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Let’s create a vision board for the Giants’ September

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With the playoffs out of reach and a dearth of talent on the major league roster, to what should the Giants aspire?

New York Mets v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

18 of the The Giants’ final 24 games of the season will be against winning teams fighting for playoff spots and the remaining 6 will be against the Padres, a team that’s really good at being a thorn in their side. The Giants’ playoff odds are officially 0% across the board, which means there’s nothing else to look forward to in 2018, but they still have to play these games. The odds are against them and the situation is grim.

If you’re a positive person or an Oprah fan, maybe you’ve made yourself a “vision board” that helps visualize desired goals and measures of success.

A vision board or dream board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations of one’s dreams and desires, designed to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation,[1] and to use the law of attraction to attain goals. The usefulness of vision boards has been endorsed by celebrities such as Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres,[2] Oprah Winfrey[3][4][5] and Steve Harvey.[6] Oprah’s website formerly offered an “O Dream Board” tool for making dream boards.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

Cherish365

Of course, vision boards aren’t perfect — “hope is not a strategy” — but the act of manifesting thoughts into something tangible — the board doesn’t strictly have to contain images, you can post words and numbers to it as well — can have a profound positive psychological effect. This could be crucial for a team that doesn’t have much positive psychology headed its way based on the competition, so why not give it a shot? Giants,,, we’re here to help.

There’s no way to prevent being humiliated every night unless you redefine what humiliation is. Losing in and of itself is not humiliating; however, being made to look like you don’t belong in the major leagues for 3+ hours a day every day for a month does have a degree of humiliation. Therefore, the goal should be to look like a major league baseball player every day for the rest of the season. Just how might that manifest?

Chris Shaw - Four pitches or more

Chris Shaw has yet to see more than three pitches in a plate appearance and he’s never seen a Major League pitch called for a ball. Getting to either one of these would be a step in the right direction. As Doug mentioned the other day:

There are knocks on Shaw’s game. The two most prominent are strikeouts and defense. In Shaw’s minor league career, the strikeouts hadn’t been too prominent until this year; as a River Cat this year, Shaw’s strikeout rate jumped to 34%, which, for comparison, is more often than Jarrett Parker ever struck out in AAA.

And Minor League Ball’s John Sickels predicted:

I’d say he strikes out in 40% of his at-bats but also hits a couple of home runs.

Say, he goes 6-for-31 with two homers and 12 strikeouts.

Shaw might get to 12 strikeouts before I finish typing up this post, but the entire point of a vision board is to be positive. Maybe Shaw strikes out 90% of the time — but maybe he gets to a 1-ball count 25-33% of the time. And, yeah, a couple of dingers, even if they wind up being his only hits of the call-up, would be swell.

Here’s how Shaw and the Giants can visual this:

Madison Bumgarner — 42 more innings

Bumgarner’s career has been swallowed by an injury snake and right now, he’s trying to chop it out of the snake’s belly with an ax. Unfortunately, he’s lost a couple of miles per hour off that ax toss, which might not portend to anything more than a crafty lefty making a necessary adjustment as his body is ravaged by time, but still complicates those snake belly escape plans.

He’ll start tomorrow in Colorado, and if he doesn’t miss a start or get held back, he’s set to make six more on the season. That would bring him up to 22 on the year. He’s at 100.2 innings in 16 starts so far, 10.1 innings behind his pace in 17 starts from last season’s dirt bike of a year. He’s pitched seven or more innings just six times this year (two of those six were in his previous two starts) and so I think the vision should be to pitch at least seven innings in each of these final six starts. That would put him at 142.2 innings and show that despite the velocity drop, he’s regained his durability and figured out a way to pitch more efficiently with his present skill set.

That’s a vital condition for 2019 and beyond, not just for the Giants — in case they want to trade him, but more if they want to extend him — but for the player. Bumgarner seems like a player who will keep pitching until he can’t get work and so long as he can demonstrate the ability to command and control his pitches and the strike zone, he’ll be able to leverage that along with this reputation into work.

Nick Hundley — Three more walks

When he’s swinging at everything, he’s striking out and grounding into win-killing double plays, but when he’s right, he’s shooting balls to the opposite field and taking pitches. I don’t think the walks loosen him up to make him get more hits, but they couldn’t hurt.

My original vision suggestion was “.300 OBP”, but Hundley’s at .289 following today’s 0-for-3, so I find it highly unlikely he’ll be able to raise it despite the 15-20 more starts he’ll get over the rest of the season. I like his chances a little better if he can work those walks, though. Three more would get him to 20 walks on the season. In every season he’s had 20+ walks (2009-2011, 2013, 2015-2016), he’s wound up with an OPS well over .700 (he’s at .696 right now and was .691 last season). Does that matter? This isn’t about what matters, this is about vision. It won’t be bad if Nick Hundley draws three more walks and/or has an OPS over .700 at season’s end, so why not go for it? Here’s the visual:

Brandon Belt — Boost that batting average

Belt seems to have tweaked his back saving Alen Hanson’s various errant throws from flying into the Mets’ dugout this afternoon and his knee’s been barking for a good chunk of the season, too. He also had a child and an appendectomy. So, I’m not going to be too hard on Brandon Belt, the team’s best hitter, disappearing for three months (.212 / .288 / .313 since June 16th) — although, it’s impossible to overlook how much of a non-factor he’s become in the lineup — and instead focus on the positive: he can still inflate that batting average by bunting against the shift.

Maybe Belt’s power will come back, but that seems like an offseason / Spring Training project and less something that warrants full focus over the final 24 games. Will it make that big a difference if he figures it out by the final week of the season to hit 3 home runs and 3 doubles when up to that point he’ll have done very little to get on base?

Instead, Belt should bunt against the shift every time. Take the free base. Don’t be selfish. And when there are runners on base, bunt them over. For the rest of the season, Belt should do nothing but bunt, steal bases occasionally, and pick it at first base. Since AT&T Park suppresses all Giants power and Belt won’t play much against lefties, the only way he’s going to make that season line look good for the baseball traditionalists is by bumping up the ol’ BA. It’s probably the best way for him. Visual:

World Series - Kansas City Royals v San Francisco Giants - Game Five Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Now, bunting against the shift might seem like small potatoes, and I’m sure the Giants players want to do what they’re paid to do, but vision boards are at least as much about what is possible as well as what seems like what’s impossible, but what closes that gap is ability, experience, and persistence. Brandon Belt is fully capable of bunting every at bat and it might change the complexion of the game if you know he’s less likely to strike out but make a productive out.

Along those same lines, if Nick Hundley scales back his desire to play hero ball and resign himself to the idea that he’s a backup catcher and not Buster Posey, maybe that 2% extra level of patience will pay off in big ways, both in-game and over the course of the final 24. Chris Shaw could very easily take a pitch just to get comfortable with the idea — now’s the time for freaky experimentation. There’s nothing on the line, so why not try something different?

What would you put on the Giants’ vision board?