Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hopes and Fears: My Thoughts On the Giants Playoff Chances and Retaining Bonds

{I wrote a lot of this text as a comment on McCovey Chronicles and thought I would post it here as well. One was about the Giants chances for the playoffs, the other was on Kuip's comments on KNBR this morning.}

My hope and expectations are these: if we are to go to in the playoffs, we will go there on the backs of our starting rotation, but if we are to advance, our offense will have finally jell together and start playing to their potential.

I think people are over-worrying about the situation, filling it with all the years of angst over the lack of championships for the SF Giants. Yes, they don't have a championship caliber team. Then again, you don't have to be one to win it all. All you really need is great pitching and enough offense as the competition is not that great.

The Giants cannot be judged from the full context of their seasonal record as to how they will perform in the playoffs. The conditions that will exist during the playoffs will be very different from the regular season.

For one, there were many games in which Barry missed games during the season: no great source of this info, so for games where Barry got 0-1 PA using ESPN's game log, the Giant were 14-23 in those games, while they were 55-46, .545 winning percentage with Bonds getting 2 PA or more. That's an 88-74 winning percentage season right there, just from having Bonds starting. How much you want to bet he's starting every game of the playoffs, should we make it there?

For another, Alou was out much of the season. When Bonds in lineup, we scored 4.7 runs per game, when Alou 4.5 runs per game, 4.6 runs per game when both in lineup. When both are out of the lineup, the Giants were 6-10, 4.1 runs per game. Take that out of the Giants record and they are almost in first place tie with Dodgers and leading the wild card race.

I agree it is a coin toss that Alou is in the playoffs or not but what if he is? The Giants are that much better when both are in the lineup. And that was mainly when Bonds was not hitting much, he has been locked in for a while now.

Plus Alou has finally brushed off the rust that sitting out May and June (basically) led to in his batting stroke. June OPS .619, July OPS .750, August OPS .818, September (only 4 games) OPS 1.333, but that matches the 1.000+ OPS he had at the start of the season before being injured. His stroke has returned too.

For another, we won't have Wright/Hennessey dragging down the rotation during the playoffs and the other starters are pitching pretty well right now, which if it can continue into the playoffs, will give us an advantage. Cain is locked in. Schmidt has had a bad period now but hopefully will return to his earlier dominance by season's end. Morris has been pitching well for a while now. Lowry had his great August but reverting back to his poor stats starting in September, so we'll see how he goes. But overal, three pitchers doing well out of four isn't too bad to ask for going into the playoffs.

I don't expect to win it all if we make it in, but if Bonds and Alou are in the lineup and the starting pitching is going well, I don't see why the Giants can't make a good showing in the playoffs and have as good a chance as any other team, every team has their problems that could explode in their face, same as the Giants. And you never know, once you get into the playoffs, what might happen.

Kuip's Comments On KNBR

Goofus beat me to the punch and posted Kuip's comments on a Diary on McCovey Chronicles. I commented on it with the below text:

I agree that his stance matches many here. There's no way Bonds will get even a kick of the tire from any other team, both Sosa and Palmiero probably would have played this year if anyone had offered and they are the type of players who get such offers (see Frank Thomas). So as noted above, the Giants would be only bidding against themselves.

So the key thing - and Kuiper mentioned it - is how Bonds feel about the whole thing. Will he be too insulted by too low a contract? I don't think he would stand for being dissed but I think the team will be fair with him as well, given that the odds of him reaching Aaron has grown exponentially the past week or so. The main questions are will Bonds pull an Aurilia and have an inflated sense of what he should be paid and how desperate is Bonds to reach Aaron? Given his ego, I have no sense for what HE thinks is fair vs. what WE think is fair. And I think he wants Aaron, as much as he has pooh-poohed it previously in respect to Aaron.

I think a base in the $5-7M range is fair plus incentives to reach certain games played, the range GiantJim had sounds about right {I'm sure I wrote about this in a previous post here}. If there is a way to pay him extra for reaching Aaron, I think it will be put in, but I don't think an incentive like that can be put into the contract. A contract like that should be attractive enough so that he don't feel dissed but I'll bet he thinks he should be getting $20M again and it will be his will to reach Aaron that will eventually get him to sign. And as someone mentioned above, I think he would like to reach 3,000 as well, only the greats reach that, so the team will be in the catbird seat, to use an old baseball term.

While I appreciate Felipe for not making a bigger deal about his contract status, he is forced into such a situation: if he opens his mouth, he would distract the team from their main goal, which, as always, is to win the World Series. And if they are distracted and don't do well, they won't make the playoffs, let alone win it all and he definitely won't get a new contract either. So that's why I think he made his "mistake" about how few games he had left, to let it out that he's aware, but to not take too much focus away from the players.

Personally, I think Felipe will be back whether or not Bonds is back. He was a perfect manager to handle the transition from experience to youth, given his experience handling ballplayers from his days as minor league manager.

And speaking about post-Felipe, given Ron Wotus' position as bench coach - a position I would have expected Luis Pujols to get with Felipe as manager - I think Giants management is grooming him for the manager's position and how better than to sit around an old pro like Felipe and absorb his knowledge as the bench coach. I expect him to get the reins of the team when Felipe is done, which will probably when he thinks that the team, while competitive, is not likely to go all the way, which it will probably look like once Bonds leaves or finally have a truly bad season.

Besides which, Bonds' negotiation will probably drag on for a while, the Giants cannot do likewise with Felipe, either they re-hire him pretty immediately or go on a manager hunt, they cannot wait to see if Bonds sign AND THEN sign Felipe, that would look totally whack.

Moises has the same problem, he can't make too big a fuss because he needs to concentrate on hitting great again (which he appears to have finally done after two months of a spring training redux) in order to get a good contract next season (if he gets one, he's no spring chicken either). The Frank Thomas deal will probably be in his future.

The senior consultant role that was mentioned for Felipe by Kuiper was mentioned as early as when Felipe signed with the Giants. Given his experience in prospecting and his stature in the Dominican Republic, I expect him to be actively recruiting prospects in the Carribean once he hangs up his managerial post. He will become the face of the Giants in the Carribean and lend his respectability to the organization after the black eye they got with that other guy, I think it was in the 90's. He was accused of abusing some of the younger players under his charge, gave the Giants a huge shiner, I believe.

1 comment:

  1. As I've said in the past regarding the Giants and the playoffs, I'm with you Martin. Go Giants!

    You are right about what the team needs to do. The team can ride pitching into the playoffs, but once there, the bats need to wake up. If they can up the run-scoring to an average over 5 runs per game, that could be a huge difference.

    As for Bonds' contract talks, I think I'm agree with a relatively low base plus many many incentives. I think you can work an incentive in where he gets paid a little more for passing Hank. Don't players get bonuses for hitting X number of home runs? Say he gets to 736 by season's end, the stipulation for the bonus could be "hit 20 homeruns".

    I'm not a contract expert, so maybe you are right, certain incentives may not be worked in.

    I look forward to the next few days (including this morning). The next four games (as are any of the remaining games) will be critical to their playoff hopes.

    While the Giants make your hair want to go grey during the season, they always make for an exciting end. You can count on that. Go Giants!



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