Saturday, May 13, 2006

Giants New Whipping Boy: Pedro Feliz

Pedro Feliz appears to have inherited the mantle of whipping boy from Edgardo Alfonzo when the latter was traded away. Giants fans are all over him in the Giants boards and websites. It is almost like a feeding frenzy.

So I feel I am being put in the uncomfortable position of defending him. And really, since when do we need to defend the choice of who we have as our 7th place hitter? I would prefer to be part of the group who "picks your poison when constructing a lineup."

Not Everyone Can Afford That Puppy in the Window

Not everyone has a great hitting 3B or even an average hitting 3B. People seem to think that a $90M payroll entitles them to power-hitting corner infielders and outfielders. But Bonds, Schmidt, Finley, Durham, Alou, and Winn take up more than half the payroll. That don't leave much for power hitting corner infielders as well as all the other players on the team. And while Pedro has a much below average OBP (though he is only about 20 points away from the league average), he is however average to above average in SLG, and there are not that many 3B who hit more homers than he did the past two seasons.

That's why I was for giving Feliz another try in 2003 when most people wanted to dump him as well. People like to disparage his 20 homer power but in 2005, his 20 homers would have ranked 11th among everyday 3B, as well as his SLG of .422. In 2004, his 22 homers would have been 13th among MLB 3B, and his SLG 14th. That puts him squarely in the middle of the majors, perhaps a tad better than average. He is not the above average player I would have liked but if you don't give the players who played well at the AAA level a chance, we'll never know what we have. That's why I still am willing to give Linden a chance at the majors to see what he can do up there.

Every team except for the Yankees have to accept position players who do not hit well relative to similar position players. So while our corner IF are average to below, their corner OF are average to below. Or they have Neifi starting at 2B while we have Durham.

Between the two, I want a high SLG from my 6-7 hitters than a high OBP. You don't drive in runs with a walk or even a single when the 8th place hitter and pitcher are coming up. That's why when Bill James constructed his runs created formula there were initially two key components: OBP and SLG, with SLG the component related to driving in the runs. That's what we want our 6-7 hitters doing, driving in the 3-4-5 hitters, not starting a rally with the 8th/9th spot's black hole automatic out coming up.

Slow Starts Happen All the Time, You Need to Look at his Splits for Meaning.

It's easy to dump on players when they get off to a slow start. That happens all the time in fantasy leagues (and I'm guilty of it too, forgive me Edwin Encarnacion!), the fan gets upset over the player not doing well and just dumps him. It's the knee-jerk reaction, no one can accept failure of any type when your team is struggling to stay around .500. If only we had David Wright/Miguel Cabrera/Scott Rolen! Then we would win all those games!

Feliz has actually been hitting like normal for him at home overall, it was just the "perfect storm" situation for Feliz that the road games we have played have been at parks he historically have done poorly at. His numbers should not be Mendoza Line bad as the season goes on, it will be his normal Feliz-tastic numbers: mediocre with plus power, as he gets to visit the parks he normally hit well in as well as get into baseball shape, since the WBC and the rainouts probably interfered with his preparations for this season.

His recent success hitting appears to signal that he's finally getting into proper shape (for him) for playing his best baseball. He has hits in 3 straight games, 10 of 12. He has homered 4 times this month, already double his output for April. He is hittin great at home - .314/.355/.500/.855 with 5 walks vs. 12 strikeouts with 3 HR in 70 AB - and is hitting like normal vs. RHP - .257/.278/.450/.728 with 5 HR in 109 AB. His failings this season so far is his total inability to hit against LHP and to hit on the road.

Hitting on the road I know why: the majority of those ABs have been at parks he historically have done poorly at, for whatever reasons, but mainly because they are pitcher's stadiums: Dodger Stadium, PETCO Stadium, and Chase Field, which is not a pitcher's park but for some reason he cannot hit there so far. Don't know what the problem with LHP is though, he should be killing them, he made progress last year, previously he had no platoon split but last year he did.

Getting Better (or at back to Same Old, Same old)

If someone can get me a better 3B (Mueller is not better, just different) who hits 30 homers with a .300+ average at the same salary as Feliz, sign me up, but for his salary and abilities, we could do a lot worse, like Corey Koskie, Jeff Cirillo, Eric Hinske, and Vinnie Castillo. I would even throw Aurilia in with that group, he makes a lot less but his hitting the past two years is all Great American Park's doing, his road numbers stink.

I don't want to defend Feliz, but I felt that people were just throwing him out to the curb since his struggles are more evident than others. He is what he is, a nice complementary part who, if he can hit like he did in 2003-2004, would be a pleasant surprise (and advantage) in the 6-7 slot, and if he did what he did in 2005, would be average among 7th place hitters in the majors for OPS. As I noted elsewhere in a previous post, the teams who went to the playoffs in 2005 actually all had below NL average 7th place hitters, so clearly having a good 7th place hitter is the whip cream on the sundae, complementary to the good top half of the lineup, but not a required ingredient to a winning team. Getting Durham going seems to me to be a bigger worry, now that he's finally off the DL.

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