Giants

Source: Giants let go of longtime strength coach ahead of more changes

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USATSI

Source: Giants let go of longtime strength coach ahead of more changes

SAN FRANCISCO — In the midst of their worst losing streak in nearly 70 years, the Giants have made the first of what is expected to be a flood of changes. 

Strength and conditioning coach Carl Kochan was let go Thursday, NBC Sports Bay Area has learned. Kochan was in his seventh season in charge of strength and conditioning at the Major League level and had come up through the organization’s minor-league system. He worked with players like Brandon Crawford and Madison Bumgarner shortly after they got drafted.

Kochan was a popular member of the staff and often was mentioned by players after games, but the Giants expect to clean house a bit over the next couple of months. 

“This is what happens when you’re having a season like this,” said one person briefed on Kochan’s firing. 

Kochan’s firing came as a shock to several players Friday, and some did not know as they took the field for batting practice. Kochan normally would be out on the field early, leading pitchers in conditioning drills before doing the same with the position players. 

The move was a surprise because of the timing, but for several days team officials have talked about how nobody is safe when the team is playing this poorly. More changes are coming, per one source, although it’s unclear how much more the Giants may do before the season ends. The Giants have made multiple changes to Bruce Bochy's coaching staff over the past two offseasons, and one source said people at all levels of the organization are being evaluated right now. 

Multiple players expressed disappointment Friday that Kochan was let go with 15 games remaining, pointing out that he has nothing to do with the issues on the field. The Giants have lost 11 straight in large part because the lineup is hitting .193 in September and averaging 2.4 runs per game. 

Giants takeaways: What you might've missed in 5-1 loss vs. Astros

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USATSI

Giants takeaways: What you might've missed in 5-1 loss vs. Astros

BOX SCORE

The Giants knew this was going to be the toughest trip of the year. It lived up to expectations.

With a 5-1 loss the Houston Astros on Wednesday night, the Giants finished with a 3-7 record on the trip, getting one win apiece in Denver, Los Angeles and Houston. The last game was close into the middle innings, but the Astros pulled away with a big frame off of the Giants' bullpen and Gabe Kapler's lineup did nothing against old foe Zack Greinke.

Here are three things to know from the final night of a three-city trip ...

The Big Inning

The Giants have made a habit of falling behind, and on Wednesday it was because of a four-run sixth inning. The staff got away with a half-dozen early walks, but six hits in the bottom of the sixth helped the Astros pull away.

Martin Maldonado had the big one, a three-run homer off rookie Caleb Baragar.


D-Rod's Return

Dereck Rodriguez made his season debut in the third, and it was immediately clear that the velocity uptick that impressed coaches in recent bullpen sessions had translated. Rodriguez maxed out at 95.4 mph with his fastball, which was his best velo since his third month in the big leagues in 2018. He averaged 92.8 mph, which was better than any single-game average from his 2019 season.

The added velocity is crucial to Rodriguez, a right-hander who relies on a varied mix and was getting knocked around last year when he was around 91. The results in his season debut were mixed, though.

Rodriguez gave up three hits and walked two in 2 1/3 innings. He was charged with just one earned run, although he did leave a bit of a mess that Baragar cleaned up in the fifth.

[RELATED: New Giants catchers thriving in this advanced statistic]

Short Debut

Before the game, manager Gabe Kapler said Trevor Cahill had 45 to 50 pitches in him as he made his Giants debut. Cahill was coming off a finger injury that kept him from making the Opening Day roster.

Cahill ended up recording just five outs before his count got too high, but he didn't give up a hit. He walked four but the misses were pretty competitive. All in all, it was enough that Cahill should be in line to start again next week.

New Giants catchers thriving in this advanced defensive statistic

New Giants catchers thriving in this advanced defensive statistic

How do you make up the gap when you still have a large talent deficit most times you take the field? The Giants are trying to do it by exploiting every edge, from platoons to increased shifts to aggressive use of relievers. 

There have been mixed results, but when it comes to the catchers, there's a clear area where they're excelling in finding an edge. 

Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp have had their growing pains as rookies, but both have done a pretty good job at pitch framing, an area of emphasis for new bullpen coach/catching coach Craig Albernaz. 

Per Baseball Savant's framing metrics, Heineman ranks 15th and Tromp is 17th (out of 55 qualified catchers) in strike rate, which looks at how often a catcher converts non-swing pitches into strikes when they're in the "shadow zone," which Savant counts as one ball width inside the zone and one ball width outside. In layman's terms, it's how often catchers are stealing strikes on the edges of the zone with their framing. 

The league average is 49.1 percent. Heineman is at 52.4 percent and Tromp is at 52.1.

"One of (Albernaz's) main points of emphasis is how we can swing counts in our favor for our pitchers, and some of the most important work that they can do is keeping balls that are strikes in the zone," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think they've done a nice job of that so far and they've responded to Albie's emphasis, and as a staff I think we all believe that the number one job of a catcher is to kind of make a pitcher look great. From that standpoint, the catchers have done a nice job."

[RELATED: Giants activate Cahill, Rodriguez]

The two newcomers have gone about it in similar ways but with different styles. Heineman has been particularly adept at framing pitches on the left edge of the zone, ranking first overall in that area so far, while Tromp is 10th. Tromp ranks eighth on framing low strikes (Heineman has been good there, too, ranking 12th) while using a unique method. Like several other catchers around the game -- including Houston's Gold Glover Martin Maldonado -- Tromp often gets down on his right knee to receive low pitches. It's a setup that might cost him a wild pitch here or there, but should help him steal strikes. 

"The one-knee setup is something that we feel actually makes him slightly more athletic and enables him to push in both directions and be stable and balanced," Kapler said. "It's definitely a work in progress and a focused area of development for Tromp, but it also enables him to get up underneath the low strike, and I think part of the reason that his receiving numbers have been good so far is that the unconventional setup works well for him."

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