Five things we learned about the SF Giants on their season-opening SoCal trip

LOS ANGELES — Rain is in the forecast for the Giants’ home opener Friday, giving them an appropriately gloomy greeting from a disappointing first week.

After splitting the opening series with the Padres, they were swept over the past three games by the vaunted Dodgers and returned home 2-5, riding a four-game losing streak.

Set to welcome San Diego for the first games of the season on the shores of McCovey Cove, the wind has already been knocked out of the sails after a late-developing offseason that left the team optimistic internally.

Manager Bob Melvin isn’t ready to draw any conclusions.

“No, not yet,” he said after Wednesday’s 5-4 loss. “It’s too early.”

But there were some clear trends and interesting developments, good and bad, that can be dissected from the opening trip to Southern California.

Hard contact

All you have to do is listen to notice one of the most significant changes from a year ago.

It’s the quality of contact being made by Giants hitters, which through the first week of the season has been among the best in the majors.

On average, the ball is leaving their bats at 91.2 mph, harder than every other team but the Chicago Cubs. Only the Dodgers and the Padres, who have played two extra games, have hit more balls at 95-plus mph, Statcast’s definition of hard contact. The Giants have done it on 72 of the 158 balls they’ve put in play.

In 2023, the Giants ranked 23rd in average exit velocity, at 88.7 mph, and had the sixth-fewest balls in play at 95 mph or harder.

The seachange starts with Jung Hoo Lee, who so far has shown the rare ability to almost never swing and miss but also make solid contact when he connects, averaging 95.6 mph. But the additions of Matt Chapman and Jorge Soler don’t hurt, either.

The free-agent duo provided the hardest-hit balls from either side in all of the final five games of the trip — six, if not for Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 114.7 mph blast in Game 2 — punctuated by Soler’s 452-foot homer late Wednesday that left the ball at 112 mph.

Pitching and defense?

The Giants doubled down on pitching and defense in response to the behemoths in their own division.

Against the star-studded Dodgers and Padres lineups, the strategy didn’t begin to show fruit in the first week of the season. The Giants’ run differential, minus-10, is slightly better than their record, 2-5, but that’s mostly due to their own overhauled lineup that has at least lived up to expectations.

The pitching has been problematic, though it comes with a caveat.

They have allowed 46 runs, more through their first seven games of any season in their San Francisco history. The only team with a worse ERA is the Colorado Rockies, which is not good company to keep when it comes to run prevention.

But, as Melvin noted in the wake of Wednesday’s loss, “we’re certainly not at full strength yet.”

The next time the archrivals meet — for three games at Oracle Park in the middle of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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