Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

San Jose Giants' Catcher Andrew Susac Thrilled with Playing for Childhood Team

By Vince Cestone
Twitter @vintalkingiants

Andrew Susac is living his childhood dream—playing professional baseball for the organization he grew up rooting for.

Susac is the starting catcher for the Class-A San Jose Giants, a minor-league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The determined prospect must start at the bottom before accomplishing his goal – being a San Francisco Giant.

Susac, like many Giants’ faithful, braved the cold winds of Candlestick Park and reaped the rewards of beautiful AT&T Park. As a baseball player from Roseville, Calif., the Giants have always been part of his life.

“Me and my dad always went to Candlestick Park when I was young, and then, AT&T when it got built,” Susac said. “I loved Matt Williams, Will Clark, J.T. Snow. The Giants have been in my blood my whole life.”

The Giants selected Susac in the second round of the 2011 draft (86th overall pick). On the day he was drafted, Susac said his family was elated with him, their rising star.

“The day I got drafted, it was a room full of tears, and everyone was so excited,” said Susac, who debuted professionally in 2012. “It was out of the blue, and you know, I was so pumped up.”

As a young, minor-league player, Susac said he must maintain focus in San Jose, and not beyond, to achieve his goals. He hit just .244 for San Jose in 2012 but had nine home runs and 52 RBIs in 102 games.

Although he said his batting average was lower than he would have liked, Susac can get on base. His 2012 on-base percentage was a respectable .351 and had 55 walks in 361 at-bats.

Susac said he is confident he will figure out his swing.

“Well, [I’m] not showing too much right now, but I’m still getting used to…playing every day,” Susac said. “I’d like to think I hit for power, but putting the ball in play and getting base hits right now is my main goal.”

The Giants’ talented young catcher first experienced success as a 2010 Cape Cod League All-Star.

As a sophomore playing for Oregon State University last year, he led the team in home runs and was second in RBIs. Although the Philadelphia Phillies drafted him out of high school, Susac opted to play college baseball to mature.

“I just thought I had to grow up a little bit, be on my own.” Susac said. “It’s a tough life out here, and I could not imagine doing this at 17, 18 years old. I’m glad I…got some experience being on my own, doing my own laundry…but a college education isn’t bad either.

The college experience paid off. Baseball America rated Susac the No. 6 prospect in the Giants’ organization, and the big club awarded him an invite to major league spring training.

Susac only had three at-bats last spring (1-for-3), but he showed the Giants his skill set. Susac is still learning and strives to improve, especially on his high strikeout total.

Susac struck out 100 times in 361 at-bats and said he is ready to challenge himself to put the ball in play. He is diligently working to improve.

 “You don’t have a chance to get a base hit when you’re striking out that much,” Susac said. “Just taking it day by day, keeping the same head, level head, going after it ever day. It’s a different process playing every day, and I’m trying to get used to it.”

Susac has great company at catcher, including Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez. Despite the tough competition behind the plate, Susac said assertively he will remain a catcher.

“I’m a catcher for life. I love catching,” Susac said. “You can’t worry about things you can’t control.”

Although Susac’s offense has not clicked in San Jose, the catching prospect said his defense rarely slumps.

“I would like to think of myself as a plus defender,” Susac said. “I run into little patches where I have to refresh my skill set here and there, but I got a good arm, got a quick release.”

Susac also said he takes pride in his ball-blocking ability, and more importantly, calling the right pitches.

“I block the ball, but calling the game is the biggest part of moving up in the system,” he said.

Susac already reached milestones most aspiring baseball players could only dream. Although he is riding buses and paying his dues in the organization he rooted for as a child, he is just happy to be in the Giants’ system.

“It’s a dream come true,” Susac said. The day I got drafted, it was a room full of tears and everyone was so excited. It was out of the blue, and you know, I was so pumped up.”

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Unity, Perseverance Were Key to Success for 2012 San Francisco Giants

By Vince Cestone
Twitter @vintalkingiants

HarshLight/flickr via Creative Commons

The San Francisco Giants’ 2012 World Series championship season culminated with a victory parade down Market Street, but the team’s recipe for success was to come together at the right time.

When the Giants faced any sort of adversity, their unity helped them overcome it. The Giants’ biggest hurdle to climb was the loss of their best hitter Melky Cabrera, who was suspended 50 games in August for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Without their number three hitter, the Giants did not panic. Instead, the other 24 players stepped up to the challenge.

Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford played flawless defense and improved his hitting in the second half. From August through the end of the regular season, Crawford hit .285 and played gold glove-like shortstop.

Crawford said his team turned the Melky suspension from a negative into a positive—and eventually, into its second World Series championship in San Francisco.

“I really think we all kind of came together, especially since the Melky suspension,” Crawford said. “Everybody just kind of stepped up. Obviously, guys like Buster [Posey] and Angel [Pagan] getting on base all the time, and the addition of Hunter [Pence] and Marco [Scutaro] [were] huge…so we all kind of just put it together and we [were] on a pretty good roll.”

Crawford stepped up when it mattered—in his first postseason, where he got key hits and only committed one error in 16 playoff games.

In Game 5 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) against the Cincinnati Reds, Crawford started the scoring with an RBI-triple—the Giants won the game 6-4 to advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS). Another big hit for Crawford came in Game 5 of the NLCS in St. Louis, where his 2-RBI single helped the Giants come back and win the best-of-seven series after falling behind three-games-to-one.

The Giants suffered a big blow in April when All-Star closer Brian Wilson was forced to have season-ending Tommy John surgery because of an elbow injury. With their closer lost for the year, the Giants did not dwell on their misery for long.

Instead, the team showed its relentless desire to never give up when Sergio Romo emerged as closer in the second half of the season and throughout the playoffs. In the postseason, Romo was lights out, posting a 0.84 earned-run average in 10.2 innings pitched with nine strikeouts and a miniscule 0.47 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).

Romo credited the Giants’ selflessness for their success, even through all the adversity.
“We all play together with the same mindset, the same goal, and we’re all pulling on the same rope at the same time,” Romo said. “There’s not a selfish bone on this team, and I think that’s a big key to why we’re doing so well—why we’re in the position we’re in.”

Although first baseman Brett Pill was left off the playoff roster, he echoes what Romo said about the Giant’s unity and positive vibes.

“We’re all friends off the field, and when we get here during the games, that definitely helps…and I’m pulling for everyone, and they’re pulling more me,” Pill said. “It’s just a good atmosphere.”

In addition to their unity, the Giants persevered through 2-0 and 3-1 series deficits with their strong pitching. Although the Giants’ starting pitching was not as dominant as their 2010 championship season, their bullpen was.

Together, Giants’ pitchers as a whole posted a 2.88 postseason ERA, the best among National League teams in the playoffs (Atlanta had a 2.00 ERA but played in just one game). Together, they pulled for each other and made the big pitch when they needed it.

Fans did their part too. 

Fan support may have motivated unlikely heroes such as the beleaguered Barry Zito and the resurgent Ryan Vogelsong to pitch the games of their lives in NLDS and NLCS elimination games. With the unifying Twitter trends #RallyZito and #RallyEnchilladas, the team may have fed off that energy and became motivated to bring a World Series title home to the fans.

One person cannot take most of the credit for the Giants’ 2012 championship. It was the unifying whole of the Giants’ community, including players, coaches, fans, and even employees, that ultimately contributed to bringing the World Series trophy to San Francisco once again.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics Give Bay Area Baseball Fans a Thrill

                                                                                                                       Getty Images via NBC Bay Area

Giants celebrating after winning NLDS - San Francisco Giants v Cincinnati Reds - Game Five; Athletics dejected after ALDS Game 5 loss - Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics.

By Vince Cestone

Bay Area baseball fans have been tense all week long, but the waiting period ended on Thursday.

On one side of the San Francisco Bay, fans were filled with elation. On the other side, fans were heartbroken.
Both Bay Area teams battled through adversity in their Division Series games.  The Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants were each down 2-0 in their respective series, but both battled back to tie

The Giants and A’s had their dramatic moments.

The Giants barely staved off the Cincinnati Reds’ valiant comeback attempt in Game 5. Buster Posey’s grand slam in the fifth inning gave the Giants a commanding 6-0 lead, but the Reds would cut it down to 6-4 by the ninth inning.

Giants fans were nervously on their feet throughout the winner-take-all game. After Posey’s grand slam, the Reds had at least two runners on base in every inning, including the tying run at first in the ninth inning.

Sergio Romo, the anchor of the Giants’ bullpen, silenced the 44,000 people at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati by striking out Scott Rolen to end the ballgame. To add to the drama, the pitch hung up there, but the break still fooled Rolen.

While a hanging breaking ball usually means despair for Giants fans, this time it meant jubilation. No Giants reliever was more excited than Romo to get the series clinching out.

“I’m very proud that they asked me to get the last out,” Romo said. “It means a lot to me that they count on me.”

The cards fell in place for San Francisco. The only reason Romo was asked to close it out was because of an injury to Jeremy Affeldt, according to manager Bruce Bochy.

Back in the Bay Area, the A’s tried to match the Giants and advance to the American League Championship Series. They had all the momentum in the world after Wednesday night’s thrilling come-from-behind victory, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth to stun the opposing Detroit Tigers (after Jose Valverde's recent blown save in New York, manager Jim Leyland may replace him in the closer role, according to Newsday).

Thursday night's American League Division Series Game 5 did not go as planned for the A’s and their fans.

Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander was just too much for Oakland.  After coming alive late last night, the A’s bats chilled on ice all night never to be let out—just like their series-clinching champagne celebration.

Verlander blanked the A’s on just four hits in his complete effort. Although the A’s ultimately were done in, thanks to a four-run outburst by Detroit in the seventh inning, chants of “Lets go, Oakland!” could be emphatically heard after the game as the Tigers celebrated.

Despite facing a tough pitcher in Verlander, A’s manager Bob Melvin still stood by his team.

"We didn't think it was going to end today, not for a second," Melvin said. "We knew we were going up against a good pitcher. That didn't mean we didn't think we were going to win. We've gone up against good pitchers this year. And it's a bit of a shock when it finally does end. It was a heck of a story. It was a heck of a run for us."

The lights at the Oakland Coliseum will remain off for baseball until April 2013, but the A’s will be ready next year. Fans should expect them to benefit from their postseason experience and their relentless never-give-up attitude going forward.

As for the Giants, Orange October will continue Sunday at AT&T Park against the St. Louis Cardinals. After feeling disappointment with two crushing losses, the Giants faithful will have a chance to see their team play for at least two more games.

The lights may go down in the city of Oakland next week, but they will be shining brightly at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Giants Acquire Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies

By Vince Cestone
Twitter: @vintalkingiants

Hunter Pence taking his at-bat with
the Philadelphia Phillies.

The San Francisco Giants made a big splash today, acquiring outfielder Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Answering the Los Angeles Dodgers, who acquired shortstop Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins and Shane Victorino from the Phillies, the Giants sent right fielder Nate Schierholtz, catching prospect Tommy Joseph, and Single-A right-hander Seth Rosin for Pence and cash considerations.

Pence is hitting .271 with 17 home runs and 59 RBIs this season. He has a .336 on-base percentage and 37 walks. Pence is 4-for-11 this season at AT&T Park, including a home run and two RBIs.

The Giants' new right fielder also owns a career .329 average at AT&T Park.

San Francisco expects to bat Pence number five in its batting order. Giants' number five hitters have combined to hit just .259, with seven home runs and 52 RBIs.

Pence improves that spot in the order with better numbers, including slugging percentage. Giants' hitters combined to slug just .386 from the number five spot, and Pence is slugging .447.

Pence owns a career .290 average, with 131 home runs, 471 RBIs, and a .342 OBP.

Schierholtz was hitting just .257, with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

The Giants were said to be after Royals' closer Jonathan Broxton, but he was traded to the Kansas City Royals.

Unlike last years deadline deal in which the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran, Pence is not a free agent after this season. He is eligible for arbitration after this year and is expected to make between $13-15 million.

Pence will not be a free agent until after 2013.

Just in: Talking Giants Baseball has learned that "Sabean said there is room for Pence and Melky. Also said deal was a partial reaction to losing streak, Dodger sweep and Dodger moves," according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle via Twitter.

Update (7:16 p.m.): Giants' broadcaster Duane Kuiper just reported Pence will not be activated tonight since he is still en route to San Francisco. Pence wanted to be with the Giants before first pitch, but it looks like that will not happen. He will be activated tomorrow, and he is likely to start.


The Giants made an excellent statement by acquiring Pence. They told the Dodgers and baseball they are in it to win it.

Pence is a dynamic player who can do a lot of things. He can hit for power, run, steal bases, and give you solid defense in the outfield.

The Giants, so desperate for a spark as they sleepwalked through the Dodgers series, picked up someone with flare and energy. Even when he takes his at-bat, he has a lot of moving parts--but he still keeps enough focus to put together a quality at-bat.

He may have only hit .271 with 17 home runs at an offensive paradise in Philadelphia, but being in the thick of a pennant race will motivate a baseball player to succeed. 

 Pence hit .300 on the road, and 10 of his 17 home runs came away from Philadelphia.

Looking at the Giants' lineup, they now have a formidable middle of the order with Pence:

  • 3 - Melky Cabrera, .353/10 HR/51 RBI
  • 4 - Buster Posey, .315/13 HR/60 RBI
  • 5 - Hunter Pence, .271/17 HR/59 RBI
  • 6 - Pablo Sandoval, .299/8 HR/33 RBI (but has been injured).

The numbers do not lie. The Giants will be just fine offensively.

The Giants are also picking up somewhat of a hot hitter. In his last seven games, Pence was 6-for-18.

It will be interesting to see how Pence does at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, but he has hit well in San Francisco. Will he be the Giants' offensive savior, or will he be another Aaron Rowand?

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Information from contributed to this article.

Check out my article on the San Jose Giants' Joe Panik.

Photo Attribution: By MikeSheridan89 on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 30, 2012

Giants Look to Get Back on Track as They Welcome the New York Mets


By Vince Cestone 

Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants will look to rebound after getting swept by their rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Although they lost three straight games at home to Los Angeles, the Giants are still in sole possession of first place by a mere .001 percentage point (.545 winning percentage for the Giants compared to .544 for the Dodgers).

After being shutout twice in a row by Los Angeles, Madison Bumgarner (11-6, 3.10 ERA) will look to be the stopper. Bumgarner is coming off a gem against the San Diego Padres on July 24 where he pitched seven inning and gave up two earned runs in his no-decision.

The Giants' offense is leaking oil. In their last four games, they have scored just six runs and many of their offensive starters have gone cold.

Brandon Belt, despite going 3-for-5 on Friday night and 4-for-10 in the Dodger series, is hitting .180 in July with a .261 on-base percentage and 26 strikeouts in 61 at-bats.

Angel Pagan has also suddenly gone stone cold. After getting off to a good start, Pagan is hitting just .217 in his last seven games, with a .250 OBP and a .348 slugging percentage.

The Giants are hitting with very little power, if any. Scoring just 19 runs in the last week, San Francisco has hit just three home runs and 15 total extra base hits.

The Mets will ask Jeremy Hefner to face the struggling Giants' offense. Hefner (1-4, 5.40 ERA), in his last appearance, pitched a quality start, throwing six innings and giving up just two earned runs.

Here are some more tidbits:
  • Mets' outfielder Scott Hairston is 0-for-6 against Bumgarner in his career.
  • Hefner pitched three scoreless innings against the Giants in his major league debut in New York on April 23.
  • Bumgarner is 7-1 with a 1.89 ERA in nine home starts this season.
  • The Giants have no been shut out in three straight games since June 23-25, 1992.
  • The Giants have won 11 of their last 15 games against the Mets
  • Giants' catcher Hector Sanchez is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday.
The Giants are 2-4 on the homestand.


The Giants are playing awful baseball right now. They look like they have no idea what they are doing at the plate and it shows.

The Giants twice on Saturday had leadoff doubles that never came around to score. The Giants twice on Sunday made baserunning gaffes that killed potential rallies.

They are swinging at pitches way out of the strike zone and taking pitches right down the middle. The situational hitting is lacking in a big way and it's due to their overaggressiveness.

Can it be the result of trying to do too much?

Case in point. Buster Posey lead off the bottom of the second inning in Saturday's game with a double. The next batter, Angel Pagan, swung at the very next pitch and popped the ball up to left.

It is going so bad that even when the Giants do make hard contact, it is finding a glove. Newly acquired infielder Marco Scutaro can tell you all about that.

Scutaro scorched the ball in each of his three at-bats on Sunday, but only had one hit to show for it.

Defensively, the Giants made costly errors both on Saturday and Sunday. Brandon Crawford's ground-ball miscue and Scuatro's botched pop-up both led to runs.

The bottom line is the Giants are still in a great position to win the National League West. They are percentage points ahead of the Dodgers in first place and have an incredibly easy schedule coming up.

They won't step foot east of Chicago for the remainder of the season. Can the barrage of games remaining against San Diego and Colorado be enough to carry them into the postseason--and dare I say beyond?

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