Giants

Can Giants spoil Dodgers, Rockies' party? Sizing up NL West competition

Can Giants spoil Dodgers, Rockies' party? Sizing up NL West competition

SAN FRANCISCO — The first goal always is to win the division. Even for the champion Giants clubs of the past decade, the first benchmark they always talked about was taking the NL West and getting into the tournament.

No matter how dire it might look, the Giants again will go into this season with that goal. They believe they can surprise people, and they have one big thing going for them: Compared to the rest of the NL, the West simply isn’t very deep.

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The Dodgers have taken advantage of that, winning six consecutive NL West titles.

Here’s a look at how 2019 shapes up for the teams the Giants will try to beat: 

The Favorite: Dodgers

Newcomers: A.J. Pollock, Russell Martin, Joe Kelly

What they lost: Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Manny Machado, Alex Wood, Brian Dozier, Chase Utley

It was a somewhat disappointing offseason for their fans, many of whom wanted a Bryce Harper-sized splash. But this player development machine will keep churning. They traded Kemp and Puig and plugged in Alex Verdugo, one of the game's top outfield prospects. Clayton Kershaw will miss Opening Day but they still have a pitcher in their rotation, Walker Buehler, who might be the best in the division. They missed on Harper, but there's a very real possibility that Cody Bellinger outpaces him in just about every category. 

The Dodgers are the best team in the division, probably the best in the National League, and if they stay healthy they should be popping bottles in mid-September. 

That's the bad news for Giants fans. The good news? The man who helped build all this is now working at Oracle Park. 

The Contender: Rockies

Newcomers: Daniel Murphy

What they lost: DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottovino, Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez.

They've made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time and the band is back together. You could argue that they should have gone all-in given their situation, but that's never been their style. Instead, the money was spent on Arenado, the league's best player and exactly the type you want leading your franchise long-term. 

There are some key losses here, but Murphy should provide a boost to a lineup that isn't what you'd expect at Coors Field. The real story here is the starting staff, led by Kyle Freeland. You probably haven't heard of most these guys, but it's a very talented group and should have the Rockies in position to make another run for a postseason spot. 

Stock Rising: Padres

Newcomers: Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler 

What they lost: Freddy Galvis, Christian Villanueva 

For years, talent evaluators have talked about the potential of the 2020 Padres. By making the biggest move of any NL West team -- the $300 million Machado deal -- the Padres potentially bumped that timeline up a year. 

The real intrigue here, though, isn't with Machado. 

The Padres have the best farm system in baseball, and Fernando Tatis Jr. could give them another infield superstar as early as this season. Maybe a Franmil Reyes or Manny Margot or Francisco Mejia breaks through and becomes an All-Star? 

They have plenty of pitching on the way, led by Chris Paddack, but it might not arrive in time to allow the Padres to compete this year. They always find a way to put a good bullpen together at Petco Park, but this is a roster that's at least a couple of starting pitchers short. 

They're probably the team in the division that could have used a cheap duo like Holland and Pomeranz, but they're relying on youth, which means they could either win 20 more games than they did a year ago and take the leap as the Braves did last year, or we could continue to look towards 2020. 

Stock Falling: Diamondbacks 

The newcomers: Greg Holland, Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Wilmer Flores, Adam Jones

What they lost: Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, Daniel Descalso, Clay Buchholz

They traded Goldschmidt, the face of the franchise, because they thought they couldn’t reach an extension. They lost Corbin, a Cy Young candidate, and Pollock, their second-best player when healthy, to free agency. That’s nearly 13 Wins Above Replacement lost from a team that went 86-76 last year, and a couple other remaining standouts could be sent off before the deadline.

Throw in a couple other vets they’ve lost and there’s a chance they drop to the bottom of the division. There’s still pitching depth, but it’s hard to see how they’re going to have a competitive lineup.

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

As the Giants watch the World Series from home, their search for a new manager continues. Replacing a legend like Bruce Bochy won't be easy, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi can't wait forever. 

Interviews have begun, and the favorite coming into the process might be someone who would just have to switch sides in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Monday that "word around the industry is that [Mark] Kotsay entered this process as a favored candidate." One source also told Baggarly that he would be surprised if the Giants didn't hire Kotsay.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic first reported on Oct. 9 that the Giants would interview Kotsay, who currently serves as the A's quality control coach.

Kotsay, 43, had a 17-year MLB career where he spent four seasons -- 2004 through '07 -- as an outfielder for the A's. Zaidi was a baseball operations analyst in Oakland when Kotsay played for the A's. 

Kotsay retired after the 2013 season and became a special assistant in the San Diego Padres' front office the next season. He then served as the Padres' hitting coach for the 2015 season and was the A's bench coach in 2016. 

[RELATED: Could MadBum's ugly road stats hurt him in free agency?]

The Giants already interviewed in-house candidates Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus. The San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman and John Shea reported Monday that San Francisco also interviewed Cubs first base coach Wil Venable on Friday.

Other reported candidates include Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Madison Bumgarner is entering free agency at a curious time in his career. The longtime Giants ace has built a legendary reputation, but plenty of question marks also surround the 30-year-old.

Bumgarner proved he's still a workhorse after missing time the previous two seasons with freak injuries. His 34 starts were tied for the MLB lead, and his 207 2/3 innings pitched ranked second in the NL.

But while looking at Bumgarner's stats from this past season, one thing stands out that could hurt him in free agency and actually help the Giants if they want to bring back the left-hander.

MadBum's home-road splits were staggering in 2019. He was a completely different pitcher in front of the home crowd at Oracle Park, compared to pitching away from San Francisco.

Here are Bumgarner's home stats this past season, compared to when he pitched on the road.

Home: 19 GS, 6-2, 2.93 ERA, 122 2/3 IP, 40 ER, 15 HR, 120 SO, 21 BB, 0.93 WHIP, 5.71 SO/W
Away: 15 GS, 3-7, 5.29 ERA, 85 IP, 50 ER, 15 HR, 83 SO, 22 BB, 1.41 WHIP, 3.77 SO/W

Oracle Park is known as a pitcher's dream. In fact, the Giants' home park was the least favorable for offenses this season by Park Factors, per ESPN. The 11-year veteran used that his advantage, but that luxury didn't follow him on the road.

Bumgarner allowed the same amount of homers in four fewer road games as he did at home. He also walked one more batter and allowed five more hits -- 98 on the road, compared to 93 at home. For someone with a lot of mileage on his arm and his fastball declining in velocity, that's certainly alarming.

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As a pitcher who's never tested the open market and has spent his entire career in a pitcher's paradise, these numbers will be looked at closely by front offices around the league this offseason.

Bumgarner figures to join Gerrit Cole, among others, as the most coveted starting pitchers in free agency. So, while his road numbers could help the Giants in keeping him in San Francisco, they also could prevent the veteran from signing the hefty contract he likely desires.