Interview: Bruce Bochy

If you listened to the blogger interview session with Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean, you’ll notice that most of the questions were directed at Sabean. I had several questions for Bochy, but I had actually gotten the chance to ask them earlier. I asked him about Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, and Aubrey Huff (among other things), and a few things stood out:

  • He doesn’t seem to know yet what the plan is for Brandon Belt.
  • Spring Training will definitely be used to sort some things out (though that’s not really surprising).
  • Bochy didn’t believe Huff’s struggles were just about his shape, and doesn’t have any regrets in giving him a lot of playing time to work through his struggles. He took a lot longer to answer the final two questions (the ones about Huff)

What follows is a transcript of the interview…

Giants Nirvana: Do you see Angel Pagan as your leadoff hitter?

Bruce Bochy: Well, I think that’s a question we can answer better as we get into Spring Training. He’s certainly a very very strong candidate. We got Cabrera, too, who could lead off, and these are things that we need to figure out in Spring Training.

Giants Nirvana: Right now, how does Brandon Belt fit into your plans for the 2012 season?

Bruce Bochy: Great question, ‘cause we’re not really positive right now whether it’s at first base, left field, or, you know, being a role player. It’s gonna be competitive this Spring, and certainly his position is gonna be very competitive.

Giants Nirvana: Several years down the road, do you think Buster Posey will still be catching on a regular basis?

Bruce Bochy: Uh, that’s a hard one to answer too, because a lot of that will depend on Buster and of course, our team, what makes the most sense — to have him at first base or catching. But I will say, for right now, that’s what he’s gonna do.

Giants Nirvana: One of the things last year with Aaron Rowand’s struggles and Andres Torres’ inconsistencies… the Giants had sort of a vacancy in centerfield. Nate Schierholtz was hitting well; do you think he could handle centerfield at all? That was something that was never tried…was that considered?

Bruce Bochy: Well, we have talked about Nate going to centerfield, but now with Pagan and Cabrera that wouldn’t make any sense for us because Nate is such a good rightfielder, particularly in our ballpark. So it would just make sense to leave him in right field, where he’ll give us the great defense he gives us there, and have Pagan or Melky in centerfield.

Giants Nirvana: Now that it’s been made clear that Aubrey Huff was out of shape last season, do you have any regrets in the patience you exercised in handling him?

Bruce Bochy: Uh, no, I don’t think it’s just about him being out of shape. You know, we all have our ups and downs, and I think what’s important sometimes is you stay behind these guys whether young or veterans, but he was a guy that we certainly needed to get on track because we’re losing Posey and Sanchez; you know, he had done it before, so no, I don’t have any regrets. But it’s a lesson learned from everybody including Aubrey. You know, it’s just like you talk about Aaron Rowand. We ended up sitting him on the bench. You do what you think is right, and at that time, we thought Aubrey was one of our best options as far as somebody to help drive in runs.

Giants Nirvana: So you don’t think his struggles were because he was out of shape?

Bruce Bochy: Ehhh (pause), it could be a number of things…losing confidence, not quite being in the same shape. You know, it’s hard to say, you just have a year that you don’t see the ball as well, you don’t have the same confidence. But he’s gotta get that back. He knows it, and he looks determined to get back into what he thinks is the kind of shape he was in two years ago.

Interview: Ryan Vogelsong

One of my favorite interviews from Media Day was Ryan Vogelsong, who seemed pretty happy. I asked him about Dave Righetti’s influence and his contract discussions; he mentioned how much he loves playing in San Francisco, and was very pleased with how his contract situation worked out…

Giants Nirvana: Do you credit Dave Righetti with your breakout this season?

Ryan Vogelsong: He definitely had something to do with it. A lot of it was just growing up as a pitcher through the years, but I can distinctly remember a bullpen in Spring Training, and obviously, you know, being a non-roster guy I was trying to, you know, have good bullpens and show him what I was capable of doing. And he kinda backed me off one day and said, “You need to just take it easy, you’re gonna have a great year this year.” And, you know, it just kind of spoke to me because I know Rags, we’ve been friends for a long time, I’m like “he’s not just gonna say that to say it.” You know, it has some credibility behind it. And the day he told me that, I think it made me believe that it was gonna happen. At that point, whether it was Fresno or here, I didn’t know. But it made me believe that I could have an amazing year. So yeah, to that standpoint, and he probably doesn’t even know that that was part of the conversation, but…that day he told me that really made me start to understand that it could happen.

Giants Nirvana: You ended up signing a two-year extension with an option for a third year. Where did contract talks start? Were you talking a one-year deal, or –

Ryan Vogelsong: The actual conversation started pretty quickly after the offseason, but just not real intense, kind of chatter back and forth. A one-year deal was never really discussed; it was pretty much agreed right away that we were gonna try and do something multi-year. And the closer we got to the end, then we really started talking about a third-year option, which is something that I was really interested in doing and I was real happy when the team actually mentioned having that in there. You know, I love playing here, I love the city, I definitely connected with the fanbase here last year, and I really couldn’t think of being anywhere else, you know, for the next two or three years.

Interview: Ron Wotus

I asked Ron Wotus about the Giants’ defense. Specifically, I wondered how much of their recent success was due to keen defensive positioning and how much was just the result of talented defensive players. I also asked him about how the Giants utilize video and such in organizing their defense. What follows is a transcript of the interview…

Giants Nirvana: In the past three seasons, the Giants have put together very good defenses, and this is something that’s just flown under the radar. They’ve ranked sixth, fourth, and fourth in the majors in park-adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011, 2010, and 2009, respectively. How much of that would you attribute to keen defensive positioning, and how much of it would you attribute simply to the defensive talent level of the players on the team?

Ron Wotus: You have to give the players credit, for one — making the play… I mean, this is a very difficult park to play in with the wind…it’s cold, it can be damp, and typically there’s a lot more errors, and the conditions that we have to play in so you have to tip your caps to the players for executing the plays…as far as the defensive positioning, you have to credit the player for knowing where to be. I mean, sure, I oversee it, I give ‘em information on where to be, but when you get in the game, you have to make adjustments on what you’re seeing. And as a coaching staff, and with our pitching staff, we really emphasize defense and being in the right spot. I mean, when we get a groundball, we want to be in the right spot. So, I think the player deserves all the credit, but I think how important it is to us, and we really realize the benefits of it, and we make it a priority…is a big help to the player as well.

Giants Nirvana: The Giants, I believe, were one of the first teams to install a Field F/X camera system in the park. Is that something that’s been utilized by the team, to help?

Ron Wotus: The one up top?

Giants Nirvana: Yeah.

Ron Wotus: Well, we do a great job, Danny, Martin, and our video coordinator, we do a great job getting the coaches and players the information. We utilize — I’m not sure what in particular the F/X camera is doing…Danny would know, but he gives us the video that we need, he gives us the plots of the ball where we need…we do that all in house. I mean, you get stuff from services like Inside Edge or STATS, Inc. on where to play and all that, but to me, you need to have your own information to make sure it’s accurate. When you get other people’s information, it may not be accurate. You don’t know. So we keep our own information and really what benefits more than anything, I think, is keeping what hitters do against our pitchers. We don’t care what the hitters do, necessarily, against the rest of the league’s pitchers…but what are they doing against Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum…our guys. And when you get enough data there, it really helps you be in the right spot. You know, you look back to the Atlanta Braves when they had the same starting pitchers for all those years. They seemed like they were always in the right spot. And part of the reason was, the pitchers knew how — they could locate the baseball, the defense knew how the pitchers were gonna pitch because they’d been there for multiple years. And plus, I’m sure they had the data to back up that information. So when you could — another side of this nobody thinks about, but when you keep your pitching staff together, you have more data against other people in the league, and now it really becomes a tendency more than just guessing or not knowing.