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Gabe Kapler’s strong statement: Giants’ energy lacking, time to refocus

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 03/07/2022 By John Shea

Losers of 10 of their past 13 games, the San Francisco Giants have fallen from three games out of first place to 8½ back. They have trouble scoring runs and fielding their positions.

Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler added another element that needs upgrading: energy.

“I don’t think that we’ve brought our best levels of energy to the ballpark over the course of the last couple of weeks,” Kapler said, “and when that happens, I think it’s important to examine where we’re spending our energy.”

Kapler’s team has dropped to 40-37 in the wake of 2021’s historic 107-win season. He said before the series finale against the White Sox at Oracle Park that the energy could be directed in more positive ways.

“So you don’t have your best energy, why don’t you have your best energy? Where are you spending it that isn’t helping?” Kapler said. “And one thing that I think we can all do is take the energy that we’re spending on things that we can’t control and invest into teammates, into players.

“So by way of example, you can spend some energy during a full inning and examine an umpire’s call — was it a ball or was it a strike? Or you can take that same level of energy and invest it in a teammate that needs some support or challenge the bar raised for him.”

First baseman Brandon Belt, the longest-tenured Giant, was relayed Kapler’s comments and said improvements are needed across the board.

“It’s pretty obvious team energy, our play, whatever you want to call it, hasn’t been up to our standards, up to anybody’s standards,” Belt said. “I think we need to be a little bit more proactive and turn that around a little bit and get things back on track.

“A lot of times it’s just changing attitude. We know what we need to do to go out there and play well. ... We’ve just got to come to grips it’s not going to be a perfect season for us, but we’ve still go to win ballgames, and we’ve got a team capable of doing that.”

The Giants are without Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman, but most of the players on the roster were on the team last year. Newcomers Joc Pederson and Carlos Rodón are among the most notable exceptions, but a great majority of the returning players have slipped statistically.

Stats easily can be quantified by the Giants’ analytics-driven staff, but energy levels require a different measurement. They’re judged and valued based largely on the eye test, and Kapler has seen enough to know that the energy isn’t where it should be.

“We can talk about things like field conditions, by way of example, but the field is going to be challenging for both sides from time to time,” Kapler said. “So are we taking that energy and kind of throwing our hands up and being upset at some of the things that are outside of our control? Or are we investing that energy into the group in a positive way? Are we channeling and challenging ourselves with that energy?

“If collectively, we’re all doing that, it’s as simple as a player who doesn’t make a play on defense, and rather than express frustration about it, going up to that player and reminding him how good he is and how we’ve depended on him in the past and how we’re going to depend on him in the future. That’s a way to turn these things around very quickly.”

Kapler didn’t mention any players in particular who could use an energy boost, nor did he mention any players including veterans who could provide positive reinforcement to others.

“It’s a compounded thing,” he said. “It’s not one person making the commitment to invest energy into our teammates and into this team. It’s everybody making that decision. And then collectively, you can really change the energy quickly.

“It’s one of the things that we’ve been talking about in individual conversations and one of the things we feel like we can do to change the direction and do so quickly.”

Kapler said energy doesn’t have to be forced or fake: “It doesn’t have to be like some pollyannaish, positive bulls—. It can be sometimes a challenge, ‘Hey, we need something more from you,’ but it’s directed and it’s intentional, and it’s not chaotic.”

Asked about whether his team’s effort is acceptable amid all the losing, Kapler said, “That’s not necessarily something that we’re concerned about. I mean, our guys are giving everything they have every moment of every game, and the preparation as you can see has been top-shelf.

“So this is really about controlling the things that we can control and improving at the margins with the way we use the energy that we have on any given day. It’s a lot to get through 162 games. It’s a lot to get through spring training. It’s a lot to get through postseason games, and you really have to be intentional about making sure your energy is not getting out there in a chaotic way, that it’s channeled and directed.

“We only have so much of it. We’ve got to give it to our teammates.”

Energy, of course, never was an issue on the road to 107 wins last year. The Giants had a winning record every month and sprinted to the finish line, winning eight of their last nine to finish a game ahead of the 106-win Dodgers.

Kapler refused to draw a comparison.

“We don’t need to be looking back and saying, ‘Well, let’s try to make it like 2021.’ Our players don’t want to do that. Players want to look ahead.”

John Shea is The San Francisco Chronicle’s national baseball writer. Email: jshea@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @JohnSheaHey

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