Apart from Buster Posey, the entire lineup could stand to add 20 points to their batting averages, and this might only make the Giants a .500 team. Even the pitching staff doesn't show enough consistency. Is it key players or coaching changes that are going to satisfy the fans that had to endure this season?
-- Keith B., Brisbane
Coaching changes would make only a nominal difference. If it's hitting coaches you're thinking about -- and you probably are, given the Giants' offensive struggles this season -- replacing Hensley Meulens might not make much difference in and of itself. Major League hitting instructors basically possess similar knowledge. The difference lies in their ability to motivate and prepare each hitter for that day's game. And I detected no lack of motivation among Giants hitters this year. They just weren't good enough.
That said, the Giants must improve at least incrementally on offense, which might mean bringing aboard a hitting coach with a different emphasis or a fresh voice. Meulens shouldn't be made a scapegoat for the team's troubles, but that's what tends to happen in these situations. Truth is, not even the return of Tim Flannery, whose multifaceted expertise and dynamic presence as the team's third-base coach, would guarantee a positive turnaround.
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As you probably have read, the Giants intend to maximize their traditional emphasis on pitching and defense. Bolstering the latter, particularly in the outfield, would help the former and thus would address the inconsistency you mentioned. And with each run the Giants prevent, the fewer runs they'll have to score. That's not the most exciting way to upgrade the offense, but it could help.
How does Posey feel about playing first base as much as he did late in the season? Would he rather be catching the whole time?
-- Raven U., Fresno, Calif.
Posey and the Giants share the belief that he's a catcher, first and foremost. But he appreciates being able to avoid catching's physical wear and tear when he plays first. And the Giants welcome keeping his bat in the lineup when he needs a break from behind the plate.
Interestingly, Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, whose superb catching stints with the New York Yankees overlapped each other's, played 260 and 265 games as outfielders, respectively. Both shall always be remembered as catchers. The same goes for Posey, who has caught 798 games and played first base in 212 during his eight seasons with the Giants -- unless he starts occupying first more frequently. His 38 appearances at first base this year were exceeded only in 2015 (42).
The Giants drafted Chris Shaw as a first baseman, but he is converting to left field. In the future, do you think we will see him move back to first? An infield that includes Ryder Jones, Christian Arroyo and Shaw has some potential to be special.
-- Angel D, Norwood, Mass.
Shaw would be a shoo-in to return to first base. But that assumes a trade involving Brandon Belt, which doesn't seem likely in the immediate future. Moreover, Shaw has yet to play a Major League game, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. His power is said to be impressive. The same went for the likes of Angel Villalona, Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker, too.
Where's Matt Duffy?!?!? The Giants haven't been the same without him.
-- Kate S., Carmel, Calif.
I'm guessing that yours is a rhetorical question, since every Giants zealot knows that Duffy belongs to the Tampa Bay Rays and is still striving to overcome his Achilles injury.
And you're absolutely right: The fiber that held the Giants together frayed noticeably when Duffy departed in that July 2016 trade. This was a guy who loved being a Giant. I realize stuff like that rarely comes into consideration with executives who must not allow sentiment to cloud their judgment. But for fans and old-school folks like me who can afford to care about the integrity of tradition and of a franchise's character, Duffy was someone to cherish.
If the team still played at Candlestick, Duffy would have been one of those guys who'd refuse to wear long sleeves no matter how cold it got.
He'd be Jim Davenport if this were the 1960s, Darrell Evans if this were the '70s, Bob Brenly if this were the '80s, Rod Beck if this were the '90s and Rich Aurilia if this were earlier in the 21st century -- maybe not the team's best player, but somebody who nevertheless was darned good while symbolizing what it means to be a Giant.
Think about it: Duffy won a permanent spot in the hearts of Giants fans despite playing only 253 games for the club. Why? Because Giants fans know a genuine ballplayer, a true winner and a sincerely decent man when they see one.