Lincecum to begin in bullpen; no revisiting Melky decision


Lincecum to begin in bullpen; no revisiting Melky decision

SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito?

That was the question on everyones mind, but Bruce Bochywasnt ready to announce a Game 4 starter ahead of Sundays NLCS opener againstthe St. Louis Cardinals.

The Giants manager did confirm that all five members of hisrotation would be on the series roster, however, and that both Lincecum andZito would lace up spikes in case theyre needed to pitch in relief during thefirst two games at AT&T Park.

More on that in a bit.

In other roster news, left-hander Jeremy Affeldt told Bochythat his jammed thumb had improved and there are no current plans to replacehim. The Giants could scale back to 11 pitchers, though, if they decide toreplace right-hander Guillermo Mota with a position player either pinch runnerFrancisco Peguero or catcher Eli Whiteside, whose presence would free up Bochyto use Hector Sanchez off the bench.

The Giants also could merely swap right-handers and stickJean Machi or Clay Hensley in Motas spot.

And what about Melky Cabrera, who has served all 50 games ofhis suspension? Was there any talk whatsoever about revisiting the decision tokeep him away from the team?

No, Bochy said. We crossed that bridge. Thats over.

Bochy pointed out that Gregor Blanco had a terrific series againstthe Cincinnati Reds, going 4 for 14 with a double, a home run, three runsscored and two RBIs. Bochy made it as clear as possible without issuing adictum: Blanco would be the everyday starter in left field. Not that there wasany doubt, since the Cardinals, like the Reds, will send all right-handedstarters against the Giants.

The roster is due at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Now back to the ZitoLincecum question:

Here was my thought: Keep Zito penciled in as the Game 4starter. That way, you reserve the right to use the Timmy tourniquet in reliefwhenever you need it. Having Lincecum in the bullpen gives Bochy a major trumpcard and itll give Cardinals manager Mike Matheny something toconsider as he makes his moves.

Besides, if Zito doesnt start, hes useless on the roster.And its not like the Giants have another difference-making arm that they wouldrelish putting in Zitos place. In terms of utility, this is the best way to line 'em up.

And yes, the Giants should be worried about needing Lincecum to cover innings. Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner averaged barely five innings while posting a 5.93 ERA in his last six starts, and then survived just 4 13 innings against the Reds in the NLDS. Game 2 starter Ryan Vogelsong, despite pitching brilliantly in Cincinnati, nearly reached 100 pitches in five innings against the Reds, too.

Now, if the Giants werent compelled to use Lincecum in thefirst three games behind Bumgarner, Vogelsong and Matt Cain, then they could revisit the Game 4 decision. Theyd have theflexibility to start either Zito or Lincecum, depending on where the series stands. And theydprobably turn to Timmy, since the Cardinals were 31-17 against left-handedstarters (.276 average, tops in NL) and 57-57 against right-handers (.270,second in NL).

I laid out my plan for Bochy and he said, Yeah, thats beendiscussed, sure. And thats why (Lincecum) will be available the first twogames.

Its about keeping all your options open. Managers like havingoptions.

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park


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'


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."