The Giants opened the modified 2020 season against the division-rival Dodgers. Game one was tight until the 7th inning when the Dodgers blew the doors wide open, scoring five runs. Johnny Cueto was San Francisco’s opening day starter after missing nearly the entire 2019 season. Cueto pitched well through four innings, allowing one run on five hits with 5Ks.
I personally was pretty put off by Kapler’s decision to pull Cueto after just four innings. Another head-scratcher was Kapler’s decision to pull Brandon Crawford out of the game early in favor of Donovan Solano. I agree Crawford is underwhelming offensively, but with both Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria on IL, Crawford is the infield’s undisputed leader. To pull him so early on opening day sends one message to the veteran shortstop, “There’s not a lot of faith there.”
The lack of leadership was high on display after Crawford’s departure. Dubon, Flores, And Solano all kicked balls around the infield behind our new-look bullpen. My neighbors got to hear me curse and scream at the tv on Thursday as the team completely fell apart all in one inning.
Tyler Rogers couldn’t get in his groove, allowing four of the six batters he faced to cross home plate. Anderson was only able to record two outs before enough was enough for Kapler. With only one game in the bag (and I’ll admit this doesn’t seem right), I was already over Kapler and began accepting how poor of a club the Giants really are in 2020.
Game two was just as lob-sided. After losing the first game 8-1, the Dodgers kept the momentum going, crushing the Giants 9-1. The difference being; rather than waiting until the 7th inning to start dealing out punishment, the Dodgers were handing the spankings out all night long, scoring in every inning but the 3rd.
Ross Stripling was the pitcher for the Dodgers, and he pitched beautifully, striking out seven Giants allowing only four hits through seven innings. Striplings had the curveball working all night, displaying real fall-off-the-table stuff.
The Giants continued to look like a high school team kicking balls around the infield for the second straight game. Crawford, Dubon, Sandoval, and Flores all committed infield errors. San Francisco’s only offense came off of a Jaylin Davis opo home run in the 3rd.
I found myself perplexed once again as Kapler started Tyler Anderson but only allowed him to record five outs before pulling him in favor of Rico Garcia, who gave up an RBI single to Justin Turner on his first pitch. Later Kapler brought in Gausman and allowed him to pitch four innings. I obviously don’t understand the strategy because my only thought is, why not just start Gausman?? I once again went to bed pissed off, thinking we will be lucky to win 20 games this year.
I’ve no explanation for what happened between Friday night and Saturday morning, but the team seemed to transform completely. The Giants played lockdown defense and were scrappy at the plate, spitting on balls outside of the zone.
Logan Webb was impressive, showing poise in high traffic situations. Smyly’s curveball was locked in during his outing, and Sean Anderson’s slider looked unhittable out of the pen.
Game four was a gem, with Darin Ruf being a big-time bright spot. Ruf, who spent the last three years in the KBO, went 2-4 with a BB. Showing good hands at first and making a flying catch that sent him through the left-field wall into the Dodger bullpen. He also stole a bag in the 7th, which a Donovan Solano RBI followed. Sandoval was gritty as well, with an 11 pitch at-bat in the 8th, which ended in a walk. All around solid baseball showed by the Giants in the second half of the four-game series.
So what’s the Giant’s true identity? Are they the Bush League squad we saw in games one and two? Or can we expect the Giants to continue to compete with teams with World Series aspirations like the Dodgers? Obviously, four games aren’t enough of a sample size to make either statement, especially with the Giant’s bipolar play.
I’m a lifelong fan of the Giants and would love to be optimistic. However, I would be surprised to see us win 25 games this year. “BUT WE JUST SPLIT A FOUR GAME SERIES WITH THE DODGERS ZACH!!! Yeah, I know, I watched…. Something we still can’t do consistently is score runs. We’ve got no pop, and although we got some timely hitting in the second half of that series, our bats won’t be a strength. Our bullpen showed some really great signs. However, with this shortened season allowing practically no days off, we will not sustain and win games using the pitching staff the way we did.
What questions do we have?
Is Kapler’s musical pitchers going to work for us?
In four games, we used 24 pitchers, and no starter went more than four innings. That is not sustainable in any way. Yeah, maybe for a series here and there it will work out, but we have seven days off this entire season. These guys will not be able to maintain pitching every day. Our starters need to be eating innings.
Kapler’s smart, and I’m not saying leave a guy in even if he’s getting rocked to eat innings, but why pull Cueto after four? Why pull Webb after four? Let them play! Starters are starters. That’s what they know. Smyly shouldn’t be coming into a game in the 6th inning and then be told to get ready for a start two days later. We need to remember players are creatures of habit, and messing with their routine will mess with their rhythm leading to struggles on the mound.
Are we better off without Crawford?
Crawford has started 1-10 with K. Since 2011, Crawford has hit over .260 one time. Flores, Solano, and Dubon will all provide us with more offensively. Crawford has been the infield leader for years and is a 3X gold glove winner, but things are going to be different this year with Kapler’s obsession with analytics and the shift.
This is something completely new to Crawford, who knows nothing but Bruce Bochy’s strait-up play style. We’ve already seen Crawford struggle defensively in the shift. Crawford will not easily adapt to this change, and wanting to keep him in the lineup long term just for leadership won’t be worth it when we have better weapons both offensively and defensively sitting on the bench. So to answer the question, “Are we better off without Crawford?” No, however, midway through the season, I expect my answer to turn into an unfortunate yes.