Yangervis Solarte

How Farhan Zaidi has transformed the Giants roster since Opening Day

How Farhan Zaidi has transformed the Giants roster since Opening Day

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the final road game of the first half, a group of Giants hitters took the field at Petco Park to chat with some Padres before they began stretching for batting practice. 

With most of the members of the team's longtime core still indoors, the group on the field ended up being one you couldn't have imagined on Opening Day. 

Pablo Sandoval was there, along with Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, Kevin Pillar, Tyler Austin and Austin Slater. Sandoval was the only one in the circle who was on the roster when the Giants kicked off their season at Petco Park on March 28. 

Farhan Zaidi didn't seem all too concerned when the Giants took the field with Connor Joe and Michael Reed in the outfield that day. He was willing to be patient, saying repeatedly that he would find upgrades over time. 

By the end of the first half the Giants had a much different -- and better -- roster, even if it was painful for the clubhouse at times with all the churn. 

"You look at the roster changes and yeah, sometimes you've got to do what you think is the right thing for the club," manager Bruce Bochy said last week. "We've made some changes as we've gone and we like where we're at."

The Giants used 44 players in the first half, Ray Black being the final one to walk through the door. A year ago they used 48 players all season. The upheaval started early, as Zaidi made a series of moves right before Opening Day to add depth to the entire system. That led to this Day 1 lineup:

Duggar CF (recently optioned to Triple-A)
Belt 1B
Longoria 3B
Posey C
Crawford SS
Joe LF (designated for assignment and returned to the Dodgers)
Reed RF (DFA'd and now in Triple-A)
Panik 2B 

Gerardo Parra and Yangervis Solarte pinch-hit for Joe and Reed that day and both have also been DFA'd. 

The Giants finished the first half with a lineup mix that included Pillar and Austin (acquired in April trades), Yastrzemski (acquired at the end of the spring), Slater and Donovan Solano (called up from Triple-A), Dickerson (acquired from the Padres in June) and Stephen Vogt, who started the year in Sacramento but replaced Erik Kratz. The rotation includes Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson, who were called up from Triple-A. 

A lot has changed, but the Giants are a better and deeper team than the one that started the year in San Diego. Bochy is happy with the group, although he admitted communication has been key in his final season. He had to sit down with members of his core and explain what the front office was up to as players shuttled in and out of the clubhouse. 

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There was some grumbling, even publicly, but by the end of the first half the veterans seemed in tune with the new normal. 

"Early on, I felt like that last weekend of spring training and into that first month, month and a half of the season, it felt like a revolving door,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “To Farhan's credit, he has a track record of success and of finding guys who can help in the moment and be positive contributors. That's what it's about, finding that mix of guys.”

Giants make flurry of moves, add Mac Williamson before Rockies series

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Giants make flurry of moves, add Mac Williamson before Rockies series

DENVER -- After their starters got destroyed in Cincinnati, placing a heavy load on the bullpen, it was clear the Giants had to add some depth to the pitching staff. But they're shaking up the lineup and bench, too. 

Outfielder Mac Williamson and infielder Donovan Solano had their contracts purchased Tuesday, and left-hander Williams Jerez was called up. The club parted ways with free-agent additions Yangervis Solarte and Pat Venditte and optioned Mike Gerber back to Triple-A after he went 1-for-15 in four games in Cincinnati. 

Gerardo Parra, DFA'd last Friday, also elected to become a free agent on Tuesday, meaning the Giants have already cut bait with a significant portion of what was a modest offseason free-agent class.

Venditte, a switch pitcher, was the first player who signed a big league deal under Farhan Zaidi. Utility man Solarte and outfielder Parra made the team after signing minor league deals in spring training. 

Williamson's addition is the big story, as the 28-year-old is getting what almost certainly will be his final chance to stick with the organization that drafted him in the third round seven years ago. A concussion ruined Williamson's push for an everyday job last year and he was designated for assignment at the end of spring training this season, but he went to Triple-A and hit .378 with nine homers -- including three on Monday -- and an OPS over 1.200. 

The Giants planned to give Williamson a bit more time in Triple-A, but he forced the issue with his play, and he now will get a chance to find his big league groove in the best hitters' park in the majors. 

[RELATED: Kuip wants Mac to show Giants he's here to stay long term]

Solano, a 31-year-old with more than 1,000 big league plate appearances, primarily plays second base but can move all over the infield. He had a .829 OPS in Triple-A at the time of his promotion and takes over the backup infield spot vacated by Solarte.

Solarte signed a minor league deal in February and the Giants felt they got a steal, adding a switch-hitter with decent pop to their bench. But he hit just .205 with one homer in 28 games and an OPS+ (53) that made him nearly 50 percent worse than the league average. 

Jerez was needed after the bullpen got overworked in Cincinnati. Ironically, he was called up a few hours after the Angels cut Chris Stratton.

Jerez was acquired when the Giants dealt Stratton at the end of the spring. 

Why Giants' advanced stats show bigger picture of struggles in 2019

Why Giants' advanced stats show bigger picture of struggles in 2019

The eye-test can be deceiving -- and plenty of times wrong -- but much of the Giants' season thus far is obvious. 

They're bad. 

The traditional stats on the back of a baseball card speak volumes about the 2019 Giants. Through 30 games, they rank 29th out of 30 MLB teams in batting average (.214), last in on-base percentage (.275), 28th in slugging percentage (.347), and 27th in home runs (24). 

To put their team slash line into context, MLB averages for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are .253, .320 and .415. 

While the eye-test has been clear for many aspects of the team this season, there's always a bigger story than just looking through your own lens. With the first month of the season in the books, here's a look at several advanced stats provided by Baseball Savant that have played a big role in the team's 12-18 record.

Exit Velocity

Kevin Pillar might have looked like Barry Bonds in his first seven games on the Giants, but the stats show he simply hasn't hit the ball that hard. 

Pillar and Brandon Belt are tied for the team lead in home runs with five. But Pillar has the second-worst exit velocity on the Giants, with an average of only 83.8 mph. Only Yangervis Solarte (80.5 mph) is behind. 

As a team, the Giants have an average exit velocity of 86.3 mph, which is in the bottom three percent of the league. The MLB average is 87.4 mph. The Giants have six players -- Solarte, Pillar, Gerardo Parra, Steven Duggar, Erik Kratz, and Joe Panik -- below the league average. 

Additionally, the percentage of hard-hit balls from the Giants clearly correlates to their low exit velocity as a team. They have seven players -- Solarte, Parra, Pillar, Panik, Duggar, Brandon Crawford, and Kratz -- below the league average of 34.2 percent. As a team, they are at 33.7 percent.

Launch Angle

Launch angle. Launch angle. Launch angle. Are you sick of hearing about it yet? 

No? Ok, good. 

Here's a bit of an explainer on the term. On average, a swing with less 10 degrees results in a ground ball, between 10 to 25 degrees is a line drive and 25 to 50 degrees is a fly ball. 

Currently, Belt (25 degrees) is the lone Giant to have a launch angle that consistently produces fly balls. The Giants have six players whose launch angles should result in line drives and five who have a ground-ball swing. 

As a result, the Giants' hits have been 22.6 percent fly balls, 24.4 percent line drives and 45.1 percent ground balls. League averages across the board are 21.7 percent, 25.6 percent and 45.7 percent. 

The Giants as a team have an average launch angle of 12.2 degrees, which is slightly above the MLB average of 11 degrees. 

Lack of patience 

Not only do the Giants rank last in on-base percentage, but they also rank last in walks with just 72 as a team. Much of this comes from their hitters chasing pitches and not working deep into counts. 

The Giants are chasing 31.2 percent of balls they've seen, which is more than three percent higher than the league average of 28.1 percent. And they're only making contact on 55.9 percent of pitches that they've chased, well below the league average of 60 percent. 

Led by Pablo Sandoval (46 percent) -- a notoriously good bad-ball hitter -- and Pillar (40.8 percent), the Giants have eight players that are chasing more balls than the league average.

Barrels

We're actually referring to pitching here and we're going to get quite nerdy. Bear with me here.

Here's Statcast's definition of Barrel: To be Barreled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner Barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands.

The Giants have an elite case here in reliever Will Smith and worrisome one in starter Derek Holland.

[RELATED: Giants' pitching struggles on tough homestand]

Of the 169 pitches that Smith has thrown this season, zero have been barrelled. Not a single one. He has a 3.38 ERA in 11 appearances this year, but that's largely due to three earned runs Sunday against the Yankees. 

Holland has been the opposite of Smith. He has allowed 14 barrels this season and his 18.2 barrel percentage is in the bottom-two percent of baseball. Holland, 1-4 with a 5.34 ERA, was recently placed on the 10-day IL with a bruised left index finger.

Through the first month of the season, the Giants find themselves in last place of the NL West. The eye-test has shown us what a struggle this season has been so far, and a handful of advanced stats paint an even bigger picture.