Giants

What to make of massive changes to Giants coaching staff

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USATI

What to make of massive changes to Giants coaching staff

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.”

Giants notes: Chris Shaw shakes off confusing call, drives in game-winner

Giants notes: Chris Shaw shakes off confusing call, drives in game-winner

SAN DIEGO — The Giants have had one of the better replay records in baseball since the system was installed, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy with the process. Several calls have baffled manager Bruce Bochy this season, and on Tuesday he couldn’t understand how a fan wasn’t called for interference for getting in the way of left fielder Chris Shaw’s glove.

Shaw went back to the wall and leapt for a Franmil Reyes fly ball. He thought he was about to rob a homer for the first time in his career. Instead, a man in an aqua t-shirt got his hands in the way and pulled the ball into the seats. 

“I just don't understand it. If that’s not interference, I don’t know what is,” Bochy said. “The only thing they tell us is that it came from (the office) in New York. It looked like definite interference to me. I don’t get it.”

Luckily for the Giants, the call didn’t cost them a win. Shaw made sure of that. The homer gave the Padres a one-run lead, but Shaw came up in the eighth with the bases loaded and poked a two-run bloop single into left. He thought he got enough of it for a sacrifice fly. It ended up being a positive that he didn’t hit the ball as hard as he thought, though. Padres left fielder Hunter Renfroe’s dive came up short and the Giants took a 5-4 lead that held up. 

“I was pretty pissed off right there,” Shaw said of the sequence that started with the fan robbing him. “I thought I had a chance to take two runs off the board. Coming up in that position, that’s where you want to be.”

Shaw got his first start against a lefty, but it was right-hander Craig Stammen on the mound in his biggest at-bat. Bochy liked that he put the ball in play.

“Good things happen when you put it in play,” he said. “He didn’t hit it good, but he put it in play.”

For a player plagued by strikeouts his first two weeks in the majors, that was a big moment. Nick Hundley scored easily and Brandon Crawford got an incredible read, nearly running up Hundley’s back as he tagged at third. Third base coach Ron Wotus said he never even had a decision to make. Crawford saw that the ball was going to drop and he was headed home regardless. It gave Shaw a game-winning hit. 

“That’s incredible baserunning,” Shaw said. “Obviously he’s got great instincts.”

--- The main story tonight is on Hunter Pence and his future. 

--- Aramis Garcia has a hit in eight of his nine career games. Before this one, Bochy said Garcia will get a lot of starts at first over the next 10 games with Brandon Belt’s knee ailing. 

--- Will Smith recorded his 14th save, tying Hunter Strickland for the team lead. Smith gave up a double, but this one never seemed in much doubt. That’s what he does, and there seems no doubt he’ll enter next spring as the club’s closer.

After fueling Giants win, Hunter Pence unsure if he'll play in 2019

After fueling Giants win, Hunter Pence unsure if he'll play in 2019

SAN DIEGO — A decade from now, when former Giants gather at AT&T Park to celebrate a dynasty, Hunter Pence may be remembered more for his words off the field than his play on it. As good as he was, as powerful as he was at the plate in his prime, Pence’s enduring legacy will be the speeches he gave in 2012, the motivation he provided over the following years, the ability to grab a microphone and speak from the heart, representing an entire organization in good times and bad. 

Buster Posey was the face of the dynasty. Madison Bumgarner was the best player on the field most of the time. But Pence was the one who would be given the stage when a message needed to be sent to fans. He has rarely been at a loss for words, but on Tuesday night, his voice was quiet when he was presented with a question he seems to have been dreading in recent weeks. 

Will you play next year?

“We’ll see,” Pence said, not offering anything further. 

He has stuck to that message over the final month of a five-year contract signed at the end of the 2013 season. Pence has politely declined requests to talk about his future in baseball, but late in a disappointing year, he has left some in the organization with the belief that he will try to continue his career next season at the age of 36. If he does, he will not get the opportunity to do so in San Francisco. 

The Giants know they need to move on. Get younger, more flexible, more dynamic. Pence, traded from Philadelphia at the deadline in 2012, has 10 games left in orange and black. He made the most of a night in San Diego on Tuesday, driving in three runs and hitting a mammoth homer in a 5-4 win over the Padres. While he did not give any hints about his future afterward, he did seem to acknowledge the nature of his future with the Giants. 

“I’m trying to enjoy and give everything I have every day, but it is pretty special,” he said. “It’s been an incredible time for me being part of the Giants organization for this long and I’ve loved every bit of it. I’m going to continue to do so until it’s officially over.”

The end will come at home, and while the Giants have not made any official plans, you can bet Pence will run out to right field at least once next weekend, trying to make the most of any at-bats he’s given. He talked Tuesday about making adjustments and working to get better. He has had no trouble finding motivation to do so, even if the scoreboard says he’s hitting .215, and even if the two-run shot Tuesday was just his third in 200 at-bats. 

“I’m always motivated,” he said. “I love to play. I love the game. It matters. It matters to all of us.”

This performance certainly mattered to Pence’s teammates. Starter Derek Holland said it was great to see, calling Pence “the perfect teammate.” 

“He definitely deserves a lot more praise than he’s been getting,” Holland said. 

Let’s offer it, then. Pence has still maintained some tremendous physical gifts. At times, his batting practice displays have put him in the lineup. Members of the staff stand behind the cage and watch him go moonshot-for-moonshot with Madison Bumgarner. They wonder if he can run into one in a game. They lean on hope. 

On Tuesday, those hopes were rewarded. Pence’s 437-foot homer gave him two of the five longest bombs of the season for the Giants. It was the second-longest homer of the night in Major League Baseball, and when he smacked a pitch down the right field line two innings later and hustled into second for a double, he had the second-fastest home-to-second time of the night. At 8.08 seconds, Pence nestled in right between speedy Astros outfielder Tony Kemp (8.05) and Rays rookie Joey Wendle (8.08).

Perhaps those are the snapshots that Pence will hold onto this offseason if he goes through grueling workouts. The Giants will remember him for so many other highlights, many in the biggest spots this game has to offer. There’s a reason he still gets standing ovations every time he digs into the batter’s box. There’s a reason his manager smiled when he thought about his right fielder’s big night. 

“Good for him,” Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got a different role and he just keeps working and keeping himself ready. It’s good to see him have some success.”