Thursday, November 30, 2006

Giants PQS: Season Ending Stats

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the 2006 season's final stats, as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2006 Season

Matt Cain - (31 starts: 52% DOM, 23% DIS; 2nd half, 15 starts: 67% DOM, 7% DIS): 3, 4, 1, 4, 5, 0, 1, 3, 3, 3, 0, 4, 5, 0, 5, 0/ 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 0, 3, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 2, 4, 3
Brad Hennessey - (11 starts: 9% DOM, 27% DIS; 2nd half, 5 starts: 0% DOM, 40% DIS): 3, 2, 3, 1, 2, 4/ 3, 2, 2, 0, 0
Noah Lowry - (26 starts: 31% DOM, 27% DIS; 2nd half, 14 starts: 43% DOM, 36% DIS): 3, 1, 3, 2, 5, 2, 3, 0, 2, 4, 3, 2/ 0, 5, 4, 1, 4, 4, 3, 4, 3, 0, 0, 0, 3, 4
Matt Morris - (32 starts: 47% DOM, 16% DIS; 2nd half, 15 starts: 47% DOM, 20% DIS): 3, 4, 3, 1, 4, 1, 2, 3, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 2/ 5, 3, 0, 3, 5, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2, 0, 4
Jonathan Sanchez - (4 starts: 50% DOM, 50% DIS): 4, 0, 0, 4
Jason Schmidt - (32 starts: 56% DOM, 6% DIS; 2nd half, 14 starts: 43% DOM, 14% DIS): 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3, 3/ 3, 4, 5, 5, 2, 5, 3, 2, 0, 4, 3, 0, 2, 5
Jamey Wright - (21 starts: 29% DOM, 19% DIS; 2nd half, don't matter): 3, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 3, 3, 2, 2, 4, 4, 1, 2, 2

Giants overall - 42% DOM, 19% DIS out of 157 games started

NOTE: I think technically, under the system, Lowry's first start and Morris' start where he promptly got ejected, should count against their totals, but I think under the extenuating circumstances, they should not, basically because this system tries to ferret out how the good performances by a starter and none of those games were zeros because of a poor performance. Lowry got injured early in the game; and Morris got ejected early in the game.

Final Comments

The Giants starters overall have been pitching very well in their games. A DOM near or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great and above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching. So, generally, the Giants pitching has been doing OK this season and has been bordering on good overall. The rotation has stayed in the 40% range with their generally good pitching, where pitchers are considered to be among the better starters:
  1. Schmidt was very dominating for the first half of the season but he slipped a big notch in August and September, not only did he earned less DOM starts, but he had his first and second DIS start. Worse, he has been on a steep decline in the second half, falling to 43% DOM and 14% DIS, which is only good for a pitcher. For the season, at 56%DOM/6%DIS, the expected ERA or qERA (see this post) is about 3.64; his actual era was 3.59. For the second half, at 43%DOM/14%DIS, the qERA is about 4.39; his actual era was 4.76.
  2. Morris did not do well in September, unfortunately, but apparently he was affected by broken ribs, which was not diagnosed until basically the season was over. Despite that, his DOM/DIS numbers were pretty much the same both halves of the season. For the season, at 47%/16%, his qERA is about 4.41; his actual was 4.98. For the second half, at 47%/20%, his qERA is about 4.52; his actual was 5.85. Based on this, it would suggest that Morris pitched with a lot of bad luck this season, particularly in the second half.
  3. Lowry had a horrendous September, he literally turned into a pumpkin, running off 3 straight 0 PQS score games, before settling down to a 3 and a 4. He was very Hennessey-esque in 2006: when he was good, he was good, but when he was bad, he was bad. For the season, at 31%/27%, his qERA is about 4.95; his actual was 4.74. For the second half, at 43%/36%, his qERA is about 5.03; his actual was 5.34. He just generally had a very uneven season, hopefully it was that oblique muscle strain that lingered through the season and caused this inconsistency - after the great year in 2005, I don't see how it couldn't but you never know.
  4. Matt Cain just continued pitching well into September, running off four DOM starts out of 6 with no DIS, boosting his second half DOM/DIS to 67%/7% - those are Jason Schmidt 2004 type of numbers (69%/9%), those are elite pitcher's numbers. For the season, at 52%/23%, his qERA is about 4.45; his actual was 4.15. For the second half, at 67%/7%, his qERA is about 3.52; his actual was 3.26. So it appears that he didn't pitch as well as he appeared but he wasn't wildly over and these numbers are just estimates, anyway, plus I would take a 3.52 ERA in 2007 anyday from him.
  5. Wright and Hennessey: eh, it's late, not really worth going through those numbers, let's just say they were pretty bad, particularly at the end.

2007 Crystal Ball: Future Looking Brighter

Despite the expected loss of Schmidt, the rotation still has a lot of potential to do even better next season. Yes, losing Schmidt will be a blow, there is no way two draft picks will ever equal losing him, but Cain was very Schmidt-like in the second half of the 2006 season, plus Schmidt had a down (for him) year, so Cain will take the Schmidt role in 2007. Plus, he has a full season under his belt now and he'll be only 22 for next season! Given his maturity, youth, and zest for learning, the sky is the limit, so there is the potential for a big breakout year in 2007, not that 2006 wasn't breakout enough as it was.

Taking Cain's 2006 role will be Noah Lowry, hopefully. Lowry had a bad 2006 but at least had that injury to account for the horrible-ness that it was. Meanwhile, his 2005 was still a great season. Given his youth, he should be recovered health-wise in 2007, and while a repeat of 2005 would be a lot to ask for, matching Cain's 4.15 ERA would be a compromise between his 2005 and 2006 seasons and seem very doable to me, with a possibility for a big upside if it was the injury and he returns to 2005 form, which would give us a double ace situation.

Taking Lowry's role in 2007 would be Matt Morris. Lowry's 4.74 was only slightly better than Morris' 2006, so it should not take much to match that performance. Given that he started behind the 8-ball in 2006 by being very un-veteran like and suffering the jitters, then getting injured late in the season, taking out those types of performances should put him easily down to Lowry's, with the strong possibility of beating it handily if he can get his ERA into the low 4 range by being more consistent. Plus, it will be two years removed from his shoulder injury, his shoulder should be at full strength by now. Lastly, he pitched with some bad luck last season, as his qERA was a lot lower than his actual ERA, so the pendulum should swing him back to the mean, at least part way, which is all he needs to match Lowry.

Taking Matt Morris' role in 2007 is most probably a journeyman free agent. He should hopefully match Morris' 4.98 ERA in 2006 as we will probably be paying him a lot of money, potentially. I am hoping the Giants sign Greg Maddux, though I expect him to do like the other free agents and use the Giants to drive up his price, only for him to reject the Giants for a lower bid from the Dodgers or Padres (he lives in SD area). Particularly since Boras is his agent. But if we can snag him, obviously he most probably would do better than 4.98 ERA, one would hope. I would even swap him with Morris in this analysis, putting Maddux in his spot, and perhaps even elevate him to #2 in this rotation, relative to 2006 performance. Plus, there is always the outside chance that the Giants end up re-signing Schmidt, which would change all of these positionings all for the better.

Lastly, probably Jonathan Sanchez will have the last spot in the rotation. Jamey Wright had an 5.19 ERA in that spot. That is a pretty low bar for Sanchez to jump. As good as Sanchez appeared at times last season, one would hope that he can at least match that ERA, with the strong potential to beat that ERA if he can settle down into the starter's role. The plus is that we will have Hennessey in the bullpen as the first to go to if Sanchez should falter as a starter. Then the plus plus is that the two of them can be bad the first half of the season, then perhaps Lincecum will be ready to come up and show what he got. Any way you slice it, we should be covered here by the three and be able to at least match that ERA and perhaps better it if Sanchez can pitch as well as he did when he was relieving.

So, I think this shows that our rotation for 2007 is probably going to be, at worse, about the same as it was in 2006, with the strong possibility for great improvement from a number of different areas:

  1. Continued growth from Cain
  2. Lowry returning to 2005 form
  3. Morris returning to first half 2004 form
  4. Signing a good starter for the #4 spot
  5. Sanchez being able to translate all those strikeouts in the minors into the majors
  6. Lincecum coming up mid-season and continuing to dazzle hitters

Even if no free agent is signed for the #4 starter, I don't think it would be that hard to imagine Sanchez matching Lowry's 2006 stats and Hennessey matching Wright's 2006 stats, in the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation. Though, obviously, that would decrease the odds of improving the rotation overall from 2006.

But even in this situation, there are enough good scenarios above to make me believe that the odds are good for overall improvement for the Giants rotation in 2007 versus 2006, with the outside chance of the Giants having a pair of Ace-type starters leading the rotation, and the remote chance that the Giants have a trio of Aces - a lot would have to go right for this to happen, but I think that the chance exists, as small as it may be. Now if only I could say the same for the starting lineup.

Methodology Explanation

Please look at my link to the side for my explanation of Baseball Forecaster's methodology. Or try the link above, that post has a link to an article of their's.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

2007 Giants 25 Man Roster - Thanksgiving Edition

{Updated sections on relievers due to my goof on Weathers plus C since Zaun signed so fast - damn Barajas, he will probably get a $1M contract for next season in February, you can't back out of a contract like this and not scare off most teams. He isn't good enough to do that.}

Given all the twists and turns that can and will happen in the construction of the 2007 Giants 25 man roster, I thought it might be interesting to give a periodic update where each position stands, rumors about that position, my thoughts on how the Giants should do it.

2007 Giants 25 Man Roster

#1 SP: Cain - Who else, he has to be the man this season, unless the Giants somehow re-signs Schmidt (which is possible if they don't retain Durham and get a cheaper alternative at 2B). Cain's 3.26 ERA in 99.1 IP with 99 SO vs. 40 BB and 8 HR, leaving batters gasping at .214/.296/.357/.653 after the ASG, shows that he's capable of being "da man" at the tender age of 22 next season.

#2 SP: Lowry - Between him and Morris, I decided to put him there because he's younger and been a better overall pitcher over the two years. The way Lowry pitched before his oblique injury clearly showed that he is a very good pitcher, capable of pitching like an ace for an extended period of time, and certainly good enough to be a #2. If he can learn to be consistent all season long, he could be co-ace.

#3 SP: Morris - Morris is here solely because he has had two bad years in a row, but as he showed in the first half of 2005 and for two months in 2006, when he is healthy and strong, he can be dominating enough to be a #2 or even #1 again. If the three can pitch to their potential, the Giants even with a poor offense, should be a team to watch out for.

#4 SP: Free agent - I had been hoping the Giants pick up either Schmidt or Zito, but after the blood in the water caused frenzied feeding, there is no way they can pick up either without hurting other position significantly. I was then hoping for Vicente Padilla, but then I read in McCovey Chronicles that he was arrested for drunk driving before.

Now, I'm thinking that they might go for Miguel Batista, whom I just recently found out was available, who has both started and relieved in the same season relatively frequently plus has been a closer before as well. He can start out as a starter, allowing Lincecum time to figure out AA or AAA hitters (or both) plus allowing Benitez to show that he is back healthy and performing. By mid-season, we trade Benitez for prospects and move Batista into closer role (or set-up if Wilson prove to be good too) and move Lincecum into the rotation at that time.

#5 SP: Jonathan Sanchez - Some have been saying that we should sign free agents to move him into the bullpen, both because we need LOOGY plus he didn't look good starting. I say that the future is now, just start him because we need to see if he can be the good to great starter that his pitching seems to indicate, and being the 5th starter, he could be pretty bad and won't hurt our chances if he can figure things out by mid-season - I saw the same thing happen with the A's for two seasons, Blanton is lost early in the season but then figures it out mid-season and they end up winning the division. If not, perhaps Lincecum can come up and start, if he is ready, and Batista can be the one staying in the rotation, moving Sanchez into the bullpen.

Closer: Armando Benitez - He's it until we find a sucker, er, taker of his wonderful services. Brian Wilson has been mentioned as a future closer and, as mentioned later, we have David Weathers around to slide into the role if necessary.

Set-up man 1: David Weather - apparently we are in line to sign him and, after missing out on Speier, hopefully we will. He has closer experience and has pitched well, period, so he would be a nice addition to the team, giving more flexibility in the bullpen. If we get him, that probably means that Brian Wilson will end up in AAA, unless the Giants go with one LOOGY.

Set-up man 2: Vinnie Chulk - he did really nicely for us when we first got him, faltered a bit, then recovered. He's been a good reliever throughout his career, despite doubt on Toronto's part last season, I was glad we got him in the Hillenbrand trade, because he replaced Accardo's production and allowed us to upgrade 1B at the same time - I like Accardo but we flipped him to improve 1B while keeping the relief about the same, great trade.

LOOGY 1: Free agent - After missing out on Mike Stanton, they could always try to re-sign Steve Kline. As nicely as Taschner came back last season, I don't think the Giants would be comfortable with him as the only lefty out of the pen. I have seen no one else rumored for our pen, but the Giants better hurry before Baltimore signs up everyone. :^) Well, everyone except Steve Kline, who had a horrible experience there.

LOOGY 2: Jack Taschner - he faltered last season after having a nice freshman season, but thinks that he has learned his lesson in preparation and was great after being send down and figuring things out. He also did some closing duties as well down there, so he might take on a set-up man type role along with Wilson and Chulk.

Relief: Kevin Correia - he did great in pitching many different roles last season and probably returns despite his strong desire to start. He could upstage Wilson and take the set-up man role in spring training, but could end up in long relief if Hennessey somehow forces his way into the rotation, pushing out Sanchez (I think that would be an interesting situation, how Bochy handles this, I personally think that Sanchez should start no matter what, almost, but Dusty started Jensen over Ainsworth when Ainsworth was clearly the future, just like Sanchez is clearly the future).

Long Relief/Spot Starter: Brad Hennessey - he did well in that role last season and might push his way into the rotation if he finally figures out how to pitch dominatingly regularly.

C: Free agent - With Greg Zaun out, not sure who is next in the Giants target. I still think Piazza would be a good, boosting our offense, plus he could play 1B regularly too, tri-platooning with Sweeney and Niekro, but apparently the A's are chasing him now that they've "given up" on Bonds, as if they were ever interested ;^) .

1B: Free Agent - have seen no rumors other than Pat Burrell throwing his name into the ring, out of the blue. Looks like Niekro might be getting another chance - I would be OK with that as long as we had someone who could play 1B regularly should he falter, he did really well in AAA after being sent down, he could be a good player for us if he can just hit consistently in the majors but he's been able to figure out each level up the minors so that's a good sign he just needs time in the majors to figure things out. Also, with the recent passing of his father, he might feel special incentive to "do it for Dad".

I think it could end up Niekro with Sweeney as backup/partial platoon buddy and he gets half a year to figure things out, meanwhile Ishikawa will be up in AAA and seeing what he can do there and could come up if Niekro falters again or, worse, have one of his regular injury breaks. He could get the call up if Niekro doesn't figure things out, but if Niekro is batting 7th or even 8th, he doesn't need to hit that well to stay in the lineup. He has shown the ability to learn to adjust so he has it in him, but he just needs to do it consistently and continually now.

I still like taking a flier on Craig Wilson at 1B, but there has been no news on him at all. He would be a nice bat to get, particularly if we do not resign Durham to play 2B. I still expect the Giants to offer arbitration for Durham and either get him for a year or set two draft picks for him. Then if we got Loretta and then Durham, Loretta would play 3B and Aurilia would be the super sub and Frandsen might be out of luck and in AAA.

2B: Free agent - Mark Loretta seems to be the most likely to take this role at the moment, though Kevin Frandsen is doing his damndest to push his way into the lineup with his great hitting in the AFL. He might get the start even if Loretta signs, as Loretta could start at 3B too, as he has been quoted as saying that he's willing to play other positions.

3B: Rich Aurilia - Looks like Richie is coming back but with no guarantee of a starting job. He's most likely starting here but could become the super sub if Frandsen gets the start at 2B or in the scenario above where we get Loretta and Durham. But if we don't get Loretta, the Giants would still need to get someone to play 3B, meaning another free agent signing or trade.

SS: Omar Vizquel - One of only two returning starters, there has been rumors of trading him to ChiSox, who almost signed him when we did, a sort of Matt Williams trade where we get starters at a number of positions for one great starter. One configuration had Juan Uribe, Scott Podsednik, and a prospect coming to us for Vizquel. I would want one of their 3B, either Crede or Josh Fields.

LF: Free agent - I still think it will be Bonds but there has been no news either way, other than the Giants have been close to signing Carlos Lee, who is only a LF, and purportedly in serious talks with the Red Sox for Manny to man LF. Plus there's always the Pat Burrell rumor, he can play LF, though not well, but that's pretty much over, the Phillies won't be needing to dump his salary after all, there's no free agents wanting to come their way thus far.

CF: Dave Roberts - He appears to be very close to signing to be our CF, though if Bonds does not sign, he could become the LF with Winn staying in CF and Linden in RF.

RF: Randy Winn - Second of two returning starters, his salary is looking better with every big signing.

Utility Infield: Mark Sweeney, Kevin Frandsen - Kevin, as noted, could end up starting at 2B, but in any case should see a lot of ABs as backup to 2B/SS/3B, whereas Sweeney probably will stick with being our premier pinch-hitter, as he was originally signed to be, with spot starts at 1B.

Utility OF: Todd Linden, Dan Ortmeier - both have been seen at various times by prospect hounds as potential MLB starters. With maybe Roberts and hopefully Bonds in the OF, both should see a lot of ABs in 2007 and hopefully show the team that he deserves to start in 2008. Ortmeier can play CF too, plus has shown surprising speed for a big man before, so he could paradoxically be our speed off the bench, even if Frandsen is around.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Barry Bonds Dance: Giants Caught Dipping Manny

The SF Chronicle revealed today that the Giants are trying to trade for Manny Ramirez: "Sources on Sunday confirmed that the Giants are among the teams talking seriously to the Red Sox about their disgruntled, temperamental yet unquestionably talented slugger." Pretty shocking if it ever happens and some fans are scared about our farm system, what this would do to it. Obviously, if this ever happens, that would mean the end of the Bonds era in SF, as Manny only plays LF.

Tit for Tat

From past situations where a free agent tries to leverage the Giants into a big contract - Rod Beck, Dusty Baker - the Giants/Sabean surprised each of them with something unexpected - trading for Nen and cutting off discussions with Baker. Perhaps this is the Giants way of telling Bonds and his agent that there's other ways to skin the cat, so don't think that the Giants are going to be pushovers in the negotiations.

And that's good, it's time that people realize that no matter how crazed the salaries get, they are no indications of Bonds's worth in the market - competing bids by other teams are. And if no one is bidding or if everyone is "dissing" him by offering him "Frank Thomas 2006" type of contracts, then he is not worth much on the open market, which I would partially attribute to his inopportune comments made thus far, regarding his free agent status.

Agent Talking Hot Air, No Team Truly Interested

I think that Bonds's agent has been full of hot air and that he's not getting anything other than incentive type deals when his agent brags publicly about the offers he is getting. Especially with his blowhard "yeah, all 30 teams are interested in us" crapola and already the Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees, and Padres have publicly stated that they are not pursuing Bonds plus you know that small market teams like the Brewers, Pirates, Royals, Devil Rays, cannot afford Bonds, at least at the prices he has been quoting. Even the A's, who can use someone like him, after saying that they would love to employ him, then noted that the odds of him fitting into the team's budget to be pretty slim. The agent's fooling nobody by doing the negotiating publicly, though apparently he thinks that it will pressure the Giants.

Everyone knows that SF is where Bonds His Prickliness will be most comfortable and that it would take a huge premium to get Bonds to jump ship. Who will offer a huge premium with all these hanging over Bonds's head, ready to take him away from the team: 1) Balco investigation; 2) income tax evasion; 3) threat of injury, due to age and to past history; and 4) old baseball age, everybody will return to Earth one day.

Who will, when they know that Bonds's agent, one second after getting the call from the other team, will speed dial Brian Sabean and tell Brian, "In yo' face! I got an offer for $X million" and teams know that as long as the Giants get close enough, that Bonds will come back to SF, because there is a "comfort" discount (that most would call "hometown" discount, but he has made it clear that hometown don't mean much to him now; he does, after all, live in Beverly Hills now, with a cement pond and everything, plus said that he is not giving a hometown discount, so he can't go back on his word, can he?), and all the bid would do is just drive up Bonds's price to the Giants. While some competitors would say good on doing that, I think there are those who don't like the negatives that Bonds has brought to the game of baseball in the past few years and wouldn't lift a finger to help him, even if it hurts the Giants.

Two Choices: Giants or Retire

So Bonds' choices are, in my mind, two: re-sign with the Giants or retire. No team is going to approach him with anything more than an incentive based contract and he probably drove away any potentially interested teams with his "I don't do incentive deals" talk. Because, if you can at least get the dialogue started and going, then perhaps you can convince them to sign you at the salary you want.

But talking about getting "Clemens" money with no incentives clause as your opening move publicly just shoots your negotiating leverage down to the minimum, you just drove away the "lookie-lou's". That is what drove the Giants away from Aurilia the first time and appears to be what drove away Feliz this season: high, unrealistic salary and contract expectations. A free agent reduces the pool of interested teams by starting out with too high a price, much like listing a home for sale today: there is a limited pool of buyers, you cannot always afford to scare off prospective buyers with a high demand to start with.

Desperate Home Teams: Who Would Dare Sign Bonds?

Will any team become desperate enough to sign Bonds eventually? Again, risk-reward will tell them about all the risks that would entail and I don't see it happening. Plus the teams who could take that risk don't appear to be in the hunt for a player like him, they either are fully stocked or don't need the upgrade.

If a team is competitive and looking for that final piece or two, will they risk taking on Bonds's baggage and risk poisoning the well-oiled machine they currently got? In addition, he could continue degrading in terms of baseball ability and not be as good as he was in 2004 or even 2006, this is new ground, no matter how good Bonds hit. After all, Willie Mays HR production dropped precipitously after he turned 36 - who is to say that won't happen to Bonds too, he will be 42 next season and will turn 43 mid-season.

And if the team isn't competitive, will they be looking to spend a lot of money just to lose? No, they would only offer Reggie Sanders money that he got from the Pirates ($1M) when nobody would sign him. And Bonds ain't playing for chump change like that, he has too big an ego to follow Sander's path in free agency, jumping from team to team for minimum wage.

Only the Yankees were big enough to combine both money and ability to absorb Bonds baggage, but they are so full up on OF/DH that they traded away Gary Sheffield, why would they pick up Bonds? Plus I recall them saying publicly that they are not interested. And I don't see any of the other big city teams - Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs - needing somebody like him and/or having space for him and his salary and his attitude.

Giants Only Yanking Bonds's Chain

So I think the Giants are just kicking the tires on Manny. Doesn't hurt to get semi-interested, talk some details of what a trade like that would cost the Giants in terms of talents and get the nice publicity that there are other ways the Giants can skin the LF cat. And, much like when Sheffield was asked by the Giants if he would work for under $10M, the Giants would likewise say "no thank you" to the Red Sox and move on.

I don't think Bonds or his agent will be scared into action, but this will certainly be in the back of their minds now - the Giants tried to sign Carlos Lee and they tried to trade for Manny, both players who only play LF, like Bonds - and hopefully spur them to play a little nicer and be more reasonable in their demands. I have to think that they are still asking for the moon and not finding any takers and will soften after New Year's. Particulalry since the Giants are not forced to offer arbitration in order to continue negotiating with Bonds.

In Sabean I Trust, For Now

I think fans' worries that Sabean will trade away the remaining talent in the prospect pool for Manny is overblown by their lack of confidence in Sabean's abilities: the Giants have frankly been in similar situations the past couple of seasons, where they need people just to be competitive, and did not pull the trigger then and gut the prospects - only prospects who ended up being not much more than prospects got traded, though Aardsma did well at the end of last season.

I think Giants management knows that the farm system is the key to the future, despite everyone's worries. Punting a few draft picks is no worse than holding off from buying a California Lottery Scratcher card - the odds are low that he will ever amount to anything; if you don't believe me, then take the time to examine the actual odds of finding a good player - not just a Pedro Feliz type of player - with a pick that the Giants have normally gotten during Sabean's tenure - overall picks 21-30 - and punted. Worrying about losing that pick is like buying a Scratcher and worrying about whether you lost a big winner when you cannot find that ticket. The odds are not that good.

Crystal Ball: Bonds to Giants, $7-9M

My guess now is that Bonds and his agent are waiting for the arbitration date to pass to see if losing a pick is enough to stop teams from negotiating seriously with them. I think they will find that it doesn't and will start ernestly negotiating with the Giants, after all the posturing by Bonds's side is done (not that the Giants haven't been posturing too, but I think it has been reactionary posturing), when they find no teams doing more than kicking the tires.

Meanwhile, I don't think the Giants will lowball Bonds - they need him as much as he needs them so they cannot afford to totally piss him off - but will offer him a contract that takes into account all the risks I noted above - if he wants more, he will have to take games-played incentives. Sure, the Giants could try to lowball him further and offer under $5M or even just $1 more than any other offer. But a pissed off Bonds does them no good either and he could chose to retire instead, I think he's a loose enough cannon, with a big enough ego, to pull that off, if the Giants truly do play hardball with him.

They still need his bat in the lineup. So they cannot afford to piss him off. I think that would put the contract in the high single digit millions of dollars range, $7-9M, for one year. There is no need to option him, else it could be another 2005 redux. Plus he most probably will degrade some and we should be able to sign him to an even cheaper contract should he want to return and we want him to return.

Other Giants News

Other news over the weekend is that the Giants are very close to signing Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia, though both still need some work to finalize. Aurilia appears to be closer to the finish line but Roberts is talking positively about coming to the Giants so they are pretty close too. Obviously Roberts would take over CF, but right now there is no talk about Aurilia starting anywhere, there has been no starting position promised to him, though obviously with all the open starting positions where he can play - 1B, 2B, 3B - he probably thinks that his best chance to start anywhere is with the Giants.

In addition, the Giants are rumored to be talking with Mark Loretta, Dave Weathers, and Greg Zaun. Loretta would take over the 2B spot but I'm worried that the Giants will overpay him, I don't think he is worth more than what Aurilia gets and the rumor is a 3 years at $3M deal. I would rather offer Durham arbitration and hope he takes it. Lefty Weathers is the new Stanton, he has closer experience but wasn't as great at it as Stanton last season, so we could end up swapping with the Reds, they signed Stanton and if we sign Weathers. Makes too much sense - Giants need lefty and they need closer backup - to not happen. Zaun is a good defensive catcher who has been a backup but probably could start pretty regularly, which matches well with Alfonzo who is an offensive catcher who has been a backup and probably should stay one, at least for 2007. I would still prefer my Piazza suggestion, to boost the offense for 2007 plus free money for 2007, but would be happy with getting Zaun.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Insanity! Giants Saved From Foolish Acquisitions

Carlos Lee for 6 years, $112M, or $18.7M per year?
Gary Matthews for 5 years, nearly $50M or $10M per year?
Juan Pierre for 5 years, $44M or nearly $9M per year?

And those were just the Giants best offers - reportedly, by good sources, according to the news reporters - the winning teams - Astros, Angels, Dodgers - offered about the same amount, the Giants even beat the Astros by $2M per year, their "winning" offer was 6 years, $100M.

Thanksgiving Day

This Thanksgiving I give thanks that the Giants did not sign any of these players to exhorbitant salaries, even though they tried their best to be stupid. I thought the Giants said that they were not getting a centerpiece player - though I wouldn't call them them centerpieces, they were certainly trying to pay them like centerpieces, certainly Carlos Lee. I'm glad they didn't but I'm not happy that they tried.

Dave Roberts appear to be nearly signed, to a 3 year deal, with the Giants beating out the Brewers, though his agent has refused to confirm anything. The Giants are reportedly also working on Rich Aurilia and Mark Loretta. Hopefully not crazy money but it appears that the Giants will have to pay that to fill some of the positions since there are so many open, hopefully it does not kill their chances to sign free agents next off-season when actual premier hitters are available, like Andruw Jones, Adam Dunn, Vernon Wells.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sheriff Ned to the Rescue: Part II

Whew, the Giants dodged a bullet today, as the D-gers outbid us for the services for one Juan Pierre, speedster extraordinaire but hitter very ordinaire, maybe not even that. In this newsbrief at ESPN, sources say that Pierre signed a 5 year contract for about $45M, pending a physical, with the D-gers and Sheriff Ned. Apparently the Giants were in the bidding for his services and had offered 4 years at $32-34M, significantly below the D-gers offer, but still a bit out there at $8M+ per season for a hitter who is likely to be a below average OBP hitter, particularly hitting in D-ger Stadium, one of the premier pitchers parks in the majors.

Thanks Ned!

Half his games in LA:

Dodger Stadium: .281/.333/.331/.664, 0 HR in 139 career AB.

Some Pierre-de-amor love his lack of strikeouts, and avoiding strikeouts is an important skill to have. Stats that Baseball Forecaster has published shows that the more strikeouts a batter has, the lower his batting average tends to be, on average. From 2001-2005, batters who strike out over 40% of the AB are below the Medonza line on average while batters who strike out as few as Pierre (under 10%), on average had batting averages that were in the 280-290 range. At 15-19%, where Feliz lives, on average hitters hit about 270, on average, as constrast.

However, a hitter with a low walk rate to match his low strikeout rate tends to also hit poorly, that's where Pierre starts to show where his low strikeout rate doesn't pay off. Looking at the data table, clearly, if you cannot walk over 10% of the time, while it still matters that you can strikeout less times, you don't hit as highly as others who strike out few times. If a batter strikes out 14% or less (Pierre), but walks under 10% (Pierre), on average they hit in the .270-.279 range, whereas if he is good enough to take walks at 11% and over, he's on average a .300 hitter.
So Pierre, while he may be a .300 hitter career, his hitting skill doesn't reflect that and was boosted, as noted, by his time in Colorado when the balls was still hopping out, not like today. Taking out Coors from his overall stats, he is a .296/.338/.373/.710 hitter. Batters who hit like Pierre does in terms of walks and strikeouts tend to be .270 hitters, with the caveat that that is the average, he might very well be the high end of a very wide spectrum. But add to that Dodger Stadium as his home park for the next 5 seasons, and you are potentially staring at 5 seasons of Feliz-esque OBP, in the .300-.310 range, leading off for their LA Dodgers. But even if not, the good news is that in the past two seasons, his OBP has been subpar, at .326 and .330, the past two seasons, particularly in 2006, when the average CF had an OBP of .348 vs. his .330.

Leading Off: How Low Can You Go?

Even if he is able to maintain a .333 OBP that he had in D-ger Stadium, which is possible, his career road stats is .290/.336/.369/.705, that basically would put the D-gers 10th or 11th in the NL in 2006 in terms of OBP. However, he also hits for no power, particularly in LA, so his SLG would be around .350, if you average his road with his LA stats, for a .680's OPS, which would put them dead last or next to last in the NL last season: Houston was 15th with .689 OPS and Milwaukee was last with .684 OPS. So, even if he continues to play at his career norms for LA and the road, his OPS would be basically last in the NL and OBP would be in the lower half of the NL.

However, as I've shown, his batting average has been higher than the norm for batter who don't walk much, like him. So he might slip in batting average while in LA, as his luck may run out, which would reduce his OBP and his OPS and it doesn't take much to drop him to last in OPS and LA drops to 12th if his OPS is under .329 in 2006, 13th if it drops under .317, 15th if it drops under .314, and last if it drops under .311. So their offense already suffers with him leading off, but if he proceeds to do worse in LA, then the suffering would get even worse.

Substandard SB rate

Add to that his abominable stolen base success rate: 73% for his career, 72% over the past three seasons, i.e. he hasn't learned anything during that time. Good base stealers typically have a stolen success percentage above 80% and ideally over 85%, if you are going to break even on the outs you make and rallies you kill. Thus, not only will he kill the offense by getting on base less than most lead-off men, the relatively few times he does get on base, he's going to kill the offense by getting thrown out around 27% of the time.

So Congratulations LA on killing your offense by replacing JD Drew with Juan Pierre thus far. And thanks Sheriff Ned for saving the day for Giants fans! Now if only you would sign Gary Matthews too, and that would be all set for us Giants fans.

Colletti's Gone

One thing Giants fans have to remember is that this is Sabean's first real season figuring out salaries and bidding on his own: Colletti was the one who used to handle all that for him before he took off for LA. So if the Pierre salary looks familiar, that's because Colletti most probably is doing his old job for the Dodgers, calculating the salaries and handling the offers.

Hopefully Sabean and his staff have been learning something different from what Colletti had been using, because, clearly, from Giants fans viewpoint, there has been a lot left to desire in the Giants pricing of salaries and contracts over the past few years. At least the Giants offer was significantly below the Dodger's "winning" offer.

It's probably assuming too much, but I also hope Sabean was pursuing Pierre because he knew that Ned was hot after him and wanted to bid up the salary for him. Gamemanship like that I can dig, particularly against an NL West opponent. OK, it probably is hoping too much, but a guy can dream, can't he? :^D

Plan B for the Giants: Cashing in Draft Picks, See You in 4-6 Years

I knew going with my guesses at the team would look pretty stupid, but I didn't expect it to happen so soon: Stanton has been signed by the Reds to a 2 year contract (he was looking for $2.5M and the kicker was the Reds guaranteed the second year whereas the Giants only offered an option) and Justin Speier has been signed by the Angels to a 4 year, $16M contract. Both are crazy contracts but there appears to be more where that came from: Alfonso Soriano has reportedly already been signed by the Cubs to an 8 year, $156M ($17M per year) contract by the Cubs. But basestealers don't really age that well, particularly ones not named Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock.

The Cubbies apparently made an "all-in" bet on Soriano because the owner is looking to sell the team, so the team is overspending this season (there is talk about them going to the $110-120M level when they were at $95M last season) to make the team look pretty and attractive to any potential buyers, if only for one season. Now, they have their high profile expensive new manager, Lou Piniella, retained Aramis Ramirez with his big new contract, added Mark DeRosa at 2B with a 3 years, $13M contract for a 30-something player who has never been a starter before, and re-signed a bunch of their guys, Kerry Wood, Wade Miller, and Henry Blanco, plus traded for Neal Cotts, who had his one good season in 2005 sandwiched by two very poor seasons.

What About the Giants?

But enough about the Cubbies blowing away the salary structure this off-season because they don't really care about the rest of the owners in the MLB, what about the Giants plans, in light of this feeding frenzy for players with a pulse (see Frank Catalanotto getting 3 years, $13M from the Rangers, who had just lost DeRosa). I think dipping our toes into the waters would be the equivalent of dipping our toes into a pool of pirahnas, you will find a big chunk bitten out. However, with 11 spots to fill, it will be impossible not to sign somebody.

First Things First: Sign Bonds

With all this craziness happening, I would prefer that the Giants just bite the bullet and sign Bonds. I've been pushing to play hardball with Bonds because he doesn't have much leverage but at this rate, he could be wanting Soriano type money for real and drag this into spring training, and he has no incentive to run this long either, the money is flowing fast and if he stalls too long, there might not be any money left to offer him, much like I-Rod in 2003 when the Marlins picked him up for almost nothing (most of it deferred) just before spring training was to start. He's the elephant in the room, just call a truce and get him done and move onto the rest of the team, as that move will dictate how much money the Giants will have left to spend on the rest of the team, there's probably no way to field a good team now, unless there is a great trade, so we'll just have to do best as we can and try to conserve money to spend in 2007's off-season.

Centerpiece Du Jour

Despite all the talk about not chasing a centerpiece player, apparently the Giants were in the chase for Soriano and made a good enough bid to make the second round of bidding before the Cubs made their "All-In" bet to secure his services, and now the Giants are turning to their second choice, Carlos Lee. I have been against getting Carlos Lee because his numbers for his career are nice but not superstar nice and he's looking to get that type of money this season, probably more than what Vlad got just a few years ago.

For one, he's already 30 years old, and will be 31 next season, so a five year contract (he could want more now that Soriano got 8 years) would cover ages 31-35, part of his peak but mainly post-peak years when most players who are not superstars start to degrade noticeably. For an example of that, look at Edgardo Alfonzo and Ray Durham - the former just degraded and the latter, while hitting well, unfortunately age had made him injury prone after 6 straight years of 150+ games played and no DL time to speak of during his career prior to the Giants.

In addition, despite playing in parks that helps a hitter's offense normally - ChiSox, Brewers and Rangers - he has never had a season with an OPS above 900, though he has been close twice with two seasons of 890's in two of the past three seasons. That's nice but he wants to be paid like Vlad and Ordonez, both of whom had OPS in the high 900 and 1000 regularly in the years before they turned free agents. Even Carlos Beltran did 900+ for two straight years before going free agent - and on an upward trend - whereas Carlos Lee appears to have hit a peak/plateau in his 28 and 30 year old seasons, with only down as his way to go.

Silver Lining, I Guess

The only silver lining, and it is extremely dependent on very small samples, is that he loves hitting in NL West parks:

AT&T: .375/.444/.833/1.278 in 24 AB, 3 HR
PETCO: .333/.407/.667/1.074 in 24 AB, 2 HR
Dodger: .325/.372/.700/1.072 in 40 AB, 4 HR
Chase: .323/.400/.516/.916 in 31 AB, 2 HR
Coors: .182/.250/.364/.614 in 11 AB, 0 HR

And, over his career, in the NL (excluding his time in Miller which would skew everything much lower) he has hit .295/.348/.583/931 in 566 AB with 42 HR. If he could hit every year like that for us, then I would be on board to get him. But is that the real Carlos Lee or is it the one who hit in Miller Field, a HR home park, a relatively paltry .263/.325/.484/.809 in 494 AB albeit with 27 dingers? According to Bill James stats, Miller Park is a relatively neutral park, pushing a RHH like him, to hit worse for average (96/100) but much better for homers (112). It also adds to walks (106), which counteracts the lowering of batting average for a net neutral affect, relatively, on OBP, and runs scored (103). So which Carlos will we be signing, the .800 OPS hitter or the .900+ OPS hitter?

Risky, Risky, Risky But Risky In Any Case

Thus I think it is risky to sign Carlos Lee to a contract, but given all the dollars being flung around like toilet paper thus far, it might not be the worse thing to do from the Giants viewpoint. As I tried to show with my try at constructing a team with the available budget and free agent pool, the Giants are kind of stuck this season in terms of building the team via free agency, hampered by the fact that two positions they were suppose to be set at for next season - closer and catcher - are in need as well and by the fact that even with all that money available, they had to make compromises at positions like catcher, starting pitcher, and CF, signing much older players, just to field a competitive team, unless you want to see Ortmeier, Winn, Linden in the OF, Niekro , Frandsen, Vizquel, and 3B free agent in the infield, and Alfonzo catching and kiss the season goodbye from day one, which is what some fans have advocated. But if you sign Bonds, you owe it to him and the fans to try to put up a competitive team to try one more time to get that World Series championship for him as well as for us fans..

If they can at least sign Bonds and Lee, they have their middle of the lineup up set and can go cheap with Frandsen at 2B and sign someone like Stairs to man 1B for a season before hopefully either EME or Ishikawa are ready to move up to the majors in 2008. Better to have one bad contract than a whole bunch of them, then cross your fingers that Lee will turn out better than his career stats have shown. And choosing among the poisons that have been mentioned strongly as OF possibilities - Soriano, Lee, Pierre, and Matthews - Lee is probably the best choice out of them: Soriano's speed is a huge component of his value but he's entering his 30's when most basestealers totally lose it, Pierre has had horrible OBP plus no power the past few seasons, and Matthews was a career backup/journeyman before having his career year at age 31 (for example of what might happen when someone has a career year during the end of the peak years, see Robby Thompson stats, his contract was as responsible for the problems of the mid-1990's losing as Bonds and Williams big contracts and Williams injury streak with us).

Draft Picks Galore

Stanton's signing means the Giants get a draft pick in the supplemental round between 1st and 2nd, thus meaning that the trade now stands as Shairon Martis for a couple months of Stanton and this draft pick. Given how poorly Martis progressed, month by month, during the 2006 season while pitching for the Augusta Greenjackets, I think this trade ends up pretty fairly. In addition, it appears that the Mets are very close to signing Moises Alou, and that would bring us their 1st round pick and a supplemental round pick. That would be three additional picks plus our 9/10 pick overall for the season, meaning we would have 4 picks among the top 40 players drafted.

There could even be more coming. If Schmidt or Durham is signed before the deadline (or if they are signed after we offered arbitration, likely for either of them), then we would also receive two picks for each of them, as they both are Type A free agents as well. In addition, if we luck out and someone signs Feliz early, we would get a supplemental pick as he is a Type B as well. That is potentially another 5 picks in the top 50 or 60 draft picks for 2007, depending on how many supplemental picks are awarded.

Plan B and C and F...

If we can sign Barry and Carlos, then the top of the order will probably be Vizquel, Frandsen, Winn, Bonds, and Lee, which would not be that bad, assuming Winn returns to his pre-injury career form and that this is not an Edagardo Alfonzo redux, and Frandsen hits anywhere close to how he has been hitting in the AFL, where he recently won the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award and was batting .388/.480/.588/1.068 in 85 AB with 4 HR and 12 BB/4 K and 8 SB in 10 attempts - he clearly wants to start and it is looking more and more like he will be given that chance given the insane salaries being handed out thus far plus it appears Durham's salary demands has risen to 2 years and $20M.

Even if signed no one else that would leave Niekro at 1B, Alfonzo at C, and I Don't Know at 3B - just let the market go crazy and pick up the last 3B standing. That would mean 3B bats 6th, Niekro bats 7th (which is not that bad, if he can build on his AAA performance late last season), and Alfonzo bats 8th. That is not the greatest bottom of the lineup, but with the median OPS of .772 for 6th place hitters, .714 for 7th place hitters, and .695 for 8th place hitters, for NL teams in 2006, Lance Niekro at .719 OPS lifetime and .673 OPS in 2006 is right about there for 7th place hitters with some upside if he did learn, plus he'll be 28 next season, which is in most players peak physical years and Eliezer Alfonzo at .767 OPS in 2006 and .729 OPS for the second half of the season would be right there for 8th place hitters. That would leave trying to find a .772 hitter at 3B for 6th place, which will be problematic with this weak free agent group.

3B Junk Bin

There are not any solid choices at 3B, but that is what you get when you shop in the free agent market sometimes (a lot of the times?). Aramis Ramirez (28) was the biggest and bestest free agent, though technically he was never a free agent, he resigned with the Cubs before testing the waters. Next, according to ESPN are Aubrey Huff (29) and Rich Aurilia (35), who they ranked as the 32nd and 34th best free agents. For comparison, they rated Ray Durham as 22nd, Hillenbrand as 24th, Maddux 26th, Stanton 30th, Gary Matthews 35th, Kenny Lofton 36th, and Moises Alou 37th. Other 3B options are (alphabetically): David Bell, Geoff Blum, Aaron Boone, Vinny Castilla, Jeff Cirillo, Pedro Feliz, Tony Graffanino, Joe Randa, and Fernando Tatis; Wes Helms and Scott Spiezio have already signed, Helms for 2 years $5.45M with Phillies to start at 3B for them, and Spiezio for 2 years, $4.5M to play backup for the Cards again (Rolen is not going anywhere).

A sorry lot of 3B when Huff and Aurilia are considered the top of the class. The Giants have been rumored to be in the mix for Aurilia but he seems to be on the list of a number of teams, including the Yankees for 1B (surprisingly) and that might be attractive to him since he grew up in the New York City area, in Brooklyn. Huff is probably out of our price range, and, nevertheless, is not that good defensively at 3B. Hate to say it but we will probably end up with an old vet signed, like Castilla or Cirillo, with the silver lining that (hopefully) it is a one year deal and the money will be available next season for the better free agent crop.

Another Plan B

Even with the mad money making his salary palatable, the Phillies are probably still looking to shed Pat Burrell. I would prefer trading for him and giving up a minor prospect (Hedrick? Whitaker?) than signing Carlos Lee to a contract, since he only has 2 more years on it, though it doesn't look like we'll be able to palm Benitez onto the Phillies anymore since the Phillies blinked and let the Cubs take Soriano from them. But who knows, maybe they'll have a change of heart.

The fact is Burrell controls everything with his no-trade clause and he hasn't made any noise of opening up the list beyond the Yankees, Red Sox, and Giants. And I doubt he will, because he knows he will get a chance to play full-time with the Giants whereas the Phillies will continue to substitute for him regularly. He will get his money either way and if he has another season with the Phillies, well, that's what he was expecting anyway, may as well try to force a trade to the Giants, it was worth a shot. So if the Phillies want to save money and get someone like Carlos Lee, they better move fast, particularly since the Giants are after Lee as well, trading Burrell to them would probably take them out of the race for Lee's services.

In any case, the Giants need a legit RBI guy in the #5 spot, and with Durham's salary going from OK but swallowable, to too much for a gimpy 2B, Lee and Burrell are just as good replacement for Durham's bat and more economical due to their generally better health, though Burrell has been battling a leg problem of some sort. I would prefer them over Durham at the salaries being talked about for Durham (2, maybe now 3, years for $10M per).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ga Ga for Igawa or Should We Ignore Him?

Someone on McCovey Chronicles (and his Igor there) believes that the Giants should bid for Igawa. I've been suspicious of Japanese starting pitchers for a while, so I thought I would take a swing at the data and see what I come up with and posted much of the below there.

I am providing complete stats and ages they were when pitching. These are the starters I could find in Baseball Reference who were born in Japan, played in the U.S., and I could find their stats on the Japan Baseball website (could not find any Tomo Ohko or Mac Suzuki stats there).

Comparative Stats for Japan Vs. MLB

Stats: ERA - WHIP - K/9 - BB/9 - HR/9 - Ages

Ishii
Japan: 3.38 - 1.29 - 9.7 - 4.7 - 0.8 - (18-27)
U.S.A.:4.44 - 1.53 - 6.9 - 5.7 - 1.1 - (28-31)
After: 3.44 - 1.33 - 8.6 - 3.0 - 0.8 - (32)

Irabu
Japan: 3.37 - 1.30 - 9.1 - 4.1 - 0.6 - (19-27)
U.S.A.:5.15 - 1.41 - 7.1 - 3.1 - 1.6 - (28-33)
After: 4.44 - 1.42 - 8.3 - 2.5 - 1.4 - (34-35)
2003: 3.85 - 1.35 - 8.5 - 2.4 - 1.2 - (34)

Nomo
Japan: 3.15 - 1.32 - 10.3 - 5.0 - 0.7 - (21-25)
U.S.A.:4.13 - 1.35 - 8.7 - 4.1 - 1.1 - (26-36)

Yoshii
Japan: 3.43 - 1.29 - 5.6 - 2.8 - 0.8 - (20-32)
U.S.A.:4.68 - 1.36 - 5.3 - 2.6 - 1.3 - (33-37)
After: 4.87 - 1.40 - 3.9 - 1.9 - 1.3 - (38-41)

Matsuzaka
Japan: 2.95 - 1.14 - 8.7 - 3.2 - 0.7 - (19-26)

Igawa
Japan: 3.15 - 1.24 - 8.5 - 2.9 - 0.8 - (19-26)

Analysis

For the starting pitcher who jumped over to the U.S., ERA jumped by around 1.00 or more. WHIP varied but generally increased. K/9 dropped around 2.0 for the strikeout artists, while BB/9 generally dropped as well. HR/9 jumped at least 0.3. Yes, small sampling, but this is all the data there is. Plus this makes sense given that players who couldn't win starting jobs in the MLB come here and become league leading HR hitters, the talent level here is much lower.

And for the two pitchers who returned just past prime peak years - Ishii and Irabu - they returned at basically the same skill level as they had left, implying that what we saw for them in the U.S. is about as good as it's going to get because their skill clearly did not go away while in the MLB, as they were able to come back to Japan and play at their previous Japanese League performance level, implying that their skill level in the U.S. was, at worse, the same all those years and most probably was their peak years since they were approximately 28-32 years old during their years in the MLB.

What If Matsuzaka and Igawa Did the Same As Predecessors

If I just averaged out what each similar pitcher did (hence I dropped Yoshii, who relied on control more than the other three, plus came to the U.S. after his peak years), from pre-US to U.S, the average ERA rose 1.27, the average WHIP rose 0.13, the average K/9 fell 2.1, the average BB/9 dropped 0.3, and the average HR/9 rose 0.6.

Applying these to Matsuzaka and Igawa I get:

Matsu: 4.22 - 1.27 - 6.6 - 2.9 - 1.3
Igawa: 4.42 - 1.37 - 6.4 - 2.6 - 1.4

Looking at a grid of K/9 vs. BB/9, if they do attain such rates, their ERA will generally be in the low 4 ERA, particularly if their HR/9 do go above the 1.0 max rate you would want in a pitcher. So that looks about right.

In case there were extremes, I thought maybe we should examine medians instead. Median for ERA was 1.06, WHIP was 0.11, K/9 was -2.0, BB/9 was -0.9, and HR/9 was 0.4.

Applying these to Matsuzaka and Igawa I get:

Matsu: 4.11 - 1.25 - 6.7 - 2.3 - 1.1
Igawa: 4.21 - 1.35 - 6.5 - 2.0 - 1.2

These obviously look a bit better. If they can really get their K/9 and BB/9 down to those rates, then they might be able to get ERA below 4.00, into the high 3's, depending on how those HR/9 rates affects things overall. But generally, pitchers with K/BB ratios in the low 2's, as they appear to project out to be, they tend to have ERA's in the low 4's, not the high 3's, particularly if they end up with high HR/9 rates like the above, but if they can get their K/BB to the high 2's then they are more likely to reach the high 3's, though most still don't.

MLB Pitchers They Profile Like

So both pitchers appear to profile like:

Matt Morris of 2003: 6.3 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 1.18 WHIP, 3.76 ERA
Jeff Weaver of 2005: 6.3 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9, 1.17 WHIP, 4.22 ERA
Sidney Ponson of 2002: 6.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9, 1.34 WHIP, 4.09 ERA
Esteban Loaiza of 2000: 6.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9, 1.43 WHIP, 4.56 ERA
Matt Clement of 2005: 6.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, 1.36 WHIP, 4.57 ERA
Mark Gardner of 1998: 6.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 1.26 WHIP, 4.33 ERA

Conclusions

So, all these appear to point to Matsuzaka and Igawa to being low 4 ERA pitchers. The caveats here is that this is very small sampling and they are clearly better pitchers than the ones who came before them - Ishii, Irabu, and Nomo - particularly in the area of command (both BB/9 and K/BB are significantly better), so maybe they will be the tipping point where the pitchers coming from Japan will outdo the ones who came before. Boston just made a, potentially, $80-90M bet that Matsuzaka will outdo his compatriot emigrants.

I could not find many speculations on what Igawa might draw. I have seen one say $10M post and $3M per season salary and that he'll be a #3/#4 pitcher, which fits what I analyzed above. Rotoworld has a blurb listing a $5-10M post and $5M per season (which seems more reasonable to me, plus the $3M assumed a West Coast discount as Igawa said he wanted to pitch on the West Coast and thus might give a discount, plus he's aching to come to U.S. - he wanted to post last year - and thus might not demand as much).

But that was way before Boston bid $51.1M on Matsuzaka, who, based on his stats above, is only slightly better than Igawa. Given that estimates of Matsuzaka ranged from $20-30M initially, Igawa's posting bid could rise to the $15-20M range, if not higher, due to irrational bidding after the Matsuzaka $51.1M jackpot.

And if Boras gets Matsuzaka the $10M per season 4 year contract he is shooting for, Igawa might get something in the $7-9M range as well, but, of course, what Boras wants, isn't always what Boras gets.

How Much For Igawa? Why?

Based on all this info, admittedly a lot of speculations but tied to Boston's $51.1M bid for 'Zaka and the stats of countrymen who came ahead of him, Igawa seems to be fairly priced with the market for mid-rotation guys. I am assuming he signs a 4 year contract, and that his posting fee will probably add $3-6M per season to the cost of signing him. Salary looks to center around $6M but could range as high as $9M and as low as $3M. Looking at all this, his salary looks it will fall in the right zone, $6-10M, though he would be overpriced at the upper range of that and could go way above that if Matsuzaka gets the $10M per season Boras is angling for.

All in all, it sounds like Igawa is a middle of the rotation type of guy and that he will get paid like one, even though he hasn't proven that he can do that at the major league level. If you'd rather take that risk than get a proven mid-rotation mediocrity like Lilly, who is asking for $8-9M per season with no posting fee, or about the same, that's fine, but that's not a risk I would be willing to take.

Last comparison since I've read that Japan is like a AAAA minor league: Jerome Williams of 2002, 7.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, 1.18 WHIP, 3.59 ERA.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Giants Free Agent Conga Line

Looking over the Giants needs and the ranks of the free agent pool, and assuming the Giants don't pull off a trade to pick up, say, Pat Burrell or Richie Sexson, to play 1B for us, I have come up with what I think would be a good plan for keeping the Giants competitive in 2007, while looking to the future as well. But this is all for fun, there's too many moving parts to keep track of to really forecast what the Giants will do, one wrong guess anywhere and the whole ball of string unravels.

LF

Got to sign Bonds but do not fall for his wily ways of trying to drive up his price, with his public negotiations techniques. He is not that much in demand, if any. The threat of his age, recent injury problems, surly attitude, BALCO hangover, potential government indictment, and his approach of a sacred baseball career record held by Hank Aaron, a saint of a player compared to almost anybody in the history of baseball, let alone Bonds, plus the strong likelihood that there is one wacko in every town who will take umbrage that their home team has signed a pact with Bonds who that fan considers a scourge of the game, sullying all that is good and beautiful about baseball, the grand quintessential American national pastime, will keep all teams bids below $5M plus generous incentives for games played that Bonds has publicly spat on already.

I see the Giants being able to sign him for $7-9M (call it $8M for calculations) plus if he really want more, he can have incentives based on games played. Linden can then take over in 2008 if he is ready or we can pursue a free agent like Vernon Wells, Adam Dunn, Ichiro, or Andruw Jones, among others, as Bonds' salary will then be freed up by his free agency.

Closer

Sabean always have a hankering for a closer, so I think he will sign two players to back up that position. First, he signs Justin Speier, who has been a good reliever with closer aspirations to a 3 year, $11M contract ($3M/$3.5M/$4.5M; he made $2.25M last season). He also signs Mike Stanton to a $1.5M contract for one year or maybe two, I just read Orioles offered him 2 years - he gets a raise for doing well for us last season when he made $1M. Foulke could be another option but he would have to sign for much less given how poorly he has done recently and he's probably going to resign with the Red Sox. Benitez will have no past history with Bochy and will pitch setup in this configuration, but hopefully the Giants can trade him elsewhere.

CF

Sabean has been saying that the majors will be shifting towards the running style offense of the 80's a la the Cards and who better to charge up the Giants than Dave Roberts, who stole 49 bases last season under our new manager, Bruce Bochy, and 23 the year before when he was injured early in the season.

The bad part is that he will be old, 35 years old next season, plus has an injury history, but we don't really have any true CF in our system who appears to have the offense that Roberts bring - Fred Lewis, the most advanced CF, who has been viewed by some as a potential corner OF once/if he develops power, is a year or two away, at least - so a 2 year contract with team option for $10M total ($4M/$5M/$6M team option with $1M buyout; he made $2.25M last season) would not block out Lewis necessarily, Lewis probably won't be ready until Roberts second season, and by then Bonds should be gone. Hopefully, Lewis, Linden, EME, or Schierholtz would be ready by then to take the 3rd OF spot, with Roberts and Winn playing the other spots, or the Giants could pick up one of the top free agent OF then, like Vernon Wells, Ichiro, Adam Dunn, or Andruw Jones. Obviously Winn would move to RF with this. Plus nothing would prevent Roberts from playing another OF position too.

Also, Roberts has been used almost extensively as a platoon player because of his inability to hit LHP or stay healthy, so that works for the Giants to keep his salary down - as most other team will not want a platoon player as that means you need a CF to play against LHP, and thus either be not interested in him or offer him less because he is going to be platooning. The Giants can pay him more because they can plus they have Linden around as the fourth OF to play games that Bonds or Roberts do not play. Plus Linden has hit LHP better during his short MLB career thus far. That gets Linden more ABs in 2007 as the 4th OF too.

So the Giants get the speedy OF they have been looking for to ignite the offense, after striking out with Durham and Winn, leading to a top of the lineup of Roberts, Vizquel, Winn, Bonds for RHP. Now for some run producers.

2B

As much as I would love a home town boy like Kevin Frandsen playing 2B, the problem is that we need somebody to drive in runs and Durham did a good job of that last season. He also wants to come back and thus might provide a little hometown discount to play here. Reportedly he is willing to go for a 2 year contract with an option, so maybe $16M ($7.5M/$8.5M) plus a team option for $9M (he made $7M last season). It doesn't mean that Frandsen won't get his chance because Durham can always be traded if need be, and get us some needed position prospects. But it does gives us options.

Frandsen can play the Feliz uber-utility role in 2007, taking games at 2B, SS, and 3B, thus giving him a lot of ABs to allow the Giants to evaluate how good he is. He's obviously doing well in the AFL right now playing shortstop. So one option is to go with Frandsen at SS after the 2007 season, when Vizquel's contract ends. Another is that there has been talk of giving Vizquel an extension beyond, so Frandsen could end up at 2B instead and Durham can be traded. Of course, these presume that Frandsen has done well; if he hasn't, we still have Durham and Vizquel.

In addition, Durham has not played a full season in a long while now so to expect him to would be folly, thus Frandsen could come in and the offense would not suffer as much as it would have - or cost the team needed prospects to pick up another 2B - with Frandsen there as starting backup for not only 2B but SS as well, plus probably backup at 3B. Vizquel is no spring chicken himself and could be sat a number of games to rest. Besides which, there are not many good options out there for RBI production at any other position.

Another way to go with this is, if the Giants are able to trade, somehow, for a slugging 1B like Sexson or Burrell, they could instead use Frandsen at 2B, and this 1B would take the #5 lineup spot that Durham would have filled, with the money that would have went for a free agent 1B and Durham going to pay the 1B we just traded for.

SP

I still think the Giants need to bolster the rotation and I still think Schmidt is the way to go, but unfortunately, he is probably out of our budget range with the salary we will probably see Matsuzaka get ($51.1M for just the right to negotiate with Boras, his agent?!?!? And Boras wants at least 4 years at $40M minimum!!!). So plan B for me would be to sign Greg Maddux for the $8M he is reportedly looking to get (he made $9M last season).

I was amazed by his performance last season. His PQS DOM% was in the 60%, still among the elite (Schmidt was in the 50% by season's end), when the Dodgers acquired him (no time to check his Dodger PQS but I do know he did pitch well for them). Plus he has a world of knowledge about pitching that Cain could learn from. Sure, he's old, but he pitched well for much of last season plus this would free up $8M for free agents next off-season. Hopefully Lincecum will be ready to take over in 2008.

3B

We are already starting to run out of budget, so we need to go for value here and get more bang for the buck. The Giants should go for Rich Aurilia, as he should get less than comparable 3B free agents. Reportedly the Giants went after Mark DeRosa to be our starting 3B, but the 32 year old just signed a 3 year, $13M contract to start at 2B for the Cubs. That now sets the bar for what Aurilia can expect to get.

Aurilia, at 35, has a much greater risk of decline due to age, but he has been a starter before and he has hit well the past two seasons, unlike DeRosa, who is a career backup, who wasn't even a starter last season. Maybe we can get Aurilia for a 2 year contract with a team option ($3M/$4M/$5M TO, $1M buyout for total $8M; he made $1.3M last season).

This is probably a bit high to get him at, hopefully we can get him for less, but the free agent class this year and next is pretty barren of good 3B, unless you like Hinske, Randa, Inge, or Lowell. Hopefully Villalona will be ready by the time Richie's contract is over or a trade can be made for players like Ensberg, Josh Fields or Joe Crede, Dallas McPherson, and Kevin Kouzmanoff, at some point.

1B

Here, the options are not so good either, for this year or next. Nomar would be intriguing but again the money problem. Looking at all the alternatives here, Craig Wilson looks the best. He is not the best hitter but players like Hillenbrand and Casey are probably looking to get $6-8M per season, and Wilson can probably provide similar offense for much less.

Sign him to a 2 year plus team option ($4M/$4.5M/$6.0M TO, $500K buyout for total $9M; he made $3.5M last season). He is only 30 years old next season and has a career .834 OPS, .815 OPS on the road (PNC is a hitter's park). His power is good and universal, he hit one every 19 AB at home, one every 21 AB on the road, so his HR power is real. He has even hit .357/.367/.536/.902 in SF, though in only 9 games. Plus he wouldn't need to play a full season, he's been a part-time player much of his career, so the Giants could give Sweeney a good number of AB's there, particularly since he is only OK vs. RHP, being a righty. Plus he has played LF before, so he could take some games there as well, if necessary.

C

The Giants don't really have much left to spend and so has to get creative here. Plus defensively, there's not much out there for catchers, one would have to look forward to next season. So the Giants should sign Mike Piazza.

Piazza hit well last season under Bochy plus this would allow Alfonzo more games played to see if 2006 was a fluke (most likely) or if he can develop further to be a starter going forward. Plus he could play games at 1B as well. In addition, as bad a defensive catcher he may have been, the Padres were able to win the division with him playing last season. Piazza made $2M last season, including a buyout, so he probably can be signed for $3M for one year.

If Alfonzo proves to be a backup catcher, then next off-season there will be more to pursue among catchers who might be free agents. Among the players who could be free agents: I-Rod, Michael Barrett, Jason Kendall, Jason LaRue, Jose Molina.

Another idea I had was signing Doug Mirabelli for his defensive abilities and he would cost less than Piazza. But since I was worried about offense and Bochy found a way to win with Piazza behind the plate, I decided to go with Piazza. But the offense would not be that bad even if we had Mirabelli instead.

Payroll Results

I went through the contracts plus the ones I suggested above and with contracts ending for Benitez, Bonds, Stanton, Vizquel, Matheny, Maddux, Piazza, and Worrell, it would add up to about $46M in total contracts expiring, freeing up more than enough money to pursue a top free agent like Michael Barrett, Michael Young, Ichiro, Adam Dunn, Vernon Wells or Andruw Jones. Also, there is a rumor that Durham was offered a $10M one year contract by the Giants (or a 2 years, $16M contract) and if that happened, that would make the total salary freed up for 2007 to be $56M.

Of course, there will be some raises in existing contracts plus paying young players more, like Cain, so that puts the total available for free agents next season to be either $40M or $50M, depending on what Durham is signed for. In addition, the Giants purportedly had $45M to spend and the contracts I suggested above totaled $42M, so that would mean that $6M in addition would be available for free agents next off-season. In any case, there will be a lot of money to chase free agents with and potentially a lot more good players to chase.

Roster

C: Piazza, Alfonzo
1B: Wilson, Sweeney (LF)
2B: Durham
SS: Vizquel, Frandsen (2B/3B)
3B: Aurilia
LF: Bonds
CF: Roberts, Ortmeier
RF: Winn, Linden

SP Maddux, Morris, Cain, Lowry, Sanchez
RP Speier, Benitez (hopefully traded but here for now), Stanton, Wilson, Chulk, Hennessey, Correia

Lineup

vs. RHP: Roberts, Vizquel, Winn, Bonds, Durham, Piazza, Wilson, Aurilia
vs. LHP: Winn, Vizquel, Wilson, Bonds, Durham, Piazza, Linden, Aurilia

Final Thoughts

I came into this exercise thinking that there is no way the Giants could cobble together a good team but I think I did pretty well in my "what-if" exercise here. With $3M left over, that gives me a little wiggle room if I underpriced any of the above players, plus I think I might be over for some of the players as well, so some of them will balance out too. And that covers the entire roster, except for the pre-arb players who will be paid near minimums, though Cain probably will be getting a long-term contract similar to Lowry's during spring training. That shouldn't be too much, just a couple of mil or so.

A lineup as posited just above would a pretty good offense, with on-base stealers at top, HR hitters in the middle, even the bottom will be pretty good too, even when Alfonzo starts instead of Piazza. And if Bonds sits, the lineup for RHP would still be pretty good: Roberts, Vizquel, Winn, Piazza, Durham, Wilson, Linden, Aurilia. LHP would be a different matter because Roberts probably is sitting too, as well as Sweeney, so that would mean an OF of Ortmeier, Winn, and Linden and a lineup of, say, Winn, Vizquel, Wilson, Piazza, Durham, Linden, Ortmeier, Aurilia, which is OK but not that great either. Hopefully Bonds don't happen to rest on the days a LHP is going, though Roberts sometimes do well against LHP.

However, the defense will be average at best, as the OF are all average defensively, and only Vizquel in the IF can be considered good, the others are average at best, particularly Aurilia at 3B, Durham at 2B, and Wilson at 1B. Plus Piazza was never that good defensively even at his peak, let alone now when he is much older and not as physically able. So the defense is taking a beating here to allow us to have a good offense.

A starting rotation of Maddux, Morris, Cain, Lowry, and Sanchez can be pretty awesome if they all do what they are capable of doing. Maddux seems ageless. Morris hopefully can stay healthy and strong all season long - we saw what he could do when he's at the top of his game, from mid-May to mid-July. Cain we saw what he could do when he is consistent and he basically was from that skipped start of his in May, he buckled down after that, unlike Jerome Williams, who just buckled. Lowry needs to prove that, when healthy, he's the pitcher we saw and loved in 2005 and not the pitcher who was just OK in 2006; if he is healthy and good, we would have a great four-some. Sanchez should be fine as the fifth starter and, if not, Hennessey is there waiting to swing in there and be the starter.

The bullpen isn't too bad either. Speier should be good as the closer, with Benitez and Stanton as setup men (this assumes Benitez pitches himself into the setup role in spring training). Chulk and Wilson will also be good in there as setup men. Then there is Correia and Hennessey, long relief guys who can go short sometimes too. If Benitez is traded and we don't get relief back, I assume Sadler and Taschner will battle for that final spot, plus even if no spot, they will probably battle Wilson and Correia for their spots in the bullpen as well.

So, in this what-if scenario, the Giants would have a pretty good offense, but not so good defense, coupled with good to potentiall great starting rotation, and a strong bullpen. That's not too bad and would be a competitive team in the NL West plus would be OK in the playoffs as well. I would take the above (assuming the salaries are OK, I tried to figure out what each player might get, based on previous salary and some guesses by other off the Net, but realize that I might be way off on someone's, particularly Bonds, since I strongly believe no one could outbid the Giants to get Bonds).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Giants Future is Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

I was going to write on the free agent situation for the Giants but I have seen some Giants fans contemplate trading some of our young pitchers, particularly Cain and Lowry for position players. All I can say is: no, no, no, no, no, no, NO! Unless, that is, you can get a better or equivalent pitcher in return.

Giants Strength is Pitching

The Giants farm system's strong point is pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Giants need to fill up our pitching staff, both starting and relief corp, and build from there. And whatever is left over, we can then trade them for position players,

The Giants pitching prospects are like a big pot of soup. It has been slowly simmering for a long while now and it is starting to boil up, with Lowry, then Cain, much of the bullpen, plus Lincecum, Sadler, and Anderson apparently on the way as well. Trading them off now would be like killing the fire and stopping the boil.

The Giants cannot fix everything on their team internally. Because of their obvious problems developing position players, they should concentrate on fixing on their pitching, particularly because you can never have enough pitching. They should let the cream rise to the top and fill the starting rotation and bullpen, then the leftover can be used in trades.

And as better pitchers are developed internally, they will suppplant the then-current MLB pitching staff, making it better and better, more and more talented, and the players we slough off can be traded for position prospects or starters if possible. This will keep our pitching staff competitive - as they will compete with each other to try to stay a part of the Giants MLB pitching staff - plus keep our farm system stocked with ready replacements since any falter or become injured.

As Baseball Prospectus has famously noted - "There is no such thing as a pitching prospect" or TINSTAAPP - so we also need to keep a steady supply of pitchers either ready or near-ready to promote every year. As the Cubs learned, their dreams of pitching domination has been as injured as Wood's and Prior's arms. And it was interesting to see what the teams in the playoff fight had to put up with as starters, St. Louis had to resort to Jeff Weaver, he of horrible season stats in 2006, the Mets had to resort to a bunch of rookies pitching important games, St. Louis also didn't even have their regular closer, most of the teams had starting rotations that were in shambles OR incapable of repeatable pitching performance.

Pitching Our Way to a World Series Championship

That is my dream for the Giants, whether it is Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, and Sanchez or whoever: four starting pitchers who can be relied on to pitch really dominatingly more than 50% of the time - which Cain and Lowry has basically done in their short careers so far, Cain in 2006, Lowry in 2005 - and to ride that plus a dominating bullpen into the playoffs and hopefully to a World Series championship.

I think it is ludicrous to think that the Giants are going to be big competitors in 2007 and 2008, but I don't think that it is impossible for them to make the playoffs in the weak NL West. And if they have a strong pitching staff - and they have Cain, Lowry and Morris as strong points plus possibly another good starter - they could possibly ride that to the championship. We have seen it time and again, the better team does not always win.

Look again at the lousy pitching talent that teams had to put up with during the playoffs. Think the Cards wouldn't have preferred a better pitching than Weaver? But they were stuck between a rock and a hard place and threw him out there and what do you know, he actually pitched well. That's like betting on "00" on the roulette wheel and winning the bet, he has been absolutely horrible this season and absolutely ordinary all his career, but he came up aces when the Cards needed him. It is like Billy Beane said, the playoffs is a crapshoot.

And with a strong pitching rotation, who can pitching dominatingly consistently, like Cain, Lowry and Morris can do when healthy, we have as good a chance as anyone, as long as our offense is adequate. And that probably means getting back Bonds plus picking up another offensive clog or two, to replace Durham and Moises Alou. Hopefully Sabean can pull some rabbits out his hat and be a great base stealing team that can generate offense with their speed, like he has been saying the league is shifting to.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Burrell Follow-Up: Crasnick Musings

Jery Crasnick, of ESPN, reports that the Giants have not spoken with the Phillies yet and pooh-pooh the idea that he could be headed to the Giants. Lefty posted great excerpts at his blog. I posted my reply and ideas there and thought I would post them here as well, since this is a big topic about the Giants:

About Burrell, I think most Giants fans knew that it probably will not happen, but that's the fun part of the off-season, before the Hot Stove starts with free agency opening up, when we can speculate all we want on who we want or don't want, or would like to get.

Crasnick Got Some Things Wrong

Comparing what was said in the SJ Merc's account of what happened, there is some disagreement between their account and Crasnick's. The Merc noted that it was Burrell's agent who said this publicly about SF and 1B. The Phillies and Giants had nothing (at least from the article's viewpoint) with the public statement, it was all Burrell's agent, which presumably he represent's Burrell's interests.

So he may not have warmed to the position when the Phillies tried him there, but presumably he said, through his agent, that he would be willing to play there. And since he was a 3B when he was an amateur, one would hope that he has some fielding skills that will translate there, even after all these years of playing OF.

And what exactly does he mean by "didn't exactly warm to the position?" If he meant that he resisted the move, that could be because he was a 3B when drafted but the Phillies just shoved him at 1B without even giving him a chance at 3B. He was very young then, whereas, hopefully, he is more mature now. If he meant that he wasn't good defensively there, well, I would take my chances for a 30 HR hitter. And like I noted, he was a 3B before, so I can see why he might have problems in the OF, which necessitates the Phillies replacing him REGULARLY in the OF, drove me crazy having him on my fantasy baseball team. But one would hope 1B is more like 3B, instinctually, than the OF, plus, if I remember right, his fielding stats per baseball-reference for 1B in his first season, albeit small sampling, but he acquited himself well statistically, though obviously fielding stats are still in the 1800's.

Negotiating 101

As far as the Giants interests in Burrell, this is where negotiating skills come in. As much as Crasnick mentioned other spots Burrell might be willing to go to, obviously Burrell's not interested in other spots, he's only interested in SF, else he would have mentioned other teams. And true, he might not be laying out all his cards right now, this might be his plan B, plan A is try to get something done with the Giants and there is no promise of a plan B.

Looking at this from Burrell's viewpoint, he holds all the cards with his no-trade. He's basically told the Phillies, who has been chafing under his salary since at least mid-season to go talk to the Giants if you want to save my salary NOW to enable the team to sign Soriano or whomever high priced free agent they may be looking at. No guarantee that he will change his mind on other west coast sites, and perhaps he might not even want to go there, afterall, he grew up in this area, maybe SF is his only interest, else the Phillies are stuck with him because he doesn't want to go to other west coast teams.

Reeling in the Catch

The Giants in this situation has to play it cool, if they want to maximize leverage, by not initiating contact. It's called reeling in the catch. The Phillies right now have no choice but to call the Giants IF they are serious about saving Burrell's salary. The Yanks and Bosox have not and will not be interested, they are full up on LF/1B/DH types, I think, so they temporarily have a window open now to trade him to the Giants and save salary.

Because this is existential baseball - what exists now is an opportunity to trade him to the Giants and get salary relief, this opportunity could expand as Crasnick suggests, but it is Burrell they are dealing with and he has only said SF. If they wait, they may lose the opportunity, the Giants might resign (gulp!) Feliz, Hillenbrand, and Bonds or spent all their money, so then they are no longer interested, or even Burrell would tire of their inactivity and rescind his approval. The window may close and they will be stuck with him.

Now that's not the worst thing in the world to be "stuck" with Burrell, but if he hasn't been in their plans since at least mid-season, I don't see them changing plans any time soon and make him a part of it. They need to trade him.

Giants Need to Stay Cool

So the Giants need to play this cool. This is all public now. Force the Phillies to initiate the call, force the Phillies to make the first offer, force the Phillies to decide who and what they need from the Giants to make this trade. Because, the Giants don't have Burrell now, so if this doesn't work, they still don't have Burrell, but they already had their ideas and plans for how they were going to build the team anyway without Burrell falling into their laps.

So they need to be cool, unlike Giants fans, and wait this out, make them the stronger party in the negotiations, it is the Phillies who need, it is the Phillies who want, that's the best way to force the Phillies to accept Benitez and whatever other terms the Giants feel is necessary to make the trade a good one for the team.

Some people think that Linden has to be part of the trade, but if the Giants play their negotiating cards right, they will get to minimize what they have to give up to the other team and perhaps not have to give up Linden, but give up a minor player lower in the system. Don't know how it will end up, but to minimize what they give up plus improve the chances that Benitez IS part of what they give up, the Giants have to deal from a position of strength, and that's by forcing the Phillies to initiate the trade, the pressure is all on them to do something, Burrell would be happy to continue being a Philly, the Giants already was moving ahead with their plans which didn't include Burrell. But the Phillies, if they want to save money for free agents spending which happens very soon, will have to deal Burrell soon, if they want to save his salary for free agents.

Playing the Game

This will be an interesting game, hope the Giants play their cards right and we end up with Burrell. Burrell is a good hitter, something the Giants need. And they don't have to give up full value for him, the Phillies need salary relief, not his hitting and fielding, which they have apparently grown tired of or just want to move on from. Benitez would be a one season trial and since Armando needs to do well, that could work for them since they need relief anyway.

Which would they rather do, have Burrell or have Soriano with Benitez? Fans think too much on value, there are business and strategy issues with some of these trades that go beyond the value of the player involved sometimes. Burrell vs. Soriano/Benitez is the choice, essentially, if the Phillies need the salary relief to enable the free agent signing of Soriano, and Burrell is clearly not in their plans, and they have a number of OF prospects ready to contribute if Soriano is not signed, plus then they have money that could enable them to trade for a player who fits their plans.

Could Help Bonds Negotiations Too

And if the Giants are able to pull off this trade, that also helps them with their Bonds negotiations. Burrell can play LF, so if Bonds plays the Diva Egotist, they could decide to move on and let Barry see exactly what type of interest exists with the other 29 teams. They would have a lot more leverage if they have Burrell on the team than otherwise, particularly since Burrell would come much cheaper than any free agent signing plus probably hits better than almost all of them but a handful, he would be among the premier free agents this off-season if he was out there.

Sure, it could be as his agent said, 30 teams are interested in Bonds, but I'll bet the vast majority of them are in the Frank Thomas 2006 contract range: low base amount, in $500K to $2M range, plus huge incentives based on games played. That way, if the fans reaction is extremely adverse and they have to dump him and his contract, they don't lose much taking that risk, but if fans grudgingly accept him and he does well, then they have a great hitter paid reasonably.

The Giants don't have to worry about fan reaction and thus would be willing to offer something more like Nomar's 2006 contract: probably something in the $7-9M range, incentives if that makes Barry happy to get more money. But the base is it otherwise, in case he is injured for much of the season, the Giants will self-insure Bonds' risks of missing significant games by paying Bonds less, his expected value if you will, based on chances of missing games, including all his "I'm old and cranky and not playing" games, that's already 20-40 games there.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pat the Bat, Handed on a Plate

The Merc had big news for Giants fans last Friday: Pat Burrell, maligned and unwanted hitter of the Phillies, whom the team has been trying to unload because of his contract since the summer, was reported by his agent to be not only be willing to waive his no-trade clause to be traded to the Giants, but would be willing to play 1B for the Giants as well, which was his position when he was coming up the Phillies farm system. He currently only had the Yankees and Red Sox on the OK to trade list but both teams apparently are full up with 1B/LF/DH that they were not interested at all in Pat the Bat (here's a nice biography of him, he's played baseball in a local SF Bay Area high school).

What more do the Giants need to know? Hopefully Sabean and gang are talking with the Phillies as we speak and working out the details of the trade. The Phillies really need to free up salary to enable them to get into the Alfonzo Soriano bidding and unless they want to be "stuck" with Burrell and his salary, they need to trade him post-haste so that they can make plans. In addition, with their surplus of OF that they currently have, they have an acceptable backup plan if Burrell is traded and Soriano is not signed.

And lucky for the Phillies, the Giants have plenty of payroll space. The talk has been of dumping Benitez to the Phils for Burrell, but that only frees up $5.4M of salary for the Phillies in 2007. In lieu of giving up additional good prospects to the Phils, the Giants could also send, say, $4.6M so that it frees $10M for the Phillies in 2007, with the Phillies returning the favor in 2008 back to the Giants to even out the money paid, but shifting the payroll from 2007 to 2008. And that works for the Giants too because the free agent crop right now is pretty sparse in talent, but the next offseason could see Vernon Wells, Andruw Jones, and others up for grab, so they could use additional money to bid on players in the next offseason, instead of spending it all in 2007 on multi-year contracts and not be able to bid on these superstars.

The Giants would probably still have to give up a minor prospect, but I would rather shift funds in the deal than have to give up any good prospects for him, though if pushed I would. In discussions on McCovey Chronicles, people have mentioned Linden, Anderson, among others as possible tradeable chips. I don't feel up enough on the farm system this season to speculate, other than I would try as heck to avoid giving up any of our top prospects. Linden I think should be given a chance to start with us at some point given the power he has shown. Anderson has been a great reliever in the minors, though some posters thought that trading him now would be at his highest value, as he's not a pitcher with a lot of stuff.

So with Pat Burrell handed on a golden plate like this, hopefully the Giants won't look the gift horse in the mouth too long and pick him up. The window of opportunity is open now but it will close fast once the Phillies don't need to unload salary as much as now, before the free agents can discuss salary with prospective bidders. It's the biggest nobrainer in the history of mankind. :^)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Current Thoughts, Courtesy of Grant from McCovey Chronicles

Lately I have been having problems putting into words what I have been feeling about one thing or another about the Giants. However, Grant from McCovey Chroncles has somehow been so good at channelling me through his writing lately, that I sometimes have to look in the mirror to make sure I'm still me. :^)

Luis Gonzalez: No Big Deal

First, off Grant nicely wrote what I was thinking on Luis Gonzalez. While he would be a horrible sign, lots of fans blew off the barn doors as if he was already signed. However:


An outfield of Luis Gonzalez, Dave Roberts, and Randy Winn, with Todd
Linden warming the bench again? Pitchfork and torch time. I refuse to believe it
all until it happens. When the Giants really started jackknifing into the
septic tank last season, Brian Sabean sounded genuinely contrite. The exact
quotes escape me, but they were something like: "Look, we built this team in
a certain way, and it didn't work. We'll have to reevaluate the organizational philosophy in the offseason."

I'd love to crawl inside Sabean's head this offseason, and figure out if those were genuine sentiments or the passing fancies of a man at rock bottom.

Sabean is always selling to the fans after the season. What he's selling this season is "younger, healthier, overall". So he might sign someone on the old side, but compared to Barry or Moises, almost anybody will be younger. But start criticizing his moves once he actually make some. Many fans were flinching like the doctor had stabbed them with the needle when the Doc was still just holding it.

Why Bochy Yielded an "Eh?"

Grant in this missive explained the collective yawn that the Bochy hire yielded:
Reasonable Conclusion: Maybe I can help. The immediate future looks bleak
for the Giants, and that's a shame. For the past ten years, the powers that be have been running around with duct tape and a plunger, trying to get one last flush from their commode without paying for a plumber. It almost worked, but now we're all about to be ankle-deep in some pretty foul stuff. Not only have the Giants refused to look at premium free agents, but they've been incompetent in developing anything more than utility players for the lineup. Even if the Giants wanted to rebuild, they don't have to talent to do it.

The open manager's slot was the last well of irrational optimism. If the Giants hired an unknown quantity like Manny Acta, maybe he would have been the greatest manager in recorded history, leading the Giants on a Hollywood-like charge through the playoffs in 2007. Now with Bochy, reality is giving us a wedgie. Whatever Bochy
is or isn't, we know for sure that his giant noggin isn't filled with magic. He isn't going to take a mediocre team and make them great. That's what is really behind the anti-Bochy sentiment.

I am not against Bochy as a manager, per se, he will probably do OK for us there, but I was much more excited by Acta or even Wotus, but Bochy is what he is, and he probably won't be more. I cannot picture the Giants winning with him, not in a substantial way. I hope to be proven wrong.

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