Giants

Minor league catcher Tyler Heineman says he has signed with Giants

Minor league catcher Tyler Heineman says he has signed with Giants

The big names get all the attention this time of year, but front offices also are busy filling minor holes on their organization's depth chart, and it seems the Giants did so recently with the addition of a minor league catcher. 

Tyler Heineman, a 28-year-old catcher, announced that he signed a deal with the club. Heineman has played eight professional seasons and had a five-game cup of coffee with the Miami Marlins last season. 

Minor league additions in January generally don't move the needle much, but Heineman actually could be an interesting name to watch in spring training. The Giants expect top prospect Joey Bart to make his big league debut sometime this summer, but after Stephen Vogt signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, team officials indicated that adding another veteran catcher was not a priority. Aramis Garcia is the incumbent and the favorite to back up Buster Posey, but Heineman brings an intriguing profile. 

First and foremost, Heineman is the rare switch-hitting catcher, and he had more success from the left side last season, which could give him a leg up in the competition to replace Vogt, who also was a left-handed hitter. Heineman had a 1.061 OPS against right-handed pitchers in Triple-A last season.

[RELATED: The Giants' offensive leaders in the 2010s]

Heineman had a .990 OPS in Triple-A for the Diamondbacks and Marlins, with 13 homers and just 35 strikeouts in 273 plate appearances. The Giants have been looking for catching depth, not just behind Posey, but at the Triple-A level. The plan is to start Bart in Triple-A, and they need a more experienced catcher to pair with him. 

How Dave Stewart would have pitched to Barry Bonds in his playing days

How Dave Stewart would have pitched to Barry Bonds in his playing days

Dave Stewart faced the Giants 14 times over his 16-year big league career. He never had the chance of pitching against Barry Bonds, not even during Bonds' days with the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

But what if he had? The three-time World Series champion, and 1989 World Series MVP for his efforts dominating the Giants, is known for his iconic stare down from the mound. The former A's star pitcher, and Oakland native, was about as intimidating as they come. When he gives you that same stare down, truthfully, it's still as intimidating today.

No hitter ever has been more intimidating than Bonds when stepping to the plate, though. Stewart certainly would have welcomed a chance to battle with the Home Run King, and he knows it would have been a tall task. 

"Barry, from at-bat to at-bat is a guy that you had to make adjustments on," Stewart told me recently over Zoom. "You couldn’t pitch him the same way every at-bat. Maybe in the first at-bat I’d make him inside conscious, crowd him with fastballs in. Get him to open up a little bit or try to be quick on that inside pitch. And then ultimately get him out away with my offspeed pitch, the forkball, or with the fastball away. The next time up, maybe start him off with something offspeed, drop a breaking ball in first pitch. Then, fastballs away to get him out to then get him on a fastball inside.

"To me, it’s just varying in what you do from at-bat to at-bat, because he’s such a smart hitter."

Stewart never faced Bonds, but he still knew the secret to him. Sure, there are some obvious traits that made Bonds great. Make one mistake and he made you pay. Some coaches (see Showalter, Buck) would rather walk a run in and put Bonds on base than let him hit with the bases loaded. 

What made Bonds so great, as Stewart could see from afar, was that a pitcher could never get him out the same way two times in a row. Beat him with velocity once, you better not try it again. The same goes for if you were able to get him out with a plethora of offspeed pitches one at-bat. 

"What’s crazy about Barry, what made him such a great hitter, is most hitters have the same weakness all the time," Stewart said. "Barry was different from that. You pitch him one way one at-bat, you pitch him another the next at-bat, you pitch him another the last at-bat. You hope by the fourth at-bat, you’ve got enough weapons and you’ve done enough different things, that you keep him guessing.

"The key to getting Barry out is not pitching him the same way for every at-bat, doing something different each at-bat."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bonds hit his first home run against the A's in what is now Oracle Park on July 13, 2000. It came off lefty Mark Mulder, a solo shot to center field in the fourth inning of a 4-2 win over Oakland. His last long ball in San Francisco against his Bay Area rival was on June 24, 2006, when he hit a two-run blast off Dan Haren in his second-to-last MLB season. If the NL adopted the DH back then, there's a good chance Bonds could have kept launching balls over the wall for years to come. 

The all-time home run leader was 43 years old when he played his last game. He still was jogging out to left field, nine years after his last Gold Glove award. The NL hadn't yet added the DH, a rule that still feels like a one-year experiment this season. Bonds served as the Giants' DH 39 times over his career, six times in his last season.

If the rule had been put in place during Bonds' playing days, Stewart believes he could have played well into his mid or late 40s.

"Barry could have played, no doubt," Stewart said. "Reggie Jackson played well into his 40s. And was a great DH, by the way. So Barry, I’m sure could have played into his 40s just as easily and still have done a great job as a designated hitter.

"There’s no doubt in my mind about that."

[RELATED: Five weird Giants stats that have defined first 20 games]

Don't get it wrong, though. Stewart, who pitched 13 seasons for AL teams, is not a fan of the DH joining that other league.

"I mean, I’m a traditionalist," Stewart said. "I like that the two leagues are separated by one league having the DH and one league having the pitcher hit. I’m a fan of the DH in the American League, because that’s where it started.

"I am not a fan of it in the National League, because now the two leagues, there’s no real separation."

There will be a Giants DH on Friday when they welcome the A's to San Francisco for a three-game series. There won't be a Barry Bonds, though, or a Dave Stewart. Instead, we'll have to settle for Mr. Great Story, aka Mike Yastrzemski, against ace Frankie Montas and rookie phenom Jesús Luzardo.

In any rivalry, however, it's fun to play the hypothetical game. Stewart knows just how he would have battled Bonds in this battle of intimidation, and he knows just how great the challenge would have been.

Five weird Giants stats that stand out after 20 games of odd MLB season

Five weird Giants stats that stand out after 20 games of odd MLB season

The Giants' 2020 MLB season officially is one-third of the way done. That feels extremely weird to write after a 20-game sample size, yet here we are. Blink and the 60-game season will be over.

After their 5-1 loss Wednesday night against the Houston Astros, the Giants are 8-12 on the year. They just finished a grueling road trip where they went 3-7, and finally have a day off after 16 games in 16 days. With their latest defeat, the Giants now are tied for the second-most losses in baseball. 

Despite that fact, they're far from out of the playoff picture as the postseason has been expanded to eight teams for each league. Here are five stats -- good and bad -- that have defined the first third of the Giants' season. 

.458

I mean, who didn't expect Donovan Solano to be hitting .458 right now? It was pretty obvious this would happen. Right? .... right? 

OK, back to reality. Nobody, and I mean nobody, saw this coming. Solano, 32, did hit .330 last season and proved he's a major league hitter. Now, he's one of the best stories in baseball. 

Solano has the third-highest batting average through 16 games in San Francisco Giants history. Only Barry Bonds (.525) in 2004 and Willie Mays (.470) in 1964 have been better. That's a pretty, pretty good group to be a part of. 

Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon (.472) is the only player with a higher batting average than Solano right now. They're joined by New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu as the three players hitting over .400 this season. The only downside is Solano has been shelved recently with an abdominal injury.

.219 

For as great as Solano has been at the plate, the Giants' catchers have not. Chadwick Tromp (.226) and Tyler Heineman (.212) are batting a combined .219 right now. 

This doesn't sit well with the crowd begging for the Giants to call up top prospect Joey Bart

Tromp has hit two home runs and shown some power, but he also has 11 strikeouts to only one walk. Heineman has displayed a better eye at the plate, however, he virtually has no power at the plate. The two have been solid when it comes to framing pitches, they haven't been as great when it comes to actually hitting pitches.

After a three-game series with the A's, the Giants then have four games against the Los Angeles Angels and three vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perhaps then it finally will be Bart time.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

21

That's the number of home runs the Giants have hit as a team this season, with their power being an improvement from last year. A total of 11 Giants have gone deep this season. They're currently tied with the Houston Astros with the 17th-most long balls in baseball. 

But that's not the 21 we're focusing on here. 

The Giants also have made 21 errors, the most in the game by far. The next highest is the Kansas City Royals with 17. San Francisco is committing more than one error per game, which can't happen with a team that isn't full of sluggers at the plate. 

For as great as Solano has been at the plate, he has been atrocious defensively. He leads the team with four errors and his fielding percentage is just .902 right now. These aren't the Yankees, these aren't even the San Diego Padres. If the Giants want to compete, they have to clean it up defensively.

79

Speaking of cleaning it up, the Giants also can't afford how many free bases their pitchers have allowed. They lead the NL with 79 walks, which ranks fourth in the majors. 

Sometimes walks can be deceiving. Trevor Cahill walked four batters in 1 2/3 innings in San Francisco's loss to Houston on Wednesday. Those walks never really came back to hurt him, but there's a bigger picture here. Giants pitchers struck out seven batters and walked six in the loss. Astros pitchers struck out nine and walked one. That's a winning formula, the Giants' is not. 

Giants pitchers also have hit 12 batters, tied for the fourth-most in the big leagues. Their 5.10 ERA is the seventh-worst in baseball, and they rank 22nd in strikeouts with 142. It all starts with the walks, though. 

Once again, this is a team that can't afford sloppiness and free bases.

[RELATED: Slater, Solano's injuries expose Giants' offense in loss]

8

When the Giants signed Billy Hamilton in the offseason, he gave them a speed factor they haven't had in years. Hamilton is one of the fastest players the game has ever seen. He also never played an inning as a Giant. 

San Francisco traded him to the New York Mets for pitching prospect Jordan Humphreys on Aug. 2. Still, the Giants are tied for eighth in stolen bases this season, with eight. 

Known speedster Austin Slater leads the Giants with five stolen bases to go with his three home runs. Slater also has legged out a triple, and Mike Yastrzemski has two three-baggers. 

The Giants finished last season with the third-lowest stolen base totals in baseball. They're a team that needs to take advantage of every extra base they can get, and whether it be a stolen base or hustling for a double or triple, they're doing exactly that this season.