Giants

Giants 2020 MLB schedule: Three big takeaways from tough 60-game slate

Giants 2020 MLB schedule: Three big takeaways from tough 60-game slate

MLB Network decided to do a schedule release show on Monday, which was a good idea. Unless you happen to be a Giants fan. 

The show dedicated segments to divisions, and when it came time to show the schedules for the NL West, they went Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies -- and that's it. The Giants were left out, inexplicably, as the show moved on to one of about six different conversations about how dangerous the Padres are. (Fun fact: The Giants finished seven games ahead of the Padres last season.)

Luckily, within minutes the Giants released their full schedule:

A few minutes later, Gabe Kapler addressed the release in his daily session with reporters. 

"It kind of feels like Christmas morning where you open a present and you're not sure if you like it yet," Kapler said. "I think we're all still digesting the schedule."

Same here, but here are three initial observations ... 

A Long Wait for Bumgarner

The Giants were originally scheduled to see old friend Madison Bumgarner on their first road trip, with that schedule taking them to Arizona for their second series. They could have faced him on their first homestand, too, and that would have been quite the scene. It's likely the player who got the loudest applause during his at-bats that night at Oracle Park would have been the opposing starter.

Now, the Giants have to wait until game No. 28 to see Bumgarner, and since it's just a three-game series, it's possible they miss him altogether. The Giants and Diamondbacks face off again the next weekend, the final one of August, and then again the first weekend of September. Somewhere in there they figure to finally see Bumgarner digging in on the other side, and it's a matchup guys have been talking about for months. 

"Come on, Bum, you're proud of your fastball," Buster Posey said at FanFest. "Challenge me a little bit."

When he reported to Diamondbacks camp, Bumgarner was asked if he had thought much about facing Posey. 

"Oh yeah. Oh yeah," he said quickly. "Yes."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

It's Not Fully Fair

There were going to be some imbalances in a 60-game schedule, especially with teams playing their division rivals just 10 times. The Giants are seeing that in a tough way.

They'll face the Dodgers seven times at Dodger Stadium but just three times at home. While there won't be fans this year, homefield advantage might be key in a different way. It's going to be uncomfortable for teams to travel with all the restrictions that are in place.

That's the most glaring quirk in the schedule. Another thing that stands out is how odd road trips and homestands will look. The Giants have a Padres-Rangers homestand and a Padres-Mariners-A's road trip, for instance. 

A Tough "First Half"

The first couple of weeks aren't that bad other than the season-opening series against the Dodgers, but the Giants will be tested quite a bit before the August 31 trade deadline. Their pitchers will try to keep from getting banged around in Houston from August 10-12, and that series is at the end of a brutal road trip to start August. The Giants play four at Coors Field (with expanded rosters, at least) and then visit the Dodgers again before going to Houston.

After that it's three against the A's and that four-game home-and-home against the Angels. That's followed by nine more games against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers before the deadline. All in all that's 22 consecutive games against teams that should be contenders, with just two off days as rosters get cut from 30 to 26.

Of the 36 games before the deadline, the Giants have all 10 of their games against the Dodgers, six more against playoff teams, and 10 against the Diamondbacks and Angels, who figure to be improved. Kapler pointed out that four-game stretch against the Angles in particular, noting how deep the heart of their lineup is after the addition of Anthony Rendon.

[RELATED: When Giants, A's play]

"It's a very challenging schedule," he said. "That's the first thing I noticed."

They should have a very good idea of who they are by the deadline, which is good. With a rough start, they could be one of the true few sellers. But if they survive, September is much, much easier. 

Farhan Zaidi has targeted Donovano Solano since his Dodgers GM days

Farhan Zaidi has targeted Donovano Solano since his Dodgers GM days

Nobody expected Giants infielder Donovan Solano to be hitting .458 after 18 games this season. Not even Farhan Zaidi. 

But the Giants' president of operations has had his eyes on Solano for a long time now, dating back to his days with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Zaidi first tried to sign Solano in 2016 when he was the Dodgers' general manager, according to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly. Instead, Solano signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees. 

“It was disappointing but also showed Solano’s character that he was loyal to the organization that gave him a Triple-A opportunity coming off a down ‘15 season,” Zaidi said to Baggarly. “It’s an interesting track record -- a guy who’d spent three years in the big leagues with the Marlins based on his contact and defensive skills, and then seemed to develop power in Triple A in ‘16.”

Zaidi was successful in signing Solano in 2018, but the man the Giants call "Donnie Barrels" never made it to the big leagues that year. Solano dealt with a hamstring injury in the middle of the season and ultimately hit .318 in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. When Zaidi was hired by the Giants ahead of the 2019 season, he again targeted Solano. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Solano signed a minor league contract with the Giants in December 2018, and hit .322 over 24 games in Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats before being called up to the big leagues. It was his first major league action since a nine-game stint with the Yankees in 2016, and Solano didn't disappoint. He hit .330 with four homers and 13 doubles in 81 games with the Giants. The Giants then re-signed Solano to a one-year deal this offseason, and he has been on fire ever since.

Through 18 games, only two players in San Francisco Giants history have put up higher batting averages than Solano: Barry Bonds (.525) in 2004 and Willie Mays (.470) in 1964. That's not a bad list to join. 

“With all the advanced metrics and tools at our disposal, there’s still a lot of value in hitters who just have a knack for finding the outfield grass,” Zaidi said to Baggarly. “He’s obviously done a great job of that over his time with the Giants.”

[RELATED: Zaidi, Giants reach key milestone with latest prospect trade]

The Giants signed a handful of players to one-year contracts in the offseason. Pitchers Kevin Gausman, Tyler Anderson and Drew Smyly all have panned out so far. None have been Solano, though. 

As the legend of "Donnie Barrels" grows, it's another feather in Zaidi's cap, adding to his long list of impressive moves since joining the Giants.

What's behind Giants' four catcher's interference calls in 18 games?

What's behind Giants' four catcher's interference calls in 18 games?

The Giants knew they would miss Buster Posey's approach at the plate, his arm behind it, his framing and his leadership on and off the field. 

When Posey opted out of the 2020 season after a week of Summer Camp, he left huge spikes to fill, and the front office and new coaching staff knew it couldn't be done. 

But they never really could have anticipated having such issues with one aspect of the position that normally isn't a huge problem at the big league level. When Chadwick Tromp clipped Josh Reddick's bat with his outstretched glove in the third inning of a 6-4 loss, it was the fourth catcher's interference call on the Giants in 18 games. 

To put that into perspective, Posey has three ... in his entire career.

Posey has been called for catcher's interference just one time over the past six seasons, including none last year, when the Giants had just one. The first three this year were called on Tyler Heineman, but the one on Tromp was especially costly. It wiped the second out -- Reddick grounded out softly -- off the board for Logan Webb with the Giants trailing just 1-0. The Astros would end up scoring four runs in the inning.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

After Heineman's second one over the course of the first week, Kapler said the staff had asked the rookie to get closer to the plate for guys with big 12-6 breaking balls. But Kevin Gausman -- who had the third one called during his start in Denver -- doesn't fit that description, and neither does Webb. The issue on Monday was something else, Kapler said. 

"It's a little different with the runner in motion there. One of the adjustments (Tromp) has made has been to get his momentum going through the baseball and I think, witnessing the whole field, he probably got a little bit anxious and went out to get that ball a little bit too soon," Kapler said. "Reddcik has a tendency to lay the bat into the zone pretty early and extend so those two things lined up and he just clipped the glove."

Tromp explained it similarly. 

"My momentum took me to the ball and I think that combined with Reddick, I think he has like a long swing, and I think those two played a factor," he said. "Bad timing. I felt horrible, but that's just kind of what happened. My momentum took me into the throw, and it's just unfortunate."

If this feels like a bizarre mistake for a team to keep making, it's because it is. The Diamondbacks and Cubs led the majors last year with six catcher's interference calls in 162 games. The Giants have four in 18 games, while the other 29 teams entered play Monday with five combined. 

Asked a second question about the trend, Kapler shifted the focus. 

"I just really want to keep this as a team thing. We win as a team, we lose as a team, we stick together as a team. We make a comeback tonight against a rough reliever as a team," he said. "As a team, I think the fewer mistakes we make, the quicker we can clean up those mistakes, the more likely it is those comebacks turn into wins and not just valiant efforts."

[RELATED: Krukow believes Astros getting "free pass" this season]

As a team, the Giants have 21 errors, four more than any other team in the big leagues. They had three on Monday and should have had a fourth. Donovan Solano's whiff of the leadoff grounder in that third inning was ruled a single and got the whole thing started. 

It's surprising that the Giants , who had two encouraging camps, have kicked the ball around so often. It's also costing them wins in a season where every game is the equivalent of 2.7. The lineup scored three runs in the ninth, but too much damage had been done with the early sloppiness.