Weekly record: 4-2
Total record: 4-2
Division standing: 2nd, 0.5 GB (Colorado)
Offensive Player of the Week: Brandon Belt (7-16, 2 HR, 1.401 OPS)
Defensive Player of the Week: Logan Webb (2 GS, 14.0 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 10 SO, 1 BB)
The lockout is over. Baseball is back. And the Giants, fresh off a 107-win season for the ages, kept their foot firmly on the gas as they raced out to a 4-2 start against the Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres. Alyssa Nakken became the first woman in an on-field coaching role in MLB history, Tyler Rogers and his Miami counterpart Taylor Rogers became the fifth set of twins to face each other on the diamond, and Mauricio Dubón renewed the argument about baseball's unwritten rules by bunting during a blowout. All that and more in 2022's first Giants Week in Review.
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The biggest takeaway from Opening Week is that this Giants rotation is legit. Logan Webb continues to be an ace sans bonafides, and free agency acquisition Carlos Rodón was absolutely stunning in his Giants debut, striking out 12 in 5 innings(!!!). The back half of the rotation remained as solid as its 2021 iteration, when Alex Wood was "The Stopper" and Anthony DeSclafani dominated everyone except the Dodgers. This time around, with Alex Cobb replacing Johnny Cueto on the roster, the Giants' 3-4-5 pitchers tallied 13 IP while giving up 6 ER. But critically, they played through some early-season jitters and kept the Giants in the game long enough for the bullpen to mostly lock things down.
This year's bullpen features largely the same assemblage of talent that made up the league's most effective relief corps last year, with Jose Alvarez, John Brebbia, Jake McGee, Dominic Leone, Jarlín García, Zack Littell, Tyler Rogers, and Camilo Doval looking to receive prominent roles this year. McGee, Rogers, and Doval have been assigned most of the high-leverage innings, continuing the trend from last year. Early returns are a bit wobbly, though the context makes up for that a bit; Rogers comically earned a loss due to an inning that went infield hit, infield hit, pop up, fielder's choice, strikeout. But that loss mostly fell on a quiet offense, and it paved the way for his twin brother Taylor Rogers to close out the Padres' only victory of the series. Both Rogers are legitimate weapons for the back end of their teams' bullpens, and there should be plenty more opportunities for the two to face off, as the Giants and Padres will play each other 17 more times this year.
More concerning is Doval, who seems to be earmarked for the closer role in the plurality of situations. He's still a two-pitch guy, and the results dip dramatically when he loses confidence in one of them. He had a disaster outing in the first game of the season, giving up 3 runs and almost costing San Francisco the game. In his latest outing, he loaded the bases with a 1-run lead before striking out the last man with four straight sliders, showing shades of Brian Wilson to all who watched. He figures to be a critical piece in the Giants' bullpen, but despite his dominant streak at the end of last year, he's still a young pitcher who will need to show more consistency with his command and control to rank up there with the best.
But steady bullpens and lockdown rotations giving up reasonable amounts of runs is boring- when it comes to baseball, the people want the sexy stuff, and Giants hitters have already provided significant conversation fodder both on and off the field. For most of the week, the Giants teased and hinted at their offensive proficiency, yet ultimately decided games by only 1 or 2 runs despite stellar pitching. But against San Diego, the Giants' bats exploded in a 13-2 rout, sparking some early season controversy.
In their second game against San Diego, the Giants poured it on against Yu Darvish, tagging him for 9 runs in 1.2 IP. But even with a handy lead, Steven Duggar stole second base on a dugout signal in the second, and in the sixth, Dubón bunted against a relaxed defense to put himself on first. The Padres dugout got heated about this infraction against baseball's "unwritten rules," and though Kapler initially appeared to lecture Dubón after the inning was over, both he and Dubón steadfastly stood by the decision in postgame interviews. With end-of-season tiebreakers now decided by run differential, the Giants appear to be putting themself in pole position in the case of another tight division race.
But the Giants' controversial "win the series, win the season" strategy also culminated in a tense on-field encounter. In the third inning, Padres' third base coach Mike Shildt engaged in an argument with Giants' first base coach Antoan Richardson, who was in the dugout while the Giants were batting. While Richardson, who is Black, contended that Shildt used racially-charged language, crew chief Greg Gibson ejected Richardson for continuing to engage. Richardson and Shildt met after the game, and in a joint statement confirmed that despite the miscommunication, both held respect for each other and the diversity of thought and heritage in the MLB.
But even with the post-game reconciliation, Richardson's ejection still meant the Giants needed a new first base coach. So it was that that ejection paved the way for Alyssa Nakken to take the field as the first woman in an on-field coaching role in MLB history, a landmark in baseball's progress for inclusion and growth. And it should be said that Nakken is by no means a token or "glass cliff" candidate- as part of one of the most effective coaching staffs in the league, responsible for San Francisco's resurgence in all three phases of the game, Nakken should be a part of this organization's long-term plans. She was congratulated by members of both teams, and her appearance in the first base coach role was the highlight of a night featuring a tremendous offensive showing from San Francisco.
Two of the biggest offensive contributors this week were Brandon Belt and Joey Bart, whose prowess as an infield power tandem will help gauge the Giants' success this year. Brandon Belt is, indisputably, the Captain- and if you hadn't gotten that through your head, he made sure it stuck when he rode into Oracle Park on a boat to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Sailing into the park like that and taking command of the team in such a brash way is something that takes a hell of a lot of guts, especially when you consider that this was the first true Opening Day at Oracle Park in 13 years. But Belt backed up his bravado with a go-ahead RBI single and a home run just to drive the message home. Atta boy, Baby Giraffe.
Meanwhile, Joey Bart absolutely turned it on after his successful AAA campaign last year, in exactly the reasonable and disciplined fashion that Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler have wanted. This week, he went 4-14 with a home run and, more importantly, 4 walks, which is one more than he had in 107 major league plate appearances before this year. With Webb and Rodón talking up Bart's behind-the-plate leadership and plus defense, Bart's looking more and more like he has an actual shot at replacing Posey behind the dish. Bart, like all young players, will have his struggles this year. But be excited.
The other big stories have been Thairo Estrada and Heliot Ramos, two young players who had an outsized impact this week. Estrada, who at 26 has had just enough experience to be not-quite-a-prospect, nonetheless has demonstrated some outstanding defense at second base, and leads the team in RBI (4). If he can continue to be a clutch hitter with his defense, he may quickly replace La Stella and Flores as the default option next to Crawford. Heliot Ramos, meanwhile, is a legit prospect who made his debut for 4 games this week due to several roster flexes. He went 2-3 in his first game as a Giant, showing off some "swagged up" skills to accompany the flashy cleats gifted to him by Brandon Crawford. He's likely to provide some mid-to-late season thunder for San Francisco if he continues producing at the AAA level.
Of course, with limited offensive production for most of the week, several players have scuffled early on. Crawford, Yastrzemski, and Ruf have started off slow, but of those three, Ruf seems primed for a breakout. His average exit velocity is in the 97th percentile so far this year, and despite seeing much of his contact caught just in front of the fence, Ruf is pairing his power with a top-tier (89th percentile) walk rate. If he keeps this up, don't be surprised if he has a 2-3 home run week soon. Slater, Duggar, and Dubón will continue to try to carve out a utility role for themselves, while Wilmer Flores and Luke Williams will continue to battle it out as big-time platoon players on the infield. If the offense gains more consistency, you'll see big weeks from one or more of these players as the Giants transition into their full-season groove.
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Coming up next on Giants baseball is an 11-game road trip, starting with 3 games against the Cleveland Guardians and 4 against the new-look Mets. Cleveland has started off strong despite middling preseason projections, and the Mets have raced to the best record in baseball (5-2) under the power of a star-studded roster. If rotation plans remain intact, Logan Webb will face off against Max Scherzer on Tuesday, April 19, in a matchup of some of the league's best. 4:10 PM and 10:40 AM starts abound, so make sure not to tune in late.
This concludes your Giants Week in Review. Thanks for reading, and as always, go Giants!