Giants

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from MLB-worst Giants' loss to A's

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from MLB-worst Giants' loss to A's

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OAKLAND — Santiago Casilla, the man blamed for just about all of last season’s bullpen issues, was in the opposing bullpen Monday. The night’s game was a reminder that Casilla was far from the only culprit in 2016. 

Two relievers combined to give up four runs in the sixth and two more gave up late insurance runs in an 8-5 loss to the A's. Because the Phillies won for the fifth straight game, the Giants officially have the worst record in Major League Baseball. 

The bullpen wasted no time blowing a 3-2 lead. Josh Osich loaded the bases before departing with one out in the sixth. George Kontos left a fastball right over the heart of the plate and Marcus Semien crushed it to left for a grand slam. Four Giants relievers -- Kyle Crick and Hunter Strickland also saw action -- combined to give up six earned runs on five hits and six walks. 

Yikes. Anyway, here are five takeaways ... 

—- Matt Cain gave up two runs in the first on two walks and a pair of hits, and he got an early visit from Dave Righetti. Cain managed to five-and-dive, though. Those two were the only runs he allowed. 

—- Carlos Moncrief picked up his first career hit in the fourth when he beat out a grounder for an RBI infield single that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead. In the seventh, he lined a 3-2 fastball the other way for a double. Moncrief then got caught in a rundown on a grounder back to the pitcher. 

—- Kontos gets the tough assignments, and in past years he handled them with relative ease. This year has been different, particularly lately. Over his last two starts Kontos has inherited five runners and all have scored. 

—- Moncrief, a former minor league pitcher, apparently hit 97 mph during a mop-up performance earlier this season. Believe it. He threw a one-hop seed from the track in deep right to second base when Matt Chapman tried to tag up in the fourth. Chapman wisely retreated. 

—- The latest bout of wrist soreness certainly seems gone for Brandon Belt. He had a double in the first at-bat and a good opposite-field single in the seventh to drive in a run.

Giants Review: After a similar second season, will Hundley be back?

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USA TODAY Sports

Giants Review: After a similar second season, will Hundley be back?

SAN FRANCISCO — It was a bit of a surprise when Nick Hundley ended up with more than 300 plate appearances in 2017. That wasn’t the plan coming in, but Brandon Belt got hurt in August and Buster Posey played a lot of first base down the stretch, opening time for his backup. 

A year later, Posey’s injury led to another season of heavy action for Hundley, who basically repeated his first year with the Giants. 

2017: .244 average, .691 OPS, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 303 plate appearances
2018: .241 average, .706 OPS, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 305 plate appearances

Hundley gave the Giants what they expected, and again, he was a valuable member of the clubhouse, providing leadership and backbone, and doing enough behind the scenes to get plenty of Willie Mac Award votes a season after winning it. Here are the highs and the lows from Year 2:

What Went Right: Hundley matched the power numbers of many of the league’s starting catchers and doubled the home run output of Posey, who dealt with a hip injury. He was particularly lethal against lefties, slugging .508 with an OPS+ of 127. Only Evan Longoria had more homers against lefties (8) than Hundley (7). 

Managers don’t like to burn their backup catcher, but Bruce Bochy often sent Hundley up late in games because he was one of the lineup’s best options. Hundley was 5-for-14 (.357) as a pinch-hitter and had a walk-off single on April 30. 

What Went Wrong: The flip side of the success against lefties was Hundley’s issues with right-handed pitchers. He had a .213/.283/.335 slash line against righties and struck out in 32 percent of his at-bats. 

The bigger problem going forward may be defense. Pitchers like throwing to Hundley, and Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez gave him a lot of credit, but the opposition sure liked running on him, too. Hundley allowed 48 stolen bases in 58 attempts, ranking near the bottom of the NL. 

A lot of Giants fans might put the incident with Yasiel Puig in the "what went right" category, but that wasn’t a good moment for the Giants and it put Rodriguez on the DL with a hamstring injury. 

Contract Status: After making $2 million in 2017, Hundley re-signed with the Giants last December for $2.5 million. He is once again a free agent. 

The Future: A few minutes after the final game of the season, Hundley said he would like to be back for a third year. “If we’re healthy, this team is capable of winning a World Series,” he said. “If I’m able to add to that, I would definitely take the opportunity.” Hundley is one of the most popular players in the clubhouse and some in the organization think he’ll one day be a strong candidate to manage the Giants, so up until September, it was just about a lock that he would return. Aramis Garcia’s strong debut changed some minds, though, and the Giants believe the rookie is potentially ready to be Posey’s backup for a quarter of the price. Posey’s hip surgery could ultimately lead to another reunion with Hundley.

The Giants hope their franchise catcher is 100 percent by Opening Day, but there are no guarantees, and the safe plan would be to have Hundley ready as the backup, with Garcia set to play every day in Triple-A, or serve as Hundley's backup early in the season. Long term, the Giants have Garcia ready and Joey Bart looking like he might be up as soon as next September, but for 2019, it seems a pretty good bet that Hundley is back on another one-year deal. 

Real problem for Giants' lineup was an inability to get on base

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USATSI

Real problem for Giants' lineup was an inability to get on base

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants changed their hitting coach last offseason, a lot of attention was paid to the effort to increase launch angles, hit more homers, and join the modern game. But perhaps the Giants should have put a greater emphasis on a stat that was part of the previous analytics push. 

Giants hitters finished with an on-base percentage of .300 in 2018, ranking 28th in the majors, ahead of just the Orioles and Padres. It was the organization’s lowest combined OBP in 33 years and the eighth-lowest in franchise history.

As team officials watch this postseason, they’ll see OBP’s importance on a nightly basis. The Red Sox, who have a lead in the ALCS, led the majors at .339. The Dodgers (.333) finished fifth and the Astros (.329) ranked seventh. The 10 postseason teams all finished in the top 13 in the majors in on-base percentage, and it’s easy to see the correlation. 

On-base percentage is a simple concept: It's about not making outs. The Giants don’t hit for power, and they didn’t really do the little things all that well in 2018, but they also made far too many outs up and down the lineup to sustain any kind of legitimate offense. 

For the lineup, the dip was nearly universal. Buster Posey led the team with a .359 on-base percentage, but that was his lowest mark in eight years, and down 41 points from 2017. Andrew McCutchen was the only other Giant above .350, and at .357, he posted the second-lowest OBP of his career. 

Brandon Belt (.342) has one of the best eyes in the game, but in an injury-filled season, he was down 13 points from 2017 and more than 50 points from 2016. Joe Panik (.307) was down 40 points from a year before. 

Among the everyday starters, Evan Longoria did the most damage to the team’s effort to get on base. Longoria was at .341 in 10 years with the Rays, but drew just 22 walks in his first season in San Francisco, posting a .281 on-base percentage. There were 64 NL hitters who qualified for the batting title and Longoria was last in OBP, nine points worse than No. 63, Nick Ahmed. 

Most of the rest of the players who saw regularly time had just as much trouble reaching base. Pablo Sandoval had a .310 on-base percentage; Austin Jackson was at .309 before he was traded; Nick Hundley posted a .298; Mac Williamson was at .295 before he got hurt; Gorkys Hernandez was a .285 in 451 plate appearances, and just .220 during a sneaky-rough second half; Alen Hanson drew just one walk after the All-Star break and finished at .274; Kelby Tomlinson was at .265, just ahead of Gregor Blanco’s .262; Hunter Pence had a .258 on-base percentage, the lowest of his career by 57 points. Aside from Austin Slater (.333), none of the rookies had an OPB above .310. 

There were 20 National League hitters who had at least 200 plate appearances and an on-base percentage of .285 or lower, and an astounding five of them played for the Giants. 

Even the pitchers were a problem, combining to reach base at a .105 clip, which ranked 14th out of 15 National League clubs. 

You knew the Giants needed more power, but it’s clear there’s a greater issue. The first step to scoring is usually to simply get on base, and in 2019, the Giants need to do so at a much, much higher rate.