Giants coordinator Matt Daniels explains offseason vs. coronavirus halt


Giants coordinator Matt Daniels explains offseason vs. coronavirus halt

Athletes are creatures of habit, as are those who work to make athletes better such as coaches and trainers. With the coronavirus pandemic stopping the sports world, those schedules and routines have gone completely out of whack. 

MLB Opening Day was scheduled for last Thursday, yet the Giants haven't taken the field since March 11 in a 6-4 spring training win over the Texas Rangers. The spring is a time of shaking off the rust for veterans, proving yourself for on-the-bubble players and a key time of development for prospects and younger players. This also is a key time for people like Matt Daniels, the Giants' coordinator of pitching sciences. 

While the sudden sports stoppage changes everything for players, the same can be said for Daniels, who specializes in player development. He wants to make one thing clear: This hiatus is completely different than dealing with an offseason. 

"The playing and not playing part are literally the only similarities between the coronavirus halt and the offseason," Daniels said on Trevor Bauer's YouTube page. "Realistically, they're totally different."

Daniels further explained the differences by looking at a typical schedule for those in his field, beginning with the start of the year. 

"As someone in player development, usually in January you're starting to get ready for spring training so you're workload picks up a little bit," Daniels said. "In February, you might bring in some of your starting pitchers in to some sort of minicamp to get volume and intensity going before games start. And you might bring your relievers in once full spring training hits."

In spring, Daniels and the rest of the staff are at the field between 10 to 12 hours per day. The same can be said for coaches during the regular season, but for rovers and coordinators like Daniels, the regular season means constantly being on the road and going to the field for different minor league affiliates. 

From mid-February through the end of August, it's go, go, go. The workload gradually ramps up and then starts slowing down through September. 

"At least towards the end of the minor league season, you're able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so you're able to start slowing things down," Daniels said.

Not anymore. Everything came to a crashing halt due to the coronavirus. Spring training was canceled, and there still is no set date for Opening Day. 

"What happened here, for the coronavirus stuff, was totally different," Daniels said. "You're at this peak workload and then all of a sudden it just stops. It's a total cliff. And that is really confusing, because you go from having certain tasks you're supposed to have every day to just nothing." 

[RELATED: How Dubon is staying ready after missing first Opening Day]

MLB and the MLB Players' Association came to an agreement on an array of topics Friday morning. But there still are so many questions that must be answered. 

When will the season begin? How many games will be played? Will there be fans at games? Where will the games be played? Will there a shortened spring training before the season starts? 

These are all questions that players and fans are both wondering. The same can be said for those trying to turn players into their best selves like Daniels is doing for San Francisco.

Bay Bridge Series between Giants, A's recently has been neck-and-neck

Bay Bridge Series between Giants, A's recently has been neck-and-neck

No matter how you feel about interleague play, it's hard to find much fault with the yearly home-and-home series between the Giants and A's. 

Fans from both sides pack the ballparks, particularly in Oakland. For years, when Oracle Park sold out every night, that was the best chance that Giants fans in the East Bay had of seeing their team up close, and it remains a much closer trip. There's a lot more media for those games, and I can say from personal experience that I've always loved having the opportunity to watch someone like Matt Chapman in person for three days. 

The games are generally good, too. Two of last year's four games were decided by a run, and a third game saw the Giants score five runs in the eighth to claw back, only to watch the A's pull away with two more in the top of the ninth. A year earlier, three of the six meetings were one-run games, including a pair of walk-offs. 

The Bay Bridge Series now includes an art show and a trophy, and it even gave us one of the best GIFs in franchise history:

The 2020 season was halted a couple of weeks before the Giants and A's were to return home for their yearly exhibition series that gets both sides ready for the season, and it's hard to tell what the plan will be when the sport returns. The original proposal from MLB called for the Giants to play just the NL West and AL West this season, so they expected to see a lot of the A's. If MLB decides to play just 50 games or so, that would drastically change the schedule, and perhaps the Giants would just play games within their division.

We don't know when the Bay Bridge Series will resume, but on NBC Sports Bay Area, a version will air tonight. We've been simulating the whole season and tonight's matchup is the Giants and the A's, with Kruk and Kuip on the call at 5 p.m. 

[RELATED: How 2019 Giants would've looked in shortened MLB season]

Hopefully it's a close game, and history tells us it will be. If you extend the sample beyond the two seasons mentioned above, you find a remarkably close back-and-forth. Since the A's swept the 1989 World Series, the two Bay Area franchises have squared off 124 times in the regular season, with Oakland holding a 64-60 edge. The A's have outscored the Giants by 14 total runs over the last 30 years. 

You might think the last decade would be different given the three titles and all the success the Giants have had, but it's been even closer in recent years. They've played 50 times since the start of 2010 and won 25 games each. The Giants have outscored the A's 225-224 in their interleague matchups over the past decade. It's a matchup that's as close as it gets, and hopefully it's one we're watching again soon. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele was a shortstop at Santa Clara University as the Giants were taking over the even years, and he took advantage of his school's location. Viele and friends would hop on Caltrain a few times every year and head straight to Oracle Park, the home of his future employer. 

The ballpark will look different when Viele finally walks through as the co-hitting coach. The fences are coming in, a boost not just to the hitters but to the men -- Viele, Donnie Ecker and Dustin Lind -- tasked with getting the most out of them. That's not their focus, though. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Viele said the focus remains on what hitters can control. The ballpark is still going to heavily favor pitchers, and the new staff will continue to preach having a proper swing and controlling the strike zone. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"If the ball doesn't carry but we hit it really hard, in the expected numbers that really looks good," he said. "It doesn't look good in the batting average, but the expected numbers look good because you're hitting the ball hard. That's really what we can control. Swing at the right pitches and hit the ball hard."

The hope is that a solid approach leads to more success over time, and even if the Giants get Oracle'd, they still hope to hammer teams offensively on the road. They were much improved last season, but over this three-year dip, they rank 23rd in runs scored away from home, 27th in road homers, and 28th in road wRC+. The new staff is trying to teach a better approach, and Viele summed it up neatly. 

"We like to break it up into three different bullet points," he said. "It's (first), how well are you moving. That's so many things. Some people say it's dancing with the pitcher, it's the timing, how you pick up your leg, how you move forward, all these different things. Do you have a big swipe act? Do you have a big jump forward? Are you controlled? All these different things, but ultimately it's how well are you moving. Can we make you move better?"

The second focus is on the bat and what it's doing as it comes through the zone. 

[RELATED: Justin Viele recalls Yaz calling his shot]

"How adjustable is your path, are you able to get on plane with multiple pitches," Viele said. 

Finally, what are you swinging at?

"How prepared are you to face that certain pitcher, how is he going to attack you and how are you going to beat him. How is he going to win," Viele said. "It's understanding those three things: How well you're moving, the bat path, and then the game-planning portion of it."