SAN FRANCISCO — Along with a franchise-record 107 victories and a cascading list of things that contributed to them, the San Francisco Giants have been able to fill one gaping modern-era void. In a time-starved for great nicknames like Dizzy (Dean), Three-Finger (Brown), or Catfish (Hunter), the Giants have introduced “Late Night” LaMonte Wade Jr.
He is neither a talk-show host nor a local television personality but a versatile outfielder-first baseman acquired in a small, primarily unnoticed trade with Minnesota last February for Shaun Anderson. A career .211 hitter in only 95 major league at-bats coming into this season, Wade, 27, was nicknamed“Late Night” because of his propensity for ninth-inning heroics. In 336 at-bats this summer, Wade had six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later. That is the most of any player in the past 40 seasons, according to Stats.
It is difficult to tell who is having more fun with the nickname, Wade’s teammates or San Francisco’s fans. Indeed, his teammates are very vocal about it, both in the dugout during tense moments and in the clubhouse during moments of celebration. Anytime the ninth inning comes around, they say, ‘We’ve got to have Wade come around,’” Wade said as the Giants worked out here at Oracle Park on Thursday afternoon in advance of Game 1 of their division series in which they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-0, on Friday night.
It is easy to see why. He hit .565 in the ninth inning this season, with a 1.409 on-base plus slugging percentage. In “late and close” situations — defined by Baseball-Reference as plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one or the tying run at least on deck — Wade batted .362 with a .444 on-base percentage and a .511 slugging percentage over 55 plate appearances. In 31 plate appearances with two out and runners in scoring position, he hit .407/.484/.889 with three homers and 17 R.B.I.
“I just want to point out, I’m pretty sure I gave him that nickname, so I want credit for that,” said injured first baseman Brandon Belt, who has become something of a mentor to Wade and other young Giants during the team’s run of remarkable and unexpected success this season, earning him his own nickname: “Captain Belt.”
Belt explained that he was on the Giants postgame television show following one of Wade’s triumphant moments when he was given a multiple choice of nicknames for San Francisco’s newest hero. They said ‘Late Game LaMonte,’ something else or ‘Late Night LaMonte,’ and I said that I liked Late Night,” Belt said, before adding, “It’s been a blast watching him.”
Wade is the latest example of how Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations, has had to mine the discard pile for overlooked players. One thing that caught the attention of Zaidi and his analytics staff was the plate discipline Wade exhibited even while scratching to reach the majors. Over 480 career minor league games coming into 2021, he had walked more times (303) than he had struck out (281).
“Our hitting group spent a lot of time with him in the off-season and felt like there were adjustments he could make,” Zaidi said. “And I have to say when you go back, he had three home runs in his major league career coming into the season, but when you look at them, they weren’t cheapies. He hit a huge home run against Shane Bieber, one of the best pitchers in baseball. He continued: “You watch those swings and those home runs, and you say, this guy has power; it’s just a matter of getting to it consistently.” Wade, however, is not the only secret ingredient to San Francisco’s success.