Giants

Giants Mailbag: What will starting lineup be vs. Dodgers on Opening Day?

Giants Mailbag: What will starting lineup be vs. Dodgers on Opening Day?

The Giants have had a quiet offseason, and they, unfortunately, chose the wrong day to finally make a bit of news.

On Thursday morning the team announced that left-hander Drew Smyly signed a one-year deal that essentially puts him in the rotation right now, and that two coaches had been added to complete the staff. The addition of Alyssa Nakken was a historic one and should have gotten a lot more attention around the game, but most of the baseball world spent yesterday digging through old videos and photos of Astros players looking for buzzers or wires. 

Here on this corner of the internet, we don't need to do that. The focus is on the Giants, so here's another version of the Friday mailbag, with plenty of good questions from my Instagram followers ... 

What systems are the Giants using to cheat and why isn't it successful? -- wolfmanzack

Thank you, sir, for getting into the good stuff right away. 

The Giants hit 48 homers at home in 2017, the year when most of this stuff allegedly happened. If they were cheating, they were even worse at it than they were at trying to score runs the old fashioned way. There's not much for Giants fans to be excited about these days, but at least you know your team was so bad at Oracle Park that there's no possible way they were cheating? 

Side note: I've spent a lot of time with video replay guys over the years and got to know the previous regime pretty well. It's insane how detailed their camera setup is and how much they're able to look at by clicking a few keys before and during games. MLB shouldn't be all that surprised that the Astros and possibly others started to weaponize the technology. 

Who will be our starting lineup on Opening Day? -- kitkat_kitty

First I'll ask who starts for the Dodgers that day, Walker Buehler or Clayton Kershaw? The outfield will look different against lefties and righties.

Assuming it's Kershaw, I'll go with Cueto, Posey, Belt, Dubon, Crawford, Longoria, Slater, Yastrzemski and An Outfielder To Be Named Later Who Probably Isn't Nicholas Castellanos. 

Will we get a good outfielder? -- conmantheman99

Well, Yaz will probably be in center. Other than that ... 

I know the Giants are still working on some things and they're cautiously optimistic, but short of a surprise strike for Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna, they're going young. They really go want to give one of these internal guys 300 at-bats to see what he can do. The early favorite for that role seems to be Jaylin Davis. 

Why don't the Giants move Posey to first base? -- carlosroman4

Despite the dip in numbers, Posey is still pretty valuable with what he brings defensively and by calling a game. I've never really bought the idea that he would start hitting homers again if he was the first baseman -- it's more than a decade of wear and tear that's taken the power out of his body, and that's not coming back -- and I don't think the Giants do, either. There's not a lot of "Buster to first" talk from this new regime. 

(What's the) reason for adding Nakken to the big league coaching staff? -- j.t._.hollis

In the initial press release, Gabe Kapler said Alyssa Nakken and Mark Hallberg would help promote a winning culture in the clubhouse, but more than anything, this is a support role. There's a lot that goes into day-to-day operations, and the Giants are using some of their vast resources to make sure that there are plenty of helping hands in the clubhouse, the batting cage and on the field. 

Maybe that means Nakken and Hallberg will throw BP or help get the field set up for drills. Maybe they'll be doing advanced scouting one day, or talking to a struggling player. Maybe they'll be hitting grounders to Mauricio Dubon and Brandon Crawford. We'll see how it all shakes out, but it's clear that Kapler wants collaboration and a lot of diverse voices in the room, and he wants that room to be more energetic from the first hour of spring training. 

And honestly, it doesn't really matter what Nakken's ultimate role is. This is a big moment for baseball and should be celebrated. She's more than qualified to be working in a clubhouse and plenty of other women are, too. Someone needed to get the ball rolling. Good for Kapler and the Giants for recognizing that and giving a strong candidate her big break. 

What prospects will we see this year considering a projected 71 win season? -- davidhammondbrownphotography

Projections aside, you'll certainly see Davis early on and possibly Chris Shaw, if you still count them as prospects. I wouldn't be surprised to see Joey Bart by May or June, and I think Sean Hjelle will get a shot in the rotation in the second half. Heliot Ramos is young, but he's on path for a September call-up, at the very least. 

You might also see someone we haven't heard of yet if the Giants are right about Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly and manage to Pomeranz one of those guys elsewhere. 

What's happening with the closer role? -- jacksonirwin

If the season started today, I think Tony Watson would probably pitch the ninth. Shaun Anderson has good stuff and he really seems eager to embrace the ninth inning, so he's probably your best bet right now to lead this team in saves, but experience usually wins out in March.

When Bochy comes back to manage Boston, does he have to give the farewell gifts back? -- rkwagner15

Can we take a moment to acknowledge the unfortunate timing of this scandal? If all of this happened in January of 2021, Bochy would almost certainly be interested in the Astros, Mets and Red Sox and he likely would get one of those jobs. The Astros drafted him, and there isn't a better fit out there for a team that has a loaded roster but desperately needs some stability and leadership. 

But Bochy has always been committed to taking a year off, spending time with his family, recharging his batteries and then seeing how he feels about retirement. He won't come back for any of these jobs in 2020, which makes the timing a bit of a bummer because he really does deserve another shot to manage in the postseason. 

As for the gifts, most of that wine was guzzled on long flights back from losing road trips. In all seriousness, Bochy was well aware of what that farewell tour meant and I think that's part of the reason he didn't want to make a big deal of all this. He knew he might get the itch again and that could be awkward after six months of being showered with love, but opposing teams were eager to honor him, so there wasn't much to be done. 

Will their rotation be stronger this year than last? I think so. -- jesseaflora

Well, they have 207 2/3 Madison Bumgarner innings to fill, but I actually agree with you. A healthy Johnny Cueto should be able to fill that void, and Tyler Beede and Logan Webb should be better than they were as rookies. The bar (last season's work from Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland) that Gausman, Smyly and Tyler Anderson need to clear isn't all that high. 

The Giants were 13th in the NL with a 4.77 starters' ERA last season. Even without Bumgarner, they should be better than that. 

Farhan said last year that they would act like contenders until they weren't. Same this year? -- abwrites

His main rallying cry last year was actually that the Giants would try to be competitive as deep into the season as possible and win as many games as possible, and he's said the same thing this offseason. 

The Giants are realistic about what they are right now. They know they're not contenders, but they still want to be on the fringes of the race as long as possible and I don't think you'll see many -- if any -- decisions made by Kapler that scream "these dudes are tanking." The roster isn't very good so the team won't be good, but this isn't a race to the No. 1 pick by any means. 

What do you think the Giants record will be next year? -- scottboy_707

They went 77-85 last year, but as mentioned in a previous mailbag, there's no way they're going 13-3 in extra innings again or 38-16 in one-run games. The win total will drop just by regression in those two areas, and the roster also lost Bumgarner, Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt and others. 

At the same time, Kapler isn't going to be nearly as committed to struggling veterans and the Giants are going to use more platoons and openers and other methods to try to find small edges. That will help, and I really do sense that the younger players on the roster are energized by the changes and have a lot to prove. Throw it all together and right now I'd probably put them around 75 wins. 

How can one change the Giants' culture while Posey, Craw, Belt and Longo are there? -- velowhiz

I've written a fair amount about culture and energy this offseason and will continue to do so, but I wouldn't really blame it on any of the core players. Collectively, it got stale in the clubhouse, but all of those individuals are good clubhouse guys who show up and do their work every day. 

The culture is going to change because there's a new manager, a new GM, 12 new coaches and a collection of new players and prospects. Will it be better? We'll see, but it certainly will be different, and the organization certainly needed a jolt. 

[RELATED: Joey Bart named second-best catching prospect]

Niners or Packers? -- kfitz023

Niners, and I don't think it's all that close.

From the 2010, 12 and 14 teams, who do you think will make the Hall of Fame? -- bensalvi23

Love this question, and it's one we'll be talking about a lot as more of these guys retire. Bochy is a lock, but it's going to be complicated for some of his players. 

Posey seems like an easy answer, but he actually only has 1,380 hits and 140 homers. He's won every award you could think of and his career WAR (he's currently at 42.1) should ultimately compare favorably with currently HOF catchers, but I think he needs to do some compiling of raw statistics to swing some voters. Tim Lincecum was a shooting star but falls well short of the current standard for starting pitchers. 

I think Bumgarner will have a shot, because a lot of Hall voters love to reward big-game pitchers, but he has some work to do, too. He only has 119 wins, and while the days of 300-game winners or even 200-game winners are probably gone, he could use another 40-50 on the resume and a couple more All-Star appearances. Those things matter when a lot of older voters fill out their ballots, and Bumgarner and Posey will need to add some late-career stats to those early accomplishments. As much as they mean to the Bay Area, most of the voters are from other regions and won't be swayed by nostalgia when they get their ballots and start digging into the final stats these guys put up. 

Does the Pillar move symbolize a full-time starting role for Duggar? -- jackson._.dann

I haven't sensed that Duggar is at the top of the chart in center field, in part because the Giants just aren't sure if he can stay healthy. He's their best defensive center fielder, but he has a lot of work to do at the plate and the Giants want to see him get much better on the bases. Duggar is only 26, so there's no reason why he can't break out this season, but right now he's not headed for a full-time role. 

[RELATED: Giants' Bart named baseball's second-best catching prospect]

Which stadium other than Oracle has the best food! -- matt_twenty1

We talking press box or full stadium? Most of any beat writer's meals during the season take place in the media dining room and Oracle probably falls somewhere near the middle of the pack (there are a lot of nights where the main course is a suspicious-looking kind of fish). 

I think Philadelphia has the best press box food in the NL and it's easy to find a cheesesteak if you wander into the concourse, so they're near the top for me. The Padres have some really good concession stands and the Diamondbacks are better than you'd expect (in the NL West, the Rockies food is boring and Dodger Stadium's selections suck). 

The team that stands out though is the Mets. There's Shake Shack, obviously, and that gives them a huge edge. There's also a Fuku chicken stand for good spicy chicken sandwiches, and the general concession stands have the best chicken tenders in the league. The Mets are perennially a mess, but at least they got their tenders right. 

Nolan Arenado continues to be a Giant-killer, no matter the situation

Nolan Arenado continues to be a Giant-killer, no matter the situation

In a way it's almost comforting. Not for Giants pitchers, but for the rest of us. 

In a year in which nearly everything about baseball and society has changed, one thing remains as normal as ever. When Nolan Arenado sees a Giants pitcher on the mound, he becomes a nightmare, no matter who that pitcher is or what his swing looked like before the series. 

Arenado came into Monday's game with a .226 average and no extra-base hits in his first eight games, but the Giants, as they always do, got him going. The third baseman hit a mammoth two-run shot off Johnny Cueto on Monday night and a low screamer that just cleared the fence off Kevin Gausman a day later.

"He hit it and I automatically thought it was a double," Gausman said. "It just kind of kept going and kept going and the next thing you know it went over the fence. Not the most fun thing. It was a bad pitch in a bad situation. Most guys would probably get out on it, the fact that it was so bad, but he does such a good job of keeping his barrel in the zone so long that he can hit those pitches that are out of the zone."

That homer was Arenado's 30th against the Giants, breaking Todd Helton's franchise record. It once again brought up a question we've been asking for eight years: What is it about Arenado and the Giants? 

"I don't know, I really don't know. I think whenever you face the Giants -- I've always said this -- coming up when I was a rookie it was the Giants who were the team. They would go to the World Series and win every other year it seemed like. They were just in a different category," Arenado told Rockies reporters Tuesday night. "They were so good, so elite, you knew that they were always going to be there. San Francisco, when I first came up, it was daunting going there. I don't know what it is. There's always motivation. It's like going to L.A. now. You always get excited because of the energy in San Fran, the energy in L.A. It's always super fun to play against them. 

"For some reason our games against the Giants here are always kind of crazy, but I really don't know. I really don't know. I'm just happy I'm doing it. Hopefully it continues but I really don't have the answers for that one."

Arenado has always said he's not sure why the numbers are so skewed. If anything, he should like the Giants more than any other organization. They drafted his younger brother, Jonah, in 2013, and Nolan would light up over the years talking about following a career that ended in 2019 when Jonah was released from Double-A. 

But on the field, there's nothing, even a weird 60-game season, that can stop him from demolishing Giants pitching. Bruce Bochy is gone. Madison Bumgarner is gone. Buster Posey is sitting out. Same old, same old for Arenado. 

"Yeah, he's always going to be who he is," right fielder Alex Dickerson said. "By the end of the year he's going to be a fantastic hitter and sometimes you see a guy that good is that cold to start and you know something is going to happen."

Arenado said Monday that he hasn't "felt right at all this year." He spent time before the series opener working on hitting drills and testing new bats. But perhaps all he needed was to look into the opposing dugout. 

Arenado has played 128 games against the Giants and has a .296 average, .359 on-base percentage and .562 slugging percentage, with 103 RBI. Those 30 homers are his most against any opponent and came in 102 fewer games than Helton needed to get his 29. 

[RELATED: Kevin Gausman's homecoming doesn't go as planned]

This is nothing new to Giants fans, but is to manager Gabe Kapler. Arenado was just 12-for-48 with no homers against the Phillies in Kapler's two years there, but Kapler said Arenado was always the guy he wanted to avoid when he would come into Denver.

"You don't want him up in a big spot," he said. "The tricky part is he's got some guys around him who you don't want up in a big spot, either. From Charlie Blackmon to (David) Dahl, to Trevor Story, who I think is one of the more dangerous right-handed hitters in baseball. It's not an easy middle of the lineup to get through, and this is something you'll hear me say about a lot of the lineups in baseball.

"They're just stacked in the middle, but in particular with Arenado, I know he's been a Giant-killer. We're always aware of his presence."

Duane Kuiper's hilarious home run call that was double in Giants' loss

Duane Kuiper's hilarious home run call that was double in Giants' loss

Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper has one of the best home run calls in baseball. On Tuesday night, his famed call took a wild turn in San Francisco's 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies

With two runners on and one out in the top of the fifth inning, outfielders Steven Duggar stepped to the plate as the Giants trailed, 3-0. On a 3-1 count, Duggar hammered a fastball to left field. Kuiper started his home run call with his usual, "IT IS ..." This time, however, he couldn't finish it with "OUTTA HERE!" 

No, instead, Duane Kuiper said to Giants fans, "IT IS ... we don't know." And truly, we didn't. 

The third-base umpire originally called it a home run, which tied the game. But upon further review, Duggar's blast hit the very top of the yellow line on the Coors Field wall. This made a big difference, too. 

While a homer would have tied it up and given the Giants some big momentum on the road, a double just scored Mauricio Dubon to narrow the Giants' deficit to one run. Mike Yastrzemski then struck out and Alex Dickerson flew out to end the inning. 

[RELATED: Gausman's long-awaited Coors Field homecoming was rocky]

The Giants didn't score again in the loss. 

Baseball truly is a game of inches ... and hilarious moments from Kruk and Kuip.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]