San Francisco Giants – Five Things Learned In 20 Games

Giants five things learned

The San Francisco Giants have completed 20 games, which is already 33% of their schedule. The team currently has a record of 8-12, in last place in the NL West. However, with eight teams making the playoffs, if the Giants can get back to around .500, they would likely make the playoffs. The real question is whether the Giants should shoot for the playoffs, or focus on playing the younger players and rebuilding. The Giants have shown five things that could be learned about the team early on.

With 20 games already completed, they have played some interesting baseball. At this point, here are the five key observations that have come to the forefront.

Offensive Surprises

First and foremost, the offense is a lot better than expected. Young players and some of the recently acquired players are leading the way. Donovan Solano, Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater are charging the offense.

Solano is off to an unbelievable start, hitting .458, which is second in the National League. His nine doubles are tied for the league lead, while his 27 hits rank second only to Charlie Blackmon. In addition, Solano’s 15 RBI put him in a tie for fourth in the league.

Yastrzemski has continued his emergence as the Giants best all-around player. After a breakout year for the Giants in 2019, Yaz has continued his offensive production. He is currently hitting .314, with an OBP of .448 and OPS of 1.077. He has hit four home runs and his 17 walks leads the league.

Slater is perhaps the biggest surprise for the Giants offensively. He is currently hitting .342, with an OPS of 1.076. Originally viewed as a platoon player against left-handed pitching, Slater has had some key hits against right-handed pitching, as well. He is vying for a full-time role, as long as he can stay healthy.

Slater is currently nursing a sore elbow and Solano has an abdominal strain. The Giants can ill afford to have either player out for long.

Defense

Perhaps the biggest disappointment thus far has been the Giants abysmally poor defense. They lead all of baseball with 21 errors, more than one per game. However, that does not tell the entire story. There have been several plays that could have been made that were not called errors. In addition, the Giants have missed double play opportunities, missed their cutoff men from the outfield and even botched a run-down play. The Giants have also had four catcher’s interference calls, which do count as errors. To put this in perspective, in Buster Posey‘s entire career, he has only had three.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the over-abundance of errors is the constant shifting of players to multiple positions. Giants manager Gabe Kapler and President Farhan Zaidi have espoused positional flexibility as is the trend across baseball. However, the continual movement of players to different positions does not allow them to get comfortable in any one spot defensively.

Solano, the Giants top hitter is also having the worst defensive showing of his career. A large part of that is the Giants continue to shift him from second base to shortstop and to third base. Mauricio Dubon is constantly moving from second base to shortstop to center field. Wilmer Flores has played second base, third base and first base. Alex Dickerson, is playing both left field and right field. Darin Ruf is being asked to play first base and left field.

All of these players have had defensive problems. Outside of perhaps Dubon, it’s time for Kapler to stop moving them all over the field and allow them to settle in to one position for awhile and gain their confidence in the field.

The Giants’ defensive lapses are tough to watch and have put undue pressure on their pitchers. The poor defense has cost the Giants a few wins and they need every win they can get, if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

Poor Veteran Performances

The third thing witnessed is a very poor showing by several of the Giants’ veterans. Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria are all not producing. Combined, these five have 37 hits in 214 at-bats, a .173 average. They have three home runs and 16 RBI, collectively. Only Longoria and Crawford are over the .200 mark, with averages of .213 and .208 respectively.

After an All-Star season in 2019 with the Texas Rangers, Pence is off to an incredibly slow start. He is hitting only .105, with an OBP of .150 and slugging percentage of .237.

Belt is arguably the most polarizing figure on the Giants’ roster. He is a solid defensive player, but his offensive production has never lived up to expectations. His slash line of .135/.238/.243, is simply putrid for a starting first baseman.

Sandoval has also been a disappointment. With a batting average of .179, he is about 100 points below his weight. Sandoval also has no extra base hits and only one RBI. It appears that the extra weight the Panda is carrying has slowed his bat down.

Inconsistent Bullpen

The fourth area is something that was largely expected and now confirmed. The Giants bullpen, being so young and unproven, is extremely inconsistent. Only Trevor Gott, who has assumed the closer role, has been consistently effective. In six innings of work, Gott has an ERA of 1.50 and WHIP of 1.000. He has one of the Giants’ eight wins and also four saves.

Outside of Gott, the pitchers the Giants typically use out of the bullpen have thrown a combined total of 71 2/3 innings, allowed 69 hits and 40 walks, for a WHIP of 1.520. The relief corps has also allowed a total of 47 runs, for an ERA of 6.55.

Manager Moves

The fifth eye-opening thing seen in these first twenty games is some very questionable managerial decisions by Kapler. In addition to not letting players get comfortable defensively, his handling of the pitching staff has not been good.

Two prime examples of this occurred just this past week. Kapler left a tiring Johnny Cueto in too long on Saturday, only to give up a three-run home run to Justin Turner. Fortunately, the Giants pulled out the 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, the biggest gaffe was taking out Kevin Gausman in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game when the Giants had a 2-0 lead. Gausman had a shutout going and had only allowed three hits. He was still throwing the ball in the upper 90’s and had great command. Kapler opted to remove Gausman after he allowed a single and had reached 80 pitches.

That was a move made by a manager that is following a set formula and not having a good feel for the game. Gausman was obviously still strong and pitching the best game of the year so far for the Giants. What was even more peculiar was that Kapler chose to bring in Tyler Rogers, who had thrown two innings the night before. The move backfired when Mookie Betts belted a three-run home run to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. LA went on to feast on the Giants’ bullpen and defeated the Giants 6-2.

At this point in the season, the Giants still have a chance to make the playoffs. However, the offense must continue to produce and they must improve in their deficient areas to make that a reality.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images