Giants

Giants enter offseason 'very concerned' about their defense

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USATI

Giants enter offseason 'very concerned' about their defense

SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Sabean knew in March that his team had some issues. By May, he knew that the deficit was mathematically overwhelming. In September, he watched the Giants stumble to the finish line and finish in last place in the National League West. 

On the third day of October, Sabean — having watched all that — sent a passionate message to the fans.

“We had a last-place season. That can happen in sports, just like you have a lost year in life,” he said. “But we’re not last-place people and we’re not a last-place organization. We’re the furthest thing from that … This isn’t a ‘blow it up,’ this isn’t a rebuild. We hope it’s a reset. 

“Now, what it’s going to take and how that plays out to go from where we finished to being competitive to a playoff team, that’s incumbent on all of us to figure out. That’s been going on for months. The autopsy has been going on for months. I don’t know how much more we can tolerate knowing that the patient got sick and why it got sick. Fortunately, it didn’t die.”

At times Tuesday, the four men on a podium at AT&T Park looked like they had witnessed a death. This was not the press conference they wanted to be giving, in part because of the date. Sabean, Larry Baer, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy sum up every season from that podium, but it’s rare that they’re doing so before the first playoff game. Never have they had to do so after such a wildly disappointing run. 

There were few details, because it’s too soon to give details. Any coaching changes will be announced later, and the roster is healthy heading into the offseason, for the most part. While the Giants have spent months formulating an offseason plan, tampering laws exist and they’re also just not sure which players might be available. 

There was a general outline, though, and you didn’t have to read between the lines much. The clear priority is fixing the outfield defense, with the thought that doing so would have a cascading effect. The outfield was worth negative 45 defensive runs saved, per the Fielding Bible, a distant last in the majors. The A’s were 29th at negative 32. The Dodgers, by comparison, saved 14 runs in their outfield, per that metric. 

The eye test matches the numbers, and the Giants believe a change in center field can lead to much better results for a pitching staff that disappointed in 2017. Denard Span is preparing to move to left field, and team executives hinted Tuesday that they could also make a move in right and perhaps limit Hunter Pence’s playing time if there’s a complete outfield overhaul.

“Defense is something we’re very concerned about,” Evans said. “It’s one of the ways we can help support our pitching, and it’s important we support our pitching with excellent defense. We struggled in that area this year.”

The Giants have a list of defensive-minded outfielders they will pursue, and the focus is on trades, not free agency. They’re not thought to be big fans of players like Lorenzo Cain, who is 31. The focus is on getting younger and more athletic, and hopefully finding a center fielder who would be under team control for several years. 

In a perfect world, the Giants would add right-handed power with their new outfielder. It may be tough to do otherwise, although Evans joked Tuesday that the team might get Madison Bumgarner more at-bats next year. While Bochy would love a masher to take over the cleanup spot and protect Buster Posey, team executives were vague about that pursuit on Tuesday. 

They did not, however, waffle on how much work is to be done. 

“We can’t come back next season with the same roster and expect different results,” Evans said. 

Brandon Crawford ties Giants record held by Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda

Brandon Crawford ties Giants record held by Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda

DENVER -- Brandon Crawford didn't know he had a chance to join a couple of Hall of Famers when he came up with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Monday afternoon. All he knew was that he was facing something he hadn't previously seen in the big leagues. 

Crawford dug in and looked up at Mark Reynolds, a first baseman who was asked to mop it up on the mound in the ninth inning of the Giants' 19-2 win at Coors Field. Reynolds was the first position player Crawford had faced in the big leagues. 

"It was a weird feeling," Crawford said. "But it's bases loaded, one out -- it's still an at-bat that counts."

Crawford made sure of that, bouncing a single up the middle to drive in two more runs. He finished with eight RBI, tying a San Francisco Giants record previously shared by Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. He became the first shortstop in MLB history to record five hits and eight RBI in one game. Crawford said the big day was due to his teammates. 

"I hit with a lot of guys on base, that was nice," he said. "The whole lineup contributed."

That was rarely the case in the first three months of the season. But in the days leading up to the break, you could see Crawford, Buster Posey and other members of the core starting to turn it on, mixing in with Alex Dickerson, Austin Slater and other newcomers. 

Crawford took a five-game hitting streak into the game and added three walks over the weekend in Milwaukee. The breakout came Monday. He homered in the first to help the Giants take a 5-0 lead and added a long shot to right in the sixth. 

[RELATED: Breaking down red-hot Giants' historic game at the plate]

In one game, Crawford raised his average from .226 to .239. His OPS jumped from .654 to .695. That's hard to do nearly 100 games into the season -- unless you have the type of day that has you in the same company as Hall of Famers. 

"I've been feeling good," Crawford said. "I'm seeing the ball well. You expect to get hits when that happens."

Watch Giants' Brandon Crawford, Mike Yastrzemski hit back-to-back homers

Watch Giants' Brandon Crawford, Mike Yastrzemski hit back-to-back homers

Clear your October plans, Giants fans. 

The Giants somehow are the hottest team in baseball, winning eight of their last 10 games. And they couldn't have started off their doubleheader against the Rockies at Coors Field any better Monday morning. 

Brandon Belt and Buster Posey each singled to start the top of the first inning before Pablo Sandoval surprisingly squared for a sacrifice bunt. The Alex Dickerson train continued with the left fielder scoring Belt on a line drive to right field. But that was just the beginning for the red-hot Giants. 

Brandon Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski hit back-to-back jacks to give the Giants a 5-0 lead in the first inning over the Rockies. Crawford went opposite field for a 366-foot three-run homer, his seventh dinger of the year. Yaz followed him with a 433-foot shot to right-center field for a solo shot, his sixth homer this season. 

The Giants wound up winning 19-2, as the bats stayed hot all game. While they still appear to be in sell mode before the July 31 trade deadline, anything could happen once a team catches fire.