The Zaidi/Kapler Era of San Francisco Giants baseball embodies a contemporary generation gap.
There was a large, once-in-a-generation group of fans who joined us in support of the Giants during the San Francisco World Series Championships: The Bruce Bochy Era. But, because of the long gap between 1958, when the Giants moved to San Francisco, and 2010, when we finally won, it felt like a hand-off from grandfather to grandchild, not father to son.
Between the grandparents – some of whom moved from New York with the team – and the digital generation – who moved into town with Google, FB and Twitter – you have us, Generation X, ours was The Barry Bonds Era, which we carry quietly, firmly and in perpetuity – love you Barry Lamar, you’re the greatest I ever saw play.
Finally winning it in San Francisco after more than half a century, not just once but thrice, was powerful affirmation for long-enduring fans and ushered in the digital generation of fans through social media. The 2010 championship saved the Chron, ’12 and ’14 rode the birth of two new local businesses, Twitter and Insta.
The Zaidi/Kapler Era synthesizes the previous three decades into a new, fast-moving, ever-changing amalgam of players used in concert to generate wins from match-ups, from statistical tendencies, from specialists and single-use player moments. In short, we call it Moneyball. There is a digital generation vibe here.
For older fans, it can be difficult to appreciate. There is no established starting rotation. Pitchers aren’t expected to go seven innings. Bullpen games are a thing. Lineups change every night. Brady Klopfer mentions at McCovey Chronicles, to start the second GBC Reader of ’22, that we’ve used 47 players so far – far more than ever, or anyone else.
For the younger generation it fits right in. They are comfortable with it as an extension of a decade of playing Fantasy; pulling for individual players more than teams even. Moneyball folds right into their thinking: facile management, ever-shifting team, a rejection of firm, or locked-in positions and line-ups in favor of plasticity and utility from the squad that’s available. To its credit, the system produces.
Luis Gonzalez and Jake Junis
Of one of the best successes of the young season, Luis Gonzalez, Jeff Young at Around the Foghorn writes that the Giants capitalized on a move that didn’t make sense.
Another early season success by a guy just straight taken from another team who could have kept him is Jake Junis, whom we wrote about here a couple of weeks ago. Nick Pollack’s review a few of weeks ago said it well:
“Junis’ slider is as wicked as I’ve ever seen it and while I’m still holding out hope to see his crazy good changeup return for another start (just six thrown here for zero whiffs), I’m thrilled to see him steal strikes constantly with sinkers. This works.”
What a quietly effective pick-up Joc Pederson has become – more than a replacement for Kris Bryant’s bat. A month ago, Dylan Svoboda at MLB dot com called him an early gem in this excellent piece about Pederson joining the team. Unfortunately, Joc immediately went into a 4-for-27 slump. Then, on May 26th he had a conversation with Barry Lamar Bonds for a half an hour before a game and since, he has busted out in a huge way. The news is all filled with the Tommy Pham slap, but on the field and at the plate, I love Joc Pederson. Fantasy Pros’ Mario Mergola points out that Joc is currently, “posting career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and OPS.”
Maria Guardado points out that ‘The Giants’ bullpen recorded a Major League-worst 6.26 ERA in May.” in her piece about the struggling ‘pen. The bullpen is a huge source of frustration to me. It’s used so much more now and in such different ways: from openers to middle-relievers, to set-up men and a platoon of closers. We use a ton of pitchers. I long for the days of a starting rotation that goes seven, a set up man, and a closer. But that just isn’t the game anymore according to the Zaidi/Kapler system.
DH Be Damned, Kapler and Co. Love Pinch Hitters
Continuing to analyze the shifting player management, Kathryn Xu of the Defector points out, ” As of June 1, Kapler is averaging 1.33 PH/G. Considering that the league average is .64 PH/G, his pinch hitter usage yields a PH/G+ of 208. That is over double league average” in this illuminating article about Kapler’s use of the bench.
Inside the Mind of Kap
ICYMI, there was a very interesting piece on Gabe Kapler, the man, by ESPN Senior Writer Tim Keown a few weeks back. As he develops into a personality as well as a manager amidst all this wild, moneyball decision-making, I find myself wanting to take the guy out to lunch and find out for myself what makes him tick.
That’s it for the second GBC of the season. Could be bad weather in Miami, where the Giants lost to Sandy Alcantara yesterday, Giants 0, Marlins 3.