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View from the other side: Giants questions for Bryan Murphy of McCovey Chronicles

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
He doesn’t look right in this uniform.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays start a two-game series with the San Francisco Giants today.

The Giants are 9-14, and last in the NL West. It must be the first time this season that we’ve started a series against a team with a record that is worse than our own. Oh maybe not, we played the Red Sox early on and they had a record that was worse than ours.

They are second from the bottom of the NL in runs scored per game at 2.91. But they are 3rd best in the NL in runs allowed per game at 3.48.

I sent off some questions to Bryan Murphy of McCovey Chronicles and he was nice enough to answer them. He had this line at the top of his answers:

** Keep in mind that these answers have been given with the full belief that Vlad Guerrero Jr. will be called up for this series. **

I wish Bryan was right. I’m hopeful that it will be Friday. But the Giants don’t have to worry about facing Vlad.

You have a few of our former friends, but let’s ask about one separately. How is Kevin Pillar doing? He was a fan Favorite here, what do Giants’ fans think of him?

Giants fans warmed up quickly to Kevin Pillar after hitting four home runs and driving in 13 to claim the team lead in both categories. That doesn’t mean he’s been the team’s best hitter because outside of those home runs and the ensuing RBIs, he hasn’t done very much at the plate. On the other hand, like most of the Giants, his defense has been excellent and helps lighten the load of his lackluster offense; and, it sounds like he made it easy for the clubhouse to embrace him right away. He fits in.

How are our other old friends doing? How goes it with Travis Bergen? Do you think he’ll make it through the season with the Giants or will we get him back? Yangervis Solarte, who might be less of a former friend and more of a guy that hung around too long, how is he doing? And you have Turkey Bacon spokesman, Eric Kratz. What is his role on the team?.

Travis Bergen had a really nice start to his Giants career before running into the Washington Nationals’ bats last week. He had really rough back to back outings (4 earned runs thanks to 2 home runs in a single inning on Wednesday, and then allowed a walk and a hit without recording an out the next day), but for the time being, the Giants seem committed to keeping him.

Meanwhile, Yangervis Solarte has 9 hits in 48 plate appearances across 19 games in more of a part-time role. He hasn’t hit well enough to knock Gerardo Parra out of the starting left field spot or force Joe Panik into a more traditional platoon situation, both developments that are mildly surprising. With the switch back to the NL and a year removed from his oblique injuries, I thought for sure that Solarte could be the team’s surprise acquisition of the offseason. So far, that has not been the case; but, Solarte also seems to have been embraced by his teammates and seems to fit in with the rest of the clubhouse.

Erik Kratz is Buster Posey’s backup and oh boy can he not hit at all but he is an impressive pitch framer. He seems to be just okay at pitch calling or else he’s mostly had bad luck with his pitchers executing given pitches, particularly in 2-strike counts. He’s been working with Drew Pomeranz, so, there’s a decent chance you’ll see him in Game 2.

Madison Bumgarner is in the last year of his contract. Are you likely to extend him or trade him?

Nobody knows what the future holds for the Giants and Madison Bumgarner. They’re unlikely to get much of a return for him at the deadline and not just because he has been in a steady decline since his dirt bike accident in 2017, but also because of his pending free agency. Knowing that, knowing that he’s still a fan draw, and knowing that he’s in obvious decline, it’s possible the conditions are ripe for an extension. On the other hand, new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi is probably looking to move as much of the roster as he can while he still can and might not much care what he gets in return, figuring the quantity can make up for the lack of quality -- the Giants have both one of the worst farm systems in professional sports and they’ve had trouble filling their minor league rosters with non-veterans. Not a great setup for a team trying to develop quality players not yet in their prime. So, I’ll say that a trade is the most likely scenario, and it’s probably a 70/30 split on those odds.

Can we have a quick scouting report of the started pitchers we are going to see?

Jeff Samardzija has lost some velocity on his fastball but still has quality stuff, particularly with his slider. His walk rate has jumped significantly because it looks like the Giants have gotten him to buy into just throwing his hardest but also not throwing as many strikes as he once did in order to maximize the five innings they want out of him. They signed him to be an innings eater, so for him, his mind set was also set on getting to 7 innings and pitching 200+ innings per year. After a shoulder injury ruined his 2018 and with the new management team in place, it sounds like he had a “come to Jesus” moment and figured that the best way to extend his career was by changing up his approach. So, he doesn’t throw as many strikes because he’s not aiming to stay in the game as long as he can. But he still gives up home runs. Lots and lots of them.

Drew Pomeranz has been hitting 94 mph consistently (though averaging about 92 mph) and his curveball looks to have regained its dominant 2017 form. In this early going, he has looked very much like the dude who won 17 games with Boston in 2017. Still, we’re fully expecting Vlad Guerrero Jr. to go off on both of these pitchers, as they’re both homer prone and, well, Vladito is supposedly better than every player the Giants have had on their roster -- combined -- since Barry Bonds.

Who is your favorite Giant to watch?

Reyes Moronta throws 100 mph sometimes, but averages 97 and he’s got a nasty slider. He could be a late inning reliever but it looks like he’s being held back for the time being while he works a new changeup into his arsenal. He’s just a young, talented bullpen arm that’s excited Giants fans enough to call his entry into the game The Reyes Moronta Experience. In these run-free times, watching pitchers get outs is all we have.

The Giants’ pitching has been very good and the offense has been far less good (we can relate, though it is turning around for us). Which player’s slow start has surprised you the most?

None of the players’ slow starts have been surprising. The Giants’ core offense has been in noticeable, remarkable decline since the second half of 2016. They’re one of the worst baseball offenses to ever exist. It wasn’t always that way, of course, but the core (Posey, Belt, Crawford, Longoria, Joe Panik) seemed to age off a cliff simultaneously. There was a flicker of optimism about Evan Longoria as Spring Training wound down and in the first couple of series to start the year it looked like he might be setting himself up for a nice rebound season, but now, nah, the team isn’t expected to score many runs for the next few years.

Who is the Giants’ closer and set men? We’ve been going more of our scoring late in games, how confident are you in them?

The Giants’ bullpen is its greatest strength, which isn’t to say that they can’t be beaten -- but still, it has been reliably good (20 runs allowed in 76.2 IP, or about 44% better than league average). Will Smith is the closer and the setup duties are sort of a revolving door, although lefty Tony Watson seems to get that call more often than not. However, Mark Melancon has started off the season with 10 scoreless innings and once upon a time, he was signed to be the Giants’ ace closer. He might’ve finally rebounded to coming close to that role and we might see him slotted in more firmly as the setup man until such time that Smith is traded for prospects (Melancon has a full no trade clause and approximately $30 million remaining on his deal, so, he’s not going anywhere). Smith features a nasty slider and a 92-93 mph fastball. Melancon’s more 91-92 but with a high spin cutter and really sharp curveball.

Thanks Bryan