Giants

Rewind: Giants pull it together at right time, reach playoffs

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Rewind: Giants pull it together at right time, reach playoffs

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants went 30-42 after the All-Star break. They waited until the final four games of the second half to put together a four-game winning streak. The best team in baseball through 90 games did not clinch a postseason spot until 3:10 p.m. on the final day of the regular season.

It was ugly and bizarre and tense, but as champagne and Bud Light hit the walls of the clubhouse, the Giants did not seem to think much of the tortuous road. 

“Who cares about the way?” Hunter Pence said, smiling. “Where we are is on the way to where we want to be. We want a chance to win the Wold Series, and we get that chance.”

The first step on the new path will be taken Monday, when the Giants fly to New York to start preparing for a Wednesday night showdown in New York. They have traversed this path before, winning the 2014 title as the second wild card team, and throughout an unimaginably bad half of baseball, players clung to a comforting thought. Find some way into the postseason, and then hand the ball back to Madison Bumgarner.

Two years and four days after he blanked the Pirates, Bumgarner will tangle with Noah Syndergaard and a Mets squad that made the postseason with an entire rotation on the disabled list. It won’t matter on Wednesday, but the Giants go in with the hottest five-man group around. Matt Moore, the No. 3 starter acquired on at the deadline, kept pace Sunday with eight dominating innings, leading the Giants to a 7-1 win they absolutely needed since the Cardinals were headed for a similar victory 2,000 miles away. 

With the final win, the even-year darlings finished 87-57, a game ahead of St. Louis and thus a game clear of a Monday night tiebreaker at Busch Stadium. A team that once led the National League West by eight games ended up four back after a weekend sweep of the Dodgers. With a win Wednesday, the Giants will fly to Chicago to face the 103-win Cubs. 

Those facts were also met with shrugs. Who cares about the way?

Moore smiled as he discussed the second-half slide, saying the adversity can potentially make the Giants a pretty dangerous team in October. 

[RATTO: Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt]

“Having 87 wins heading into the postseason, some of these teams have got 100, but we’re in the same place,” he said. “What happened the last eight months, it’s all behind us. We’ve been pitching great and putting up runs, and the two months I’ve been here, the defense has been extremely solid.”

The Giants are right to be confident. When it was absolutely needed, the first-half Giants reappeared. The pitching was dominant over the final week. The beleaguered bullpen found a new closer in the old closer, Sergio Romo. The lineup averaged 3.8 runs per game while losing 41 of the first 66 games out of the break, but then broke out for 38 runs during 5-1 run homestand. A group that couldn’t buy a big hit in August and most of September batted .315 with runners in scoring position over the final seven games of the season. The defense was there through good times and bad, with Conor Gillaspie showing off Sunday with a diving catch over a dugout railing and Denard Span making a diving catch in the ninth.

Manager Bruce Bochy sat in the front seat of the roller coaster. His decisions did not work out as often as in the past. But he insisted that this postseason berth is as special as the past ones.

“We had two different halves,” he said. “If we wouldn’t have gotten to the postseason, that would have been really hard to take. It was up to us to take care of business and these guys took care of business. We didn’t get help. We had to win out and they did it.”

Bochy has a long history of pulling the right motivational ploy out at the right time. Before Sunday’s game, he opted for silence. There was no big speech, no show of emotion.

“The way they’ve played (this week), I wanted to stay out of the way the last two days,” he said. 

The weekend push started with Ty Blach’s surprise performance Saturday and carried over into the early innings Sunday. The Giants scored two runs off Kenta Maeda in the first and three more in the second. Moore gave up six runs and recorded just three outs at Dodger Stadium two weeks ago, but this day would be different. 

“I came out a little bit too aggressive (last time),” he said. “The effort was kind of taking over, and the timing of things, I wasn’t being very efficient getting down the hill. This start, especially in the bullpen, I was really trying to stay back and stay within myself. I carried it into the game and as you get comfortable moving down the hill, you can start to speed it up.”

Moore was threatened just once, when the Dodgers put a run across and two runners on in the fourth. As Joc Pederson walked to the plate, Roberto Kelly signaled for Denard Span to back up in center field. Pederson blasted a deep fly to the track but Span hauled it in. The potential for a one-run game drifted away. In the dugout, Bochy committed to staying with Moore as long as he could. 

The left-hander retired the final 12 batters he faced after the Pederson at-bat. He gave up just three total hits, striking out six. As team executives watched players celebrate later, general manager Bobby Evans smiled. He pulled the trigger seconds before the August 1 deadline, dealing popular third baseman Matt Duffy to Tampa Bay for Moore. It is the kind of move that defines an executive’s tenure if it goes wrong, but Evans was confident that this day would come.

“We felt he was a guy we could rely on,” he said. 

The Giants now hope to see what Moore has in store for a postseason start. He is lined up to face the Cubs at some point, although players and coaches wouldn’t look that far ahead on Sunday. Bochy would go as far as naming the obvious: Johnny Cueto will start Game 1 of the NLDS if the Giants get there.

First, it’s Bumgarner’s turn. He was a spectator Sunday, the only marquee player ruled off-limits before a must-win game. After months of uninspiring baseball, Bumgarner liked what he saw from his spot on the dugout rail.

“If we play like we have been the last three games, we’re going to be tough to beat,” he said. 

Offseason can be tense on other side of Giancarlo Stanton rumors

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USATI

Offseason can be tense on other side of Giancarlo Stanton rumors

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.”

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.