Friday, August 01, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Say Beane And ...

The Trade deadline went and passed and the Giants chose to do no trade, though they did do a few moves:  after DFAing Colvin (original report was option; he must have asked for his release) and Uggla, the Giants brought up Matt Duffy (SS, but been playing some 2B and 3B, has hit at every level so far, got some speed too) and Jarrett Parker (OF, strikes out way too much;  but so did Goldschmidt when he was called up).

Meanwhile, Beane pulls off mega-deal, acquiring Lester and Gomes for Cespedes, then acquiring Fuld for Milone.

ogc thoughts

Many multitudes of Giants fans are angry at Sabean.  Good for them:  I would estimate that 95% of them were angry at Sabean for the past five or so seasons, and that everything bad that they are saying about him and the Giants are virtually the same they were saying during that time.  They have just never understood.

For those who are angry that Sabean didn't do anything, a little history that some fans seem to forget.  For a long, long time, Sabean didn't do anything with Cain, Lincecum, Sandoval, Bumgarner, Posey, Belt, he kept them.  That's because Sabean so far has been excellent at knowing what he has in hand and who to keep.  So if he didn't make a move, perhaps he's trying to keep the next young stud-to-be.

Out of all the prospects that Giants fans have cried over losing, none have ever broke out to be a star, at least so far.  Liriano has come the closest to being that, but injuries deadened the impact he has had on baseball, and if anything, he wasted too many of Mauer's and Morneau's prime years for the Twins than contributed.  There certainly have been good players traded or release, such as Foulke, Howry, Villanueva, Correia, and now Wheeler threatens to be the best one traded, but none I would call the All-Stars that teams want to build around as part of their core team.  That is exactly what you would like your GM to do:  identify the talent and then keep them.

When You Eat Too Much Beane, You Get A Lot of Hot Air

And despite the fawning that follows Beane after he makes a move, Sabean's record is light years better than what Beane has done.  Sure, Beane has been handicapped by his smaller budget.  But he has made a fair number of substantial mistakes that makes anything Sabean has done pale in comparison.

Let's start off with the first thing that any GM of limited means should follow:  Thou Shalt Not Trade Away Good Prospects.   And not only that, but make sure the trade makes sense in terms of net present value, where you get a lot in the present while deferring the future benefits, it's a balance.  Beane has failed in two significant instances:  Ethier and CarGon.

In Ethier's case, it was pretty egregious:  while the acquired player did do well for the A's (Milton Bradley), Ethier, in that exact same season that the A's acquired Bradley to help push to the playoffs, produced more WAR than Bradley did.  So it did not take years to determine how bad the deal was, it was pretty much evident that first season and it ended up with Ethier producing more, meaning that Beane would have been infinitely better off keeping Ethier, getting more production, having another 5 years of cost-efficient control of a young player, and a great trade asset at some point in that 5 years.

In CarGon's case, it was not as clear immediately, but it busted just as badly within one season:  while Bradley at least produced, Holliday was horrible for the A's, creating a trade chain that just spiraled in a death spiral before smashing into the ground and nothingness.  Meanwhile, CarGon had a breakout in the second half of the season and soon proved to be worthy of a giant extension, PLUS, the A's had also traded Street, who has continued to be a very reliable closer for years, as well as other players who provided some value.   Basically, in this trade, Beane threw out a good player, a good closer, and some other players with trade value, and got essentially nothing in return.

Or how about this:  signing the wrong player to a large long-term contract while getting draft picks for free agents.  Beane had the chance to sign or trade Chavez, Giambi, and Tejada at the end of his first reign of competitiveness.   It was Chavez who he signed to a long-term deal, and his injuries basically made that contract a huge long-term waste.

Meanwhile, he let Giambi and Tejada go for draft picks.  As my draft research showed, draft picks become good players at very low success rates for the types of picks awarded for players even as good as Giambi and Tejada.  In addition, such picks typically take years to develop and be useful.

Here, at least Beane learned his lesson, which is that if you are going to burn down the house at some point in the near future, trade away valuable assets beforehand in order to get top rated prospects in return.  They are more likely to become something good in the near-term than any draft pick, if you trade right.

And that is where Billy has been good at, trading for good players, though part of me wonders if that is a matter of if you make enough trades, and throw enough Jell-O on the wall, you will get something that sticks.  He succeeded with the Mulder trade, but got spanked by the Hudson trade, not one player of any substance from that trade.  But his recent success in rebuilding shows that he is a good GM:  just not as saintly as sabers seem to think he is.

Let's Say We Have GM A's and GM B....

Some have accused me of being a Sabean apologist because of my support over the years.  If that means appreciating his good points being ignored by the vast majority of Giants fans while understanding the difficulties of being a GM regarding his bad points, sure, that's me.  But it seems to me that the Saber blogosphere is a Beane apologist.

Look at all the fawning posts that have come out over the years regarding Beane's moves.  I've yet to read one negative post, no one dares to point out the Emperor's new clothes, ever.

Let's take a look at the recent moves for an example.  Writers were falling over each other to talk about how brilliant Beane was in trading first for the Shark (sorry, can't spell the guy's name even with a gun to my head) and Hammel.   Now they are doing likewise with Lester.  And even the trade for Fuld has its adherents, playing up how he now has a surplus of starters and trade from strength.

If Sabean had made those moves, here is what I think would have been written instead.

If he had traded our top prospect (and we are talking Posey, Bumgarner, and Belt level prospect, not Crick or Escobar) for an upcoming free agent who we may or may not be able to sign long-term and another pitcher who could be having a career year, but otherwise has been a journeyman pitcher, instead of being lauded for being proactive, as Beane was, in upgrading our rotation in light of the fact that some of the current starters might not be able to pitch effectively late in the season due to their lack of experience, Sabean would have been hung and burned in effigy for trading away our future, blamed for not accounting for these potential lack of performance late in the season, and excoriated for various bad past deeds, depending on the complainer.

Then, if he traded away our young star who is the face of the team (but not long for the team potentially because of pending free agency) for a great starter who has already said that he wants to return to his old team so it's OK to trade him and get something now, so the odds are low on an extension, and an OK replacement who is really a platoon player, Sabean would be pillored for selling off the one face that the fans recognize and have a major crush on, screwing up on the Hammel trade, which forced the team to strongly consider upgrading to Lester, and for not dealing with this in the off-season, when they clearly had a need to upgrade the rotation in this fashion, with all the injured starters and back rotation guys like Milone.

Or even trading for Fuld.  That was greeted with validating statements about trading from strength, because he now has so much pitching.  But Sabean would be challenged for waiting until now to fix a problem area, that he should have planned ahead in the off-season and taken care of it.  In addition, he would be questioned for overstocking on pitchers, and again, why didn't he take care of this during the off-season.

State of the Giants Nation

Some are upset about Sabean's statements, as well as inaction.  Well, it is what it is, as Sabean might say.

Do you want Sabean to sell off the future, accepting lesser present value to prop up this season, only to find that once Belt and Pagan returns, the Giants take no prisoners and sprints to the division title, making the trades moot and wasteful?  That is a very possible consequence of the action demanded by some fans, as Pagan's return last September showed.  And Belt has been a good hitter and any lineup is improved with him returning.  So you do what Sabean did, have substantial talks, and when the demands were too much, have the strength and courage to walk away from the table instead of taking a deal that you don't think is of good value to the team.  

Some have complained that the 2B situation should have been dealt with in the off-season, since Scutaro was looking so bad already.   As we saw in the first two plus months of the season, the team won pretty well even with spotty contributions from 2B.  Hicks did nicely the first month or so, but 2B has been a black hole offensively since then, except when Adrianza was healthy and playing in June and July, where he hit pretty nicely and Panik has hit well in spots, while keeping up peripherals that suggest that once he gets accustomed to MLB pitching, he'll be a nice hitter in the vein of Scutaro:  low K's, high BB/K, which usually leads to good BA and OBP.   They went 19-9 in May with Hicks hitting .549 OPS at 2B, so it wasn't 2B that was our problem over the last two months or so.

Plus, we know the Giants like to keep one spot quasi-open when prospects are nearing the big show.  They did it for Frandsen, Sandoval, Bumgarner, Bowker, Schierholtz, Niekro, among others, employing a journeyman vet to do the job instead of signing a significantly better player.   I view 2B as that open spot for 2014.   If Scutaro was healthy great, but if not, that gives Arias and Adrianza an opportunity to show off what they can do with regular starts, plus that would open up a spot to look at other prospects.  Hicks won the first tryout, Panik got the second, and now, with his surprise promotion, Matt Duffy is getting his tires kicked.  Plus Arias and Adrianza has gotten a number of chances, and if Adrianza didn't suffer his two hamstring pulls and get placed on the 15-day DL, he might have won the job, since June 1st, he has hit .327/.389/.408/.797, with 9 K's and 4 walks in 49 AB for a 82% contact rate (OK) and 0.44 BB/K ratio which is not bad either, and close to getting good (same for contact rate).

Sabean got the most pressing need, in my opinion, which was a replacement for Cain.  As Sabean noted, the Giants didn't know when they might be able to count on him for a while now.  Especially with his arm getting that shot and yet it has not improved since then.  Cain said that he's been battling the chips for ten years now, and he's been able to get through the pain until now.  This is perhaps the elbow soreness that kept him out of action in his first pro season.

Cain has gotten three opinions, including that of famous Dr. Andrews of Tommy John fame, and he said his ulnar is fine (which is probably the best news), but still all agreed that he should get an operation to remove the bone chips  They should be operating on his arm soon then he should be able to follow his normal off-season routine, according to reports, with a 3 month rehab.   Cain should be ready and healthy when spring training comes.

Meanwhile, Peavy has actually been pretty good the past few seasons, just a bit unlucky.  He had DOM% of 75% in 2012 and 74% in 2013, which were elite, only his results didn't show that.  He is down to 50% DOM this season, but has been incredibly unlucky with homers so far, so he should regress back towards the 70's pitching in AT&T.  I'm sad that Cain is out and all, but I'm really excited to get him in our rotation.  Assuming Cain's surgery and recovery goes well, and generally they do more times than not, and we sign up Peavy instead of Vogelsong, we could have a rotation of Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Peavy, Lincecum.   And I just finished a video of a Morse interview where he talked about Peavy's leadership and "mind-blowing" what he brings to the team in terms of positivity and character, and Bochy talked about how he's the pitching version of Pence, "Full Throttle" as a starting pitcher.

Deadline is not Deadline, It's Not Right Now-line

And there have been plenty of deals made in August by Sabean to pick up the necessary pieces.  Once we get deeper into mid-August, it should be pretty clear whether Pagan or Belt are returning to the team or not.  There will be players placed on the waiver wire and the Giants will undoubtedly pick them up (and the Dodgers can't block any right now).   

Whether it is now or later, as I noted, it really depends on when Pagan and Belt returns and if they can get back to their career norms.  If both are still on the DL, I don't think that there's anyone we could get who would help us overcome that, I didn't see that many good names out there for hitters, it was mostly pitchers.

In any case, I'm excited to see what Susac, Panik, Duffy, and Parker can do for the team.  I don't expect a lot out of them, but sometimes you do catch lightening in a bottle, like Herndon or Gladden long ago.   I like what I've seen of Susac and Panik so far, it gives me good feelings about their future in the majors, but we are a long way from that.  For now, let's enjoy them for what they are, young prospects trying to live the major league life for the first time, and hopefully somebody gets hot and give the team a jolt.

And at some time, they will have to go back into the box, and return to the minors.  Right now, Parker seems to be the guy gone once Belt returns, Susac once Sanchez returns, and either Panik or Duffy once Pagan returns.

And while the starting pitching has had a bad week, it has mostly been great for most of the season, and so I expect it to continue to do so for the rest of the season, especially with Peavy now the 5th starter and not Petit.  And the bullpen has been great again, after a few hiccups in June and July, they look pretty good.

Now it's time to make up 3.5 games, Go Giants!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Things are Getting Uggla and They Just Got Peavy

The Giants brought up Dan Uggla yesterday, as well as Tony Abreu, as both Ehire Adrianza and Marco Scutaro both goes back onto the 15-day DL.  Unfortunately, both players being brought up were not on the 40-man roster, so Nick Noonan was DFAed, as well as off-season pickup, Jose De Paula.

Then they went out and got Jake Peavy for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree (you were right Shankbone!)

ogc thoughts

As I commented somewhere, I have no problem with the Giants picking up Uggla and giving him a 25-man spot.  People focus on his decline from his very good years, which I understand.  But right now, we don't need him to be like his very good self, because we got Pence, Posey, Sandoval, Morse in the middle.

What we need is someone who can hit better than Hicks, Arias, Adrianza, Panik, and Scutaro can.  And the Uggla of 2012-2013 can do that in spades.  We don't need a top of the lineup hitter, we just need a steady contributor in the 6-7-8 spots, depending on the day and the pitcher.  Uggla, if 2014 is more a reflection of his discontent with his situation and the pressure of living up to his contract and thus he can be like his 2012-13 self would be good for us.

Of course, regular readers know that I still like Adrianza and that I have pointed out that he's been hitting well since June 1st.  But this is his second DL for the hamstring, and he's probably not getting better until he rests this off-season.   And I don't know if he's ready to be a regular, though if the opportunity were there, I would be OK with it.  But Uggla hasn't been that bad in 2012-13, just not very good, and those versions of him would be OK fine for us in 2014.

Alas Poor Noonan

I still believe in Nick Noonan, but sometimes a player needs more time than a team can give him or just need a change of scenery.  Of course, that's assuming that he's not claimed and returns to the Giants.  He is from the San Diego area though and they probably have a better opening in MI than the Giants, so he could end up there as well.

But he's shown good plate discipline in spurts in the minors and has hit well when he's in his groove.  Unfortunately for him, Joe Panik is like a better version of him, showing good plate discipline too, but doing it more and better than Nick.  Neither one is superior defensively either at MI spots, as well.  Good luck Nick, wherever you end up.

Paging Jake Peavy

Wow, there was enough smoke this time.  There were a lot of rumors that the Giants wanted Peavy.  I was a little surprised that Escobar was the one to go, but given his difficulties this season in AAA, I guess the Giants saw enough that convinced them that he's the one to let go.   Shankbone commented that Hembree might be a throw in, and once I read that, it just made sense to me, given how other relievers got the love this spring and he didn't even make the majors once this season.

And, really, the Giants had to be thinking of a two for one trade anyway, with Hector concussed and likely needing to go on the DL, they would need to add a non-roster catcher to the team today, and would need two spots open.  With Sabean's recent statement that everyone is up for grabs in trade (but only if a fair one in his estimation, so it's not a free for all either), meaning that no one is a keeper, may as well look to give up two for one in a deal, and open up a spot.

The rumors was that the Giants, or specifically, Bochy, wanted Peavy, with the thinking that being with his old manager might help Peavy figure things out.  Of course, that was true back when he was with the White Sox and reportedly on the trading block then too, but he ended up with Boston.   Hopefully that is true.  Don't have time to look at stats, but obviously, he's not doing that well for Boston.  But they still got two Top 10 prospects from the Giants, so they will certainly trumpet that in their press.

I like Petit, but he seems off this season vs. last season, which I attribute to him being a bit rusty pitching irregular relief vs. being a starter in the minors last season.  So I'm OK with this pickup as well, we need another starter with Cain up in the air apparently from the news of no improvement and nobody in the minors looking ready yet.

Catching Fire

With many of the moves that Sabean make, they try to catch lightening in the bottle.  So when they call up a catcher, I expect that Susac will be the recipient of the 40-man roster spot.  He's been hitting well and while not great defensively, most reports have been positive that I recall.  May as well give him a chance to play up here and see what he got.  And frankly, Sanchez has been banged up so many times that I don't expect him out for only 7 days, much like how Belt has been out more than 7 days (FYI, turns out that it was Scutaro that threw the ball that hit Belt in the face, and he just got sent back down:  coincidence?).

2013 Redux?

Wow, so many injuries happening and keeping guys out long term.  Seems a lot like 2013 again, when a lot of guys were out for injuries or dealing with recurring pain.  The difference is that our main lineup is still mostly OK, the bullpen seems fine, and the rotation just got a boost, hopefully.  But we will see.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My thoughts on Hembree, BABIP usage in Minors

This was a comment in response to a statement a while back about Hembree's BABIP "regressing to the mean" since it was higher than .300

ogc thoughts

The problem with using BABIP for minor league pitchers is that not all pitchers figure out the skill of hewing to the BABIP mean of .300 in the majors.  This gets especially iffy then for relievers where it is all SSS and BABIP isn't all that accurate.   So Hembree bad BABIP does not necessarily mean that there will be a regression to the mean.

There is a great interview with Mike Fast of the Astros where he talked about learning this while working inside (he was a well known sabermetrician prior to joining the Astros, for those who didn't know).   He noted that DIPS don't quite apply in the minors, that there are pitchers who don't learn the fine art of keeping BABIP to the mean .300 that most MLB pitchers do learn.  Search for interview with Mike Fast of Astros and that should get you the right link.

Not that Hembree hasn't learned, just that you can't just quote a high BABIP and make that assumption.   Checking out his numbers (reminder, this was written a while back), his career BABIP is roughly .327, so perhaps he hasn't learned.  And subtracting his poor numbers this season, his career BABIP previously was still .316, so perhaps this is an issue with Hembree.

Again, SSS, but the Giants must have a reason for keeping him down, I was amazed this off-season that Law got all the love from the Giants FO while Hembree barely got any mention, even though he had a stellar performance for them in his 2013 call-up, I thought he would be at least penciled in for a spot in 2014 opening day, since Sabean said that they needed to improve their bullpen.   But even Dunning got more mention for the bullpen than Hembree, it seemed to me.

And looking at his numbers, as closer, he should not be that messed up by poor relief with his inherited runners, and yet his ERA in AAA has never been all that good.  Yes, it's an offensive league, but there are plenty of pitchers who are better, he was 76th in the league.   And if DIPS don't work in the minors, ERA is all we got.  

He does have great K/BB ratios, and that will probably get him his chance, but if he can't figure out the BABIP issue, his chances to be a major leaguer, let alone a closer, is pretty iffy.   The good thing for him is that he has pretty good command and control, so he can minimize walks, but hits is what hurts, especially for a reliever, particularly for the closer expected to come in sometimes with runners on.  Giving up hits is fine if he's strictly closing when starting the 9th with no outs and no runners, but not so good when coming in a truer save situation. 

He must be grooving in pitches in order to avoid walks, so it seems to me that he needs to learn that walks aren't all that bad to give up if it means that you are giving the hitter good pitches to hit for base hits.   He has a very high K/9, he can afford to walk a few more if that means less hits given up, better to give up one more walk than one more hit, the vast majority of the time.

That said, I agreed with what was said about him.  He's probably coming up by season's end and getting some 7/8th inning action.  He's probably up for the closer role in 2015, but I wouldn't bet on it given the above.  Plus Casilla appears to be the man right now, though if Machi ever rights his ship, he could be considered given his experience closing in Venezuela.   And Affeldt could easily slip into the closer role, I think.  

In any case, Hembree should be out of options by next season, so he's most probably making the 25-man roster next season barring any implosion on his part in the spring 2015.   But even that's not a given, even if Romo leaves (doubtful he stays unless willing to accept reliever money like Affeldt and not closer money like Wilson), I expect Kontos to take a spot in the bullpen after his great comeback this season.  So Hembree's probably battling Kontos, Machi, Gutierrez for three spots in the bullpen, with Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, and Petit in the other four bullpen spots (that's assuming Petit doesn't take Vogelsong's spot in the rotation, but then maybe Kickham takes that long reliever spot, right now).  And given Romo's difficulties now and ties to the Giants, he might accept an set-up reliever contract like Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez have gotten and be retained, making it only two spots open among the four.

And push come to shove, if it's three spots, probably its him against Gutierrez for the final spot, though I've noticed the Giants have been pushing their relievers to go beyond 1 inning, so Hembree could take the long relief spot by being able to pitch 2 innings to bridge to the middle relievers, who could also go 2 innings as necessary.

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