SCOTTSDALE — The Giants had their annual “hitters-only” meeting on Wednesday, with players and coaches filing into the visiting clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium to go over last season’s numbers and this season’s goals. How do you motivate a group that led the league in hitting the previous year?
“You build on last year,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
To do so, Bochy and hitting coach Hensley Meulens hit on a specific area where they would like to see improvement. Meulens showed charts summarizing the relative lack of success with runners on third and less than two outs. Bochy said his lineup was “not quite as efficient” as he would have liked.
The Giants had 292 plate appearances with less than two outs and a runner on third, scoring a run 136 times. The 47 percent rate of success ranked second-to-last in the National League, eight points behind the league-leading Nationals. There’s some noise in that sample size, but Bochy knows it never hurts to put a bug in hitters’ ears early in camp.
“It might be (about getting) a little bit better focus,” he said. “Awareness of it should help us focus a little more. You want to remind the players that you never arrive. Your job is to try to get better and try to improve.”
[REWIND: Bochy: Span will play CF, Giants' lineup 'not set in stone']
The Giants also lacked production when trying to advance a runner from second to third and the pinch-hitting numbers disappointed the staff. Bochy has talked about the need to improve the latter category, and he’s looking for bench options that can be more of a threat in the late innings.
In all, though, the Giants had one of the best offenses in the big leagues. They finished fifth in the National League in runs (696) despite playing in a ballpark that heavily favors pitchers, and ranked in the top five in most advanced metrics despite a flood of injuries to position players. The lineup should be much more dangerous with a healthy Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, as well as the addition of Denard Span.
Bochy is still being coy about his exact lineup plans, and he said he’ll experiment with different looks this spring. Panik was mentioned as the likely No. 2 behind Span, and Buster Posey will, of course, be hitting third or fourth. Span said he’s already had a conversation with Panik about his preferences when he’s on first.
“It’s just about whether or not he wants to take a strike here or there,” Span said. “He’s voiced that he wants me to (run). He’d rather be hitting with me on second than on first. I think as spring goes on we’ll continue to communicate and with the game experience down here we’ll get a better feel for each other.”
Bochy also mentioned Pence, Matt Duffy, Angel Pagan and Brandon Crawford as potential options to hit second. While he lauded Duffy’s ability as a No. 3 hitter, he wouldn’t reveal whether that’ll be the third baseman's final landing spot.
“I have a lean,” Bochy said. “We’ll see if it stays that way when we get to the end of the spring.”
Regardless of how it shapes up, the Giants lineup should again be a nightly threat. And just to make sure the drive is there, Meulens pulled a surprise motivational tool out of his back pocket during the meeting.
The room, full of All-Stars and Silver Sluggers, was shown clips of Giants pitchers hitting nine home runs last season.