Most Giants hitters shouldn't worry about possible defensive shift ban


Most Giants hitters shouldn't worry about possible defensive shift ban

SAN FRANCISCO -- A couple of times every spring, usually against NL West teams he'll see often, Brandon Belt drops down a bunt to beat the shift. It's possible that's a piece of strategy he won't have to worry about in the future. 

According to The Athletic's Jayson Stark, commissioner Rob Manfred has strong backing from the league's competition committee to try to do something to limit shifts. Stark noted that there were more than 8,000 shifts on balls in play in 2018, leading to fewer singles and basically no chance for lefties who pulled the ball on the ground. 

Changing the rules -- or adding any restrictions -- would be a major change for a sport that doesn't have a clock and has mostly been played under the same regulations for decades. It would have a huge impact on a lot of MLB players -- including Belt -- but for the Giants it actually wouldn't make as much a difference as it would for some other lineups. 

Belt faced by far the most shifts of any Giants hitter in 2018. According to Baseball Savant, he was shifted on 1,333 pitches last season, or 72 percent of the time. The only other regularly who saw a shift even a quarter of the time was Andrew McCutchen, who regularly faced three infielders on the left side of the field before he was traded. 

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Shifts traditionally have been for left-handed power hitters, but the Giants actually saw plenty for their righties. Along with McCutchen, Evan Longoria was third in total pitches seen with a shift on, getting shifted 24 percent of the time. Brandon Crawford saw a shift on 231 pitches but that represented only about 10 percent of his season.

In limited action, Ryder Jones and Chris Shaw also saw plenty of shifts -- 78 percent and 21 percent, respectively -- but for the most part the Giants weren't too affected.

Because of their ballpark, the team has tried to build their lineup around players who pepper the alleys and use the center of the field.

Buster Posey was shifted on just 15 total pitches. Joe Panik and Steven Duggar played with the defensive virtually straight up all the time. Hunter Pence saw just two infield shifts all season, or five fewer than Madison Bumgarner. 

It's possible that Farhan Zaidi builds a lineup with more pure pull hitters -- the ballpark is closer to a fair challenge right down the lines -- but for now, any changes to the rules would affect other teams more than the Giants. 

Joey Bart impresses Bruce Bochy in first few weeks of spring training

Joey Bart impresses Bruce Bochy in first few weeks of spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Giants announced their minor league coaches a few weeks ago, it certainly seemed no accident that longtime big league staffer Bill Hayes was the new manager of the San Jose Giants.

Joey Bart, the top catching prospect in the minors, will begin the season with San Jose. 

"I know we wanted to make sure we had a catching guy with him, so this worked out great," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Billy will be a great mentor .... to have him day in and day out will be helpful with his progress. That's going to be nice for Joey."

Hayes has been a roving catching instructor in the minors since being let go as first base coach. He previously was Bochy's bullpen catcher and is about to start his 20th season with the organization. 

Bart is in his first full professional season, and thus far has mostly kept his head down. There has been some ribbing from veterans -- they made Bart hit first against Madison Bumgarner in live BP in case Bumgarner felt like buzzing someone -- but Bochy praised the 22-year-old for the way he has handled his first big league camp

"He's an eager learner," Bochy said. "You watch him and he listens and wants to take in everything ... I love the way he's carrying himself."

Bochy has had his first extended look at Bart this spring. 

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"Very good mechanics. He has a strong arm and I think he has a good setup behind the plate," Bochy said. "He's a physical guy and you see the size of him, so there's no question he's going to be able to handle the workload behind the plate for a long season. And the power, it's impressive, you know."

Bart hit 13 homers in 45 minor league games last year. He has shown that pop in BP, particularly when going the opposite way, and he should soon get a crack at showing it in games. Bochy said he'll throw Bart into some early Cactus League games. The Giants kick off the exhibition season Saturday.

Giants' Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes


Giants' Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- South African-born reliever Kieran Lovegrove is a new name to the Giants' organization -- he could even be a name you've never heard of. I'm not one of those people.

However, this was the first time I met Lovegrove in person. 

Despite spending many years following each other's careers on social media, I was never given the opportunity to interview the young pitcher. But when he posted a photo of some unique shoes recently, I was curious. Not only were these beauties, well beautiful, but they had a very special message behind them:

On the inner-tongue of the Converse shoes, "Equality" in yellow is printed with "BHM" on the front. "BHM" is also engraved on the side of the colorful shoes. 

Every year, Lovegrove tries to get one of the Black History Month pairs.

"Really, it's me wanting to continue to stand against racism," Lovegrove told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Especially as it exists today, it's just gotten so divisive against people -- that's all it is -- to show solidarity."

The 24-year-old reliever was modest saying the message may not "be much," since it's a pair of shoes, but it starts a conversation.

"Fashion is a way that you can stand for something without your words being misconstrued," he said. 

Four years ago, a teammate of Lovegrove's convinced him to get a pair of Jordan's. He was unsure about them at first, but ultimately he became the new owner of Spike Lee 40's, the Black History Month edition. After receiving numerous compliments, he wanted to continue showing his support whether in the form of a shoe, or otherwise.

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"Not that I need more shoes," he laughed.

He's running out of room in his closet, and with his girlfriend moving to the area in May, it's imperative he makes room. But until then, he has no problem with his kicks taking up space -- especially when it sends such a powerful message.

"I'll celebrate the accomplishments of great black men and women in history overall."