SAN FRANCISCO — In retrospect, we all probably should have seen the massive coaching changes coming. Not because the Giants lost 98 games this past season, but because they talked openly at the end of the year about adding multiple stats-inclined people to the front office.
The Giants are trying to catch up to a game now built on homers and strikeouts, and while it’s yet to be seen what they can do on the field, general manager Bobby Evans has taken a sledgehammer to the coaching staff. The first hire, Matt Herges as bullpen coach, is perhaps a sign of things to come. Herges comes from a Dodgers organization that is on the cutting edge and has a huge office at Dodger Stadium dedicated to analytics and new ways of attacking the game. In discussing the reassignments of Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner last week, Evans hinted that the next pitching coach would have more of an analytical background.
On Friday, on a conference call with beat writers, manager Bruce Bochy said that when all is said and done, “you may see maybe a little bit more of (that analytical approach).”
“I know that’s certainly been part of the discussion,” Bochy said. “It’s not that this staff wasn’t open-minded — some guys were maybe more into it than others. I think as a staff we’re open-minded and I think the front office certainly feels like that. I think Bobby feels like that."
Bochy noted that conversations have been had in the organization for a couple of years about where the game is going. This wasn't something that started during a brutal 2017 season. The Giants are not nearly as old-school as outsiders might think, but they did have a coaching staff that had been together for a while, and the sense in the front office was that some new voices were needed. At the very least, these changes should allow for more engagement between the front office and the coaching staff, a trend elsewhere in the game.
“We have a tremendous baseball ops (department) that provides all the analytics that we need,” Bochy said. “We try to use them and we try to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on with the game. I think like with all clubs, you’re seeing more and more of it being used. It’s become more prevalent with all clubs, including with ours.”
A second hint that this is an emphasis came with the second round of shuffling. As hitting coach, Hensley Meulens worked hard to get his hitters to embrace launch angles and exit velocities and all the new metrics that rule the cage. He will now serve as Bochy’s bench coach. From the outside, Ron Wotus appeared to be another member of the staff who fully embraced the changing game, and he helped lead the Giants into the defensive shift era. Like Meulens, Wotus was kept in the dugout, and Bochy said he will continue to position the defense as he serves as third base coach.
We should know in the next couple of weeks how far the Giants are truly going with all this. They are interviewing candidates for both hitting coach positions as well as pitching coach. While the new coaches should bring a new approach, Bochy noted that he hopes the next pitching coach also brings many of the same qualities Righetti did.
“He was one of the iconic pitching coaches in the game,” Bochy said. “We don’t get three World Series in five years without Rags.”
They also won’t get to a fourth without a slew of other changes. Perhaps the new staff will help lead the organization in a new direction. Perhaps the Giants really do need to catch up to the behind-the-scenes work being done by the likes of the Dodger and Astros, two of the more stats-based organizations in the game.
But in talking about the changes to his staff, Bochy offered a reminder that you can’t just try and emulate the Dodgers and Astros off the field and hope for the best.
“It starts with the talent (on the field),” he said. “And they’re certainly not lacking there, as you can tell.”