Bruce Bochy hoping for better second half with Giants on pace for 92 losses


Bruce Bochy hoping for better second half with Giants on pace for 92 losses

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants played their 81st game of the season on Friday night, and as Bruce Bochy realized that his final year was halfway done, he smiled and started cracking jokes. 

"I'm halfway there," he said. "I'm on the back end of this ride."

Bochy joked about how much fun he'll have, but the truth is he fully intends to keep it as serious as ever between the lines. He was incensed with the strike zone in the first game of this series, barking at the home plate umpire even as his own lineup managed just three hits. 

The Giants have the second-worst winning percentage in the National League, but Bochy remains hopeful that better baseball is ahead. As is, his team is 35-46 after a 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Friday night. 

"We're disappointed," Bochy said before the game. "We looked at a lot of the games and they were games we should have, could have won. There's a mistake here or there or not quite the right execution. Little things caught up with us in the first half, and hopefully we get that turned around."

The Giants are on pace for 92 losses, which would be the second 90-loss season in three years. The franchise has just 12 of them in 136 previous years of existence, so yes, this is a historically bad era of Giants baseball. 

Here are some other stats through 50 percent of the season:

--- The home run leaders at the halfway point: Brandon Belt, Kevin Pillar and Pablo Sandoval at 10 apiece. The Giants still are way behind the rest of the league, but they have three guys on pace for 20. They haven't had a 20-homer season since Brandon Crawford in 2015. 

--- At .224, the Giants have the worst team batting average in the Majors, and it's not all that close. There isn't a player from the Opening Day lineup hitting above .250, and the group is on pace to shatter the previous franchise low average of .233 set in 1985. 

"The offense is not what I thought it would be," Bochy admitted.

The manager said he's hopeful this turns around, in large part because this type of sustained play is unprecedented for most of his regulars. 

"Some guys are where they've never been," he said of the stats. 

--- Through 81 games, the Giants have used 11 different left fielders, although they appear to finally have some stability there with Alex Dickerson swinging a hot bat. The two players with the most time in left for the Giants this season -- Gerardo Parra and Mac Williamson -- are with the Nationals and Mariners, respectively. It'll be hard for the Giants to reach the 14 left fielders the 2017 squad used, but September call-ups might get them there. 

--- Asked what he would like to see over the final 81, Bochy at first mentioned consistency from the starting staff, noting that this roster wasn't built to win with offense. 

Madison Bumgarner has a 4.21 ERA and Jeff Samardzija is up to 4.52 despite a solid start. Derek Holland and Dereck Rodriguez, members of the Opening Day rotation, are long relievers, and Drew Pomeranz nearly lost a rotation spot, too. 

Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede have gotten a long audition and both have the talent to be part of the solution for years to come. Anderson had another solid start Friday and has a 3.86 ERA through his first nine big league starts. 

--- There have been some bright spots, and two players could share Team MVP rights through 81 games. Pablo Sandoval has a .879 OPS and leads the position players with 1.0 Wins Above Replacement (the team leader is still just 132nd in the Majors in WAR). Will Smith is 21 for 21 in save opportunities and leads the staff with 1.2 WAR. 

They both have been really good from start to finish, and Smith is going to be an All-Star for the first time. 

[RELATED: Posey, Crawford turn back the clock in win over D-Backs]

--- It's been a negative first half, so, sorry, we're ending on a negative. And this one is ... well, you might want to sit down. 

The holdovers from Opening Day -- Posey, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Longoria and Duggar -- have combined for 1.6 WAR. Tom Murphy, who was claimed off waivers and then traded to the Mariners in the hours before the opener, has been worth 1.2 WAR by himself. 

Giants spring preview: Brandon Belt headed for a decade at first base

Giants spring preview: Brandon Belt headed for a decade at first base

There aren't many players around the league who get thrown into trade rumors by their own fans more than Brandon Belt does, but as the Giants prepare for their first spring under Gabe Kapler, the 31-year-old first baseman is headed for a milestone. 

If Belt is standing at his usual position on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, he'll become just the third Giant to make double-digit Opening Day starts at first base and the first to do it 10 consecutive seasons.

Willie McCovey never made 10 consecutive Opening Day starts at first base for the Giants. Will Clark and J.T. Snow didn't, either. Barring an injury, Brandon Belt, survivor of the #BeltWars, will stand alone with that distinction. 

Yesterday we looked at the catchers who will be in camp for the Giants, led by Buster Posey, who also is poised for his 10th consecutive Opening Day start. Today it's the first basemen, and it's not a big group ... 

Brandon Belt

Gabe Kapler had one of the more fascinating introductory press conferences we've ever seen in the Bay Area, but late in that hour, he made a point of mentioning one of his key players. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt (and) how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said in November. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

Kapler isn't alone here. Throughout the organization, the Giants are teaching their young hitters to be more patient and have a better sense of the strike zone. A common thread through just about all of the non-roster additions over the last 14 months has been solid to high on-base percentages. Belt, who finished 15th in the NL in pitches per plate appearance even in a down year, has plenty of fans in this new regime, and the Giants intend to accentuate his strengths, which is a bit of a change of pace from a staff that was frustrated with Belt's lack of aggression at times. 

That's part of the reason trade whispers have never made any sense. Belt, who was hampered by a knee injury much of last year, is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris would have been selling low, and that's not what those two do. With a new staff, hopefully some improved health, and ballpark changes that should help Belt more than anyone, the Giants are optimistic. 

But ... they're also ready to be quicker with adjustments, and this new staff is ready to be far more aggressive with platoons and days off when the matchup is a poor one. Belt has a .815 OPS against righties the past three seasons, but it's just .668 against lefties. If that continues, Belt will find himself starting a lot more games in the dugout. 

Darin Ruf

That last sentence is why Ruf, who will be in camp as a non-roster invitee according to The Athletic, might be more interesting than your average 33-year-old returning from the KBO. Ruf was a part-timer for the Phillies for most of his five seasons there (he was not there when Kapler was the manager) but he always hit lefties. He has a .299/.379/.542 slash line in 271 career at-bats against lefties, with experience at first base and in the outfield. 

The Giants have preached versatility since Zaidi took over, but they also now have a 26th roster spot to play with and can more easily carry a lefty-masher on their bench. 

Ruf spent the past three seasons in the KBO, where he hit 86 homers and compiled a .313/.404/.564 slash line. That league isn't anywhere near the level of competition as the big leagues, but the Giants clearly saw something they liked. 

Zach Green

Green was one of the more interesting non-roster invitees last spring, a 24-year-old who had hit 20 homers the year before as a Phillies minor leaguer. The Sacramento native took full advantage of whatever happened to the PCL last year, crushing 25 homers in 252 Triple-A at-bats. 

Green, who primarily plays third, actually got 16 plate appearances for the Giants right before and after the trade deadline, but he had just two hits and struck out six times. In September, the Giants placed Green on the 60-day injured list with a hip impingement to clear a roster spot for Wandy Peralta. Green was then outrighted off the 40-man roster in November, but he signed a minor league deal and returns to a good situation. 

The Giants have a much-improved farm system, but they have very little talent at the corner infield spots in the upper levels of the minors. If Green can pick up where he left off, he should be an everyday starter for the River Cats and could be one injury away from significant big league playing time.

[RELATED: Giants add depth at second base]

The Wild Card

Amazingly, Belt is the only true first baseman on the 40-man roster, but there are others with experience. Buster Posey made just three starts at first last year and it doesn't sound like the Giants want that to change in 2020. Keep an eye on Austin Slater, though. He can handle first defensively and the Giants want to find more ways to get his right-handed bat in the lineup. 

Giants' New Era 'Team Describe' hats represent city of San Francisco

Giants' New Era 'Team Describe' hats represent city of San Francisco

One of the best things about the game of baseball is the sense of community you feel when attending a game.

Before you sit down in your seat perhaps you go to a local bar to indulge in a beverage ... or two. Maybe you take public transportation to the event. It's all about coming together.

New Era, MLB's official on-field headwear provider, dropped a line of hats that embrace the cities MLB teams play the game in.

The Giants got some of the hometown treatment with a hat of their own in the "Team Describe" line.

It appears the theme of the hats (with only a select few from MLB and the NBA) has a specific item next to the team's logo in the front with some food component to represent the celebrated city on the back.

You can check out the San Francisco hat that represents the city here as well as the other cities.

[RELATED: Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Kapler's coaching staff]

The Giants logo sits next to a cable car on the front with some sushi on the back of it. 

What do you think?