Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My 80/20 Scenario: Is Feliz in the Circle of Giants?

The news today in most media spots, like the Chron and the Merc, is that Pedro Feliz and the Giants are talking intently on bringing Feliz back to the Giants. This has set up fear and teeth gnashing among Giants fans over the possibility that that Sabean will allow him to return to the Circle of Giants sign him to a big and long contract.

From what I understand, Feliz really, really wants to return to the Giants, because he doesn't want to move his family - and if you've ever moved, you will understand that feeling. So everything will be driven by this want/need/desire of his: the no free agency filing, the agent "we can do it if we try" PR message, all predicated on letting the Giants know that he's on their team, please play ball with me. Because Feliz can file for free agency any day up to the first day of being able to talk to free agent, and it won't make a heck of a difference to his free agency bid for a big contract.

Agent-Speak for Giants Fans

Agents speak another language when they publicly speak. You need to read between the lines to understand what they are actually saying and thinking, because there's a motivation behind everything they say (assuming he is a good agent), it is all part of the negotiation game. Here's how I dissect the agent-speak.

"My hope is we can close the gap in the next couple of weeks." The good news here is that there is an actual GAP. Not "we have a few minor details to hammer out" or "we are close enough that I'm staying here in SF to get it done," but "hope we can close the gap". Any negotiation where the player wants to stay, you always have to give that hope publicly.

"I'm an eternal optimist, but this game is driven by economics and statistics, and it's not something one side controls." Well, I disagree, one side does have some control, the hitter holding the bat and swinging and compiling good stats to get a good contract. As many fans noted, Feliz did not do so well with the stats, and contrary to sentiment at many Giants fan sites, Sabean is no idiot, he knows how badly Feliz has done.

The good news here is that he's "an eternal optimist." That means that the two sides are far apart, no matter how badly Feliz wants to stay here. You don't say you are an eternal optimist if the two sides are very close, you only do that when the two sides are far apart even though his side wants it done. What need is there to be an optimist about, and particularly an eternal one, if things are close. This is great news that they are far apart.

I like the "this game is driven by economics and statistics." No, the game's economics is driven by the players thinking that if they made $X million last year, they deserve $X million + 10%, 20%, 30% the next year, just because. I see Feliz's agent touting his 98 RBI's ("almost 100!") and his great defense and his 3 consecutive seasons of 20 HRs, when I see him talking about economics and statistics, and that means he has an inflated sense of his client's economic worth.

My 80/20 Scenarios

My 80% likely scenario is that the agent feels the Giants are low-balling his client - hence the crack about economics and statistics - when he has nice stats like the 20+ HRs and 98 RBI, so he puts on the happy face for the public while noting that things are not a slam dunk at the moment. The disconnect there is that he thinks the Giants fans WANT Feliz back at any price.

The way I see it, the Giants want a cheaper solution for the 1B/3B conundrum. Hillenbrand is the better hitter and thus expects more money (especially since he made more than Feliz last season), so they are trying to work out a cheaper deal with Feliz first. From the sound of the agent, the two sides are apart at the moment and not close enough to assuredly say that a signing should happen before the free agency date.

My 20% fear scenario is that the Giants already made an offer that Feliz is happy with but his agent is doing this to try to get more out of the Giants in negotiations.

But unless he's an idiot - which you never know - to intimate publicly that the two sides are far apart, that there is still a gap, when the Giants might have made a fair offer, would be to publicly insult Sabean and most people who do that to Sabean tend to end up outside his Circle of Giants: Beck, Baker, Aurilia. Feliz does not appear to be out of the world in demands, like Aurila was with his 4 year $32M expectations when he entered free agency which resulted in the Giants not even bothering to negotiate. But to throw out words like eternal optimist and gap, that suggests that there's quite a divide there.

I take this news as good news that Feliz (or rather his agent) has probably priced himself out of the Giants immediate plans and that Sabean will move on to other options after his due diligence in trying to get a deal done with Feliz. I would be OK with Feliz at a modest salary and contract, because Sabean cannot be negotiating with so many free agents at the same time so he needs to get some positions settled before free agency starts, but his agent's posturing seems to imply that they want a big salary and I can't go for that.

Giants Strategy Interpretation

Interesting implication from the lack of news of Giants negotiating with their free agents during this exclusive period of negotiations is that the Giants appear ready to go with other options other than their free agents for 2007 and beyond. Durham's agent and Hillenbrand's agent have noted that they had at most, an initial discussion, but it appears that the Giants are prepared to let the market decide how high the salaries will go with the players, and then go from there.

I think part of that was due to wanting to wait for the Giants to pick their new manager - so that he can make suggestions/recommendations into who to retain - but it has been 4 days since Bochy was named manager, so the lack of news about contact on Monday (these articles published on Tuesday, today) could mean that Bochy has given his input and the Giants will let the free agent market determine each players' salary and at that point, the Giants will decide whether to fish or cut bait, or even possibly the Giants won't even pursue the player.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What I Like About Bochy So Far and Other Observations

Clearly, I'm disappointed by the appointment, but it's not the end of the world either. I'm sure he will prove to be a safe, stable move by Sabean. It's just that I'm not that excited either.

But I'm willing to give him a chance - what choice do I have, I'm still a Giants fan, and I'm never going to another team, I'll be one of those interested in the new Giants logo for caskets product offering (no kidding!) - so we'll just have to make the best of things and wait and see and invoke the "In Sabean We Trust (tm)" motto.

More on Bochy

For now, there is a nice profile of Bochy in the Merc today. It confirms what I speculated when analyzing the data on his managerial moves: he's a quasi-saber with his main deficiency, according to the article, his penchant to rely too heavily on veterans, which, as any Giants fan knows, is right up Sabean's alley.

It also notes a quality that Giants fans will appreciate: he is not in the habit of getting pitchers up and down repeatedly in a game - a trait fans and players grumbled about Alou - if the pitcher is warming up, he can expect to pitch. Alan Embree, a former Giant and (now) former Bochy reliever, said "He doesn't abuse his players."

Another trait that is useful for a manager to have is that he comes from a military family, so he is used to precision and detail, which would be a great help to any position, but particularly so for a manager. Plus his steadiness - a trait of good generals in war - after the Dodger's stunning 4 homer victory was a great example for his team. He didn't do anything different, he didn't call any meeting, he just acted like it was just another day at the ballpark where nothing extraordinary happened the day before, and the team went on a big win streak to win the division over the D-gers.

The biggest quote of his in the article for saber-oriented fans is this: "I don't like to give away outs." That is a huge tenet of saber-fans, the conservation of outs. Over the past five seasons, the 'Dres had the fewest sacrifice hits of any NL club. However, he is a proponent of stolen bases - he had Robert, Cameron, and Barfield running last season - and SBs are not held in high esteem by sabers. I don't recall studies but I think as long as runners are efficient enough in stealing bases (the gold standard before was over 80% success rate), it is not harmful either.

Maxi-Me, Sabean Style

Based on this article, Bochy seems to be Sabean's proxy in the dugout - I would have used the term, "mini-me", but anyone who saw the press conference for the announcement, could see that Bochy towered over Sabean. Sabean said in an interview a year or two ago that he sees teams shifting back towards speed driving run production over the homer-ball that has marked the current era. If you look at his picks over the past few years - Lewis, Sanders, Burriss - one can see that he has been picking up plus speedsters who get on base a lot.

In addition, Bochy has done a nice job with the pitching staff, working with young as well as old, plus keeping his bullpen a huge asset over the years by not overworking them, according to what Hoffman and Embree has said. Hoffman noted that if it weren't for Bochy's care, he probably would have burned out like so many other flash-in-the-pan closers, and said that "no one could have handled me better over all these years."

Peavy, in this ode to Bochy from some of his former charges, said that he really appreciated the way Bochy respected him. "He let me take some lumps, but Boch never, ever got down on me when I went through bad stretches." "I got to the big leagues as a kid, barely 21 years old, and I was told I was going to face the Yankees. I remember walking into Boch's office and feeding off his positive energy, his support. He said, 'We believe in you kid; that's why we're giving you the ball at this stage of your career. We think you can do the job.' It's been that way my whole career."

So those are nice qualities about Bochy that has come up in the two linked articles. I'm warming up to him and, if I didn't make it clear before, I do realize that it is not the end of the world. But it is not like a brand new love either, there is not any hope for great things, there is simply grudging acceptance that we have a new sheriff in town and we must simply wish for the best and see what happens when the roster is put together with his input, that will give a clearer indication what type of manager we can expect him to be.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Giants Botches Manager Hire: Bochy Ball is Here

As I posted on McCovey Chronicles when I first heard the rumor, "Color me very disapointed". Grant has posted a very reasonable take on the whole situation, that has calmed me down a little. And there are some very reasonable takes by other posters here. But I'm still not too excited.

One thing that is a plus, is I went through Bochy's record as manager in SD and in his 12 seasons as manager there, he is at +13 over his Pythagorean record, something only good managers appear able to do during their career, from my examination of managers good and bad of the past 20-30 years or so. And it is not like he has a good career record, he is only 951-975, a .494 winning percentage, and that was boosted over the past three seasons.

Only good managers are able to average over 1 win above Pythagorean over their careers, for the managers I looked at. Though it tended to be that winning managers had a positive total for their career and poor managers had a negative and was soon out of their job, there were exceptions. Tommy Lasorda was one of the exceptions, he had a long career but was much in the negative, he apparently costed the Dodgers a lot of games in his career. Felipe Alou was another, he was under .500 with the Expos but had a strong positive total and added to it as Giants manager. Joe Torre had horrible numbers in his first stint as manager for the Braves, but has been super good with the Yankees.

And now there is Bochy into my radar, never really noticed him before, which as Grant noted, is a good thing because there are a lot of managers who would have been much worse choices. It is good to have a manager who don't make so many hair pullling decisions, who is so inconsequential, you never noticed him. But is that how you want to have your manager choice be, "hey, you could have done worse, much worse."

Bill James Says

Well, HE didn't say it, but his Handbook has stats on managers, so I thought I would go through the data there, to learn more about our new manager, ranked by total (highest being #1) for stat.

  • PH: 1st, 7th, 3rd for 2003, 2004, 2005 in using pinch-hitters in NL. He appears to be big in L/R matchups, as he pinch hits often.
  • PR: 13th, 4th, T6th in using pinch runners in NL. He likes to run more than other teams, but not sure if that is related to very slow players or having a very fast bench player.
  • DS: T11th, 7th, 3rd in using defensive substitution. He has been a believer in defensive substitutions, but unsure if there might be one particular guy he replaces a lot or moves in to replace.
  • REL: 4th, 14th, 8th in using relievers. He appears to like to use his bullpen, like Alou, but not as extreme as Alou. Of course, it helps to have very good bullpen that don't blow up often and a good rotation that can eat innings, like Peavey.
  • LO: 13th, T13th, T11th in long outings. He appears to believe in the pitch count, he does not let his starters go beyond 120 pitches as much as the rest of the league. He has averaged 2 per year the past four seasons, though he had much higher seasonal totals early in his career.
  • SBA: 6th, 13th, T3rd in stolen base attempts. He likes to use the SB to get that extra base. It helps to have a speedster like Dave Roberts on the team too, that boosted him in 2005. Appears that he plays to his talent, if he has a speedster, he will utilize him and if not, then not.
  • SacA: 16th, 14th, T9th in sacrifice attempts. He does not appear to be a believer in sacrifice attempts, which is a very saber concept. But he has been doing more the past couple of years than he had in the middle of his tenure at SD, he had higher attempts early in his career and lately, must be personnel driven.
  • IBB: T7th, 12th, 10th in intentional BB ordered. Has not been a believer in IBB during his career, but the number has been rising from 2002 to 2005, though still low relative to the other teams.
  • PO: 15th, 10th, T8th in pitch outs. Does not believe in pitchouts, or did not believe in the Catcher's ability to throw the guy out.

And two new stats for 2005:

  • Quick: T2nd for 2005 in quick hooks. Means that after all managers and teams analyzed, he was pretty quick with the hook, which reinforces the stat above that suggests he uses his bullpen a lot. And he has been giving more quick hooks than avergae a lot.
  • Slow: 11th for 2005 in slow hooks. And he was below the median for the year, so he didn't do slow hooks as much as other sharks in costumes did.

So, to summarize, he is a big believer in substitution, whether for hitter, runner, fielder, or pitcher. He wants to protect starters, so not many long outings, lots of quick hooks, few on the slow hooks. And he likes the L/R advantage, so he PH and relieves a lot (meaning he probably needs two LOOGIES in the 2007 bullpen). He doesn't like to waste outs with sac attempts, but is will to risk outs to steal a base, and don't like to give up intentional walks.

That sounds like much of what a saber-oriented manager might do himself, don't give up outs, use L/R to his advantage, relies on all his players and their talent, managing to the talent level on the team.

My Other Observations

Not too many off the top of my head. First is he has been able to handle integrating rookies into the lineup, witness Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Barfield coming in like Will Clark and Robbie Thompson, plus Khalil Greene a couple of years back, plus young pitchers like Peavy, Hensley. That will be useful given all the young players we might have coming up over the next 2-3 seasons.

In addition, he was able to handle a bunch of vets on the roster at the same time. Last season he used Woody Williams and Trevor Hoffman a lot, and David Wells when he had him. He also juggled Piazza, Castillo, and Giles.

One good thing is he's an ex-catcher and that would balance off the pitcher-heavy expertise that populates the rest of the Giants brain trust. And he might be able to help Eliezer Alfonzo with his defense. But he won't be able to help the offense.

I wonder if he's keeping the staff or if they go. I assume they all stay. But I would rather he bring in a new hitting coach, it was ridiculous that Niekro had to go to Fresno to get his bad swing fixed so good he was bashing the ball all over the place in the minors.

Definitely a confirmation of the Giants stated intent to be competitive now, hiring an expensive experienced manager. Hiring any of the others would have invited doubt that the Giants were serious about competitive, but now they are clearly looking to win and they put up big money to do that in hiring the manager. Any free agents who were not sure before, should know now. That should make the Giants a bit more attractive to free agents looking to win.

He obviously was not sabermetic enough to satisfy Sandy Alderson at the top. Despite that, he still won the division twice in a row, pulling both titles out with strong enough finishes. And yet Alderson essentially fired him by saying there would be no extension, Bochy was a dead man managering for SD this season if Sandy didn't do anything else, like firing Bochy during the GM meetings after all.

Bland and Bleeh

If the best thing you can say about a manager is that he won't screw things up, that is not a good thing. However, his record against Pythagorean is pretty good, averaging 1 extra win per year, which is pretty good, most good managers like LaRussa, Baker, Alou, Torres, average at least 1 extra win per season. Still, he doesn't excite me, not like an Acta or a Black or even a Wotus would have. Wotus was noted to be a Magowan favorite, but Magowan left the decision in Sabean's hands. And Sabean went with the vet.

But despite what some say about how this is the reverse of his stated intentions for the team, that is incorrect, he said the team will get younger and Bochy is a good 20 years younger than Alou :^). Also, he never said anything much about the manager, it was always about the team composition, and Sabean has the rest of the off-season to wow us with the free agents that Bochy supposedly will attract to the team. Hopefully Bochy will provide good input into that for us, that, after all, is the reaons why the Giants wanted a manager in place before the start of the free agent period.

Mark Sweeney said in an interview that he would attract free agents, but SD hasn't really gotten anyone good except for Mark Loretta, who happens to be a free agent again this off-season and we need a 2B. But what we really need is another Adrian Gonzalez or Josh Barfield, to come in and do well, but those are trades and prospects. Maybe he can point out failed or stalled prospects out there who he can utilize. We will see.

But for now, I am wholely unsatisfied by this move. However, like Grant noted, it is not the end of the world either, in terms of who we could have gotten instead, it could have been much worse. But it is like kissing your sister when you could have been kissing some hot young babe instead, it won't kill you but it is not exciting either. Hopefully Sabean will wow us with his roster composition, I'm interested in seeing which youngsters Bochy thinks is worth giving a change and which are not.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Baseball Reaches New 5-Year CBA

{Changes made below regarding arbitration, draft picks, and free agency: 1:44 PM PDT, 10/25/2006}

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association has reached a record five-year labor accord, the longest labor contract in MLB history, as announced in this press release. It was jointly announced by Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig and MLBPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.

Here are some snippets of the quotes from the announcement:

"This is an historic agreement for Major League Baseball and is emblematic of the spirit of cooperation and trust that now exists between the clubs and players," said Commissioner Selig. "We are in the midst of baseball's Golden Age. More than 76 million fans attended our games this season, setting an attendance record for the third consecutive year, and we produced $5.2 billion in revenue, which more than quadruples our revenue total of 14 years ago. The new Basic Agreement assures labor peace into the next decade and gives us the opportunity to expand the Golden Age and continue to grow the game in all ways unimpeded by internal labor conflicts."

Fehr said: "I share the Commissioner's view that over the last ten years our game has experienced enormous growth. This new agreement will permit that growth to continue uninterrupted. We were able to conclude these new agreements before the expiration of the current contracts because the two parties brought to the table, along with serious concerns, a respect for the positions and needs of the other. As a result, the discussions were workmanlike and pragmatic, and, while difficult on some issues, the talks were conducted in a mutual attempt to get the job done.

"I want to thank all of the Players for their involvement and support during this process, especially those on the negotiating committee, without whom we would not be here today," Fehr continued. "Nearly 100 players participated in negotiating meetings, and many times that number in internal discussions. I would also like to acknowledge the MLBPA staff for its efforts. Finally, on behalf of the players, I would like to express our appreciation to the members of the Commissioner's negotiating team for all of their hard work."

Important Changes For Giants Fans

Revenue Sharing: Marginal tax rates for all teams have been reduced to 31%. Not sure what that means exactly for the Giants: depending on what the actual change is and their future revenues, it could result in more money or it could be less. Unsure what the effect is because the copy of the CBA that I have states that each team puts in 34% of local revenues and then split evenly, whereas the summary I linked to above says that the old plan had it at 40% for high revenue clubs and 48% for low revenue clubs. Either way, a reduced rate should result in the Giants contributing less revenues to the pot via their local revenues, but with shrinking local revenues, as attendence has been slowing dropping, the money left over after taking less could still be less than what they were getting before, depending on how much revenues have dropped. But if the revenues drop very slightly, as it has been in the past, it should result in more money they can keep and thus more money they can spend. This plus the money they 1) stop spending to support the Expos/Nationals and 2) get from the sale of the Expos/Nationals, should result in more money to spend over the next 5 years of this new CBA.

Amateur Draft: Signability will be less of a leverage point as teams unable to sign 1st or 2nd round draft picks will receive the same pick in the subsequent draft as compensation. They did not make clear how this will work exactly, but it most logically would mean giving the same numbered pick the next season, thereby pushing back everyone else 1 pick back. The problem here is that let's say the 3rd pick and the 9th pick don't sign. The team gets the 3rd pick next season, pushing everyone back 1. Now does the 9th pick get the actual 9th pick OR do they get positioned after the previous 8th pick, which now has the 9th pick because of the 3rd pick being given to the other team pushing back everyone. In any case, this hasn't been a problem for the Giants previously, so no benefit here to them.

Period of protection for Rule 5 Draft has been essentially extended 1 year (as long as signed and played in minors that same year as draft). However, in cases like Todd Linden where he signed too late to participate in the minors, his period of protection is unchanged because he played in the minors the year after he signed, negating that extra year.

Draft Choice Compensation: Type C free agents eliminated this year, so the Giants won't get picks for any minor players, though not sure who would fall into that category. In addition, Type B players get a sandwich pick instead of the signing team's actual 1st round draft pick. Also, Type A are now defined as the top 20% of each position (previously 30%), so Type B is now defined as the next 20% (21-40% now, previously 31-50%).

The Giants will get less draft picks but the picks for a Type C is not much more than a Keno ticket for getting a good player. More importantly are the picks they will get for the players they are losing this season, and the change in categories above goes into effect next season, so they could end up with more Type A and B free agents this season than they would have under the new system. In addition, they will not lose any draft pick for any Type B free agent that they sign this season.

Minimum Salaries: Minimal effect on the Giants payroll. Even with possibly a lot of new players from the farm system, whatever extra the team spends on these players because of the minimum, it will still be much less than what they are playing veteran players.

Free agency: All the deadlines for free agents have been eliminated. However, the Giants will still need to offer arbitration to any free agents not signed by Dec. 1st in order to get a draft pick for him. And there is now a tender date of December 12, which I am guessing is the date to tender the contract offer to any of your players who you have agreed to go to arbitration with.

Net-Net, the Giants will get a good number of draft picks for their Type A/B players, which could mean a boat load of draft picks. Players like Schmidt, Bonds, Alou, and Durham are probably Type A's and Kline, Hillenbrand, Feliz and maybe Finley are probably Type B's. I would guess that Bonds, Finley and maybe Alou will not be offered arbitration, as it would be risky to take them on again at their salaries, whereas the others will most likely ignore arbitration and sign on for a longer contract elsewhere, if they don't sign with us, that is. And they can take as long as they want to resign any of their free agents (like Bonds) and not lose the right to resign until May of next year.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Magowan: Don't Blow It

Nice article today by Ann Killion about how Magowan should get money from the A's for the territorial rights to the South Bay. I've been writing about this for nearly two years now. Here's my first post about it, when I had my old site (well, first on my blogs, I might have written it for a site that will not be named anymore :^).

I still think that post holds up pretty well still. The Giants could use more money to spend. The A's could pay them big bucks in order to move to the South Bay plus pay the Giants annual money as well, much like the Orioles will get from the Nationals. Win-win.

The Heat is ON

Now there is great imperative for the Giants to do this now, as Ann noted in her article. The A's are planning on moving south soon anyhow. They will be on the border of Santa Clara County with a proposed site in Fremont, on land that Cisco currently have an option on but appear ready to work with the A's for Cisco Park. There is a rumor that Larry Baer and Magowan was spotted in a car near the proposed site, presumably to get a lay of the land.

As a deep South Bayer, I'm still only a 35-45 minute drive away from that area from home, maybe 10-15 minutes from my work (not that I would ever go to an A's game, but some of my co-workers might). That is much closer than AT&T Mays Field is from the South Bay, by a good half hour or so, and that doesn't include the time dealing with parking there, as there are few parking lots around the site. This site in Fremont is easily reachable from most of the South Bay, though most will have to make it an evening there because traffic starts backing up between 3-4 PM, so you would have to leave work a little early.

So they could end up with nothing instead of raking in benefits that Baltimore got, such as, from my post:
  • Guaranteeing that his franchise will be worth $200M more than he paid for it
  • Giving him 60% of the revenues of a regional sports network in combo with the Nationals
  • Guaranteeing that the Orioles' revenue would never fall below the average of what they earned before the Nationals moved to Washington.
And this was for a team that didn't even have a legit claim, they just want to pay the Orioles to go away. Well, the Giants should have been playing that game as well.

What risk is there, if the other team will guarantee that the value of your team will not fall under a value that the Giants agree to? What risk is there if the other team would guarantee your revenues would never fall below the average of what they had before the move? True, the A's might not agree to the exact same terms, but at least the Giants would have gotten something for their troubles. Now, they get zip, zero, nado, a big donut hole!

Magowan: Please Bust A Move, Before It's Too Late

So now that the local media has finally gotten some coverage on this issue, maybe the Giants will finally listen to reason and get some money now before they lose a significant portion of the south bay to the San Jose A's of Fremont. As I noted in my previous post, they can get money now and money in a recurring stream over the life of, say, the rest of their loan payments to make sure that is covered. And if that is not the issue, then I would like to know what the reason is, and it better be good.

This is found money, ready to be used to buy free agents over the next few years or many years, depending on what they can negotiate out of the A's. Now that they are on the South Bay's doorstep with the proposed move to Fremont, the Giants will get much less from the A's, but at least they will get something. Maybe they will at least get enough money so that Brian Sabean will no longer have to make the decision: draft pick or Michael Tucker? He can just get both instead.

My Latest Thoughts On Giants Mangerial Search

What the heck, I'm posting the comment I had put together in response to Allfranks question on my thoughts on Acta vs. Bud Black for manager here as a blog post.

Ratto on Black, Acta

I love Ray and sometimes poorly emulate him when I write.

To me, the article doesn't really make Black the leading horse, he's just throwing that out there as a trial balloon, really, as a thought piece that if Bud really was considered for both jobs, his choice would speak volumes of what a non-subjective decision maker thinks is the better franchise to go with.

Then he subverts that later by noting that there are a lot of factors that are not related to the baseball side that could affect his decision, like Barry and Billy.

Right Black Acta: Black vs. Acta

But to the question of Black vs. Acta, both sound like good candidates for the Giants job, from what I know about both of them.

As a more saber-oriented fan, Acta would be a great choice for that reason plus the bonus that he could speak with his players who are mainly Spanish speaking.

Black, however, is good friends with some of the people already on the staff, according to one report (have to assume Righetti and Gardner, don't see any reason for Wotus, Pujols, or Glynne to have much interaction with Black previously), making the transition easier, since it sounds like the Giants are planning on keeping the coaches, and I like the coaches for the most part, except for probably hitting, since he couldn't fix up Niekro up here, he had to go down for that.

But not that Acta could not learn to be like that either.

Black is a plus because he's a pitcher and our main assets for the near-future on the team in terms of youth is our pitching, so hopefully he would know more about that than Acta. But, again, Acta could (probably does, since he spoke on pitch counts) too.

What's intriguing with Acta is that if he is good, he could be a manager for 15-30 years, which would be a rarity in history, let alone today. I would like a continuity of the manager like that. He's only 37 whereas Black is 49. Then again, Black could be here 15-20 years himself.

Of course, there is the history of it because Black was a premiere (relatively, there was an uproar about how much Rosen paid for Black) free agent that the Giants signed and he pitched well for us for many years.

Plus, he helped shaped and guide the Angel's young pitchers, like Escobar, Lackey, Santana, and now Jered Weaver. Lackey in particular, he wasn't much of a strikeout pitcher when he came up but with Black's tutelage, over a short period, his K/9 rate went from 5.7 in 2002 to 6.7 in 2003 to 6.5 in 2004, to 8.6 in 2005, and to 7.9 in 2006. That boosted his K/BB from an OK 2.1 to a great 2.6 to 2.8 in 2005-6.

So which way to go, with Acta who manages more sabermetically (not that Black wouldn't), which would help the hitters, or Black who helped guide Angels' pitching prospects into become productive pitchers (not that Acta wouldn't), which would help our young pitchers be harvested for trade or good performance.

Both Good Choices

Right now, it looks like we can't go bad either way. I think both will bring a lot to the job. Given the Giants penchant for history, that would suggest that Black has the inside track, since he's a former Giants, but I think the only reason they saw Black first was because he was available and Acta was not.

They, afterall, waited until now to interview Black, whereas the rumor about Acta has been out for a while now, suggesting the Giants only recently decided to pursue Black, kind of like an afterthought. Perhaps the reason why is that Black sent some grapeline feelers to the Giants to let them know of his interest. But even if so, it took the Giants a while to decide to "kick the tires".

Acta the Front Runner Right Now

I would give Acta the inside track for now, given the Giants clear intention to integrate their operations, from the female announcer then African American female announcer, to hiring Dusty, who had basically zero managerial experience except for a brief run in the AFL, where, really, you can't show much of anything if you are a manager, to pursuing Felipe, to all the multi-cultural and diversity events that they hold during the Giants season, plus the decision long ago to have a Spanish language radio broadcast, and the embracing of past Giants greats, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Vide Blue, and hopefully Felipe will soon join them as advisor.

Acta would make the most sense given that history of choices made, especially since the main management is still clearly white middle-aged, except for the CFO, an Asian, though, now looking through the media guide, there are a fair number of women there. Even among Sabean's main advisors, they are all white, Tidrow, Dobson, Evans, Perranoski, and Colletti before that. And presumably, while Black would bring his pitcher's experience into the mix, that is redundant when you have Righetti and Gardner already here, unless the Giants had decided that they wanted to go in another direction there, and if they had, this would mean that they were dissatisifed and the two would have been fired by now, so presumably they are still held in high esteem, though not enough to hire as manager.

Thirnking further on this, I think the Giants are more interviewing Black to 1) pick his brains (partly), 2) give him additional exposure as a managerial candidate (Sabean was already around when Black was last with Giants), and 3) perhaps (mainly) prime the pump for the Padres to go with Black after Bochy since Bud LIVES in San Diego and his family living there was the major consideration for him, don't see how that changes yet, one of his daughters is still in middle school there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why I Like the Giants Focusing On Pitching Prospects

I posted the below at McCovey Chronicles in this thread, but wanted to include it here as well. Basically, Baseball America had a column where the columnist sung the praises of building up a team using hitters and gave a number of examples of how teams turned themselves around using hitters. I have a number of problems with his examples, which I outlined in my post, follow the link there if you want to see that, but I wanted to address the issue of re-building with hitters or pitchers, I think he was seeing something there that wasn't there.

I can see why he wrote what he wrote, though. Hitters are more dependable, in terms of matching their prospects, in terms of consistency of production, in terms of longevity. That makes sense, the pitching motion is unnatural and therefore has led to a lot of injuries that don't happen to position players. And pitchers generally go up and down in terms of production, depending on age, injury, or seemingly random luck; pitchers just go up and down a lot. However, I disagree, I think a pitching first philosophy - like the Giants have done - works better.

Focus on Pitching Works Better

Here's how I see it. You find two young star hitters, you still need 2-4 additional good hitters to make them a fully effective offensive machine, otherwise you pretty much have what we saw this season with the Giants, a sputtering offense. Failed hitters, at best, turn into reserve bench players and not very good at that (Ellison, Ransom), otherwise, not really worth much of anything in trade, so they normally just get dropped. And sometimes you are stuck with two great hitters at the same position (see McCovey and Cepeda, Teixiera and Hafner), you cannot always fill out your roster in a smooth way with hitters, that is, fill all your positional needs via prospects.

It is a lumpy distribution most of the times, you get multiple prospects that you then need to trade off and you sometimes don't get full value because to make that trade you need two important qualities: 1) you need to have want they want and 2) more importantly, they need to have what you need. I would think most of the time, the guy you want is with a team that don't want what you got, you either go with a second (or third) choice with a team that wants what you want, or you try to work out a multiple team trade, a hard proposition most times, or even harder, trade to get what that other team wants then trade with that team.

However, if you focus on pitchers and find two young star pitcher, you have a strong rotation for the next 10 years, and you fill in the rest of the rotation with the not as strong prospects or free agents. In addition, any pitching prospect who fails as a starter, could provide a huge contribution as a key member of the bullpen and perhaps as your closer, another key member of the pitching staff. Or they can be traded, teams are always looking for pitchers of all kinds and most times the other team will take a starter even if they want a reliever, they figure they can convert him. Or you could swap failures, like we did with Torres to get Estes.

Pitching First Philosophy

So based on this rationale, I think a pitchers first philosophy, as the Giants have mostly followed under Sabean's tenure as GM, is the best way to build up a consistent winner, let alone re-build into a winner. It gives you many more valuable pieces towards building up your team using your prospects. It enables you to complete more trades because of the flexibility, enabling you to fill out your 25 man roster more via trades, rather than free agency, which is a cheaper proposition normally and allows you to get a player who fit your need better than just if you were limited to free agents. Plus there are no free agents during mid-season when you want to acquire players. This will help speed the team in re-building itself plus keeping the success continuing indefinitely into the future, as the cream will rise to the top in terms of pitching talent, improving the pitching staff over time, particularly the bullpen, and the spill off can be traded.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Giants Manager Search: Week 2

Interesting article in Merc about Piniella got me to post my thoughts about the search. According to the article, a close source to Piniella said that "he wouldn't wait around to consider all offers." But still the Giants are still sticking with their plans to hire a manager after the World Series end, Lou or not Lou, as they are supposedly waiting for certain teams to exit the playoffs and free up personnel for an interview with the Giants.

Reading between the lines, I see that this means a number of things. First, Piniella is probably not very interested in the Giants position, so why wait when you might get a position you prefer, which seems like is the Cubs position. Second, even more importantly, it seems to be getting clear that the Giants are not even interested in Piniella. The article notes that it is unclear what Piniella and Sabean spoke about whereas it noted that Sabean has already had two in-depth discussions with Ron Wotus. In addition, it also noted that Sabean "reportedly asked the New York Mets for permission to speak with members of their coaching staff, presumably Manny Acta or Jerry Manuel." Apparently Acta, who happened to live in the building that Cory Lidle's plane crashed into, is also being considered for the Ranger's open manager's position, so he will be in demand.

So, bottom line, it does not look like the Giants are talking to Piniella for their job. And, really, it doesn't look like a fit for Piniella either, he doesn't want to be part of another re-building with youngsters, like Tampa Bay, his last job. And at 63, he doesn't have many more years to manage to put up with a re-building with as many question marks as the Giants appear to have.

Candidates Thus Far: Only Wotus, Definitively

The only clear candidate has been Ron Wotus and he's already gotten two interviews. No other name has been definitively mentioned yet, only that the Giants want to interview someone off the Mets coaching staff. If I were to bet, as I think I noted here (but certainly at McCovey Chronicles), Ron Wotus has to be the front runner for the position, due to his history and position with the team.

While it won't be an upset if he doesn't get the position, depending on who else gets hired, all the indicators point to him. He's already spoke twice with Sabean. Sabean made the point that Wotus nearly got the Dodgers' job, coming in second to Little, and had interviewed with other teams, showing that he has the credentials and respect within the majors to manage an MLB team.

Wotus has been prepared for the Giants manager job while working for the Giants since 1990. Wotus was a very successful manager in the Giants farm system, from 1991 to 1997, winning when the Giants basically had a barren farm system. His winning percentage was .575 (555-411) and, not only that, his teams finished above .500 5 of his 7 years and made the playoffs in 6 of his 7 years as manager in the Giants farm system. Not only that, but he was twice named Manager of the Year.

He then joined the Giants major league team as 3B coach under Dusty, then became bench coach for Dusty for the rest of Dusty's tenure with the Giants. He then kept that position even when Felipe came on, when Luis Pujols would have appeared to have been the logical choice for Felipe since Pujols had Felipe as his bench coach when he was manager of the Tigers. The Giants appear to have forced Felipe to keep Wotus and Righetti as bench coach and pitching coach, as well as other coaches, when managers typically bring in his own people, Pujols being the only one Felipe brought in.

The Others

With the Piniella sighting mainly apparently a fact finding informational meeting between two old friends - probably Sabean picking Piniella's brains - that leaves only the Mets as the other potential source for interviewees, either Manuel and/or Acta. The A's Ron Washington has been mentioned by the media as a possible but if the Giants had expressed interest by contacting the A's for permission, it hasn't been leaked out yet, which probably means that they are not interested in him. Particularly since Billy Beane was open Wednesday about talking with Texas and granting them permission to speak with Washington - if the Giants had expressed similar interest, one would think Beane would have mentioned something at the same time.

And there was this peculiar dichotomy between action and speech: Sabean said that he won't be releasing his short list and having a "dog and pony" show of potential managers coming in and talking to the media about the position and instead he would keep the search quiet and under the radar, and yet he openly admitted that he had spoke with Wotus about the job, essentially endorsed him in the same conversation, and now has acknowledged two meetings with Wotus. All the while, he has not publicly acknowledged anyone else.

If Not Ron, Then Who?

So it right now looks like, to me, that Wotus is the prime candidate. True, it could be as Sabean noted, that his search is going on under the waves, that trait has marked most of his big trades, they usually came out of nowhere, without a rumor to give a hint of what's about to happen. But why acknowledge Wotus then? Why bother pointing out Wotus' good qualifications for the job? And how he came in second for the Dodger's spot? Just say exactly what he said, without mentioning Wotus: "I'm not running a dog and pony show like other teams, I will let you know when I have picked a new manager."

If he is not selling Wotus to Giants fans, who is he selling to? If you hear enough Sabean calls and interviews, if given his druthers, he would rather keep everything undercover and out of sight. He never accidentally pass on any info that he doesn't want to get out, he usually has an agenda for the interview, where he's basically marketing to the fans and setting expectations and selling the team. He keeps information very close to the vest and out of the hands of the media as much as he can without totally stonewalling the reporter. He clearly has a plan for what message he is trying to communicate to the public, to set expectations.

But his only message here is that Ron Wotus has the qualifications to be a major league manager, he has come close before, and he is one of the Giants candidates.

And he has basically made it clear, in the interview with KNBR after Alou's dismissal, that Righetti is not a candidate. He admitted that he hadn't even spoken with Righetti yet and said Rags might not be interested but that he would speak to him- avoiding saying that he would consider Rags as a candidate - then one week later, Righetti says in an interview that Sabean has not spoken to him yet and he's just worried about keeping his job when the new manager comes in. Meanwhile, Wotus has had another conversation with Sabean since then.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Two Birds in the Hand or the Bird in the Bush

I've been in a discussion about whether the Giants should trade Lowry and Sanchez for a good young hitter like Carl Crawford (and noticed after posting this that sfgfan posted something similar, beating me to the punch...). Now, dodging the issue of whether such a trade is even possible as it seems like other teams could outdo that easily, what if we could trade the two for a studmuffin of a hitter, would that be a good thing? Right now, hopefully Sanchez and Lincecum join the rotation and provide the Giants a killer rotation of Lowry, Cain, Sanchez, and Lincecum, but if we trade off them, right now that would make it Cain, Lincecum, and Hennessey maybe, and not that Lincecum is a sure thing either, though he has been outstanding so far.

That's partly why I am not for trading off, say, Lowry and Sanchez, for a young stud hitter. Pitchers are fragile and that's why they came up with TINSTAAPP: there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. And that's one very good reason for getting a sure thing like a stud hitter. But this involves two of our hopes of the future.

And the Giants future is their pitching rotation. If we are re-building for the post-Bonds era, that is what we should be concentrating on, not trading that away, which is potentially a huge area of strength. Pitching strength will come from a Jell-O strategy: you throw enough Jell-O at the wall, eventually enough of it will stick.

Ideally, the Giants build up their rotation such that you regularly have really good pitching prospects rise with the cream and regularly slough off good prospects you can trade to fill position needs. The Giants are not there yet, Lowry needs to show 2006 was a fluke injury year, Cain needs to show he can build off his second half of 2006 and not regress, Sanchez and Lincecum will need to show they can actually start in the majors. Hopefully the four can make a killer rotation in a couple of years, but killer prospects do not always translate into major leaguers, we might have nothing, like the A's and Met's with their Four Aces potential of the early 1990's fizzling out to not even ONE decent starter.

But at this point, this seems to me to be the fastest route to a return to domination, you have to roll the dice somewhere and to have a killer rotation seems to be the best way to it. That's how the Dodgers of the 60's did it, very strong pitching backed by JIT offense built on speed. I understand the times are totally different, with the era now of offense, and there are different ways to win, but it seems to me that the surest way to regularly win is to have a great defense, pitching in baseball's case, with an offense that is adequate. Good offense is no guarantee of winning, but good pitching always keeps you in the game.

And in this particular hypothetical trade, we are trading off half of that potential to get one hitter, an admittedly good hitter, but it takes more than one good hitter to get our offense going, which thus far has looked like a problem that will be hard to solve via free agency. There are not many obvious upgrades at the positions we have open over the guys we had this year and this year our offense was subpar for much of the year, or so it seemed. So getting this one good, maybe great, hitter, would not make our offense that much better, but losing those two starters would pretty much kill off any potential for a killer rotation, at least until we see who the Giants pick with their 10th overall pick (again) for the 2007 draft and who among the Giants prospects take that giant leap forward and become a viable pitching prospect for our starting rotation.

How Giants Fans Should Approach the Off-Season

Great post by Grant on McCovey Chronicles! As I commented there, I wish I had written it.

I agreed with almost everything. However, the direction, to me, is clear: younger, healthier, long term commitment.

The problem is the budget is not large enough, the free agent market is not good enough to enable the Giants do this whole hog, and the farm system is still a young deer struggling to find its balance and stance after coming out of the womb, it is full of potential but not mature enough to evaluate conclusively, and there is not much you can do with it yet other than to pat it on the head and be a proud papa.

So the Giants will have this general guidance in strategy - younger, healthier, long term - but tactically will have to sign players who are not younger, healthier, and for a short term, to fill in gaps in the roster. And, as Sabean noted in interviews, the Giants will not block any position where they feel there are potential prospects coming up, and seek longer term solutions for the other positions.

Then the $64,000 question, as Grant noted astutely, is who are the ones whose paths are not to be blocked? Frandsen is one who some fans could accept as starter, platoon starter, or AAA starter, and wouldn't be too fazed. But only Linden looks like he might be ready for his closeup.

Others who look like they might make it are Lewis, EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, and Ortmeier, but there are bigger question marks like Sanders, Sandoval, Maroul, Schoop, Horwitz, Burriss, and Villalona, among others (not sure who else impressed this season) down further in the farm system who could come up and make it but are too far down to be judged a future major leaguer for sure yet. But clearly, none of these players are a sure bet to make the majors when and if they get their chance to play in the majors.

So that will drive speculation for this off-season too: whichever positions the Giants end up not filling with a long-term solution, is it because there is a prospect who might be blocked and if so, who, or is it because of a poor free agent pool?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Giants Have $45M to spend

According to article in SJ Merc yesterday (read soon as Merc only allows 7 days to read for free)by Andy Baggarly (whom I enjoy reading, BTW), the Giants have $45M to spend since their budget is $85M and they have $40.3M in contracts committed currently. This is about $10-15M more than most discussions I have read about how much the Giants had to spend, so it opens the possibility of getting more high powered free agents than we could have speculated before, though spread over, say, 6 starting positions, that only adds $2M per position, not much of an upgrade on any one position, but a big upgrade if they lump it all under one position.

The interesting note was that while the $40.3M in committed payroll includes deferred signing bonuses due in 2007, including $1.28M to Kirk Rueter (which I don't think most people accounted for), it does not include deferred salary payments to Bonds which begin next year because, "according to the club, deferred salary comes out of a different budget." Most people have been subtracting this $5M in their calculations.

Why the Different Budget Exists

What most people did not account for, and that I forgot until now, was that the big issue from the last CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) was the cutting off of the loophole teams were using with deferred salaries to move up spending from future period into present period. Previously, they could just defer it and wait until it was due to actually account and pay for it.

With the new CBA, teams were only allowed a $2M in total deferment, like a deductible, but otherwise must fund the total deferment in a separate account with an amount equal to the present value of the defered amount by the third January 1st (so basically 2 years) after the season the defered income was earned. In other words, in times of low interest rates, essentially the full amount had to be funded in another account minus interest that will be earned in the years between this funding and the actual payment, after about two years. So you could defer it 5 years like the Giants did for Bonds, but they had to fund around $4M of the $5M owed Bonds, after two years and add a little each year.

This loophole actually allowed teams to basically borrow money from players without it showing up as debt on their balance sheets (at least the way they do their accounting, which apparently is from a Bizarro world). The fear on the part of the players union was that a team that used that loophole extensively, like the D-backs, could buy a championship but then go bankrupt in future years by doing that and the players would end up with nothing. So the last CBA shut that down, except for $2M per year. Bud Selig didn't like it because teams were circumventing his rules on the ratio of debt to team value that he wanted teams to stick to or get punished in some way.

Replacing Ned Colletti

There are other interesting factoids about Sabean's management in there, including functions done by certain execs under him, that are in the article. It gives a partial view to the functions of some of the Giants key executives under Sabean. One has an interesting implication/interpretation to me.

In addition to Colletti negotiating most contracts, he also made most exploratory phone calls with other executives in baseball (which I'm interpreting to mean that he was the one who initiated and closed the A.J. Pierzynski trade without running it by Magowan - as Magowan alleged in a statement he made a year or so back that he would have vetoed the trade had it gone through him as it usually did - because Sabean was experienced enough to know that he would need to do that, I would think). Thus Sabean was left without this conduit to all the other teams, which could have inhibited his trade actions this season.

When Colletti left, there was talk about spreading the duties among the other execs. Pat Dobson was one and apparently he cut back on his advance scouting to allow for more brainstorming sessions with Sabean. Bobby Evans was another. He had handled negotiations for minor league contracts previously and was promoted to director of player personnel after Colletti left (whatever that title means exactly).

Loud by his name being absent from the article, is right hand man Dick Tidrow, who was, hmm, Director of Player Personnel, according to the 2006 Giants Media Guide (I've bought one each year for nearly 20 years now). Oddly enough, that's Evans' new title, I wonder what happened to Tidrow. I would have thought he would be the one to have brainstorming sessions with Sabean (and perhaps he did but it wasn't mentioned in the article and he wasn't mentioned at all, period).

The article noted that, as last commented on, in July, Sabean said that he planned to reorganize the front office this winter. Part of the plan is to perhaps bring in someone whose skills are a closer match for what Colletti brought to the group. If I recall right, there was someone working for the Washington Nationals who worked with Sabean before and who has Ned's skills, but I haven't seen his name since then.

It was noted that Colletti was the man most closely connected to the other GMs, many of whom were young, wore neckties, and did not come from the scouting department. However, it was noted, with the workload this offseason, an assistant would probably be down the list of priorities and he probably won't have time to hire one.

Who Might the Giants Get

The article noted some possibilities of what the Giants will do. The Giants are expected to make a run at re-signing 2B Ray Durham, who is looking for a 2-year contract with an option, which, coincidentally, most Giants fans have been saying that's what they would offer him. Both Feliz and Hillenbrand hope to return but the Giants will probably only keep one because of their low OBP. It will probably come down to who signs first and Feliz might be motivated to stay because his children attend school in the Bay Area.

Even if Bonds is signed, the Giants need another OF to replace Moises Alou - I guess the Linden era will have to wait another season. The author notes - indicating that he got this from Giants sources - that they prefer a CF/leadoff hitter so that Randy Winn can shift to a corner OF spot. He also speculated that Carl Crawford might be available but prohibitively priced, as it might take both Lowry and Sanchez to get him.

He also noted that among the challenges Sabean faces, he must determine how to replace Jason Schmidt atop the rotation, he must prepare for contingencies in case Benitez and/or Matheny are not available next season.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The War of Words Between Bonds and Giants Management

It all began with Bonds telling the media that he won't "ever ever ever ever" accept a contract with incentives in it. Ever. He would rather retire, see ya! He don't need to work, he's tired, he loves his family, he can retire. Meanwhile, Sabean is talking about getting younger and healthier and getting the Giants back on the winning track in 2007 with the same payroll as this season, and how the Giants are probably not going to sign anyone to a big contract, that they need to spread the wealth among the 11 positions opening up this off-season. Then Bonds noted that Clemens didn't accept any paycut, why should he.

Magowan followed that one up with a statement that even if Bonds was resigned, he would no longer be the centerpiece of the team, that he would be part of the equation of returning the Giants to their prior winning ways. Last we left the story, Bonds calls Magowan's statement "dirty".

Bonds Brought This Upon Himself

I love and respect Bonds as much as anybody but, not to sound juvenile, he started negotiating through the media, not the Giants; the Giants had asked that everything be kept private and that is Sabean's style, he doesn't like to reveal much to the public, as I have mentioned many times before in my posts. Even in interviews where he is suppose to be revealing things about the Giants future plans, he hedges everything just so. He tells without telling that much and circles around the question without fully answering it. He is a master at this.

So the Giants were left with bad options. Either they take the high road but get public opinion about the team being shaped by someone who is no longer an employee and potentially gone, or they strike back. Neither way is palatable, but I think they took the route that they had to take, they need to make sure the public understand where they stand in the whole thing.

My Take On Magowan's Centerpiece Statement

Here is how I took Magowan's statements. All he said is that Bonds will no longer be the centerpiece of the Giants going forward. And that's realistic to all but those still wearing Bonds-colored glasses.

Bonds is at the end of his line. Bonds will be playing probably one more year, maybe two if he wants 3000 hits. The Giants took the stance that they are now looking at the next 4-5 years of the Giants, not just year to year like they had been doing the past few years. Hence the Alou "amicable" parting and the search for a manager for the next 4-5 seasons. And hence the statement Bonds is no longer the centerpiece, which fits in with this new management strategy/philosophy that started with Felipe being not re-signed.

Magowan is as media savvy as owners go and there is a huge image problem if the public thinks that the Giants signed Bonds because of the potential for 755. His statements reinforce the marketing message that Sabean has been regurgitating for a while now: Giants are working to bring a winner in 2007, they will have the same payroll budget, they will be competitive. And to win, they need to get younger and healthier, with personnel who they think will be around 4-5 years, not 1-2 like the past few years.

But the Giants management is thinking fans will be thinking that there's no way the Giants can field a winning team if Bonds expects to get the same salary, because the Giants didn't in 2006 with Bonds at a lower or same salary, and are probably losing key players like Alou and Schmidt. How can they sell fans that they are serious about winning if they just bend over for Bonds and hand over even more money plus, say, have Sanchez replacing Schmidt and Linden replacing Alou. That's a negative sum equation in all Giants fans heads, that's an equation for a losing team proposition going into next season. And Giants fans (as well as other fans) have shown that they don't show up for losing teams, no matter what the attraction (they sometimes don't even show up for a winning team).

So to cut off that thinking at the pass, they make it clear that the decision on Bonds will rest on whether the Giants can win with Bonds, at the salary they sign him to, and not at all costs and not for the marketing plus of the home run chase. A side benefit, is that now they can say in negotiations with Bonds that 755 is nice, but we want to win, we are not paying much for your record. Therefore Bonds cannot leverage the Giants as much with his homerun career chase and the Giants will offer less, because now the value equation is how many games we can reasonably expect Bonds to play and to perform well in and not mainly centered on some personal individual goal on his part.

Magowan Not Dirty, Bonds Was

Bonds called Magowan's statement dirty, but really, Magowan didn't say that Bonds would not be a significant producer on the team, nor even the most important player on the team, but that the Giants centerpiece going forward will be someone else, looking at the long term. And implied that the Giants will not outbid anyone to potentially get the record breaking homerun at the expense of a winning season. Sometimes, impression is everything and the Giants don't want fans to have the impression that management will sacrifice winning just to get Bonds back.

If anything, Bonds is the one who was being dirty. First he explains that he would never ever ever ever ever accept incentives in a contract. Which, of course, is a lie because his last contract had an incentives clause that vested the team's option for 2006 if he met Plate Appearance targets, both for 2005 and for 2003-2005. That makes it harder for a team to justify signing him because he's one bad Fred Sanford "heart attack" ("my elbow! my elbow! my knee! my knee!) from costing the team the full contract amount with no production - think the Astro's wouldn't have caught the Cardinals if they had the insurance payment for Bagwell's injury funding acquisitions instead of a useless Bagwell? - which will sink the Giants again in 2007, for its third consecutive losing season.

Then he makes the outrageous statement that Clemens got more, why not Bonds? Well, Barry, it's because Clemens missed the first half of the season, which for a pitcher is good, he can then start all his starts for the rest of the season, but Houston prorated Clemens salary for the games he missed and so he didn't get paid for the games he missed in the first half of the season. If Bonds was willing to prorate his full-season salary based on the games he actually played then that would be the same as Clemens contract, but, oh wait, Barry wants to be paid for all the games he misses too.

The Company Line is "To Win"

So if Bonds being called part of the package to win is "dirty" to him, then perhaps it is time to part company with him. I wasn't too happy with him taking the day off on the last Saturday, if you cannot game up for a game against the Dodgers that could put them out of the players, when can you game up? I want him back but not at the cost of the team winning, if that is what he insists, then his goals are not my goals, are not any Giants' fans goal, which is to win, and to go on and win the World Series.

It would be hard enough even with him on the team, but if he costs an elbow and a knee, it would be even harder. And we are already suffering from the lost of the money for Matheny and Benitez. Plus perhaps Lowry, Morris and Winn, depending on how they recover from their injuries over the off-season and show which was the real player, the one in 2006 or the one they were before. Overpaying Bonds for the privilege of seeing him break the homerun record (and even that is a maybe, he might still need 2008) would not make good business sense, it will cost us a winning season.

So the Giants have a new centerpiece going forward, why is that a big deal, he must have known it would happen someday. And at an age when most players of his ilk are hoping to get enough votes to continue to stay on the HOF ballot, he's still playing well, just not at either of his peaks, of the 2000's or the 1990's, he's just part of the puzzle now. That's life, deal with it, accept that he's not the centerpiece.

And the Next Centerpiece of the Giants Is...

And who will be the centerpiece? My guess at who that would be is that it will be the pitching, headlined by Cain and Lowry plus perhaps Lincecum. Unless the Giants are able to trade for some young great hitter, like Miguel Cabrera, that is what they will have to go with. Or perhaps if they can sign Aramis Ramirez if he opts out of his option with Chicago, but even then the pitching will be one of the key strengths of the team going forward.

But the odds of the Giants getting any young stud appears slim to none unless one of these centerpice starting pitchers are traded because the Giants have said that they probably are not paying any player a large, Bonds-sized salary because they need to spread the wealth and fill 11 positions in total, and probably keep anywhere from 3 to 6 of our free agents because of the dearth of better alternatives on the free agent market. So Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are pipe dreams unless Sabean can backfill most of the other positions with cheap vets who are nonetheless productive, like Vizquel, only younger.

Go Giants!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Giants 2006 Playoff Rooting Pecking Order

A Giants fan's guide to rooting in the 2006 playoffs, taking into account past history and past trespasses on the part of the playoff participant against us Giants.

Tigers vs. Yankees: About almost always pick the team other than the Yankees, plus they cost us in 1962, 1951, 1937, 1936, and 1923. We were in the World Series 17 times, winners only 5 times, and the Yankees cost us almost half of those losses, they cost us a winning record overall.

A's vs. Twins: Normally would root against A's, if they are in playoffs but we aren't, but these are the Twins, stealers of Nathan et al, winners of two W.S. championships a long while back with ex-Giants farm hands Chili Davis and Danny Gladden. Go A's

D-gers vs. Mets: Obviously got to root against D-gers and in a big way for all the obvious and various reasons. While the Mets never did anything much to us, other than 2000, which was bad, but these are the Dodgers.

Cards vs. 'dres: Tough one. Cards have screwed us through the years, Cepeda, 1960's 2nd place finishes, Jack Clark, 1987, McGwire popping off, with just 2002 to counteract that, plus they almost had one of the most epic chokes in September baseball history, how can you reward that?

But these are the 'dres, rooting for them is like kissing your sister, I've never understood the logic of rooting for your divisional rivals when you've been eliminated, if we're not in it, I don't want any of them in it. I feel no need to have them go far into the playoffs just to make our division look good, it proves nothing. It's like those split A's/Giants baseball caps, it don't make any sense at all. Have to go with St. Louis here.

If things work according to plan:

A's vs. Tigers: Tigers sweep!

Mets vs. Cards: Mets sweep!

Mets vs. Tigers: Lately the baseball gods have been blessing teams without a W.S. championship in a long time (Angels, Red Sox, White Sox), and that would point at the Tigers, last winners in 1984, whereas Mets have been away about as long, last winning in 1986, though at least they made the World Series in 2000. The Tigers also has the stigma of blowing first place in the AL Central and lucking out with the Wild Card slot. But there has been a Wild Card mojo going too, with Angels, Marlins, Red Sox recently winning, so that would point at Tigers too.

But as much as I normally abhor NY, I'm rooting for the Mets in this matchup, because then we can say that they bought their pennant and maybe Magowan will loosen the purse strings and spend more on the team.

If the Tigers win, the Giants get no such urgency to spend more or to think up new ways to raise cash, like the YES or NEWS networks. They were penurious, having atrocities of teams from 1994 to 2005 before having a good 2006, we don't want the Giants to take that example and have atrocities for teams from 2007 to 2018 before getting back to .500 in 2019, let alone making the playoffs again.

Rainy Days and No Playoffs Alway's Got Me Down

I'm down, I'm really down, I'm down, down on the ground, I'm down, I'm really down, how can you laugh, when you know I'm down? - The Beatles Paul McCartney penned tune.

Missing the Playoffs Blues, Part Deux

This year's miss of the playoffs got me down, downer than last year. Don't know if it is just personal circumstances, making me more susceptible, that could be it. But I guess I thought it was imminently doable, until the wings came off, with that horrendous 11 losses in 12 and 16 losses in 19 games in late July, early August, then even then they stayed close until the whole plane went down on that last road trip, losing 8 of 9, where the rain-out was the best game of the trip. That's pretty bad when you can say that about a road trip (can't take credit, heard Krukow say it - or was it Kuiper? - on their morning show on KNBR).

NL Ripe For Taking This Season

I guess what hurts more was I felt that the NL was ripe for the taking. People were talking about the Mets and Cardinals, but the Mets are so depleted of starting pitching, losing Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, that they were forced to start rookie John Maine as an emergency starter in the opening game and will have to go with El Duque's replacement on the playoff roster, Oliver Perez, he of 6.55 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 2006, 6.38 ERA and 1.58 WHIP with the Mets in 2006, and for his 7 starts with the Metropolitans, his PQS scoreline was wildly Jeckyll and Hyde-ish (43%DOM/43%DIS): 3, 0, 4, 4, 4, 1, 0.

St. Louis was already depleted during the season, starting the season with Sidney Ponson as their 5th starter, going repeatedly to Anthoney Reyes, their prized pitching prospect for starts and getting a 5.06 ERA (at least better than Ponson's 5.24), entering the playoffs without their closer, Isringhausen, and forced to pick between Jason Marquis (6.02 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) and junk heap pickup Jeff Weaver (5.18 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) for a starter in the playoff rotation and forced to go with a 3-man rotation because you don't even have 3 good starters, let 4.

And then the NL West teams, 'dres and D-gers. The 'dres are relying on Jake Peavy and, to be kind (and I have to be, he screwed up my fantasy team this season), he was wholely inconsistent all season long, even in the last two months, when his overall record looked good, there were games where he was lost like he was earlier. And with the good pitching they have otherwise, particularly in the bullpen, they were only 7 games above the 81 wins for .500, so their offense isn't that good, even with Adrian Gonzalez and Jesse Barfield nice first seasons as regulars. How bad is it when Pedro Feliz has 15 more RBI's than the 'dres leading RBI guy?

And the D-gers, they were within a couple of games of not even being in the playoffs. They have one starter a reliever turned starter in desperation for a starter in Hong-Chih Kuo, and he pitched well, but he's a 25-year-old rookie pitching the 2nd game of the playoffs, 3.99 ERA and 1.50 WHIP away from pitching friendly D-ger Stadium, plus they just lost the first game (SCORE!) so no pressure there, after Lowe had an uninspiring outing plus they brought out Brad Penny to pitch an inning, even though he is scheduled as the 4th game starter at home, that really shows how confident they are in their bullpen, doesn't it? And Brad Penny only has a 4.05 ERA and 1.40 WHIP at home, one of the best pitcher's parks of the NL.

Alas We Are Out

Of course, the point is moot now. Apparently Morris has been pitching with broken ribs since sometime in August (but he started pitching poorly in late July) and Schmidt somehow hurt himself in batting practice before one of the most important games of the season for the team, missing that start. But when Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, and Cain was going good in August plus we would have our full offense during the playoffs, no rest days for the old fogies, the Giants could have taken on any of these teams currently.

That's why I was for the Giants going for the playoffs, because even back then, it was clear that all the other teams had flaws (mainly starting pitching) and things did not get better for any of the teams. Of course, it did not get better for the Giants either. But at that time, the Giants pitching was going good, the hitting was good enough, so why not go for it? Why not make a grab for the gold ring?

Collapse Clearer Now

From the news coming out about how Felipe and the players felt about Benitez, it is clearer to me now why the team tanked late in the season. The players felt like they were stabbed in the back by Benitez with his open babyish "but it wasn't my fault" routine with the media, but Felipe backed him until he disrespected Felipe on the mound, so the players, not feeling the love from Felipe, internally just shut down. Their subconscious took over - so they didn't overtly give up - but their hearts were not in it anymore for their skipper.

That is probably what sealed Felipe's fate as Giants manager, Sabean seeing the players give up on Felipe like that. And, as Sabean said, it is not Felipe's fault, totally, it was a group effort, but Felipe's usage of Benitez after his betrayal of his teammates, since otherwise he's just taking up space in the dugout and not contributing anything, rubbed players the wrong way. To the players, that was a betrayal on Felipe's part to use Benitez after he bad mouthed his teammates. And that led to the team just giving up working as hard, they couldn't muster up the adrenaline to keep playing their hardest for the manager who backed the traitor.

Benitez Must Go

I had thought that Benitez could be rehabilitated, but assuming this scenario that I just spun is true, there is no way Benitez could play for this team again. There will be the subconscious grudge against him held by any player who was on this team this season. People will not try with all their heart when playing behind him. I expect Benitez to be the next reliever that Vizquel will tick off in his next book.

My ideal scenario, anyhow, was that Benitez will get into shape this off-season since it is his free agent year in 2007, and will pitch well for us for the one season, like he did for Florida in 2004, and at some point, anywhere from spring training to the trade deadline, the Giants can dump him on a team desperately needing a closer, and there are always teams like that each season, which would allow, maybe, Brian Wilson or whoever was doing well at that point, the opportunity to take over the closer role. That would maximize the value we get for him in trade, as he would hopefully be pitching well and could contribute greatly to the other team.

But it looks like the Giants will have to trade him, perhaps even before spring training, in a Edgardo Alfonzo-type of dump, where we give up our garbage for someone else's garbage and we both hope that our dumpster diving works out for us. I've seen someone suggest Geoff Jenkins, who has a similar high salary and is not needed by his team anymore with the rise of younger, better players, and his decline in recent years.

I would be OK with that. He would be good in a platoon with either Ellison or preferably Linden in RF because he is still a good hitter versus RHP because he is a lefty, though obviously his offense would take a hit in AT&T Mays Field, and Ellison and Linden kills LHP, but have problems with RHP. But part of the reason his hitting has gone down is because his hitting suffered in moving over to their new home park, Miller Park. Whether that is related to the park or to his age - he is now 32 and will be 33 next season - I'm not sure, perhaps a mixture of both. And he has a bad career record in SF and would be a lefty in AT&T.

But he would contribute more than Benitez would to the team right now. And there is the hope that he figures out how to hit there, as there appears to be a learning curve to hitting at this park, as Grissom related a few years back about his, Durham's and Alfonzo's experiences with that. But even if he didn't, he would still contribute more.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Giants Search For Manager

The SJ Mercury has an article on the press conference Sabean held on going in another direction without Alou and what his parameters are (apparently Andrew Baggarly left the Oakland Tribune and joined the Merc, FYI; I've liked his writing so I'm happy for that).

Qualities Sabean is Looking For in Long-Term Relationship

There were a number of qualities Sabean is looking for (plus other notes):
  • Sabean will be open-minded but minimums include either minor league management experience or extensive major league coaching background.
  • However, according to KNBR interview, Dusty Baker, he diplomatically acknowledged after Barbieri asked him directly, twice, that he "wouldn't think so." So Dusty is definitely not coming back.
  • Willing to commit for four years or longer.
  • Magowan will sit in on interviews but it will be Sabean's choice (though obviously Magowan will have some significant input, I would assume).
  • Sabean has already spoken with Wotus, who I consider to be the odds on favorite, but not any of the media channels nor Giants gathering websites. He had a very successful run as AAA manager, then has been Felipe's bench coach, which I consider to be a a co-manager type of position, plus Sabean made the point of saying that Wotus was the 2nd choice of Depodesta before he chose Little to manage the D-gers. He has been groomed to be manager of the Giants, I think all the show of process is like in football, where the team has already made the decision, but they have to make a big show of interviewing minority candidates and others to at least show that they went through the motions of interviewing before chosing who they wanted to chose.
  • According to the article, they have spoken with Righetti, but not about the position, but according to interview with Sabean yesterday afternoon, Sabean said that he had not spoken yet with Righetti, and that he will have to make contact to find out what he is thinking.
  • Apparently Bud Black and Art Howe are interested. Stan Javier was mentioned by the Merc in another article. Bob Brenly, Lou Piniella, and Jim Fregosi were also mentioned.
  • According to KNBR interview, Sabean sees the process taking up to a month, based on the need to wait for teams of potential interviewees to leave the playoffs so that they can interview the coaches. But there is not much hurry because they want him in place before signing free agents and players cannot declare until one day after World Series is over, and must wait 15 days before negotiation can start.
  • Having former ties to the Giants is a bonus but not a high priority.
Among other news in the article, apparently Morris had been pitching with a broken rib and other rib problems since August, which the Giants just discovered Saturday. They did not disclose the injury earlier because he felt the pain in his upper back and MRI did not show the breaks back then.

The Purge Begins: Felipe Alou First to Go

First, sorry, I haven't been feeling up for posting lately, partly because I've been a little sick, partly because the play of the Giants have been making me sick, particularly that 3 game lay down to the D-gers when we could have stuck it to them.

Goodbye, Mr. Alou

About Alou's, ahem, amicable parting, I have a number of feelings about this and Lefty, in this post, captures them pretty well, so I'm just going to go with that. He will have his faults, but people forget that no manager will be exactly what they would want, they have to look at the overall picture, and overall I think Felipe was a good manager and, more importantly, better than the manager before.

Instead, here is an interesting statistics about Alou: Felipe has won more games than the Pythagorean Expected Wins calculates, based on runs scored and runs given up, each year he was with the Giants, except for this one. I agree with others that there are flaws with using this, but given that there are not many indicators we can refer to, I thought it could be at least illustrative, though not conclusive.

Career, he has a had a positive effect on his teams based on actual wins vs. Pythagorean wins, with an overall total of +23 out of 2,054 games, which boosted him to an over .500 record of 1,033-1,021 vs. an expected 1,010-1,044. This total is suppose to move to the mean of zero on the aggregate, but using his full career stats and hypothesis testing, I calculate that there is at least 95% chance that his differential mean is above zero, that is, he has had a positive effect on his teams, using just this metric, meaning he has a statistically significant positive effect on the team he managed.

I had checked the difference for a number of managers over the past 20 years or so (after Alou was hired) and found that there are some managers who show a positive effect over their career and those who have had a negative effect. Generally, managers who have long careers tend to have positive effect, though there was exceptions, like Tommy Lasorda, who, despite his 20 year career, had a negative total. And most with short careers tended to have negative totals. The only anomaly I ran across was Joe Torre, who was horrible with his previous teams but has been good with the Yankees and perhaps Jim Leyland, who most acknowledge as a good manager, but because of a horrible first season plus his inability to go much above that during the rest of his managing career, I think he has a negative total.

While this is not a great and conclusive method for evaluating a manager, taking over a team mid-season does help show how good a manager is, at least relative to who was managing before. And that is what happened in Felipe's first season as a manager, he replaced an underperforming manager. In Felipe's first season as manager, the guy he replaced had a -2 differential: went 17-20 and his expected was 19-18. Whereas Felipe had a 0, a slight improvement, but went 70-55, a huge improvement overall but the differential does not show that. As Lefty noted in his blog, we need a parallel universe to run what would have happened to get at the truth of the matter.

I still like Alou and would not have minded him staying on to guide the Giants for a couple more years. I understand the rationale that the management wanted to change to a manager who will be with the team over the next 4-6 years because they are planning on building a team with players they are planning to keep on the team over the next 4-6 years. But I'm OK with saying good-bye to him now and hoping that he continues on with the team and help guide the team into the future and, hopefully, help the team with recruiting bonus babies in Latin America.

Good luck Felipe, I hope the fish is biting!


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