To be fair, Gabe Kapler said this would happen.
Three weeks ago, at the start of the first week of Summer Camp, Kapler said the opening series of the year would be a new look from a baseball perspective. He didn’t know who the Giants would face, but he knew they would try something new.
“It’s not going to look like our normal opening series where you might have three starters go out one, two, three, all of them capable of taking down six innings and 85, 90, 100 pitches,” Kapler said at the time. “There’s no chance of that happening, and we just have to set the expectation reasonably.”
The Giants set that expectation before pitchers even arrived at Oracle Park, and they experimented throughout their simulated games. In two exhibitions against the A’s, they had 18 different pitchers go an inning each. This is what baseball was going to look like at the start of a 60-game season that came on the heels of a historically accelerated ramp-up.
Except, what the Giants are doing looks nothing like what was going on around the rest of the league the first two days.
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There were four starting pitchers to take the mound Thursday and 28 more on Friday. Only seven of the 32 recorded 12 of fewer outs, and two were Giants. Tyler Anderson’s 1 2/3 inning outing Friday is the shortest in the 16 MLB games thus far.
The Giants prepared to start their starters off slow, but around the league, 11 pitchers lasted at least six innings Friday. Ross Stripling went seven against them in Friday’s 9-1 loss. In Chicago, Kyle Hendricks threw a 103-pitch complete game his first time out. Compare that to Johnny Cueto, who was pulled after 63 pitches Thursday and wasn’t happy about it.
“I think we look at our roster construction and our pitching staff in general and we believe in a longer, slower ramp to get guys healthy and keep guys healthy and strong throughout the season,” Kapler said. “We lean on that first and foremost. And then we have a group of starters that can be mixed and matched a little bit, so we’re taking that approach as well.”
Those last words are a huge part of this. The Giants knew they could be overmatched at Dodger Stadium, so they turned to new methods. The Friday starter wasn’t revealed until 3:08 p.m., and it wasn’t even Kapler who made that announcement. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts let it slip when he told reporters that Mookie Betts was moving up to the leadoff spot against the lefty.
Kapler, after an 0-2 start, has not yet announced who will start Saturday’s 1 p.m. game. It’s unclear if it will be Jeff Samardzija, the veteran who once seemed headed for the No. 2 spot and now is … well, he’s in the dugout, that’s all we know. Drew Smyly, signed as a starter, came out of the bullpen Thursday. Kevin Gausman, also signed as a starter, did the same a day later and threw four innings, wiping him out for the rest of this series.
The Giants are trying something we haven’t seen before, and you know what, that’s not an issue. Good for them! This is a weird, unprecedented year, so here’s an unprecedented strategy, one that could possibly overcome the talent deficit.
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The problem, on this Friday night, was that the rest of the league decided to play it closer to straight up, and the new method blew up in Kapler’s face. Anderson gave up two runs, Gausman three more. The Giants knew they wouldn’t hit much this year, but giving up 17 runs over the first two nights wasn’t part of the plan.
Kapler said before the game that at some point he hoped to have a more normal rotation. But that won’t happen this weekend, not with the way he already has used his starters/bulk innings guys. They will have to keep trying new things and hope for better luck as they try to wipe out an 0-2 start that’s more like 0-5 given the length of this season.
“We’re going to stay calm, we’re going to stay measured, we’re going to stay focused and intense,” Kapler said. “We’re going to be just fine.”
Giants pitching an outlier from MLB over first two days of 2020 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area