Conor Gillaspie

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16:  Aaron Hill #9 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts to his homerun to take a 4-3 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on June 16, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Giants have signed yet another backup infielder to a minor league deal

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In the future, every journeyman infielder will be in Giants camp in Scottsdale for 15 minutes — Andy Warhol

The Giants signed Aaron Hill to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He joins Jimmy Rollins, Gordon Beckham, Kelby Tomlinson Jae-gyun Hwang and Conor Gillaspie as backup infielders. Eduardo Nunez, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt are, obviously, starters.

Hill hit .262/.336/.378 with 10 home runs last season for the Brewers and Red Sox and can play both second and third. Assuming five other dudes aren’t blocking his path.

 

Giants, Conor Gillaspie avoid arbitration

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05:  Conor Gillaspie #21 of the San Francisco Giants hits a three-run homerun in the ninth inning against the New York Mets during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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The Giants and third baseman Conor Gillaspie have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $1.4 million salary for the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports.

Gillaspie, 29, was eligible for arbitration in his second of three years. This past season, he stepped to the plate 205 times for the Giants, batting .262/.307/.440 with six home runs and 25 RBI. Of course, he’s remembered most for his tie-breaking and eventual game-winning three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning off of Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the National League Wild Card game. Gillaspie’s blast sent the Giants to the NLDS but they were sent home by the eventual world champion Cubs.

Eduardo Nunez is expected to get regular starts at the hot corner in 2017, so Gillaspie will serve as his backup.

2016 postseason a reminder of how important bullpen management is

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Sergio Romo #54 of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs during Game Three of their National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park on October 10, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The Giants were escorted out of the 2016 postseason by the Cubs on Tuesday night, suffering a heartbreaking 6-5 loss after bringing a 5-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning. The bullpen would allow four runs, three of which scored before an out was recorded. That was one night after the Giants’ bullpen nearly cost them Game 3, as Sergio Romo allowed two ninth-inning runs to erase a 5-3 lead. The Giants would eventually walk off 6-5 winners in the bottom of the 13th inning.

The start of the postseason brought us the Buck Showalter fiasco in the AL Wild Card game against the Blue Jays. Showalter never used Zach Britton, the best reliever in baseball this year, and the Orioles suffered a 5-2 walk-off loss in the 11th inning. In the NL Wild Card game, Mets closer Jeurys Familia gave up a three-run home run to Conor Gillaspie to break a 0-0 tie in the top of the ninth inning.

Indians manager Terry Francona brought in Andrew Miller — one of the top-three relievers in baseball — in the fifth inning of ALDS Game 1 against the Red Sox. I wasn’t a fan of the move at the time, but ultimately it turned out to be the right call. Miller came in the sixth inning of Game 3 as well, and the Indians moved onto the ALCS.

During the regular season, the Giants’ bullpen blew 30 save chances, the most in baseball and the most by a playoff team since saves became an official statistic in 1969. Manager Bruce Bochy did not have a Britton or Miller to whom to turn. Don’t let this be confused, though, with a totally incompetent bullpen. As a unit, the ‘pen had a 3.65 ERA, 15th best of 30 MLB teams. So, average. Probably better, as the ‘pen allowed hitters to make “hard” contact at a 27.8 clip according to FanGraphs, the second-best mark in the majors behind the Orioles at 27.3 percent.

Bochy managed the top of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game like he was scared out of his baseball pants. Derek Law started the inning and was immediately replaced when he gave up a single to Kris Bryant. Javier Lopez came in and was immediately replaced after he walked Kris Bryant. Sergio Romo came in and was immediately replaced after he gave up a double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith came in and faced two hitters, yielding a two-run go-ahead single to Willson Contreras and a bunt/error to Jason Heyward. Hunter Strickland came in and faced two batters, giving up a go-ahead single to Javier Baez and inducing an inning-ending double play from David Ross. If you’re counting, five pitchers saw a total of seven batters.

People cater to the expectations you set for them and that’s true whether it’s in an office, a classroom, or on the baseball field. If you treat your players like they’re incompetent, they’ll begin to believe that and eventually perform that way like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bochy treated the Giants’ bullpen like it was incompetent. Prior to Game 4, he was asked about his plan for the ninth inning if the Giants were to have a lead. “I’ll let you know in the ninth,” Bochy said, as CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reported.

It’s not enough just to have big-name closers like an Aroldis Chapman. The manager needs to utilize his relievers well and adeptly deal with various personality types and expectations. Showalter and Bochy mismanaged their bullpens in different ways and their teams will watch the rest of the postseason from home or the clubhouse of a golf course. Francona managed his bullpen correctly and will try to do it again in the ALCS against the Blue Jays.