Who needs home runs when you have triples?


Who needs home runs when you have triples?

PHOENIX Barring a fairly seismic collapse andor an unanticipated power surge, the Giants are on the verge of accomplishing something unprecedented in the live-ball era.

They would become just the fifth team in the last 78 years to reach the postseason despite hitting the fewest home runs in the major leagues.

The 1987 St. Louis Cardinals were the last team to do it. Whitey Herzogs 82 Cardinals, too. Then you have the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 1959 White Sox.

And thats it. After the Go-Go Sox, you have to go back to the 1924 Washington Senators -- and thats when the ball was deader than dead.

So what makes these Giants unprecedented, you say? Well, those other four teams led their league in stolen bases. By a wide margin, too. The current Giants, by comparison, have stolen just six bases above the NL average.

The Giants do not have Vince Coleman, who swiped 109 bases in 87, or Lonnie Smith, who stole 68 in 82. They do not have Maury Wills, who led the majors with 94 steals while scratching out all the runs Koufax and Drysdale would need. Luis Aparicio also led the majors with 59 steals in 59, when he and Nellie Fox legged the Go-Go theme all the way from the South Side to the World Series.

So how are the Giants doing it with just 89 home runs? How are they scoring enough not only to support their pitchers, but to bail them out as their arms have softened up a bit in the second half?

Well, Ive got to give a lot of credit to the guys at the top of the order, said cleanup Buster Posey, who was too modest to mention that hes hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break.

Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, since he came over here, have been huge, and you cant forget how (Gregor) Blanco and (Ryan) Theriot contributed, especially earlier in the season. And with Pagan, youre talking about a guy who set a triples record. Hes not just getting on base. Hes hitting the ball with authority. Hes in scoring position and were getting him in. That has something to do with it, I think.

After tying and passing Willie Mays on the last road trip, Pagans 13 triples stand as the most in the Giants San Francisco era. Its one more than the New York Yankees have hit as a team this season.

As you might suspect, the Giants 51 triples lead the major leagues. That partly explains how, despite their major league-low 89 home runs, have a respectable .392 slugging percentage just a shade below the .401 average for NL clubs.

But those home runs.oh, those home runs are nice, arent they?

The Giants, as mentioned, have hit just 89. The only other team with fewer than 100 home runs is the Dodgers, and theyve hit 99. So itll take some doing in these final 16 games for the Giants to avoid bringing up the rear in roundtrippers when the season ends.

That only tells part of the story, of course. The Giants arent so power-deprived on the road. Theyve hit 67 in grays -- more than the Dodgers, the Rockies and seven other major league clubs.

At home? Well, everyone knows that part by now. The Giants have hit just 22 home runs in 71 home games at AT&T Park, and if that sounds paltry well, it is. The Padres have hit the next fewest at home, with 42 homers at Petco Park almost doubling the Giants total.

More perspective on that: Detroits Miguel Cabrera has hit more home runs at Comerica Park (24) than the Giants have hit as a team at home. (And in case you were curious, those triples-averse Yankees lead the majors with 121 home runs in the Bronx.)

But heres the interesting part: The Giants have come to terms with this. Whereas past players (and some former coaches, too) grumbled over the 420-foot crown in right-center field, the heavy air and the breeze through the archways, this lineup has made its peace with China Basin.

Sure, its the ballpark, said Posey, who has hit six of his 22 home runs at AT&T Park. It is what it is. Your goal as a ballplayer, wherever you are, is to be consistent. Another goal is to control what you can control. Thats half the battle in this game.

The other half is waged from 60 feet, 6 inches. And on that front, Bochy likes what hes seen.

You look at the club and were more athletic, Bochy said. Were quicker. In 2010, sure, we hit more home runs. But this team can go first to third, first to home. And the other thing that needed to happen is were getting quality at-bats and executing. Its been our best year as far as getting guys over and getting them in. The timely hits in the second half, were getting them. Thats the only way its gonna work when you dont hit home runs.

They found a way to amplify those skills even after Aug. 15, when Melky Cabrera was suspended for a positive drug test. Cabrera was leading the majors in hits and runs at the time. He was the poster child for the Giants offensive philosophy. The poster came down, but the Giants found a way to wallpaper it over.

Ive never been on a team thats been through something like that, Posey told me. I didnt know what to expect, to tell you the truth. So I think everybody should be happy with how they handled it. I mean, really, what choice did we have?

There might be no better choice to hit cleanup on this team, as its constructed, than Posey. Hes not a masher in the typical mold of a No. 4 hitter. But home runs, strange as it sounds, have a way of stopping rallies. Posey is more likely to serve an RBI single to right field or line a double to the gap -- and keep the pitcher in the stretch, the better to wear him down a little further.

Were having lots of rallies, said No. 5 hitter Hunter Pence, who owns 34 RBIs on 38 hits. Crazy, crazy rallies.

The Giant dont have electrifying speed like those Cardinals teams. But special assistant Shawon Dunston, who saw an awful lot of Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr and Co. during his playing days for the Chicago Cubs, sees some resemblance between them and these Giants.

Defense, for one, Dunston said. Nah, they didnt make errors. A ball in the gap was cut off. They covered ground. And they were a team you feared, power or no power. They werent all slap hitters, either. And going first to third thats a beautiful thing. Thats how they played. It was runners at first and third every time.

They knew what they were about and they were not embarrassed because they did not hit home runs.

Know thyself. Its not just a macram wall hanging.

Somehow, this years Giants team has found acceptance where so many other clubs found frustration. They arent trying to overpower the big yard at Third and King or gobble up numbers on the road, knowing they cant hit for power at home.

They are not hot to trot.

You know, I just think the goal is to win ballgames and weve got a good group of guys who have that common goal, Posey said. Thats what makes this game fun.

Sandoval returns, apologizes to fans for way he left Giants

Sandoval returns, apologizes to fans for way he left Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — The first two steps of Pablo Sandoval’s second stint in San Francisco were positive. 

Sandoval showed up to AT&T Park on Saturday in decent shape, the kind that will allow him to go straight to the minors instead of spending a few weeks cutting pounds. He also said the right things, apologizing to fans for comments made in the months and year after he left the Giants for supposedly greener pastures. 

“I learned my lesson,” Sandoval said a few seconds after sitting down with reporters. “I made a lot of mistakes.”

Sandoval said he also needed to apologize to former teammates, many of whom have not forgotten a Bleacher Report article from Sandoval’s first spring with the Red Sox. 

Back then, Sandoval told Scott Miller the decision to leave San Francisco was “not hard at all.” On Saturday, he said there was simply a “miscommunication.”

Back then, Sandoval said, “I knew early in spring training last year I was going to leave.” On Saturday, he claimed that he would have come and said he’s “excited, excited to be back … I’m thankful to the Giants.”

Back then, Sandoval said he didn’t miss his former teammates. "Only Bochy," he told Bleacher Report. "I love Boch. He's like my dad. He's the only guy that I miss. And Hunter Pence. Just those guys.” On Saturday, Sandoval said, “If I mentioned a lot of people, it was going to be the whole roster … Hunter was like my brother and Bochy was like my dad.”

It will be up to the players and team employees to decide how they really feel three years later. Some, most notably Pence, have been effusive in their praise of the move. Others have been more guarded, and some have grumbled. And make no mistake about it, there are executives at high levels of the organization who do not agree with a reunion. Why do it, then? 

“You look at it as a free look at a player who has done some good things in this game and has the talent to hit  baseball,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Sometimes a change of scenery can get a player back to the player he was and he was pretty good here. This allows you to take a look and make a call if you think he can help you or not. There’s no guarantee.”

Bochy called it a “win-win” situation and said this was not a marketing move, but it certainly won’t hurt the organization’s affiliates. Sandoval will DH for the San Jose Giants on Saturday and join Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. He is expected to get at least 40-50 at-bats before the Giants make a decision.

Sandoval said his shoulder, which ended his 2016 season, is healthy, and he has resumed switch-hitting. It has been three years since he has been a productive big leaguer, but he is still just 30 years old. 

“I have to prove a lot of things,” Sandoval said. “I hope to be back and doing the best (I can).”

The Giants did not guarantee a return to the big leagues, but the coast is clearing up. Eduardo Nuñez, the incumbent at third, is Bobby Evans’ best trade chip and could be gone by August 1. Christian Arroyo is on the minor league disabled list. Ryder Jones will play all over the field with Sandoval returning to Sacramento. Jae-gyun Hwang was optioned back to Triple-A on Saturday and faces an uncertain future in the organization. 

The history of this organization says that if Sandoval shows anything at all, he will be back at AT&T Park before the season is up. At that point, he’ll have to sit down with some teammates and coaches and possibly explain himself. There is more to this than an article written three years ago. It was an open secret that Sandoval was ready to move on, and he had some fun waving goodbye to fans at the 2014 parade. If and when he does return, Sandoval will hope for the best from a fan base that is divided on his return. He did his part to heal some wounds Saturday, signing autographs on his way out of the park.

For now, Sandoval said he’s ready for his second chance. 

“At the end of the day,” he said, “I’m happy to be back.”

BREAKING: Giants sign Pablo Sandoval to minor league deal

BREAKING: Giants sign Pablo Sandoval to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO — Three years after departing for what he thought would be a better fit, Pablo Sandoval has returned. 

The third baseman, a key cog in the dynasty the Giants built earlier this decade, re-signed with the organization on a minor league deal on Saturday morning. Sandoval will join Class-A San Jose immediately and move on to Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. He was in the AT&T Park clubhouse on Saturday to take a physical. 

Sandoval, now 30 years old, spent the first seven years of his career in San Francisco, batting .294 with 106 homers amid battles with his weight and inconsistency. The Giants never quite got on the same page with Sandoval when it came to his conditioning, and he alternated between being a valued power hitter in the middle of their lineup and sitting on the verge of being replaced. 

In Boston, there were no such highs. Sandoval played just 161 games over three seasons, batting .237 with 14 homers, and playing poor defense. He posted a negative Wins Above Replacement in all three seasons with the Red Sox and he was designated for assignment last week. Sandoval twice cleared waivers, so the Red Sox are on the hook for the remainder of a five-year, $95 million contract. 

The Giants have not yet commented publicly about Sandoval, citing tampering rules. The view from team employees seems to be that there’s little risk in signing a former fan favorite who comes essentially for free. With Christian Arroyo on the disabled list, Sandoval will not be blocking one of the organization’s top prospects, although you can argue that a last-place team would be better served looking at players like Ryder Jones.

Most players were guarded in their comments this week. Hunter Pence, the lone player mentioned in a positive light by Sandoval in a scathing article after his departure, said he is excited for a reunion. Others offered some version of, “If he helps us win, so be it.” 

It’s unclear if Sandoval can still do that, and multiple team officials, speaking on background this week, said it’s a coin flip whether Sandoval ever returns to the majors. Still, the Giants are willing to flip that coin, and their history says they don't sign veterans and leave them in the minors.