The 100th percentile projection for any backup catcher is above average defense and the possibility that he runs into a pitch that starts or sustains a rally. Anything else is sort of beyond the scope of the position and beyond the requirements of the organization. Stephen Vogt went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and two stand up triples.
He played maybe a hair above average defense today, but he still exceeded that 100th percentile projection for a backup catcher today by providing all the spark the Giants would need to defeat the Brewers 8-7.
So, the Giants have their first 4-game win streak of the year, their first since last August, and they’ve won a series against a team that is, on paper, much better; and, they did it despite nobody on either team really playing all that well — except for Stephen Vogt and the Brewers’ own backup catcher, Manny Piña.
He had a 2-for-3 day including a home run off of Madison Bumgarner. After navigating the tough terrain of Cain-Yelich-Braun-Grandal-Moustakas it was the eighth place hitter who gave the Giants’ ace the most fits. Actually, the second-most fits if you consider that the Giants consistently fell down or dropped the ball in the field, helping the Brewers build a 5-1 lead after five innings.
The Brewers also had trouble of their own getting to balls and a seventh inning double from Brandon Crawford actually allowed Kevin Pillar to score all the way from first after Christian Yelich dropped the ball while turning to throw the ball into the infield.
Neither team looked particularly sharp. After Joe Panik and Mike Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the first inning with a pair of singles, Brandon Belt popped up into the infield fly rule and Pablo Sandoval swung at anything Jimmy Nelson threw his way to strike out before the eventual hero of the day, Stephen Vogt, lined out to end the inning.
But Vogt would help the Giants counter a 3-run top of the fourth by hitting the first of his two standup triples. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:
Pillar would single him in to make it a 4-1 game. This one felt like it was going the way a lot of these early-deficit games against better teams tend to go: not the Giants’ way.
Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson is trying to make his way back from a labrum tear, an injury that’s typically a knockout punch on a pitcher’s career. He had great stuff for most of the game, but in the bottom of the fifth inning, he completely lost his command of his pitches and control of the strike zone, leading to three consecutive walks of Giants hitters.
That prompted a pitching change for Milwaukee with Brandon Belt up next. He’d draw a walk on five pitches off reliever Adrian Houser, but as he did in the first inning, the only thing he could do in that at bat with a 2-0 fastball at the knees was foul it off. Pablo Sandoval came up and after seeing four consecutive walks in the inning swung at Houser’s first pitch, a changeup, leading to a groundout. Stephen Vogt hit a sac fly and Pillar ended the inning with a groundout. The Giants loaded the bases with no outs thanks to three straight walks and scored three runs without a hit but still trailed 5-3.
Everybody’s timing just looked a bit off today. Except for Stephen Vogt’s. He was the liveliest, fastest guy on the team. After his second triple, I tweeted from the site account:
What Statcast has tried to hide is that Stephen Vogt is one of the fastest players in the league.— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) June 15, 2019
And as much of a joke as it was at the time, it’s actually true. Vogt does not yet have any 2019 data on Statcast related to his sprint speed or baserunning. This means it’s Schroedinger’s Baserunner: he both is and isn’t the fastest on the Giants.
Stephen Vogt was the star of the day, but the players who were getting the most attention were the Giants’ likely trade chips: Madison Bumgarner, Tony Watson, and Will Smith. Bruce Bochy said before the game that he had planned to stay away from Will Smith if there was a save situation, but that didn’t happen and instead, Smith pitched a wobbly ninth, giving up a home run to Christian Yelich.
It’s unclear why Bochy’s backup plan to not pitching Will Smith today was to let him throw 28 pitches, but here we are — either he knew the scouts were there to see the big show pieces or he just wanted to give the Giants the best chance to win a close game and the series against a really good team.
Madison Bumgarner struck out Lorenzo Cain with three pitches to open the game, then got Christian Yelich to pop out on the first pitch of the at bat, and after walking Ryan Braun, got Yasmani Grandal to pop up on the first pitch, too. It was a dominant start to a pitcher I’ve declared to be back, but his six innings didn’t go all that smoothly. He allowed five runs (three earned) while striking out six and walking three. Now, these are the Brewers, one of the best lineups in baseball, so if we’re grading him on a curve, he did fine.
Tony Watson had a quiet eighth, and despite Smith’s wobbly ninth, it was still a save, making him 17-for-17 to start the season and to show that he can pitch effectively on consecutive days. The other trade chip — Trevor Gott — looked just okay in the seventh inning, but overall, the Giants’ trade pieces looked good.
These Giants have played some entertaining games lately. I like it. Fun to watch, more to dissect. The looming trade deadline might be leading us into a roster apocalypse, but I welcome one final crescendo with this group before jumping into a new batch of rookies and holdovers. If they can’t win, at least they can be interesting. And if they can’t be interesting, at least they’re being a little bit fun.
The last time a Giants catcher hit two triples in a game was 1984. Steve Nicosia, the backup catcher, hit two in the Giants’ 8-4 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Anyway, this recap was pretty bad. Here’s the last play of the game, which describes it far better than my wasted words: