However hazy and unpredictable the Giants roster may look as the 2015 season expires, 2016 is practically set in stone.
A core group of position player rookies will ease the Giants’ trip into free agency; suddenly the team has a bit of cheap homegrown outfield talent to work with in Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker. And, of course, they’ve solidified their renowned and cheap homegrown infield with Matt Duffy and Kelby Tomlinson‘s ascent.
The search for a productive position player, it seems, may not be the priority this offseason. They’ll surely be looking to shore up a messy rotation.
Chris Heston, who’s had a rough second half (1-6 with a 5.22 ERA his last 11 starts), made his final start of the season Friday night hoping to prove that he was a piece that could fit.
His struggles, though, persisted. Heston had a hard time finding the strike zone and locating his sinker, surrendering a career-high eight runs in the Rockies’ 9-3 win over the Giants. Bruce Bochy said he’s just been trying to do too much with his strikes this second half:
“At times it looks like he backs off a little bit, like to see him stay aggressive every pitch, every hitter. He’s concentrating on throwing strikes, but you can try too hard at times and I think he does.”
To be fair, the Rockies own Heston; seven of the 15 home runs he’s surrendered have come off a Rockie bat, granted, six of them came at Coors Field. The seventh, though, was smashed by Nolan Arenado in the top of the second at AT&T Park.
Arenado has hit six home runs in San Francisco and 10 home runs off Giants pitchers this season, one short of Atlanta’s Dale Murphy’s 11 homers in 1983. Said Bochy:
“He’s killed us. He likes to hit in this ballpark. It’s not Colorado, it’s here. He’s had a great year, he’s a great player. Make your mistakes and he’ll make you pay for it… for some reason we make a lot of mistakes to him.”
Colorado tacked on five more in the second inning with a frustrating RBI dribbler from power hitter Carlos Gonzalez and a base-clearing RBI double from Arenado. The rally started with a leadoff walk from Colorado’s starter Kyle Kendrick.
Heston’s walked a fair few this second half, especially. He has 63 this season, nine against the leadoff hitter:
“Anytime you’re walking guys you’re putting more runners on, bad things can happen. Focus, outside of getting strong, is attacking the strike zone.”
For good measure, they added three more in the third when Kendrick (W, 7-13, 6.32 ERA) knocked a leadoff single and Charlie Blackmon advanced him to third on a double that ricocheted off the brick wall’s corner. Jose Reyes brought ’em home with a bloop single that made the third base chalk fly.
The Giants were in too deep. They scored one run in the second after Brandon Crawford‘s full count single that he jacked up the middle. Parker scored him easily with a first-pitch double.
Jackson Williams recorded his first hit with the Giants in the eighth, a double down the third base line. Crawford made it worth while with an RBI double that bounced off the sneaky Chevron cars on the left field fence.
So, not the mark Heston could have left on his 2015 season, though he does lead all rookies in wins (12) and has that shiny no-hitter to show off. Said Heston:
“As a whole, it was good. If you’d have told me in Spring Training I woulda won 12 games in the big leagues I woulda told you you’re crazy, I’m sure.”
Heston is valuable. Heston is young. Since the Giants could spend some of that hard-earned money on a top or middle-tier starter, Heston’s place in the rotation may not be open next year.
His pitches lost velocity over the span of the year–he’s not used to pitching through September–and he lost weight and tried to manipulate his pitches too much to make up for it:
“Velocity was down there towards the end, that’s why I really gotta focus on getting strong this offseason…Instead of pitching them I’m trying to place them. Getting stronger will help.”
What does Bochy want to see from him in the offseason?
“Really get back to the way he is. Using both sides of the plate and couldn’t have walks, walks to the pitcher killed him tonight.”
But that full year of Major League starts isn’t something Bruce Bochy and the front office can ignore.
This one makes sense; Duffy is the first rookie to be honored. He fought for his starting spot, tallying 12 home runs, 76 RBI and leads all rookies in hits. Bochy beamed with prided:
“Every pitch, every at bat defensively, the way he runs the bases, he hasn’t had a break in a while. I don’t know where he’s at now, 100 plus games…he has all their respect. Just his style of ball and the way he plays. He should be proud of that.”
Duffy’s dad heard that of his son’s award about a week before Duffy found out. He was in the stands, recording Duffy’s at bats and base running with a camcorder. What a dad.
They also hugged it out during the ceremony:
“It was awesome. I was kind of in game mode still at the same time because I knew we had to take the field soon. He kind of hugged and held on and I was like ‘alright’. I kind of let him hug me and he was getting teary eyed and I asked him if he was alright and he was like ‘yeah are you?’ And I was like ‘yeah I got a game to play.’”
Duffy was honored that his team chose him:
“Anytime you can be honored by your teammates, it’s something that feels good. There are guys that you spend every single day with. I don’t have a family, but a lot of these guys do. They spend more time with us than their families a lot of time. For them to recognize me, it’s special to me.”
“I’m gonna turn it around and give credit to the veterans. They’ve made my transition to the team, since I came up last year, so much easier. When they’re as welcoming as they are to new guys, you really just relax and have fun and play the game you played growing up.”