by Dr Lefty
OK, OK, I know I did a lot of complaining in my post yesterday, and I know that an irritating week on jury duty and even an icky situation with a colleague are not as tragic as what many people face every day.
One good thing that did happen this week–besides getting our 2017 taxes successfully filed on Monday–was that our long-planned front yard landscaping remodel was finished. It had been delayed due to rain, started, stopped again due to rain, and it was finally finished on Friday. We scrapped our big thirsty lawn for some more drought-friendly landscaping. It will look even better when the baby plants give it more color, but I thought our guys did a fantastic job.
OK, the game
As I mentioned yesterday, I was at the River Cats game last night and didn’t see the Giants game. This tweet from @LOLKNBR appears to sum it up, though.
Looks pretty pretty pretty safe, but I didn’t watch one second of the game and I’ve had a few. https://t.co/1nj9QuoFEO
— LOLKNBR (@LOLKNBR) April 15, 2018
I didn’t “have a few” (or any–really!), but everything I read and saw suggests that Panik was safe. Now, if that run had scored, the game’s ultimately tied 5-5, so you can’t entirely say that it “cost the Giants the game,” but it’s frustrating. Why bother having replay if the umpire’s imperfect call on the field is Holy Scripture that cannot be questioned?
This angle, tweeted to Henry Schulman by a viewer, appears to show Ellis missing the tag and Panik’s heel on the plate.
Generally speaking, it didn’t appear that the beat writers felt the home plate umpire was having a good night.
Enjoy your evening in San Diego, professional umpire Rob Drake! pic.twitter.com/LrItYErWBA
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) April 15, 2018
Oh, well. Joe Panik had the best perspective on it, I thought.
“I didn’t ask for an explanation. With replay, it is what they say it is,” he said. “I didn’t even take a look (at a replay) because at this point, it doesn’t matter. They’re getting calls right for the most part. They take their time. And it doesn’t matter what we think.
“It’s not something you can cry about.”
The story of the game is not really the blown call and replay on Panik’s slide at the plate. It’s really as simple as this: The Giants’ banged-up pitching staff got them into an early hole and blew a lead that their revamped offense had given them. That’s pretty much what we expected 2+ weeks ago when the season started, right? The surprises have been that (a) the “revamped offense” hasn’t done much, overall and (b) it’s “the banged-up pitching staff” that has kept the team borderline respectable (=not in last place yet) through a brutal early-season schedule.
Last night’s game, though, was more true to the original script. For his third start in a row, Derek Holland got the team into a two-run first-inning hole. Now, all three times, he’s ended up limiting the damage. But the Giants’ struggling offense doesn’t need first-inning holes, and the team is 0-3 in Holland’s starts. In this particular game, though, the Giants did rally, giving Holland a 3-2 and then 4-2 lead, but he gave a run back in the fifth, couldn’t finish that inning, and then Cory Gearrin had his Worst Birthday Ever, giving up the two-run homer that would decide the game. There was more good work from rookies Reyes Moronta (relieving Holland) and Pierce Johnson (finishing the game), and Tony Watson got himself into and out of trouble. But the damage was done.
The sad part was that the newcomers, Longoria, McCutchen and Jackson, all contributed offensively, driving in all four of the Giants’ runs. Longoria hit this impressive homer, and McCutchen got one, too. As for Jackson, he had this two-out RBI hit with a runner in scoring position. This tweet from the Chronicle’s John Shea is snarky but on point:
Giants get hit with runner in scoring position, schedule parade for Monday.
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) April 15, 2018
Anyway, this is what teams with losing records do: When they get good pitching, they don’t hit. When they get some offense, they can’t hold leads. Hopefully the Giants can put some things together soon, but after last year, it gets hard to remain optimistic. But it is early, and they are missing their top three starting pitchers, and…well, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Big Mac Attack
You didn’t need me on the spot at the River Cats game to hear the news that Mac Williamson hit a homer for his fourth game in a row, fifth overall. This is getting to be big news in the Giants’ Twitterverse and blog-o-sphere, and it’s news even in minor league baseball, as Mac is leading the PCL in hitting, OBP, slugging, OPS, and home runs.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 15, 2018
So the numbers. Williamson has played eight games for Sacramento and is 14 for 28 with three doubles, five homers, and 13 RBIs, for a slash line of .500/.611/1.143/1.754. Maybe the most impressive stat: Mac has more walks (5) than strikeouts (4).
We’ve all seen hot hitters in AAA come up to the majors and fizzle (see Arroyo, Christian, 2017). But Mac’s hot streak is more interesting than most because of his offseason work with hitting guru Doug Latta, the same guy who helped Justin Turner morph from a guy DFA’d from the Mets a few years ago to an All-Star/MVP candidate for the Dodgers. Mac had a great spring but was a relatively early cut. If you take Mac’s Cactus League stats with the Giants combined with his early PCL stats, he now has nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 72 ABs since changing his swing.
Since I know there are some Mac Doubters (to put it mildly) among us, let’s dispel a couple of common myths about him.
Myth 1: Mac has raked in AAA before and it meant nothing.
Fact: Mac has actually never “raked” in AAA until now. He has now spent parts of four seasons there dating back to 2015, and his best year to date was 2016, in which he had an .809 OPS and 14 homers in 209 at-bats. That is good but not amazing (he also had a .269 batting average and 53 strikeouts, neither of which are great AAA indicators). This history plus the swing change plus the current hot streak suggests that something is different now.
Myth 2: Mac has “had his chances” in the big leagues and never taken advantage of them.
Fact: This is partially but not entirely true. Let’s again look at the history.
2015: After a so-so turn in a partial season in AAA (189 ABs), Mac did not initially receive a September call-up, but the 2015 Giants had so many late injuries that they finally summoned him, at least two weeks after the AAA season had ended. As the story went, he was on a fishing boat off the coast of North Carolina with family and they had to radio the boat to get him to San Francisco for his MLB debut on Sept. 23. He had 32 ABs and didn’t do much, but no one had really thought he was ready to begin with, and he probably was even less ready after being on vacation for a few weeks.
2016: Despite another hot spring, Mac was sent to AAA to start the season. The Giants again had many outfield injuries, including a serious one to Pence that required hamstring surgery. Mac bounced back and forth between AAA and SF all year in five separate call-ups, and the only sustained run of play he had was in July, when he actually got to start some games and get regular ABs. That month, in 62 plate appearances, he hit .264/.371/.528/.899, with 4 homers and 11 RBIs. Most memorable, of course, was the homer he hit in Fenway Park to spark a spirited comeback attempt–that fell short after Bochy inexplicably pinch-hit a struggling Gregor Blanco for Mac with the bases loaded his next time up. A couple of nights later, Mac hit an RBI double in Yankee Stadium to help Andrew Miller earn one of his few blown saves that year. The next day, Mac drove in the winning run in an extra-inning game.
2017: Mac, along with Jarrett Parker, opened spring training as “Plan A” for left field, though it was clear that Parker was always the front-runner due to his option situation (he had none, and Mac did). Mac got injured during camp, anyway, and that decided that. This led to a lost season in which Mac had only 68 total plate appearances in the majors, divided between May and September. I was surprised to look up his splits and see that he actually had a pretty good September (38 plate appearances.306/.342/.528/.870, with two homers).
I’m belaboring this, I know, but here’s the point: Mac has not really had much of an “opportunity” in the major leagues, and when he has, he capitalized on it. Here’s the other fact. Even with just 212 plate appearances in the major leagues, scattered over three seasons, Mac has nine major league homers. That maps out to 27 or so in a full season–and again, that was before the swing change and in very sporadic playing time off the bench. The dude has serious power, and he may finally have figured out how to unlock it on a consistent basis.
What does it all mean? This is the tough question. The Giants are struggling offensively, and Pence is one of the chief strugglers. But it doesn’t make sense to bring up Mac’s hot bat if you’re just going to let it cool off on the bench, and I don’t know if the team (=Bochy) is ready to bench Pence. I have no idea how they’re going to handle this, but it’s fair to say that if Mac was supposed to go to AAA and “force the issue,” he’s done exactly that so far.
I could say more about the River Cats, who can definitely hit (pitch and play the infield, not so much), but this post has gone on long enough. Today’s game features the second start for Tyler Beede, and we’ll see if those debut jitters have worn off and he can demonstrate better command. If not, he’ll likely be back in AAA pretty quickly, with Cueto slated to return on Tuesday and Samardzija not too long after that.
Giants at Padres, 1:10 p.m., Petco Park
Tyler Beede (0-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Joey Lucchesi (1-0, 1.72 ERA)
Let’s get the split! Lefty out.