Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This and That: Winn and Cain

Interesting Giants notes yesterday. {Sorry, I thought I had posted this August 30th and forgot to...}

Winn's Knee "Issues"

Winn apparently has had "issues" with his right knee since May, since fouling a ball off it, according to Alou and the trainer Conte, but Winn basically denied that there was any lingering problems or problems currently with his knee. Could be that the Giants want to give an excuse for Winn's poor performance this year. And his stats sort of support it and sort of don't. He had a good April, then an OK May (just not enough hits), but a great June, which appears to refute that the knee was a problem, but since then he has been pretty horrible so one could make the case that perhaps he aggravated it in late May, early June, and hasn't been the same since, posting a low .600 OPS since the end of June.

And whatever the problem is, it has caused him to go from getting more walks than strikeouts, as he did in April, May, June, to horrible walk totals for July, August. Plus no HR from June 27 to August 8th and only 2 total since June 27th. If there were really issues, the Giants should have just DLed him and played Finley in his place, get him all healed, particularly after that putrid July, perhaps he could be on fire right now instead of struggling.

Cain's Innings Too Much?

The writer also noted a worry about Cain's innings. He noted that Cain is at 150 IP and approaching his "high from last year, when he threw 192." My math shows that he is 42 IP from his high of last year. There are 30 games left. With a 5 man rotation, that's 6 starts left. He has averaged 6 IP per start this season. So that means he is on pace for 36 IP for those 6 games and 186 IP for the year. What's the worry? That Cain might match his career high?

This reminds me of a debate I was in on McCovey Chronicles last week. The guy cried about how delicate any young pitcher's arm is thus we should not put so much stress on Lincecum's arm by putting him in the majors next season and only add about 20 IP per season to stretch his arm out; he's convinced that's what harmed Mark Prior's arm. So I outlined there how Lincecum is already at 162 IP combined college and pros, plus the games he could expect to throw for the rest of the San Jose Giants schedule, he'll be at around 170-180 IP for this season. So he's already ready to throw in the majors, most starting pitchers throw no more than 180-200 IP, particularly if you are the #4 or #5 starter on the staff. So how would Lincecum's arm be harmed by being in the majors, he has already thrown that many innings this season.

That is, unless the guy is now claiming that the Giants are irreparably harming Lincecum's arm by not shutting him down after a few starts. But that was not his starting point of his argument, he was just reacting to a comment about how another fan wanted to allow Lincecum in the major league rotation next season if he was ready. This guy was clearing reaching up you know where (where the sun don't shine for those who don't get it) for his arguments as he made either a clearly false statement or a stupid statement. Either way, doesn't make him look all that good (which is too bad for him because he's trying to make himself out as some sort of expert for hire).

Furthermore, if he believes so strongly about damaging young pitcher's arms, where was he the past three seasons while Cain went from 19.1 IP plus whatever he did in high school at age 17, jumped to 74.0 IP in 2003 when he was 18, jumped to 158.2 IP in 2004 when he was 19, and then jumped to 192.0 IP in 2005 when he was 20. Based on that 20 IP per year rule, Cain's not due to throw nearly 200 IP until he is 23-24 years old, based on the IP he did at age 18.

And even if this is some new learning on his part, even I knew immediately that Cain would be considered abused by his rule, he never mentioned Cain at all in his arguments. Following his assertions to their logical conclusion, Cain is headed to a Mark Prior-like existence in the near future. Maybe, maybe not, Cain did have that thing he was shut down for in his first full season as a pro, but he has been injury free since then, with nary a hint that he is injury-prone, unlike, say, Francisco Liriano, who had multiple injuries shutting him down before the Giants traded him to Minnesota.


  1. Hello Martin. I am really puzzled by Winn and have read nothing that explains what has happened to him. I did not expect him to duplicate last year's second half. I did expect about a 285 BA, and a decent OBP. Not seeing or hearing anything specific, I have nothing left to atribute it to other than sometimes guys have bad years.
    On Linececum, I believe you are in favor of him pitch for the big club next year, assuming he earns it in ST. I thought you frequently cited stats that showed a SP is much more likely to succeed if he has a full year in AAA. My own view is Linececum needs a 3d pitch and to develop some movement on his FB. I am inclined to think a full year of AAA will be very beneficial to him. Additionally, assuming Sanchez is in the rotation next year, it makes a certain amount of sense to me to just have one true rookie per year in the starting rotation. If that is Sanchez, then I think long term the Giants are better served with Linececum in AAA developing a 3d pitch (a forkball seems perfect and a change up [yes, 4th pitch] seems highly desireable. I think we can get by quite well with Hennessey/Correia/FA (a la J. Wright this year) until 08. I say this because I see the pen being in some flux next year, likely having young guys as set up/potential future closers.

  2. From a brief glance at Winn's career numbers, he appears to be running along par for himself this season with a unique difference. He has a whole log less total hits this year (which explains the lower BA), but he has a LOT less strikeouts. This, to me, means he's just getting out and not "finding holes" this season. He has tallied 2B, 3B, and HR numbers that mirror his career averages. With that said, I think allfrank's assessment (that he's just having a bad year) could be right, as it appears he's just hit a patch of bad luck.

    Then again, there may be some who will argue and point out that he doesn't seem as patient, and that he seems to hack at first or second pitches. With that, I point out that Winn has never been a walking machine. He wasn't built to be a leadoff hitter (I think he's better suited batting third or sixth), and thats apparent in his career walks. He doesn't walk that much, and this year's walk numbers are right on par with his career average as well.

    Hopefully he has a bit of good luck the few weeks (or month or so if the Giants make it to the playoffs), as that will erase anything that has happend earlier this season.

    As for pitchers pitching too many innings too early, I think of it sort of as a Catch 22. I believe that pitchers need to develop; ones that lack control should work on that, and ones that lack an effective third pitch should work on that. However, this train of thought only works if you have faith that the pitcher will go learn those things in your minor league system.

    With that said, it wouldn't help Lincecum next year if he pitches AAA and dominates with just his fastball and curveball, as he (or the rest of his team) will have no real incentive to develop that slider that he supposedly has. Sort of a "So long as we're winning" mentality.

    At the major league level, he will have the best coaching in the system available to him (at least with the train of thought that the Giants best pitching coaches are Gardy and Rags), and he will be forced to learn to use that slider. He's going to be forced to learn.

    Basically all I'm saying is that Cain has developed well. He has a great psyche, and he's slowly learning to command his stuff. He is right up there with the staff ace in wins, walks, and strikeouts. If Lincecum can show that he can handle the show next spring, I don't see any problem in letting him join the rotation.

    In any case, we will (and should) have an insurance fifth starter that can pitch out of the pen (a-la Jamie Wright, Kevin Correia, Brad Hennessey, etc).

    Hopefully that rant made some kind of sense.

  3. Thanks for catching that Allfrank. Sometimes I get lost in my arguments and don't cover all the bases. Yes, the study in my "bible" for baseball analysis states that giving a pitcher a full year in AAA greatly improved the odds of the pitching doing well his first season up to the majors.

    I was just arguing against the point of the person, which was that Lincecum did not have enough arm strength to tackle the majors next year and, based on that, would have no problem with Lincecum being physically ready to pitch in the majors.

    But I should have made it clear that it would probably be best to start Lincecum in AAA next season even if he appears ready to pitch in the majors (I think I posted on that thought before) physically in terms of innings pitched.

    And I agree with your reasoning about Lincecum and Sanchez and the rotation. That's partly why I'm hoping the Giants do succeed in signing Schmidt (Zito is probably out of the question after that Boras blowup over Angel Villalona), then we would have Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, Cain and the 5th starter, probably Sanchez, Hennessey, Correia, maybe Wright.

  4. sfgfan, that makes a lot of sense. When I get a chance, I will check out fangraphs to see how Winn's stats look like and see if I can divine anything from there (of course, it didn't cover me with glory with Feliz or Niekro :^).

    About Cain, he did basically pitch a full season in AAA before coming up to the majors. And that appears to have helped him.

    And Lincecum, on his own, worked on developing a third pitch while at U-Dub in order to be that much more dominating this past college season, so I think he'll be working on that pitch whether he's on the major league club or the AAA club. He was cognizant of the areas that baseball scouts were saying he was deficient in and made an effort to improve himself in those areas. Too many walks was another he worked on.

    With strong self-motivation like that, I don't think he will have any trouble working in Fresno on his 3rd and 4th pitches without Rags or Gardy there. I know about TINSTAAPP but I expect him to be in AAA next season, especially given Dodd's odd home park, it may make him lazy in terms of how to properly pitch to batters because it dampens HR rate there about 50% or so. I would rather stretch him in AAA and see how he does there and hopefully get him ready to come up late season or in 2008.



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