Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Giants Bashers in the Media

I feel the need to get this off my chest after hearing Ralph Barbieri of KNBR go on and on about how the Giants are so bad and Tim Kawakami wrote a column about how the Giants should just punt this season and move on to the future. That's fine and well if we were say, Kansas City and 26 games out already. It might even be acceptable if we were the Los Angeles Angels, the worse team for the most money, and 7 games back.

But we are only 3 games back (at the time these complaints were made, we're now 2 games back), less, I think, than when the Chicago White Sox wrote off their season and traded all those players to the Giants in 1997. Less, I KNOW, than where the A's were last season when Beane restructured the team drastically by trading away Hudson and Mulder but was horribly struggling in the early season and still only 34-40 and 10.5 games back as of 6/25 (baseball-reference.com is THE best!). The Giants can still get it together and get into the playoffs this season, it is there for the taking.

The Playoffs is Not the Season

What many people forget is that the playoffs is not the season. During the season, there will be ebbs and flows, and sometimes people will be hurting. You can take all the potshots against the team of older players that the Giants have picked up, but the Cubs are suffering greatly but they are missing a bunch of 20's somethings in Prior, Wood, and Lee. The Dodgers last year was upended by injuries to young players JD Drew, Milton Bradley, Brad Penny, and Eric Gagne. Injuries happen, whether young or old, that is always the wild card for any team, young or old.

The season is the marathon. Sometimes you are scuffling, sometimes you are full of energy, but the main point is that you get to the end of the season ahead of everyone else (or literally everyone else if wild card). You have to balance your rotation and your roster so that you can outlast the other teams in your division and win it. That is what you work for and we are now only 2 games back and was only a game or two back not that long ago and could be on top of the division with a very short win streak.

Young or Old: Respect the Playoffs

You never know when you will ever get to the playoffs again or reach the World Series. Pittsburgh fans must have thought with Leyland around, they would make the playoffs year after year, but they haven't been back or seriously close to getting back since they last won the division in 1992. Dan Marino thought he would return to the Super Bowl after losing to the Niners but never reached it again.

In addition, in the playoffs you never know what happens when you get there. Sure, people are injured now, but the key point is how healthy the team is when the playoffs start. And frankly, young or old, that's all random luck, though admittedly higher risks for the older but still there are plenty of older players ready to play and, not only play, but play well in the playoffs.

Giants Can Win In The Playoffs

And if the Giants are healthy, the Giants have one of the best lineups around. Look at all the stats the media gives on Bonds and Alou about how good the Giants record is when both are in the lineup or even when it is just Bonds in the lineup. They rock when they are in there. With Alou and Bonds in the lineup, the Giants have been 13-8 and with Bonds in there, they were 30-23, which means that Bonds without Alou is 17-15. And that included a large dollop of Schmidt not pitching like SCHMIDT, Morris lost among his newfound million$, Lowry injured and Lowry returned and not doing well, Cain pitching like a new, young pitcher normally do and not like the wunderkind he was in 2005, and the bullpen imploding once again before recovering with fresh blood from the farm system.

Now Schmidt and Morris are pitching like the 1-2 punch they are suppose to be. Lowry is still searching for his mojo but Cain and Wright have been filling the 4-5 spots well enough that Lowry's struggles haven't been killing the team, particularly when Cain is throwing a 1-hitter. Plus Lowry is more of a second half guy anyhow, he struggles early, then figures out his changeup to devastating effect the past two seasons.

And the bullpen has been on fire for a long while now, since all the major changes have been made, moving out the ineffective players and bringing up Accardo and Sanchez, and putting Correia and Hennessey in the pen as well. By the end of the season, our pitching staff is probably going to be as good as any out there - at least Kawamaki should agree, he touts how the A's youth gets better in his article and our pitching staff is pretty young so he should agree.

Plus look at the A's that he praises. 34 year old Loaiza. 32 year old Kendall. Chavez back hurting, Ellis out extended period on DL, Dan Johnson unable to buy a hit until recently, Doug Clark, a failed Giants postion prospect who couldn't make it with us is on their roster, Kielty is almost 30, Kotsay is 30, Payton is 33, and Frank Thomas is the oldest of the bunch. They have their own issues with injuries, they have lost Ellis again to the DL, same with Harden, other players have been hurt too. Youth does not mean injury free, it is part of the game, whether young or old.

Aim for the Playoffs

So if your team is close to the playoffs and the team is good when they are healthy and playing together, then you owe it to your fans to keep the team going, not punt the team just because you think maybe we're not good enough. The team is too close not to try their hardest. Three games is not that much, particularly when the half way point of the season has not been reached.

Kawakami suggests that the Giants should just give it up because of the injuries and states Mark Sweeney in left field as a "sign of the Giants' potential Baseball Apocalypse," which is a pretty over the top statement. He does have some tongue firmly in cheek that he's not all serious because he also suggests that the Giants petition Selig to undo the Pierzynski deal. Still, his suggestions don't make much sense to me, I don't see how that's better than where the Giants are now.

Kawakami Makes No Sense

First, he suggests that the Giants announce that Bonds is not welcome back next year because "he's not great anymore." Well, that's just Tim's unstated desire to be rid of having to follow and write about Bonds. Because even if you punt a season, it doesn't mean you just burn all the bridges down along with it, and announcing this would do that because Bonds would be sullen and disruptive to the team in his final days. Plus, Bonds doesn't need to be great next season, we just don't have to PAY him a salary for a great player. As another columnist noted, Bonds leads the team in homeruns and he's not playing every day. And he still gets on at a .456 clip, which is still great in my book. So he's still a good player, he's on a 20-25 HR pace, with an OBP of .456, there aren't that many players out there like that, just be sure you are paying him fairly.

Second, he suggests we trade Schmidt for two top-line prospects. Well, that's all fine and good, but the A's trades shows the beauty and the folly of that type of deal with their trade of Mulder - beauty - and Hudson - folly - because none of the players the A's got for Hudson has done anything substantial for the MLB team yet, whereas Haren and Calero have been great and Barton is one of their top hitters in their system already. Trading Schmidt doesn't mean you will get two good players, let alone great players, but because you are afraid that the team will be bad, you screw the season and take that risk, maybe get two good players and maybe not.

Third, he wants to trade off Durham or Vizquel. Durham makes some sense in that we have Frandsen ready to play 2B for us but there's absolutely no sense in trading Vizquel. We have no alternative in our farm system who could take SS right now. We don't save that much money trading him. Despite him still hitting and fielding well, no one will give up much of any prospect for him, he's old and he's still owed some bit of money, we'll be lucky to get a mid-tier prospect for him. What is there to gain from this move? Plus our defense will go down and the pitchers will not be happy about that, nor will the team's ERA.

Alternative View

I understand that columnists have to feed the paper beast, but there's another way to see the Giants situation. Here they are, they have been struggling with one thing or another for the whole season now. Schmidt struggling to find his velocity, Morris an expensive mistake, Lowry out injured, and Cain erratic, good one game, bad the next, leaving Wright as their best starter?!?!? Bullpen so bad that they had to call up a bunch of pitchers, converting one potential starter into a reliever, in order to get it pitching well again. Hitting marred either by cold streaks or injuries - Matheny out indefinitely with concussion effects, Niekro on DL twice already, Durham has his usual aches and pains plus he's not hitting, Alou hurt his ankle and missed a bunch of games, Vizquel just twisted his back the other day, Bonds battling one thing or another. And yet, despite all those problems, they are still only 2 games back.

Who's to say when a player might get injured? Players do have years where they avoid the DL. And age is not a discriminator, injuries happen to players young and old. To just quit the season so early, just seems ludicrous to me, we are close enough to take the division.

And we have a great chance in the playoffs this year. I believe in strong pitching. Schmidt and Morris is a nice 1-2 punch now. If Lowry can do his usual second-half Superman routine, we'll have a solid 1-2-3 starters. And if Cain can progress like Blanton did last season, he could have a good head of steam going into the playoffs, giving us 4 good starters.

You complement that with a great bullpen - and the Giants right now have a pretty good one except for Benitez, who is still struggling. They have brought up people and they have done the job for the Giants, helping to keep the scoring down. The bullpen went from a question mark to a very sturdy looking one, and they should only get better because most of them are so young, they have to get better, at least according to Kawakami.

Then the lineup could be good to great. Winn is a second half guy so he should improve a lot. Vizquel tends to fade in the second half, hopefully having Frandsen around will help him stay fresh. Niekro is a wild card, he could be good, he could be bad, it just depends. Push to shove, I would say he would hit well, he has hit everywhere he has went. Bonds and Alou make a great pair in the middle of the horses. Feliz appears to be trying to learn to take more pitches, at least at home, he is actually hitting very well at home, he needs to boost up his road numbers.

Then we have Sweeney, Finley, and Greene on the bench, all vets who can hit well enough to be a starter, probably. And for extended periods, where a player is on the DL, they are the starter. Righties and lefties. Good for average and good for power and good for speed.

All it will take is a little bit of health in order to get everyone on the team hitting better, good hitting is often contagious. That would enable an extended win streak where the Giants make a challenge to the leader relatively quickly, being only 2 games back. And if the health stays, the Giants can have some momentum going forward and into the playoffs. True, a lot of things have to go right to enable this view. But so does a lot of things have to go wrong to enable Kawakami's view. Six of one, half a dozen for another.

And in the playoffs, they would drop Wright probably and call up some reliever, like Valdez or Brian Wilson, to enable Alou to pull off more moves. We could have a crushingly good 4 man rotation in Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, and Cain if the youngsters can figure things out by season's end. And in the playoffs, Bonds, Alou and Matheny won't be taking a rest, the starters would start every game. I think we would look good in the playoffs, but first we need to get there first by winning the division and not by punting this season and trading away expensive vets.

9 comments:

  1. Martin, I respectfully disagree. The Giants are not a good team. The overall mediocrity of the NL West somewhat masks the team's shortcomings. Yes, if many things broke just right, we could win the division. But all those things happening together (Bonds, Durham, Niekro, & Matheny healthy....Feliz patient, Finley rested, Morris balanced, Lowry righted, Vizquel maintaining, Winn improving) just don't seem likely. This is not a team I'd want to go into the postseason with.

    So unless all the above things come together and we're 10-12 games over .500 in 3 weeks, I say we plan on trading Schmidt for high-level hitting prospects. It's time for a reality check. The GM isn't wearing any clothes, and it's time we all said so.

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  2. I disagree as well. This is who the Giants are: the oldest team in baseball beset with injuries. Durham's legs will not get better, Alou's had leg problems since he was 30 and is now 40, 42 year old bonds with the gimpy everything, even "young man" niekro has a history of getting injuried pretty much every year in the minors and twice on sunday in the majors. Your view seems to be a carbon copy of that of Giants management: if the stars all align we can have a good ballclub. The problem is the stars WILL NOT ALIGN. How much hope can you hold out for two 40 year outfielders with gimpy knees to even play 80 games together with no DH? How many games have we/are we going to lose when Bonds and Alou are pulled for defense, and the game goes into extras, us stuck with a triple A quality lineup?

    In some ways I wish we were in the same division as the Mets, that way all hope of competing will be washed away so that we can start the rebuilding process faster and with fervor. We are a mediocre team in a mediocre division in the inferior of the two leagues. To have delusions of grandeur is not only foolish, its downright dangerous. It puts us on a long path of suffering and rebuilding on par with that of the 49ers or the NY Knicks.

    As an added downer, as long as we have old man Flippy at the helm (and as long as he continues to put the ball in the hands of Worrell and Benitez)it's hard to see us going anywhere as he costs us winnable games with retarded decision making. And on a mediocre team with no margin for error in throwing away ballgames, that is unforgivable. You can't tell me there is one player on the team not named Alou that is inspired to play for him. The Giants are old and look every bit the part.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Martin, I agree with you. You don't throw away a season. Even teams that are 8-10 games out, still try under the adage "pick up one game a week." We would be in contention if we were 2 games out on Sep 1 or Sep 15, even Sep 25.
    I think chances are very good we can win the division. Then, as we have seen so often, post season is really a crap shoot. Who is hot, who is slumping, who makes the critical error. And injuries. We would have won in '02 if Nen had half a rotator cuff.
    One unexpected (but possible) homerun by Feliz, an absolutely clutch game by Lowery or Cain, a runner thrown out at the plate on a relay by Vizcaino, and the series COULD be ours.
    You are also right regarding trading starters for prospects. Everyone who criticizes Sabean thinks it is automatic, when in actuality for every Liriano, there are ten Fopperts/ Williams/ Ainsworths/ Aardsmas and etc, etc.
    It is good business and good to the fans to do everything to win this year (every year). Nobody knows what Sabean's plan is for next year, yet everyone is wholly pessimistic. I think Sabean HAS shown intelligence and creativity in building winning teams within a limited budget. I certainly trust his judgment more than the perennially negative posters on McC.
    I think there is a very good chance the Giants will be in the playoffs. And I think the coming offseason and spring training portend much entertainment and excitement.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry. Getting into the postseason because you are the best of a bad bunch does not mean you have the ability to compete with the good bunch.

    Even if the Giants got spectacular starts from Schmidt, Morris, and Lowry, they'd have to:

    Have their best players on the field every game
    Barry and Alou will be healthier??? in 3 months?

    Score against the other team's six best pitchers
    They can't score against bad teams worst pitchers

    Hit homeruns since rallies are hard to come by
    Team has no power or OBP

    Get shutdown relief from their pen
    From whom? Benitez? - your funeral)

    October is more poker than craps. Luck plays a part, but only if you have solid basics.

    The Giants don't, and that makes them dead money.
    Even if they luck into a seat at the table.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Uh...Sorry a pennant is still momentum for the following season. It's still someting for Fans to get excited about. And let's not forget, everyones stats are different in the post season.

    You can't rule out the value of veteran leadership in the post season. Just like you an't rule out the effect a loud crowd has on a batter.

    Everyone keeps talking about baseball teams like it's a matter of trading baseball cards. If that were strictly the case a mathmatical calculation, there would be no need to play the damn game. The numbers only give us an indication of past performance and something to geek out over. The unknown is why we watch.

    I'm growing really tired of people feeling like they have to have a !@#%'n allstar team out there to do something special. That kind of fan needs no nuts, has no hope, and has no love of the game. You dance with the girl you brought. If your lucky you might get laid.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Preach it Martin! I don't always agree with you, but I'm sick and tired of people slamming this team when they're still in it. After today's game, they're over .500 and 1 1/2 games out of first! GO GIANTS, and to hell with the whiners.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, I sure set off a fire storm with this one, this has got to be a record for comments for my blog. (not that I'm counting or anything :^)

    Look, yes, Alou has been injured off and on. But he was healthy at the end of the season in 2005. Bonds will never be back to where he was but can you say that what he is doing is not still very valuable? I agree that I have no faith in Niekro or Durham, they have to prove us wrong, but Durham has not been injured at the end of any season he has been with us, that I can recall.

    And that's what this is all about, the end of the season, making the rush for the playoffs, and I think we have a really good team this year. Yeah, not world beating but we got a lot of good parts. And for those who say a lot of things have to go right for it to work for us, I can probably say the same thing about every World Series winner since, say, 2000 (memory getting bad, is that last Yankee's winner).

    We lucked out in 2002: if Rolen wasn't injured and not playing, do you really think we would have beat them so easily? And the Angels lucked out too: if game 6 for the Giants pitchers had been game 2 instead (Ortiz first start), the Angels would still be strangling their rally monkeys and asking "Why not us?" and the Giants fans, while needing the paddles of life to breathe again, we would have won instead in 5 games.

    Any season is filled with all sorts of unexpected and unimagined things, that's why they have the saying, "That's why they play the game." With a rotation that, when chugging on all cyclinders, can be a world beater (Schmidt, Morris, Lowry) plus a pitcher who can throw a 1-2 hitter in Cain, that's a rotation you take your chances with in the playoffs.

    Even with all the problems we have had, we are .500 approximately. Imagine what it would be if everyone was rowing in the same direction.

    I was going to write this in a post, but Winn looks like he has reached his tipping point in the season when everything starts working for him, he's a second half guy. Same with Lowry, I'm extremely encouraged by his last outing, though he needs to show me a bit more before I think he is back.

    And with Finley around, we will not take a hit in our offense (relative to most NL teams) when we are playing in the AL city and the DH is used. And we also have Greene and Sweeney too.

    This is the year to do it, who knows if Schmidt doesn't revert back - or worse injured - plus he might not be back. And Finley won't be around to be the 4th OF. And Bonds who know where he'll be.

    A lot of people say that we should win one with Bonds, why not now, why not us, he's happy and he's productive, we're in the hunt, and he may bring some magic to the playoffs like 2002. This reminds me a lot of early 2004, people were writing off the season but we eventually had a nice season and just fell short a couple of games.

    And we were 7 games back at the worse of it that year, we're only a game back currently.

    I'm not saying we're going to win it all but I think we have a good chance to do it with the starting rotation we have. We just need to get into the playoffs and with this division we got a shot. We just need to be healthy enough at the end of the season. You don't have the faith, but I think there's a good chance we'll have a number of players going on a good streak because they are second half players. That with our pitching staff will give us a good chance in the playoffs, as good as any other team in the NL.

    Wow, Lincecum has been signed!!!

    ReplyDelete

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