SAN FRANCISCO – Andrew Suarez looked up during one of his minor league starts earlier this year, saw the Sacramento River Cats lost five runs and thought, "We can still win this."
The thought process was not simply being optimistic. It was about being realistic in the Pacific Coast League.
The league has always been crazy, but this season has seen new levels of production. The PCL started using MLB balls and the lineups have taken off in a league where altitude was already a problem for pitchers. The teams average 5.62 runs per game and an OPS of .816, and the league's effectiveness is 5.29.
"It's a bit like playing at Coors Field wherever you go," Suarez said.
That can be brutal for young pitchers, a lot of fun for young hitters and quite confusing for executives in charge of deciding which ones are worthy of jumping into the big leagues. Organizations like to reward players who perform at lower levels, but how do you promote a single player when all his team is hitting at unprecedented rates? How do you determine if the production of a batter is legitimate or if a pitcher is really fighting?
After calling on Mac Williamson, who had 1,215 OPS and nine home runs in 82 at-bats in Triple-A, the president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, acknowledged that it is a difficult assessment.
"You have to judge it, not just by looking at the numbers, but also by the relative ranges," Zaidi said. "We have players like (Mike) Gerber and Mac who were really batting as well as anyone in that league, so maybe it's not from one block to the next, with what happened in that league last year or the last few years in the league. PCL "The fact that those guys have been among the best hitters in that league, I think it gives credibility to that performance."
Williamson's statistics were not translated. He scored just .118 in the Major Leagues with a home run (in the real Coors Field) before the Giants designated him for Saturday's assignment. Gerber hit .323 with seven homers before his promotion, then went 1-for-15 with nine strikeouts in a brief Major League cameo.
Behind those two, there is much more noise.
Mike Yastrzemski, the outfielder who took over from Williamson, had a base percentage of .414 and 12 homers in 40 games when the Giants called him. Austin Slater has a .453 OBP and nine homers. Zach Green is at .424 with eight homers.
Traditionally, if you have two-digit home runs in a couple of months of minor leagues, you're online for a call, but the Giants have to be more demanding with the changes in the league (keep in mind that big league pitchers I think the ball of the MLB, which is now used in the minors, is squeezed).
They also have to see the numbers of the pitchers in a different way.
Tyler Beede was promoted earlier this year after posting a 1.99 ERA in five starts. He was one of four league pitchers with less than 3.00 at the time, and Zaidi mentioned the difficulty of the league when talking about the need to take a look at Beede. Shaun Anderson had a 4.11 ERA when the Giants decided he was ready for the big leagues. Suarez was at 6.33 when the Giants brought him back. The main office did not care about the twisted numbers in the minors. Suarez did not care much for them either.
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How do you deal with the new PCL as a launcher?
"I do not look at the table scores," Suarez said, smiling.