On Friday, former site contributor and friend of the McCovey Chroncast, Roger Munter, interviewed broadcaster David B. Flemming about his perspective of the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system from the booth. It’s a great conversation that you should listen to, and at one point, Dave mentions how pleased he was with getting Austin Slater and Logan Webb in at separate times to call a couple of games with him as the season wound down.
It reminded me that I had started and then stopped writing this article, a transcription of Logan Webb’s comments during the final night game of the Giants’ season — the penultimate game of 2022, in San Diego — which I thought provided some great insight into how players view and discuss the game in 2022. He actually wound up doing most of the game, so this won’t be a rundown of everything he said that might’ve been of note: just what I find to be most interesting. But if you have the time and an MLB.tv subscription, go check it out.
For a lot of us, we might be used to a lot of generic phrasing and even perspective, but the way pitchers have incorporated data into their own perceptions of how to pitch really stood out to me; and, given that Logan Webb is just 25, this is how most players will probably sound going forward. In some ways, it’s a lot like all the analytics articles written for this and other sites, but it also still has the perspective of an intense and professional competitor.
Webb and Alex Cobb are basically bros
It makes sense when you think about it, but I think I was surprised to hear this only because of the age difference. For whatever reason, I’d gotten it into my head that the arb and pre-arb guys were on one side of a clubhouse and veterans and free agent signings on the other, with only the occasional paternalistic engagement between them. Boy, do I need a perspective shift!
Dave Flemming: What a year Alex Cobb has had. I mean, I really think he’s pitched much better than the numbers — and the numbers are *good*...
Logan Webb: Yeah, he’s really fun to be around. While he’s throwing his bullpens and catch play, he’s very serious. You know... he probably has, like, ten cues that he uses — that’s how you know a guy’s been around for a long time. He really knows what he’s doing. I’ve really tried to learn a lot from him throughout the year because I do a lot of the same things he does. I might throw a little more breaking balls than he does but, it’s splitter, it’s two-seams... it’s almost like... he’s joked around, it’s almost like I’m him ten years ago.
But, yeah, he’s been great. You can tell by the advanced numbers — I think FIP and stuff like that. It just shows that the year that he’s having compared to what his ERA says.
Flemming: You guys use those advanced numbers? Sort of, those analytic numbers, sometimes, to help evaluate performance? To see what you’re doing well? What you’re not doing well?
Webb: Sometimes. Sometimes, it’s more of just a justification of how you really are pitching. I know earlier this year, I think it was June, I want to say Cobb was in the high fours, low fives [for ERA], but his FIP was top five in baseball, I think it was.
Take a moment to sit back and appreciate that actual major leaguers use FIP the same way we do: to justify a guy we think is actually pretty good despite all the losses he’s been involved with. Celebrities — they’re just like us!
And look, I don’t think I’m alone here in agreeing with Logan Webb: it can’t be stressed enough just how good Alex Cobb was this season. Due to injury and the general suckitude of the Giants’ defense, he didn’t throw enough innings (just 149.2) to qualify for the starting pitcher leaderboard, but if you filter for a minimum of 140 innings, by FanGraphs’ WAR, he was as valuable as Luis Castillo, Nestor Cortes, and Joe Musgrove. He was a hair better than Julio Urias and Gerrit Cole, too.
If he doesn’t negatively regress too much next year and the front office figures out how to field a competent defensive team, it’d be a lot of fun to see Alex Cobb pitching a game in the Wild Card round (before the Giants are bounced, of course).
Oh, but more on how they’re bros:
Flemming: He told me the other day, “You know, here I am, I’m about to turn—” I think he said, “I’m about to turn 36,” does that sound right? About to turn 36? And he said, “I’ve never felt better at the end of a year than I do this year.”
Webb: Yeah, he’s amazing with taking care of his body and doing all the stuff he needs to do. I think it’s 35. Let’s give him a year. I think it is.
Flemming: (laughing) Okay. Yeah, okay. We don’t want to age him too quickly. So, he’s *turning* 35.
Webb: I’ve joked with him a little bit. I’ve— you know — you make the every once in a while joke like, “Hey, you’re kinda old, dude.” And he’s like, “Well, I throw harder than you.”
Flemming: (laughing harder)
Webb: It’s true.
Flemming: He’s never thrown harder in his whole career!
He loves hot front door action
Flemming: Here’s a called strike over the outside. A sinker that comes back to the corner. 1 and 2.
Webb: That’s my favorite pitch right there.
Flemming: That’s it?
Webb: That’s my favorite pitch in Baseball. He’s gotta be the best, if not the best at doing that.
Flemming: Is it particular satisfying when it’s a right-handed hitter and you start it off the plate away and it comes back to the corner?
WEBB: (HIS DEVILISH GRIN IS AUDIBLE — LIKE, YOU CAN HEAR HIS MOUTH TWISTING INTO A SMILE AS HE SPEAKS) Oh yeah.
He’s hard on himself
This next sequence is one long conversation, but I’ll break it up a bit.
Flemming: One thing I’ve noticed about you this year... I always feel like you’re stubborn with your stuff. Okay, one pitch isn’t working — you’re not just going to fully abandon it. But there have been some starts this year where you’ve leaned hard on a changeup — say that’s working one day. And then the next start, the slider’s really working, so you lean harder on that, and I don’t know if that’s a difference from years past with you, but there have been a few starts where I’ve almost thought you were like a two-pitch guy that particular day.
Webb: Yeah, I think it was very similar to last year where the changeup was kinda leaned on a little bit more at the beginning. The slider wasn’t fully there. I think as the season went on, I started using it a little bit more. It was very similar to last year. So, you know, maybe that’s a big emphasis this offseason: being able to come with all three instead of just one.
Flemming: I think I remember... it might’ve been May... you said to me something like, “My slider stinks.”
Flemming: And I was like, “Well, that’s probably a little bit harsh.” But there was a time there where you were a little cranky about that slider.
Webb: Yeah, you know, it was a good first two or three months like that. But that was... we put a lot of emphasis on that in catch play. Bullpen work. It’s weird because, you can go an entire offseason — that was my favorite pitch to throw in the offseason. It was looking really good. But then you get to Spring Training, you get to the actual games and it’s a little different. You don’t know what’s going to be the best at that point. Maybe it’s more intensity, I don’t know, but the past two years, it’s been frustrating to say the least.
Flemming: If you had to grade your own season, do you have a personal evaluation for you?
Webb: I would probably give it a B.
Flemming: You’re a tough grader. You’re like your math teacher in 10th grade: tough grader.
(I would given Logan Webb’s season an A-.)
The Giants have to force him to cool it
Flemming: So does that mean the offseason program might change a little bit?
Webb: I would say it would be very similar to last offseason. I kinda want to get into it and start throwing right away. And, uh, I think it was Groesch [Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner] who called me and was like, ‘Hey, we need to get on a meeting — a meeting call, and I get on the call and there was like ten people on the call. Farhan was on the call, everyone was on the call. And they were like, ‘Yeah, you’re not going to throw until *this* date. And it was, like, the middle of November. I was like, ‘Okay, okay.’ But we probably— very similar to last year.
Flemming: And does that really mean, like literally, *no* throwing? Like, you’re not going to pick up a baseball?
Webb: Yeah. Yeah.
On opponents and other teammates
Flemming: What’s it like facing Manny [Machado]?
Webb: It’s-it’s not fun. It seems like he gets to every single kind of pitch that you can throw. And if you leave anything — I left him a changeup, I think, middle-middle earlier this year and he hit it 450, but —
Flemming: (sarcastically) I’d *totally* forgotten about that.
[Manny Machado swings and misses at a first pitch curveball.]
Flemming: Not that many hitters will swing at that first pitch — we sometimes call it “get it in curveball.” Machado almost like he was looking for it.
Webb: That’s his thing. You feel like there’s no way he’s looking for a certain pitch. And it’s — I feel like he’s just that guy. It doesn’t matter what pitch you throw him. You know, the way he’s kinda — his stance is and everything. He just, he can turn on a pitch, even if it’s a pitch he’s not expecting, because his foot’s not down he can get to it somehow.
Hopefully, some day, the Giants will have a player on their roster who is at least as talented as Manny Machado. But until then, at least they have an up and comer like David Villar who’s working really hard. Logan Webb notices it, too! He and Dave talk about Villar and his early struggles:
Webb: It’s hard, you know. It’s different. As much as it — you might say, “It’s Baseball.” It’s different. There’s, obviously, 30,000 more people in the stands. A lot more people watching you. As much as you tell yourself you’re not going to put pressure on yourself, you do. And you hear it all the time. I love talking to Kapler about it. And Bailes [pitching coach Andrew Bailey], and all these guys about it. Because it’s, it’s almost good when a guy can struggle a little bit, because that’s when you really learn how to, you know, do the things you might not be doing well — that you didn’t think that you were not good at, if that makes sense.
Flemming: Yeah! That’s exactly what Villar said when I asked him when he came back up after, you know, he went back down to Triple-A and played well there for a few weeks and then the Giants needed him again and I think his exact words to me were like, “It was such a blessing for me to struggle, because I figured out exactly what I need to work on and I went down and I tried to work on that and I feel like I’m better equipped to have success.” That’s a pretty mature guy.
Webb: Yeah, I mean there’s so many scouting reports that you get to see and it tells you exactly how to get a guy out. So, you’re gonna, as a pitcher, you’re going to try attack that.
Humm baby, failure is the greatest teacher!
On Arizona suddenly being a pitcher’s park:
They were showing us stats, and it was actually one of the best pitching parks this year, which I’d never seen.
On Coors Field not being unique:
Webb: Yeah, it’s definitely different there. I would say there’s one other place that’s like that. It’s Atlanta. I wanna say they’re the second-highest elevation.
Flemming: That’s interesting. I don’t know if I’ve heard that very often. Are there mound differences? Sometimes, are the mounds different enough to where they might affect how your pitches move?
Webb: No, I wouldn’t say the mound really has much to do with it. It’s more, you know what it does when it comes out of your hand because you do it so many times, and when you get to those places, it just doesn’t do the same.
On Wilmer Flores & Thairo Estrada:
Yeah, you want both of these guys coming up at the end of games when you need a big at bat or a home run or whatever you need.
Webb: Who do you think has more pulled foul ball homers? Flo [Wilmer Flores] or Joc?
Flemming: I think Wilmer might — Wilmer’s had a lot of those. But it’s hard to beat Joc for just the pure, towering, booming distance on some of those foul balls.
Webb: Oh yeah, and sometimes it looks like it goes over the first base dugout — like, he’ll pull it that far. It’s incredible.
On honeymooning in Bora Bora:
Webb: Actually, Jon Miller told me everywhere on that island to go to, so, I’m well prepared now.
Flemming: (guffawing) He is the guy when it comes to Bora Bora. In fact, he’s taking a ship somewhere out there during the offseason. Who knows? You may spot him. He might be waving to you from the deck or he might swim up to your bungalow.
On the 81-81 season:
Flemming: It almost felt to me — now, I’m not down there with you guys all the time — it’s almost like when you hit a bad patch in the middle of the year, the frustration was so palpable on all sides maybe because that expectation level was set so high because of what happened last year.
Webb: I think last year, it was more about, we just wanted to surprise everybody. I think we knew we were a better team than what everybody was saying we were and, you know, when we did what we did — and I feel like this year, it was almost — when we saw — because the rankings and the projections and everything that we saw early in the year were — to us it wasn’t, “Hey, we’re gonna show these guys,” it was more like it was disrespectful, kind of, to some of us. And maybe that’s not the way to go about it. Maybe it’s, “Hey, let’s just do our thing and prove these guys wrong, and you know, it’s something I think we’re gonna try to bring into this next year.”
So, the Giants played like they had something to prove which led to them playing with a chip on their shoulder, and now they’ve got something to prove. I like it. Glad they’ll have Logan Webb leading the pack.