Giants still waiting for hot streaks from lineup mainstays to come


Giants still waiting for hot streaks from lineup mainstays to come

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants win a game with their bats -- it is rare, sure, but it happens -- Bruce Bochy often mentions that they strung good at-bats together and kept the line moving. 

That's a good way to put up runs, but it's difficult for even a good team to have most the lineup stay in sync for too long. For the Giants, it has been impossible. 

There's another way to production, though. Sometimes one player can get so hot that the rest of the lineup is pulled along. Think of Brandon Crawford hitting .412 last May, or Brandon Belt's occasional stretch of four homers in six games, or if you want to go way back, Buster Posey's scorching second half in 2012. 

One player can make a difference, which leads to another problem for the 2019 Giants. They haven't had anyone really get hot. You probably know this already, because the team entered play Saturday ranked 29th in the Majors with a .223 batting average and .656 OPS. 

But even bad teams can have one hitter absolutely take off for a month. The Giants really haven't had it happen, and for most of their regulars, any good vibes were limited to a week or so. 

Steven Duggar started the year as the leadoff hitter. His best stretch came in early May, when he hit .400 from May 1 to May 11, but he had just one extra-base hit. Evan Longoria's best stretch is an eight-game period in early June when he had a .971 OPS with one homer. Crawford has been unable to keep any momentum going. Tyler Austin had a homer in three straight games in late May but had just three hits in his next 26 at-bats. 

Kevin Pillar looked like a blockbuster acquisition when he walked into Oracle Park, hitting four homers and driving in 12 runs in six games. But he had just six total hits during the stretch and posted a .689 OPS the rest of the month. 

It has been a down season for Buster Posey, although for 17 games from April 19 to May 18, he hit .322 with 13 RBI and a .892 OPS. Joe Panik hit .333 with a .437 on-base percentage over a 19-game stretch. Brandon Belt had a .474 OBP over 18 games recently, with 13 runs and 10 RBI. 

[RELATED: Giants star 17-year-old prospect praised by Zaidi]

Those are hot streaks, to be sure, but not the kind that carries the rest of the lineup. There has been just one of those this season, and it illustrates in a way how deep the issues have been for the starting lineup. 

From May 6 to May 19, Pablo Sandoval hit .407, slugged 1.037 and mashed five homers and two doubles in 30 plate appearances. That's good for an OPS of 1.504, and Sandoval added seven runs and 10 RBI. But ... he started only six of those 11 games, doing much of his damage off the bench. 

Part of the beauty of baseball is the ability for a player -- just about any player -- to get absurdly hot for three or four weeks. For the 2019 Giants, it really hasn't happened yet. 

Travis Ishikawa didn't expect Giants call-up before 2014 MLB playoffs

Travis Ishikawa didn't expect Giants call-up before 2014 MLB playoffs

Travis Ishikawa provided one of the most memorable postseason moments in Giants history, blasting a three-run walk-off homer in Game 5 of the NLCS to advance San Francisco to the 2014 World Series.

It was Ishikawa’s second stint with the organization after making his MLB debut with the Giants back in 2006. In a recent appearance on 95.7 The Game, the now-retired first baseman said he wasn’t even sure he’d get a chance to play in the majors during that 2014 season.

“At that moment, I felt like there was no possible way I was getting called up,” Ishikawa said Friday. “I was struggling, [and] at one point, I was actually benched. I was a backup for about two weeks in Fresno, wasn’t even getting starts. Being a defensive replacement for somebody else at first base.

“They’ve got other guys that kind of do what I do, they don’t need me. I mean, there’s no way I see myself getting called up.”

[RELATED: Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players]

Ishikawa ended up being called up to the Giants on July 29, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Giants' Triple-A team at the time was the Fresno Grizzlies, and the organization switched over to the Sacramento River Cats in 2015.

Ishikawa ended up winning two World Series titles in San Francisco (he also was on the 2010 Giants roster), but there likely isn’t a more thrilling moment in his baseball career than that fateful night in McCovey Cove.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

The end of the month brought a bit of good news for most Giants minor leaguers, but a potentially career-ending blow for 20 of them.

The Giants have extended their stipend program for minor leaguers through at least June 30, continuing to guarantee them $400 per week. At the same time, 20 minor league players were released Thursday, continuing a trend around the game.

The releases were not a surprise and did not involve any elite prospects. The players being let go around the game right now -- some estimates are that it could be more than 1,000 minor leaguers -- generally are players who were filling out minor league rosters and had slim chances of soon reaching the big leagues. But this is still a rough time for those players, many of whom will see their dreams end this year as the sport deals with the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the draft shortened to five rounds and more than 40 minor league clubs already on the chopping block entering the season, big changes are expected over the next year regarding minor league baseball. Teams generally release prospects at the end of the spring and again before signing a new class of draft picks, but this year's group is larger than past ones. Baseball-America did research that showed teams release 22-25 minor leaguers through May in typical years, with 30-35 still falling in a normal range. The Giants had previously released 17 players in March.

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

While there are some teams that have released significantly more prospects in recent days, others have committed to keeping all of their minor leaguers through the end of what would have been the minor league season. The Giants, by using June 30 as a date for extended pay, fall in line with most of the rest of the sport thus far, although they certainly have the resources to extend the program through August or even later at some point. 

The A's had previously informed minor leaguers that they will not pay players past May 31. When COVID-19 first shut down the sport, MLB announced stipends across the minors through that date.  

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]