnt care. He said he decided to not worry about his numbers and just worry about helping the team win.I got in this low spot, he said. I wasnt doing anything to help the team. I was probably hurting the team, and it really bugged me. I said, No matter how I feel, Im going to go out and battle and see what happens. I think thats make me play better personally.In his second at-bat on Saturday, Belt did exactly what the Giants needed, even though it lowered his batting average. With runners on second and third and no outs, he hit a ground ball to second. It was the perfect out, because it drove in a run and moved another runner to third. In his next trip, Belt drilled a double over the head of center fielder Michael Bourn.I think its a changing mindset, Belt said. Im just going out there and battling whether I feel good or bad, just do anything I can to try to help us win. Its getting down to crunch time and we have to win as much possible.---The Giants optioned right-hander Eric Hacker to Triple-A after Saturdays game, with a corresponding roster move to be announced before Sundays game. Hacker appeared in three games since he was recalled Aug. 17, and he gave up runs inall three.Guillermo Mota will not be the guy who takes his spot on Sunday. That is the final day of his 100-game suspension. Mota will have to be activated or designated for assignment on Tuesday, after the Giants off day on Monday.--Speaking of Mota, Bruce Bochy said before the game that the decision on whether he comes back will be mostly baseball related, but its a fair question how much of his outside circumstances should be taken into account.Will fans forgive a two-time violator of baseballs drug policy? Does it matter if fans forgive him or not? Are the Giants better off not even reopening the discussion by putting him back on the mound?All good questions.From here it seems the Giants ought to do whatever wins them the most games, and thats probably what fans want too.--Jeremy Affeldt is scuffling. In his last seven games, hes allowed four runs on eight hits and six walks in 4 23 innings. He issued back-to-back bases-loadedwalks in the eighth inning on Saturday, turning a 4-3 game into a 6-3 game.Hes battling himself a little bit, Bochy said. He was so close to gettingout of that inning. Got two strikes and was so close to getting out of that. Once he walked the guy he was frustrated and then he walked another guy. Hes a big part of the pen and they all have their moments, which hes having now, but it wasnt too long ago he was pitching as well as anybody, and well get himback on track.--Francisco Pegueros major league debut was ok, Bochy said, hardly a ringing endorsement.Peguero did make a nice catch running back toward the fence in the first inning, saving a couple runs, but his two at-bats didnt go well. In the third inning he grounded out weakly. In the fifth, all he had to do was put a ball in play to drive in a run, and he struck out.---Pegueros big league debut prompted discussion of Bochys first taste of the majors, more than 34 years ago. Bochy was playing in Double-A when he got promoted to the majors. He said he got to New York, only to realize the Astros were playing that day in Houston.Someone is playing a joke on me, Bochy recalled thinking, before he realized that the team was arriving in New York the following day.Bochy also didnt come to the majors with a big league wardrobe, having been on a Double-A road trip at the time of his promotion.I think I broke even when I got called up because I had to buy so many clothes, Bochy said.A little baseball-reference search reveals a few fun facts about Bochys debut. He was in the lineup with another future manager (Art Howe) and a future general manager (Bob Watson). It was also the first of three consecutive doubleheaders the Astros played in New York and Philadelphia. No wonder they needed reinforcements from Double A.
SAN FRANCISCO — Just around dinner time on Monday, Tyler Beede got a call he had been waiting for. General manager Bobby Evans informed Beede, the Giants’ top pitching prospect, that he was being added to the 40-man roster, a significant step toward making his big league debut. Earlier that day, however, Beede’s phone brought him some unwanted news.
Like most Giants fans, Beede woke up to a report out of South Florida that he was one of several names the Giants and Marlins had discussed in Giancarlo Stanton trade talks. For fans or team employees, it would be painful to give up a Beede or a Chris Shaw or a Joe Panik, but images of Stanton taking aim at the Coke bottle at AT&T Park would soon wash away most concerns.
For players, the reality this time of year is much different. The Giants are the only organization that all of the rumored pieces have ever known. Panik is a New Yorker, but he and his wife have grown to love San Francisco. Beede and Shaw have spent years dreaming of debuting at AT&T Park and playing in front of sellout crowds. That makes the Hot Stove Season a particularly tense time of year.
“I try to be a guy who doesn’t look those kinds of things up too frequently, but obviously I’m a normal guy, so I tend to dig into it a little bit more and see what’s going on and see what people are saying,” Beede said on this week’s Giants Insider Podcast. “It’s funny. I don't really know how to handle it. It’s my third year going through the trade deadline and trade talk. I’ve just go to keep telling myself it’s a realistic possibility and not to be shocked if anything were to come out or a trade were to be made.”
The rumor mill is nothing new for these players. Panik acknowledged several times during the season that he could be the odd man out. Shaw actually already once thought he got traded to Florida. For a few minutes at the 2016 deadline, Twitter had him as a key piece in the Matt Moore deal. The outfielder came out of a hotel bathroom right after the deadline to see two teammates staring at him in disbelief as Twitter rumors flew.
Five minutes later, he got a call from Bobby Evans. “You’re still a Giant,” Evans told him. “Don’t take your jersey off.”
“It’s a little tense for sure,” Shaw said earlier this year. “It’s not something you can try to predict. You can have a feeling but that means nothing.”
Evans has always communicated to players and their agents that they can reach out any time they have a question or concern about what they might be hearing, but when it comes to getting on the phone himself, he treats the trade deadline and offseason differently. There’s more urgency to clear the air in July when players might have to take at-bats or throw pitches with rumors weighing on their minds. In the offseason, Evans will wait to reach out until deals are closer to being agreed upon. He tries not to worry as much about “hot stove banter,” he said.
“In the offseason I think it’s a little less of an issue because a lot of things get thrown out there that don’t have validity,” he said. “We certainly don’t try to respond to every single rumor with an update because there are new rumors every hour, so it’s hard to keep up. A lot more names are mentioned this time of year.”
Players try to find different ways to get away from it all. Every year, several Giants prospects talk of playing golf during the trade deadline to stay away from MLB Network and their phones. For veterans, it’s often easiest to just take offseason vacations, and Panik planned to visit Europe with his wife.
Beede has a somewhat unique distraction as rumors trickle out. He’s getting married on Saturday, which along with the holiday, has kept him busy all week. Still, he knows the rumors will be out there.
“After a couple of days I start to just understand that (my) name is going to be in rumors or there may be things that people say or speculate,” he said. “(If) Bobby tells me something, or my agent says something, then I can start to maybe engage in it a little bit more. But as of right now, I’m just trying to go about my preparation and I’ll continue to enjoy being a San Francisco Giant.”
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.