Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thank You Giants: Ishikawa Assigned to AAA and Other Cactus News

As I had been hoping and praying, Ishikawa was sent to AAA, not to the hitting hell-hole named Dodd Stadium. I have no idea whether he's a major league player or not, but I'm pretty sure that we won't find out if he was sent back to AA, to stagnate in that cesspool. I think EME would survive there - he's a hitter - but I hope he too makes it to AAA. However, it is going to be crowded in the outfield there if he is, with Freddie Lewis and Dan Ortmeier there, plus I assume Nate Schierholtz would get promoted there as well (again hopefully), and all four should be playing regularly - if EME is assigned to AAA, unfortunately Ortmeier will probably be odd man out and become the utility OF, which he will probably be for the SF Giants in 2008 if the Giants do not resign Bonds or Sweeney (Linden probably starter if former case, Ortmeier 5th OF in second case).

Speaking of Linden, I've been assuming he gets the 5th OF spot, but, of course, nothing is guaranteed. The good thing is that he has been playing like that, hitting .571 for spring thus far. Ellison is also out of options like Linden and will be put through waivers if he doesn't make the team this year too and is trying to make it hard, hitting .667. I like Ellison as a person, he seems like a nice guy, but he's probably going to another team in 2007 because he most probably will not make the MLB roster unless he starts hitting like Bonds and AAA looks to be pretty full with EME, Lewis, and Schierholtz plus Ortmeier, so he would be better off going elsewhere, career-wise.


  1. If you have to provide an easier environment for someone to succeed in, you've got a major clue as to whether they're a legit major league talent. You should hope and pray rather that the organization put more of their teams in hitting unfriendly environments and force they're prospects to try to adjust and thrive in adverse situations. Professional sports are cut-throat Darwinian worlds, not friendly nurturing flowerbeds. Succeed or be replaced by someone else who can -- that's the only rule.

  2. If you would have taken the bother to read my other posts on Dodd Stadium, you would understand the context of my comment.

    Adverse environments is one thing, a ballpark which cuts homerun hitting in half just screws with your brains. You start going away from your batting stance that had given you success up to that point, thinking that it is you when it is the ballpark. It is one thing to be easier, it is another thing when there's something so wrong about a park that HR are cut in half, relative to the rest of the league.

    Adjusting is easier to do when you are already in the majors and not worried about your job, but when you are a minor leaguer and HR is a big part of your value as a player, even the strongest of wills and egos will succumb and try change, any change, to find success again. But at Dodd, that's like hitting your head against the wall repeatedly.

    It's like the Green Monster in Fenway, even the best of hitters there sometimes change their batting stroke to adjust to the Green Monster and it just screws up their swing.

    And if you advocate succeeding or tough for you, then I guess you would just put all your newly drafted players from colleges and high school into the majors and let them sink or swim, no? After all, it is a cut-throat Darwinian world, not friendly nurturing flowerbeds. So if Villalona can't hit, too bad, lose him, he's not legit.

    Most other teams would put these players in rookie-A ball, against competition who is similar in development and experience, in order to nurture and grow them. They place them in a fair ballpark where their talents can play out relatively the same as it would in any other park. Then they advance them level by level as they prove ready to handle the next level, where again most parks are fair.

    However, Dodd is not a fair park. HR's are chopped in half, for whatever reasons. The Giants want to change the park that it would be a more neutral park and the Defenders were going to change the park by changing the field when they resodded it, but ESPN was filming there and didn't want the configuration changed (Screw you ESPN!).

    And what do these major league teams know, it's Darwinism at its best, just screw the minor leagues, there is no need to have the expense of developing your own players. Just throw your high schoolers and college players onto the major league roster and it's succeed or fail, yeah, that's the ticket.

  3. I've read many of your posts about Dodd. i think they tend to be overstated and I believe Steve S showed several times that statistically speaking it was impossible to blame all of their hitting woes on that stadium. Being an athlete is about adjusting and adjusting to parks is a huge part of what hitters should do. One pretty good example of this from last year's minor league season was Evan Longoria. Going into the draft he was thought to be the best college hitter, but lacking in power; once he became a pro suddenly homers came flying off his bat. This was almost certainly a result of misreading his approach at one of the great death valley parks in college baseball down at Cal St. Long Beach. What scouts thought was a lack of power was apparently more of a successful adjustment to his park.

    Your sarcasm clearly consciously avoids my point: as fans we tend to make excuses for our favorite prospects failures and feel that with the right circumstances they could still succeed. Sheer numbers tell us that the vast majority of these guys will fail to ever land a regular major league gig. Even people putting up above average or successful numbers in the minors are unlikely to become major league regulars. Travis Ishikawa has some huge skill problems that have been exposed nearly from day 1 at the lowest minor league levels. It's getting pretty late in the day to think he's ever going to rise above those flaws and it ain't Dodd Stadiums fault.

    My real point, lest you missed it again: when trying to predict prospect status it's better to be skeptical than optimistic. It's better to look for the warning signs in the midst of success than to look for excuses in the midst of failure.

  4. You say, "as fans we tend to make excuses for our favorite prospects failures and feel that with the right circumstances they could still succeed. Sheer numbers tell us that the vast majority of these guys will fail to ever land a regular major league gig. Even people putting up above average or successful numbers in the minors are unlikely to become major league regulars. Travis Ishikawa has some huge skill problems that have been exposed nearly from day 1 at the lowest minor league levels. It's getting pretty late in the day to think he's ever going to rise above those flaws and it ain't Dodd Stadiums fault."

    I said, "I have no idea whether he's a major league player or not, but I'm pretty sure that we won't find out if he was sent back to AA, to stagnate in that cesspool."

    I think I'm allowed to disagree with Steve S, as wonderful as I think he is. Perhaps I'm speaking ahead of the curve because I've done analysis that I haven't published yet, so perhaps that will convince you and others, but the numbers I've published I thought were pretty good.

    But your example of Evan Longoria proves my point, BTW, about how someone's skills could have been masked by the park. Like Ishikawa, like Schierholtz, like any other HR hitting prospect playing in Norwich.

    And where does Longoria hitting as a pro have to do with a successful adjustment to his park? As you noted, he lacked power in Long Beach, how is that a "successful adjustment"? What I see is that one of his skills was power and it was masked by his park at Long Beach. That proves my point.

    Again, I have no idea whether Ishikawa is good enough to make the majors and I've stated that over and over again and people take that to mean that he's my favorite. All I've ever wanted to point out is that people are giving up on him too early. If I saw another prospect, particularly a position prospect, which is rare in our system, being thrown on the scrap heap when there are signs that he's as good as before, I would write about him too.

    Don't preach to me about being skeptical vs. optimistic, I've been following Giants prospect from Randy Elliott to Rich Murray to Mark Grant to Kelly Downs to Dennis Cook to Salomon Torres to Rikkert Fineyte to Mark Leonard to Steve Decker to today, so I think skepticism is my mantra and middle name.

    You say, "I've read many of your posts about Dodd. i think they tend to be overstated and I believe Steve S showed several times that statistically speaking it was impossible to blame all of their hitting woes on that stadium." One, I've never seen Steve say that, he just didn't think so, I've never seen him throw any stats out on how hitting at Dodd affects things. He didn't believe that there is statistical significant to my Ishikawa stats. Well, I posted a whole bunch of Eastern League stats and they show the same dang thing!

    "Overstated"? Then you missed this post I recently put up, I did put up the stats:

    There plenty of stats there. Most importantly, HR/AB in Connecticut is 56% of the league's average. 56%! That is not adverse conditions, that is horribly skewed conditions.

    Here is what I wrote: "One, it makes it harder to evaluate not only your hitters but also your pitchers, who don't have to worry as much about getting hit upon at home. Two, this skewing might get our position players into bad habits, both hitting and pitching, as they deal with how this park hurts or helps them, statistically. Three, most importantly, it could negatively affect the confidence of the players, particularly the hitters, but even the pitchers, as they might be overconfident about their skills and then go and get killed when they go to AAA. "

    And you may call it sarcasm, but I just followed the logic of what you wrote to its logical conclusion. The fact is baseball teams do nurture their players and develop them, putting them into situations where they can succeed and develop. They do "coddle" them to some extent. Failure can be a teacher, but constant failure will teach the prospect to have a lack of confidence.

    Again, some people read my defense of Ishikawa as a prospect and think he's my favorite - NO: I just think people have given up on him when there are clear signs that he was still as skilled as when people thought he was a Top 10 prospect the year before. Look at my post on his stats, his road stats are basically the same as they were in high A-ball, it is his home numbers that are messed up.

    Here's the post I had on Ishikawa:

    Down at the bottom, see the stats table I published? Clearly his road stats matches pretty much his previous two years stats in key hitting performance measures. His home numbers look like they are at the opposite side of the spectrum, in terms of hitting, particularly his HR hitting.

    That's what I mean. Clearly from my first post, hitting at Connecticut is horribly skewed relative to the rest of the Eastern League. In my second post linked above, I showed that his home stats are just as skewed as the rest of the team. I don't see how that is overstated, but clearly you think so, so please enlighten me, it won't be the first time I've overlooked anything.

    And just to be clear to whoever else thinks this, I'll repeat it again: the only reason I defend Ishikawa is because people are giving up on him for specious reasons (IMO). I think there is clear evidence that he is just as good as he was the year before. People take that to mean that I think he's my favorite. He's NOT, though I do root for him because I love HR power. I root for Schierholtz and EME too, plus Lewis and Ortmeier. I dig the long ball. If I thought they were being unfairly deprecated, then I would defend them too, but most criticism of them as prospects appear right to me - for Ishikawa, I don't think so.

    For example, someone once told me a few years ago that Ishikawa should be dropped and that Jason Columbus and Brad Vericker were better 1B prospects. I said then what I say now, I have no idea whether Ishikawa is a future major leaguer but he has more potential than either of them. Time has proven me right on that one.

    Now I'm saying that Ishikawa still has the power that he had in 2004 and 2005; 2006 was not a disappointing year, hitting in Norwich was disappointing, hitting on the road in the EL, he hit basically what he hit before. As I've said before, we'll be lucky if he's good enough to platoon at 1B with a right-handed hitter. Too bad he's not more advanced and Niekro is less, they would probably make a good 1B platoon on the cheap for a few years.

    But Niekro should be gone before the end of spring training, as there's no space on the team for him right now, barring injury, so the Giants will be forced to waive him and some other team will claim him, or if not, he will sign with his boyhood team, whatever it may be. I would love to keep Niekro and start him knuckle-balling, he would be great as a right-handed power bat off the bench and reliever.

    Ishikawa, I think there is hope for him, but clearly he's not the greatest of prospects - I've never made him out to be. Here is a direct quote from my Ishikawa post, which you imply you have read:

    "Ishikawa is not the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread or Will Clark

    First off, some people seem to think that I think that Ishikawa is the best prospect around and that I really believe in him to be the second coming or something. This is an incorrect impression, to say the least. What it is, is that I believe he can be a good player for the Giants but people mistake my insistence that he is still a valid prospect for belief that he is a great prospect. But I do think that he is a good position prospect." Somehow you missed that, even though you said you read my posts.

    And as I've noted in various posts as a blogger, the majority of prospects fall to the wayside when they hit the gaunlet of first AA, then AAA, and, if they are lucky, the majors. But that does not mean that they are not good prospects.

    Hitters are like a photo first placed into the chemicals, it takes time for them to develop but you don't really know when, if ever, everything will click for them, they may never develop, like Benji Simonton. The prospect who shoots through the system is pretty rare, and that's why everyone wants him.

    If Ishikawa fails at AAA, so be it, at least we tried. Better than to have given him away 3 years ago just because he is repeating low-A ball when he was only 20 years old. All I ask is that we keep him and see what happens. How people interpret that as "my favorite" I don't know.



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