With addition of another Gold Glove infielder, Giants take shifts to next level


With addition of another Gold Glove infielder, Giants take shifts to next level

SAN FRANCISCO — In the second inning last Friday night, with left-handed pull-hitter Yasmani Grandal at the plate, Brandon Crawford left his position and joined a shift on the right side of the infield. Evan Longoria was alone on the left side, but when the count got to two strikes, he started walking toward second base. Crawford went back to his original position and handled the entire left side. 

“He just started coming over and I was like, ‘alright, I guess I’ll go back over,’” Crawford said the next day smiling. 

There is some freelance work at play here, but for the most part this is all actually pretty choreographed. The Giants don’t like talking about their use of advanced analytics — for whatever reason, they’re comfortable with fans thinking they’re still in the dark ages — but they did beef up the department over the offseason. One change was to add a recently added member of the front office to the traveling party, and you can see subtle changes. 

In spring training, an exit velocity leaderboard was on display in the clubhouse. Players have talked about getting additional info regarding launch angles and their tendencies. Then there are the shifts, which the Giants have embraced for years. 

They certainly have taken it to a new level this season, shifting between pitches for the first time. In the first inning Sunday, Longoria was once again by himself on the left side for Grandal, and he once again swapped positions with Crawford when the count got to two strikes. When the next hitter, Cody Bellinger, walked up, the two switched positions again. 

The Giants are being more aggressive in part because of data and in part because of the offseason addition of another Gold Glove infielder. 

“It’s all based on personnel,” said Ron Wotus, who coaches the infielders. 

Crawford never swapped between pitches with Matt Duffy or Christian Arroyo or Pablo Sandoval, but Longoria has gotten used to doing it and he made it clear which plays he’s comfortable with. He’ll stay by himself on the left side to handle a bunt as a third baseman normally would, but when the count reaches two strikes to some hitters, Crawford takes over and Longoria plays a modified second base. 

“That gives me the freedom to make plays over there,” Crawford said. 

There are variations the Giants use. With a runner on, Longoria will never move into the shift because the Giants don’t want him turning double plays. He is, however, comfortable playing a version of second base with the bases empty. He fielded a slow roller to second at one point over the weekend and flipped it to first. 

The Giants also shifted Matt Kemp, moving everyone over toward third base for the right-handed hitter. They surely have more up their sleeves this season, as there are plenty of shift-worthy players elsewhere in the National League. There’s one common theme to all the alignments though. 

“With the infield we have here, it doesn’t matter who it’s hit to,” Crawford said. 

Giants feeling good about themselves, love how they played on homestand

Giants feeling good about themselves, love how they played on homestand

For the Giants, this season isn't about contending for a playoff spot. It's about doing the small things right and building towards future success.

One thing manager Bruce Bochy wants his team to work on is playing better at Oracle Park.

Prior to the just-completed eight-game homestand, the Giants were 10-18 at home. But against the Dodgers, Padres and Brewers -- three quality clubs -- the Giants took five of the eight games.

"I think you look at it as a pretty good homestand," Bochy told reporters after the game. "We would have loved to have finished it off today ... and we could have, we had our chances. But we took two series against two good teams, so good bounce back off a tough series."

The Giants lost two of three to the Dodgers last weekend, but swept a two-game series with the Padres earlier this week. Then, this weekend, they had a chance to sweep the NL Central-leading Brewers before losing 5-3 on Sunday.

"So, better at home, that's what we've been looking for," Bochy said. "Hopefully when we get back it's the same thing, but now we got to hit the road here against some good teams. I like the way we're pitching, keeping it close and we are creating those chances and that's what you need to do. You do enough of it, as I said, odds are somebody's going to come through for you."

Jeff Samardzija started against Milwaukee Sunday and was tagged with four earned runs in five innings.

Despite taking the loss, Samardzija echoed Bochy's feeling that the team is on the right track.

"We're playing good ball right now," Samardzija told reporters. "I think we even showed it today. There were a couple situations there that definitely on my end, if we get out of there with a zero, it's probably a little bit different of a game and we had our opportunities."

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The Giants head down to LA to begin a four-game series with the rival Dodgers on Monday. After that, they head to Arizona for a three-game series before returning home next week to take on the Rockies.

"I love the way we're playing," Samardzija said. "We'll learn a lot about ourselves here in this next week."

Giants vs. Brewers lineups: Season-long winning streak on the line


Giants vs. Brewers lineups: Season-long winning streak on the line

The Giants can sweep their second straight series and pick up their season-high fifth straight win if they beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday at Oracle Park. 

Jeff Samardzija takes the mound for San Francisco, and has been solid at home all season. In 32 innings at Oracle Park in 2019, Samardzija owns a 1.16 WHIP and has struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings. On the road, he has a 1.26 WHIP and averages 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings. 

The Brewers, sitting in first place in the NL Central, will trot out a lefty-heavy lineup in order to best "The Shark." Milwaukee will only start three right-handed hitters -- and one-switch hitter -- Sunday, which is surprising considering right-handed hitters have hit much better against Samardzija (.263 batting average) than lefties (.203) this season. 

First pitch for Brewers vs. Giants is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT with pregame coverage beginning at noon. You can follow all the action on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming online and on the MyTeams app.

San Francisco Giants (30-38)
Joe Panik, 2B
Mike Yastrzemski, LF
Buster Posey, C
Brandon Belt, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Kevin Pillar, RF
Steven Duggar, CF
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3-5, 3.72 ERA)

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Milwaukee Brewers (39-31)
Ben Gamel, CF
Christian Yelich, RF
Ryan Braun, LF
Mike Moustakas, 2B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Eric Thames, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Orlando Arcia, SS
Chase Anderson, RHP (3-1, 3.80 ERA)