Penny enjoys 'a pitcher's dream' in loss to Reds


Penny enjoys 'a pitcher's dream' in loss to Reds


SAN FRANCISCO Brad Penny has a theory about pitching inAT&T Park, and it goes something like this:

Good luck, chumps.

OK, maybe hes not quite that flippant. But here is whatPenny actually said after tossing 2 13 scoreless innings in his first appearanceas a Giant since 2009:

Let a right-handed hitter hit it the opposite way outthere. See how far it goes.

The usual answer: not far enough to hurt you.

The ballpark suited Penny. On a less convenient note for theGiants, it also suited Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mat Latos, who took aone-hit shutout into the ninth inning before slamming pinkies in car doors witha 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park.

The Reds have thrown consecutive complete games to takecommand of this series. Prior to that, the Giants threw four consecutiveshutouts for the first time in club history.

Very, very good starting pitching is the key ingredienthere. But it helps that the Giants home yard is like using a CETI-sizedsatellite dish for a mixing bowl.

Or, as Mr. Penny summarized it:

I love playing here. For me, you cant build a betterstadium for a pitcher. These guys from Cincinnati, they pitch in that littleballpark and they come here and theyre in heaven. This is a pitchers dream.

Penny didnt just glean these truths in his seven-batterspan on Saturday. He was a Giant for a couple months at the end of the 2009season, when the Boston Red Sox heaved him and his 5.69 ERA off the loadingdock onto Lansdowne Street. He went to San Francisco, where he was 4-1 with a2.59 ERA in six starts.

It wasnt enough to squeeze the Giants into the postseason.But it got Penny a 7.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, after getting his fill of his affiliation with theSoftbank Hawks following just a month in Japan, Penny is back. Did he likeplaying for Bruce Bochy the first time? Well, sure, he said. But he made itclear that the real lure was the ballpark. And he couldnt be happier to be inthe major leagues again, even if hes coming out of the bullpen for the firsttime.

Its a relief, yeah, said Penny, not trying to be punny.I shouldve come here from the get-go. I had an opportunity to come in springtraining.

I dont listen to anyone 'till they tell me to go to Japan,and then I listened. I wasnt comfortable or happy over there. I wasnt goingto be any good for that team if Im not happy.

It was pointed out to Penny that the Giants were apitching-rich club the last time he was here. Other than those sparkly WorldSeries rings everyone seems to have, not much has changed.

Thats how its gonna be, he said. Youre not going toput a team together thats going to bash it out of the park. San Francisco willalways have good pitching. You can put the Yankees in this park and they wontscore runs.

The 2002 Giants, who are gathering for their 10-year reunionon Sunday, might disagree. They did a fair amount of bashing in their day. Ofcourse, that was a different era in baseball history.

Now its about chicks digging the hit-and-run, the stolenbase and the diving defensive play to keep the tying run from scoring. TheGiants have been very good in those areas with a more dynamic offense thisseason.

But when they need someone to pop one out of the park,especially at home, theyre usually going to disappoint the paying customers.Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera own the only two home runs on this six-gamehomestand.

The Giants have just 14 home runs in 41 home games thefewest in the major leagues. (By sadistic comparison, the aforementionedYankees have hit 68 longballs in 40 home games.)

Buster Posey and Ryan Theriot both hit deep outs Saturday that might have cleared the fences elsewhere.

The Giants must accept their lot in life. But there are times it is harder than others. They needed someone to pop one out of the park against Latos in theninth, after Brandon Belt knocked a pinch-hit triple. Instead, they got an RBI groundout from Gregor Blanco and a strikeout from Theriot, who had to marvel as Dale Scotts suddenly ample strike zone grew faster than Aliceafter a slice of eat me cake.

A year ago, the Orange and Black masses would be frantic over two low-scoringlosses. This year, its easier for the Giants to tip their caps to the likes of Mike Leakeand Latos.

Weve got a great offense, said third baseman PabloSandoval, who had a highlight-stocked defensive game despite making an error. Wefaced tough guys. Leake made all his pitches and today, Latos, he finds hisway. He beat us because he mixed all his pitches. He comes right at you.

Sandoval said the Giants couldnt have done anythingdifferent, except maybe call timeout more often to disrupt Latos timing.

Hes working so fast, Sandoval said. We didnt take him outof his timing. Hes coming at us pitch after pitch."

Penny came atthe Reds with one pitch, essentially. He didnt have good command in thebullpen, so he threw all sinking, two-seam fastballs. That worked well enough.He struck out Ryan Ludwick on a backdoor two-seamer to strand two runners, thenestimated he threw maybe two or three four-seamers and the rest sinkers toretire the next six batters.

I cant remember the last time I entered a game withsomeone on base, said Penny, who was making just his fifth relief appearancein 320 career games. It was definitely different. Its something Ill have toget used to, and getting ready real quick.

Its going to be easier to focus for one, two or threeinnings than starting. It should be, anyway. I guess well see.

Penny offered one more thought on the Giants lineup:

In Cincinnati, you put this same lineup on the field andtheyre scoring runs left and right.

That might be true some nights. But against Latos at GreatAmerican Ball Park, the Giants managed just four hits in seven shutout innings.

In the final analysis, sometimes the ingredients are more important than the satellitedish.

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."