Friday, December 29, 2006

The Barry Era is Over, Long Live the New Barry

I read the news today, oh boy, a lucky man has made the grade: the Giants are poised to sign Barry Zito to a 7 year, $126M contract, pending a physical. As I noted in this post, I was hoping that the Giants would pass on Zito, for all the myriad reasons I noted. I still feel the same and think that this is a very risky move. As Allfrank noted, I was out on vacation and still am but had to write on this, so pardon for the short note.

Notes on Zito

Zito, as most accounts noted, hasn't missed a start in his career. The cautionary note there for Giants fans is that Ray Durham had six straight seasons of 150+ games played before he signed for four straight injury marred seasons. In addition, I just got Baseball Forecaster 2007 and Graphical Player 2007 and neither have very kind words for Barry Zito's future: "Someone will pay for an ace, and will get a staff filler" and "A 3.83 ERA was the tip of a long fuse toward 5.00 ... Zito is a lesson in the dangers of overwork." Predictions on Zito range from the high 3 ERA to mid-4 ERA.

Here's a quote from Giants officials from Chron: "Giants scouts also believe Zito, a flyball pitcher, will prosper in the large National League West parks and that his taut, over-the-top delivery will keep his arm strong into his mid-30s. They compare him to Tom Glavine, who pitched 219 innings and won 16 games for Atlanta in 2001 when he was 35, the same age Zito will be in the final guaranteed year of his contract." Hopefully they are right, as they are betting $126M on it.

The good news on the contract is that even with this huge contract weighing on the Giants payroll, the Giants should still have money next season to spend on free agent hitters, though one is already gone with the Vernon Wells signing. I think I counted up the money freed by free agents in another post and came up with a figure in the $30M range. That should still leave enough money for a big signing of a hitter next off-season, if desired.

Plus one article I read noted that the Giants bumped up ticket prices big time after seven seasons of contractual small jumps, which should mean more green to spend, plus the MLB internet operations have been a huge success and bringing in more coin as well. Plus, as I think I noted in a previous post here, the Nationals will no longer be a financial drag on the other 29 teams plus the teams can look forward to getting their share of the final purchase price.

My Philosophy and M.O.

I think this is a good point to note how I think, as I think that sometimes confuses people. I can handle the dichotomy of disagreeing with Giants management and yet understanding why the Giants made the moves that they made and even saying that they made a good move. Some feel that I'm a homer for doing that, as they just remember the part where I note the good move and forget that I disagreed with the move in the first place. The way I see it is this: I made my point that I think it was a bad move and then I move on and deal with the reality that this player is here, what does that mean for our team.

Starting Rotation is New Centerpiece

Obviously, this leads into my feelings that the Giants new centerpiece is their starting rotation and the move to sign Zito cements that totally as, while his contract is totally out there and I still wouldn't want to do it, that said, he's here, he's a Giant now, and his addition to the rotation makes the Giants rotation one of the strongest in the NL West.

Zito and Cain at the top of the rotation is a great 1-2 and perhaps a 1a-1b, given that the move to the NL - which I neglected to note in my post on Zito before - could work to hide his shortcomings as he now has one less good hitter to face. However, looking at his split stats, albeit very small samples vs. NL teams and in NL parks, his stats don't get that much better in terms of K/9 or BB/9 or K/BB, so this is no magic pill either, this is just the hope. But Zito is a proven workhorse and Bochy has historically not been prone to push his starters to the 120 pitch threshold, since 2001. And as badly as I think Zito may be headed for in the future, right now, he should be good enough to anchor the rotation.

Then we got Lowry and Morris to man the 3-4 spots and basically we need to hope for one of the two to have a good year and I think the odds are good for that. Both, as I had noted, have a number of reasons why they might pitch well in 2007 and now that we only need one to do that, to complete our 3-4, the signing of Zito strengthens that greatly.

Lastly, our 5 spot will probably be filled by Sanchez and we have won before with lousy 5th starters. He is a good prospect and he should be able to handle it and, if not, there is always Hennessey to fall back on plus Lincecum possibly ready to come up by mid-season. The rotation looks very strong right now.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Retain Matt Cain!!!

{I'm feeling lots better today and went to sleep with this thought in my head so I had to write. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!}

"What?!" you might be asking "Is Sabean trying to trade Matt Cain?" No, no stupid rumor like that. Just this: the biggest signing of the off-season should not be any of the players signed (or agreed to sign) thus far, it should be the Giants announcing that Matt Cain has been signed for the rest of his pre-free agency years, just like what the Giants did with Noah Lowry earlier this year in April.

Matt Cain is our centerpiece for our future, there are no other Giants player whose shadow looms bigger (though Lincecum could muddy the waters but that's a good thing to have). Yes, we control him for another 5 years anyway, but arbitration is a process that don't always help a team keep salaries down. In addition, he seems to be a really nice, grounded guy, from the interviews I have heard him before, so he does not seem to be a money driven type of player, he seems to be a player who just wants to play baseball, let his agents handle his business affairs.

How Much for Cain?

I don't have a great idea for what Matt Cain should get. I don't recall any other young pitcher signing except for Lowry's, which I dug up from Cot's Baseball Contract website: signed April 2006 to a 4 years, $9.25M contract, with $1M signing bonus and the following salaries by year:

  • 2006: $0.385M
  • 2007: $1.115M
  • 2008: $2.25M
  • 2009: $4.5M
  • 2010: $6.25M club option
  • bonuses may increase total value of contract to $17M
  • escalators may increase 2010 club option to $7.75M

I would have to assume that after the crazy signings of Meche, Padilla, and Lilly, plus Suppan and others to follow, that Cain's representatives will want much more than what Lowry got in a contract.

First off, the bonus I would think would be in the $1.5-2.0M range. Maybe $3M if you want to try to get the dollars lower in later years.

Next off, there are his two pre-arb years, though he probably (hopefully) will go Super-2, so there would only really be one pre-arb year. That we can bump up to $500K-1M.

Then comes the four arbitration years. If we double Lowry's contract we get: $2.23M, $4.5M, $9.0M, $12.5M club option. If we just double everything, then it is a 4 year, $18.5M contract covering 2007-2010, with a 2011 club option, with bonuses that may increase total value of extension to $34M and escalators that may increase 2011 club option to $15.5M. That actually seems about right given the new salary structure this hot stove season.

Comparisons

One example I just remembered for comparison is Dontrelle Willis. In his first arbitration, he got a record $4.35M for a first year arbitration player in 2006, which covered his third season. That is more than what the numbers above would pay Cain. But Cain hasn't done what Willis did in his first two seasons, though he may be poised to. But that is still pretty good change to get when he has trouble still with the long ball and walks.

That reminded me of another: Brandon Webb. He first signed a 3 year contract with team option after his first season, the signed an extension that replaced his final year of that contract in January 2006. In effective sequence, his contracts paid him: $0.335M, $0.715M, $2.5M, $4.5M, $5.5M, $6.5M, $8.5M club option (with $0.5M buyout, increasing by $0.5M for each top 5 finish in Cy Young, so I guess it is now $1M). This covers into his post-free agent years, two years in. Personality-wise, he seems to be similar to Cain, so perhaps Cain can be enticed into going into his free agent years as well.

Boy, now I remember Johan Santana. He signed an extension before his second arbitration season (where he asked for $6.8M and was offered $5M) and got: $5.5M, $9M, $12M, and $13.25M. This covered his remaining arbitration years and two years into his free agent years and was signed in February 2005, before the heated salary inflation of the last two off-seasons.

Seems like teams are able to get their players to accept losing their free agent years for some security. Even if we take Cain's first two free agent years, like their respective teams took for Webb and Santana, Cain would still be only 28 years old when his contract ends and he becomes a free agent. So that looks doable to me and thus is a goal the team should focus on in extending his contract.

Giants Thoughts

It looks like the doubling of Lowry's contract for Cain would seem to compare favorably with these top pitchers contracts. $11M is the new middle-rotation salary and that's basically what Santana and Webb got for their last year of pre-free agency, though Webb was on the low side of that, so perhaps we can insert $7M into the middle of the doubled Lowry contract, adding a year to cover Cain's first free agency year, and smoothing out the growth in salary each year. Then we could add another year at the end and remove the team option stuff, for $13.5M.

That would result in a contract something like this ($50M is a round number so I juggled the bonus and smoothed out the salaries the way I have seen Sabean do before, or, I guess, rather, like Colletti did before) : Cain signed to a 7 years, $50M contract, with $1.5M signing bonus and the following salaries by year:

  • 2007: $0.5M
  • 2008: $2.5M
  • 2009: $4.5M
  • 2010: $6.5M
  • 2011: $8.5M
  • 2012: $12.5M
  • 2013: $13.5M

I could debate whether to make the free agent years team options, but given his relative good health and youth, and good pitching up to now, even if he turned out to be an average middle-of-rotation pitcher, pitchers like that are probably going to be making what we are offering for his post-free agent years, if not more, since Meche and Padilla got $11M per season and Lilly got $10M. So guaranteeing them seems reasonable to me, though there is always the risk of injury later.

In addition, we might be able to reduce the backend salaries for more bonus money up-front. Maybe $1M in bonus for every $2M reduction in back, as a rough estimate. However, the structure above seems reasonable to me, relative to contracts I have seen handed out.

This is a risky contract, covering 7 years, particularly for a pitcher who only has slightly more than a season under his belt. However, if the Giants are to make a risky signing this season, I would hope that it is Cain that they are signing. I was originally thinking that doubling Lowry's contract would be crazy, money-wise, but given the salary inflation, it was a good structure to build on.

Promising $50M to an unproven starter seemed crazy before but after Boston gave Matsuzaka a $52M contract (plus paid the $51.1M bid), I don't think the contract I proposed is that bad a contract. Cain is our Matsuzaka and he won't cost us a posting bid. Nor was his arm overworked like Matsuzaka's reportedly was in Japan, the Giants have handled their golden child with kid gloves, moving him slowly up the system and then easing him into our rotation.

As that KNBR ad drones over and over again, I think it's the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. Even with the example of how badly Kerry Wood's contract ended up for the Cubs, I think it is something the Giants should do to protect our future. It is certainly better, in my opinion, than the contracts they reportedly offered to Soriano, Pierre, Lee, and Matthews this off-season.

Hopefully we will get news of this during spring training to brighten up our 2007 season, which looks, thus far, to be a struggle to be competitive in the NL West unless the pitching comes through, big time. But that's life in the MLB, no team can buy their way to competitiveness, they will always have to hope that someone comes through, whether rookies, free agents, or team vets. The Giants hopes rest on the pitching staff pitching to their past good performances.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Season's Greetings to all!

Hi, just rose from my death bed :^) as the massive cold/flu that my wife had passed to me worsens; it has all of her milestones and today is the peak day, and I do feel peaked. I promise to check comments and e-mails once I am better, but I just wanted to get out my posts that I had started already and didn't want them to get too stale.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! Lets hope it's a good one!

I can sure use a lot better one, this has been one messed up year for my family, but at least I had my outlet here on the Internet, thanks for reading and commenting, and special thanks to my online friends who helped me get through tough times, you know who you are.

Best wishes to everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why I Don't Like Matsuzaka's Deal

I posted the below on another site (Baseball Analysts) and it used some of my stats from here before so I thought I would put it here too.

If you compare the stats of all the Japan-born starters in baseball-reference, pre-US Japan stats, then U.S. stats, you will find that all the pitchers tend to see their HR/9-rate fly up 50% or more, K/9 fall a good chuck, 20-30%, BB/9 tends to go up and ERA increase by at least 1 point. I realize that it is small samples, but I find the fact that all experienced a big jump in ERA to be significant.

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)

Findings and Thoughts

I have seen some projections go from low 3's to mid-3's, but only one near 4 (4.01 by Baseball Prospectus, saw this on Roto Authority's take on D-Mat). I would go with a high 3 ERA since that is 1 point above his career stats, with a likelihood of mid-4 if he struggles like most of them did their first year, probably over the new culture, new everything.

Why? A number of reasons. HR/9 increased from 0.3 to 0.5 for these pitchers - any of that would put him at or above the 1.0 max you want from a good pitcher. It will help that he will pitch in Boston for half his games (roughly) as HR is depressed there by around 14% according to Bill James corrected park factor stats. But you have to realize that lousy hitters have gone to Japan and become HR hitters to see that HR must be depressed relative to the U.S., no matter how you slice the data. It's going up, even in Boston.

In addition, his K/9 should drop as well, and all his brethren saw drops, and for the high K/9, drops of 1.6 to 2.8, or about 15-30%. Dropping him 2.0 like Irabu would put him at 6.7 - still good, but hardly dominating - but a drop of 30% would push him to 6.1 and near the danger area where the pitcher has to be a really good control pitcher to survive. His dominating K/9 rate will not survive to the U.S.

Also, WHIPs have gone up as well, though with a low 1.14, it can go up .11 like Irabu and still be a very good 1.25.

But that is dependent on him reducing his BB/9. Irabu and Nomo were able to drop it a 1 point, but Ishii saw his rise 1 point. The drops counteracted a rise in H/9 (not in chart but can see via WHIP and BB/9 that they rose to counterbalance the drop in BB/9). Boston has been relatively neutral for walks (Bill James) so he won't get any help or hurt there. But Yankee Stadium helped Irabu probably (Bill James stats for last three seasons, not Irabu's seasons) and Dodger Stadium hurt Ishii and Nomo probably (same problem again). With a big drop in K/9 though, he needs to get his BB/9 down to at least 2.5 to have a superior K/BB still.

I think those are all big question mark areas that are reasonable doubt that Matsuzaka will deliver on $103M in money paid over 6 seasons. I think something like Millwood's 2003 season in Philly would be a good comparison: 4.01 ERA, 0.8 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.9 K/9, 1.25 WHIP, though a bit low on HR/9. Or Bartolo Colon's 2003 season: 3.87 ERA, 1.1 HR/9, 2.5 BB/9, 6.4 K/9, 1.20 WHIP. Nice, but is it really worth $17M per season?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bill James Handbook 2007: Fielding Info

Just got my copy of this book. It is not even close to the old Bill James annuals but it is still certainly a good book to get every year, for the new stats and updated stats. If you like to swim in numbers, this is a good book to get. And he provides a different set of stats to look at and get some sort of perspective on the situation.

I will be revisiting certain parts of the book as the need and mood see fit, but I thought I would start with this particular subject, one, partly because the book starts there, and two, it concerns some of our position players.

Fielding

Fielding stats, as I have written before, is still in the 19th century (and I'm just quoting from another source, because I agree). This year's handbook has a couple of sections on this topic and so I thought I would share the highlights for Giants fans. The sections are written by John Dewan, who publishes the book, appropriately enough, The Fielding Bible, and presents a variety of interesting info.

Fielding Bible Awards

This is suppose to be their version of the Gold Glove awards, except that they use "experts" to rate the players and they look at the MLB, not just each league. I put experts in parens because, while I would agree that they are more expert than the sports writers who vote on the players each year, and thus this would be a more valid, assessment, some of the voters seem, to me, to be no better than baseball writers, so that negates at least partially their claim of superiority over baseball writers.

I'm only being tough because they took the stance of selecting experts and stating that as a plus over the baseball writers. However, I would agree that probably their vote, because of the selection bias and the transparency of the process, is better than the Gold Glove awards. And that's why I'm presenting some of the 2006 results here, as it pertains to the Giants (or near-Giants, as the case may be).

The voting was 10 voters, voting for the 10 best players from 1st to 10th, with points given in reverse order, 10 points for a 1st, 9 points for 2nd, down to 1 point for 10th. Thus a unanimous vote would give 100 points to the player.

1B: Unsurprisingly, no Giants in Top 10. Only Giant to show was Shea Hillenbrand, with 4 points.

2B: Unsurprisingly, Durham did not get any votes.

3B: Feliz got 44 points (winner had 78) and finished 7th in the voting.

SS: Unsurprisingly, Vizquel was second (to a surprising Adam Everett; I never knew, though now I recall how well he got Assists and Putouts in my fantasy league) by a wide margin (98 to 61, Everett was 1st in 8 of 10 voters).

LF: Unsurprisingly, Bonds did not get any votes. Dave Roberts was ranked 3rd with 62 points (Crawford first with 87), he was a clear 3rd with 4th coming in at 53. Alfonso Soriano was 6th with 39 points.

CF: Finley actually got one vote, a 10th place vote that got him 1 point. Gary Matthews was 4th with 46 points and Juan Pierre was 6th with 35 points.

RF: Randy Winn, surprisingly to most Giants fans, finished 4th with 47 points (Ichiro was first with 95 points).

C: Amazingly, Eliezer Alfonzo got 1 point. Benjie Molina got 3 points (his brother got 90 points to finish 2nd to, who else, I-Rod, who, by the way, was not an unanimous choice, though close).

P: No Giants pitcher got a vote

In summary, the only Giants, either 2006 or 2007 versions, deemed to be good defensive players, period, are Feliz, Vizquel, and Winn.

Plus/Minus Leaders

The Plus/Minus System was developed at Baseball Info Solutions, which is owned by John Dewan. A player gets a "plus" if he makes a play that at least one other player at his position missed during the season and he gets a "minus" if he misses a play that at least one player made. Each play is looked at individually, and a score is given for each play. Sum up all the plays for each player at his position and you get his total plus/minus for the season.

Getting a score near zero means the player is average. Looking at the top 10 for each position, in general +10 or above are generally good to very good, for some positions, +5 is good, for any particular season.

For 2006:

1B: Shea Hillenbrand was 10th with a +5 and was not that far from tying for 4th place which only took a +7 and Pujols got 1st with +19. So Hillenbrand is a better 1B than most give him credit for, even the experts voting for the Fielding Bible Award, for he got to 5 more balls that other 1B did not get to and ranked 10th. But that is one problem I found with this stat, it gave me no magnitude of this, 5 out of 100 is one good thing, 5 out of a 1000 is not that big a deal - I would guess it would be closer to the latter than the former. But still, it is interesting.

2B: No Durham here. Top was, amazingly, Jose Valentin with +22, and he wasn't even a regular 2B for the Mets, if memory serves. 10th was Brian Roberts with +8.

3B: Pedro Feliz was a close 2nd with +25, with Bradon Inge 1st with +27 and Adrian Beltre 3rd with +23 and Joe Crede with +22. Then a steep drop to each lower position until 10th, David Bell with +8. Again, Feliz showed his defense to be top notch again here, perhaps he's as good as the Giants have made him out to be in comments to the press, though, again, not so good to make up for his lack of offense.

SS: Surprisingly, no Vizquel here. He of dazzling plays did not get to balls that other SS did not get to often enough to rank here. Adam Everett was the leader by far with +43, with Clint Barmes 2nd with +27, then falling to Rafael Furcal and David Eckstein with +7 in a tie for 9th.

LF: Again, no Bonds, but Dave Roberts was 1st with +16. Of course, he'll be playing CF for the Giants, but I think this shows that he is still a pretty good defensively OF, though obviously CF is much harder than LF.

CF: No Giants here, Corey Patterson was far and away the leader with +34, just ahead of Andruw Jones with +30 and Juan Pierre with +25. What I'm amazed by is that infielders, I would think, get a lot more balls to field than OF, but then Patterson was the highest for any position except for Everett.

RF: Randy Winn was 1st here with +22, where 10th place had +5. And that is despite only playing 89 games in RF in 2006.

For 2004-2006, I'm just covering Giants (the old joke about the easier to count):

3B: Pedro Feliz ranked 3rd despite not playing 3B for the most part during those 3 years, maybe 1.5 seasons worth, and yet he had a +54, tied for 3rd with David Bell, behind Adrian Beltre and Scott Rolen. Eric Chavez is considered to be a very good fielder (I think he has a gold glove already) and only had a +33.

LF: Moises Alou was 9th with a +4.

Range Factor

Lastly, a more common defensive stat has been Range Factor, which measures how many balls the player handles per 9 inning game. Obviously, if you have a strikeout and/or flyball staff, that would reduce the range for your infielders and if you are a groundball pitcher, then your OF would suffer. But still an interesting piece of the puzzle towards trying to understand how good defensively a player is, as there are no definitive stats out yet.

2B: Durham was 20th of 29 regulars. Frandsen at his rate would have been last, but only 19 starts.

3B: Feliz was 10th of 30 regulars. Unsurprisingly, Hillenbrand would have been last but had only 22 starts at third.

SS: Vizquel was 23rd of 30 regulars. Aurilia would have been 6th but only 25 starts, Frandsen 20th but only 2 starts.

LF: Bonds was 13th of 28 regulars. Roberts was 4th and Linden would have been 3rd but only 7 starts and 40 games.

CF: Only Finley qualified as a regular. Roberts would have been 2nd but had only 13 starts and Winn would have been 4th, but only had 57 starts.

RF: Winn was 1st of 27 regulars. Linden would have been 26th but only had 4 starts.

Giant Thoughts

From these data points, clearly, Feliz and Winn are much better defensive players than people have given them credit for. They are not only good, but can be around the best at their positions in the majors. But is that good enough to make up for their offense, or lack thereof?

Pedro Feliz

Feliz, even at his best (which was an OPS of .790 in the 2003-2004 season), would still rank in the lowest third of the NL in OPS for 3B in 2006. Is his defense that much better to make up for that? Maybe, but probably not. But he is clearly a superior fielding 3B, creating about 25 more outs per season than the average 3B over the past 2 seasons or so.

If he can hit 790 OPS and field like that, taking out 25 outs from his AB would result in an OPS in the 820 range, which would put him in the middle of the pack in the NL. Don't know if it makes sense to do that to his hitting, as I am not sure if an out hitting is the equivalent of an out fielding, but I thought it would be interesting to see what happens. If they are equivalent, he would not be that bad a 3B for the money if he can hit 790 OPS and field at such a high rate.

The problem is that he has been batting in the low 700 OPS the two last seasons where he played pretty much full time. Perhaps Bochy will be able to rest him more often than Felipe because he will have Aurilia as a relatively equivalent replacement at 3B, with Sweeney taking over at 1B for Aurilia, or even giving Frandsen a shot at 3B every once in a while when it is a lefty starting pitcher. Feliz was actually a pretty decent 3B the first half of the 2006 season, hitting .274/.306/.486/.792 pre-All Star with 15 HR in 350 AB, or 23 AB/HR.

But the key is whether he can keep it up for a whole season and that is why most fans, me included, were not happy about his re-signing. He says that he is working on an off-season conditioning program to help with his stamina while also working on his batting selectivity. I will believe it when I see it, he had his big chance in 2006 to start at 3B undisturbed, and he flubbed it up offensively.

I think he just lucked out, the Giants had no choice but to take him back for 2007, because even with Aurilia on board to start at 3B, then who do we start at 1B, SweeNiekro again? We saw how that worked last season, when Sabean was forced to trade for Hillenbrand. So the Giants had to re-sign Feliz, they had too many holes to fill and could not take the risk that they could not obtain a better hitting 1B, like a Sexson or Burrell, so they compromised and got Feliz.

If they bat him 8th, though, he would actually be a plus hitter because most 8th place hitters cannot hit in the .700 range or above. Even if he hits like he did in 2005-2006, he would still be a top hitter in the 8th position. In addition, he would still be average if he hit in the 7th position. And Bochy has made it clear in interviews that Feliz will be hitting in the bottom of the order, at least to start with.

Side thought: Hillenbrand is still unsigned and I can see the Giants signing him for less than Sean Casey money when all is said and done, just before Spring Training, basically "prove that I'm worth more" salary that Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders had to do a few seasons back with the Pirates. While he is not a huge upgrade over Aurilia, I do consider him an upgrade, and if the Giants can get him cheap enough, that would strengthen the club.

Randy Winn

Winn I have been thinking that people have been giving short shrift to and the fielding stats seem to support my position even further. He is a lifetime .765 OPS hitter and a .785 hitter since he became a regular in 2002 and if you just look at his stats without 2006, .802 OPS, so I don't think that 2006 is a representative year for him. He actually hit OK at AT&T in 2006, .285/.347/.424/.770, but it was the road that killed him: .237/.300/.367/.667. In particular, it was the NL West that was hard on him, he couldn't hit in Colorado, LA or San Diego. He also had problems in D.C. and Oakland.

An .802 OPS puts Winn right in the middle of the pack for RF, and .765 to .785 would put him just slightly behind. So whereas Feliz would need to bat at his high OPS for his career for his superior defense to be adequate, Winn just needs to hit about where he hit before for his career to be adequate overall, considering offense and defense.

And that seems fairly likely. It was not like he was hitting poorly all season long. He hit very decently from April to June, with above .800 OPS in two of the three months. Even at the All-Star Break, he was still hitting .270/.343/.427/.770.

But then something happened, drastically, and he only hit .249/.296/.349/.645 for the rest of the season, and he was particularly affected in July and August, with OPS of .599 and .637, respectively, before recovering some in September with a .703 OPS. Historically, for his career, even with the poor 2006, he gets better in the second half - .744 OPS pre-All Star and .790 OPS post-All Star - so his second half decline was clearly caused by something unusual, like perhaps that knee injury he suffered in May, maybe he reinjured it mid-year and it screwed up his hitting and power.

Furthermore, he ranked first in the majors in RF for Plus/Minus despite playing only 89 games there and was first in Range Factor. Perhaps he will be that much ahead of the pack in 2007 playing more of the season there instead of just 89 games there. Roberts will probably be platooned in CF so Winn will probably get the starts vs. LHP in CF and start around 120-130 games in RF. So he could be a premium defensive RF while providing OK offense, and that seems like a pretty good trade off to me.

Other Players

Don't have a lot of time, but someone else I thought I should point out is Dave Roberts. Unlike some people's opinion, he appears to be a good defensive OF, whether LF or CF, from the data above. Offensively, he has hit .285/.358/.409/.767 since playing in pitcher's park Petco and that marks the improvement in his batting line since leaving the D-gers and joining Boston, as his OPS has been in the high 700's since leaving the D-gers. Playing in Petco greatly affected him in 2005 but not so much in 2006 - apparently the park dimension changes helped out lefty homers greatly, though that didn't work for Roberts, as he only got 1 HR in 2006 vs. 5 in 2005. There was a slight increase in the lefty batting average, but only 2% increase.

If he can continue to hit .285/.358/.409/.767, that would have placed him 6th in 2006. In addition, the OPS of .358 would put him at 3rd. So leadoff looks to continue to be a strength with Roberts at the top of the order and his speed and accuracy - he didn't get caught much last season - will jazz up the top of the lineup in a way that hasn't really been seen since Brett Butler used to stir things up for us. That plus his defense makes him a good acquisition for the Giants, if old, though technically younger than Finley, who got the most games in CF last season for the Giants.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Klesko Manifesto Destiny

Lefty has a nice post up on what the Ryan Klesko signing by the Giants could mean to the team. He even beat me to the punch on what it means to the 40 man roster, which I was thinking of writing about, in a follow-up post.

Anyway, Klesko was signed to a $1.75M contract with $2M in incentives running up to 550 plate appearances (that I did beat Lefty to with a comment on his first post about Klesko :^) and he was announced as a nice power lefty bat to have coming off the bench, playing some 1B and LF, giving Aurilia and Bonds some rest.

However, if you read this article in the SF Chronicle, both Sweeney and Aurilia were kind of taken aback by the signing and a bit insecure about what it means to them now that Klesko is signed. How insecure is that? I think both are overly worried, particularly Sweeney.

Sweeney will be the PH that he has always been envisioned. What, you can't have two lefty PH during a game? It just means that it will be that much less likely that Sweeney will be starting so many games. Is that a bad thing? As I noted on Lefty's, Sweeney's road numbers were still as good as previous years, he just had a really bad time in SF. Perhaps if he were concentrating on learning to hit in SF rather than worrying about his defense, he might come through for us in SF as well.

Aurilia, as he noted in the Chronicle, can play a lot of positions. One of the thesis that I've seen the Giants throw out is that Feliz got too tired and they left it unsaid, but that is probably why they think his hitting sunk in the second half, because he got no rest. And with no viable backup - Vizcaino certainly never got it going - Feliz was all they had. Now they have Aurilia and if Feliz is slacking, for whatever reason, offensively, Aurilia or Frandsen will get a lot of ABs there, depending on the circumstances.

And what circumstances are that? As Bochy noted in the Chronicle interview, basically, whoever is hitting. And that is the beauty of having Aurilia, Frandsen, Klesko, and even Sweeney. Feliz not hitting? Aurilia can take 3B if he is hitting, or Frandsen could. If Aurilia takes 3B, then Klekso can play at 1B. Klesko can also play LF if Linden isn't hitting, when Bonds is resting. Sweeney can jump into the fray if Klesko is not hitting either or if there is a physical ailment affecting him. Plus Vizquel was totally cold for a long stretch in 2005, Aurilia and Frandsen can jump in there if he goes cold, with Klesko/Sweeney taking over at 1B if Aurilia shifts to SS. And you never know about Durham and his hamstrings or other leg ailments.

In addition, Aurilia and Sweeney are overworrying over something that has never been promised to them. Both are considered backup players. Both were never promised regular time, other than the Giants have been saying that Aurilia is currently their 1B - most of the time - at the moment. And Klesko too has only been promised to be a backup player too. Basically anyone who is hitting, he's going to get a lot of ABs, so it would behoove anyone wanting ABs to start hot and stay hot.

Each have question marks. Aurilia appears to only hit in Cincinnati. Klesko is insurance of that. Klesko appears to be healed and hitting well again, but is he? And will he hold up? Vizquel is old and a habit of not hitting well in odd years in recent years. Feliz hit well first half and very poorly second half of 2006, so which will show up in 2007? Durham has been a walking medicine chest since he joined the Giants. Lots of scenarios, lots of solutions.

Now, about who to drop when Bonds is signed, I think that Ellison makes the most sense. He might get picked up, but we have Lewis basically ready to take over if that should happens. However, we have no 1B in the system ready and Ishikawa is viewed as, at best, a platoon 1B by some prospect experts and Niekro has so far look like the perfect bookend for him. There is also the strong possibility that something will be done with Matheny.

Giants Drafting Strategy: Bonuses On Par

{First a note: I'm on vacation for the last two weeks of the year, so postings will be sporadic, depending on what I'm doing. I had planned to do more this week but unfortunately my wife caught the flu, right when we got sitters for the kids so that we could have some quiet time together for our anniversary. Best laid plans yadda yadda... So I haven't been, and I'll probably not be, checking my e-mail for comments posted and won't be replying until after the New Year. I had a number of posts in various stages of completion and will try to get them out before the year ends. But just in case: Happy Holidays to everyone and a Happy New Year!}

I have seen some fans complain that the Giants tend to draft "down" in order to pay less in bonuses to the draftees, and thus save money. In other words, they draft a lesser player - say, 5th round talent in the 3rd round - in order to save money in bonuses for that player by pre-arranging the bonus amount, a lesser amount, with the player ahead of time.

From the times I had seen the numbers, I never got that impression but it's not like I systematically looked at each bonus and determined "yea" or "nay". So I decided to check things out, like I am wont to do.

Methodology

So I checked the data that I had collected before on bonuses for the Giants and calculated the ratio of the bonus paid the player against the average bonus paid the next five paid draftees, then subtracted 100% to get the difference between the Giants bonus and the average bonus for the next five draftees. If the Giants were really paying that much less, the ratio should be under 100%. I chose the next five average because then people cannot accuse me of picking and chosing the data to fit one hypothesis or another, if I say the data say above or under paid. If the theory of under-drafting held, then the bonus should be clearly below the bonuses paid for the average of the bonuses for the five draftees after the Giants pick.

Now, there were some exceptions because sometimes there would be a high school draftee that another team would overpay for because they wanted him to sign. First off, out of the five draftees ahead of the Giants pick and the five draftees after the Giants pick, that is, of those 10 picks, the highest bonus was automatically excluded from the data. That tended to get rid of these high school draftee exceptions.

Next, if any of the next five draftees got paid a bonus that was higher than the bonus of half of the five draftees ahead of the Giants pick plus the Giants pick (i.e. 3 of these 6 picks), that bonus was deemed to be an exception bonus and was not included in the average. This covered any other draftees that also got a high bonus, obviously it is not within the average range if a back 5 draftee got a bonus that is higher than the bonuses for a majority of the front 5 plus the Giants pick.

Similarly, if any of the next five draftees got a bonus that was half that of the Giants bonus, that would be taken out of the average as well. That would bring down the average greatly and make it seem like the Giants are more generous with their bonus than they really were. And if the amount was half that of the others, then clearly that team was probably drafting higher to save money as well.

I only covered the first five rounds as that's when the bonuses get pretty small, relatively, and underpaying won't really save much. As I found out, I probably could have cut it off at the 3rd round, but since I did the work, I thought I would present it anyhow. Besides, for some of the drafts, I only had data up to the 3rd round anyhow.

Giants Bonuses for First Five Rounds from 2001 to 2006

2001: Data for first three rounds showed that the Giants did not underpay anyone except for one. 3 were paid over 10% more than the average back five draftees and the 1 was underpaid about 5%. While I will count this as an underpaid, I believe that this was an exception because it was Todd Linden who was underpaid.

What happened for him, for those who don't recall the details, his first agent dickered around with the Giants and for some reason Linden didn't realize what was happening. Finally Linden fired the agent but I can't remember if he got another agent or started negotiating himself. Either way, Linden really wanted to sign and by then the Giants had more of the leverage (or perhaps had spent their money elsewhere already) and offered him less than what picks around him was getting. He accepted because he wanted to start his professional career. He did not get the lowest bonus of the 11 picks, though, there were 3 lower bonuses paid, once I took out the exceptions and took in more picks.

So for 2001, only 1 out of 4 were underpaid.

2002: Only had data for three picks and all 3 were paid above the average, about 5% above the back five picks. Thus far, the Giants appear to overpay more for 1st round picks, but that could just be something every team does.

2003: OK, this is the year that apparently seared into people's minds that the Giants are cheap. Out of seven picks that I had data for in the first five rounds, four were underpaid, though again, the first round picks got paid within range, about 7% above the back five picks. After that, four of the next five picks got underpaid, with only Schierholtz getting 5% above the average. I point him out because I had noticed that someone had pointed out Schierholtz as a player we drafted ahead in order to save money, probably because he was an "out of the blue" pick that no one expected, I don't think he was on anyone's draft list of top amateur prospects.

Still, if look at the underpayments, the only two who were really underpaid were the round 3 and round 4 picks, who got 44% and 55% less than the average for the next five picks. The other two underpaids were just barely under, at -2.7% and -1.5%. So there were really only two who appeared to be paid as if from a latter round. The other two were really within range but I will count them as underpaids.

2004: Had data for four picks and the first three were paid about 10% above the average for the next five, while the fourth was paid at about the same rate, up by only 0.8%. So all four were paid over the average for the next five.

2005: Only had data for two rounds as the Giants had lost most of their early round picks by signing free agents. Both were paid above average, about 7% more.

2006: I had data for five draft picks. All were paid above the average for the next five draft picks, most were in the 7-8% range, with one low and the other much above.

Findings

Out of 24 draft picks , the Giants underpaid 5 of them, or 21% of them. However, as I noted, Linden was a unique situation, plus 2 of the others were barely paid under the average. Only 2 was truly paid significantly lower than the other draftees around that pick.

The average bonus paid by the Giants was 2.4% higher than the five picks after average. If you summed up all the bonuses and divided by the sum of the averages, the Giants paid 9.1% higher than the average for the five picks after their pick.

This reflects the bias in the Giants payment for first round picks (not that other teams don't have the same bias; that would be another study) and/or their first picks. There were four draftees who got more than 10% more. Lincecum (R1; first pick) got 27% more bonus than the five picks afterward averaged. Lowry (R1; second pick) got 16% more. EME (R2; first pick) got 12% more. And Hennessey (R1; first pick) got 11% more. There were also a few more who got in the 9% range: Bowker (R3; second pick), Cain (R1; first pick), Foppert (R2; fourth pick). And four more who got in the 8% range: Timpner (R4; third pick, Griffin (R5; second pick), Burriss (R1S; second pick), and Synder (R4; fourth pick).

Giants Thoughts

So, overall, I would not say that the Giants have ever really pre-arranged lower bonuses in order to save money, except in two specific situations in the 2003 draft. In addition, if you will recall, that is the infamous year that the Giants, in the offseason after the 2003 season, purposefully signed Michael Tucker just before the deadline in order to punt their draft pick to the Royals and instead use that money to have a major league RF starting for them, instead of having no viable alternative if a prospect was used.

If there were any systematic underpayment, it was in the 2003 draft, when four of the instances where the Giants paid under the average bonus of the five following draftees. The only other instance where the Giants paid under was the unusual circumstances where the Giants had an eager and desperate Linden wanting to become professional and he had waited until the Giants probably didn't have much money left to sign him anyhow.

There were also three that appeared to be borderline, possible underpayment. In those instances, the Giants paid above the average only 0.8%, 2.3%, and 3.5%. Even if you add these to the four, that would only be 7 out of 24 picks, or 29% who were underpaid.

Given all this, I would say that the Giants, as was my impression, did not regularly "over draft" prospects with pre-arranged, much reduced bonuses in order to save money. In particular, regarding their first round and early picks, the Giants generally paid much over average, relative to the five picks signed afterward and relative to their picks overall. In particular, the Giants seemed to know when to be relatively generous, as they paid Lincecum, Lowry, EME, Hennessey, Bowker, Cain, and Foppert more over the average than their other picks.

Add to that, if the Giants were really as cheap as some fans think, they would have never paid Ishikawa nearly $1M, the highest bonus ever given for such a late pick (21st round), nor would they have pursued Draft and Follow draftees like Marcus Sanders, and they certainly would not have paid over $2M to sign Angel Villalona recently. These fans want to paint the Giants management as cheap and just want to believe what they want to believe, but bonuses and "over drafting" was not an area where the Giants were being cheap in, just as I showed that giving up the first round draft pick, when it is in the latter part of the draft, is not necessarily always a bad thing to do either, it is not a matter of being cheap, but of chosing your battles and risks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bochy Interview Today

Heard interview on Murph and Mac KNBR this morning. Repeats some stuff he said on Thursday when the Giants trotted out their new signees: Roberts, Molina, and Aurilia. Highlights:
  • Lineup: he sees Feliz and Molina at the bottom of the order (yeah, he sees that Feliz is nothing better than that!) but in the third position, while he sees lots of options there, including Durham, he is leaning towards Aurilia. Brian Murphy suggested a lineup of Roberts, Vizquel, Aurila, Bonds, Durham (then mistakingly, right after Bochy said Feliz at bottom, said Feliz, Winn, Molina).
  • Closer: he thinks that Benitez can be good again, could return to his past greatness. He was a great reliever before and he don't see why he couldn't again. That said, Brian Wilson has been doing very well in Puerto Rico in the Winter Leagues (insane numbers, see sfgiants.com), so it is nice to have an option like that.
  • Lincecum: management is talking about him quite a bit. He is impressive, special, with a hard to see ball and great velocity. He will be a long shot to make the roster (but does have a shot!), but could start or relieve, particularly set up or closing at first. Open mind on his role with an arm like his, they will see where they are with the staff before deciding what to do with him.
  • Sanchez: for 2007, could start or relieve, depending on how the staff works out but they are leaning towards starting.
  • Molina: his priority is handling the pitching staff, winning games, and helping the young pitchers develop. It is nice to have an offensive catcher plus he has been a clutch hitter during his career.
  • Golden Gate Bridge: Apparently on game day he and the 'Dres GM walked from the St. Francis Hotel all the way over to the Golden Gate Bridge and back. He said his old catcher's knees started barking like bad during the walk. He also noted that he thinks he can survive a jump off the bridge. What a guy!
Comments

I would prefer Winn in the 3rd position, then we start the game off with 3 batters who have been leadoff guys and with speed, but perhaps Bochy wants less speed in the 3 spot since Barry would be up next. Plus then Winn can provide some speed at the bottom of the order, in the 6th spot. However, most lineup construction studies have found that the 3rd spot was not as critical to the offense as most of us thought while growing up in the 60's and 70's and 80's. At least he isn't talking up Feliz for the spot.

Armando as closer, returning to greatness? Isn't he a great company man already, hewing to the company line that Armando is a great reliever and thus hopefully inticing some reliever hungry team to take him off our hands, salary and all plus send us a prospect or two. The better news is that Brian Wilson is doing so great in Puerto Rico (with Todd Linden, who is also doing very well), after not doing so well during the season with the big club. If he can come through and claim a spot, that would greatly bolster the bullpen. In addition, the Giants had talked about him as a starter before, so I would pencil him in as a black horse candidate for the rotation if Sanchez, Hennessey, and Correia falters in the battle for the #5 spot, assuming the Giants pick up a retread now for #4.

Wow, Lincecum has a chance, albeit small, to make the roster coming out of spring training. That's exciting stuff! It will depend on both how the starters and relievers do: hopefully they will do enough that the Giants send him down to the minors, hopefully AAA, to see how he does in the hitters league first, he was so dominating in high-A with San Jose Giants. I would prefer to not see him in the bullpen but that might happen if the Giants trade Benitez somehow.

Yes, keep Sanchez a starter, don't just lean that way. Make do in the bullpen, have frequent flyer miles up from Fresno if they have to, sign every failed starter there is, but keep Sanchez starting. We need to see how he does in a full-time starter's role in the majors. If he can pitch the way he shows the potential for, what a rotation we would have in Cain, Lowry, Lincecum and Sanchez, we'll be set for the following 4 seasons in our rotation, from 2008 to 2011, more if we can keep them signed.

Nice to see that Molina's signing has more to do with handling the pitching staff and developing the young pitchers than just his offense, though that is nice too. We need to keep our staff developing and producing, they are our future.

People like to knock the Giants and, particularly, Sabean for only producing pitchers and no position players, but look at how the pitching staff has turned over in the past couple of years and all the pitchers who have come up and produced. If progress continues, we should start having pitchers who are good being pushed out of the rotation by our cream of the crop (Lowry comes to mind right now) and look at how much those types of pitchers are making, $10-11M per season (I'll be writing about that soon, FYI).

And look at what teams are offering for Mike Gonzalez, purportedly the Braves are dangling power hitting LaRoche for him, straight up, and what Washington got from the Reds for their two relievers, two starting postion players PLUS prospects.

Lastly, lets keep Bochy away from the Golden Gate Bridge before he decides to try out his idea, particularly if the team goes south the way many people have been predicting (to be clear, I can understand people's feelings right now, but I'm willing to wait until Spring Training to start panicking.

All Hail the Guitar Hero! Zumaya!

Has got to be one of the best sports injury of all time. I got this news from the Merc: reliever Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers missed three games of the AL championship series against the A's because he was playing too much "Guitar Hero" of Playstation 2, and not because of some pitching motion injury.

Detroit's trainers discovered that Zumaya's forearm pain was more consistent with the action of a guitar player than a pitcher. They prescribed that Zumaya lay off the game and he pitched pain-free during the World Series. Lucky for Zumaya that the trainers were familiar with the pain of a guitar player and not just with athletic injuries.

Dwer, dwer, dweeeerererer!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

OK, I Take it Back on Zito: Pass on Him

I can eat humble pie as well as anyone, I've known I wasn't perfect since an early age (didn't stop me from trying :^), and I admit that I was wrong for pushing Barry Zito for the rotation. Here are the facts, which I admit I didn't look at, but thought that he was surely doing pretty well since he was a former Cy Young winner and doing well with the A's:
  • PQS is horrible for a top pitcher wannabe: 41% DOM in 2006. That's what good pitchers do, not great ones hoping to get a 6 year contract at somewhere in the high teens of millions. Not only that, but he deteriorated as the year progressed. He went from a 47% DOM/ 5% DIS in the first half to 33% DOM/ 20% DIS. That's Jamey Wright type of pitching.
  • Not only that, but his K/9 was only 6.2, his second straight year of decline, whereas his BB/9 was his highest since his rookie season, at a untolerable 4.0 BB/9, where 3.0 is the highest you want to go, ideally, unless you can strike them out at a 2.2 K/BB ratio - his ratio was only 1.5 K/BB, way below the ratio you ideally want from one of the best pitchers on your staff.
  • And looking at his K/BB for his career, it has basically fallen from his first full season ratio of 2.6, which is very good, to basically at or much below the minimal 2.0 you want out of your starting pitchers (that is, if you want to win a lot of games): 1.7, 2.0, 1.9, 1.5; that is pretty sad for a pitcher who is probably hoping to be paid the most money ever paid to a pitcher in a contract.
  • Furthermore, you want your pitchers to have a HR/9 rate of below 1.0 ideally. His last three seasons: 1.2, 1.0, 1.1.
  • And if you believe in FIP (I'm not sure whether to or not but here it is for those who do), Zito has basically been doing it with mirrors his whole career, FIPs for the past 5 seasons: 4.11, 4.22, 4.65, 4.52, 4.94. Boy! Is that bad for a pitcher who has won a Cy Young award and is considered by some to be a top line pitcher.

That's some Tomko-tastic numbers there and all for the price of a modern day Christy Mathewson. Mea culpa, forgive me for I did not know what I was saying: pass on Barry Zito, please Giants, dodge another bulwet, pwease, we dodged Pierre, Soriano, Matthews Jr, and Lee, plus all those crappy pitchers thus far, please don't overbid for Zito just to make Bonds happy.

Making Bonds Happy

That's the other thing I thought I would bring up. Today's Mercury stated that the Giants have promised Barry that they will spend whatever they need to spend to get him to the World Series this season. That is why they are still pursuing Zito, among other higher priced free agents, that is why they pursued all those other top free agents, to make Barry happy, to convince him that they are serious about winning it all.

All I can say is: why didn't they do this a few years back? I brought this up with an article I wrote for another site a few years back, plus repeated it on my blogs, but I implored the Giants to spend more money while Bonds is still productive, because you don't know when he is going to go bad. Get Vlad or any other Next Gen starter to pair with Bonds, to get the team over the hump. Especially when they had their Maddux money and could have picked up an extra player the past few off-seasons. Instead the Giants have been limping along, hampered by their contracts with Alfonzo and Durham, then Bonds, Alou, and Benitez.

All I can say is too little, and definitely too late. Too little, that is, in terms of talent. Where was this money when Carlos Beltran was on the market? Even Vlad? Or any of the other true talents that have been available on the free agent market the past few off seasons. Instead, they wait until now. Sad....

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lineup Analysis for Current 2007 Giants

I thought it would be interesting to examine the potential run scored based on the current Giants roster, assuming Bonds and the Giants get over their last few hurdles for the contract. I used the Lineup Analysis program available at Baseball Musing to calculate the runs per game estimated for the set of players and their OBP and SLG. That program is based on the work of Cyril Morong and Ken Arneson, Morong in particular, who did a regression on runs vs. the OBP and SLG for each position in the lineup.

Lineup Analysis

For each player, I used a cut of their stats that I thought made sense for their situation:
  1. Roberts: used his road stats. That is below what he has done with his past three teams, but I think he will take a hit hitting in AT&T. (OBP .346, SLG .383)
  2. Vizquel: used his road stats too. He has a pattern that stretches back to 2000 - he hits poorly in odd years. His road stats for his career is approximately what he has done every other year on his down years, but with an uptick since perhaps he finally learned how to hit in AT&T in 2006. This is still slightly lower than his stats as a Giant. (OBP .341, SLG .362) As I stated previously when we acquired Vizquel, he has actually done better as a leadoff hitter plus has less power, so it would make sense to bat him leadoff and Roberts second, Bochy could be so bold.
  3. Winn: used his road stats. It is down very slightly from his career stats, could have just used that, but since I used road stats elsewhere, just kept it up. I think he's a better choice than Aurilia for batting third, he has a higher OBP, plus Aurilia has always had a run-producer mentality and I would like that in the #6 spot. (OBP .341, SLG .421)
  4. Bonds: used his 2nd half 2006 stats. I think that is closer to his abilities than any of his other numbers. (OBP .430, SLG .596)
  5. Durham: used his Giants stats. He has been up and down as a Giant and is due for a down year, but still, 2006 was either a breakout year or a peak year. The fairest thing I thought would be to use his numbers as a Giants hitter. (OBP .358, SLG .474)
  6. Aurilia: used his road stats. Hard to pick out exactly what his stats will be in 2007 with the Giants. Clearly his numbers the past two years have been boosted by playing in Cincinnati. Looking at his AT&T numbers, it is good overall and still not too bad looking at his two post peak years of 2002 and 2003, and close to his career road numbers, so that made his road numbers appear to be the best representation of his abilities for 2007 (OBP .322, SLG .433)
  7. Molina: I looked at both his road numbers and his last 4 years. I thought his 4 year numbers looked better as a representative stat because he has hit better in the past 4 seasons than in the 3 prior seasons, indicating some improvement in his hitting. And the main improvement is in SLG, which makes sense as his SLG went up once he turned 28, entering into his prime physical years. (OBP .318, SLG .442)
  8. Feliz: used his 3 years as a starter for the Giants. Hard to tell what is really his performance level. Obviously some might point to two consecutive years of low .700 OPS and say that is his true level, but he hit .274/.306/.486/.792 in the first half of the 2006 season, which is in line with his results in 2003 and 2004, so that lends credence to the theory some hold that Feliz just tired out and couldn't hit anymore during the second half. So I decided to just use his stats while essentially a starter for the Giants, which covers his past three seasons. (OBP .295, SLG .443)
  9. Linden/Sweeney: they are the main replacements for Roberts and Bonds when they are out of the lineup. For Linden I used his two year stats, since that's the most he has played and is his most recent: OBP .288, SLG .371. For Sweeney, I just used his stats as a Giant, which was greatly reduced in 2006 because of his inability to hit at home: home, .228/.282/.283/.565 vs. away, .281/.385/.509/.894. Most players hit better in AT&T with time, Durham, Grissom, and Alfonzo have noted the learning curve before, and Vizquel had a boost last season over 2005, but I wasn't sure how to model that. Since his SF numbers are approximately Linden, I just assumed that they are interchangeable offensively.

Runs Scored

For the lineup with Bonds and Roberts in there: 4.87 runs per game

For the lineup with Linden for Bonds in there: 4.34 runs per game

For the lineup with Sweeney for Bonds in there: 4.40 runs per game (see, pretty close)

For the lineup with Linden for Roberts in there: 4.76 runs per game

Calculated based on 125 games started by Bonds, with the various combos noted above, I get the Giants scoring 755 runs or 4.66 runs per game, which would have been good for 9th in 2006 - they were tied for 10th in 2006 with 746 runs.

Not too surprising, since the lineup is virtually the same as it was last season. Basically we traded out Alou/Finley, Niekro/Hillenbrand, and Matheny/Alfonzo for Roberts, Aurilia, and Molina/Alfonzo (which I did not account for so that would reduce runs scored even more). I think the combo of Alou/Finley did not do that well, despite Alou hitting so well, and the upgrade from Matheny to Molina will more than make up any difference between Alou/Finley and Roberts.

Upsides/Downsides

Possible upsides/downsides:

  1. Roberts: he has hit much better playing under Bochy than previously, that would boost his stats up 3-6%. That adds about 10 runs or 1 win. However, he has been accident prone so that could knock down the stats by giving Linden more ABs, assuming Linden does not improve. Obviously, if Linden has a breakout year, the offense stays about the same, maybe improve.
  2. Vizquel: Pretty much all the downside is covered except if he gets injured and Aurilia or Frandsen has to play SS. If he did learn how to hit in AT&T and/or break the up/down cycle for his OPS, there is a 7% upside or about 10 runs there.
  3. Winn: The downside is pretty much last season, so that would mean a lingering injury that lasts through the season or at least affected his hitting all season. Big upside if he could ever duplicate his 2005 season with us, but I wouldn't hold your breath. He's a pretty consistent hitter since becoming a starter, and, for Saber-heads, his BABIP last season was only .279, much lower than the mean of .300 that the theory said a hitter should regress to, and way below his .326 BABIP for his career.
  4. Bonds: multitude of downsides, but if he's healthy and in the lineup, who knows what he can do, he has amazed us Giants fans over and over again.
  5. Durham: obviously injury is his downside, but he is healthy, he is a good low to mid-800 OPS hitter normally, over the past 9 seasons, with a peak in two of the past three seasons. Should be right in that range again, even if injured.
  6. Aurilia: I think his downside is pretty much equal to his upside, he is going to be in the 700 OPS range, year in, year out, with the mean about .750.
  7. Molina: The downside is how quickly he adjusts to AT&T, some hitters take a couple of months, some take a year, some never adjusts. He is actually a good hitter, with a contact rate of about 90% (i.e. strikes out about 10% of the ABs), which is pretty good, though his low walks is also a sign that he is more a hitter capable of getting the bat on the ball, than a good hitter. But you can't scoff at a lifetime .275/.310/.407/.717 hitter at the catcher position.
  8. Feliz: Much more of an upside if Bochy can play him so that he gets rested enough to be optimum as a hitter. He's a .790 OPS hitter with enough rest but when he gets worn down, he's down in the low 700's. He is supposedly working out this off-season so that he could play a full season without tiring, but that's what he said last off-season. Plus he says that he is taking hitting lessons to improve his hitting, to which I have to say: what took so freaking long? My numbers are to the low end, so there is more upside than down, I think, but with him, who knows?
  9. Linden/Sweeney: Linden has been a better hitter in AAA than Feliz ever was and Feliz is about a 700 OPS hitter, so I think Linden with consistent ABs can do like Feliz and hit in the .700 OPS range, if not higher, because Linden knows how to take a walk and he hit for more power. My deepest wish is that he gets enough ABs to show his abilities and earn the starting job in 2008. He will be 27/28 that year, so he will be entering his peak physical years, and while he won't be any great hitter, I think he could be a wonderful complementary player for the price of under $1M. Sweeney has been a professional hitter in the best sense of the word, so I expect him to figure out AT&T soon, and have a good hitting season, both starting at 1B and PHing. Lots of upside, and basically should be no downside, he hasn't hit this poorly for a long time and he hit great outside of SF, he just sucked at home.

Thoughts on Lineup

Overall, I think I was pretty conservative with what to expect from the hitters and basically came up with a lineup a little better than last year's 10th place runs scored finish, perhaps a 9th place finish. That's actually OK to me because initial impressions I got from others is that the lineup is going to be much worse and because I feel that the pitching rotation had a lot of down performances that an up year in 2007 would mitigate and result in more wins in 2007 than 2006.

I have shown what I think the 2007 pitching rotation is capable of doing in other posts, and noted how I think the rotation could be a big improvement over last year's rotation, even with the lost of Schmidt, solely because of how poorly our pitchers #3 to #5 did. Improvements in those areas, particularly with Lowry and Morris would greatly improve our chances to win. Adding a reliable #4 starter (in 2007 performance, not history, seeing as how pitchers with history is getting $10-11M per season) by taking a risk on a down and out starter, like we did with Jamey Wright in 2006, would be a good thing to do, as we could allow him 2-3 months to wow the team, and if not, then bring up Lincecum or start Hennessey again. It is nice to have options.

But that's basically the team in a nutshell: to do well in 2007, we need to catch some breaks with developing players and have a healthy team overall, meaning Roberts, Durham, and Bonds can stay healthy. That's not a recipe for success but at least there is hope with our starting rotation plus the sideshow that is Barry Bonds chase of Aaron's record.

Bonds Will Do It in 2007: Unless...

If I had to predict, I would think Bonds would pass Hank sometime in late August or early September. That is, if some crazed baseball fanatacist don't do something crazy to protect Aaron's and baseball's record. Unfortunately, we have the ugly examples of the stabbing of Monica Seles by a crazed Steffi Graf fan, to keep Graf at the top of the tennis world, the knee whacking of Nancy Kerrigan by her top opponent's boyfriend's friend while competing for figure ice skating gold, and John Lennon's assasination by a crazed "fan", as sad examples of man's cruelty to man, in regards to the entertainment industry. Just as Aaron had to endure death threats from racists on his journey to pass Ruth, I am sure there will be those baseball purists out there who will feel compelled to threaten Bonds. It is times like that, as Julian Lennon wrote, "salt water wells in my eyes".

Giants New Centerpiece: Starting Rotation

I see people getting mad about the Giants right now. They point to the Giants management's statements at the start of the off-season and say that they were lying to us fans. We didn't get younger. We still have Bonds as the centerpiece. None of the young players get to start. Therefore Sabean, Magowan, and the Giants are liars.

Youth is in the Eye of the Beholder: Just Win Baby!

See, that's the crux of the matter. People see the one statement and hold the Giants's feet to the fire but missed the main statement of the offseason: the Giants's goal is to be competitive in 2008, and they want to get younger and healthier while doing it. They stressed this over and over again, particularly in context regarding whether Bonds comes back or not. But really, people didn't see that when push comes to shove, winning (in the Giants thinking) comes before younger and healthier?

Frandsen, Linden, Lewis, I would would have been OK with starting them but it would not be a winning season, which some seem to accept, they want to rebuild. However, that's an untenable position regarding the Giants management's statements to the public to put together a winning team, there is no re-building with that objective, there is only spot improvements, a work-in-progress, that, ideally, get younger and healthier over time. First and foremost, the team must strive to win, and, meanwhile, if we can, we try to get younger and healthier.

Good Enough To Compete

Now some may argue that the team as constituted is not a winning team - and I would not argue against that stance, the team has a chance to stink it up again like 2005 and 2006, perhaps in a whole new different way.

But I think that the Giants also have a good chance for a good, competitive (again, a relative term, in the NL West for the title) team, and it is all based on their young pitching. If they deliver as they had when healthy, we have a really good starting trio of Cain, Lowry, and Morris. Add in a legit leadoff guy starting off the offense, and a nice middle of lineup in Bonds and Durham, and it is a nice lineup, not earthshaking, but nice.

A New Centerpiece

Some also feel that the team lied about who the centerpiece of the team going forward is. Bonds, while still the centerpiece of the Giants offense, is no longer the centerpiece of the team. He's not going to hit like he did in 2001-2003, but he'll still be damn good. However, as high priced as he may be, he is no longer the centerpiece of the team.

The centerpiece of the team is now the starting rotation, and led by Cain and Lowry. Hopefully Lincecum will join them soon and maybe Sanchez. Teams are going crazy signing middle of rotation guys to $10-11M contracts, which means that a "good" rotation has $35-45M of performance (not necessarily salary) devoted to the starting 3 of their rotation. How good would it be if we can trot out Cain, Lowry and Lincecum for the next 4-5 seasons for less than $10M total per season? And maybe Sanchez too boot?

And how valuable will pitchers like that be? I've written about this long ago before, but the Giants focus on pitching is a true blessing with the free agent market going crazy like this. Pitchers are very fungible commodities, a team can trade one for almost any position in the field, but if you have a hitter, then you need to find a team that 1) has the player you need, and 2) need the hitter you have. Pitching is always in need and they can be used in a large variety of ways, they can literally fill one of 5-10 positions on your pitching staff, depending on what you need, so that once you locate a team with the hitting you need, then you just have to find a right combo of pitchers to get that hitter.

So the Giants are looking good in the near and intermediate term based on their focus on pitching and more pitching in their farm system. No team can ever fill all the needs of the team via the farm system, there is not enough easily identifiable major leaguers beyond the first 5-10 picks, to do something like that. Even the A's, for their vaunted farm system, needs to rely on selected free agents to fill needs. By concentrating on a low supply, high demand product like pitching, they will help insure that we have a continuously improving pitching staff, with ready replacements coming up, and, eventually (hopefully), enough spare arms to trade for what we need in terms of hitters.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Barry Signs with Giants: $16M, 1 year, $4M Performance Bonuses

Whew, perhaps I was better off waiting to write on his Barry-ness. :^) But still, I think most of holds still.

However, the contract reminds me of the last one: Barry-ian Roulette. Will this be the year he gets indicted? Will this be the year he gets lousy (see Willie Mays last seasons)? Will this be the year he gets injured, again, and miss significant time? The chambers were empty last time, except for 2005. Do you feel lucky, punk?

Contract Details

The reports are that he signed for $16M base and $4M in "performance bonuses". I guess the Giants had to change the name from "incentives" because Barry said he wouldn't sign a contract with those in there and this would save him face so that he won't look like he backed down from his stand.

Looks like the Giants backed down, though. After pursuing all these different free agents with megadeals, and striking out, I guess they felt that they had to sign Bonds to a big contract, partly because they needed his bat, partly because he would be one grouchy SOB in the clubhouse if they signed him for what his market price was, which was not that much. The previous rumor had the Giants offer at around $7-9M ("half of Bonds's demands, which I had seen ranging from $14M to $18M) with incentives that could bring his salary up to his previous salary.

I'm disappointed that they caved, but not surprised, they have not been the smartest of organizations to know when they have the negotiating edge against the other team or player. I think it would be easily worth 1,000 times the cost of the classes if Magowan would just send all of their management personnel to Harvard and have them take the negotiation skills classes and get a certificate in that.

Barry's Back Home: Welcome Back!

But that's past now, what's done is done (just like Feliz), and now we need to just accept that he's here and move on. As I speculated, I think he makes our lineup competitive now: Roberts/Winn, Vizquel, Winn/Linden, Bonds, Durham, Molina, Aurilia, Feliz. I know most won't agree but I'm not saying it is going to be world beating either, just competitive. I'll cover that in a little more detail soon then in excruciating detail in the spring, once we know what we will look like going into Opening Day.

So welcome back Barry, I hope you earn all your performance bonuses and pass Hank Aaron for the career HR mark during the season, in what hopefully is your last season, just retire while you are near your top. Given how well he played in the second half - .292/.430/.596/1.026 with 14 HR in 178 AB (ironically lower OBP though) - he should have a better year overall in 2007 vs. 2006 if he can keep it up AND stay healthy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

To Barry, Or Not to Barry, That is the Question

People seem to be misunderstanding what I'm trying to say about Bonds, so given all the Barry news from the winter meetings, I thought I would try again, plus explain my strategy more.

I'm not saying teams don't want to pursue Bonds, I'm only saying that Bonds, by foregoing incentives, makes the potential offers from the other teams to be abnormally low because of all the risks involved with him. And as much as we like to make fun of teams and their wild spending, they do take into account business factors - after all, the players always say that cliche, that baseball is a business - and business risks is foremost among them.

The Risks A Team Takes By Signing Bonds

Here are the risks I see with Bonds, it doesn't take an MBA. First and foremost, he could be jailed at any moment, as far as anyone is concerned. Whether it be his buddy Greg Anderson being tired of being jailed and deciding to testify or the IRS determining that he violated some arcane income tax rule and throw their huge book at him, either could throw him into jail if it happens. In addition, there is the fear of poisoning the clubhouse. There weren't all the rumors of dissension about his perks if there wasn't some truth to it.

On top of that, there is the fact that he is 43 years old next season and father time may take his time with some people, but he will eventually win and make the strong ordinary. Willie Mays was hit with this when he was only 36, going from 52 HR to 36 HR to 22 HR (or thereabouts, going from memory) in successive years. Lastly, beyond all these other issues, he is at risk for injury, he had his elbow problems last year which hampered his hitting, he had his knee issues the year before, and at his age, there are plenty of other things that can go wrong, like, say, he could sign for $18M in January, bang his knee on a table in February, go through surgery for his bum knee, go through another surgery for his bum knee, suffer an infection that nearly takes his leg, necessitating another knee surgery and he plays maybe 20 filler games for us at the end of the season.

Plus, there is the chance that fanatic fans of the team signing him launching protest websites and organizing public protests against Bonds in front of the stadium and during games. Just read the stuff on the web about steroids abuse and see the venom hurled Bonds way. How could that not lead to opportunistic people creating a website and drumming business their way but fomenting a protest against the signing of Bonds and then the playing of Bonds. It is like that guy who got his 15 minutes of fame protesting the New Coke, then someone dared him to take the taste test and he ended up choosing Pepsi, there are people out there who will cease upon an opportunity to get their 15 minutes of fame, a la the reality shows, and flame the fans of discontent over THEIR team signing Barry.

All these risks are significant enough that a team will want to account for it in their contract offer. No team, not even the Yankees, can swallow an $18M contract and cheerily accept that they might not get anything for that money. That is why I've been saying that teams won't try to sign him, the risks means that their best offer will be no where near what Bonds has been asking for.

How He's Different

One comment noted that Barry is not different from TO, Iverson, Giambi, or Sheffield. I would throw Sprewell in there too, particularly as a close comparison, since he strangled someone and could have been thrown in jail for that. And I would agree that they are similar to a large extent. Large egos for sure. Most are deadly in the clubhouse (and to their manager/coaches). Most are controversial in one way or another. Most have a love/hate relationship with the media.

But Bonds trump them all. None of them are being pursued by governmental bodies seeking to throw him into jail once they have the evidence. None of them are close to beating a long revered career record. For some fans, Bonds being the career leader would be the equivalent of putting the Ku Klux Klan as the head of the NAACP. Many if not most see Bonds as a steroids/HGH abuser who didn't earn any of the awards and homers he has gotten, the worse example of the whole lot of players who have cheated, mainly because his abuse has been the most documented of any of them. I mean, Bonds has had two books written on his troubles, and I'll bet that is two more than has been written about all the players named above. None of the players above have that combination of factors that make him too risky for a team to offer him more than a few million in base with the rest in incentives.

I think it will be interesting, however, what happens when Giambi's contract ends. Sheffield's abuse was said to be just a one year mistake, but Giambi outlined a huge list of abuses, and I think he is lucky he has not had to be a free agent for a while. Perhaps things will have died down by then, but I think the stigma will hit him like it did Sosa and especially Palmeiro. But if he has had any deterioration in his skills when he goes free agent, he is probably toast.

The Issue: The Guaranteed Money

And that is the crux of the matter, how much base or guaranteed money he is getting. He wants at least $14M and has been asking for either $18M a year or a two year, $40M contract with a vesting option for the second year. How crazy is that? The RISK of him suffering any of the problems I noted above is huge, and any team touching that for the money Bonds is reported to be asking for is even further lost from reality than the teams paying all that money this year to nothing players, like those teams were Mercury bad, but doing that with Bonds would be Jupiter bad. But given the strong, underwhelming response from teams - there is a huge list of teams in the Merc today acknowledging that they did not speak to Bonds yesterday - I think that they understand these risks and have not gone beyond putting Bonds name on the list of free agents, then crossing him off.

What people seem to be missing is that I'm saying that Bonds is between a rock and a hard place. He wants $18M with no incentives, teams are probably offering him a Frank Thomas 2006 type of contract with a low base and full of incentives, to cover the RISKS to the team that Bonds might not, for one reason or another, not play games, like he did (or didn't) in 2005, no team wants to blow out their payroll for an $18M player and watch him rehab all year to play a month's worth of games. I'm not saying teams don't want him, but that they don't want him enough to offer more than a small base contract with huge incentives.

No one, not even the Giants. According to recent reports from ESPN, the Giants have offered about half of the money Bonds is asking for (which puts it in the $7-9M range, based on the rumors on what he is asking for/working to get) with incentives that would bring him close to the money he is asking for. That's what I've been saying, the Giants can afford to risk that 1) because like the other teams, they need a hitter like Bonds, but more importantly 2) they know his health and body, they know the fans would not go out on the streets and riot if he is signed (no other team has that guaranteed, all risk the wraith of their fans if there is enough hatred in their fanbase), they can actually go and market Bonds's chase of Babe Ruth, while other teams would hide it on the back page of the sports section.

No Way, No How

However, Bonds said that he won't play for incentives, no way, no how, never, ever, ever, and that's pretty close to his quotes. So we have an impasse here: any team, if they are prudent, needs to offer a small base with lots of incentives to cover the RISK that Bonds might not play the number of games you hope he will, but, however, Bonds has publicly spit all over over that and hasn't changed his tune yet, and could be even insulted if any team offered him that officially, given his public reactions to the Giants treating this as a business.

Until either a team gets so desperate - and one would assume not, judging by the lack of demand for Sosa and Palmeiro - or Bonds changes his mind about incentives, no team will want to sign Barry to such a large - and risk-fraught - contract that he has been asking for. And it would take a strong-willed owner to do that, a King George or the Texas Rangers, and the former has said nothing plus is so full up on DHs that they traded Sheffield away and the latter has publicly said that he is not pursuing him. There is also the Angels, who has a billionaire sugar daddy, so it is always possible that he ups the ante and pursues Bonds, but their team is in as bad a shape as the Giants, in terms of making the playoffs (they have the A's shoving sand in their face, we have the Pads and D-gers), and they already have 4 starting OF types, so the 4th would be the DH, and they have a boatload of infield hitters that one could also DH too.

The Waiting Game

He is playing a risky game here with the Giants. They have basically laid their cards on the table if they have already offered a $7-9M contract with incentives bringing him close to his demands. However, given the gap between Bonds demands and their best offer, Sabean has been doing the prudent business thing and trying to find replacements for him in case they are unable to sign him.

And despite Bonds's lame agent's lame proclaimations, these are not insults to Barry, they are not signs that they don't want Barry, they are not signs that they are insulting Barry: it is a business and they need a power hitting RBI machine to man LF and other positions on the team.
And if Barry is going to stick his head in the sand and say "lalalalalala - I can't hear you - lalalalala" and not budge from his demands, the Giants will need to move in another direction. To be prudent, the Giants need to kick the tires of a lot of player and try to set up a big trade or two to get a big bat, because there is no guarantee that Bonds will ever sign with us. I agree with those who say that the Giants are probably not going to be playoff contenders without Bonds (and some say even with) and I'm OK with that. Not happy but OK.

Don't Blame the Farm System on Sabean

Ann Killion blasts Sabean in today's Merc for not planning better, but I thought that this was a good plan: with Bonds at or near retirement, you have a huge pot of money that you can spend for a replacement or you can resign him for a year and have that money available the next year for his replacement. In addition, is it his fault that Benitez and Matheny became spots of concern with their injury problems? That further added to his needs. And if Hillenbrand had hit anywhere near his previous career numbers, he might be our 1B right now instead of Aurilia.

In addition, she needles him for his farm system but she, like many, has forgotten that a large portion of the pitching staff is constructed with farm products - cheap pitchers - and there is no team out there today who has a competitive team built only with farm hands, there is always a mixture of farm, free agents, and trades. And there are more on the way up, Sanchez, Lincecum, Wilson, Misch, plus a number of good ones down lower who are percolating up.

She also don't know, and most don't know, that it is extremely hard to build up the farm system without Top 5 picks seeding your farm system, as I tried to show with my research on draft picks. The odds are not good for finding good players after the first 10 picks or so, and particularly so after the Top 20 picks. And once you get past the first three rounds, good luck, that's really like a needle in a haystack! By the 100th pick overall, the success rate of finding a good player was approximately 1%, covering the years 1986 - 1998, as suggested by my research.

I calculated the probability of finding a good player (i.e. a good starting player) when you have a pick in the 21-30th range in the first round. There is a 43% chance that you end up with nobody after 8 years of picking in the 21-30th range (and Sabean had less since he purposefully forgoed some), and 38% chance that you end up with one. So there is an 81% chance that you end up with either 0 or 1 good player. Right now, we have Cain and maybe Lowry who would fall under that category, and, yes, they could falter, but right now Sabean looks pretty good to beat the odds on 1st round draft picks in the last part of that round with his drafting.

That's why I have a good chuckle seeing people get so happy over getting draft picks for our free agents, they act like they won the lotto when all they found on the ground was a scratcher's ticket that most probably (11% chance of finding a good player) will turn out to be a "cuppa" prospect - that is, a player who only makes it up for a cup of coffee in the majors. And obviously the odds get even worse once you get past the first few rounds and into the later rounds.

My Thoughts on The Current Team

Here is my thoughts, which I've probably put in one place or another all over the place, but now I'll lay them out together. I believe that rebuilding years need to be down and out disasters where you get a Top 5 draft pick. We were not that far the past two years, only 5 picks away and we lucked out last year and got Lincecum, who was talked about as a top 5 pick and so far he has played like one. So if we don't get Bonds, I think we are there with the team we have, lots of good pitching, but no bullpen to rely on yet, and the offense is mediocre at best without Bonds.
Hopefully, though, I hope to get Bonds still. With him, I like the lineup, even with Feliz. Roberts/Winn, Vizquel, Winn/Linden, Bonds, Durham, Molina, Aurilia, Feliz would be good because while Feliz is a below average 3B, he would be an above average 8th place hitter, and he could pick up more RBIs for us there than any other 8th place hitter. People miss that you can't have league average or better hitters at every position, even the Yankees struggle with that one sometimes (Cairo was starting for a while, so was Womack if I remember right).

What one needs to do is look at how the lineup matches up against the league. This lineup would be OK, not special, but OK, and with a young, strong rotation, we have two good pieces to try to make the playoffs. The bullpen clearly is a work in progress, but relievers can be easier to pick up mid-season for a lowly prospect, like when we got Stanton for Martis or Herges for a prospect (though I think that turned into a starter in the Padre's rotation now...). And with Bonds playing as 100 games or more, I think the team can be competitive like this.

However, even if the Giants roll a craps with Bonds and watch him not get more than 100 ABs in the season, the Giants win there too, because, as I noted, without Bonds, we don't have much of an offense nor have much of a bullpen, and Sabean can do a wholesale auctioning of players at mid-season. Vizquel and/or Durham (Durham would get more though) can be traded for prospects and we bring up Frandsen to replace him. Roberts or Winn can be traded and Ortmeier can take his place, giving us an outfield with Roberts/Winn in CF and Linden and Ortmeier in the corners - or perhaps even EME or Schierholtz if they happen to be ready. Hopefully we can trade Feliz and get something, and start Aurilia at 3B, then plug in Ishikawa at 1B. And that's just with the players we currently have, maybe we can get a few good position prospects with these trades. Just go all youngsters, and get a great draft pick in the Top 5.

Not many teams can combine a win with Bonds crapping out and thus the Giants can afford to give him more money, as the risk is lower there, because then we would get a great draft pick and a great prospect who could be only a couple of years away from contributing. And according to comments I have read about next year's draft, I have heard that there are more talent there this year, thus it would be harder to make a mistake with an early pick, and more likely you will get a good player.

Love That Pitching Staff

Meanwhile, I love how our pitching staff is shaping up. Cain and Lowry head up the future rotation, with Lincecum possibly making it into a three headed (and cheap) monster. Then there is Sanchez and Hennessey/Correia to round out the rotation for now. I think that the key to winning the playoffs consistently is to have a pitching staff who is pretty consistently good. From the PQS research, it is clear that keeping the number of disaster starts down is the most important key to having good stats, not having a lot of dominating starts. It is once a pitcher gets consistent enough to avoid those types of starts that his stats starts looking good instead of mediocre. I think the potential for having a monster rotation is there for us, with these four, and while that will take some luck, I think this is better than having a farm system full of hitting prospects and no pitching prospects.

The bullpen, however, is still a work in progress. Chulk is probably our best setup guy right now and Benitez is our closer. Brian Wilson probably is another setup guy and potential future closer. Taschner and Misch will probably compete for a LOOGY spot and Sabean will probably sign someone like Kline to get the vet presence there. Then Hennessey and Correia.

While that is not great, I think the potential is there to be good, especially with Billy Sadler and Brian Anderson sitting in the wings, probably/hopefully ready to join the team by mid-season, if not earlier. And with both being closers (and Taschner and Wilson has seen time as closers in the minors), we should be able to find our future closer from among them, in 2-3 years.

Plus we have a number of pitchers coming up with promise. Nick Pereira, Clayton Tanner, Kelvin Pichardo, Dan Griffin, Waldis Joaquin, are the best among them. So things are looking good for the Giants in terms of their pitching staff. Now, hopefully the team can spend their money on good hitters and win our a World Series Championship soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Buncha Signings

Wow, what a flurry of signings:
  • Ray Durham: 2 years, $14.5M ($7M/$7.5M plus $25K if reach 450 PA)
  • Dave Roberts: 3 years, $18M ($5M/$6.5M/$6.5M)
  • Rich Aurilia: 2 years, $8M ($3.5M/$4.5M plus $250K at 300, 350, 400, 450, 500 PA)
  • Pedro Feliz: 1 year, $5.1M ($5.1M plus up to $500K performance bonuses)
  • Bengie Molina: 3 years, $14.5M (not confirmed, backloaded, maybe $4M/$5M/$5.5M)

Pedro Feliz

About Feliz, to quote Herman Munster: Darn! Darn! Darn! Darn! Darn! Darn! Darn!

There is not much more than I can say but that. I was hoping that Richie was the new 3B and view this signing much in line with how I felt when the Giants signed Neifi Perez after I thought we had dodged a bullet by releasing him. I assume that the Giants will go with Aurilia if Felilz starts stalling out like he did last season, because he was going pretty well early on, but then had this really bad streak, which one article attributed to him coming into the season with more weight than he should have. Hence all the talk this off-season about him working on his fitness - to last longer and stronger into the season - and, to give us a laugh, he is working on his hitting as well.

All I can say is what the heck took him so long to figure that one out? He's been hitting like this ALL his career! He should have been working on this the moment he became a major leaguer, if he really appreciates his career and his salary. My only hope right now is that he hits so well early on that we can trade him mid-season for prospects and install Aurilia at 3B (assuming he starts as utility guy) and Frandsen as utility guy.

The Others

I like the other deals, though. As much as people carp on Aurilia as a 1B, clearly the Giants are not settling for him at 1B, he has been told that he will be playing all around the infield, though probably getting a lot at 1B (implying a platoon situation there where he hits against LHP there). In addition, the Giants are still looking at deals for 1B, whether Sexson, Burrell, or others.

Clearly, though, his hitting has been boosted the past couple of years by hitting in Cincinnati. Last year his big boost was his stellar hitting on the road, which he had not done in previous years, so that would be an area of concern in terms of falling back to the mean. But if he is not the full-time starter at 1B, he probably will be more than OK, taking starts from Durham, perhaps giving Vizquel some extra rest, probably giving Feliz 20-30 games rest there, since he clearly tired out, and perhaps getting 40 starts at 1B in a platoon with lefty there or less if a big trade is made for Burrell or Sexson, for example.

Roberts is still a good contract even after taking into account that he normally do not hit against LHP, as he has been platooned before. I like him at the top of the order, probably our best leadoff hitter since Brett Butler. I like his high number of SB and I especially like his high success rate, so he is not only aggressive but effective. He might be able to give some tips to Winn to bring up his success rate, so he could help out there for us.

Durham is a great salary given all the rumors of him getting $20M over 2 years or getting 3 year contracts, plus all the crazy salaries going to other players. Of course, what probably happened, probably much like Roberts with his platoon and injury problems, Durham also has been having injury problems as well, so his salary reflects the number of games per year one can expect from him, based on the past 3-4 years of experience. Which is he misses about 40 starts per season (he boosts his games played by PHing the past couple of years). Thus, his $7M is essentially a $10M contract if he were playing 150+ games per year; same with Roberts.

Payroll Impact

Adding up the first year salaries above, they work out to $24.6M. Based on the $45M figure that was mentioned in one newspaper, that leaves $20.4M left to spend on Bonds for LF, 1B upgrade over Aurilia, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher. That really only works if Bonds gets under $10M, as $10.4M seems a bit too low to get a 1B, SP, and RP, especially since there is talk that the Giants are pursuing Ted Lilly (ugh!) who is looking to get 4 years at $10M per season.

Trade Rumors

Besides the Ted Lilly rumor, there are a few running the rounds whereby the Giants either get Manny Ramirez or Richie Sexson and lose Noah Lowry, plus probably prospects, to Boston and either Seattle or Washington. They seem too ludicrous to even repeat - I think I am not too blind about Lowry's value, I'm not that much of a homer, I don't think, and to give up a cheap but young and good player like Lowry to take on an overpaid, old and declining hitter is not the right move.

If we trade Lowry, we should get a young player, like Baldelli, Crawford, even Vernon Wells, not old and expensive players. The trades that have been mentioned have been highway robbery type of situations where we give up young and cheap and they are being kind to give us a good hitter. If those deals are done without either cash or young prospects leaving their hands and into ours, we are being robbed blind unless there is something wrong with Lowry that we don't know about.

Another rumor I saw mentioned that the Giants were inquiring about Vernon Wells. I think I can live with that trade if the Giants are pretty damn sure that they can sign Wells to a contract and that he would be happy coming to SF, I don't want another A.J. Pierzitski situation happening. Wells would not be the greatest to get, there are players I would prefer more, but those players are generally untouchables, and he might be the best young player available in trade at the moment.

The Giants have also been saying that any and all of the trade rumors does not mean that the Giants don't want Bonds back. However, I don't see how they can do the trade and still get Bonds, as Manny only plays LF and they don't have enough money to cover Bonds and Sexson unless another team is giving up a lot of money to us in the trade, which would make losing Lowry more palatable for me, as that would even things up in my opinion.

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