Monday, August 14, 2006

Dusty Baker Rule of Thumb Invoked But Stay the Course; Rebuilding Continues

While I was glad that the Giants did not re-sign Dusty Baker, I did pick up one rule of thumb that I thought was a great way to break down what seems to be a difficult task and make it not so onerous: the team should focus on gaining one game per week to get out of the hole that it had currently dug for itself in terms of games behind and if you cannot catch up with the leader by gaining one game per week, then that's time to worry about the team.

I don't think that he said all that, I think he was just trying to keep the team focused and, essentially, used a project management trick to break up a huge job (like being many, many games behind) into a job with interim milestones and an easy short-term goal that you can measure yourself by: gaining one game in the standings per week. I think I worked out the then obvious implication that if you still cannot catch up with the leader by the end of the season by gaining one game in the standing per week then you are in trouble; not that that is a big deal, but I also don't want anyone telling me that Dusty never said that either.

Giant's Officially Behind By More Games

With their excruciating loss to the D-gers on Sunday, 1-0, despite Schmidt's great pitching, the Bums swept us and put us 7.5 games behind them. However, there is only 7 more weeks left in the season after that game, so we are officially behind the 8-ball in terms of games to make up, though just marginally so. The task seems tough to do, particularly given how badly the Giants have been playing.

And continue to play, they won today 1-0 over the Padres and the run was unearned, but I'll take it, at this point, just to stop the bleeding just for one day. Unfortunately the Marlins couldn't keep their magic going and the D-gers could so they also won today and the Giants are still 7.5 games back. Their resurgence is remiscient of the winning streaks the Giants would go on when Sabean pulled off one his big deals for a bunch of vets and promising players, especially since that is what Colletti did for the D-gers this season, he acquired Lugo, Betemit, Maddux.

Stay the Course

But I still think the Giants should keep trying to win the division and not scuttle the team by trading off or releasing the vets. Though Finley would be a good one to drop/trade, given his comments recently and the lack of performance to back up his words - it would be one thing if he was hitting like he did, say, two years ago, but he hasn't been hitting for anything since April, so it's all hot air, no substance. I would be ashamed if I was hitting what he has hit since April and making $7M in salary.

But we should give it the old college try, there's still enough games, particularly within the division, to make a difference in who does win the division, if it is not us. And if we can just get things going, particularly Winn at the top of the order in tandem with Vizquel, I think the offense would take off. But both Finley and Winn are hitting like they are 42 years old and killing the offense at the top. Fortunately the pitching has been pretty good, even during the long losing streak. We've come this far, we should give our best effort to finish things off as best as we can.

The Re-building Continues

Obviously with the Giants uneven play and recent horrible losing streak that is not necessarily over yet, there are many fans deriding Sabean and looking to 2007 "when it's time to rebuild the team" and "can Sabean even rebuild the team?" followed by "let's get a new GM!" I find that ironic because the team has been slowly rebuilding itself since the beginning of last season when Sabean started the seeding of the 25 man roster with farm system products. This rebuilding has been going on now for nearly two seasons under the noses of these fans.

The 2004 season started with few farm hands on the 25 man roster: David Aardsma (only there because of Schmidt being on DL), Jerome Williams, Yorvit Torrealba, Pedro Feliz, Cody Ransom (soon off as well), and Tony Torcato (soon off as well), making that 6 players or about 25% of the roster. Later on Noah Lowry, Kevin Correia, Todd Linden, Brad Hennessey, Merkin Valdez, all contributed during the season. Only Williams was a starter, but he only pitched in 22 games, though Feliz played often as an uber-sub.

Last season also started with few farm hands on the 25 man roster: Lowry, Williams, Torrealba, Feliz, Jason Ellison, and Torcato started out on it, making that 6 players, though Torcato was only there because Bonds was on the DL, else it would have been 5 players or 20% of the roster. As the season went on and Bonds stayed on the DL and the bullpen imploded starting with the tearing of Benitez's hamstring tendons. This resulted in the dumping of many veterans as youngsters like Lance Niekro, Hennessey, Scott Munter, Jack Taschner, Linden, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Correia, and Matt Cain came in and helped the team out. Lowry, Feliz, Hennessey, Ellison, Niekro, and Linden started for long stretches in the season - or all season in Lowry's case and most of the season in Feliz' case.

This season started with, I believe, the following on the 25 man roster: Lowry, Cain, Taschner, Munter, Accardo, Feliz, Niekro, Ellison, or 8 players, 32% of the roster. Players who have come up and made contributions included Hennessey, Correia, Travis Ishikawa, Eliezer Alfonzo, Kevin Frandsen, Brian Wilson, and Jonathan Sanchez. Feliz, Lowry and Cain are starters, Niekro was a starter, Alfonzo has basically been starting, and Hennessey has had a number of starts.

There are currently 9 home grown players on the roster today, comprising 36% of the team: Cain, Correia, Hennessey, Lowry, Taschner, Eliezer Alfonzo, Feliz, Kevin Frandsen, and Linden.

For comparison, the team who is held out as the gold standard for player development, the A's across the Bay, has 7 players currently on the roster who they signed and developed: Blanton, Flores, Street, Zito, Melhuse, Chavez, and Swisher. To be fair, Bobby Crosby and Rich Harden would make the total 9 for them as well but they have what we Giants fans would call the "Lance Niekro" syndrome: can't stay healthy all season long. To be even fairer, their farm products are contributing in more starting roles than the Giants farm products, with Blanton, Street, Zito, Chavez, Swisher, Crosby and Harden in starting roles and only Flores and Melhuse in reserve/relief roles.

It's Getting Better All the Time

But the Giants are catching up a little each year. Next year, we should see Jonathan Sanchez up in a significant role at some point and Merkin Valdez will be out of options, so he should be up all year because of that. Alfonzo could be the full-time starter if Matheny is out for 2007/career. Feliz might be gone, but if so, Niekro might get another chance or maybe platoon with Ishikawa at 1B. Frandsen should be starting somewhere, where depending on what happens with signings, but he should be starting somewhere I think. And Linden and Ellison should be backing up the OF and probably starting a good number of games, depending on what happens in the OF, whether Bonds and/or Alou resigns with the team.


  1. I, again, agree with your piece, Martin. I think the Sabean haters are pretty inflexible and irrational in their assesment of his performance. For one thing, they assume they know his 'strategy' or 'philosophy' and they project that into the future. I think, for the past 5-6 years, with Bonds and Schmidt, he was trying to win now, drafted pitching for trade bait, as they are more desireable as trade pieces.
    I think Sabean is a smart guy. With Bonds fading and Schmidt also fading/possibly gone, I think his strategy re: rebuilding will also change. I do not think he will embark on the radical re-build from within/bring-the-young-guys-up strategy, because I don't think we have that many position players likely to make much of an impact.
    I don't promise to know what he is going to do. I am interested to find out because I think he is good at what he does. I would be surprised if he traded FOR pitching. I do think he might trade pitching for a young position player and then fill in with whatever Joe Randa type FAs he can get on short contracts.
    I think he has already changed the theory of draft picks - placing more emphasis on postion players than he was doing when Barry was carrying the team and we all thought, with just one more piece, he would carry us to the World Series.

  2. Martin, your writing again hits the nail on the head. I like how you're a Giants fan, and an optimistic one at that, but your writing isn't entirely influenced by this. You do a great job of calming your bias and following up statements/claims with stats and facts.

    While I, like allfrank, don't claim to know how Sabean's mind works, I do know that the Giants can't afford to field a Florida Marlins-esque team for the next couple of years. The livli-hood of the ownership and the stadium depends on the team winning.

    You are right, the Giants have been moving the youth in the last few years. Hopefully that youth will play more than reserve roles next year, but with the right balance of veterans. I would rather not watch a team that resembles the Marlins, Royals, or Brewers (who have been "rebuilding" forever).

  3. Thanks for the compliment, sfgfan, that's what I try for, seeing the Giants for what they are and not what I hope they would be, nor what I fear they would be, but what they are right now.

    I haven't addressed the future much here yet but I've been posting on McCovey Chronicles that I'm in favor of a 1 year, put the youngsters in for 2007, in order to save money for future free agents and to see what the youngsters got. I'll try to address this soon, but mainly I see there being no GREAT FA out there, a once-in-a-generation type of free agent, and any other players that fans have been suggesting - mainly Soriano and Carlos Lee (no relations :^) - incite worries of Edgardo, Part II, the Downside Years Squared on my part because it'll be for more years and twice the money.

    So save the money, buy "value" FA to fill gaps of the farm system, play Linden/Lewis, Frandsen, maybe even Ishikawa in a platoon with Niekro (less chance hurt, focus on LHP). It's a work in progress but that's where I'm at right now.

  4. Nice work Martin. Agree and have possessed similar sentiments for some time now.




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