Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Further Sabean Comments on Draft

As I had noted in the post on reversed draft style, Sabean's interview was on sfgiants.com also. There was additional info provided there that the Shea column didn't cover or cover as well:
  • "We're comfortable we'll get a real good pick, with talent first, and not worry about signability," said Sabean. "There are a lot of pitching choices, but it starts with the first pick, which sets in motion what the other teams will do."
  • Positions players probably won't be on the Giants' initial agenda. "Quite frankly, there doesn't seem to be as many impact players available as pitchers," said Sabean.
  • Three standout pitchers who could be available for the Giants at No. 10 include right-hander Daniel Bard from the University of North Carolina, right-hander Greg Reynolds of Stanford and high school right-hander Kyle Drabek (son of Doug) of The Woodlands, in Texas. Bard showed well in the Cape Cod competition, but the Giants have also been high on Drabek.
  • What direction Sabean decides to go depends on who the Kansas City Royals select with the initial choice, followed by the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "Kansas City has been looking at one of three pitchers and everybody else has been waiting," said Sabean. "A position player may or may not be favorable to us at that pick. But it remains to be seen."
  • It's estimated that once Barry Bonds leaves the Giants -- he's owed $18 million this season, the final year of a $90 million deal -- the club will have more financial flexibility and will perhaps invest more heavily into the draft. How the team will fare on the international front is difficult to foresee. "It's a different ball of wax -- it's a high-level game," said Sabean, noting million-dollar players can be in the middle of the pack.

This seems to be shaded differently than what Shea reported. He noted the Giants were looking towards position players but the interview on sfgiants.com clearly notes that it will all depend on what happens before they pick and makes it clear that getting an impact position player is probably not going to happen, it would take the teams ahead of them passing on the few impact position players available.

Like Shea reported, this account of Sabean's interview notes that talent comes first, signability will not be a factor. Other potential picks mentioned here vs. Shea are Daniel Bard and Greg Reynolds, both college arms. No position players are mentioned on sfgiants.com. Sabean says that it will all depend on what the others draft ahead of them (typical of Sabean to state the obvious, he normally does not give much good info, you have to read between the line).

The depth of the draft just got better Wednesday, as reported by Baseball America, as three players who could go first round were unable to come to agreement with their drafting team from last year. Players who returned into the draft are Luke Hochevar (SP, candidate to be drafted #1, 2nd best SP in draft, fell to Dodgers at #40), Pedro Beato (SP, Mets), and Bryan Morris (SP, Devil Rays). Hochevar has a high 90's fastball and mid-80's slider and a plus curveball. Both Beato and Morris are draft-and-follows who wanted first round money but the teams were not willing to pay that for them. Beato has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery to throw a sinker that goes as high as mid-90's, a mid-80's slider, and a changeup, with a classic pitcher's build. Morris has a power curveball and low 90's fastball with late life, plus also played CF. But could use improvement with mechanics and command. If Hochevar falls to the Giants pick position, the Giants could consider him, he is a potential Top 5 pick talent, Boras or not.

There is also a link to a mock draft done by MILB.com staff at the link above. For the Giants #10 pick, Kyle Drabek is mentioned again, first time seriously talked about for a team to pick for the draft, because of personal makeup, character issues becoming huge factors, despite having the best pure stuff in the draft. Matt Scherzer and Brooks Brown (Georgia) were also mentioned but the former's problem is signability (Boras) and the latter is too high to draft him but good arm. But Scherzer has electric stuff though questions on durability.

He didn't mentioned Tim Lincecum as a possible Giants pick, but apparently he has a rubber arm, unusual delivery and was a name that continually came up among the nine picks before the Giants. However, he's slotted as a potential closer because of his size (smallish, around 6', freak of nature delivery and body) and rubber arm. He's a big strikeout pitcher, nasty slider, high 90's fastball, so I don't know why the Giants wouldn't consider him, some view Lincecum as one of the top pitchers in the draft and some of the mock drafts have him falling to the Giants.

The analyst thinks the Giants will select Daniel Bard, RHP out of North Carolina. He is "maddingly inconsistent" but has "unbelievable stuff, electric stuff". With a 6' 5" body, he has recognizable skills and tools that needs refinement, but the team that drafts him need to feel they can work with him and if they can succeed and get him to be consistent, he can be a front-line starter. In addition, he noted that Dick Tidrow, the Giants head of player development and scouting, likes big pitchers.

There's almost no perhaps in terms of investing in the draft. Someone in the 10th pick range could cost from $2-4M, more than the $1-1.5M the Giants have been passing on with the draft picks that they punted. More if they got a Boras client with champagne dreams. And as noted above, many players' contracts end this season which will free up money for additional spending on the farm system.

I think the Giants should go with high schooler Kyle Drabek. He supposedly has the best pure stuff. In addition, he is so good that if he were drafted as a position player, he would rival the best high school position players in this draft. However, he is considered a better prospect as a pitcher. And, again, the analyst noted that Drabek has the best pure stuff. This reduces the risk of player development because if he doesn't pan out as a pitcher - which I assume they can figure out by age 20-21 - then they can try him out in the middle infield (he was a shortstop) and see if he can do something there since he was that good a position player. Most mock drafts I've seen has him falling to the Giants.

However, Lincecum is considered highly as well and, while some drafts have him picked before the Giants, some have him falling to the Giants. If it was between the two I would be torn between the two because Lincecum is a junior in college already and the analyst thinks that he could potentially come up and relief pitch by the end of this season. And I love the strikeout pitchers and Lincecum is among the leaders I believe. Given that Valdez is still struggling with the closer role and we're not sure whether Accardo and Wilson would be able to fill the closer role, plus the amount of big money closers get in contracts, it might be worth picking Lincecum to add another potential closer into the mix, our bullpen could be plus for the next 5-6 years with Accardo, Wilson, Valdez, and Lincecum manning the setup and closer roles. And if the need to start comes up, Wilson, Lincecum, and Sanchez would be candidates over the next 2-4 years if need be.

Lastly, it wouldn't surprise me if Sabean throws all the prognostication out the window and pick someone who will have all the pundits scratching their head wondering why they picked him. He has done that before and, while he doesn't necessarily has to do it this time, he is not afraid of thinking and doing differently. However, he did say that he's looking talent first so that seems to preclude thinking too much out of the box.

Prospects For Prospects in Giants Farm System

Lefty Malo had a post that stuck with me for a while now. In the March 21, 2006 post, he noted an article Kevin Goldstein had on Baseball Prospectus, which stated that the average farm system, frozen in time at any given moment, will likely yield eight major leaguers: two starting position players, two bench warmers, two starting pitchers and two relievers. Lefty then noted that "Assuming that all but the best relievers are failed starters, that makes four valuable players out of roughly 150-plus per system. That's less than 3%. "

Since then, I've picked up a book called Minor League Baseball Analyst (2006 Edition by Deric McKamey, published by Shandler Enterprises), a book out of Ron Shandler's organization that covers all minor league prospects who are still eligible for the rookie of the year award. He covers a lot of players in this book, I recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone interested in prospects - I find it of great use in my fantasy baseball play - but one thing I like is it covers more than just the top Giants prospects, it covers around 30 of their top players.

Interesting Facts From or Derived From the Book

I've been wondering how to quote from the book without getting into too much trouble with the copyright laws. I know I can quote from it with the above accreditation, and I don't get paid or anything for my blog, other than personal pleasure, so this is not for commercial purposes, but I don't want to cost him any sales either. So I will tread on a line between so that it whets Giants fans appettite for information but don't give away the cow.

There are 30 Giants prospects in the book. Surprisingly, to most Giants fans in the know, there are more position players than pitchers, strange given Sabean's rep for being pitching focused. There were 18 position players vs. 12 pitchers. The author provided his estimate of what the prospects' expected MLB position is and when he would get his first taste of the majors. That date hasn't turned out right for a couple of players already, so I don't think we should rely on that, plus the date the player makes the major is of little consequence, more important is what he can reasonably be expected to become.

In all, he sees 6 position starters, 4 platoon starters (2 surprise there, 2 of our top prospects), 9 utility players, 7 starting pitchers, 4 setup men, 1 situational reliever, and 1 closer (one pitcher was viewed as either a starter or reliever. Most of them, Giants fans who follow the minors will know who they are. But as noted, there were a couple of surprises in there. In addition, he noted which part of the rotation the pitchers would be and the Giants had 2 each of #2, #3, #4, and #5. Matt Cain was one of the #2's, as any Giants fan could tell you, but a pitcher that most wouldn't think of was the other #2 - in fact, he doesn't show up very high on some prospect lists. And Hennessey, Correia, and Munter, while not established vets, are no longer considered rookies either, so they are not on the list.

Who they are, for a hint you can go to McCovey Chronicles and Steve Shelby has been posting regular posts on the daily going ons of the Giants prospects plus occassionally posting his Future Forty list. For the most part, the list of players in the book matches Steve's list in terms of listing names common to both and cover most of the top 30 he listed, though there are a few new entries that push down the 30 that the book listed in Steve's list.

Given that most reserve/relief pitchers are pitchers who failed in becoming starters in the minors, one could assume that the eight 2/2/2/2 major leaguers are composed of the 10 starting position players and the 7 starting pitchers. However, that's not quite true for the relievers, most probably the two relievers will come out of the relievers currently on the list, which would mean that the four position players come out of the 10 and the 2 starting pitchers come out of the 7, and we know that Cain is probably one of them.

I am only surprised by one of the names listed as a potential starter for position players, the rest of the 9 can be ticked off by Giants fans in the know (or who have read Steve's list). There are no such surprises among the pitchers, my main surprise is in who was listed as a potential #2 starter, he wouldn't have been my first guess, but he definitely would have been on my short list.

Sorry if I'm being a tease but I don't want anyone coming after me. Plus I really like Ron Shandler's books so far, so I don't want to cost him sales either, I feel like I've learned a lot from them and I have learned a lot about the name prospects across the league with the help of his books. But I think I will list some facts that doesn't give away too much of the book's info (in detail) but will get people's interest in the book piqued:
  • Frandsen is not on the list of starters.
  • Ishikawa and Schierholtz are not one of the 6 potential position starters.
  • Sanders isn't projected as a starting SS.
  • There is nobody projected as a starting catcher, full-time or platoon, but 6 of the 7 other positions have a potential starter.
  • The seven projected starting pitchers include the usual pre-season suspects, only who is what is interesting, disappointing in a few cases, as I would have thought they were higher: Matt Cain, Dan Griffin, Waldis Joaquin, Shairon Martis (no-hitter in WBC), Pat Misch, Jonathan Sanchez, Craig Whitaker.
  • Anyone who follows Giants prospects regularly already know who the potential closer is, he has been described as a potential Armando Benitez.

The book is only $12.97 on Amazon.com, if you like following prospects or having fun with fantasy baseball leagues, you will find yourself reading through the book frequently. One thing I like is that for each pitcher, the author lists the pitchers top pitches and rates each one, giving the speed where available. For the position players, they are rated for power, batting average, speed, and defense. There is also the requisite stats, including their standard set of metrics used to evaluate prospects and regular MLB players plus short text description/discussion.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wut the? Giants and A's Reverse Drafting Style?

In Sunday's John Shea on Baseball column in the SF Chronicle, the title is "Giants, A's Reverse their drafting styles." The column discusses the two team's past drafts juxtaposed against their draft this season. Obviously I have some problems with the column but there is some good info there too, though some of that info is available on sfgiants.com as well.

Title Wrong, Not Style

First, the title. The teams are not reversing their drafting style, they are reversing (if one can "do" this) their drafting circumstances, with the Giants having an early pick and the A's having a first pick that is much later (66th overall). You get high-round draft picks by losing and the Giants had their first losing season under Sabean in 2005. That's a result of building good teams, not "drafting style." At least Shea seemed to understand this, but the headline writer didn't.

Interesting Sabean Quote

Shea got a good quote from Sabean, which I'll quote here:

"In the top 10, you have to get a high-profile player no matter how strong
the draft is," said Giants general manager Brian Sabean, whose scouts must be
aware of all elite players in the country in case they go undrafted by any of
the first nine teams unwilling to pay top dollar.

"It could set off a chain reaction based on signability, but
we're committed to taking the best player and dealing with it."

In other words, money's no object? That's the reference. With pitching
seemingly deep in the farm system, Sabean said he prefers to draft a position
player. Barry Bonds is on his last leg (figuratively, in this case), and what
better way to usher in the post-Bonds era than with a draftee who makes an
immediate offensive splash in the farm system?


This could mean that should a top player fall to the Giants, they will pursue him and deal with the consequences. This could happen if the player is demanding a high bonus and/or contract benefits that teams are scared away from. This happens in particular to Scott Boras clients, who regularly fall but still get what they are asking for (for the most part). Stephen Drew fell to 15th pick and Jered Weaver to 12th pick because of signability issues, for example, and Weaver was Baseball America's top-rated prospect and Drew was the top-rated position player, so they fell quite a bit. Luke Hochevar will test this philosophy as he is rated as a top 5 pick but could fall to the Giants because of his renege of a deal with the Dodgers from last year's draft and will return to the draft this year, assuming no deal is worked out.

His inference that "money's no object" implies that the Giants was adverse to spending money on draft picks but is now willing to open the bank. That's not quite true. What the Giants are adverse to is wasting their money ona draft pick unlikely to produce anybody good, Matt Cain and Noah Lowry to the contrary.

My research suggests that the odds are 9 to 1 against doing picking a good or better player with a pick in the 21-30 range of the first round, which is where the Giants has picked for most of Sabean's tenure as GM. Why spend that $1.5M on a player who might develop into a useful player, and in 4-6 years, when you can get a useful player today, right now, playing for your team when you need it, not 4-6 years hence? And if the Giants are adverse to spending money on the draft, why would they bother to give Travis Ishikawa, their 21st round pick, the highest bonus money ever given to a player past the 1st round?

Interesting side note in my research is that Travis was the 60th rank player in the draft, by Baseball America, which would have placed him around the beginning of the 2nd round. His $955,000 bonus is much above what a 2nd round player was getting. For instance, that same year, they drafted Freddy Lewis with the 66th pick and paid him $595,000, and the next year they drafted Craig Whitaker with the 33rd pick and paid him $975,000, Todd Jennings with the 55th pick and paid him $620,000, and Nate Schierholtz with the 63rd pick and paid him $572,000. Clearly the Giants paid him more than what a 60th pick would have gotten, and Travis got more like a 30-35th pick, though part of that was governed by the fact that he was a high school draftee, who have more leverage and normally get more bonus to turn pro, from what I have read before.

A good FYI in the column (and the Giants article): the Giants got the 10th, 33rd, 89th, and 116th picks. While I would prefer that the Giants pick a position player, most draft assessements that I have read says that the draft is weak in top position players. A name that frequently pops up is Kyle Drabek, son of former major league pitcher Doug Drabek; he's a high schooler who is both a SS and pitcher, but probably better as a pitcher. Another is Drew Stubbs, a college OF.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bonds Hits 715 at Home

Congrats to Barry Bonds for hitting his 715th homerun of his career! Byung-Hyun Kim is the pitcher who served up the record setting homer: a 445-foot, two-run homer to centerfield in the fourth inning. Bonds knew it immediately and held up his hands. Kim became the 421st pitcher to serve up a homer to Bonds.

I liked that Kim was able to joke about becoming a trivial question: he said he thought the game was over because of all the noise made by the crowd, since you only hear such noise when the game is over. That impressed me. No lame or sterile or polite comment, he said that off the cuff.

Bonds is now not only #2 on the career homerun list but he also is now has the most homers for any lefty-hitter in MLB history. Next up is the National League homerun leadership, which Hank Aaron has at 733 homers - I will be posting something on the history of that record this coming week. He could conceivably reach that total this season but he will have to pick up the pace a lot if he is going to do that. Maybe finally reaching the goal will loosen him up enough that he starts hitting them out like he did at the end of 2005, which was not that long ago.

In any case, congrats again to Bonds for reaching #2 and for doing it at home where the fans can enjoy it more. It would have been wasted at any other stadium.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Is Ishikawa The One?

The Giants recently said that they might keep an additional position player instead of a 12th pitcher because the starters have been good about pitching long. It just struck me: could they keep up Ishikawa and return Hennessey to start in the minors when Niekro return from the DL on Tuesday.

Obviously they like him enough to call him up twice now. Plus today he gets the start when Sweeney could have started, or even (sigh) Vizcaino, since the starter is a tough lefty. Given Bonds need for rest and Alou out on DL, Sweeney has been getting those starts in LF, forcing the Giants to have to play Vizcaino at 1B. It's better to give prospects experience than to play an old retread middle infielder out of position at 1B, but I know I'm preaching to the choir here.

Another reason to keep Ishikawa is, frankly, Niekro's tendencies. One is his tendency for injuries. If Ishikawa is sent down, the Giants must wait 10 days to get him back, if they wanted him. What if Niekro's injury recurs or isn't quite healed fully yet, he also tends to linger in his injuries. Another tendency is he tends to not come back so fast when he gets off the DL. By keeping Ishikawa now, particularly while the bullpen is well rested - who knows if this continues or happens again - the Giants could platoon him and Niekro, easing Niekro back into the flow, giving him more time to heal, while maximizing his ABs by starting him only against LHP, which he murders. By the time they need bullpen help again, hopefully Niekro is back to the way he was hitting before the injury and the Giants can option Ishikawa down.

However, Ishikawa was not the one called up when Niekro initially went on the DL. They instead called up Frandsen, essentially to take Vizcaino's place, since the Giants plan was for Vizcaino to share 1B with Sweeney and playing frequently. So there was some reason why they chose to do that first.

But there could have been good (for Ishikawa) reasons for the initial snub. One could have been the strong pitching at St. Louis vs. the youngsters that Colorado will be throwing out. So that would be a good reason. Another could have been they thought Vizcaino would have been OK on a temporary basis but found that it wasn't working. That would be another good reason. Of course, it could be that the Giants were not sure he was ready and didn't want to rush him up again, but Vizcaino's poor hitting forced them to at least try.

Whatever the reason, good or bad, I am glad that they are giving him another shot up here and that they are starting him this time. He's obviously making the most of his chances, he went 3-4 tonight with his first extra-base hit (double) and his first RBI and had 3 RBI for the game. That's on top of going 1-2 previously. Plus he did this against a left-handed pitcher, which was odd since he's a lefty, but I'm taking it.

I am hoping he is the future of the Giants and the sooner we can get him up and running, the sooner the post-Bonds era can start because who says that it can't start with Bonds still around, maybe they can give the team a boost with their youthful energy. Niekro kills LHP, Ishikawa probably kills RHP, I love the long ball and Ishikawa can crush them, I saw one he hit at San Jose just fly off his bat for a long homerun, he has a lot of power, despite what the announcers (Flem and Jon) said about his power just developing last season, he was hitting them in 2004 as well. That would give us good power off the bench, depending on who is starting, plus Ishikawa is a good defensive 1B.

And what a game today, Giants win 9-0, plus hit their best hitter, Holliday after Bonds was plunked earlier. I don't want people hurt but they are asking for it. This is baseball, dang it! Go Giants!!!

Triple the Fun: Finley's Extra Double Trifectas

A number of articles came out today on Finley and most focused on his penchant for triples this season, 7 in total already, which is a good sum for 99% of the players FOR A SEASON, but May isn't even over yet, let alone the season. I was reading the article about Finley's attitude towards triples in the Chron and wondered what his splits looked like home vs. away for triples. Obviously, Giants' fans all know that it would be lopsided, but, man, it is really lopsided, he has about the same AB's H v. A, but 6 more triples at home.

Triples Big Boost to His Power Numbers

Given that his normal range in his career is 4-10 triples per year, 1-3 would be what he should have now, we could say that he normally have about 2 now, 1 home and 1 away. With 7 at home, that means that he was able to stretch 6 doubles into triples at home, which adds 95 points to his SLG, pushing it from .461 to .556 and his OPS from .813 to .908, making his performance move from OK (.813) to pretty good (.908).

He says in the interview on sfgiants.com that while he gets more triples this way, the RF configuration took away more in homers becoming outs. But taking a look at his hit chart, I see maybe one flyball that would have been a homer that became an out. And maybe 2 of the triples would have been HR in another park. That would cost him RBIs but the six extra bases/triples more than make up for the bases lost on missed HR (though possibly not for the out made, not sure what the value lost is for that extra out, but at least 3 extra bases seems to make up for me for me).

When His Numbers Otherwise Says "Fading Star"

Another clue is that he hasn't been able to show any power on the road either, with only 1 double, 1 triple, and 1 HR. It is down a lot from previous seasons, with lower SLG and lower ISO, he has lost about 100 points of OPS. Playing in SF has apparently rejuvenated his stats, boosting his SLG at home with all those extra triples, otherwise, he might be viewed now as a fading has-been right now, instead of an integral cog of the team.

Better Than Fallen Star And Can't Get Up

Of course, that's better than being viewed as the long-gone has-been that Alfonzo has been this season. Hallelujah that Sabean was able to trade Alfonzo to another team and let him be their offensive headache. Speaking of which, he was picked up Thursday (yesterday) by the Toronto Blue Jays on a minor league contract - AA - after he was unceremoniously dumped by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, soon after he COMPLAINED about his playing time when his stat line read .100/.135/.120/.255. You are doing pretty bad when your OPS is near the Mendoza Line, which is the level of futility for a batter when his BATTING AVERAGE is that low, let alone your OPS, which should be at least double your batting average by definition

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kruk and Kuip on Cain

Cain had a masterful performance last Sunday against the A's, throwing a 1-hit shutout, his first of his career, and fourth youngest by a Giants pitcher and first since Schmidt had one in 2004, with the only down note being that he only struck out 5. But his fastball reached as high as 97 MPH, so he was cooking, and out of 120 pitches, he threw 80 for strikes. More importantly, out of the balls hit into play, he got 10 groundballs and 12 flyballs. Keeping the ball down is important for him because his nemesis this year has been the long ball.

Now onto Kruk and Kuip's comments on Cain. In their show on Monday, they positively glowed over Cain's performance, almost like new fathers. They noted that the A's lineup is full of disciplined and experienced hitters who are very patient and yet Cain was able to get through the lineup 3 times (4 for the top four of the order - he had 3 walks to go with the 1 hit - so he got by their #3 and #4 hitters 4 times). They said that these are premier fastball hitters and yet Cain was able to get them to swing through his fastball, causing the hitters to walk away shaking their heads. They ended by saying that it is hard to throw a fastball past a good hitter for the 3rd time, and yet Cain did that.

Hopefully he can build off this outing going forward. He actually pitched well, peripheral-wise, at the start of the season but the longball and bad luck hit him and he had poor results. That probably led him to press and perhaps change things to improve his performance but obvious things went really bad, forcing the Giants to skip one of his starts in order to get him going again. Looks like Righetti and Gardner were able to figure it out and get him going - maybe this will quiet the whispers of some fans who have been questioning Righetti's worth as pitching coach.

I hope this also silence the fans who were calling for Cain to be sent to the minors in order to start Hennessey. Cain showed in his 7 starts last season why he needs to be up here - he has nothing left to learn down in the minors. He needs to be up here, he needs to figure out how to be a major leaguer, he needs the team to show confidence in him and his abilities and not run away at the first sign of trouble. Hopefully this 1-hitter makes it ever clearer that the future is now, we need to see what he is made out of, we need to get him going here with the big club, particularly since we most probably will be losing our ace in Schmidt next season, and we need Cain (as well as Lowry) pitching up to their potential if we do lose Schmidty. But that 1-hitter was pretty damn sweet!

To steal from Freddie Prinze (and to date me :^): Looking gooood!

Monday, May 22, 2006

It Is Just Never Ending: Chronicle's Bonds Bashing

Submitted for your perusal, another case of either missing the context or just plain ignorance and scorn for the truth: Sunday's "Shea Hey" column in the SF Chronicle by John Shea. Beyond the obviously lame reference to, and commercial hijacking and debasing of, the great Willie Mays' beloved nickname just to have a snazzy column name - which, I might add, took him many years to figure that one out apparently, as he has written for the SF Chronicle for years now - in Sunday's column he makes reference to the Barry Bonds' "wiping out of Babe Ruth" quote and how Bonds is apparently contrite now and has learned his lesson.

Too bad the Chronicle isn't contrite and learned their lesson and published that column. The part of that column I found particularly funny - and damning and defensive - is this sentence he had to insert there: "The Chronicle was there and taped it and published it." How childish! This is what I get from that, reading between the lines: "We were there and we taped it and we even PUBLISHED it, so that makes it the truth, cross our heart and hope to die, with the First Amendment on our eye."

As any long time reader of my writing has seen, I have lambasted newspapers for their coverage of Barry Bonds over the years. I've caught on to journalists, in general, who misinterpreted either what Bonds' said or did, just so they can have a nice column to write where they bash Bonds again. I'll have to update that one on this blog this summer. One blatant example of that is the "wiping out Ruth" incident.

"Bonds Isn't Guilty of Picking This Fight"

That is the headline of the a column that Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury wrote for the July 18, 2003 edition of that newspaper explaining how it was obvious to anybody in the room that Bonds was playing around, that he was not serious when he said it. And yet the headlines went out by other people that Bonds was disrespecting Babe Ruth, which was most hilariously capped by the press release the Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Museum seemingly sent out at the heat of the moment that he got the news from the press of what Bonds had said, but without the context of what actually happened in that presss conference. As I noted, I've written on this before, but I will devote this post to going over Ann Killion's column, point by point, to show what a mockery of journalism the Chronicle is doing with their Bonds bashing.

And its not like Bonds didn't said those words, so these journalists can stand by their tape recorder, because Bonds did say those words. Only that reporters, who are suppose to report what happened and with context, just either went into robot tape recorder mode or "this will make Bonds look like a fool" mode. I find that her words best describe the situation so I will be quoting her words a lot, since obviously you, the reader, might think that I was taking things out of context. I would just post a link to the article or just post the whole thing, but the Mercury sells all their archived articles. However, I feel that I can quote from pertinent parts of it and I've given attribution above if anyone wants to pull up the full column, from what I can remember about attribution from my school days.

First, here is what Ann Killion said about that Director's press release:

Standing in for Babe was Michael L. Gibbons, the executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore. We assume that Mr. Gibbons is a real person and not just some merry prankster who copped a piece of Babe Ruth letterhead to insult Bonds.

In a screed e-mailed to the national press, Gibbons pompously responded to "Barry Bonds' ill-conceived assault on Babe Ruth.'' After some statistical mumbo-jumbo, Gibbons quickly got right into the name-calling. Of Bonds he said, "As today's most accomplished player, he continues to abuse his role as baseball's natural goodwill ambassador through an overt aloofness that turns off fans and players alike. Can you imagine the Babe refusing to participate in an All-Star game home run contest?!''

Well, I can't, since the first home run contest was in 1985, 38 years after Ruth died. It's hard to decline an invitation to something that hasn't yet been invented to prod ratings for a medium that hadn't yet become popular.

But it's also hard to imagine a caretaker of baseball history thinking it was a good idea to attack today's home run king.
So that was her take on his press release. And he doesn't miss the chance to get some PR for his museum, he also issued a statement this weekend lauding Bonds after his 714th HR for, essentially, coming to his senses and praising all that is Babe Ruth (not that there's anything wrong with that, Babe is probably the best player in MLB history, being both an accomplished pitcher as well as a homerun hitting genius).

Killion on What Bonds Said

Many people know the quote that Bonds said but in case your memory is as foggy as mine has been lately, here is what Barry Bonds said, again out of context and without qualifiers, making his statement seem harsh (just imagine these words being said harshly and/or meanly as you read them), as he answered the question of why Bonds wanted Babe Ruth's home run total of 714 more than Aaron's record:

"Because,'' Bonds said, "As a left-handed hitter I wiped him out. And in the baseball world Babe Ruth is everything, right? I got his slugging percentage and
I'll take his home runs and that's it. Don't talk about him no more.''

Here is what Killion wrote on that quote, then reread Barry's words as if you were him and you'll see that he was talking more like a friend or peer, talking trash with another friend/peer:

He made his remarks in a ballroom packed with reporters. Many included the quotes in the next day's papers, some adding that Bonds was laughing as he spoke.

This is typical Bonds. Maybe not smooth or public-relations savvy, but typical. He says something interesting but pushes it toward the outrageous.

He probably knew it was pure blasphemy to say "Don't talk about him no more,''
and he obviously knows (apparently better than Mr. Gibbons) that Ruth won't fade
from public consciousness.

Despite his reputation for not speaking to the press, when Bonds does talk he enjoys being provocative.


I think that makes pretty clear what Ann Killion thought about the quote and the context surrounding that quote. That comes from years of following Bonds and the Giants, parts of which as a fan, because, as she wrote in a column a while back, her grandfather was a huge Giants fan, and parts of it as a professional sports journalist, which she has been doing for many years - and very well, I might add - at the San Jose Mercury. She clearly shows that she knows his idiocyncrasies and can make the proper interpretation of what happened during that press conference.

"The Chronicle was there and taped it and published it."

Now comes the interesting part of Ann Killion's column, as she, in hindsight, apparently gives her colleagues at the Chronicle more credit than they deserve:

Apparently, everyone who actually heard Bonds' comments understood the context. But a national sports online service posted the story under the juicy headline: "Dissin' the Babe? Bonds Takes Whack at Ruth.'' Several writers around the country took the bait. After all, there's no easier column on a slow news day than to rip Bonds. And Mr. Gibbons worked himself up into a righteous lather, forgetting to hit the delete button before sending his diatribe from coast to oast.

I have to repeat these words for emphasis: "Apparently, everyone who actually heard Bonds' comments understood the context." I guess apparently John Shea of the Chronicle negates that statement. I am guessing but since he made the point that the Chronicle was there and taped it, HE was not there and, oops, missed the context of the spoken words, his bad, but he's just a journalist, we couldn't expect him to be objective and perhaps check to see what the context was. Then again, given the Chronicle's obvious Bonds' bashing, perhaps that was their takeaway from that press conference and that's what they fed him.

"The Chronicle was there and taped it and published it." Says it all, doesn't it? Obviously, by that defensive statement, the Chronicle (or at least John Shea, whose writing I generally like) is aware that there is a feeling among readers that they are Bonds Bashers and so they needed to "prove" that they were being above board with their interpretation of that press conference. It is almost like they are saying, "Hey, you can't knock us now, we can play you the tape and you can hear it yourself, no fooling. And we PUBLISHED it - there, we wouldn't print any lies, would we?"

No, but it doesn't make it the truth either, without the context. And, sadly, journalists have been giving themselves a black eye with their either biased or, worse, unfettered disregard for the context, in their coverage of Bonds. What happened to the journalism that I grew up admiring? Objective reporting of the events as they occur without the reporter's bias. They haven't had a scandal of Watergate proportions to mark their fall and decline - maybe the Jayson Blair scandal at the NY Times where he made up an entire story about some poor child - but they clearly are nowhere close to the lofty aspirations that one would think would have been inspired by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward with their coverage of the Watergate coverup.

Or maybe that was a peak too high for anyone to reach and thus discouraged anyone else from trying to meet it, and instead they just settle for what we got today: mediocrity. Of course, it would help if there were scandals to cover, like, say, a homerun hitting firstbaseman caught with substances (Andro) clearly not good for kids to take who just broke the home run record set eons ago by Roger Maris, but hey, who wants to ruin a feel-good story like that? Instead, we'll just pick on the curmudgeon homerun hitter and then pile on him when some stuff hits the fan. That's much more juicy, ain't it? And it sells many more newspaper, for sure.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Congrats to Bonds on 714

Just a note of congratulations to Barry Bonds for tying Babe Ruth on the MLB all-time home-run list. Hopefully he can save 715 for the short homestand next week, though it was pretty nice of all the fans - including A's fans - giving him an ovation after he hit the homer. Too bad a Bonds hater caught the ball.

With his next homer, Bonds will become the leading lefty homerun hitter in MLB history. And only 19 more homers will net him a title I research a while back: Hank Aaron has the most homers in the NL with 733 (he played in AL his last two seasons). That is a title that he can possibly reach by year's end if he can hit homers a little more frequently than so far. That title has had a lot of Giants history there, Roger Conner had it for a while, then Rogers Hornsby, who was a Giant for a year, had it, then Mel Ott held it for many years, and lastly Willie Mays had it briefly before Aaron took it. So one could say that this title is full of Giants heritage, covering Giants greats Roger Conner, Mel Ott, and Willie Mays.

And it was nice that the Giants ended up winning the game, it is always a bummer when a player accomplishes some sort of feat and it is in a losing cause. Go Giants!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Your 2006 Giants: Injury List Update 5/20/06

Update on all the injuries and illnesses Giants players have had or been fighting this season or basically anything that made them unavailable for a game. Niekro's problems reminded me of this. Updated as of May 20, 2006:

  • Moises Alou: twinge in left hip caused him to pull up short (4/30 injury; 2 games missed); sprained ankle (5/5 DL; out at least 4-6 weeks, though good progress made so far says Conte)
  • Armando Benitez: inflamed left knee, bursa sac (3/15 injury reported; DL 4/1-4/19); flu 4/4.
  • Barry Bonds: ongoing problems with left knee and bone chips in left elbow since spring training
  • Ray Durham: plantar fascialitis (2/26-4/2; on-going?); strained left hamstring (4/23 injury; 4/28-5/11 DL, missed two games before DLed and missed a total 14 games)
  • Noah Lowry: strained right oblique (4/6 injury; DL 4/6-5/7 , missing about 4 starts plus the game he left for a total of 5 starts)
  • Lance Niekro: soreness in right foot (reported 4/16); bereavement (4/17-4/19); cold and flu (4/30-5/1; 2 games missed); hurt shoulder making tag at first 5/14, missed games 5/15-5/20, talk of DL.
  • Mark Sweeney: tender right hamstring (reported 4/21)
  • Brian Wilson: strained right oblique (4/24 injury; DL 4/24-now, been making rehab starts in minors, re-evaluated on next Monday)

History Repeating Itself? Chronicle and Bonds

I ran across an interesting account on Wikipedia of how William Randolph Hearst basically ruined the life and career of one of the top movie actors of his era - Fatty Arbuckle - by publishing "spurious and surreally vicious articles and editorials" that crucified Arbuckle by blaming him for the death of this actress he was partying with (funny how that worked since Hearst was having his own affair with an actress at the same time). It noted "the Arbuckle trial was a major media event and stories in William Randolph Hearst's newspaper empire made Arbuckle appear guilty.

Funny how life sometimes repeat itself. William Randolph Hearst III is the publisher of the Chronicle and his newspaper has been publishing a whole series of articles and editorials that crucify Bonds and make him appear guilty. He's even thrown in a book as well.

I think most people can agree that Bonds most probably took something that helped his performance - my bet is on Human Growth Hormone, which I believe has to be injected, thus making its use intentional - the main question now is intent. I'm obviously still open to Bonds eventually being found - somehow - to have intentionally taken some performance enhacing Drugs., but I want strong proof and, as I've outlined in my previous posts on this topic, I don't think they have strong proof yet.

I still cannot believe that they based (at least it seems to me they did from the excerpts I have seen) the whole book on what Bonds' mistress told them. There is no way to prove, either way, that what she said is the truth. Just because she can verify that she was Bonds mistress and told the truth on certain points that got the reporters to believe her story, she is a hugely compromised source of information. She has a book that she is trying to get published, as she is hoping to make a lot of money from selling her account of her affair with Bonds, and that taints any and all stories she may have told the reporters.

I am no journalist, so if someone with a journalism background can explain this one to me, I would be most grateful, but this is a classic "she says, he says" situation where there was only the two of them in the story and she is giving her "version" of the story. There is no way, in my mind, that she can prove anything she is telling to these reporters without a recording of some sort of these conversations, which means that she had been planning for this day for a long time.

And most of the information that I have seen attributed to her, I know that most of that can be found on the internet by searching for it. The acne problem, the testicle problem, the anger management problem, all that stuff can be found on the internet, or even followed in the newspapers of that time. I know I did. So there is no way to know that she didn't make these stories up based on information that anyone following Bonds in the news or anyone with computer skills (she is a computer graphics expert) would know.

Now I'm not saying that she is lying for certain but what I am saying is that there is no way to prove that what she is saying is true or false. Her telling the truth on one thing does not mean that everything else she says is true. And I'm funny in that way, if you are going to convict someone in the court of public opinion, you better be damn sure that you got very good sources that are unimpeachable.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A's vs. Giants: Farm System Production

Not to pick on Ann Killion regularly but she made this point today in her column about how the A's have more home grown players than the Giants. In the past, that would have been as obviously as "are frog's butts waterproof" or "was Charlie Finley cheap" but with the influx of Giants prospects coming up and contributing over the past two seasons, I wondered if that was still true.

A's Vs. Giants: a Mixed Bag

I have no idea going in which way this will turn out, though obviously I think it will be a close race else I wouldn't bother doing this. And, to make this fairer, I will not count any player picked in the first 10 picks of the draft because the odds of finding a player there is so much greater than anywhere else in the draft, exponentially greater. A team that has a lot of these have an unfair advantage in any draft comparison because it is much easier picking up a star player in those picks than possibly all the rest of the picks in the draft altogether.

For the Giants, we have 10 players who qualify:
  • Jeremy Accardo
  • Matt Cain
  • Kevin Correia
  • Brad Hennessey
  • Noah Lowry
  • Scott Munter
  • Pedro Feliz
  • Lance Niekro
  • Jason Ellison
  • Dan Ortmeier

Technically, Accardo is not drafted but was signed as a free agent when he went undrafted, but I count that as the Giants could have picked him up with the 51st round pick if they wanted to. Feliz likewise, but he is most definitely a product of the Giants farm system.

For the A's they have 7 players:

  • Joe Blanton
  • Ron Flores
  • Huston Street
  • Bobby Crosby
  • Mark Ellis
  • Dan Johnson
  • Nick Swisher

Two names omitted were Barry Zito (9th pick of 1999 draft) and Eric Chavez (10th pick of 1996 draft), so in number including them would still have the Giants having more home-grown talent than the A's. But that's skewed right now because Ortmeier is only here because Alou is out on the DL, so I guess we could call it a tie. But the main point is that I wanted to see if Killion's impression that the A's have more homegrown talent is true and, as we can see, that's not entirely true.

Quality Beats Quantity

Of course and obviously, the A's still have a huge edge in quality. They have 6 players playing key/starter roles in Blanton, Street, Crosby, Ellis, Johnson, Swisher, 8 if you include Zito and Chavez. As far as starters go, which ultimately is more important, we only have four: Cain, Lowry, Feliz, and Niekro. And our four contribute much less to the team's success than the A's players. Though if you go strictly by results this season, the A's only have Swisher, Zito, and Chavez doing well, while the Giants at best has one, Feliz, if you stretch what is considered doing well, though obviously he has been contributing a lot, though I guess some could include Hennessey.

So there is still a gap between the A's and the Giants, but the gap has fallen greatly over the past two seasons with the Giants actually having more homegrown players on their 25 man roster but still have less quality than the A's in terms of overall production by homegrown players.

But the gap looks to get closer going forward, Zito looks be to going elsewhere after this season, and the Giants have a crop of homegrown talent ready to join the team over the next two seasons, including Kevin Frandsen, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Sanchez, Merkin Valdez, Todd Linden, Dan Ortmeier, Freddy Lewis, EME, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Marcus Sanders. Others who may also make the team include Joe Bateman, Eliezer Alfonzo, Adam Shabala, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Waldis, Dan Griffin, Ben Copeland, Sharlon Shoop, Shairon Martis (first no-hitter in WBC), Pat Misch, Chris Begg, Mike Mooney, Brian Horwitz, Antoan Richardson, and I'm sure I'm missing someone but I'm trying to get this out before lunchtime is up. Oh, two guys doing well this season and getting good press in Steve Shelby's writeups lately on McCovey Chronicles are Nick Pereira and Alex Hinshaw. Not that the A's don't have their crop too, I just don't know (or care to know) their system that well.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

PQS updated as of 5/16/2006

I've been wrestling with how to do this. Right now there's no way to update that post and show that it has been updated to a casual viewer with out having me go into my template and update the link every time. So I think I'll just post a note and direct you all to the link to the right and down below on P.Q.S. until I think of a better way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bonds Career at End, Some Say

Ann Killion had a column the other day discussing whether this is the end for Bonds. She has been a columnist who has been pretty good about being objective about Bonds - she was one of the few to note that most outside people misinterpreted Bonds' "wipe out Ruth" statement - and she was no different here. She was pretty even-handed in her handling of Bonds in the article.

But she brought up a topic that some fans and other columnists have been bringing up, that perhaps Bonds is on his final legs, that this could be the end of him. And she noted, a bit more ominously than I would have put it, that he has been "very, very quiet" with his hitting so far. A fan noted on McCovey Chronicles that Aaron hit only 12 and 10 homers his last two seasons. And maybe that is correct, ultimately, that Bonds was on his last legs this season.

What Have You Done For Me Tomorrow?

However, like most things about the Giants this season, people make too much of very little so far. Fans were digging into the bullpen, Niekro, Feliz, and Matheny the first month - and rightly so, they were hitting terribly - and now they are targeting Vizquel and the bullpen still. But the sky is not falling.

As much as people like to make fun of the NL West - and I've been one of them - one pattern that I've noticed over the past few years is that in April, when the NL West plays each other, nobody is doing much of anything in intra-division play, they battle to .500 and don't get too far ahead. Then we head into May where we get into intra-league play and suddenly, one by one, the NL West teams go into one win streak after another, following each other like clockwork, and one team would surge ahead, then another would surge to catch them, then a third would surge and catch them, then we start all over again. So the West has been beating up regularly on somebody, I'm not sure who as I don't have time to see which teams are getting beat up for these streaks, but this pattern has held up for the past 3-4 seasons now.

With small samples - April - which was complicated by rains and abbreviated spring training for a lot of players, there is going to be a lot of players who are doing poorly and others who do well. It depends on where each player is in his life - young or old - career - young or established or older vet - that throws most predictive analysis out the window, this year more than most. And in even the best circumstances, small sampling will almost always be not representative of what the player is capable.

That's how I was able to win my Fantasy League last year, even though I had Bonds, Alfonzo, Durham, Feliz, Schmidt, and Benitez on my opening roster - people gave up on players like Lance Berkman, Andy Pettitte, Ryan Freel, and others, whom I picked up for nothing and allowed me to climb from the cellar and win (well, that and 8 of the 12 teams were abandoned by mid-season, resulting in DLed players filling roster spots, and allowing me to pick up great young players like Rickie Weeks and Ryan Howard and Matt Cain uncontested).

Bonds is Bonds

What some people have forgotten after years of unrelentingly outstanding performance is that Bonds historically has started slow, having bad Aprils and maybe Mays, then heated up with the weather. So while this is new to the Bonds-come-lately's, this is old-hat to Giants followers who are a bit older.

And give the old guy a break. Bonds doesn't hit a homer in 22 at-bats and he's been quiet? He has 6 homers, that's still not chopped liver, that works out to around 25-30 homers in a season, not Bondsian in size, but not anything to sneeze at either. And he hasn't really warmed up yet, so that could bring that up higher if he does warm up.

But it is true that it could be his final gasp. The only problem is that it is too soon to be speculating on something like that. Fans were saying that about Alfonzo his first season here but then around mid-season he went on a huge streak of hitting just before the ASG, he was valuable to us when he was hitting like that. However, last year he couldn't turn it on and it was clear since he had no injury problem that he's pretty washed up and he didn't play as much for the rest of the season.

We will have a better view of Bonds' condition when we get into mid-June. If this is really the end, that means that what he has been doing so far this season continued into June and he's still flailing about. By that time, teams will have figured out that he's spent and his OBP will take a huge hit as teams stop walking him automatically and start pitching to him. And if he cannot at least take walks for us in the lineup, he'll be useless to us and frankly an embarassment to himself, his team, and to the legacy of his career, I can see him retiring if it ever came to that (though I see him taking the money and run, unlike McGwire who turned down his money, by placing himself on the DL and staying there the rest of the season).

Frankly, I don't think that will happen though. Hitting like the way he and Ted Williams hit, it is a discipline and concentrated effort that pays off in getting pitches that result in a high-percentage of hits. What's different this year is that he has not been as focused and I think part of that is the intense media coverage regarding both Balco and passing Ruth, part of that is his unrelenting tireness, which is a result of his inability to prepare as he normally does during the off-season to condition his body for the long haul of a baseball season, and part of that is he has been distracted by his Bonds on Bonds TV show for ESPN, which to me is a clear sign that he is preparing for a post-baseball career and that he won't be playing that many more years, probably just 2007 at best, 1000 HR nonsense or not.

I think he knew going into the season that he wouldn't be 100 percent and thus he will not have that great a season in 2006. I think that is one motivator to playing more games, to pile up stats as much as he can so it doesn't look that bad overall. The goal is to get through this season OK but then to prepare the hell out of his body in the off-season for his swan-song season and have the type of season that he would be happy to end his career on.

He doesn't want to go the Willie Mays or even the Hank Aaron route of having a number of subpar seasons at the end. He wants to go out like Ted Williams did, ideally by hitting a homer in his last AB and then walking off into the sunset. He wants to go out on a relative high, like Williams did with his final season, coming back after a subpar season, and putting in a nice bookend on his career.

That's also partly because I think that he doesn't want to pass Hank Aaron, deep down, any more than anyone else wants to see him do that. He knows what Hammering Hank had to go through to reach that record, the death threats, the racism, and that's the story that will be told if Aaron stays the leading HR hitter in MLB history. Whereas if he took the lead, the story will be steroids, Balco, and his long feud with the media. I think he understands his and Aaron's place in history, unlike, say, Jeff Kent, who is so self-absorbed that he cannot take the time to read about the history of our great game and learn about the history and the players who came before him, he only cares about popping wheelies on his motorcycle when his team was counting on him to be a major cog of the team.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Giants New Whipping Boy: Pedro Feliz

Pedro Feliz appears to have inherited the mantle of whipping boy from Edgardo Alfonzo when the latter was traded away. Giants fans are all over him in the Giants boards and websites. It is almost like a feeding frenzy.

So I feel I am being put in the uncomfortable position of defending him. And really, since when do we need to defend the choice of who we have as our 7th place hitter? I would prefer to be part of the group who "picks your poison when constructing a lineup."

Not Everyone Can Afford That Puppy in the Window

Not everyone has a great hitting 3B or even an average hitting 3B. People seem to think that a $90M payroll entitles them to power-hitting corner infielders and outfielders. But Bonds, Schmidt, Finley, Durham, Alou, and Winn take up more than half the payroll. That don't leave much for power hitting corner infielders as well as all the other players on the team. And while Pedro has a much below average OBP (though he is only about 20 points away from the league average), he is however average to above average in SLG, and there are not that many 3B who hit more homers than he did the past two seasons.

That's why I was for giving Feliz another try in 2003 when most people wanted to dump him as well. People like to disparage his 20 homer power but in 2005, his 20 homers would have ranked 11th among everyday 3B, as well as his SLG of .422. In 2004, his 22 homers would have been 13th among MLB 3B, and his SLG 14th. That puts him squarely in the middle of the majors, perhaps a tad better than average. He is not the above average player I would have liked but if you don't give the players who played well at the AAA level a chance, we'll never know what we have. That's why I still am willing to give Linden a chance at the majors to see what he can do up there.

Every team except for the Yankees have to accept position players who do not hit well relative to similar position players. So while our corner IF are average to below, their corner OF are average to below. Or they have Neifi starting at 2B while we have Durham.

Between the two, I want a high SLG from my 6-7 hitters than a high OBP. You don't drive in runs with a walk or even a single when the 8th place hitter and pitcher are coming up. That's why when Bill James constructed his runs created formula there were initially two key components: OBP and SLG, with SLG the component related to driving in the runs. That's what we want our 6-7 hitters doing, driving in the 3-4-5 hitters, not starting a rally with the 8th/9th spot's black hole automatic out coming up.

Slow Starts Happen All the Time, You Need to Look at his Splits for Meaning.

It's easy to dump on players when they get off to a slow start. That happens all the time in fantasy leagues (and I'm guilty of it too, forgive me Edwin Encarnacion!), the fan gets upset over the player not doing well and just dumps him. It's the knee-jerk reaction, no one can accept failure of any type when your team is struggling to stay around .500. If only we had David Wright/Miguel Cabrera/Scott Rolen! Then we would win all those games!

Feliz has actually been hitting like normal for him at home overall, it was just the "perfect storm" situation for Feliz that the road games we have played have been at parks he historically have done poorly at. His numbers should not be Mendoza Line bad as the season goes on, it will be his normal Feliz-tastic numbers: mediocre with plus power, as he gets to visit the parks he normally hit well in as well as get into baseball shape, since the WBC and the rainouts probably interfered with his preparations for this season.

His recent success hitting appears to signal that he's finally getting into proper shape (for him) for playing his best baseball. He has hits in 3 straight games, 10 of 12. He has homered 4 times this month, already double his output for April. He is hittin great at home - .314/.355/.500/.855 with 5 walks vs. 12 strikeouts with 3 HR in 70 AB - and is hitting like normal vs. RHP - .257/.278/.450/.728 with 5 HR in 109 AB. His failings this season so far is his total inability to hit against LHP and to hit on the road.

Hitting on the road I know why: the majority of those ABs have been at parks he historically have done poorly at, for whatever reasons, but mainly because they are pitcher's stadiums: Dodger Stadium, PETCO Stadium, and Chase Field, which is not a pitcher's park but for some reason he cannot hit there so far. Don't know what the problem with LHP is though, he should be killing them, he made progress last year, previously he had no platoon split but last year he did.

Getting Better (or at back to Same Old, Same old)

If someone can get me a better 3B (Mueller is not better, just different) who hits 30 homers with a .300+ average at the same salary as Feliz, sign me up, but for his salary and abilities, we could do a lot worse, like Corey Koskie, Jeff Cirillo, Eric Hinske, and Vinnie Castillo. I would even throw Aurilia in with that group, he makes a lot less but his hitting the past two years is all Great American Park's doing, his road numbers stink.

I don't want to defend Feliz, but I felt that people were just throwing him out to the curb since his struggles are more evident than others. He is what he is, a nice complementary part who, if he can hit like he did in 2003-2004, would be a pleasant surprise (and advantage) in the 6-7 slot, and if he did what he did in 2005, would be average among 7th place hitters in the majors for OPS. As I noted elsewhere in a previous post, the teams who went to the playoffs in 2005 actually all had below NL average 7th place hitters, so clearly having a good 7th place hitter is the whip cream on the sundae, complementary to the good top half of the lineup, but not a required ingredient to a winning team. Getting Durham going seems to me to be a bigger worry, now that he's finally off the DL.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Is Schmidt Back and Other Questions on the Rotation

I answered this on McCovey Chronicles but thought I would post it here too and fill in more. Some posters were wondering if Schmidt was back and complaining about the rotation after Schmidt and Lowry. I - tongue in cheek - cheekily answered that he's been back since mid-last season and noted that the rotation going forward should be better. As one poster retorted, Schmidt does appear to be improved over last season because his velocity is up and his control has returned - I would have to take his word for it as I haven't seen him pitch in a while, don't get much TV lately - but my main point, as I'll get into below, is that statistically he appears to be about where he was for the second half of last season.

Schmidt's Been Back Since Mid-Last Season

Schmidt has actually been pitching like he could this season, despite the down and up aspect of his game performances. Looking at his game lines, I realize now that he's really only had one game that was out of character for him: the game against Atlanta at home. The other bad games are explainable.

* His first game: he just cannot pitch well at PETCO, and that continued to be true.
* Fourth start vs. Colorado: pitching in Colorado, 'nuff said!

Even the Atlanta game was not wildly out of character, he has historically had a high ERA against Atlanta, home or away, they apparently have his number from his days as a Brave.

Even the good games are explainable. While PETCO, a pitchers park, gives him fits, he loves pitching at Miller Park. And there is something about the Cubs that he has always just loved, particularly at home, but also in Wrigley. Same with Arizona and same with pitching at home.

In addition, his pitching line right now is not far from what he did in the second half of last season. His pitching in the second half of last season yielded a 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and .216 BAA after the ASG. That's not far off from 3.29 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and .207 BAA that he has now. His K-rate is down this year but so is his BB-rate, ending with his K/BB ratio being identical, which is the most important thing from what I've read about peripherals in Ron Shandler's book. His HR-rate is higher but still very good. He should bounce around in this range for the rest of the year, barring any injury, unless he really HAS returned, as in returned to his dominating ways of a few years ago. Encouraging signs but too soon to count on yet.

Rotation: Lookin' Goood!

So if Lowry can continue to pitch well - and after such an encouraging first start, it's hard not to think that, I agree with the other poster on one of the McCovey Chronicle diaries who said that then we only need one of Cain, Morris, Wright to pitch well to make .600 winning percentage going forward.

And as I noted on another post, Cain and Morris has pitched better than their stats show, their stats are skewed by their bad start in Colorado, but they've had a number of dominating starts, peripheral-wise, it is just that the ER didn't reflect how well they pitched. In addition, Wright has done fine for a 5th starter, he's really only had one bad start out of six, the one against San Diego (and what a game today for his seventh start!). And he was sailing along in that one until the HBP seemed to throw him off kilter and it spiraled downward in a death spiral after that. These has been illuminated by their P.Q.S. score, which I've been updating regularly on a link that I've placed on the side, it shows that there has been quality pitching on their part. So hopefully, we'll be winning more than a .600 pace going forward.

Likewise, Hennessey, despite his nice stats, has actually pitched poorer than Wright, look at that K/BB ratio for him!!! While Wright we can expect that from, we've seen Hennessey be dominating before, so he should go back down when Wilson comes off the DL, and figure out how to pitch well consistently instead of once in a while because that would be worth the investment to getting him there, particularly if we do lost Schmidt next season.

So I think our rotation will be looking better going forward. Both because the starters are doing well (or well enough as the case may be) and the bullpen won't be giving up inherited runners to the extent that they had been earlier.

Bullpen Notes

And on the topic of the bullpen, I want to say thanks to Fassero for his good work for us last season. Some feel that we should not have given him a contract for 2006 but I considered it a $750K insurance in case the young relievers faltered, so I think it was worth doing, even if in retrospect it was a bad decision. But he pitched great as a reliever last season - it was starting that screwed his stats up - and I think that he eventually would have pitched well again for us as a reliever, I still don't know why they didn't just start Correia instead.

And it is foolhardy to rely on three young relievers to do well, which also in retrospect, came true as well, Munter and Taschner has not done well at all, only Accardo has come through the way we thought they might. And we can throw in Walker here as well, since he was not really that good last season, even when closing. Luckily, Kline and Worrell has been here to absorb some of that and Accardo, as noted, has done well too, plus Correia, who basically took Fassero's job.

With Benitez now in the mix and doing well enough, that gives us four relievers to rely on in Benitez, Kline, Worrell (despite recent difficulties), and Accardo plus Correia, who can hopefully continue to do well, in spite of high walk rate and lower K-rate. And also hopefully, Munter can find his mojo again, he was doing well the first two weeks but has just fallen apart since then, becoming very inconsistent. He could also be on the bubble for going when Wilson returns, though, as I noted, I hope Hennessey goes down. But if Hennessey stays, and he might since they let him relieve the other day, he's obviously got the long-relief role of Fassero and Correia gets bumped into middle relief.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sabean Draft Dodging: As Bad as Pundits Say It Is?

As long time readers of mine know, clearly I believe that Sabean's habit of purposefully losing draft picks by signing a free agent before the deadline, while unorthodox, can be justified by the lack of talent available for any draft pick after the 10th pick of the first round, let alone after the 21-30th pick range that Sabean normally drafted in.

While I don't totally agree with this - there should be some limit on this, though I'm not sure at the moment what - I at least feel that I can understand why he made this unorthodox move for the drafts from 2003 to 2005. I tried to explain this in my series of articles on the draft - which I hope to review again this season in hopes of winning more converts - but not everyone either understand or agree with me. And that is fine with me - can't please everyone, as the Ricky Nelson song goes - but my interest is always piqued when anyone disagrees with this method because perhaps I missed something or didn't take things far enough.

During spring training, while perusing my Baseball Prospectus 2006, I ran into a quote that got me thinking. In it, they point out that Matt Cain is a great example of why the Giants should not follow his course of action of punting draft picks and basically mock him with that statement. So that was the genesis of this post. I also wanted to examine what they did since Baseball Prospectus has a history of disparaging Brian Sabean's methods and, in particular, his deliberate loss of 1st round draft picks by signing free agents just before the deadline. They clearly are not Brian Sabean fans.

They're Not Alone

Now, today Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury jumps on this topic too, with his column blasting Sabean's draft methods, so I felt the immediate urge to get this out, so I apologize if some parts are a bit disjointed and perhaps incomplete; I tried my best to get everything just right but sometimes you read things so often you just miss obvious mistakes. I was also originally going to compare BP's study with mine to answer my critic's questions, but I'm making that into a separate post now, coming soon to a blog near you.

What Tim and BP did, I compare with gamblers' regret, who look at the Keno board or poker hand or lottery pick numbers and exclaim, "If only I had picked that other number or asked for another card or placed another bet, I would have won." That is so simplistic! I will cover BP later as first I'll tackle Tim's column.

If Only

Tim played the game of "If Only" with the Giants drafts under Sabean. I will try to tackle his points in order. His error is the same as I have seen with most other digs at a GM for poor draft selection, so I'm only singling out Tim because he happened to publish his column today and I happen to be working on a post regarding this topic. Otherwise, I like Tim's writing most of the time.

Tim's First Point: Point Out the Good Ones Without Context

First, he noted Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who were picks by the Phillies, then Morgan Ensberg and Lance Berkman by the Astros, including that Berkman was passed over by the Giants when they picked Jason Grilli 4th in 1997. Chase Utley was the 15th pick of the first round; all the picks that Sabean has given up that caused people to get all steamed up at him have been much later in the first round, they were in the 21-30 range and higher. So there's no way he could have picked up Utley with the picks he punted. In addition, here are the odds of finding a star player of Utley's caliber in the 11-20 pick range as suggested by my research: 15 to 1. So obviously the Phillies beat the odds in picking Utley.

But if you like those odds, you'll love the ones against picking Ryan Howard in the 5th round with the 140th pick of the draft. Now, my stats only went up to pick 100, but that's not too far away, so lets assume the odds are similar: my research suggested odds of about 250 to 1 for picking a star if you had a pick in the 60-100 pick range of the draft. Like finding a needle in the haystack, no? And it would have to be a pretty large haystack to miss Howard, he's a big boy! This would mean that after five years of picking, on average you will find one, and that's the average, it would not be statistically significant at that probability until probably around 7 or 9 years.

OK, now lets go with Morgan Ensberg. He was picked in the 9th (!!!) round with the 272nd pick of the draft. I would guess that the odds would go much higher nearly tripling the pick number, so I think it would be safe to say that the odds would be much greater than the 250 to 1 odds for Howard, probably over 1000 to 1 odds, I would think. So Tim wants the Giants to be gamblers? Those are all long odds.

In addition, if Tim must use Morgan Ensberg as a shining light for the Houston franchise, then he should show more patience with Sabean as well: Morgan was a total failure as a major leaguer until he was 28. Plus, he had a horrible sophomore year, pushing his stock way down. It was only when he was 30 years old, last year, that he became good enough for anyone to point a finger at him and laugh at other people passing him up in the draft.

On the other hand, Sabean has a player who has shown more promise at an earlier age than Ensberg. At the age of 26, which Niekro was last season, Niekro had been in AAA for 2 seasons already and spent his first season in the majors, hitting .252 with 12 HR in 278 AB for 46 RBI. At 26, it was Morgan's FIRST year in AAA and it would be another two seasons before he would have his breakout year. So if Tim likes Ensberg so much, then he should give Sabean until Niekro is 30 before he judges Sabean's drafts a failure.

Lastly, at least for this first point that Tim made, I have a lot more to cover, he knocked Sabean for passing up Lance Berkman and picking Jason Grilli instead. Here's the first 16 players picked in the 1997 draft, the Giants weren't the only one picking a dud and passing over Berkman:

  1. Matt Anderson (Berkman way better; FYI, happens to be at AAA Fresno now)
  2. J.D. Drew (Berkman better)
  3. Troy Glaus (Push, perhaps Glaus better since he's a 3B)
  4. Jason Grilli (nuff said, I agree, bad pick)
  5. Vernon Wells (Berkman better so far, Wells younger and CF)
  6. Geoff Goetz (Never made majors; AA highest)
  7. Dan Reichert (Short MLB career)
  8. J.J. Davis (Berkman way way better)
  9. Michael Cuddyer (Berkman way better)
  10. Jon Garland (Push, Berkman arguably better to me )
  11. Chris Enochs (Never made majors; AAA highest)
  12. Aaron Akin (Never made majors; A+ highest)
  13. Kyle Peterson (Short MLB career)
  14. Brandon Larson (Short MLB career)
  15. Jason Dellaero (Brief call-up)
  16. Lance Berkman
So if Sabean was wrong for passing up Berkman, then arguable 14 of the 15 teams who picked ahead of Houston were wrong too and the last probably wouldn't mind having him now over Glaus. And Sabean was facing coin-flip type of odds for his 4th pick. One would think that picking 4th would be pretty good for finding a good player, let alone a star player, but only 43% of players picked in the 1-5 picks became at least a good player in my study.

But if one likes Houston's drafting record, how about these guys?
  • Tom Nevers
  • Tony McNight
  • Robert Stiehl
  • Derick Grigsby
These are guys that Houston picked in the 21-30 pick range in the first round since 1990, same pick range as Sabean has had to deal with for almost his entire tenure as GM because his teams won so much, same pick range as he punted in avoiding the pick. The last two flamed out in A-ball, the first one only made it to AAA, and the second one was the only one to make the majors but only played there for parts of two seasons.

Tim's Second Point: Praises A's When He Should By His Logic Diss Them Too

Next he disses Sabean for passing up on Huston Street in 2004 and, by extension, praises the A's. Well, then he needs to diss the A's too and big time. They also passed up Street too, MULTIPLE TIMES. They picked Landon Powell (highest level: short season A-ball) with the 24th pick, Richard Robnett (highest level: short season A-ball) with the 26th pick, and Danny Putnam (highest level: high A-ball) with their 36th pick, before picking Street with their #40 pick. At any point, another team picking in between could have snagged Street too, but didn't. The only two picks out of the 39 ahead of Street to make the majors so far is Justin Verlander #2 Detroit and J.P. Howell #31 Kansas City. Other players of note: Jeremy Sowers (Indians - #6, AAA), Jered Weaver (Angels - #12, AA), and Stephen Drew (D-backs - #15, AA).

KC, by the way, picked Matt Campbell with the pick they got from the Giants for Tucker. I cannot find him at all in the Minor League Baseball website. He only made low A-ball in 2005 so I guess he quit. The player the Giants traded Tucker for, Kelvin Pichardo, is 20 years old this season, and he is not currently playing in the minors, so he is probably going to show up in one of the rookie leagues, or perhaps short-season A-ball at Salem-Keizer.

Tim's Third Point: Will Clark and Matt Williams and Giants 2006 #10 Pick

Not to belabor my previous point, but the Giants got lucky with their picks of Clark and Williams. Over the 1986-1998 period, only 11% of Top 10 picks became stars. It is probably a bit higher if you just focus on just the Top 3 picks of the draft but the Giants are only picking 10th. That is still not good odds for a pick that Tim says is "their most significant selection since they took Will Clark second overall in 1985 and Matt Williams third the next year."

And I'm surprised he would make such hyperbole regarding the baseball draft, particularly since he covers all the major sports. In football and basketball, where the draft is much more important to the future of the sports franchise, the 10th pick of the draft is never a sure thing, and certainly is not a star, at least not right off, as Tim suggests that the Giants need from the draft: he wants results "almost immediately." And yet for baseball, which has not seen a player go straight from the draft to the majors in decades, he demands that the Giants find someone who would pay off immediately. Even for the 2004 draft where the A's netted Street, they were lucky, only two others have made the majors so far from the first 40 picks, let alone the Top 10, and the other two did not make big contributions last season.

Tim's Fourth Point: Brad Hennessey vs. Bobby Crosby

Again, it is easy to pick on teams and, to Tim's credit, he does note this in his column, but then goes ahead and did it anyway. So lets examine all the A's 20-30 picks so we get a taste of their success rate, from 1990-2004, since he liked 2004's pick of Street, and Beane is just continuing his predecessor's methodologies:

  • Don Peters #26 - 1990
  • Brent Gates #26 - 1991
  • Benji Grigsby #20 - 1992
  • John Wasdin #25 - 1993
  • Eric DuBose #21 - 1997
  • Bobby Crosby #25 - 2001
  • Jeremy Bonderman #26 - 2001
  • Joe Blanton #24 - 2002
  • John McCurdy #26 - 2002
  • Ben Fritz #30 - 2002
  • Brad Sullivan #25 - 2003
  • Brian Synder #26 - 2003
  • Landon Powell #24 - 2004
  • Richard Robnett #26 - 2004
So, over 15 seasons, the A's have had 14 picks in the 20-30 pick range. And 3 of them have turned out the way Kawakami demands that the Giants be getting all these years out of the first round picks that they have been punting, which works out to 20%, and frankly, I think it is a bit too soon to be calling Crosby and Blanton stars, particularly since Crosby appears to be injury prone and Blanton has started of so horribly this season, a sign that his low K-rate thus far in the majors probably hampers his prospects for a long-term career. Only Bonderman I would call a bonafide star in the making, a la what he pointed out the Giants need, another Will Clark or Matt Williams.

Tim's Fifth Point: Sabean Has Only Cain As a Good Pick

This is kind of ironic since the column came out the same day as the news of Lowry's good first outing against the Astro's the night before. He was the Giants 2nd pick of the first round of the 2001 draft that Tim's pointed out the A's picked Crosby after the Giants picked up Hennessey. If Tim is saying that he knows which player will have a mysterious tumor appear in the shoulder, TWICE, pushing back his development a few years, because Hennessey has shown the brilliance of his abilities multiple times last season, then he has a future as a tele-psychic or in the GM suite of a professional sports team. In addition, given Crosby's low .249 BA or low .326 OBP for his career prior to 2006 plus all the injuries, perhaps he should reconsider his argument and say that the A's blew it by picking up Crosby when they could have had Lowry, who is a career 19-13 with 3.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 2.3 K/W ratio prior to 2006.

Baseball Prospectus Dig

"With first round draft picks like Cain, it makes you wonder why Brian Sabean is so eager to give them away." - Baseball Prospectus on Matt Cain in their Top 2006 Prospects section, Baseball Prospectus 2006 (copyright 2006; Workman Publishing)

While I like BP in general - I have their editions from 2003 to 2006 - I find that they have a blind spot for Sabean and his methods. As much as they like to play themselves up as looking beyond the obvious and using data to put a new light on things, they just love to give Sabean and his methods a poke any chance they get, like the above. A number of their comments have gotten my goat before - and that's generally their appeal for me, they can be quick to cut to the bone, like the best that Bill James had delivered effortlessly oh so many years ago - but I found the above to bother me a lot.

Selective Memory

Interesting, the use of Cain for making the case for not punting first round draft picks. It reminds me of the slogan for the California Lottery, "You can't win if you don't play." Why don't they instead list the first round draft picks for the Giants from 1987 to 2001 with their overall pick order (squemish Giants fans should hide their eyes and skip to the next section):
  • 1987: Mike Remlinger (16th pick overall)
  • 1988: Royce Clayton (15th)
  • 1989: Steve Hosey (14th)
  • 1990: Adam Hyzdu (15th)
  • 1991: Steve Whitaker (33rd)
  • 1992: Calvin Murray (7th)
  • 1993: Steve Soderstrom (6th)
  • 1994: Dante Powell (22nd)
  • 1995: Joe Fontenot (16th)
  • 1996: Matt White (7th; lost due to clerical error, ultimately fortunately)
  • 1997: Jason Grilli (4th)
  • 1998: Tony Torcato (19th)
  • 1999: Kurt Ainsworth (24th)
  • 2000: Boof Bonser (21st)
  • 2001: Brad Hennessey (21st)
These are the 15 first round draft picks selected before Cain's draft year. Up to the point of the Matt Cain pick, only Ainsworth was considered a top prospect out of these picks. At the point when Sabean punted his 2003 pick by signing Durham early, only Ainsworth and maybe Boof, out of these, were a top prospect. None had otherwise developed into a great player and only Remlinger and Clayton could be considered useful players. Given this horrible track record, one would be inclined to punt draft picks, if only to avoid their apparent incompetence in drafting (which, as my research suggested, was really just a lack of available, easy to identify, talent to draft; it becomes exponentially harder to identify a future valuable major leaguer after around the 10th pick of the first round).

How about the fact that Baseball America had rated Cain the 38th best prospect in that draft. Thus the Giants actually drafted him higher than BA thought he should be drafted, based on the talent pool for that draft. This is a pattern I've discovered with the Giants relative to Baseball America's pre-draft ranking: the Giants typically pick players before others think they should be picked. Even here, Sabean picked Cain sooner than the consensus.

I also remember the collective "huh?" that came out of the Giants drafting Nate Schierholtz in the 3rd round and he has become one of the organization's top three hitting prospects, where exactly depending on the outlet ranking him. And if you go back to all of Sabean's drafts and compare them to where BA ranked him, more often than not, the Giants have drafted players ahead of where BA thought they would be. While that was a negative in the early years because the Giants did not have a great number of successes back then, once the millenium came, Sabean has been a lot better in picking players in the draft. And signing players who didn't get drafted: Jeremy Accardo, who's pitching for the big club now, and Brian Horwitz, who has won two league batting titles in his two years with the team and is challenging for a third, were undrafted and signed by the Giants.

How about these players:
  • Bryan Bullington
  • Chris Gruler
  • Adam Loewen
  • Clint Everts
  • Scott Moore
  • Jeff Francis
  • Drew Meyer
  • Joe Saunders
  • Russ Adams
  • Royce Ring
  • James Loney
  • Denard Span
  • Bobby Brownlie
  • Jeremy Guthrie

These are the picks before Cain that I think the teams would now prefer Cain (other good draft picks that year include BJ Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Hermida, Khalil Greene, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur, and Joe Blanton). Do these teams feel as good about drafting these players as they would had they instead drafted Cain? Maybe in the future, if Cain should (unfortunately) ends up as a bust or if their pick suddenly blossoms into a star, or both. But at the moment of this quote, I don't think they are as happy with their pick as the Giants are with their.

How about the A's disdain for high school pitchers? They are one of the major practioners of the sabermetric art within the MLB. Billy Beane is also one of their endorsers, his endorsement was on the cover of their book before. Would Billy agree with BP that it is OK to draft high school pitchers, as long as they turn out to be Matt Cain? These are the high school pitchers drafted before Cain: Chris Gruler, Adam Loewen, Clint Everts, Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, and Cole Hamels. Only Zack Greinke and Scott Kazmir would be considered picks as good or better than Cain, the rest are not yet in the majors full-time, though it is still early, they are all only about 21 years of age.

Bill James Disagrees

In addition, Bill James totally disagrees with the Matt Cain pick. I found this quote from his book on ESPN from a link on TangoTiger's website:
In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001), James writes,
"The most phenomenal fact of life in baseball today is that major league teams
continue to use first-round draft picks for high school pitchers ... It has been
obvious for twenty years that this is a stupid, stupid gamble ... yet every
year, four to seven first-round picks are invested in these turkeys."
There you have it: a leading saber states that it is a "stupid" gamble to draft a high school pitcher.

Eatting Your Dog Food

It gets even worse: this advice they give Brian Sabean not only contradicts their own research, it contradicts the research by one of the writers of the prospect article! In a series of articles under their Doctoring the Numbers column, the writer analyzed the draft picks and one of the results of the analysis was:


The two salient conclusions from the last article were that:

1. College players taken in the first three rounds are about 50% more likely to reach the majors than high school players;
2. College players, on average, yield about 55% more value than high school players drafted with the same pick.

The shorthand for this is that college players are both more likely to reach the majors and more likely to develop into star-caliber players once they reach the majors.

While he backs off of this statement later in the series, noting that this advantage was largely dissipated during the 1990's, it is still clear from his research that drafting a pitcher, whether high school or college, is much riskier than drafting a college hitter. Yet here they are, advocating drafting a pitcher when it is so much riskier than drafting a college hitter.

One More Swipe At Kawakami

I thought I would end with an examination of Tim's last paragraph in his column today:

There's only the 10th pick in the upcoming draft, and either Sabean finds the
next Will Clark or else things are going to get very dark for a very long
time.

Again, nice hyperbole. The Giants farm system, since he didn't seem to notice, is the best it has been in years, probably the best since Clark, Thompson, and Williams roamed the system and, except for this triumvirate, the farm system could be the best it has been since the early 70's when it produced young starts like Dave Kingman, George Foster, Gary Mathews, Garry Maddux, John "the Count" Montefusco, and Ron Bryant. And in terms of pitching, probably the best ever for the San Francisco franchise.

Nice players today include EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Sanders, and Horwitz among the position players and Valdez, Sanchez, Wilson, Accardo, Hennessey, Griffin, Joaquin, and Martis.

Overall: Pot Shots

Altogether, these are pot shots taken at Sabean which I think I showed above is unfair or, worse, untrue. But when an area like the baseball draft that is so unexamined so far, it is easy for people to misunderstand how hard it actually is to find and draft players of consequence. And particularly easy when one particular GM has made himself the king of first round draft picks given up. Hopefully I have shown how far off base these statement were from the truth of the matter.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Poorly Done S.I. Biased Book: It Gets Worse

As I've made clear in my postings, I don't really care much for the "evidence" provided by the two books that came out this season on Barry Bonds. They are based either on the word of people who have great motivation to make up stories or have been refuted by the few people of note quoted in the excerpts. So I have no plans to read through either book, I have much better uses of my time. If I thought there was something substantial in it, I might be lured into reading but from what I've seen, it wouldn't be worth my time. But if there are excerpts, I can't help but see what they have to say, just to see if their evidence gets any better.

So I was perusing ESPN - they have nice stats there - and ran across an excerpt of Jeff Pearlman's book, for whom someone humorously posted a plea for me to provide a link to the book or something - ha ha, pretty pathetic. Again, as I've noted before when I read small excerpts that had been published, there are obvious bias in the writing, that rings out clearly in the text, which makes me severely doubt their objectivity in their writing and whether they skewed certain things to make their story work, or worse, twist things around to their liking. Stories of author acting badly seem to crowd the headlines lately, even celebrated authors, so it is not like it is that unusual an occurence.

Turning a Blind Eye

Jeff Pearlman clearly showed his biased reporting - again as he was a SI writer and they have a long history of bias there against Bonds - with this short excerpt from his book - he was the one where two major figures in the quotes deny the version of the "truth" as presented in the book. In this new excerpt, he ignores huge holes in his story regarding motivation and what the reality of the situation was. He then downplays the horrible behavior of Barry's teammates (the excerpt was about Bonds' time with the Arizona State University baseball team) but plays up Bonds bad side, of which most fans know exists. Not to condone it, but in this jaded world of athletes acting badly, Bonds is not even among the leaders when you have people like Latrell Sprewell, Terrell Owens, Jason Williams (not sure on name, New Jersey Net guy who "accidentally" shot and killed his chauffeur and is on trial now), embarrassing their brethren with their behavior.

First off, the author started out pointing out how Bonds would steal the homemade chile that one player's mom would send him as a CARE package. That and other examples he provided was suppose to make the case that Bonds was a horrible, spoiled son of a rich professional athlete. But then he loses any credibility with any discerning reader by then adding parenthetically, as if it was no big deal:
"Confession," says Lopez. "We were [taking his car without permission]. It was
the nicest car around and when he went home for Thanksgiving or Christmas we'd
cruise around in that thing like rock stars.").
So, yes, Bonds appears horrible for stealing his teammates food (and I would note, a teammate ratted him out but how does the reader know that this teammate wasn't the real culprit and put the blame on Bonds knowing that it will be his word against Bonds'? There was no confession by Bonds) but the writer then misses totally the possible motivation for that: retaliation for other players stealing his car for a joy ride. My understanding of that law regarding that, and I'm no lawyer, is that what Lopez did was grand theft auto, which is a felony.

Plus, really, when you are screwing around with a man's car, not to get all macho, but you are screwing around with him. How many of you males would allow your friend to learn how to drive a stick shift with your car? Most I knew would not think of it, I had to rent a car and learn on that. And I was the same when it came time to teach my girlfriend how to use a stick, I didn't let her use mine either. And the few times I was allowed to drive my friends' car, back seat driving does not even describe it (and I've driven about 300,000 miles with a stick on two cars and have not had to change my clutch yet, so it's not like I would burn out their clutch).

So, yes, if you can accept the word of a player who ratted out Bonds but was the first person accused by the player who had his food taken, then Bonds was bad for stealing food but then another player commits grand theft auto joyriding and that is written off as no big thing. No big thing when it could have been a pervasive thing that other players were doing to Bonds behind his back, that could have been the tip of the iceberg for all any open-minded reader would know. Obviously, there were a number of players who did not like Bonds' act and if they have no fear of him now, how likely is it that Bonds was not just returning the favor back to his teammates for their behavior towards him? Pretty likely in my opinion.

Missing A Fat Pitch Down the Middle: Pop Quiz, Name the Racist in this Picture

Then this writer misses another big dynamic that could have been pervasive in the lockerroom: racism. Again, it was written off as no big deal:
In March of '84, the Sun Devils flew to Honolulu for a four-game series against
the University of Hawaii. This trip was troubled to begin with. On the
seven-hour flight an ugly exchange took place when Rector -- who earlier in the
season had made an ill-advised comment about placing bombs in the lockers of
black teammates -- referred to black outfielder Mike Devereaux as a "n-----."
The mild-mannered Devereaux barked back at Rector, and shoves were exchanged.
"That was a total misunderstanding," says Rector. "Mike and I were friends. I
was just joking around. I liked almost all of the colored guys on the team."
Is this guy totally writing with blinders on? I am just flabbergasted that a national author, a book company and all their checkers, and even ESPN, for posting the excerpt, missed this.

The Color Racist

"Colored." As in his writing was "colored." As in, not surprised that a white author would miss this: what type of people TODAY uses the word "colored", particularly for a book that they know would be published to much publicity and controversy? Even the author had enough sense to say that Mike Devereaux is black, but the ballplayer, Randy Rector, used the term "colored".

Racist. As in one of those closet racists who appear to be nice on the surface but underneath is a racist, but apparently he thinks he's a friend. As in, where's there's smoke, there is probably fire. As in, who jokes around about placing bombs in the lockers of particular race of players. As in, who jokes around calling anyone a "n-gg-r", in polite or impolite company? From what I can tell, it is allowed sometimes among fellow blacks, but I would bet that when the crowd is racially mixed, it is right up there with shouting "I love America" in the middle of an Al Queda camp.

And even worse what type of person would call this "ill-advised"? "Ill-advised?!?" How about downright stupid? How about this was the end of the 20th Century, after "I have a Dream," after Civil Rights marches, what happened to dignity for all human beings? Ill-advised my ass, it was totally racist.

And that even today, in the new millenium, he feels free enough to be openly quoted as calling his fellow players "colored" speaks huge volumes about the environment that Bonds may have felt he was in when he was in Arizona. He saw up close and personally how racism affected his dad and godfather, and that could be a huge reason why Rector is talking badly about Bonds and why Bonds may have felt the need to act the way he did in that lockerroom.

And this probably explains Rector's problem with Barry, which he still holds to this day, I searched for articles on him and he made it clear when Barry's name came up that he didn't hold Barry in high regard. Probably because Barry was so up front with his superiority and so high and mighty because he, well, he played so well and Rector, well, he was so good he never even got a cup of coffee in the majors.

The Real Problem: His Teammates

And the whole point of this passage is to paint Bonds as this pariah of the lockerroom with the ASU Sun Devils, how he was so hated that the team, when given the chance to vote him off the island, decides to kick him off the team. And this was no small deal, the author notes, as Bonds had "strong numbers (.360, 11 home runs, 55 RBIs, 30 stolen bases) in 1984 for a team that went 55-20...". So he must have been a pretty horrible bad-ass, right?, the team voted him off.

Well, here's what I would conclude from this vote: the team was full of young, idealistic wusses who didn't understand, and worse, didn't APPRECIATE, baseball genius. I saw this dynamic in the companies I have worked for, young people would come in, think they know how the world works or at least how it should work, and rail at the gods when things were not done exactly the way they thought it should be, every thing would work out so much better, if only.

In the real world, there will always be people who are the stars and sometimes they are huge pains in the neck. And they will get better treatment than you. If you are lucky, they are nice people, but too often they are pains in the neck and S.O.B.'s. However, you are left with the dilemma that without them, you may be out of a job because they are the rainmakers, they make your job relevent. You are smart enough, hopefully, to know and appreciate this.

In What Bizarro Universe is This Only "Strong"?

"Strong numbers"?!? Strong numbers?!!!!? .300 with 30-40 RBI and 10 SB in 75 games is strong. He hit 3-freaking-60 with 55 RBI and 30 SB and 11 HR in 75 games in college. In a full MLB season, doubling that gets you 22 HR, 60 SB, and 110 RBI. That is not just strong numbers, those are numbers that put you among the elite.

And if a bunch of runny-nosed whiny college students don't understand that type of contribution to the team, then they are the people with the problem, not Barry. Unfortunately the coach was not aware of this dislike for Barry, otherwise he wouldn't have done such an ill-advised vote of confidence in Barry, that totally underminded his authority. But that is something he has to live with, not Barry.

"But few consoled Bonds, who set a World Series record with seven consecutive hits." I guess just the two who were smart enough to vote to keep Bonds, you don't put such an important decision in the hands of petty teenagers who have illusions of grandeur. Brock costed himself his authority and respect with that bonehead move.

Hello, Mr. Writer, you missed the point here, Bonds SET A WORLD SERIES RECORD WITH SEVEN CONSECUTIVE HITS and they still lost. Kind of proves the point about how good Bonds was and yet his team did not win. It may be rude and impolite and immodest, but good is good, and Bonds was great, even back then, and he let others know it.

As one of these whiners noted earlier in the article, "He had the ability to get under somebody's skin and just not care. We could lose 10-2 and he would let us know that at least he'd done his job." So what was there to console, in Bonds' case? As far as he was concerned, "he'd done his job," he just set a record with seven consecutive hits. In any case, HE did his best to help his team win the World Series, it was his teammates that fell short and yet, somehow, they blame and hate him, even all these years later.

Man in the Mirror

Look at his quote:
"He was missing practices, showing up late, leaving early, says Louie
Medina, the Sun Devils' first baseman. 'He would say, 'Oh, I have a
stomach virus,' and it would be allowed. I can't speak for everyone, but I
was tired of his act."
First off, did Louie know what Bonds was doing with his other time? As we know today, Bonds did a lot of preparation work outside of what other players did, which, to me, earned him the privilege to not participate with the others. Is it fair? No. But that's life, deal with it, especially when you got a 40+ homerun .300 hitter on your team. Or would you rather have a nice gentleman manning LF for you and hitting poorly even compared to Mario Mendoza? If you are a freaking competitive just win type of guy, you put up with the circus atmosphere and hope you win some rings, you appreciate the opportunity to have such a player on your team.

Did Louie set a World Series record with seven consecutive hits? No. Did he hit .360 with 11 homers and 55 RBI and 30 SB during the season? I'm guessing No. Did he spend his off-time working in the gym and improving himself? I'm guessing No and even if he did, did he set a World Series record with seven consecutive hits? No again.

So why does he think he can complain about this, Bonds is helping his team win in a huge way, bend on your knees to the ground and kiss the dirt, and thank goodness Bonds is on my fricking team. Instead he is whining about "being tired of his act." What act? That he is one of the best players on the team? That was no act, he put it out there between the foul lines for 20 seasons now. He should look himself in the mirror and wonder who exactly it was who had an "act."

How Low Can You Go

Lastly, I'll end with this lame attempt to belittle Bonds:
But Barry was different. He would sit alone in front of the TV every morning, watching the cartoon "He-man" and giggling hysterically. He would sneak into Lopez's closet and swipe his new Ralph Lauren shirts without asking. ("Guy sweated like a pig," says Lopez.)

Let's be clear here, we are talking about college students here, not mature (relatively) adults and even some adult males would do the same thing too. So what's the big deal? And the author also notes Bonds having a Trans Am sports car, but really, again, what's the big deal? Personally, I would put the Trans Am down low the totem pole in terms of sports cars. Bobby Bonds probably could have bought him a top of the line Z or Mustang, but to me this car is not one of extravagent excess - excess yes, no college student should be getting a new sports car, but relative to the car that most kids with wealthy parents get, this is practically frugal.

Besides which, that student would be one to talk: the only college students I know back then who could afford NEW Ralph Lauren shirts, heck knew even who Ralph Lauren, were wealthy themselves - I know that I was wearing clothes from Sears and JC Penney and Montgomery Ward, and never even heard of Ralph Lauren until much older, when I found out that my girlfriends like that sort of upscale and expensive stuff (thank goodness there's an outlet store nearby in Gilroy). Maybe his family couldn't afford to get him a car, but if they were buying him, a regular college student, new Ralph Lauren shirts, they were pretty well off.

The Color Lame

All in all, I would put this excerpt up there with his other excerpt in terms of lameness. So far his first two main bits of information are refuted by the people named in the events (Griffey and Canizaro) and now he is relying mainly on the words of two people who have an axe to grind with Bonds and who, no matter how awfully Bonds may have treated them, returned the favor in spades with abominable behavior, not just "ill-advised".

And he missed one HUGE point that would color anything that happened in college. And that is that there appeared to be a strong racist dynamic coloring anything that happened there. Rector clearly is a closet racist - who except the most socially inept buffoon would joke about bombing the lockers of black (or otherwise) people, who would think that it was a "misunderstanding" when he called a fellow player the n-word, who would think TODAY that it is acceptable to call anyone "colored" openly. Just people who are similar to the people who wear pointy white dunce caps with eyeholes and ride around on horses terrorizing people.

That would be a bigger story to me, but then I only have to worry about a crazed autoworker bashing me in the head with a bat during my bachelor party and killing me because I appear to be Japanese or a stranger at a home I happen to ring the doorbell shooting me dead at the doorstep because he was scared and nothing, NOTHING, of consequence happened to any of the killers. In the former case, the killers afterward begged to be left alone and want to move on. Sure, they aren't dead with a grieving fiance and family, they can move on. But at least they spent two years behind bars, the guy in the latter case got off scot free.

Jeff Pearlman would never have to worry about that, so, of course, it is no big deal with him, else he would have caught on to such a blatant act of racism and then, of all things, let the guy off by describing it only as "ill-advised". Like sending up the space shuttle with the o-ring problem was "ill-advised." Like General Custer was "ill-advised." Like investing your life savings in Webvan stock was "ill-advised." Like reading this book is "ill-advised."

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