Five observations from the season-opening series of Giants vs. Padres

By | April 1, 2024

Five observations from the season-opening series of Giants vs. Padres originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN DIEGO – Blake Snell may have been the busiest man at Petco Park this weekend, even though he didn’t pitch in a big league game and spent Friday night in Scottsdale for a simulated game against the Giants minor leaguers.

During the three days he was in San Diego, Snell never seemed to be without conversation. He spoke with former teammates, coaches, media members and numerous ushers and security guards.

When he stopped for Giants reporters Sunday morning, Snell was all smiles. His arm feels good after throwing 71 pitches Friday night, though he said he’s really not sure what’s next. He’s ready to start as soon as possible at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, but if that’s the plan, no one is giving that away.

Snell was a spectator this weekend, but he liked what he saw. Or at least he did before Sunday’s outburst.

“We’re really good,” he said. “We’re going to be very good. There are more important pieces coming back.”

These pieces will solve Sunday’s biggest problem. With Snell still out and Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray on the IL, Daulton Jefferies got the call. He gave up nine points and rookie Kai-Wei Teng scored a 13-4 rout. It was an ugly day, but that rotation spot should be Snell’s soon. Cobb could return as early as the second week of April.

The rotation will be fine, and for most of the weekend it looked like the Giants should be more than good as a team. It’s very, very early, but you can learn a few things from each series. Here are five that stood out at Petco Park:

On the hunt for gold

After Matt Chapman hit two home runs on Friday night, Bob Melvin started his post-game press conference by talking about a subtle play the third baseman made in the ninth inning. With a shift on, Chapman had to wait for Nick Ahmed to get to the bag for a 5-6-3 double play, but the two veterans handled it beautifully. Melvin was impressed with the touch Chapman showed on the throw to second base.

“We worked on that a little bit in spring training,” Chapman said. “What was going through my mind was just making sure we got one out. I wasn’t necessarily trying to turn the double play, I was just trying to make sure I could make it easy for him to get on base. Obviously He’s a great shortstop, so he was able to run it.”

Through four games, Chapman had about half a dozen plays that he made look way too easy. Of course there were also additions to the highlights:

The Giants knew they were getting a defender of all the worlds in Chapman, and adding Ahmed has made the left side of the infield one of their biggest strengths, even if it’s subtle at times.

“I was joking with him today, I know you and (Nolan) Arenado are in the same league your first year, so you’re competing for that Gold Glove,” Jordan Hicks said.

Old school vibes

With two on, no outs, and the Giants down a run in the top of the seventh on Opening Day, Patrick Bailey laid a perfect bunt in front of the plate. Both runners advanced and Mike Krukow commented, “Look, Bob Melvin knows what he’s doing.” He certainly did that during that series.

Ahmed followed with a single past the drawn infield to tie the game. Jung Hoo Lee’s sacrifice fly to center gave the Giants the lead.

“I felt really comfortable with the way Nick swung the bat and he’s been swinging it all spring and he nailed it in our first run. It felt like one of those games where there wasn’t going to be much scoring and every run counted Melvin said. . “In the end we managed to get two runs out of it.”

The Giants were actually 10th in successful sacrifice bunts last season, so this isn’t a total switch from Kapler to Melvin, but there should still be a noticeable increase. In Melvin’s two years with the Padres, they had 26 more bunt attempts than the Giants, even though they had lineups led by sluggers like Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. Melvin’s A’s teams often ranked near the bottom of the league in sacrifices. , but he said it was something he enjoyed doing with the bottom of the Padres lineup.

The situational hitting was great all weekend – and much improved from last year. The Giants had only two hits over five innings on Saturday, but scored three runs thanks to two sacrifice flies.

Worth watching

For a number of reasons, not much attention has been paid to the bullpen this spring. The top five in the pecking order would enter camp, and any notable offseason additions were intended to address position groups with greater needs.

But in this series, the biggest weakness was the bullpen. Not counting Tyler Fitzgerald, eight Giants relievers appeared in the series and seven – all except Landen Roupp – gave up a run.

Luke Jackson allowed three before going on the IL. Camilo Doval has two under his belt, although his performance on Saturday was probably on par with a few in recent years; it seems like he often misses his usual stuff when he gets into no-save situations and gives up a lot of his runs on those days.

The bullpen is certainly worth watching at Dodger Stadium and through the first few weeks, though it is a group that is often easy to fix internally, and the Giants appear to be very well positioned to do so.

Roupp could be a starter long term, but he has the chops now to be a good reliever, and the staff is trying. Given the number of experienced starters ahead of him on the depth chart, this seems like the best path for him in 2024. The same could be true for Carson Whisenhunt, who struck out six in three one-hit innings in his Triple-A debut. or Mason Black, who threw five strong innings in his start.

If both Snell and Cobb return soon, Keaton Winn could find himself in the bullpen. Hicks was dominant in his starting debut, but he could be an option for relief innings down the road if Ray returns in time and everyone else is healthy.
There are many ways to strengthen this bullpen. Some may be used sooner rather than later.

Rocket launchers

The Giants had 17 hard-hit balls (an exit velocity of 95 or higher) on Friday night. A day later they had fourteen. On opening day they had a dozen, and even in the Sunday clunker they had ten. Last season they had double-digit hard-hit balls in less than half of their games.

“It’s contagious,” Michael Conforto said. “Guys say it all the time. You see a guy count two strikes and put the barrel on the ball and make really good swings with really good shots, it just inspires the next guy and wears out the pitchers. That’s something we’ve been preaching during spring training and did a lot during spring training. The guys show up to play when the games count.”

Conforto was right in the thick of it, hitting two home runs, including a grand slam. A return to his New York Mets form would be huge for the lineup. Chapman had 10 hard-hit balls in the series, including outs at 110 and 110 mph.

There have been a lot of barrels early on, and they haven’t even gotten much from Jorge Soler, the team’s strongest hitter.

He belongs

Jung Hoo Lee provided plenty of highlights during the first weekend, and his productive arrival was perhaps the biggest long-term development for the organization. They certainly feel very good about committing to Lee for six years at this point.

Lee went 4-for-14 with four walks and three RBI and picked up his first home run of the series. What was impressive was not just that Lee hit the ground running, but how he piled up those numbers. He moved the ball all weekend, swinging and missing just twice on 81 pitches.

The Dodgers will provide a better test, but Lee certainly seems ready to live up to the hype. The Giants may have an All-Star on their hands, and at the very least they appear to have a pair of Rookie of the Year frontrunners in Lee and Kyle Harrison. Since Buster Posey won in 2010, only one Giant – Matt Duffy, who finished second in 2015 – has even finished in the top five for the award.

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