Here is a link to my Saturday column about the lack of power hitters on the SF Giants. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO — I went in search of a power hitter.
Giants Media Day. Players in different rooms at AT&T Park, players ready to talk.
Was there a power hitter in the joint?
Well, sure. Buster Posey was there. Bona fide power hitter.
Not so sure about the rest. Sure about one thing. The Giants lost Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse. That’s 32 regular-season dingers between them in 2014. Replaced those two with Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki. Five big flies between them. The result? A home-run deficiency for a team already power-challenged. The Giants have become a bunch of leadoff hitters and No. 2 hitters.
Not that the Giants see their power loss as a problem. They will emphasize base hits and speed this season, they say. They will move “the line along.” You heard about the line at Media Day. Do the little things. You heard about the little things.
The message was so prevalent — power is overrated — guys were embarrassed to say they hit for power or like to hit for power or try to hit for power. It would be like admitting sexual deviancy.
Take Hunter Pence and his 20 bombs last season — good power, not great: “There’s many ways to win games. Pitching and bullpen and defense are extremely important. Also base hits and walking and running the bases correctly. Play the game to score one more run than the other team.”
Hunter, are you a power hitter?
“I consider myself the guy who plays the game to win.”
He doesn’t consider himself a power hitter.
I kept searching for a power hitter, a reasonable quest on a big-league baseball team. Went over to McGehee.
Casey, are you a power hitter?
“When I’m at my best, I use the whole field. My goal is to hit hard line drives in the gaps. Last year was an outlier as far as the lack of home runs. I never considered myself a true power hitter. I’ve been a gaps hitter that has some power. I would venture to guess that I would have more than four home runs. Last year, some of that was intentional.
“The ballpark we played in in Miami was even bigger and played bigger than this one. You wouldn’t have much success hitting the ball in the air. Some of my lack of power was by design, trying to adapt my swing to the surroundings. I did have some pitches that I could have probably driven a little bit better.”
Not a power hitter.
Joe Panik, are you a power hitter?
Panik laughed. Probably no one ever asked him that before. “I hit one home run last year in about 300 at-bats. I hit a home run in the postseason. I consider myself a gap-to-gap hitter. I’m the 2-hole hitter. Hopefully, some day the power will come. I know what my role is on this team. It’s not to hit home runs. It’s to get on base.”
Not a power hitter.
Brandon Belt, are you a power hitter?
“I would describe myself as a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter, especially when I’m hitting well. I know if I can stay like that the power comes along. Expecting me to hit tons of home runs every year, I don’t think that’s what my main goal is.”
Not a power hitter. A gap-to-gap hitter. Gap-to-gap is the latest in-phrase on the Giants.
Brandon Crawford, are you a power hitter?
“I wouldn’t say I’m a power guy. I have some. I don’t think anybody’s expecting 15, 20 home runs out of me. I’m just trying to have good at-bats and hit the ball hard and, if they happen to go out, they go out.”
Not a power hitter.
Gregor Blanco, are you a power hitter?
“No. I can hit some homers. I think I can develop myself to be a 10-plus home-run hitter.
Not a power hitter.
I asked Bruce Bochy who’s his cleanup hitter, tried to address the power-hitter shortage indirectly. Bochy harrumphed.
“I don’t have that etched in stone yet. I’m going to noodle on it a little bit more. I think you have to look at Posey. I think you have to look at Pence. One option is to hit Posey third and Pence fourth. Belt could go in the 3-hole and that puts Posey fourth. You can look at three guys, mainly Posey and Pence, but Belt’s an option. McGehee. McGehee backed up (Giancarlo) Stanton last year to protect him.
“We’ve got a different type of lineup. We have more speed. We have guys who keep the line moving. Different ways to score runs. You can do it with the power or you can get guys on base and do some little things. Aoki is going to allow us to do that. You look at Casey’s numbers, they’re pretty impressive. He’s a guy who gets on base. He’s a clutch hitter. When you lose power, hopefully you gain some speed and we’ve done that with Aoki.”
Well, that’s the theory.
I still hadn’t found a power hitter, so I went over to Madison Bumgarner, great pitcher who hit two grand slams last season, had four home runs. Which means he tied McGehee and had three more than Aoki. Bumgarner came to the plate only 66 times.
Madison, are you a power hitter?
“In batting practice, absolutely.”
“Do you have the most power of any hitter on the team?”
“I don’t know about that. We should get something together (a contest) so I can give you a more in-depth answer on this.”
“Who would be some of the other power hitters on the team?”
“I think Aoki’s going to be one.”
Bumgarner was being a wise guy.
“Panik as well,” I said.
“Yeah, he’s got some power. He don’t choose to show it off a whole lot. There’s a lot of guys, they work on different stuff. I work on Home Run Derby and they work on getting doubles.”
In a Home Run Derby, I pick Bumgarner over Aoki and Panik. I pick him over anyone on the Giants.
Note to Bochy: On his non-pitching days, play MadBum in left and bat him cleanup. In spite of the latest move-the-line, do-the-little-things, gap-to-gap-hitter spin, home runs are good. You’ll thank me for this advice.
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