Giants

Rewind: Peavy dials it back, finds success in Giants win

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Rewind: Peavy dials it back, finds success in Giants win

PHOENIX — Jake Peavy’s start against the Blue Jays earlier this week wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but it was a step in the right direction. When Peavy went back and looked at the tape, he noticed that his best pitches weren’t the max-effort ones, but rather the ones when he dialed it down a notch.

One pitch in particular stood out, a cross-up that had Peavy changing his grip mid-windup and somehow getting an unbelievable amount of movement. Peavy was going to take that approach into Saturday’s start ... and then a stomach bug hit. As it turned out, a night of vomiting only made it that much easier to cut down on the effort and thus find a new level of execution.

Peavy threw six innings and allowed just one run Saturday, and while the Giants blew his win, Buster Posey’s two-out, bases-loaded double off a tough right-hander provided the margin in a tense 5-3 victory at Chase Field. The victory was the fourth straight. Short term, the Giants are looking forward to trying to avenge a Diamondbacks sweep at AT&T Park. Long term, they’re looking forward to seeing more of this Jake Peavy.

“He backed off a little, and he didn’t put as much effort in,” Bochy said. “He just had a good, smooth delivery the whole game. He didn’t grind so hard. Less is more sometimes, and it worked for him.”

Peavy was still washed out after the effort, but the stomach won’t be churning when he faces the Cubs next week. He said he’ll try to find some common ground between the max effort delivery that comes naturally to him and the more laid-back approach that worked Saturday.

“It was almost two polar opposite starts if you watch the last one compared to this one,” Peavy said. “You’ve got to learn. I think a good blend of the (last) two is perfect. I think you learn a lot. The results haven’t been about stuff, it’s been execution. That’s been the story of the year, the execution for the most part hasn’t been as good as it needs to be. Today showed a lot that if you (command) the ball, it doesn’t matter (what the velocity) is.”

[RECAP: Instant Replay: Posey comes up clutch, Giants clinch series]

Peavy said he went 100 percent on nearly every pitch in his last start because he knew his back was against the wall. When you’re struggling, he said, “You need to walk away knowing you gave every last bit of effort.” This week has earned him some breathing room, and his teammates are happy to see it.

“We know what Jakes brings to the ballpark every day,” right fielder Hunter Pence said. 

What Pence brought Saturday was his usual thunder, and that staked Peavy to an early 3-1 lead. The Diamondbacks opened their roof right before the fourth and the park got considerably warmer. With Posey on first, Pence hit a low screamer to left that the bench, left fielder Rickie Weeks Jr., and Pence himself didn’t think would get out. Ten minutes earlier, maybe it hits off the wall instead.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” Pence said. “The roof, nature, the elements, sometimes they get you and sometimes they help you. You never know.”

The blast was the 200th of Pence’s career. After years of somewhat ignoring milestones, he said he is starting to collect items from his career. The Giants got the ball for Pence’s collection.

Pence said he was very appreciative of the opportunity to reach 200 in the big leagues. Then he pivoted, and said the homer meant a bit more because the Giants won.

That took some effort after Derek Law and Hunter Strickland gave runs back. Conor Gillaspie led off the ninth with a single off Daniel Hudson, who then plunked Denard Span. The leadoff hitter reached base all five times he walked up to the plate.

“What a game he had, huh?” Bochy said. “Off lefties, too. He just threw out some great at-bats all night.”

Joe Panik walked to load the bases, but Matt Duffy hit into a fielder’s choice, failing to score a run and leaving the bases loaded. Posey had just three hits in his previous 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but Bochy said he actually viewed that as a silver lining. Posey is too good a hitter, Bochy thought, to slump much longer. A breakout was coming.

Posey was sitting fastball but he got a 1-1 changeup and inside-outed it to deep right-center. The double was the first hit Hudson had allowed to a right-hander.

“It’s probably a good thing not knowing,” that before the at-bat, Posey said. “I was just really trying to see it. Try to see it and put a good swing on it.”

Posey wasn’t the only one on the bench who didn’t know right-handed hitters had been 0-for-26 off Hudson.

“I was not aware of that,” Pence said. “It makes me feel a little better about my at-bat.”

Pence couldn’t pad the lead, but he had already done enough. With Santiago Casilla unavailable after throwing three straight days, Bochy turned to Cory Gearrin, who picked up his first save since 2013. 

After a rough homestand, the Giants have won four straight and they’ve set themselves up to potentially have a launchpad of a road trip. Matt Cain goes for the sweep Sunday, and then the top of the rotation pitches against the fourth-place Padres, who are so banged-up that they're listing "To Be Announced" as their starters all week.

The lineup is starting to find a groove, and it’ll be a lot more dangerous if Posey gets back to his old self in big spots.

“They usually get back to who they are,” Bochy said.

He’s hoping the same is true of Peavy. 

MLB free agency debate: Where will Michael Brantley sign this offseason?

MLB free agency debate: Where will Michael Brantley sign this offseason?

Editor's note: Each day this week, Giants insider Alex Pavlovic and A's reporter Ben Ross will debate where one of the top five free agents might land this offseason. Tuesday's free agent to discuss is Michael Brantley, an three-time All-Star outfielder who has spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians.

ALEX: Ben, yesterday we went right to the top of the market and discussed Bryce Harper. If you're looking for outfield help -- and a lot of teams are -- it gets kind of sketchy after Harper.

Andrew McCutchen still is a good player, but he's no longer an MVP candidate. A.J. Pollock has had a ton of injury issues. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and others are really getting up there in age. But I'm intrigued by Michael Brantley, who has never really lived up to the hype because of his own injuries. If you're looking for a guy who has a moderate amount of pop and gets on base at a high rate -- hellooooo, Giants -- he could be your guy.

BEN: He might be a great fit for the Giants, but the A’s already have enough outfielders, for a fraction of the cost. What have you heard about the Giants’ interest in Brantley? Where else do you think he could end up?

ALEX: I haven't heard anything concrete regarding their interest, but I think he's an interesting case. On one hand, they've been burned over and over again by giving money to position players -- particularly outfielders -- in their 30s. But they also have two corner outfield spots open and desperately need established hitters.

Brantley, who has always been a good OBP guy, would fit in that respect. Perhaps Farhan Zaidi can pull a Chris Taylor or Max Muncy out of another organization, but if Brantley's price drops, he could be a fill-in for a couple of seasons.

I wonder if he'll end up with a team that missed out on Harper and still has that need. The Phillies could fit there. The Braves have been a rumored destination. Maybe the White Sox? Who am I missing?

BEN: I think he makes a lot of sense in San Francisco. As you mentioned, he has a great career OBP with decent power and speed. It looks like he'll probably get around $15 million per year, which is reasonable for a back-to-back All-Star.

I think the Phillies and Braves both make a lot of sense, especially if Philadelphia doesn't land Bryce Harper. Maybe the Nationals if Harper leaves? He also could be a nice A.J. Pollock replacement in Arizona, although Pollock plays center. How about the Rockies? Both Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra are free agents.

ALEX: It sounds like the Diamondbacks are rebuilding, and I think the Rockies need to spend that money elsewhere. This feels like a #MysteryTeam situation, but in the end, I'll go with a safe prediction.

I think Brantley ends up with the Braves as a Nick Markakis replacement, but the twist will be that it'll be a shorter deal. I don't believe the talk that last year's free agency dip was a one-year thing. I think the second tier of veterans again will struggle to get those long-term deals, so I'll put Brantley down for a two-year, $32 million deal. What's your call?

BEN: It sounds like the Braves are pushing hard for Brantley, so they're my prediction, too. As you said, they need a Markakis replacement. Brantley played his college ball at Coastal Carolina University, which isn't too far from Atlanta. While he's been a bit injury-prone, he's still just 31 years old. I'll say he gets three years, $45 million.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Tuesday is dedicated to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley.
How Brantley could help solve one of the Giants' biggest issues
Why the outfielder-rich A's should pass on Brantley
Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?
Brantley should be far down on Red Sox's free agent list
Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper
Could signing Brantley soften blow of Nats losing Harper?

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

SAN FRANCISCO — The lack of power sucks up most of the oxygen in the room, but for the 2018 Giants, there was a bigger offensive issue. 

The Giants ranked 14th in the National League with a .300 on-base percentage, the eighth-lowest OBP in franchise history and lowest in 33 years. New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi knows that’s one of the first issues he must address. The 10 playoff teams last season all finished in the top 13 in the majors in on-base percentage, and Zaidi’s Dodgers ranked third in the NL at .333. 

On the Giants Insider Podcast last week, Zaidi, who previously also worked for the OBP-obsessed A’s, talked about ways to improve a San Francisco lineup that had major issues simply getting on base last season. 

“Any team that walks at a high level, it’s a function of a couple of things,” he said. “One is, it is a function of personnel — there are guys that just have the skill of being able to work the strike zone and being able to take walks. Then there’s a mindset of, ‘What’s our goal?’ Is our goal to put the ball in play, or is our goal to get on base? I think both of those things are areas that we can look at philosophically. 

“How are we attacking the game from an offensive standpoint, and then, also, do we have the type of personnel that can play the type of offense that we want, which is a real grinding approach and getting guys on base and creating pressure for the opposing pitcher.” 

The mindset aspect can be addressed with coaches throughout the organization up to and through spring training. As for personnel, that’s a bit more pressing, and there are multiple ways to add OBP to the lineup in free agency.

You can go straight to the top of the market with Bryce Harper, who led MLB with 130 walks and ranked seventh with a .393 OBP, but there might be a much more cost-effective option. Michael Brantley, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, ranked 17th with a .364 OPB, which would have led the 2018 Giants. 

Throughout an injury-plagued career, Brantley has shown an ability to get on base. He has a .351 career OBP — only one current Giant, Buster Posey (.359), finished above that mark in 2018 — and has finished above .350 in four of the last five seasons.

There’s a reason Brantley, who hit 17 homers and had a .832 OPS last season, isn’t looking at a massive contract, of course. He has had trouble staying on the field, with shoulder, ankle and biceps injuries limiting him to just 101 total games in 2016 and 2017. That, plus the fact that he turns 32 in May, will limit his market, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he’ll receive a three-year, $45 million deal. That would be less than the Giants paid Hunter Pence annually.

Zaidi wants to get younger and more dynamic in the outfield, but if he’s looking for a short-term solution that won’t break the bank, Brantley might end up being a solid fit, and someone who could help solve one of the Giants lineup’s most glaring issues.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Tuesday is dedicated to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley.
Why the outfielder-rich A's should pass on Brantley
Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?
Brantley should be far down on Red Sox's free agent list
Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper
Could signing Brantley soften blow of Nats losing Harper?