Tuesday, June 27, 2006

News on Giants farmhands: Ishikawa, EME, Pereira

I was browsing the USA Today Fantasy Baseball News site, when I ran into some Giants notes that I thought I would follow up on here.

Ishikawa!

Travis Ishikawa homered in both games of the doubleheader that Connecticut played on Sunday, plus singled and drove in five RBIs. A site -Brew Crew Ball - that now gives splits for minor league players has been a god-send for us people who love to diddle with numbers and I thought I would look at Ishikawa's numbers to see if there's anything interesting (plus give the site a plug, great work he's doing). These numbers are as of 6/23 so it would not include the homers he hit on 6/25.

Unsurprisingly, he's hitting RHP better than LHP since he's a LHH, but the mildly surprising thing is that he's doing OK against LHP as well. He is hitting .231/.302/.410/.713 with 1 HR in 39 AB (OK, small samples, but still :^) vs. LHP, hitting .265/.349/.416/.765 with 3 HR in 113 AB. That only works out to about 16 HRs in a season (though the 2 HR on Sunday will bump that up to 24 HR). 18 walks against 44 strikeouts, he is right around the 50% mark that is the standard for minimum performance, but, as before, just short of it. He's not walking as much as before, but it could be because he's been pulled to the MLB 3 times, which probably ruined whatever rhythm he could have built up.

I have read that the Eastern League is a pitchers league and that Connecticut is a particularly good pitcher's park and Ishikawa's home/road numbers support that. At home, he's hitting only .253/.330/.342/.671 with 1 HR in 79 AB whereas on the road, he's hitting .260/.345/.493/.838 with 3 HR in 73 AB. That home park just kills his power, he has triple the HR and doubles on the road in equal ABs. That shows in his percentage of hits that are extra-base hits: his XBH/H for home is 20% and on the road is 53%.

He has not really homered much, given his past power, in the EL so far, but that has been his pattern so far in his career in that he struggles to find consistency when he enters a new league. He would have a week where he is a hitting god and then a week when he is a whiffing god. When he is on, he doesn't strike out so badly or so often. Hopefully, this two homer combo is the start of when he got everything together, it has taken him to May in past years to figure things out enough to start blasting balls out of the yard with much greater frequency and who knows how being pulled to the majors 3 times has affected that adjustment for him. But even when he has figured things out, he would still swing back and forth like a pendulum, just with longer stretches of dominance. Hopefully his taste of the Rich and Famous Lifestyle he got while in the majors will incent him even more to be consistent.

EME!

Bad news for EME: he just had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder and is expected to miss the rest of the season. He hurt his shoulder on May 6th and, I guess, when rest didn't fix it, they had to go in. Too bad, he was hitting .272/.324/.446/.770 in 92 AB, which is not that good for him, but like Travis, he is adversely affected by playing in Connecticut. The note says that this does not affect his future, that he can still make the majors as either a LF or DH.

Well, he's only 22 years old, so there's still plenty time for him to become the LF after Bonds retires - my guess right now is that Bonds will play 2007 but then retire, leaving LF open for EME in 2008. He has hit everywhere the Giants have put him, and with power, so he appears to be a lock to hit in the majors when the time comes. The key questions are A) what position can he play and B) will he ever be not injured? He's becoming like Lance Niekro, a fragile player who can hit when healthy but all too often he's not healthy. There are players like that who have a long career, JD Drew, Gary Sheffield, even Moises Alou, but that makes it tough on which ever team he is on, because they are out so often.

Pereira!

Nice article on homeboy Nick Pereira in the Merc today. He is from a local high school, Cupertino High, and has been pitching lights out this season for the San Jose Giants, so good that he was selected to start for the California League All-Star game, and so good that the Giants promoted him to Fresno, bypassing Connecticut, but preventing him from making that All-Star Game. But that's probably OK with him, as he has been selected to play in the Futures Game, part of the MLB All-Star game events leading up to the actual game. I think Merkin Valdez, Matt Cain, and Marcus Sanders have participated in previous Futures Games, so that is pretty prestigious.

He is one of the specialties - if he can be called that - of the Giants draft organization: he was previously a position player (SS) who tried his hand at pitching when he realized that he wouldn't ever be able to hit well enough and then excelled when he tried pitching. Jesse Foppert and Joe Nathan are two previous converts, and I know there are others (Coutlangus? Someone still in the system too) but they escape my mind right now. He started pitching just five years ago and was so unhighly touted that the Giants were able to pick him up in the 10th round of the 2005 draft.

At 23 year old now, he is slightly a little on the old side for the California League (bulk of players are 22-23, one prospect analyst says a true prospect would be 21 years old or younger by A+ level that the California League is), so that is probably a factor in why they decided to try him up higher in AAA, to see if he could handle it already, whereas they could take their time with Cain, who was much younger. Since the writer felt compelled to note Nick's 2.09 ERA and 7-1 record in 13 starts for San Jose but neglects to note any stats for his time in Fresno other than to say "Pereira has had two solid starts with Fresno," my guess is that he didn't do that well but not that poorly either, he was "solid" and ate a number of innings without embarrassing himself.

I like his quote from the artcile: "Things really have come together, but I wouldn't say I'm surprised. I set pretty high goals for myself, and I don't handle failure very well. " I like that confidence mixed with distaste for failure, no in your face bravado, just quiet polite confidence. That matches well with a quote from Bobby Evans, the Giants' director of player personnel, "The biggest thing about Nick is that we throws strikes. He's also such a competitor. He has great makeup." His coach at San Jose, Lenn Sakata had this to say, "He gives you the total package. How far he goes, time will tell. But I like what I've seen so far." Lastly, I was pretty shocked by the quote from his college coach, when he decided to try pitching, "In his first game, his first pitch was 94 MPH, and then he hit 97. That's when my pitching coach and I looked at each other and said, 'This guy is special.' "

If he was that good from the start, all I have to ask is why nobody tried him out as a pitcher until then? How do all his coaches miss that he had such a strong and accurate arm all through Little League (or whichever youth league he played in; my son plays in PONY League, and there's also the Babe Ruth League, among other better known youth leagues) and then into high school and even college? Pitching may be different in Little League, but in PONY League, every year my son has played, pitching has always been a premium and scarce, and there is always one point of each season where the coach pulls in someone who hasn't really pitched but is a good thrower, and put him or her in to pitch.

Though I guess it is nice that this was missed, otherwise the Giants might not have been able to draft him and they certainly wouldn't have been able to draft him in the 10th round of the draft, he probably would have gone higher. If he was throwing 97 MPH from high school on, he would have been more highly scouted (assuming this speed was there from the beginning and not just suddenly blossomed in college, somehow) and there would have been more scouts aware of his talent. Whereas how it worked out, the scout might scoff and say, "wasn't he that SS that sucked?" when he saw that Pereira was now a pitcher.

As I noted, this seems to be a specialty of the Sabean brain trust, I guess this is an area of inefficiency among scouts that give the Giants an edge with pitchers like this. Nathan has done very well despite starting out as a position player, despite even his arm problems that shelved him for a while, and struggling to find his way back.

In addition, Pereira was a local product who might not have gotten much attention because he started out with DeAnza, a small community college in the SF Bay Area, which is how the Giants snagged Foppert and Schierholtz before (both were grabbed much earlier than Baseball America thought they would be selected, based on talent ranking). In Schierholtz's case (could be Foppert too, just don't know his situation), he was a collective "huh?" when he was selected, he probably could have been selected a few rounds later but the Giants appear to try to draft based on their internal ranking of players and when his name comes up, they draft him.

Hopefully Sabean et al can keep finding these guys hidden in their backyard. Talent evaluation is so hard once you get past the first 10-20 picks (depending on the year), that any advantage a team can find can be a huge advantage. Just look at our team for how important that is. What do you think would have happened to a team who traded away Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser? Wouldn't most teams be devastated, talent-wise, in their farm system for years? And yet the Giants have essentially rebuilt the pitching staff with homegrown players in the years since then, with Lowry, Cain, and Accardo as the centerpieces of that.

Take Accardo. Here we fans are, casually noting that he's the closer of the future, why don't we just get rid of Benitez, but I wonder how many even realize how 180 degrees that would be prior to the year he could have been drafted. Yes, could have been drafted, the Giants signed him after the draft as an unsigned free agent (not sure why they did that instead of just drafting him in the 51st round), meaning any team could have signed him. Then he came in and led the farm system with 28 saves his first professional season, then the year after that he was already called up to the team and pitched well, and this season he's been the main setup man for much of the season and is being talked about for closer duties even with the incumbent around (OK, Benitez's not doing that well, but still he has been a good closer for years, even if not here, and his stuff is finally returning to normal).

At this rate, pretty soon Sabean is going to be having starters coming out of his ears - Pereira, Hinshaw, Joaquin, Griffin, Martis, to name but a few of the top starting prospects - and he'll pick off the cream to put in our rotation and trade off the rest for the position players he will need. But that's a post for another day.

2 comments:

  1. You can find Pereira's Fresno stats on MiLB.com. The stat that I liked was that he was 2 for 4 at the plate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Martin, I also think Accardo was a mediocre oistion player that the Giants drafted and converted to pitching.

    ReplyDelete

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