© Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no one who wants to move on from the 2018 season more than Giants manager Bruce Bochy. While the team hovered around .500 for the majority of the year, key injuries and the trade of Andrew McCutchen propelled a late-season downslide that included a San Francisco-record 11-game losing streak.
As frustrations have mounted for fans, some have asked why Bochy, a three-time World Series-winning manager, would stick around after two-straight losing years. He just concluded his 12th year with the Giants after 12 with the San Diego Padres. The most recent of those years concluded with a three-game sweep by and 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which gave the Dodgers a chance to win the National League West Division today.
But for Bochy, he’d be quitting on the Giants when they need him most. He joined the Murph and Mac show this morning to explain his thoughts on the season.
“Well, it’s what I love to do, I want to get this turned around,” Bochy said. “I wouldn’t want to leave it in such a rough place for somebody else anyway. And I think there are some things that we can do to get this thing better.”
Bochy said he’s optimistic about the Giants’ future, but was honest about the way the 2018 season ended.
“The tough thing is, we were just so bad at the end,” Bochy said. “It took away from some good things that did happen during that season. We hung in there despite some things we had to deal with but we just didn’t match up will with some clubs there the last month or so. We’re playing contending clubs, they added, and they just had so much depth.”
The skipper said the year was undeniably testing for him and everyone in the organization. However, he said this season had a better locker room feel than 2017 did.
“No question… these last two years have been tough,” Bochy said. “I will say this year was a lot different than last year for me. The clubhouse, the culture. sure, we had to deal with a lot, but the attitude was completely different for me. So that made it a lot better. And we hung in there.”
If the Giants had stayed healthy, Bochy said they would have won the NL West.
“It disappoints me that we lost so many guys because this division was for the taking, I really felt that,” Bochy said. “Nobody ran away with it. So that is what probably bothers me as much as anything. If we just could have kept our guys out there, stayed healthy, I really think we win this division. I really believe that… But we couldn’t. It just seemed like we kept having to deal with these things and we were close. If you look at the last month, it wasn’t like that for most of the year. That’s what you hate to see, is how it ended.”
Bochy acknowledged that the season essentially fell apart with the loss of Buster Posey and the trade of McCutchen to the New York Yankees, saying the Giants even “had trouble scoring with them in the lineup.” He said injuries left young players in tough positions against contending teams without much depth behind them. While the Dodgers had a full 40-man roster in the final series, the Giants had just 31 available players.
Moving forward, Bochy identified the need for “professional hitters,” who can drive in runs and move players over, among other things. He used the Dodgers’ Justin Turner as an example, when he took the ball to right field for a double against the Giants in the final game of the year. Having a player like that would allow players to bat in their proper positions in the order, Bochy said.
He said he was happy with the team’s pitching, despite some bullpen “hiccups.” As far as starting pitching is concerned, Bochy said he expected Jeff Samardzija to be back healthy and was excited about the prospect of minor league pitcher Shaun Anderson.
“We have a young kid Anderson that’s pretty close, knocking on the door,” Bochy said. “We do have a little more depth on the pitching side than the offensive side… we’re going to be competitive on the pitching side.”
From his own position, Bochy said there are things he wants to improve on starting in spring training, like the basics of laying down bunts, something the Giants had a confounding struggle with this year.
Bochy was asked about five young players in Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Abiatal Avelino, Steven Duggar and Aramis Garcia. He broke down each one, saying exactly what he thought their 2019 season might look like, at least from the get-go.
Bochy on young players in 2019
Duggar: “You have to start with Duggar. My biggest disappointment is he got hurt. He was really coming around with the bat too, but he can impact your team on defense. That’s a difference-maker there, but on the offensive side, I think you look at our table-setters, our 1-2 hitters, it wasn’t very good. That’s an important part of the game and I think he can be one of those. He tweaked his swing a little bit, he was making more contact and his confidence was just soaring at the plate. No question, you have to start with this kid. I’m very excited about what he looks like this spring.”
Garcia: “The question that we’ll have to answer is, are we better off continuing his development? He started out in Double-A, went to Triple-A, really hit just a little over .230. So my guess is he’s probably better suited playing every day. He showed that he can do some things for you. Great job at first, but I loved the way he swung the bat. And do you want him sitting and playing one day a week? So I’m thinking he’s probably going to probably be playing everyday. But what he did, he gives us nice options. He could be our backup, he’s showed that he could do that.”
Slater: “Slater, he’s got to adjust his swing. He’s hitting way too many ground balls…. and I talked to him yesterday, but he’s got to change some things. We don’t need a corner outfielder hitting a lot of ground balls, one home run. And he’s got bat speed, he’s got power, it’s just not playing right now with the swing. It’s a little flat, we’ve got some work to do there.”
Shaw: “Now Shaw. He probably got pushed, so I’m looking at him probably getting more reps. And if they hear this, we’ll stay open-minded in spring training, but I think if you look at his Triple-A year, he’s got to recognize pitches a little bit better, so he’s probably looking at some more time in Triple-A.”
Avelino: “Avelino, he’s another kid, Double-A, got a little taste of Triple-A. He probably needs some more time. Now, you saw the difference in him when he got a hit. He was playing a foot taller, his confidence was so high. But he needs more time… he’s intriguing. Good athlete, he’s strong. But I think we’re wise keeping his development. He has not played a year in Triple-A yet. But I tell you what, you love this kid. Great kid, great attitude and he’s going to play winter ball. He’ll be in the mix in spring training, but my guess is he needs a year of Triple-A.”
Overall: “Anyway, these kids got pushed… we were facing contending teams and really good pitching and that made it probably a little bit tougher on some of them. But I love the way Garcia handled it, Duggar handled it.”
Bochy was asked about the Giants’ championship core. Murphy asked Bochy about the Giants’ championship core and whether the team would be sticking to that core or looking at next season as a new brand.
“I think as we go forward next year, I think you’ll look at it as a whole new brand,” Bochy said. “We still have some guys from that era, but I think you’re going to see some changes from our new general manager, but we’ll see. We still have some of it left. But it’s going to be important that we get creative here as far as what we do to get back to being competitive and getting back to where we want to go. I think we do have to get more athletic… corner outfielders, that’s going to be critical for us to get some good athletes there, some professional hitters… It’s going to be a new brand.”
Finally, Bochy recalled that core with his deadpan wit. Murphy asked Bochy, “There’s still Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, who am I forgetting?”
To listen to Bochy’s full interview on the Murph & Mac Podcast, click the link below: