Giants

Giants takeaways: What we learned from a 4-4 trip through East Coast

Giants takeaways: What we learned from a 4-4 trip through East Coast

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's amazing how 18 innings can change the perception of a whole road trip. 

A 4-4 road trip is not going to end up on any postseason DVD, but hey, it's fine. It's just fine, and given the way the Giants played over the weekend, coming back home that way is something they'll take. 

There were signs of life, and for a lineup that was so, so bad on the road most of last year, hitting 11 homers in eight games was a huge improvement. Even scoring 31 runs in eight games -- in mostly fair ballparks -- is a nice step, given that this team averaged a league-worst 3.5 runs per game on the road last year. 

Yep, the road trip was fine, just fine. Here's a look at some of what we learned ... 

You know ... they're really not buried

Because of the way the Giants started the season, it hasn't at any point seemed that they're contenders. They don't have the look of a contender, either, to be fair. But they return home just three games out in the loss column, and the entire NL West is separated by 3 1/2 games. 

The Dodgers have outscored them by 66 runs in less than a month, but the Giants have the best pitching staff in the division thus far. They'll get a chance to make a dent next week when they host the Dodgers for three games at Oracle Park. 

Red-hot Panda

I mentioned Pablo Sandoval in the recap of the last homestand and Bruce Bochy was asked about him during just about every media session in recent days. But for good reason: Sandoval is slugging .694 and picking up a hit in a third of his at-bats, and you have to wonder if he'll eventually earn more time in the starting lineup.

The Giants will see two lefties to start the homestand but then three consecutive right-handed pitchers. Perhaps we'll see a change in the lineup. 

No Sophomore Slump

Dereck Rodriguez beat Stephen Strasburg and Chris Archer on the trip, continuing a solid start that has backed what he did as a rookie. Rodriguez is 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA and his xFIP (4.08) is actually about half a run lower than it was last year. His strikeout rate is up from 6.77 to 7.07 and his walk rate has dropped from 2.74 to 1.61. 

Launch angle? Exit velocity against? Expected batting average? Dig into any advanced metric you want and you'll find that Rodriguez's numbers are eerily similar to what he did in 2018. Seriously, his expected batting average was .243 last year and it's .244 this year. He is using pretty much the exact same pitch mix and getting the exact same results, and that's what you love to see in Year 2. 

Buster's Back-ish?

This is not yet the Buster Posey of old, but he was certainly far improved on the road trip, slashing .261/.346/.478 and hitting his first homer in 10 months. Posey still doesn't quite have the command of the zone that he had even last year, but he struck out just three times on the trip, a dip from the start of the season when his strikeout rate was at concerning levels. 

There are some more reasons for optimism, too. His hard-hit rate (42.9 percent) is his highest in three years and he's barreling the ball more than at any point in the Statcast era. Maybe he just needed a bit more time after surgery?

What Happened to Crawnik?

A lot of the focus has been on Posey early on, but now that he's showing signs of improvement, you kind of look around and go, "Uhh, what's going on with Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik?" It's a question being asked in the front office and coaches room, too.

Crawford had a brutal second half last year, slowed by injuries, and he has a .515 OPS through 24 appearances this year. He is striking out at a career-high rate, doesn't have a homer, and is hitting the ball on the ground nearly 52 percent of the time. That's not great given how many shifts these guys see. Crawford's average launch angle of 5.3 percent is less than half of what it was the past three seasons. 

Crawford did get off to a slow start last season and then became the hottest hitter in the league for about six weeks, but this is a slump that's lasted quite a while. 

[RELATED: Giants prospect Ramos reflects on recent hot streak]

Panik is interesting because he had such a great spring but has opened with a .186/.266/.271 slash line. Nothing in his profile really jumps off the page as being terribly different, but perhaps that's the problem, given the issues he had last year. The Giants hoped for a bounce back and so far a lot of the peripheral numbers are in the same area. 

Panik has been much improved defensively, and Crawford remains a huge strength out there. But Panik already has lost just about all his starts against lefties, and you may see both guys get some extra time off if this continues. 

Giants rookies dress up as ‘Reno 911’ cops for flight to Atlanta

Giants rookies dress up as ‘Reno 911’ cops for flight to Atlanta

The Giants' Triple-A affiliate is located in Sacramento, but their rookie dress-up day had a Reno theme.

For the team's flight from Boston to Atlanta on Thursday evening, the veterans made the youngsters don "Reno 911" cop uniforms, complete with the short shorts.

Luckily for us, most of the players embraced the outfit and posted photos on their Instagram Stories.

We'll let the images speak for themselves:

[RELATED: How Giants' top five picks played]

Based on the image, 12 Giants rookies got in on the fun, and they even used a real cop car as a prop at the airport in Boston.

With 12 "cops" on the flight to Atlanta, you know no shenanigans will happen.

Giants' Madison Bumgarner's road struggles continue ahead of free agency

Giants' Madison Bumgarner's road struggles continue ahead of free agency

The Giants' three-game series at Fenway Park was filled with so much history. 

Between a Yastrzemski reunion and San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy's 2,000th career managerial win, there was much to be celebrated. That was until Thursday, when Madison Bumgarner took the mound.

Across five frames in the Boston Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Giants, MadBum gave up five runs and nine hits with two walks. He struck out seven, but struggled in the second frame as he approached 200 innings on the season. 

The balls that were hit off of Bumgarner's in his ninth loss of the season weren't hit all that hard. Boston beat him by putting the bat on the ball with singles from Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, to name a few.

"This has probably been his worst year as far as luck," Bochy told reporters after the game. "I thought he threw better than what the numbers are going to show."

A pattern developed this year for Bumgarner on the road, and it wasn't a pretty one.

Away from Oracle Park this season, the four-time All-Star has a career-high 5.06 ERA with an opposing batting average of .280.

Call it tough luck, but as much as this sounds like a broken record, Bumgarner will be one of the top names in free agency this offseason, and it's no secret home/road splits are taken into account. 

[RELATED: Bochy's speech after 2,000th career win]

Bum talked about his outing after the loss, and couldn't explain some of the hits Boston got off him.

"Things don't always go your way," he said. "It's frustrating, you know. I feel really good about the way I threw."