Gabe Kapler went out of his way over the last week to stand by Hunter Pence. He was asked about the struggling veteran -- who started the year 0-for-23 -- every day, and he always was positive. During one Zoom session with reporters, Kapler answered a question about another Giant and then pivoted to talk about Pence's work in the cage.
"I have 100 percent confidence that Hunter Pence's track record is predictive of what's to come for him," Kapler said.
The reason the Giants were so confident is quality of contact, which has become an overriding theme for the new hitting coaches. If you square three balls up and they're all hit right at guys ... I mean, there's nothing else you can do. That's what Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind preach, and Pence's metrics showed he wasn't completely out of whack.
Pence actually is fourth on the team with an average exit velocity of 89 mph, right between early MVP candidates Donovan Solano (89.4) and Mike Yastrzemski (88.6). His launch angle is pretty similar to Solano's, too, and he's second to Brandon Crawford in percentage of batted balls (44) hit 95+ mph.
By expected batting average -- which is based on contact -- Pence is at .215, which isn't great, but certainly isn't anywhere near the .038 average he carries right now. There's a reason the Giants are sticking with him, and he rewarded that faith a bit with a 403-foot triple, a walk, and a run Sunday.
"It hasn't been that tough to stay positive for me, personally," Pence said. "I think there's a lot of positives because the team is playing well, and so it's been kind of easy."
The Giants went 3-3 on the homestand, showing a habit of coming back late in games, but also that their starting pitching is kind of a problem. Here are eight more takeaways from the first homestand of the year ...
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--- Look, this won't fully last for Solano and Yastrzemski, who are BABIP gods right now. No reason not to enjoy it, though. Solano finished the first full week of the season as the MLB leader in batting average (.484) and NL leader in RBI (13). Yastrzemski is tied for the league lead with 10 runs and leads the majors with 11 walks. Both of them have a .500 OBP. Yastrzemski feels like an easy choice for NL Player of the Week.
--- This Rockies series is a homecoming for Rico Garcia, the young right-hander who has been an early surprise out of the bullpen. Garcia made two appearances for the Rockies last year, allowing seven runs in six innings. They had taken him in the 30th round of the draft in 2016. The Giants signed Garcia as a minor league free agent and hoped that his stuff would play better out of the pen. Well ... it definitely has.
Garcia averaged 90 mph in those two appearances last year but is at 94 in five scoreless relief outings this year, and he was bumping 97-98 on Saturday night. The command has been a little iffy, but it wasn't a huge issue for Garcia in the minors. Perhaps there's an explanation for that, too.
"In watching Rico pitch (Saturday) I said to myself, I hope Rico is really happy with the 97 and doesn't try to get more, because I think when a pitcher gets to that level of really improving that velocity it can be encouraging and you try to throw it a little bit harder and you give up some of your command as a result," Kapler said.
--- It was an impressive homestand from Evan Longoria, who didn't get to face live pitching for a couple of weeks as he rehabbed an oblique strain. Longoria was 6-for-14 in four games with two doubles and a long homer. His homer Sunday left the bat at 108.8 mph and traveled 416 feet. So much for rust.
No doubter from Longo 😯 pic.twitter.com/398Oz3578E— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 2, 2020
--- Tyler Heineman has done a nice job at the plate and seems to be a pretty good pitch-framer, but there have been some defensive issues. He was part of a botched rundown Saturday night and had two catcher's interference calls in his first week as the starting catcher. Kapler went into depth about what's going on.
"Early in the Dodgers series we noticed that he was considerably behind the plate, and for that reason we lost a couple of strikes, especially on big-breaking ball guys, 12-6 breaking ball guys," he said. "With (those pitchers) we want him to move up behind the plate, get closer to the plate, so he can stay with the curveball and get up underneath it and get it called for a strike.
"We've asked him to make that adjustment, not so much on east-west guys, slider guys whose ball moves more horizontally, but definitely on that 12-6 curveball. So he's just getting used to that and sometimes that development comes with hiccups and that's why that's happening."
Heineman didn't have any issues in his last couple of appearances.
--- Tyler Anderson had a really strong relief performance against the Padres and then gave up a three-run homer to Joey Gallo on Sunday. He's a candidate to start against his former teammates this week in Denver with Drew Smyly now on the injured list. Anderson threw just two innings Sunday.
Losing Smyly is going to hurt. He was Kapler's best starter so far, and there's no way to survive this road trip if Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman don't show more efficiency and Samardzija keeps lacking swing-and-miss stuff.
--- Anderson had the weirdest stat of the homestand. He picked off two Padres in one inning, becoming the first Giants pitcher to pull that off since Madison Bumgarner in the first inning against the Reds on June 27, 2014.
--- Six different Giants hit a homer during the six-game homestand, and Yastrzemski hit two. They weren't cheapies, either. It might be too early to say that it's much more of a hitter's park, but there's no doubt the ball is flying if you pull it down the right field line.
Full credit to the great Mike Krukow. He was all over that in the first exhibition game, pointing out that right field had a new jetstream because the archways have been closed off. I don't know how the science behind this works, but it's clear he was right.
--- The quote of the year thus far comes from, not surprisingly, Samardzija. He was asked about players having "a beer" together after games but doing so while adhering to social distancing rules. He repeated the words "a beer" and shook his head.
"Plural," he said. "Go with plural."