Giants

How Giants outfield suddenly became team strength after dismal 2018

How Giants outfield suddenly became team strength after dismal 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have lost 13 of their last 16 games at Wrigley Field, averaging exactly three runs per game. So in many ways, Tuesday's 5-3 loss fit right in with what you've watched in recent years. 

But there was something about the performance that was still relatively new and encouraging. 

The first two runs came on an opposite-field homer from Austin Slater. The third came when Kevin Pillar yanked a Cole Hamels pitch deep into the bleachers in left, giving him 18 for the season. 

Pillar's homer was the 60th of the season by a Giants outfielder, which already far exceeds last year's total of 44. Giants outfielders, led by Pillar and Mike Yastrzemski, have 23 homers in the second half alone. They have come a long, long way from 2018, and even from the first half of this season. 

"We weren't getting a lot of production from the outfield in the early going, and you look at what we're doing now. Whoever I put out in the outfield, they're doing a great job, they're defending and doing damage with the bat," manager Bruce Bochy said over the weekend. "All that production that you need from the outfield, we're getting it now."

Bochy is getting so much from his current quartet that the Giants don't currently have room for Jaylin Davis, who has nine homers in 16 games since joining Triple-A Sacramento. For now the staff is leaning heavily on Pillar, who plays just about every inning, Yastrzemski and Slater. Alex Dickerson helped turn the season around in June, and while he has struggled since returning from an oblique injury, Dickerson's OPS as a Giant remains above 1.100. 

Ask Bochy about his outfielders, though, and it's not just the offense that stands out. After years of subpar defense in center and infielders getting time in left, the Giants have solidified their outfield defense. 

They're second in the NL with 27 outfield assists and second with 22 Defensive Runs Saved. That's 26 DRS better than last year's outfield. The defensive component gets folded into Wins Above Replacement, and that's the clearest way to show the differences year over year. 

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Last year's outfield combined for 0.1 WAR. This year's is already at 4.0 WAR, even with a number of DFA'd players dragging down the overall numbers. In the second half, Giants outfielders have accounted for 3.8 WAR, ranking third in the Majors behind just the Yankees and Dodgers. 

"They're solid all-around players who can play the whole game," Bochy said of his current outfielders. "They're guys who have a lot of range out there and get good reads. They know how to play the game."

MLB rumors: Giants to hire Reds' Donnie Ecker as new hitting coach

MLB rumors: Giants to hire Reds' Donnie Ecker as new hitting coach

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are hoping to see a youth movement in their lineup over the next couple of seasons. They're apparently going with the same approach on their coaching staff. 

Cincinnati Reds assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker will be named the Giants' hitting coach, according to Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic. The Giants did not immediately confirm the hire. They are expected to announce their staff next week at the Winter Meetings. Ecker, 33, is just five years removed from being the baseball coach at Los Altos High, his alma mater. 

The Giants have spent the last month putting Gabe Kapler's staff in place, and they have not looked in traditional corners. They have worked to surround Kapler with coaches who take a more modern approach and can help develop the next Giants contender, and Ecker certainly qualifies as an interesting hire. 

Ecker spent just one season as assistant hitting coach in Cincinnati. In 2018 he was the Triple-A hitting coach for the Angels, and before that, he coached in the minors for the Cardinals for three seasons. Ecker's coaching career began in 2013 when he took a job at Los Altos High, where he was a two-sport star in baseball and football. Ecker was a 22nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2007 but got just 97 minor league at-bats. 

Ecker certainly is a bit of an out-of-the-box hire, but that might be just what the Giants need after years of struggling to put together a lineup that can hit at Oracle Park. Ecker's bio with the Reds stated that "his teaching methods incorporate human movement research and technology-based applications to the body and swing." He is described as someone who is an "integrated movement specialist."

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Once confirmed, Ecker will join third base coach Ron Wotus as members of Kapler's staff. The Giants also have hired Brian Bannister as Director of Pitching but it's unclear if that role will have him in the dugout. 

MLB rumors: Giants targeted Georgia's Sean Kenny as next pitching coach

MLB rumors: Giants targeted Georgia's Sean Kenny as next pitching coach

The Giants' coaching staff under manager Gabe Kapler is starting to take shape. 

The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Sunday that San Francisco was in negotiations with Indians defensive coordinator Kai Correa, and sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic on Wednesday that Brian Bannister, a former big leaguer who spent the previous five seasons with the Red Sox, will join the Giants as their director of pitching

Speaking of pitching, the Giants appear to be on the hunt for a new pitching coach. And their search seems far and wide. 

D1Baseball's Kendall Rogers reported Wednesday that the Giants targeted the University of Georgia's pitching coach Sean Kenny for the same role in the big leagues. But, UGA made sure Kenny stayed in Athens. 

Kendall says the Giants have looked at several candidates from college and the pros, and Kenny looks like a prime coach on the rise. The former 17th-round pick of the Mets became Georgia's pitching coach before the 2018 season and instantly made a huge impact. 

Georgia's pitching staff lowered its team ERA 1.05 points to 3.97 in Kenny's first year on the job, and set a school record with a .236 opponent's batting average. That number dropped to a lowly .200 last season, as UGA's ERA fell to 3.24 while setting a school record with 601 strikeouts. 

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The Giants haven't formally announced that Curt Young will not return for a third season as their pitching coach, but it was expected that Kapler would bring in several new coaches. The only known coach to come back next season is Ron Wotus, who will be in his 33rd year with the Giants organization.

Bench coach Hensley Meulens has joined the Mets, and hitting coach Alonzo Powell accepted a job in Japan in the same role.