Brandon Belt starts in left field tonight following the overnight trade for Tyler Austin. Austin is essentially a 1B/DH type and he was stuck out of options on a Twins team that already had Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron. Even though Farhan Zaidi feels very strongly that defense in left field is not all that important, the Giants are playing it safe by moving Belt — who has at least played left field before and looked okay in doing so — rather than Austin, who will start at first base in his first game with the Giants.
Here’s Baseball Prospectus’s Editor in Chief on Austin:
I like Tyler Austin. He has a chance to be a decent regular, thanks to big raw power. But he's also a 27-year-old 1B/DH with a high strikeout rate, poor strike-zone control, and a modest track record.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) April 6, 2019
Majors — .760 OPS
AA/AAA — .790 OPS
MLB average 1B from 2016-2018 — .800 OPS.
The Giants need to find a way to put some fear into left-handed pitching and there’s a non-zero chance that Tyler Austin could be half an answer. The start of an answer. The suggest of an idea that could spark a program that could lead to an answer.
Anyway, back to the game itself. Here’s where Baseball is weird and statistics can be made up to prove anything:
Madison Bumgarner has pitched the majority of his innings in the NL West against the Padres. He also has his worst NL West team ERA against the Padres. The Padres are tied with the Dodgers for most home runs off of Madison Bumgarner by an NL West team; but, Bumgarner has struck out more Padres than any other NL Wester and allowed the fewest hits against the Padres.
Bumgarner vs NL West (career)
They don’t have Bumgarner’s number, but when they hit him, they hit him hard. Wil Myers has a career OPS of .823 in 119 plate appearances at Oracle. Last year with the Dodgers, Manny Machado had five hits in 13 PAs, including a triple. The Giants will need to keep them and the rest of this lineup quiet if they’re going to compete:
The Giants’ lineup is not setup to battle against much of a deficit, but the utter silence of the bats in the first few innings of every game this season has made it next to impossible for a starting pitcher’s efforts to even matter.
Madison Bumgarner could pitch nine innings of shutout baseball tonight and still lose the game. That’s way more of a possibility than the Giants opening up a big lead early against lefty Eric Lauer. You’ll recall that he helped shutout the Giants on opening day, scattering four hits across six innings and generally looking completely unfazed by pitching in a Major League Baseball game against what was supposedly a Major League Baseball roster.
The Giants will need to make him feel a little more uncomfortable tonight. Here’s the lineup they’ve cobbled together to oppose him:
Did you know that the Giants are one win away from 100 wins against the Padres since the beginning of the 2009 season? I didn’t until I looked just now. They’re also 5-4 in the 19-game season series stretching back to the beginning of 2009. Hard to believe that they even managed to win last season’s series. Do the last ten years have any bearing on this year or what happens in this week’s series? Absolutely not. Just though you should.