Rick Schu

How Giants Steven Duggar handles highs and lows of first full season


How Giants Steven Duggar handles highs and lows of first full season

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have shuffled plenty of players in and out of the lineup this season, particularly in the outfield. But when it comes to their 25-year-old center fielder, they're willing to let Steven Duggar take his lumps. 

Duggar's defense is such a plus that he brings something to the table on a nightly basis even when he's slumping. And as the staff has watched him try and adjust to big league pitching, there hasn't been much concern about the mental side of the game. 

"The thing you love about him is how even-keel he is every single day," assistant hitting coach Rick Schu said. 

Duggar comes to make adjustments every day, and while his numbers are down from his rookie year, the Giants plan to keep running him out there -- he leads the team in at-bats -- and feels he has shown improvement over the last week after making swing changes. Duggar has worked to shorten up at the plate, and he had a nice two-game swing with the Padres, hitting a two-run shot on Tuesday and scoring twice Wednesday when his speed was on full display. 

In his second at-bat of that game, Duggar hit a slow roller up the middle and ended up on second when a ball was thrown away, scoring a few moments later on a single to left. In his third at-bat, he topped one 20 feet in front of the plate and again ended up on second when the ball was thrown away. 

The speed has at times helped a struggling lineup, but for the most part, Duggar has been disappointed by his first two months as a locked-in starter. His OPS is down 51 points, his strikeout rate remains near 30 percent, and he has just one stolen base. The adjustment to the big leagues is a tough one. 

"I was telling somebody the other day, you get one pitch an at-bat, maybe. If you miss that pitch, you've got to go into battle mode," Duggar said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "It's tough to hit when you're behind in the count, it's tough to hit when you start missing pitches you should be hitting. It's just trying to grow from that and try to get better every day. 

[RELATED: Duggar set lofty goal stealing 30 bases]

"We all run into slumps every now and then and you get in your own way sometimes, but at the end of the day, hard work and smart work gives you a better chance to succeed."

Duggar went in depth about the highs and lows of this first half, and what he is trying to enjoy about big league life. You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis


Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis

Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his assistant hitting coach Rick Schu disagree on comparisons. Bochy sees Steve Finley, Schu sees a a current outfielder who racked up accolades this season. 

Steven Duggar, the Giants smooth center fielder who recently turned 25 years old, fits the mold of both players with his superb defense and left-handed stroke. When Duggar arrived in San Francisco from Triple-A Sacramento on July 8 though, Schu knew changes need to be made to get the prospect into the veteran he could see. 

"The biggest word I can use is aptitude," Schu said Thursday night on KNBR when asked about Duggar. "He came up coming off 100-something strikeouts in Triple-A. He's coming up to the big leagues striking out with a big leg kick, kind of gliding into path. That's not gonna work.

"I was like dude, 'You're gonna make a living putting that ball in play. You need to simplify, put barrel to the ball. Who you need to see is Nick Markakis.'" 

[PAVLOVIC: Giants believe Steven Duggar could end long-running center field saga]

Markakis, who turns 10 years older than Duggar on Saturday, is coming off his first All-Star campaign. Helping lead the Braves to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Markakis slashed .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 43 doubles. The numbers resulted in his first Silver Slugger.

The comparison of the two, just like glimpses of Finley, makes plenty of sense. 

Both outfielders are known more for their glove than their bat despite their offense being far from a detriment to the team. They also have similar lanky, yet muscular builds. Markakis stands 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds while Duggar is one inch taller and 189 pounds with room to fill in more weight as he matures. At the plate, the left-handers even have similar upright stances with their knees slightly bent. 

[PAVLOVIC: Giants Review: Steven Duggar looks ready for everyday shot in center]

"I sent him video of Nick and I go, 'This is who you are. Modify your leg kick, have a two-strike approach, put the ball forward and you'll have success.' And then he was hummin'. I was so fired up, it was really exciting," Schu said. 

But then Duggar's season came to an end on August 29 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder from diving back into second base. He slashed .255/.303/.390 with two home runs and 11 doubles. As he gets more at-bats under him in the big leagues, Schu believes Duggar's power will blossom. 

"He's got some pop in his bat too," Schu said. "And like I say with aptitude. Just the adjustments he made at the big-league level. What he brought to the table wasn't gonna work up here, so he made some adjustments, simplified things and he was able to take it into the games. It was huge." 

No matter if his future is that of Finley or Markakis, the Giants couldn't be any more enthused with what's next for Steven Duggar. 

Why Meulens vouched for Giants to hire Powell as new hitting coach


Why Meulens vouched for Giants to hire Powell as new hitting coach

Hensley Meulens is in a new role with the Giants. After serving as the team's hitting coach from 2010 to 2017, Meulens is shifting his baseball knowledge to the bench in 2018. 

Even though he won't primarily deal with hitters and their approach, Meulens had a loud voice in the next man to do his former job. So, why was Meulens so adamant about the Giants hiring Alonzo Powell? 

First and foremost, trust. 

"Well, you know, I've known 'Zo for 30 years," Meulens said Saturday on KNBR. "We played together in independent ball, we played at the same time in Japan, so we're similar. I think he's a guy that's a grinder, a guy that's been all over the place. 

"He's won two straight batting titles in Japan, which is difficult to do as a foreign player. ... I trust him and I trust that he can gain the players' trust and that's an important thing. That's the most important thing when you're trying to get across to the hitter. Does he trust me? Can I talk to him?" 

After being signed by the Giants out of Lincoln High School in 1983 and struggling in the majors for two seasons between the Expos and Mariners, Powell starred in Japan. Over seven seasons in Japan, Powell batted .313/.371/.510 with 116 home runs. 

The 53-year-old was the assistant hitting coach on last season's World Series-winning Astros. Meulens believes Powell, along with new assistant hitting coach Rick Schu, can lead a revamped lineup with more of an analytical approach. 

"I think in both places they used the sabermetrics a little more than we used to over here," Meulens said. "The approach is going to be whatever they implement, I don't know. 

"I know it's [the teaching] not going to change too much, but we can have a potent offense." 

The Giants' offense was at or near the bottom of baseball in multiple categories last year while Powell and Schu helped lead potent attacks in Houston and Washington respectively.