Giants

Farhan Zaidi already making subtle changes to Giants with 'modern approach'

farhan1.png
USA TODAY Sports

Farhan Zaidi already making subtle changes to Giants with 'modern approach'

SAN FRANCISCO — When longtime Giants employees sat down in a suite on the 62nd floor of the Delano hotel last Monday morning, they immediately noticed a difference. There were no scouts in the room.

For the first time in years, the Giants did not bring any of their scouts to the annual MLB Winter Meetings, instead relying on a smaller group in the suite that had slightly different kinds of conversations.

Now, that’s not to say the Giants are going all in one direction. It was notable that one of the first things that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi did as a Giant was beef up the scouting department, hiring Zack Minasian as director of pro scouting and Michael Holmes as director of amateur scouting.

But there certainly was a different vibe in the room, members of the front office said. Conversations were not as structured. As one person described it, the Giants used to focus on a player and then go through the check list, asking coaches, scouts, trainers and analytics people about said player one-by-one.

With Zaidi in charge of the room, the conversation was said to be more wide-open. If there were 15 people in a meeting, Zaidi tried to bounce around and check in with all of them. 

“He’s able to be very inclusionary in a meeting. Everybody had something to say that advanced the discussion,” said team president and CEO Larry Baer, who sat through several in-depth meetings while in Las Vegas. “He’s able to sort of moderate and curate that, and that’s a skill, because you’ve got to be thinking about it and synthesizing the information as it comes in. I had hoped that would be the case. I had heard that’s the case. But it really was the case, as we’re digging in now.”

The Giants have put their future in Zaidi’s hands, which made their latest Winter Meetings experience as much about their executives as any incoming players. Throughout, you saw hints at subtle changes behind the scenes.

Asked what the Giants liked about Mike Gerber, an outfielder claimed from the Detroit Tigers on Monday, Zaidi gave the kind of defensive assessment you haven’t heard around AT&T Park, at least publicly.

“We’ve got a really good analytics department that takes a look at Statcast data and really tries to understand what guys — from a statistical standpoint — what their range looks like, what their top speeds and sprint speeds are,” Zaidi said. “He registered well in those categories.”

For the Giants, being open about all of this is a departure. They always have done more in the analytics realm than is publicly known, but for some reason, the front office spent years downplaying use of advanced methods. On the first day of Zaidi’s first Winter Meetings, team employees openly spoke about using Statcast and TrackMan, and talked of exit velocities and spin rates. 

This change will be seen in the clubhouse next season, too. The Giants do not plan to replace Chad Chop, who was a batting practice pitcher and teamed with Shawon Dunston on replays. Instead, that spot in the traveling party likely will go to a second member of the organization’s analytics department.

Last season, the Giants hired Michael Schwartze as a baseball operations analyst and had him set up in the clubhouse before all games, distributing data to players. The plan this year is to have two analysts available to players. Two of those players might be Rule 5 draft selections, as the Giants made two picks in that draft for the first time. 

There will be plenty more changes over time. For now, Zaidi is making subtle tweaks, while also showing plenty of respect to the way the Giants built a dynasty.

Baer hired Zaidi in part because he is equally comfortable sitting with analytics people and scouts, and while the Giants changed the nature of some discussions, Zaidi still honors both sides of the room. Brian Sabean, John Barr and Dick Tidrow remain integral parts of discussions, and all three will stay with the organization despite having their roles altered.

Time will tell if Zaidi can turn this around. For now, the staff he inherited seemed energized, and the man who hired him is pleased with the new direction of the franchise. 

“He’s just bringing a different approach,” Baer said. “It doesn’t mean the things we’ve done in the past were wrong, but I do think it’s a very modern approach, and it’s based on a lot of the learning that he’s accumulated in his work with analytics and his work also with scouts.”

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

baerus.jpg
USATSI

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement Monday calling on Major League Baseball to issue sanctions on Giants CEO Larry Baer over a March 1 incident involving his wife, Pam.

“When the incident first occurred involving Larry Baer and his wife, the San Francisco Police Department immediately began an investigation,” Breed said in the statement posted on her website. "That investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, Major League Baseball needs to send a message that any and all acts of violence against women is unacceptable.

"The letter written by several respected women leaders in our domestic violence community echoes an all too familiar reality where incidents involving violence against women are not met with true accountability. While Mr. Baer has apologized and expressed remorse for his behavior, it does not excuse his actions and it does not erase what transpired. Mr. Baer’s actions were serious and wrong. We are a City that loves and supports our San Francisco Giants, and that means holding our organization and its leaders to the highest of standards.

“Every little girl, every woman should be able to attend a Giants game with a clear sense of the organization’s values. I share in the call to action by the women who have written the Commissioner calling for greater accountability. There must be a stronger public reaction and response to violence against women in our City and our country.”

The letter that Breed references in her statement came from a dozen San Francisco community leaders, who wrote to MLB that they’d like to see Baer disciplined. The San Francisco Chronicle cited portions of the letter, which told MLB their stance is about “… the responsibility that you, as well as the board and executive leadership of the Giants organization, have to fairly enforce MLB policy, as you would had it been a major league player in that video, rather than a high-profile CEO.”

MLB issued a statement on the day of the incident, saying: “Major League Baseball is aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed.” MLB has not commented since then.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office told the Chronicle on March 8 it hadn’t decided if charges should be filed and that police had been investigating the situation.