Giants

Shawn Estes advises Giants starters on how to stay ready during hiatus

Shawn Estes advises Giants starters on how to stay ready during hiatus

Every day seems to bring a new round of terrifying updates regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and as baseball players sit home and digest the news, they have no idea when they'll be able to play again. But they're staying ready, as many, including several Giants players, have made clear on their social media pages. 

Evan Longoria recently posted a video of a session in his indoor batting cage and Mauricio Dubon has been working out on his balcony. Dereck Rodriguez's wife posted a clip of a portable pitching mound the right-hander now has. 

The starting pitchers are the ones who have the most work to do right now, and a former Giants starter gave his suggestions on how to stay ready on this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. Shawn Estes, who pitched in the big leagues for 13 years and now is an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, said starters should try to replicate their normal routine as much as they can given what they're working with. 

"I would try to keep it as a starting pitcher as close to (my) every-five-day routine," Estes said. "You can still go out and get your cardio in, you can get your lifting in, you can throw a bullpen if you have that opportunity ... On your fifth day go out there and kind of do a simulated game, obviously without hitters there. Throw to a catcher and sit down, and I would probably do that for 80 pitches. 

"You know there's still going to be at worst a three-week spring training that you can actually get your arm ready to throw 100 pitches. I wouldn't overdo it until they announce that there's going to be a spring training but I would try to be at 80 pitches if at all possible. I would try to keep it as close to my five-day routine as I could."

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Giants starters were getting into that range just as camp was shut down. If there is a season, the biggest baseball issue for teams will be making sure pitchers are ready to restart and throw at least four to five innings right away without getting hurt. Rosters are sure to be expanded to add coverage, but starting pitchers will still carry a heavier load than others, and they won't have a six-week spring training to ramp back up. Some on other teams have posted clips where they've thrown to catchers recently, although those guidelines might soon be changed. 

Estes talked about what a spring training might look like on the podcast and also touched on how a shortened season might help the Giants, the current vibe in his hometown of Scottsdale, and the possibility of pitchers getting hurt. You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Bay Bridge Series between Giants, A's recently has been neck-and-neck

Bay Bridge Series between Giants, A's recently has been neck-and-neck

No matter how you feel about interleague play, it's hard to find much fault with the yearly home-and-home series between the Giants and A's. 

Fans from both sides pack the ballparks, particularly in Oakland. For years, when Oracle Park sold out every night, that was the best chance that Giants fans in the East Bay had of seeing their team up close, and it remains a much closer trip. There's a lot more media for those games, and I can say from personal experience that I've always loved having the opportunity to watch someone like Matt Chapman in person for three days. 

The games are generally good, too. Two of last year's four games were decided by a run, and a third game saw the Giants score five runs in the eighth to claw back, only to watch the A's pull away with two more in the top of the ninth. A year earlier, three of the six meetings were one-run games, including a pair of walk-offs. 

The Bay Bridge Series now includes an art show and a trophy, and it even gave us one of the best GIFs in franchise history:

The 2020 season was halted a couple of weeks before the Giants and A's were to return home for their yearly exhibition series that gets both sides ready for the season, and it's hard to tell what the plan will be when the sport returns. The original proposal from MLB called for the Giants to play just the NL West and AL West this season, so they expected to see a lot of the A's. If MLB decides to play just 50 games or so, that would drastically change the schedule, and perhaps the Giants would just play games within their division.

We don't know when the Bay Bridge Series will resume, but on NBC Sports Bay Area, a version will air tonight. We've been simulating the whole season and tonight's matchup is the Giants and the A's, with Kruk and Kuip on the call at 5 p.m. 

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Hopefully it's a close game, and history tells us it will be. If you extend the sample beyond the two seasons mentioned above, you find a remarkably close back-and-forth. Since the A's swept the 1989 World Series, the two Bay Area franchises have squared off 124 times in the regular season, with Oakland holding a 64-60 edge. The A's have outscored the Giants by 14 total runs over the last 30 years. 

You might think the last decade would be different given the three titles and all the success the Giants have had, but it's been even closer in recent years. They've played 50 times since the start of 2010 and won 25 games each. The Giants have outscored the A's 225-224 in their interleague matchups over the past decade. It's a matchup that's as close as it gets, and hopefully it's one we're watching again soon. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele was a shortstop at Santa Clara University as the Giants were taking over the even years, and he took advantage of his school's location. Viele and friends would hop on Caltrain a few times every year and head straight to Oracle Park, the home of his future employer. 

The ballpark will look different when Viele finally walks through as the co-hitting coach. The fences are coming in, a boost not just to the hitters but to the men -- Viele, Donnie Ecker and Dustin Lind -- tasked with getting the most out of them. That's not their focus, though. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Viele said the focus remains on what hitters can control. The ballpark is still going to heavily favor pitchers, and the new staff will continue to preach having a proper swing and controlling the strike zone. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"If the ball doesn't carry but we hit it really hard, in the expected numbers that really looks good," he said. "It doesn't look good in the batting average, but the expected numbers look good because you're hitting the ball hard. That's really what we can control. Swing at the right pitches and hit the ball hard."

The hope is that a solid approach leads to more success over time, and even if the Giants get Oracle'd, they still hope to hammer teams offensively on the road. They were much improved last season, but over this three-year dip, they rank 23rd in runs scored away from home, 27th in road homers, and 28th in road wRC+. The new staff is trying to teach a better approach, and Viele summed it up neatly. 

"We like to break it up into three different bullet points," he said. "It's (first), how well are you moving. That's so many things. Some people say it's dancing with the pitcher, it's the timing, how you pick up your leg, how you move forward, all these different things. Do you have a big swipe act? Do you have a big jump forward? Are you controlled? All these different things, but ultimately it's how well are you moving. Can we make you move better?"

The second focus is on the bat and what it's doing as it comes through the zone. 

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"How adjustable is your path, are you able to get on plane with multiple pitches," Viele said. 

Finally, what are you swinging at?

"How prepared are you to face that certain pitcher, how is he going to attack you and how are you going to beat him. How is he going to win," Viele said. "It's understanding those three things: How well you're moving, the bat path, and then the game-planning portion of it."