Stronger Sandoval leads beatdown of LA


Stronger Sandoval leads beatdown of LA


SAN FRANCISCO The apparent story in the hours beforeMonday nights archrival showdown at AT&T Park was about Buster Posey, andwhether Giants manager Bruce Bochy would really sit his cleanup-hitting catcheragainst the NL West leaders.

The actual story was in an antechamber off the Giantsclubhouse, where hitting coach Hensley Bam Bam Meulens and Pablo Sandovalhuddled around a monitor, watching video.

Sandoval was coming off a simply hacktastic series inOakland. He was overaggressive, hitting off his front foot, swinging throughhigh fastballs. He was a rather unremarkable .275 hitter with one extra-baseknock in 14 games since coming off the disabled list. He wasnt making animpact.

He did Monday night. He dented the baseball, and the Giantsmade their own dent in the NL West standings. Fueled by Sandovals 3-for-3,two-double, three-RBI night, theyoverwhelmed the Dodgers in the first two innings and coasted to an 8-0 victorythat brought them within two games of first place the closest theyve beensince the second day of the regular season.

Sandoval had multiple extra-base hits for the first timesince May 1, when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand. He even had the temerity to turn and burn on a 3-0 pitch; he drove it to the opposite-field warning track for a sacrifice fly.

He'll always be an aggressive hitter. But he picked the right spots this time.

The last couple days for me were tough, Sandoval said. Iwas swinging hard.

His left hand remained on his mind. He wasnt feeling pain,per se, but the strength wasnt there quite yet. He didnt say it, but maybe hefelt he needed to cheat a little bit on fastballs, get his bat going a littlequicker to compensate. Its hard to do that and be moderately selective at thesame time.

But now

When you have the power in your hands and wrists, you donttry to do too much, said Sandoval, who came back from this hamate fracture aweek quicker than he did a year ago, when he had the identical injury in hisright hand. Its getting better every day, so well see what happens.

What happens next could be very, very big for the Giantsoffense.

Sandoval had a long talk with Meulens that also helped toclear Sandovals mind.

Ive got a great hitting coach, said Sandoval, who did allhis damage batting left-handed. He knows the things I can do. He let me know. We talked about a lot of things. I dont want to say what we walked about. But we watched videos, and I put it all together today.

Sandoval has taken a lot of public grief over the pastseveral weeks, especially after Bochy did not hide he and the organizationsdispleasure at the third basemans weight and conditioning. Sandoval has beenpulled for Joaquin Arias late-inning defense as recently as last weekendagainst the As, and in Matt Cains perfect game, too. Those things arent loston players, and they have to sting a little bit for a player like Sandoval, whowas second in Gold Glove voting among coaches and managers last season.

Then there is the legal issue in Santa Cruz, which is ongoing. (Although the investigation should be wrapped up by the end of the week, I'm told.)

Say what you want about Sandovals fluctuating waistline,but this much is unassailable: When he is challenged, he responds. And he putsin the work.

Sandoval did postgame conditioning every day during theGiants last road trip, and his defensive play has improved markedly since hisfirst couple of rough games off the disabled list.

When Sandoval is productive and confident, he is adifference maker. Thats been true of him going back to the minor leagues, whenhe served as a buoy at every stop.

That was great, said left-hander Barry Zito, who gaveSandoval his Kung Fu Panda nickname back in 2009, and benefited from the runsupport while shutting out the Dodgers through seven innings. Its the Pablowe know. He just brings a whole lot of intensity to both sides of the game. Hesjust really igniting the whole offense.

Bochy said he was encouraged, too.

I really was, the manager said. He was quieter and moredisciplined and he wasnt overswinging today. Thats what hed been doing, morethan anything. Today, (his swing) was shorter and he threw out some greatat-bats.

Moving within two games of the Dodgers after trailing by 7 at one point? That was a good sign for the Giants. But theyll need to keepclimbing and keep winning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are applying their ownhot breath.

So perhaps the most encouraging sign Monday night, amid the BeatLA chants, was the sight of Sandoval ripping his double off the bricks. Morethan any position player on the roster, he has the ability to carry a club. Hishands are getting strong enough for that task, and by all signs hes got thewill to match.

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."