Giants notes: Gillaspie would trade in stats for Game 5 against Cubs

Giants notes: Gillaspie would trade in stats for Game 5 against Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the Wild Card Game, Bruce Bochy was asked an odd question about going through a postseason without Pablo Sandoval. He laughed it off, saying Sandoval had not been with the Giants for two years, and they no longer gave him much thought. 

As it turned out, the Giants did have a Sandoval this October. Conor Gillaspie played the part of fearless slugger, laying waste to pitchers with far bigger names and much longer resumes. He had four hits Tuesday, becoming the first Giants since Sandoval in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series to record four hits in a postseason game. The veteran finished with eight hits in 19 postseason at-bats, including the game-winning homer off Jeurys Familia and the series-shaking triple off Aroldis Chapman. 

Gillaspie has found a second life in the big leagues, and he'll enter next spring as a lock for the bench and a possibility for a platoon of some sort with Eduardo Nuñez. He didn't want to think of any of that Tuesday. He didn't really care about the stats. 

"I would have traded them all in to just be playing," he said. "I would have liked to just keep playing."

The Giants won't play another game this year. The bullpen collapsed in the ninth, ending a season that seemed destined for greatness before the All-Star break and collapsed afterward. 

"It's a tale of two seasons, the first half and the second half," Bochy said. "But I think what I'll remember is how they bounced back and found a way to get in there, to get to the wild card and that game. And this series was ... they played well against a very good ballclub. And we were so close to heading to Chicago. We had our guy Johnny (Cueto) going. So this, it's a tough one. There's no getting around it, to end it like this.

"We really would have liked to have had a shot there in that fifth game. But you give them credit. They threw out some good at-bats against us."

There will be time to analyze what just happened and look ahead. Management will meet with the media on Thursday, and questions will be asked about the inability to ever fix the ninth and the plan to do so going forward. As always, please follow along here on our site and on Twitter (@AlexPavlovic) for all of that. For now, let's empty the notebook one last time ... 

--- Brandon Belt was always one of the first players at his locker, in good times and bad. He was the first to speak tonight, and here was his instant reaction, a few minutes after the season ended. "It's pretty crappy. I don't think in any situation you ever feel like the game is over until the final out is over. We had a lot of fight in us. They had a little more. They're really, really good. They weren't ready to quit tonight."

Brandon Crawford called it a "punch in the gut," adding, "It happened pretty quickly. That's the way it went." Crawford came an inch away from hitting a two-run homer.  Hunter Pence took an odd path on the play and nearly got thrown out. He said he thought the ball had cleared the wall, so he went back to second to make sure he touched the base on his way home. 

--- In the game story, I touched on the decision to pull Moore. It's a call Bochy might look back on, but he made the right move. If you can't get three outs with a three-run lead and your whole bullpen available, well, then you really should be at home anyway. Moore said you always want the ball as a competitor, but he also made it clear that all involved felt his night was over. 

"Everyone kind of knew (the eighth) was my last one," he said. "We didn't really have a conversation about how I felt. I was at 120 or so. We have guys who can get the job done. This is the way baseball goes sometimes."

Maybe it won't help much given the way this one ended, but Moore's performance is a huge confidence-booster for the organization going forward. With Madison Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, Jeff Samardzija and (maybe) Ty Blach ready to go next April, the Giants should be as deep pitching-wise as anyone. Matt Cain might get another shot, too, and Tyler Beede is on the way. 

--- Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez are among the free agents. Given the way he was booed late in the regular season, and the fact that Bochy didn't even hint at using him tonight, it seems clear that Casilla's time here is done. Romo said he would "love to be back," but he doesn't know what will happen. Lopez, the 39-year-old, seemed headed for retirement all season long, but he struck a different tune Tuesday. 

"I don't know what's next for me," he said. "I'm a free agent and we'll see what happens. If I have the opportunity to come back, I'll welcome that."

--- Two relievers who visibly seemed to take this one hard: Hunter Strickland and Derek Law. Regardless of what the Giants do, those two will be part of the late-innings mix next year. 

--- The Giants cleared out as soon as the final pitch was thrown. Nobody stuck around the dugout to feel the pain, or get any motivation. "It's not fun," Belt said. "I had no intention of sitting there and watching them."

--- Pence said losing a postseason series with the Phillies helped make him the competitor he is today. "Sometimes the pain of losing in a playoff series is a very beautiful thing, a motivator," he said. 

--- A tip of the cap to the Cubs, who were the best team all season long and now will get a shot at the Nationals or Dodgers. As the Giants reload, they will need to keep one eye on Chicago. With their young, loaded roster, they're the team to beat moving forward. Everyone talks about Bryant and Rizzo and Russell, but Javy Baez might have been the best player in this series. The sequence with the near-out at first base and the ridiculous tag on the stolen base attempt was as good as it gets defensively. 

The Cubs handled this night with class. Joe Maddon called the Giants' run of elimination wins "crazy ... crazy good."

"I do want to congratulate the Giants," he said. "Listen, I've known Bochy for a long time. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him and how he does things and this entire organization. I have a lot of friends in this organization. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Willie Mays before the game today, which was really special for me.

"So for us to be able to win today, it's like I said, to beat you guys in this ballpark is not easy. The way (the Giants) do things, I think it's very admirable and a great example for the rest of the industry."

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

It's extremely common to hear about a player opting out in baseball. Stars have often had opt-out clauses for the final year of their deals, and in recent years many have given themselves the ability to opt out after just a year or two of a massive contract. At the end of every spring, non-roster invitees opt out to look for a better opportunity elsewhere. 

But this season, those two words take on a different meaning. 

Under a March agreement reached by MLB and the Players Association, high-risk players can opt out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.

On the first day of the week MLB was set to return, four players opted out. Here's a rundown of where the list currently stands:

Mike Leake (Diamondbacks starting pitcher)

The 32-year-old was the first to publicly make his intentions known. Leake's agent told reporters that the right-hander "took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family." There has been some speculation that Leake had family concerns; his father was paralyzed in an accident a few years ago and that's in part why he ended up close to home with the Diamondbacks.

Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals first baseman)

Zimmerman is exactly the type of player you would think of when it comes to guys who had a difficult decision to make in recent weeks. He's 35 and now is a part-time player, and he's set for life financially and got his ring last October. In a statement put out by his agency, he made it clear this is about concerns for his family, which includes a mother with multiple sclerosis:

Joe Ross (Nationals starting pitcher)

Ross, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who is the younger brother of Tyson, also opted out June 29. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross decided "not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year."

Ian Desmond (Rockies outfielder)

The 34-year-old announced his decision at the end of a series of Instagram posts that examined injustices in baseball and society. It was a powerful statement, and one you should read in full here:

View this post on Instagram

On my mind.

A post shared by Ian Desmond (@i_dez20) on

Tyson Ross (free agent starting pitcher)

It was a bit of a surprise when Ross was released by the Giants last week. As a veteran who could start or come out of the bullpen, he seemed like a good fit for what they were building in March, and an even better fit in a season with no true five-man rotation. But this seems to explain the decision: 

Welington Castillo (Nationals catcher)

The 33-year-old signed a minor league deal with the reigning champs in the offseason and was set to be part of their pool:

David Price (Dodgers Pitcher)

Price was headed for the No. 3 spot in a rotation built to win it all. He said his decision was in the "best interest of my health and my family's health." 

Felix Hernandez (Braves pitcher)

The 2010 AL Cy Young winner was a candidate to fill a rotation spot for a team that should be in the postseason, but his agent made the announcement: 

After spending the first 15 seasons of his career with the Mariners, Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with Atlanta this offseason. He will turn 35 next April, when the 2021 MLB season is expected to start.

Nick Markakis (Braves outfielder)

The veteran outfielder's decision came after Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and other Braves tested positive for COVID-19, which was reportedly a big factor in his decision. Markakis, 36, hit .285 with nine homers last season for Atlanta.

Hector Noesi (Pirates pitcher)

Noesi, 33, went 0-3 and posted an 8.46 ERA across 12 appearances with the Miami Marlins last season. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton announced the news recently:

Buster Posey (Giants catcher)

The Giants catcher became the biggest name to opt out of the MLB season to date, announcing Friday he won't play in 2020. Posey and his wife just adopted twin girls who were born prematurely last week, and he cited their health as his primary concern.

"After weighing it for a long time, talking to doctors, I just feel like in the current state that we are right now and these babies being as fragile as they are for the next four months, at minimum, this ultimately wasn't that difficult a decision for me," Posey said. "From a baseball standpoint, it was a tough decision, from a family standpoint and feeling like I'm making a decision to protect our children, I feel like it was relatively easy."

Jordan Hicks (Cardinals Pitcher)

The hardest-throwing man in the game is recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in June of 2019. But he's also a Type 1 Diabetic which as Belleville News-Democrat reporter Jeff Jones says, could lead to complications from coronavirus. Hicks is the first on this list who is known to be high-risk, and thus he will get to keep his 2020 salary and accrue service time as he sits out. 

Michael Kopech (White Sox pitcher)

The former top prospect missed the entire 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He did not disclose the reasoning behind his decision to opt out.

Collin McHugh (Red Sox pitcher)

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced that the former Astros starter will not be playing in the 2020 season, but did not specify a reason.

Isan Diaz (Marlins infielder)

After the Marlins experienced an outbreak with 18 players in the clubhouse testing positive for coronavirus, Diaz decided to opt out of the remainder of the season on Saturday.

Lorenzo Cain (Brewers outfielder)

Milwaukee has had several games postponed as a result of positive coronavirus tests in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse, and a team press release confirmed Saturday that he'll be opting out of the remainder of the season.

Shelby Miller (Brewers pitcher)

The Brewers announced Monday that pitcher Shelby Miller has opted out of the remainder of the season.

Nine observations from Giants' .500 homestand vs. Padres, Rangers

Nine observations from Giants' .500 homestand vs. Padres, Rangers

Gabe Kapler went out of his way over the last week to stand by Hunter Pence. He was asked about the struggling veteran -- who started the year 0-for-23 -- every day, and he always was positive. During one Zoom session with reporters, Kapler answered a question about another Giant and then pivoted to talk about Pence's work in the cage. 

"I have 100 percent confidence that Hunter Pence's track record is predictive of what's to come for him," Kapler said. 

The reason the Giants were so confident is quality of contact, which has become an overriding theme for the new hitting coaches. If you square three balls up and they're all hit right at guys ... I mean, there's nothing else you can do. That's what Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind preach, and Pence's metrics showed he wasn't completely out of whack. 

Pence actually is fourth on the team with an average exit velocity of 89 mph, right between early MVP candidates Donovan Solano (89.4) and Mike Yastrzemski (88.6). His launch angle is pretty similar to Solano's, too, and he's second to Brandon Crawford in percentage of batted balls (44) hit 95+ mph. 

By expected batting average -- which is based on contact -- Pence is at .215, which isn't great, but certainly isn't anywhere near the .038 average he carries right now. There's a reason the Giants are sticking with him, and he rewarded that faith a bit with a 403-foot triple, a walk, and a run Sunday. 

"It hasn't been that tough to stay positive for me, personally," Pence said. "I think there's a lot of positives because the team is playing well, and so it's been kind of easy."

The Giants went 3-3 on the homestand, showing a habit of coming back late in games, but also that their starting pitching is kind of a problem. Here are eight more takeaways from the first homestand of the year ... 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

--- Look, this won't fully last for Solano and Yastrzemski, who are BABIP gods right now. No reason not to enjoy it, though. Solano finished the first full week of the season as the MLB leader in batting average (.484) and NL leader in RBI (13). Yastrzemski is tied for the league lead with 10 runs and leads the majors with 11 walks. Both of them have a .500 OBP. Yastrzemski feels like an easy choice for NL Player of the Week. 

--- This Rockies series is a homecoming for Rico Garcia, the young right-hander who has been an early surprise out of the bullpen. Garcia made two appearances for the Rockies last year, allowing seven runs in six innings. They had taken him in the 30th round of the draft in 2016. The Giants signed Garcia as a minor league free agent and hoped that his stuff would play better out of the pen. Well ... it definitely has. 

Garcia averaged 90 mph in those two appearances last year but is at 94 in five scoreless relief outings this year, and he was bumping 97-98 on Saturday night. The command has been a little iffy, but it wasn't a huge issue for Garcia in the minors. Perhaps there's an explanation for that, too. 

"In watching Rico pitch (Saturday) I said to myself, I hope Rico is really happy with the 97 and doesn't try to get more, because I think when a pitcher gets to that level of really improving that velocity it can be encouraging and you try to throw it a little bit harder and you give up some of your command as a result," Kapler said. 

--- It was an impressive homestand from Evan Longoria, who didn't get to face live pitching for a couple of weeks as he rehabbed an oblique strain. Longoria was 6-for-14 in four games with two doubles and a long homer. His homer Sunday left the bat at 108.8 mph and traveled 416 feet. So much for rust. 

--- Tyler Heineman has done a nice job at the plate and seems to be a pretty good pitch-framer, but there have been some defensive issues. He was part of a botched rundown Saturday night and had two catcher's interference calls in his first week as the starting catcher. Kapler went into depth about what's going on.

"Early in the Dodgers series we noticed that he was considerably behind the plate, and for that reason we lost a couple of strikes, especially on big-breaking ball guys, 12-6 breaking ball guys," he said. "With (those pitchers) we want him to move up behind the plate, get closer to the plate, so he can stay with the curveball and get up underneath it and get it called for a strike. 

"We've asked him to make that adjustment, not so much on east-west guys, slider guys whose ball moves more horizontally, but definitely on that 12-6 curveball. So he's just getting used to that and sometimes that development comes with hiccups and that's why that's happening."

Heineman didn't have any issues in his last couple of appearances. 

--- Tyler Anderson had a really strong relief performance against the Padres and then gave up a three-run homer to Joey Gallo on Sunday. He's a candidate to start against his former teammates this week in Denver with Drew Smyly now on the injured list. Anderson threw just two innings Sunday. 

Losing Smyly is going to hurt. He was Kapler's best starter so far, and there's no way to survive this road trip if Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman don't show more efficiency and Samardzija keeps lacking swing-and-miss stuff. 

[RELATED: MLB power rankings: Where Giants, A's sit after 11 days]

--- Anderson had the weirdest stat of the homestand. He picked off two Padres in one inning, becoming the first Giants pitcher to pull that off since Madison Bumgarner in the first inning against the Reds on June 27, 2014. 

--- Six different Giants hit a homer during the six-game homestand, and Yastrzemski hit two. They weren't cheapies, either. It might be too early to say that it's much more of a hitter's park, but there's no doubt the ball is flying if you pull it down the right field line.

Full credit to the great Mike Krukow. He was all over that in the first exhibition game, pointing out that right field had a new jetstream because the archways have been closed off. I don't know how the science behind this works, but it's clear he was right. 

--- The quote of the year thus far comes from, not surprisingly, Samardzija. He was asked about players having "a beer" together after games but doing so while adhering to social distancing rules. He repeated the words "a beer" and shook his head.

"Plural," he said. "Go with plural."