It’s over. They made a valiant effort at the end, staying in it up until 5 games before the season ended, even with all those injuries, but it’s over. Maybe there is something to this odd year curse. Am I sad? Not really. It was a great season, with lots to be happy about. And there were so many great memories and moments to savor. I found so much joy watching these guys since back in Spring Training that it’s tough to be sad. And in the spirit of ending the season on a high note, I’ve decided to make a list of all the great things that came out of this season that will carry forward into next season:
- Have to start with the most important in my book, Matt Duffy. This kid didn’t even begin the season as a starter, and had rarely played third base, but he took over for Casey McGehee when we needed him and earned his spot in the lineup. He can hit, he can play his position, and he’s got stamina. Not only is he a super talented kid but he’s a great interview and has a great sense of humor to boot. Just imagine what next season will be like with him there from the beginning. Who’s Pablo Sandoval again?? By the way, congrats on capping off a great season by winning the Willie Mac Award, Matt. Definitely well deserved.
- Kelby Tomlinson. The kid who saved us when Joe Panik went down. Another kid who is amazing both defensively and offensively, plus he’s got super-human speed (did you see that inside-the-park home run yesterday??). I’ve heard that he’s going to get practice in the outfield during the offseason so that he can be a super-utility guy next season. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
- Jarrett Parker. The kid with the bat. As long as he can get better defensively before next season, it will be hard for Bochy to keep that power out of the lineup. And kids are much cheaper than going elsewhere. We’ll see what happens, and I’m looking forward to seeing him at Spring Training again.
- Matt Cain. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at his outing today. He seemed like he really had it together, like the Matt Cain we used to know. A healthy Matt Cain next season to take some of the pressure off Madison would be lovely.
- Mike Leake. I think we didn’t really get a good look at him this season because of his injury, but I like the fact that he can go deep into a game (allowing the relievers some rest), he can defend, and he can hit. And he wants to come back. Will be interesting to see if the Giants give him that chance.
- Josh Osich. The guy who said that if he didn’t make it to the bigs this season, he would have become a forest ranger. The lefty who pitched in 35 games with a WHIP of 1.12. The guy who would be a shoe-in for a Jeremy Affeldt replacement. Talk about serendipity. Expect that he’ll be back with his wicked stuff.
- Chris Heston. The “who’s that?“ kid who’s talent was discovered because others had to leave the lineup due to injury. He came right in and became number 2 to Madison right away. Then he pitched a no hitter. If he can figure out how to condition himself to make it through an entire season, the kid can be a force next season. He’s definitely a possibility.
- Marlon Byrd. This one’s kind of a mixed bag. I’ve loved this guy ever since he became one of my boys. I love his power and his hustle. However he is 38, and his defense isn’t the best. But he could be added for a decent price. We’ll see how this one plays out.
- Nori Aoki. I miss this guy so much. At the beginning of the season, when he was at the top of the lineup, you were pretty much guaranteed that he would find a way to get on base. Whether it be a walk, a bunt, or that throw-the-bat-at-the-ball swing for a hit. Hope the offseason gives him enough time to recover from the concussion issues and that he really wants to come back, because I’m pretty sure if the price is right, he will be welcomed with open arms.
- Gregor Blanco. The unsung hero who is constantly filling in for injured outfielders and rising to the occasion. Well, even Gregor outdid himself this year. He played in 115 games, batted .291 with an OBP of .368, having the best statistical season of his career. I absolutely love this guy, and I’m sure he’ll be part of the outfield next season, if not as a starter as a backup. Plus he still doesn’t spit – always a plus.
- George Kontos. For this one, please ignore today. It was a blemish on an otherwise remarkable season. The guy really outdid himself, pitching in 73 games with a 0.94 WHIP, the lowest of his 5 year career. And all this considering that at the beginning of the season, the guy was being worked to death due to the fact that the starters weren’t going deep. What a nice surprise he was this season. Hopefully he can continue next season and work less with a strengthened rotation.
- Brandon Crawford. Yes, Ginny, I’m mentioning your boy. And he deserves it. The kid earned his All-Star title this season. This was definitely his breakout year, and though he only had a .256 batting average (seemed to slump of late), he racked up a .321 OBP, 21 homeruns and 33 doubles (both the highest of anyone on the Giants), and 84 RBI (second only to Buster). He also significantly decreased his errors from last season, plus his WAR almost doubled, from 3.2 to 5.6. And he’s still a kid. He’s in the conversation for both the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove for short stop this season. Looking forward to even better things to come from Ginny’s boy.
- Joe Panik. Forget about a sophomore slump for this kid (well, except for the injury that ended his season). In the 100 games he played in, the kid batted .312 and surprised us with some power and 8 homeruns. We’ve definitely found a permanent second baseman, and last year wasn’t a fluke. Looking forward to his return next season and hopefully his presence in a lot more games.
- Jake Peavy’s September and October. OK, the first half wasn’t stellar and he got injured. But those final month numbers were amazing. In his last 6 starts of the season, he had an ERA under 2. And he went 7 innings in two of those games. He’ll definitely be back next year, and hopefully he can start off the season like he ended.
- Hunter Strickland. Last year’s post-season was definitely not fun for the kid, but he was able to come back this season and make a name for himself. He’s still got some control issues, but he’s definitely worked something out. He pitched in 55 games and ended the season with a 0.86 WHIP. And even more significantly, he only gave up 4 homeruns. He gave up more than that last postseason alone! Plus lefties this year (the problem last year) only hit .185 off of him. I love his pitch speed, and I really think if he continues to improve he can be the closer of the future.
- The overall offense. The Giants ended the season first in the National League in batting average. The last time that happened for the Giants was in 1993 (thanks for this info, Andrew Baggarly). I like offense, and it was definitely a breath of unexpected fresh air this season. And pitchers like run support. With the majority of that lineup slated to return, those numbers should return as well.
Pair all this wonderfulness with the return of proven players like Madison, Buster, Hunter, Angel, Brandon Belt, Javi, Sergio, and Santiago, plus some strengthening of the starting rotation (which Baer has pretty much promised is their priority this offseason) and I think we’re in good shape to make a run for it next season. Hopefully the hellish injuries are behind us. Like Bochy said after today’s game, “Next year’s an even year. We have work to do!”
I need to mention the careers of two amazing Giants as they leave us to be with their families: Jeremy Affeldt and Tim Hudson. Jeremy – I will always remember your sense of humor and how you were the butt of everyone’s jokes but were able to laugh with them. Your pitching was wicked and helped us win so many games. I thank you for that. Keep doing all the wonderful work you do for so many people in the world. Enjoy the family and stay out of trouble! Hope you can somehow stay in baseball because you are wonderful in front of the camera. Tim – we were so blessed to have you as a Giant, albeit for such a short time. People seem to only mention your contributions during the post-season last year, but you played a big role in even getting us there in the first place. You were basically the ace for the first half of last season. You were the guy we could count on to get a win during that period, even more so than Madison. I thank you for that, and I thank you for sharing your wonderful family with us. Thanks also for all the knowledge you shared with our pitching staff, especially your little buddy, Madison. Best of luck with all of your charitable endeavors, and enjoy your kids and your wife. I’m sure they’ll enjoy you. Come back from Alabama and visit please (I’m sure Madison would love that).
I was lucky enough to go to the game yesterday with my buddy, Angel. She likes to go to the Star Wars games and of course I was happy to tag along. We had a fantastic time. The giveaway was a Chewbacca bobblehead that’s standing on a Giants helmet – so cute! We did have to wait in line for that one as they only gave out 20,000, but it was a short wait. We went to the Public House to see Marty Lurie broadcasting, and I even gave him one of my bracelets. He got a kick out of our shirts (we were wearing our “Anybody but the Dodgers” shirts). We also got margaritas there – a lot stronger than the ones in the park, I must say! We got yummy Crazy Crab sandwiches for lunch, then went to visit my friend Anne who works in the concessions (she was so happy to see us!) and decided we couldn’t leave her without buying some of the pizza she was selling. That pizza is a new fave – we got the deep-dish kind and it was fabulous! We sat next to a guy who had brought his grandmother to the game. They were very friendly and we chatted with them throughout the game (always seem to sit near friendly people). The pre-game tribute to Tim Hudson was beautiful and very moving. I’m really going to miss that guy, and I’m sure Madison is. We wondered why Madison went up to the podium with Jake, but only Jake spoke. Was he too choked up?? The highlight of the game was that inside-the-park home run by the amazing Kelby Tomlinson. What a thrill – my voice still hasn’t recovered! We were so happy that they were able to pull off a win. My 2015 season record stands at 5 and 2 – not too shabby!
During the game, I noticed that Andres Torres was sitting in our same section in the front row. People were walking up and taking their picture with him. Of course, I wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip away! After the game I walked down and asked if I could take my picture with him and he said yes. I asked what he was doing since he wasn’t playing baseball any longer, and he said he had moved here and has a business selling clothes and electronics. Based on what he was wearing, the clothes must fit really tightly! The guy is so buff! He was very friendly and very gracious with everyone. Needless to say I was star struck and thrilled. I miss that guy. I hope now that he’s local he’ll be attending a lot of games.
As I made my way back up to Angel after that, I noticed a woman walking toward us that looked familiar. It was Kim Hudson, Tim Hudson’s wife! I caught her eye and said, “We love you!” and she said, “Aw – we love you, too!” She came over and talked to us and I gave her a big hug because you could tell it had been an emotional day for her. She said that it was really nice what the Giants and everyone had done to recognize Tim, but it had been really exhausting for them to be so emotional for so long. She had started crying that morning because she was so emotional about what the day would hold for them with the tribute. She said that she knew Bobby Cox (Tim’s manager with the Braves) would be talking and that would set her off again. She said that so much of their life had been spent here starting with their years in Oakland. Her kids were even born in San Ramon. I said that the kids must be thrilled that he will be home, and she said yes, especially her son. He’s already asked his dad, “Can we go to the farm?” (looked it up – yes, they have a farm!) I asked her about how tough it was to make the sacrifices she had to in order for him to play ball, and she just said that it was a blessing. They got to meet so many wonderful people and see so many places. She also said that they would be leaving on the red eye Sunday night to go back home. Sad that the guys would be separated from each other so quickly after the season ended. She was so extremely friendly and so generous with her time. Then Larry Baer came by and she asked how his wife Pamela was doing. They started chatting and he said they would have to come back and attend some games. She joked that maybe Madison Bumgarner could get them some tickets! I also asked if I could take a picture of Larry Baer’s ring, and he said, “You know, she has one, too!” Yes, I know. And I’m so thankful that Tim and his family could share in the joy of earning it while they were here in San Francisco. It was so lovely meeting all of them, and I was so lucky to have the opportunity.
Some news on the new kid front today: The Giants signed 20-year-old Cuban outfield prospect Eddy Julio Martinez to a minor league contract worth $2.5 million. Apparently, since the Giants have gone over their international bonus pool (whatever that means), he will cost them $5 million. He’s currently #4 on MLB.com’s top prospect list. Sounds great to me! Sabean had said he would be looking into the Cuban market more – guess he meant it. And it’s surprising that we didn’t get outbid on this kid by those pesky Dodgers. Will keep you posted if I hear anything else about him.
One fun thing to share that I just learned about from Alex Pavlovic regarding today’s game. Brandon Crawford is apparently the DJ of the clubhouse. He’s the one who picks out what music they play when they win a game to celebrate. He tries to accommodate eveyone’s taste by mixing it up. Well, he chose Mike Leake’s walk up music last week (“Ghetto Superstar”), and since it worked out so well for him, he also prepared a list of walk-up songs for all the players today and forwarded it to the stadium operations people to play during the game. Here’s the link to the list that Alex Pavlovic posted on his Twitter account. What a crackup! You can tell the guy spent a lot of time on this – even his wife, Jalynne, attested to this via Twitter. And they are all so perfect. The one that needs explaining is the Mac Williamson one – he’s from North Carolina and that song mentions North Carolina in it (in amongst all the naughtyness!). According to Pavlovic, the clubhouse favorite was “I’m Too Sexy” for George Kontos. Considering his performance today, I don’t think he’ll be keeping that one! But what a fun thing for Brandon to do, and I’m sure it lightened the spirits of the guys on this last, emotional day of the season.
I’ve got a new spit count and some more Giants nuggets for you, but this is getting awfully long so I think I’ll tease you with them until later in the week. Now that the season’s over, I’ll have more time to blog during the week (kind of ironic, isn’t it?). Thanks for an amazing year, Guys! Until next time, GO GIANTS! GET SOME REST!