Willie McCovey's stats show his place as league's most-feared slugger


Willie McCovey's stats show his place as league's most-feared slugger

SAN FRANCISCO — For the next couple of months, the baseball world will center around Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Machado hit 37 homers in 2018 and slugged .538. Harper hit 34 homers and slugged .496. 

Willie McCovey slugged .515 … for his entire career.

Over 22 seasons and 8,197 at-bats, McCovey had an average slugging percentage that would put him right on par with today’s biggest stars. At his peak, he was as dangerous as any hitter, breaking the .600 mark in three different seasons and slugging .656 in 1969, when he won the National League’s MVP award.

In an organization that also featured Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, it sometimes has been difficult for McCovey, who died Wednesday at age 80, to get his share of credit as a pure hitter. He was known as a humble star, and he certainly wasn't the type to tell you what he accomplished. But as you celebrate McCovey, maybe take a few minutes to look back at his numbers, which put him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he was eligible for the first time in 1986.

McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1959 and never stopped hitting. He had double-digit homers in 17 consecutive seasons to start his career, making the All-Star team six times. He had seven 30-homer seasons, hitting 44 in 1963 and 45 in 1969. Even with the offensive explosion of the past two decades, McCovey still is tied with Frank Thomas for 20th all time with 521 homers. 

That 1969 season was McCovey’s best, and he edged Tom Seaver for the MVP award. McCovey had a .320/.453/.656 slash line that year, leading the league in OBP and slugging. He drove in 126 runs and posted an OPS+ of 209.

Years before teams decided to stop pitching to Barry Bonds, they did the same with McCovey. He shattered the previous NL mark by drawing 45 intentional walks in 1969, and the next year he got 40 more. McCovey led the league in intentional walks again in 1971 and 1973.

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

One team reportedly might be making their final push to sign Bryce Harper, and it's not the Giants. 

Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton's private jet was in Las Vegas -- hometown of the free-agent outfielder -- on Friday, a "person in that city" told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. 

This does not, however, mean the Phillies and Harper are quite ready to complete a deal, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday night.

Hours earlier, the Washington Nationals ruled themselves out of signing Harper. The Nationals drafted Harper No. 1 overall in 2010, and he has played all 927 games of his major league career in a Nats uniform to this point.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Friday night that the Nationals want Harper to sign anywhere but with their NL East rivals. 

Although the Giants are one of the last remaining teams in the mix, NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Friday that San Francisco doesn't "intend to do dollar-to-dollar" with Philadelphia. 

[RELATED: When Giants' spring training competitions will start]

Yet, that doesn't mean this all comes as a surprise to the Giants. They already saw the Phillies as the favorites to land Harper. 

If Middleton's presence in Las Vegas leads to something larger, the Giants might not have to wait for Harper's official decision all that much longer. 

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Real baseball gets closer by the day, and on Friday morning, we finally got a 2019 Giants lineup. 

Well, kind of. 

The group that will take the field Saturday against the Angels includes potentially just one starter, depending on who you think will win the jobs in left and right. But there still will be plenty to watch. 

Cameron Maybin and Yangervis Solarte will make their Giants debuts, hitting first and third, respectively. Mac Williamson, Austin Slater and Henry Ramos, all fighting for outfield jobs, will start. Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is starting in center. Aramis Garcia, who hopes to win a backup job, will catch Chris Stratton. 

Stratton may be in the toughest spot. He is out of options and seventh on the starting depth chart. 

"He's a guy we look at as a starter and a long man," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The guys that are out of options, we've got to make a call there for sure."

Stratton has had some dominant stretches at the big league level but hasn't shown consistency. Ditto for Ty Blach, who will be stretched out this spring but profiles as a reliever moving forward. Although you never know ...

"You saw what happened last year," Bochy said, smiling. "He ended up being our Opening Day starter."

Bochy plans to have Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik in the lineup Sunday for the home Cactus League opener. He had previously said that Buster Posey, coming off hip surgery, will not play until March 1. On Friday, Bochy said Steven Duggar (shoulder surgery) and Ryder Jones (knee surgery) will also be held out until March 1. 

Duggar still should have plenty of time to try to win the job in center. 

"This was the plan," Bochy said. "But he's doing well. He's doing just about everything. We just don't want him diving for a ball."

--- The main story today is on Mac Williamson, who battled a concussion last season. He opened up about how difficult the summer was. 

--- Nick Vincent passed his physical last night and is officially a Giant. 

"A good arm, a good pitcher," Bochy said. "He increases our depth on the bullpen side."

[RELATED: Is Bryce Harper bidding now two-team race between Giants, Phillies?]

The Giants will have some pretty good arms headed for Sacramento no matter how this all plays out. On a related note, the River Cats announced that they're lowering some of their ticket prices. Even before this, that was a place I have always recommended to Giants fans. It's a really fun place to watch a game.