Sunday, April 29, 2007

You Knew It Wouldn't Last, Still...

As that old song goes, "Don't worry, be happy." Yes, the sting of a three game sweep, especially at the hands of the D-backs and all by one run hurts a lot, but keep an eye on the big picture. If on April 9th, when the Giants were 1-6, I had told you that on April 29th, the Giants would be 12-11, wouldn't you be pretty happy about that? That means that they went 11-5 during that period, not too shabby.

But that is our weakness, isn't it, to be emotional beings, to, say, drive up the stock price of a nothing company multi-fold, while selling a solid company when there is a little bit of bad news short-term, but not long-term? So this 3 game sweep really is depressing, ain't it?

I say enjoy the bright spots as the season goes along, you already know that we will probably be in a dog fight for first place, and that, just like the past few years, one team streaks ahead, then another leapfrogs them, then another leapfrogs them. Focus on the pitching staff, enjoy our young starters, enjoy every time Cain one-hits a team, look forward to when Lincecum forces his way onto the major league staff, and, of course, enjoy Bonds majesty shots into the sky, he might pass Aaron by the All-Star Break if he can keep it going.

Clearly, our offense leaves a lot to be desired, sputtering, but to me that is a result of the top two hitters of the offense not really doing much. Most studies have shown how important it is to have hitters who can get on-base to lead off the lineup, but Roberts so far has hit .243/.300/.365/.665 and Vizquel so far has done worse, hitting .222/.276/.259/.535 (not quite the salary drive he's been hoping for). What makes it amazing is that our team is around .500 with such poor hitting up front (actually almost all hitters are not performing up to snuff), a testament to how well Bonds has been hitting and how well our pitching staff has been doing.

Obviously, the pitching most probably will start cooling off at some point and return back to their skill level, and when that happens, hopefully our hitters will return to their past hitting skill level and balance everything out. Everyone has means that they will regress to, except for maybe Bonds who has a mean that defies all logic and history and apparently P.E.D. accusations, HGH has recently been discredited in the saber-community as useless for anything other than making you a freak, and you know the Feds have been going through everything and everyone who comes near Bonds for the past three years in order to catch him at something, anything, and they have not been able to find anything yet. If he is cheating, then catch him, that's good for baseball, but if he is not, then they should stop hounding him.

Go Giants!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

2007 Giants Prospects: Minor League Baseball Analyst Projections

I really like "Minor League Baseball Analyst" by Deric McKamey. It gives stats and projections and skill analyis that I don't see in other prospect books. It also gives a combined view of the prospects: he started out doing sabermetric work for fantasy baseball then took the scouting training provided by the MLB, so he combines the two perspectives into his analysis. Baseball America typically provides the scouting community's view whereas Baseball Prospectus gives more of a sabermetric view, though neither was purely that. I got all three books this season.

The 2007 edition added a new scale, which gives his estimation of the player's potential - hall of famer, elite, solid regular, average regular, platoon, and lower - plus a scale that estimates how close he is to attaining his potential, that is, the probability he will reach his potential. That is in addition to his prognosis of what he thinks is the prospect's potential position. And a whole bunch of other statistics plus some commentary on the player.

Last year I talked generically about what the Giants had in their system and I think I listed names but not who were considered starters and who were not, I left it to the reader to try to piece things together. But I was told by another blogger that it should be OK to put some names in there as well and discuss that without getting lawyers coming at me. I don't think he was a lawyer but here goes.

First, go out and buy the book if you like to learn more about prospects. It is cheap via, about $12, gives a lot of good specific info about each hitter and pitcher, like his repertoire of pitches, how good they are, or his abilities to hit for BA, power, speed, and defensively ability. There are Top lists galore, by team, for all, for fantasy purposes. It is great for fantasy league play and good for just following your favorite team's top prospects. I whole-heartedly recommend the book.

2007 Giants Prospects

The Giants actually have more position prospects than pitching prospects in the book: 20 vs. 13. However, it is in pitching that the Giants have more potential elite (9) players, though only 2 (Tim Lincecum of course, and Waldis Joaquin) vs. 1 (Angel Villalona natch). There, however, are no solid (rated 8) pitchers, however, but a number of position players rated that (Emmanuel Burriss; Eddy Martinez-Esteve; Sharlon Schoop).

Position Starters

There are 7 projected starters among position players:

  • Emmanuel Burriss: 2B (he is currently playing SS)
  • Kevin Frandsen: 2B
  • Freddie Lewis: CF
  • Eddy Martinez-Esteve: LF
  • Marcus Sanders: 2B
  • Sharlon Schoop: SS
  • Angel Villalona: 3B
Yeah, we are kind of top heavy in secondbasemen and lacking in C, 1B, and the OF.

There were a number of players named as platoon players. Travis Ishikawa, unsurprisingly, is considered a platoon player. However, very surprisingly, Nate Schierholtz is considered a platoon player in LF/RF. There are a few other platoon position players: Brian Horwitz (corner OF); David Maroul (3B/SS); Dan Ortmeier (corner OF); Pablo Sandoval (corner IF). Sandoval's and Ortmeier's stock fell a lot last season, both were viewed as potential starters in last year's first edition of the book.

Burriss is listed as the 14th best SS prospect and as one of the top in the minors in speed. Frandsen is rated the 11th best 2B prospect. EME is the 37th best OF prospect and one of the top in batting average. Marcus Sanders made the list for best in speed. And Villalona was the 9th best 3B prospect.

Starting Pitchers

There were 6 pitchers he thought could become starters:
  • Dan Griffin: he sees him as a middle to back of the rotation starter
  • Waldis Joaquin: he sees him as a potential #2 starter or perhaps setup reliever, given that he was out last season for, I believe, Tommy John surgery
  • Tim Lincecum: only sees him as a #2 starter or closer, but still sees him as one of the top prospects in all of the minors, plus near the very top for pitchers, only a handful above him
  • Pat Misch: sees him as a back of the rotation starter
  • Nick Pereira: sees him as a middle to back of the rotation starter
  • Clayton Tanner: sees him as a middle to back of the rotation starter
There were also two he viewed as potential closers, though not necessarily so, they could be setup as well: Billy Sadler and Merkin Valdez.

Despite Adam Cowart's great first pro season in 2006, he is only viewed, as best, as a setup reliever. Brian Anderson too, though he led the league in saves last season. Pat Misch he sees as a starter, but he was moved into the bullpen last year, and did well there in the AFL and thus far in AAA this season.

Giants Thoughts

Roster-wise and looking forward, if we use only our farm system, it looks like we have Eliezer Alfonzo at C, Niekro and Ishikawa platooning at 1B, Frandsen, Burriss, and Sanders battling for 2B, Villalona at 3B, Schoop at SS, EME in LF, Lewis in CF, and Linden and Schierholtz platooning in RF. I don't think Alfonzo can be more than a backup and obviously Villalona and Schoop are so far away right now. In the near future, I can see Niekro/Ishikawa at 1B, Frandsen at 2B, EME in LF, and Linden/Schierholtz sharing RF - I'm still skeptical about Lewis ever panning out.

For our starting pitching , we would have Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, and Sanchez in the first four spots. Griffin, Joaquin, Pereira, and Tanner will be battling for the 5th spot - of course, there is no 5th spot with Zito's contract. Thus the 5th spot starters will probably battle for relieving spots with Hennessey, Correia, and Taschner. In addition, Anderson, Cowart, Misch, Sadler, Valdez, and Wilson will be battling for a spot in the bullpen. Closer contenders include the leading contender, Brian Wilson, plus Valdez, Sadler, and Anderson, and I would consider Misch to be a contender too, based on how he is manhandling hitters since becoming a reliever. I like Jack Taschner as a dark horse for closer, I like his attitude and he learned from his mistake in off-season preparation last season and worked hard to make up for it.

Lefty Malo noted in a post at his blog last season about one prospect analyst's rule of thumb about farm systems: there are, at any time, about 4 future starters in your farm system. That wasn't true for a long time for the Giants farm system until Lowry and Cain advanced upward, but if I were to guess which four of the 33 covered in the book (technically, this rule of thumb would include players who are not longer rookie eligible but still playing in the minors, like Munter, for lack of a good example, I think he's done, it was just a magical year he had that season, and Linden), these are the four: Lincecum, Frandsen, Villalona, EME.

However, I think these following players will make the majors and contribute in some way (i.e. more than a cup of coffee but probably less than a starter): Burriss (could be starter), Horwitz (reserve), Ishikawa (platoon), Lewis (could be starter), Ortmeier (good 4th OF, speed and power on bench), Sanders (reserve MI), Schierholtz (could be starter), Schoop (should be starter, word is his defense is already high quality major league quality, the only question is whether he can hit enough), Anderson (setup), Cowart (setup, maybe starter), Joaquin (could be starter/setup), Misch (setup, dark horse closer), Pereira (could be starter), Sadler (setup, could be closer), Taschner (setup, dark horse closer), Valdez (setup, could be closer). I don't remember how regular relievers are classified under this rule of thumb, but I'm assuming they don't count, though arguably a setup reliever can be very valuable.

The Giants are continually rated as a below average farm system, but when they have re-loaded their pitching staff with good pitchers like Cain, Lowry, Sanchez, Correia, Hennessey, and soon Lincecum, Sadler, Misch, and Wilson, that leaves a lot of money that the Giants can spend on their position players. And if at least Villalona and another position prospect can pan out, then I would say that is better than most teams can say about how their farm system has filled out their roster.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Adjusted K/BB: My Thoughts

I got into a discussion about K/BB on Lefty's new site (oh, I guess I better change my link to him at some point...).

Here is what I posted, in two comments there, I thought it is interesting enough to share, plus you can poke holes in my idea :^) :

While I totally agree that K/BB is a key statistic to follow, it is going to be skewed a bit for the Giants because Sabean seems to want to corner the market on pitchers with high BB-rate/low BABIP and those pitchers often have low K-rates too.

Cain, Zito, Lowry and Ortiz have been lower than the .300 mean that most pitchers regress to, as someone noted above. Couple that with Zito, Lowry, Morris, and Ortiz's relatively low K-rate and you have a bad K/BB for the team.

Also, one should look at their BB/9 rate to see whether that is very bad or not. It is bad at 3.7 (ideally under 3), but again, low BABIP mitigates against a slightly higher BB/9.

I think the team needs an adjusted K/BB. I'm not sure how to calculate it but for a pitcher with a lower BABIP, you have some formula to "shift" an amount out of his BB into H to make up for the reduced BABIP, and that is his adjusted K/BB.

Doing a extremely rough estimate, a BABIP in the .275 range would result in about a 0.7 drop in H/9. Dropping the BB/9 rate from 3.7 to 3.0 vs. a 5.4 K/9, the K/BB is now 1.8, very close to the ratios Lefty noted.

That's not even accounting for the fact that a walk is not equivalent to giving up a hit, that should result in an adjusted BB/9 that's lower, though I have no idea how to proxy for that.

Trying a better example, using career numbers (Morris), I got a 0.68 drop in H/9 when the BABIP is .275. That's basically the same as above (1.79), but I think makes a stronger case about the ratio of conversion from H's to BB's, though still not accounting for extra-base hit effect.

Career BABIP:

Zito = .269
Cain = .244
Lowry = .289
Morris = .299
Ortiz = .289, but includes horrid last two seasons.

Doing my best to take out 2005 and 2006, Ortiz career BABIP is .284. That works out to about a drop of 0.44. But his K/BB is still horrible, about 1.5 after the adjustment.

Zito's very low BABIP works out to 0.78 less H/9. Career K/9 of 6.87, BB/9 of 3.53, K/BB 1.95. Adjusted BB/9 of 2.75 results in K/BB of 2.50, which is in the elite category (best are over 2.4).
Just thought of a proxy. TangoTiger has worked on expectancy tables and my 2006 The Hardball Times had the value of a single as .465 and the value of a walk as .315 (which they got from from work by Tom Ruane), which works out to be 1.48 times more valuable. Assuming you save at least a single and replace with a walk, that changes the team's ratio to 5.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 or a K/BB of 2.0, which is the minimum you would want it to be. Zito's would fall to 6.87 vs. 2.38 or 2.89 K/BB.

Still not perfect, since the pitcher at some points avoids an extra base hit of some sort, but I would need a frequency table for those to calculate. But this is probably close enough, the degree of accuracy improvement probably is enough without adjusting for extra-base hits.

Taking Zito's 2006 season, which was a down year for his BABIP, he had a 6.15 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 with a .280 BABIP for a 1.53 K/BB. He saved 13 hits which worked out to 0.53 H/9 and an equivalent of 0.78 BB/9. That dropped his BB/9 to 3.25 and his K/BB rose to 1.89 - not ideal but very close to the 2.0 target.

For his 2005 season, which saw a similar ERA but much lower BABIP, he had a 6.74 K/9 and 3.51 BB/9 with a .252 BABIP for a 1.92 K/BB. He saved 30 hits which worked out to 1.19 H/9 and 1.76 BB/9, which dropped his BB/9 to 1.75 and his K/BB jumped to 3.85, which is very good.

I also noticed another interesting factoid by looking at the value of various batting results. An intentional walk is worth just slightly more than half that of a regular walk: .315 vs. .176, which is 56% the worth of a regular walk. Thus when calculating these K/BB, particularly for NL starting pitchers, you need to reduce his BB/9 by the reduce value of an IBB, almost 50% less.

Ooops, maybe it is not worth the trouble. I thought there would be an increase in IBB for NL starters vs. AL starters, but Zito does not seem to have less IBB, he seems to have about the same as Morris or Ortiz, they had maybe one or two more IBB in a season. Not a heck of a difference between the two leagues.

InKlined to be Positive

The Merc had an article (probably don't mention it enough, but you have to register to be able to read Merc stuff, but you don't have to give your life story there, I don't recall, just e-mail) about how Steve Kline hasn't been used much thus far this season. And then co-inky-dink enough, Kline comes into the game later that same day. The article also notes Kline accepts that he isn't being used much, that he will be ready when Bochy gives him the call.

Bochy Spins Bullpen Gold

The thing is, all I hear on the radio now is how Bochy is a genius at creating a very productive bullpen, with San Diego a prime example of that (OK, only example of that :^), with how good a throw-in to a trade, Cla Meredith, became gold under his managerial genius. And thus far, I've been impressed. He has gone to his guys in the pen and in critical situations, and it is as he has been saying to the press, he will go to any of them in set up situations, they all need to be ready. Plus he has publicly supported Benitez, over and over, Benitez must be lapping it up.

So I'm assuming both Kline and Correia are not too nervous about not being used for a long while until last night. I assume this time now is for Bochy to determine what he got among his relievers and how he might use them. Kline being the vet, is probably not being used because Bochy told him that he needs to figure out what he got with his other relievers as he knows what he got in Kline.

Correia, being the ex-roommate of Bochy's son in college, and having done very well last season, probably trusts that Bochy will do the right thing by him, though, of course, he will have to perform to keep his job, friend or no friend of Bochy's son. And I don't mean he's getting special privileges, I just mean that since they already have a relationship, I think there will be more trust already inherent in Correia that allow him to accept that Bochy has chosen not to use him much thus far.

Frandsen Back = 11 Man Pitching Staff?

Bochy was also quoted in today's Merc that Frandsen will be coming back soon and that a 11 man pitching staff might be the say to go to do that. Right now, if they go that way, I think the pitchers on the bubble to go down would be Chulk and Sanchez.

Chulk was the guy Bochy went to first for set-up duties but lately Hennessey has been publicly named as the guy Bochy thinks is best suited to do that, though in his next breath he noted that everyone will get their chance to pitch in the 8th. That means that Bochy was disappointed in his performance. Well 12 hits in 7 IP will do that. However, Chulk has 4 K's and only 1 BB in that, so the rule on BABIP being around .300 suggests that Chulk is just suffering from some bad luck right now and things will even out.

Thus, I think Sanchez is the prime candidate to go down. The bullpen is settling down and doing well. The starting staff have been pitching deep into games, requiring less bullpen help. Bochy does not burn through relievers like Alou. Sanchez pitched 3 innings the other day. More importantly, the Giants still sees him as a starter, so I think he'll be a likely candidate to go down to AAA.

In addition, there are a number of relievers who are about ready to come up to the majors and contribute. Pat Misch, a lefty, leads the pack, probably will be the first to be called up when the need comes: 2.04 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 8 appearances, 17.2 IP, 10 hits, 0 HR, 4 (!) BB, 20 (!!) K's. He was never a strikeout artist but putting him in the pen has brought out his inner Randy Johnson, in terms of strikeout rate, if not velocity (he's lucky if he reaches 90 MPH). Billy Sadler has continued to do well: 2.53 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 7 appearances, 10.2 IP, 4 hits, 1 HR, 7 BB, 16 K's. The right-hander impressed last year, earning a unexpected late season call up, and still bringing it. Brian Wilson has done OK but has been very wild still: 2.45 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 6 appearances, 7.1 IP, 4 hits, 0 HR, 8 BB, 11 K's. I don't see him coming up any time soon, even if Benitez is not the closer, he's probably going to have to spend the year in AAA and get his wildness down.

Maybe Lincecum Too?

And with Lincecum basically ready to come up anyday soon, even if Ortiz is doing OK, mid-4 ERA, I can see the Giants moving Ortiz into the bullpen in order to bring up Lincecum at some point; Ortiz will have to doing pretty well not to hold back Lincecum's onslaught: 3-0, 0.36 ERA, 25 IP, 9 hits, 11 walks, 32 strikeouts, 0.80 WHIP (still poor walk rate but what a k-rate!).
That would also reduce the need for Sanchez as a reliever, plus they can then put him back in a starting role. And he would need to go to AAA and get into starting pitching condition so that he can be ready to come up if there is any injuries along the way, to any of the starters.

There is also the chance that the Giants might bring up Lincecum as a reliever and keep Ortiz in the rotation. However, if they are going to start burning up his MLB service time, plus expose themselves to him becoming a Super-2, then you should want to maximize his service time by bringing him up to be a starter, not a reliever. Almost everyone has said that Lincecum throws weird and would be a good closer, but the Giants saw the merits of Lincecum's skills and that being a starter is much more valuable. And to quote Sabean from an article today in the MLB: summoning Lincecum to pitch in the Majors as a reliever "would be a stretch for me right now."

I would think that the main circumstances to bring Lincecum up as reliever during the regular season would be if Benitez was injured or traded and they needed Lincecum to close for them. However, if Lincecum is not up already, he almost definitely will come up the last day of August, which unfortunately will probably cost someone a spot on the playoff roster, so that he can be eligible for post-season play and be a reliever a la F-Rod against us for the Angels in 2002, and shut down the other teams. There's also still that loophole regarding players on the 60 day DL, not sure if anyone qualifies right now, maybe Merkin.

I don't know if the Giants will make the playoffs but I still think there is a good chance of them making it given that the pitching staff has been pitching very well, the way I thought they can, though obviously some are doing much better individually than can be expected and cannot keep that up all season long, like Cain and Morris. We will have to ride the backs of our starters to get into the playoffs, but that's the way you want it, as long as they keep things close for our hitters and we have Bonds in the mix, we will always have a chance to get back into things with a swing of his bat (or another of his inevitable IBBs). And adding a reliever of Lincecum's skill level to the bullpen in time for the playoffs could just get us to the promise land and end 49 years of SF frustration and 52 years of Giants frustration.

Oh, 8 Game Win Streak, Giants Sweep D-gers!

Got to celebrate them when they happen. Giants haven't had such a long win streak since late May 2004, when Schmidt came back from the DL and sparked the win streak. And haven't swept the D-gers at their home since early April 2002, according to the Merc. Also, the Giants have won 11 of 13 since losing four straight and seven of 8.

There has been three phases of this season thus far. First, there was the 6 losses in 7 games, where the offense was particularly putrid, only 2.0 runs scored per game. As much as some fans worried, such offensive ineptitude couldn't last, that would be historically bad. Even then, the pitching was good enough, at 4.6 runs allowed per game (not sure ERA, no time to compile that). Then there was the 5 game interlude, where they went 3-2, scoring 5.0 runs per game while giving up 3.8 runs per game. Then there was the 8 game win streak, where the offense scored only 4.4 runs average but the pitching has been great, giving up 2.6 runs on average.

Even the win streak is composed of three parts. There was the first game 6-5. Then the starting pitching took over for the next four games, giving up only 1.25 runs per game, which was great because the offense only provided 13 runs in that mini-streak, 3.25 runs, with a 1-0 win and a 2-1 win. Then the 3 games against the D-gers, both are doing their part, 5.3 runs scored, 3.7 runs allowed.

So the pitching has actually been pretty good the whole season, improving as the calendar has advanced, from 4.6 to 3.8 to 2.6. If the offense had been as bad as last year and not just plain bad, the Giants would have started the season 3-4 or 4-3 instead of 1-6. Obviously they cannot keep up a sub-3 ERA, but a sub-4 ERA is definitely doable in my opinion, though not a given. The starting rotation has been about what I thought, though Cain is not that good, at least for a whole season, and neither is Morris, so enjoy it while you can. But their poor 4.6 run scored rate of 2006 coupled with a 4.00 overall runs allowed rate would yield a 93 wins season.

Go Giants!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Russ Ortiz's Mechanics Improvement Explained

Carlos Gomez has another analysis of a Giants' pitcher's mechanics up again - if you will recall, he covered Matt Cain's and Tim Lincecum's mechanics, in full, just a little while ago - and this time he tackles Russ Ortiz, and while not fully, it is, more importantly, about the different between last year and this year.

It is pretty cool, Carlos points out the exact different thing that Ortiz is not doing: he is breaking his hands earlier. Now, I have no idea what that means and even after he explains it all, I had no idea, but watching the video over and over again, I finally saw what he meant: his pitching arm cocks much faster last year and, while I took physics I am not totally sure what exactly happens, but it appears that the momentum he creates with his arm cock is dissipated by breaking it earlier, and thus he loses that additional velocity and apparently that caused his cut fastball not to cut anymore, or at least not enough to fool major league hitters. As Carlos notes, his throwing motion "this year seems like it's uninterrupted", which I suppose means that the throwing motion builds up the momentum imparted to the pitched ball, rather than just going along for the ride and losing the momentum that the arm can deliver.

But I swear, except for that one little detail, I cannot tell the difference between the two videos. It is incredible to me that just one little detail can be so important to a pitcher. It makes Lincecum's stuff all the more wonderous that he can duplicate that throwing motion over and over again, as even one little detail like this take something away from your velocity as a pitcher. Somebody should give Carlos a job in the professional baseball, this is great stuff, and, you know, it could have been worth, oh, about $22M to the D-backs if they had Carlos around.

I would also note, for long-suffering Giants fans who have a love/hate relationship with Ortiz that if you look at the two videos, Ortiz clearly - though he was never slim - lost a lot of weight between the two videos. I realize that the camera angle might be different and makes Russ looks bigger in the Arizona video, but what I'm referring to is basically how his clothes hang on him, it seems more puffy in the Arizona video than the Giants video.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cain and Lincecum: A Throwback to Drysdale and Koufax?

I know, some of you are probably feeling whiplash after seeing me note a word of caution on Cain then compare him and Lincecum with Drysdale and Koufax, arguably one of the best pair of starters ever on any team. But that dichotomy doesn't bother me as much as it does others. I try to see all sides and there are usually good arguments for both sides - what I like to do is try to balance the two sides and talk about what I see as the most likely scenario is.

I was listening to Damon Bruce tonight and he was talking with a call-in listener who noted how similar Cain looks like to Don Drysdale, the D-gers legendary right-hander. Bruce then noted (sorry missed part of this part) a conversation he had with somebody, I believe at the ballpark, and someone talked about the same similarity that Cain conjured. He was before my time and I've never seen any archival footage of Drysdale so I will have to take their word for it.

Meanwhile, as I noted in a few of my posts on Lincecum, I and a number of other people have seen Lincecum pitching motion and remarked how similar he looked to Sandy Koufax, the D-gers legendary left-hander. Again, before my time, but he's famous enough that I have seen him throw in archival footage and there was times when Lincecum looked like Koufax to me.

So no heavy analysis, just anectodal reccollection that Cain and Lincecum looks a lot like Drysdale and Koufax in their deliveries.

Drysadale and Koufax/Cain and Lincecum

Looking at Drysdale's stats, he was nothing like Cain, though I presume Cain is hoping to duplicate some of his trends. Drysdale never struck out a lot, though he got it going OK early on, reaching 8.0+ K/9 in his 3rd and 4th seasons. And he was always a control pitcher, walking very little, then as he became more of a pitcher, he got his walks down to a small rate, under 2.0 BB/9, which is very low (goal for pitchers is to get it under 3.0). His career pattern is actually similar to Matt Morris, in his progression from striking out more to striking out less but walking even less, resulting in a better K/BB despite the reduced K-rate.

Cain as we all know is high K, high BB. But he strongly aspires to become a pitcher and, from what I've heard, he is about as competitive in nature as Drysdale, where the other team is the enemy and you treat them that way.

Koufax's stats is more like Cain and Lincecum's. They all struck out a lot as well as walked a lot when they were young and starting out. But then something clicked for Koufax and suddenly, not only was he still striking out a lot, 9-10 K/9, but he was also walking a lot less, from the 5's to 3.38 in 1961, then 2.78 in 1962, then basically around 2.0 for the next 4 seasons, resulting in K/BB ratios of 4-5 (where 2.0 is the goal for successful pitchers and 2.4 for the more elite pitchers). And, of course, Sandy had all those no-hitters too - Cain had all those one-hit games last season and Lincecum keeps H/9 down low as well thus far in the minors so he could possibly to a threat to no-hit teams as well when he makes the majors.

Trading Cain is Crazy Talk

This is why I've been against trading Cain for a great position player, as some fans have suggested. As I will get into in a post soon, I think the best way for the Giants to win it all will be to have a dominant starting rotation and that's why I think the Zito signing, as high priced as it is, will bring strong dividends when Cain and Lincecum are in the rotation together. And that is nothing to say about Lowry and Sanchez possible contributions as well.

I know that I've been talking about trading Lowry off to get a good position player, but I've been waffling on that lately. The thought of a rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Lowry, and Sanchez for, the 2009-2011 seasons is very tempting. Can you imagine, our #4 and #5 starters would be Lowry and Sanchez. They could be #2/#3 starters for some teams but on ours they would be at the bottom.

Sabean Should Not Be On A Hot Seat

That's why I think all the talk about Sabean's job being on the line is crazy talk. We have the potential of having one of the most dominant rotations ever in baseball history - true, any of the them can flame out, any of them could fail - but just regarding the potential right now, I don't see how anyone can advocate going with a new GM, we should let Sabean finish the job and see where that leads us.

They could flame out like the A's and the Mets Four Aces of the early 90's, where not one of them lasted as a starter and only Isringhausen has made any sort of name for himself out of the eight "aces". Or closer to home, Ainsworth and Williams. But I really like Cain's and Lincecum's attitudes and confidence in themselves. And where a lot of people focus on Lincecum's unorthodox pitching motion, I see a player who can throw all that without feeling much, if any, pain and is able to throw again, long throwing even, the next day. He could be our Eckersley, starting and winning in his 20's, then closing out games in his 30's. Or who knows, he could be our Satchel Paige, he was still pitching well in the majors in his 40's. And, of course, I love their results thus far.

Maybe it could be all a mirage, then at that point we can fire Sabean, but with such a potentially great rotation coming along, we need to let him continue to build the team, in his vision, and see where that takes us. People forget that he's responsible for the longest stretch of success in Giants, let alone SF Giants history, he deserves to get the chance to finish this out and see where it leads our franchise. And as I hope to show in a future post, I think pitching is the key to success in the playoffs.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cautionary Note On Matt Cain: He's a Homer

I was reading an article talking about how another pitcher was so much better than Cain, and I, like a number of other Cain enthusiasts, know about how great he pitched after his skipped start and especially after the All-Star Game last year, ace type caliber numbers.

So, as I am wont to do, I dug up numbers to throw in this guy's face and tell him a thing or two about Cain. But a very unfunny thing happened when I did this: I thought it would be interesting to do a home vs. road split after his he started to have success last season, after his skipped start, and the numbers are pretty stark and gave me pause on praising Cain until he proves otherwise. He wasn't as good as I thought he was, and perhaps, a fantasy creature created by that nurturing park, called AT&T Mays Field.

The Ugly Numbers

To say Cain loves pitching at home would be an understatement. Here are the stats:

Stat - Road - Home
ERA - 4.98 - 2.32
H/9 - 7.9 - 5.9
bb/9 - 5.0 - 3.8
k/9 - 9.1 - 8.9
k/bb - 1.8 - 2.3
HR/9 - 1.0 - 0.2
BABIP - .299 - .256

To say that Cain has done much better at home than on the road would be an understatement. More importantly, the BABIP on the road is startling because it is the mean that all pitchers fall back to, when I've been thinking that Cain is one of those special pitchers who are able to keep their BABIP low, however it is done, whether by grounders, as it is traditionally done, or keeping batters off balance with movement or off-season stuff and popping up a lot.

In addition, his bb/9 is extremely high, and not sustainable for long term success, resulting in his poor - poor for a good pitcher, OK for average pitcher - 1.8 k/bb. And the HR/9 that I thought was so good, is actually very average on the road at 1.0, which is the minimum that you want from a good pitcher.

So which is the extreme outlier, his home numbers or his road numbers? Thus far this year, his ERA is much worse at home than on the road, but if you look at his periperhals, his base value indicators, he's been very lucky on the road thus far. He has 8 walks in only 14.0 IP this season on the road, vs. only 11 strikeouts. Though no HRs and only 3 hits given up (that certainly will revert to mean there). Home stats I won't go over, it's only one game thus far (road is only two games as it is), so it is way to early to be making any pronouncements about how his 2007 compares to his 2006, but thus far the stats would seem like a continuation of the skills he showed last season: great k-rate anywhere, poor bb-rate on road but good at home, poor k/bb on road but good at home.

So this will be an interesting season for Cain. Not critical, but we will see further evidence what type of pitcher he is, the home warrior or the road pushover. If he can duplicate what he did in 2006, that would be good, the team was 9-4 in his home starts, 6-5 in his road starts. The good thing are the following: 1) pitcher's stats tend to jump around so a bad season is not necessarily a bad sign, though troubling sign, and 2) he is still very young, which some forget, only 22 years old, so he can still learn how to pitch better rather than throw well.

With vets with varying styles of success in Morris, Zito, and Ortiz around, he should be able to learn a thing or two eventually. After all, it was his excellent learning of the lessons of an old MLB pro back in his hometown that brought him to this point. If he could learn before, he can learn again.

But any pronouncement of Cain as a potential ace, me included, appears to be premature based on how starkly different his home and road numbers are, even after taking out his horrible start in 2006. And thus we must temper our enthusiasm, or at least our expectations for his success in the 2007 season, for our wunderkind, Matt Cain. But, of course, root him on. Go Giants!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Schierholtz and Dodd: Lucky to be Out of Hell

I've written earlier about how Ishikawa's prospect status should not have taken a hit by most analysts. That's partly because I tend to root for the underdog - occupational hazard of being a Giants fans for the past 36 years - partly because I am a stereotypical cheap Chinese who can't stand to waste anything useful, partly because I love the long-ball hitters, mainly because I noticed how badly Dodd Stadium affects the overall stats for our Connecticut hitters.

In this post, I'll also make the case also for Schierholtz: his status did not suffer as much as Ishikawa's but I wanted to show it is not just Ishikawa who is affected, Schierholtz was greatly affected as well. {Note: I wrote this a while ago, before Schierholtz was assigned to AAA and Ishikawa to AA, but wanted to use it anyway. Plus, as I'll note with a sort of postscript at the end, it continues, even if for early results.}

In total, there were only 10 hitters who were 22 years old or younger, 8 who were 22, in the Eastern League. So, in the first place, any 22 year old who makes AA must be pretty good in the first place. And clearly, any 22 year old who can hold their own against pitchers who are 3 years older, on average, who have up to 3 more years in experience than they do, are pretty good in their own right. What I'm trying to show is that Schierholtz and Ishikawa's achievements in AA in 2006 are being undervalued greatly. It is unsual to be 22 and in AA, doubly so that you hit well too. And they compare well with the other 22 year olds, but more importantly, significantly better than the league average.

Comparison Against League and Other 22 YOs

Among 22 year olds or younger, both Schierholtz and Ishikawa did average even with their Dodd-depressed overall stats. Both were right about the average for both this young group and for the league, both with 295 AB or more.

22 year olds: .267/.320/401/.721
Schierholtz-all: .270/.325/.443/.768
Ishikawa - all: .232/.316/.403/.719
Schierholtz-Road: .279/.328/.488/.818
Ishikawa - Road: .244/.332/.470/.801
League - all: .252/.323/.381/.704
League - home: .258/.329/.391/.719
League - road: .247/.318/.371/.689

No big surprise here but as I noted before, Dodd affects homerun rate, which affects the five stats I will cover next. But clearly, even with their depressed stats, these two players are above average, slightly for Ishikawa, but looking at their road stats, they were clearly above average and they were comparably good as hitters, with virtually the same OPS. Next I will cover SLG, OPS, ISO, XBH, and AB/HR, all stats related to a hitters homerun power.

For SLG, both did right around average, but look at their road numbers (number in parentheses are their stats relative to the league average):

Schierholtz-all: .443 (110)
Ishikawa - all: .403 (101)
22 year old: .401 (100)
Eastern League: .400
Schierholtz-road: .488 (122)
Ishikawa - road: .470 (118)

Schierholtz did well either way but he was 22% above the league on the road, 11% in total. Ishikawa had a bigger change. He was average overall but on the road he was 18% above the league average. The 22 year olds and younger were at the league average, so Schierholtz and Ishikawa were equally above that group as well.

For OPS:

Schierholtz-all: .768 (106)
Ishikawa - all: .719 (99)
22 year old: .721 (100)
Eastern League: .724
Schierholtz-road: .818 (113)
Ishikawa - road: .801 (111)

This mirrors SLG in that both were much above average on the road, not so much overall. Again the 22 year old group was league average.

For ISO, or Isolated Power:

Schierholtz-all: 163 (131)
Ishikawa - all: 171 (138)
22 year old: 134 (108)
Eastern League: 124
Schierholtz-road: 209 (169)
Ishikawa - road: 226 (182)

Both Schierholtz and Ishikawa were much above the league average overall. But using their road numbers, they were clearly above the pack, both against the 22 year olds and under and the league average.

For Extra Base Hits (XBH, as percentage of total hits):

Schierholtz-all: 36% (116)
Ishikawa - all: 30% (97)
22 year old: 30% (97)
Eastern League: 31%
Schierholtz-road: 41% (132)
Ishikawa - road: 50% (161)

This mirrors SLG and OPS. But look at how superior both Schierholtz and Ishikawa were when they are on the road. Does it make sense that hitters that are that much better on the road is rendered pretty ordinary when looking at the overall stats?

Lastly, for AB/HR:

Schierholtz-all: 33.57 (116)
Ishikawa - all: 29.80 (131)
22 year old: 44.93 (87)
Eastern League: 38.98
Schierholtz-road: 27.11 (144)
Ishikawa - road: 23.43 (166)

Here's where both Schierholtz and Ishikawa shines either way. Both are much above average relative to the 22 year old and younger group and the league , on their overall stats. But going to the road numbers, they are still significantly better than either of the comparison groups. And they especially showed their superiority to other 22 year olds and younger, who either did not have the strength or skill to hit for homers yet.


As I have tried to show with these stats, both Schierholtz and Ishikawa appear to be average or slightly above average, based just on their overall stats. That is an achievement right there as 22 year old in a league populated by 24, 25, and 26 year olds. But once you look at their road stats, they are clearly superior, not only to the league in general, but to their 22 year old and younger group as well. You have to be a pretty good prospect to make AA at age 22 - there were only 10 hitters who were that young in the league. It is that much harder to outdo the average like Schierholtz did.

But as I tried to show in my previous posts, their home park, Dodd Stadium, severely kills homeruns, and thus their road numbers are more indicative of their power skill level and thus of their overall hitting ability. Based on those superior stats, they are both greatly advanced homerun hitters than the vast majority of hitters in the Eastern League, let alone just the 22 year olds. Power like that is masked in Dodd Stadium and rendered both Schierholtz and Ishikawa to appear average in performance when both were clearly superior.


It is early, but telling, if you look at Ishikawa's stats thus far, as of games to 4/18/07. Here are the stats:

Home: 1 for 15, 0 runs, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4 BB, 4 SO, .067/.263/.067/.300
Road: 3 for 14, 2 runs, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 5 SO, .214/.267/.500/.767

Lucky for Schierholtz, he did a little bit better in batting average and at Dodd than Ishikawa, so he got the call up to Fresno, while Ishikawa has to sit in Connecticut and suffer from his home park. It is not like the Giants have position prospects coming out of their ears and we can afford to throw away prospects. Ishikawa looks like he can be the lefty half of a platoon at 1B and he would be a perfect bookend with Niekro at 1B because Niekro is a righty. And both are considered good defensive 1B. Here is Ishikawa's home/road splits last season:

vs. LHP: .197/.276/.316/.592, 76 HR/AB
vs. RHP: .240/.325/.427/.752, 25 HR/AB

I've never said that Ishikawa looks to be a great 1B - he strikes out too much for that and as a result has a low batting average plus cannot hit lefties. But he could be our platoon guy with Niekro - another useful position prospect, but lacking in hitting RHP - and that should be good enough to cover 1B, allowing the Giants to pay for higher priced free agents at other key positions, instead of getting some high priced player to man 1B and leaving less money for other positions. Hopefully playing in Dodd does not mess with his head too much or hurt his confidence.

I've seen a number of people give the macho answer of "oh, any major leaguer worth his salt should be able to adjust to the part." The GM of the Defenders told me that Ishikawa should adjust and hit balls into the gaps and run like heck. That would be like telling Bengie Molina to do that - "whut, you can't run like the wind?" - utterly ridiculous. That is not Ishikawa's skill.

Sure, if you are trying to see if Ishikawa is a great player, then you can test him out, see if he can adjust to things like that, but Ishikawa is mainly one-dimensional - homeruns mainly, though he can also take enough walks to mitigate his low BA - so putting him at a park that minimizes his one true skill greatly, by almost 50%, is stupid on a number of levels.

First, no more of this macho thing, when the park reduces someone's particular skill by 50%. That's like getting mad at pitchers who could not pitch in Colorado pre-humidor. "Why don't you adjust? It's just thin air!" Second, some players are not confident enough or skilled enough to battle through a tough extreme park like this. Why risk killing their confidence, particularly at a key level like AA where the good are separated from the bad. Third, why risk getting him into bad habits where he might adjust to hit better in Dodd, but then cannot hit anywhere else? Or worse, take away the one skill - though great skill if he can continue to hit homers at a 25 AB/HR pace - that he has? I've read about how major league batters get into bad habits hitting in Fenway with the inviting Big Green Monster so close and yet so far. But it's one thing when you are already in the majors, another if he is a fledgling ballplayer, fighting his way up the minors.

Why make things harder? The Giants have invested over $1M into him, why screw around with that investment? Schierholtz was clearly affected as well, what if this had screwed up his hitting mechanics (luckily, it does not appear that it has, with his early HR streak) and he regressed as well?

It's fine if you have the speedsters who has to hit and steal to be very valuable, this park won't affect them much, why make it hard for your homerun hitters? If the power hitters are suppose to suck it up, then why not water down the basepaths and make it into swamps, like the Giants used to do whenever Maury Wills and the Dodgers came to town, in order to slow up our best basestealers on the basepaths? "They should adjust, else they aren't major leaguers!" That would surely toughen them up too, if that is the logic people want to use for this Dodd Stadium problem.

This also affects pitchers as well. Pitchers will do abnormally well in Dodd Stadium because mistakes that normally end up in the seats, end up as outs, as Schierholtz and Ishikawa stats demonstrated, and as I had shown in previous posts. Thus they will get away with mistakes and poor pitching at Dodd when they should be learning how to adjust and not give up the homerun. Instead, they could get into bad habits, false positives if you will, that would get exposed when they go to Fresno and AAA and find out that their pitches don't really get hitters out, they end up as homers.

Why do this to your prospects?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Media Bias Continues: Aaron Tempest in Teapot

The media continues their witchhunt on Barry Lamar Bonds. I have chronicled his travails both here and my old blog, Biased Giants Fanatic, of how the Media delights in twisting Barry's words or interpreting Barry's actions in a negative light. Not that Barry hasn't invited this with his behavior towards the media, but then this exposes the fallacy that the media is "objective" and "unbiased". The reporters have abused the power of the media in their witchhunt on Bonds.

Today it is the Hank Aaron golfing while Barry's chasing his record. Perhaps it is as the media notes (today's Merc) that Aaron is said to be "uncomfortable with acknowledging Bonds because of the Giant's slugger's attachment to the steroid era." But it can also be explained very easily too.

Pregnant Pause

What's easier to plan for, a random event happening or a scheduled celebration? Much was made about Aaron showing up with Frank Robinson for the Jackie Robinson tribute in LA, but that was a scheduled celebration. Hank went through the HR chase plus was a major league hitter, he knows that it can come today or it could take 3-4 weeks to happen. What do people in the media want Hank to do, follow Barry for up to a month, disrupting his life, putting everything on hold, just so he could be there when Barry passes him up?

It is not like when Rickey was chasing Lou Brock, Ricky could make things happen, bunt to get on base and fiddle with the pitcher until he steals THE base that passed up Lou Brock. He just needs to get on 1B. Heck, he could be on 2B and steal 3B or be daring and try to steal home from 3B, that would have been something he would probably have loved to do, get attention that way. But how do you make a homerun happen, particularly if a vast majority of pitchers don't even dare to challenge him with anything in the good part of the plate, he has to be like a Venus Flytrap and wait... for... the... mistake...

This is like waiting to see if your wife is pregnant. You try and you try and you try, and it's not happening (though a lot of fun :^). Imagine your mom or mother-in-law, following you around until your wife is pregnant: "Am a grandmother yet? Am I?" It is not like you don't want it to happen, but it should happen some day, if you are lucky.

Are We There Yet?

That's what's facing Aaron and the chase, the boredom of "Yeah, it's great to see Barry BEAT MY RECORD" a million times to the press, everyday until it's done. "OK, I'm following him to the ends of the Earth until he passes my record." The "sorry honey, but I can't come home, I have to follow Barry until he hits that darn homerun." Sure, he can make every great golf course all across the country doing that, but he has a life too, he has things he likes to do to besides waiting for a photo op with Barry when Barry passes him.

If it was just show up and smile for the cameras while Barry takes his record away, then that's one thing, but if its a traveling circus of "Oh well, Barry got walked 4 times again, see you all at tomorrow's game", that's another. Plus, Hammering Hank is no spring pup either, traveling is hard at any age, but he's 73 years old now. But no, the media don't think about all these other reasons for why Aaron is not going, these are all possible legit reasons until Aaron steps forward and says otherwise.

Racism of Another Form

And, yeah, maybe he's uncomfortable too. But I doubt it. Even if he didn't take any illegal substances in his time in the majors, he must have been aware of it, the prevalence of it ensured that. There is a bond that most athletes seem to have with each other, a brotherhood, and if he didn't speak up about those stuff back then, he's not going to today. Because if it really bothered him, he would have spoken up long ago about amphetamines and its usage. He probably just sees steroids as a today's version of amphetamines and cocaine.

In addition, he grew up and dealt with all the racism and bigotry that existed in America in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, and if a dummy like me posting on blogs can see the bias the media has against Bonds, I would think Aaron has seen all the stuff about Bonds in the media and could feel the breath of Crow Law coming out of the media, with the headlines the Media likes to do on Bonds, like "Bonds won't rip Aaron", making the whole thing an issue when there may be no issue. Even if he is not comfortable, the media's witchhunt probably reminds him too much of the past for him to be comfortable to speak up and join the witchhunt.

It is something you never forget and as much as he may or may not disagree with what he may or may not think Bonds may have done, I can't help but think that he sees the ugly spectre of racism rising above these headlines, and won't join in for that reason, even if he may be uncomfortable. Ultimately, Bonds is probably passing him up anyway, but for Aaron to join the witchhunt of the media, to participate in this possibly veiled racism, he is just too classy for that thus far.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Scoring Runs: Giants Theoretic Level (Part 2 of 2)

As I noted in my last post, pitchers can have a great effect on the lineup. As a sidenote, this reminded me of Tony LaRussa's experiment to benefit from the 9th batter effect by hitting his pitcher 8th and 8th hitter,9th. However, the gain from moving the hitter to 9th is mostly negated by the pitcher now hitting 8th, though there is some gain. For example, moving Winn to 9th would gain us 0.11 runs per game. Not a huge difference but it would gain us bout 2 extra wins a seson, so that's actually not too bad, more than I thought it would.

Giants 2007 Lineup

This post is going to be about the lineup. I used the lineup data from Beyond the Scoresheet's regression data that Baseball Musing uses for their lineup optimizer application on his website. I first took the Giants 2006 stats by lineup position and calculated what the runs scored per game was theoretically: 4.63 runs. In actuality, they scored 4.63 runs. Looks pretty good, no?

I then went through some permutations on the lineup:
  • Roberts/Vizquel/Aurilia/Bonds/Durham/Klesko/Molina/Winn: As I've noted a number of times, Klesko should force his way into the lineup if he is healthy, and he has, to the point where Feliz had to be benched. Huzzah for Giants fans all over. Using this calculation, and my best guess for each's player's 2007 stats for OBP and SLG, this lineup generated 5.15 runs per game.
  • Roberts/Vizquel/Aurilia/Bonds/Durham/Molina/Feliz/Winn: Batting Molina 6th results in a 0.09 run advantage over Feliz, and 0.03 run net effect over them switched. This lineup scores 4.93 runs per game.
  • Roberts/Vizquel/Bonds/Durham/Aurilia/Molina/Feliz/Winn: Even if they went back to the Bonds batting 3rd theory, they still theoretically score 4.92 runs per game.
The lineup optimizer always generated a weird lineup, with Bonds batting 1st or 2nd - due to all the walks - plus bat Vizquel near the bottom of the lineup. I suppose that could explain why the Giants offense has been a bit anemic the past two seasons with him batting 2nd where Bonds should be. :^)

Anyway you twist it, the lineup is a good 0.3 to 0.5 runs more potent than last season's team. The addition of Klesko, Aurilia, and Molina, plus (hopefully) the return of Winn to his career numbers does that. Even if Winn reduplicated last year's poor performance in the 8th spot, that would minimize his decline and only drop the lineup production by 0.05 runs per game, it will still be much improved. This improved lineup will result in a 86 to 89 win season if the Giants team ERA was 4.6 runs this year.

I think that should be more than possible with the starting rotation we have right now, even with Zito's troubles right now. In fact, given how well Morris and Ortiz are pitching, I think the starting rotation is capable of getting their ERA down in the low 4 range. Getting the pitching down to 4.2 runs, for example, would result in over 93 wins.

Of course, this is all theoretically and in reality the offense has stunk it up thus far. Hopefully the lineup will be closer to theory than to the reality of the past two weeks. But there's no way the team continues to score less than 2 runs per game averge, or whatever the ridiculously low amount has been, even the worse teams of recent years average over 4 runs per game over a full season.

Seeing this lineup result gives me renewed hopes that the Giants will be competitive this year. I knew that the pitching staff should be pretty good but now that I can put some numbers to it, everything seems doable. We don't need Cain to be an unqualified ace, he only has to deliver something like last year. Zito does need to do what he did the past two seasons, but he's pitching in the NL, where ERA's go down a bit when you move leagues. Lowry, even with his foul 2006 season, his ERA was still 3.75 at the end of August, before his arm problems derailed his overall stats. Morris's was right around the mid-4's until he broke his ribs somewhere (still want to know. And Ortiz, when he has his cutter working, like he apparently has now, is easily capable of a low 4 ERA as well. We just need a low 4 ERA for the starters plus the relievers need to do about that well too.

That's a tall order given how unsettled the bulllpen is, but here is where we fans need to keep our fingers crossed. All I can say is that we need to give them time to figure things out, whether up here or bringing up other guys, like Misch. And hopefully Wilson will get himself straight down there too.

That leaves the offense, the start of this post. There is a lot potential for this to be a very potent offense. That coupled with our improve starting rotation should start yielding many wins and this awful first couple of weeks will be forgotten.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Scoring Runs: An Open Letter to All Pitchers (Part 1 of 2)

This post started because I was studying how many runs the 2007 Giants should score. And it morphed into this open letter to pitchers everywhere (I will follow up with my research on runs scored next, in part 2).

Dear Pitchers,

Do you like winning? Got your attention now? I have started examining the scoring of runs, based on a regression run on scoring runs, based on the OBP and SLG of each of the position of the lineup. And it appears to work, for example, the Giants scored 4.6 runs per game last year and the formula worked out to 4.6 runs per game, based on the production by lineup position.

What I found amazing is that the 9th position of the lineup can be very key to the offense. According to the regression, OBP is very important in the #9 position. Basically the second most important after the leadoff hitter. And this makes sense, you should have your best hitters hitting 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and if the 9th hitter can get on base, those spots will get a shot at driving him in. Power don't mean so much, because typically you are hitting behind the worse hitters in the lineup in 7/8, so there is not as much to drive in, but getting on base is almost like gold, which for pitchers are spelled W-I-N-S.

How so? Because the pitcher can contribute greatly to the offense just by being able to get on base in that spot. Last year, the Giants pitchers collectively contributed 0.6 runs per game. Yeah, I was amazed by that too. It is almost as much as the 8th place hitter for the Giants in 2006.

Do some of you pitchers ever moan about the fact that your team didn't score as much runs for you as they did for one of your fellow pitchers? "If only I had run support! Then I would win more games!" Have you ever thought about the fact that the answer is probably staring you right in the mirror?

In 2006, the range of runs contributed per Giants pitcher was wide. It ranged as high as Jamey Wright's 0.81 down to Jason Schmidt's 0.47. That is 0.34 runs difference! Thus, on average, the Giants scored 4.37 runs per game with Schmidt's hitting, and 4.71 runs per game with Wright pitching (of course, this is assuming if they pitched, say, 1000 games, and hit like they did in 2006). If Schmidt's ERA was 4.37, then he would have been a .500 pitchers, because the offense should score about 4.37 runs when he hits like he did in 2006..

Let's say you have an ERA of 4.37, which is not spectacular but not too bad either, you will make your money. Still, if you hit like Jason Schmidt did in 2006, you are a .500 pitcher. If you add another 0.34 runs to the team scoring when you are pitching, your expected winning percentage rises to .537. In 30 decisions, you go from a 15-15 season to a 16-14 season.

Not much you would say, but what would you rather have, a 15-15 season or a 16-14 season? Think 16-14 will get you more money than 15-15? Thought so. (Sabermetrically, wins don't mean a thing, but in the real world, it usually registers in dough-to-mi). Plus it gets you that much closer to the playoffs.

Now that is just, basically, poor hitting pitchers. What if you are a better hitter, like a Russ Ortiz? He sometimes get OBP better than Pedro Feliz, which isn't saying much if you are a position player, but it speaks volumes (as in runs) in baseball. From 1998 to 2003, Ortiz's run contribution ranged from 0.73 to 1.06, and he regularly was in the 0.9's. That 1.06 pushes the runs added to 0.59 over what the worse starter did in 2006. That's a .563 winning percentage and a 17-13 record. Getting my drift now?

Now everyone likes to pick on Feliz's hitting and rightfully so. He takes walks as often as there are solar eclipses it seems. Well, his sad sack hitting would have contributed less runs than Ortiz's best season (admittedly, he didn't play a full season, but even then his average season is not far from Feliz's past two seasons).

So pitchers, you don't even need to hit like a homerun hitter to help yourself win games. The main things you need to do is: 1) take bad pitches and 2) swing at good pitches. And take batting practice regularly, to stay in sharp batting shape. Take the pride in hitting that you may have once had when you were in high school or even college, and be just a so-so hitter like Feliz.

You don't even need to get extra base hits. If you can just average a hit and a walk every 6 PAs (basically what you get each game before you get taken out of the game, for two games, so a hit in one game, a walk in the other), you would have a .200 BA, .333 OBP and .200 SLG, and that would be worth 0.96 runs. If you can just be an OK starter, giving up 4.37 runs per game, you can be talking the difference between going 17-13 and 15-15, based just on your hitting, if your team scores 4.37 runs when you are a lousy hitting pitcher, and 4.86 runs when you are a good hitting pitcher. At the margin, your hitting as a pitcher can make a big difference in your win total, putting you 4 wins over .500, instead of just being .500.

I would say that would look good on your baseball card (or your page). And it would put you that much closer to making the playoffs. Could even help you win a game during the playoffs. And that's what it is all really about, though obviously the money is a huge plus.

Your friend,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sweeney in for Frandsen: Taking the Fresno Train Down

Frandsen was sent down in order to call up Mark Sweeney yesterday. I feel sorry for Frandsen, but it should have been expected. He hardly played at all, and the writing was on the wall when Aurilia started at SS when Vizquel rested, that was suppose to be a time when Frandsen would get a spot start (that and Durham's all tooo frequent "unable to play/day-to-day" extended stints).

Meanwhile, the Giants don't want to eat Sweeney's salary if he is still productive as a PH and with Klesko forcing his way into a semi-starting position at 1B, that makes Sweeney the main LH bat off the bench, and Aurilia the backup 2B/SS/3B, though how that actually works in reality is that he starts at 3B and moves to the other positions when necessary, whereupon Feliz then takes 3B.

Klesko Reason For Frandsen's Trip

As I had noted long ago, with Klesko's return to normalcy as a hitter, he would force his way into 1B starts and LF when Bonds rests, cutting into Aurilia's and Linden's time at those spots, respectively. Then it becomes a situation of "should Feliz or Aurilia play". And most games, Aurilia will probably get the nod, as long as Feliz hits like he has always done. And with Aurilia freed of "having" to play 1B, that frees him up to backup the MI positions, which made Frandsen superfluous.

It probably, in hindsight, been better to skip signing Feliz and play Aurilia at 3B and Klesko at 1B. But Klesko really should never hit against LHP, so who then would play 1B, then, Niekro?

Actually, that would have been a logical choice too, but then the risks pile up like it did last season when they relied on Niekro as their starting 1B and had no backup when he was hurt, like usually, or non-productive, which is any time he bats against a RHP. What happens if Klesko isn't back to prior hitting prowess? What if Aurilia's 2006 was a Great American Apparition? What if Niekro really cannot hit LHP, like he did in 2006, and not pound LHP, like he did in 2005? Or is injured, yet again? This is a house of cards, much like the situation in 2006.

So as abberant the thought of doing this was, signing Feliz to a one year contract is an insurance policy in case any of the above happens. And the 3B free agent market was not that scintillating either. The best guy, Aubrey Huff, you would have been paying for his 30 HR history, and for 3 years, but he hasn't had one of those years for years now, and his defense is horrendous at 3B, bad for any team as devoted and dependent upon how their pitching staff does, for the pitching is truly the centerpiece now, Bonds or no Bonds. People complain, but who after that was good? Wes Helms? Mark DeRosa? As lousy as Feliz was and is, he was one of the better 3B on the marketplace, and the Giants needed a 3B.

Signal to the Market

That's probably why the Giants inquired, reportedly, with the Yanks over whether A-Rod was available or not. Though I can't imagine that couldn't have been anything more than for show than for serious negotiations, we would probably have to give up Cain/Lincecum plus Lowry, Villalona, and an army of prospects, probably starting with Sanchez, Wilson, Sadler, and others, gutting our already meager farm system. It was probably to broadcast publicly that they would be interested in A-Rod's services if he should chose to opt out of his contract this coming off-season and they are not afraid of his salary demands.

And with his still huge contract, I think at $27M per year, he's still looking at getting a pay cut in any new contract, but would make up nicely for it by probably getting a 7-9 year contract at $20-25M per annum. He'll be crying all the way to the bank with that new contract, and out of a situation in NY that probably isn't conducive to him playing at his best. And you know Boras, the more bidders, the better he likes it, and especially at such a high price tag, that already limits the number of bidders, so sticking with the Yankees is a very nice alternative.

But given that "Greed is Good" appears to be the mantra of Boras and anyone who signs Boras as his agent, and how JD Drew flew out of LA once they realized the market was prime for some big salary raises, I would be immensely surprised if A-Rod does not go free agent on the Yankees, with the probability that the Yankees won't be one of the suitors - else they would just sign him to an extension now and not worry about losing him. I think with the league flush with money, from the DirectTV deal, profits from their website, and money from the sale of the Nationals (plus no need to pay up to fund the Nationals), there will be another jump in salaries this off-season, comparable with last year, much above the usual 10% rise in salary annually. Whether the Giants get him or not depends on how much they want him versus other teams. I would bet that they won't, but then I never expected to them to sign Zito either. But given their stance against too much salary tied up in their top two players, A-Rod and Zito's salaries would not co-exist unless A-Rod is closer to $20M than $25M (since Bonds is probably at $20M right now, since it was noted that his bonuses are relatively easy to attain if he plays a healthy season).

And Back to our Regular Programming...

But I digress, as I am wont to do: Feliz, while we have to hold back the barf thinking about how much he is making, is insurance in case the house of cards falls again. He is a very good defensive 3B, according to advanced fielding stats at Baseball Musing (so is Niekro at 1B), so even if he doesn't hit, at least the pitchers can rely on him to make the outs that are possible and not give away hits. His hitting is actually OK the first half of seasons, so there is the hope that with rest and competition, he can be OK offensively throughout a full season.

With all these multi-position players, Feliz can be put in against pitchers he has done well against and put on the bench against those he stunk against and be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement. And the hotter hitting between him, Aurilia, Klesko, and maybe even Linden, on those days Barry sits, will get to play and the cold guy gets to sit. But not for very long, as Bochy likes to let all his bench players get into a lot of games.

The Circle of Baseball

Which brings us back, full-circle to Kevin Frandsen, as he was not getting into any games, let alone many, so he must have saw the sign of this along the way. It's OK, he's still young, and if he's going to be our starting 2B in 2009 (2008 if the Giants for some reason trade Durham), he's going to have to play everyday somewhere to prepare for that day, I'm not aware of many guys who start out as a utility player and then become a starter for years, other than Lou Gehrig for Wally Pip, and Frandsen is no Gehrig.

Hopefully this won't get into his head and make him a malcontent, but he has always seemed to have a pretty mature and confident outlook, so he'll take it on the chin, like he did with that fastball up and in last season, shrug it off, and run to Fresno, ready to play. If he can hit like he did in Fresno in 2005-2006, particularly like his short run in 2005 and his play in the AFL in 2006, he will make a place for himself on the 2008 roster, somewhere, perhaps even 3B next year, which happens to be his position in college, he moved to 2B when he got into the Giants system.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Gardon

I imagine Giants fans are not too happy right now. Me neither, but I'm not panicking. It's still early, I've seeen teams tank the first month to month and a half and still have a very good playoff-bound season, so let's take a look at what's happening and see whether things are as bad as they seem.

Not Everything Was Bad

First off, until Sunday's blowout, the Giants pitching had been good. In 45 IP, over 5 games, 3.80 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, though only 5.6 K/9. They should have won 3 of those 5 games, with pitching like that. More on the putrid offense later.

That was mainly the starters doing that. Before Zito's blowup, in 29 IP over 5 games, 27 hits, 12 runs, 10 ER, 10 BB, 18 K, 2 HR, for 3.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, but only 5.6 K/9. That should have been good enough to win 3-4 games, instead of just 1.

The relievers had similar peripherals but poorer results, 5.06 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, in 16 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, but only 5.6 K/9. So that's no surprise, the bullpen was very unsettled going into the season, so it continues to be so. However, Benitez, Chulk and Taschner have been doing well, now the others have to pick it up.

In addition, the BABIP (batting average on ball in play) for the relief corp was .351 before yesterday's blowout, when .300 is the mean it should fall to, so they are suffering, collectively, from bad luck in that balls that should be outs are falling in. It happens. So the relief corp should get better with more IP, and the bad luck is averaged out.

However, Hennessey I am worried about. He expressed frustration this spring over his role and talked openly about how maybe he needs to be traded to where he can start. So I would think that this is weighing on his mind and affecting his performance. All I can say is that complaining publicly is the worse thing you can do if you want to be traded, as then the team would feel that they need to keep you, else it would encourage all the other malcontents to speak up and demand a trade. The best way to get a trade to happen is to pitch well enough that another team would bother to trade for you, or even better, want you on their team. Giving up a run every relief appearance will only buy you a ticket to Fresno once the Giants are tired of your act and your replacement - Sadler, Wilson - is ready to come up.

The offense has been putrid. I can see the subject lines of the some of the complainers about the Giants: I knew it, I told you so, I foresaw it. Well, the Giants are scoring at a 2.33 runs per game pace. Even the worse offensive team last year scored 4.27 runs per game (Giants scored 4.63 runs; average in NL was 4.76 runs/game). So, clearly, the Giants offense is underperforming greatly. That also happens.

Going Forward

Unfortunately, it is all happening in the first week of the season, so the doom and gloomers reign supreme for now. But the main problem has been the offense and, in particular, Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel, Dave Roberts, and Pedro Feliz, from low OPS to still low but higher OPS. Plus Molina, Klesko, and Bonds have not been doing as well as they should be. That's 6 regulars and one semi-regular, most teams don't win playing like that unless they have Sandy Koufax and Bob Giblson up and down their rotation.

But the offense will perk up at some point, during a long season, it will and it must. Proven skills will usually come out and prove itself. If the starting pitching (besides Zito) can continue doing what it has been doing and Zito can just get through April without going into double digit ERA (even Ortiz never reached that, I don't think), and the bullpen just solidifies (though I think Hennessey will probably be gone by month's end if he doesn't pick it up and there are rumors of the Giants looking for a trade, like Jose Capellan of Brewers, speaking of public malcontents), then the offense should be able to combine with the team's pitching and start some nice winning streaks.

However, San Diego is no place to go to in order to update and get into order your offense. That is an extreme pitchers park. It will probably take until Pittsburgh before the offense starts jelling and doing well, and even then it might still not happen there, as the weather out east has been brutally cold, neutral offensive park or no. Hopefully the pitching will build on its successes (again, except for Zito and Hennessey, who have had no success thus far), in order to build on their tentative successes thus far in the season.

Farm News

On the brighter side of things, we had two standouts in Fresno this week. Lincecum went 5 IP, giving up only 2 hits but 3 walks, but with 8 K's and shutting out the Beavers. Meanwhile, Schierholtz went 2 for 4 in that game, won 6-0 by the Grizzlies, with a homer and a double. That homer gave Schierholtz 3 homers in three games and batting .538. Winn could find himself platooning next year if Schierholtz has a standout season in Fresno and Winn continues to struggle, as Nate is a lefty and Winn is a natural righty. It could be Linden, Roberts, Winn, and Schierholtz all sharing the OF in 2008, assuming Bonds passes Aaron this season and the Giants decide to move on.

Ironically, the Pirates passed on Lincecum with their 4th pick overall last year and selected Brad Lincoln, who they just announced will miss the 2007 season because he had to have Tommy John surgery - he is scheduled to start throwing again sometime in 2008. Of course, it was the fear by the teams with the picks before the Giants that Lincecum will require surgery due to his unorthodox delivery and size that led to Lincecum falling into the Giants happy pockets. Lincecum was a consensus #1 pick talent, KC was considering him, but fortunately for the Giants, he was different enough that the Giants, who has tended to think differently than other teams in terms of drafting, got to pick him.

Other Grizzlies doing well too. Pat Misch in 2 games, has 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 8 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP. I've been touting him as a possible call up at some point, he was impressive in relief last season and continues to do well. Brian Wilson has pitched in 2 games, 3 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 3 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 1 save. He is working his way back up here, and given Hennessey's problems and attitude, it would not surprise me if they are the swapped at some point.

Among the hitters, Clay Timpner is 6 for 12. Ortmeier is preparing to be 4th OF in 2008, 3 for 6 in 2 games, 3 SB. Justin Leone, 3B who we picked up from another team, is 4 for 11 with 2 HR. Chad Santos, who we picked up last season, is 4 for 11, 4 runs scored, 1 HR, 2 RBI. Freddie Lewis, however, hasn't been doing well, but has a HR and 2 SB, and it's early still.

Lastly, the guy we picked up for Ellison, Travis Blackley, pitched OK in his first start for the Grizzlies: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 R/ER, 7 K's, 3.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP. Not too shabby, he's suppose to be healthy this season after labrum surgery in 2005, and he's always had a high strikeout rate, he just needs to get his walks down.

Not much news on Connecticut because many of their games have been snowed out. EME, Ishikawa (homer in only game he's played so far; on the road, of course), and Pereira are the big names in prospects there. Other interesting players there are Chris Begg, Osiris Matos, Brian Anderson, Justin Hedrick, Jake Wald, Mark Minicozzi, and Brian Horwitz.

Friday, April 06, 2007

HGH is NOT a performance enhancing drug

Well, bless my soul, and hush my mouth. Turns out that the media was caught napping again. According to the Sabernomics blog, Human Growth Hormone doesn't do anything for baseball players. So let me first say sorry to Barry for thinking he probably took it and writing it in a variety of posts.

According to that blog's author, who is a professor, he just happened to talk with a fellow professor friend with expertise in exercise physiology after reading from another expert that HGH does nothing. And his professor friend essentially said, "Duh!" Apparently reporters never bothered to ask any expert in HGH, else this would have been a non-story for a long time. Here is some excerpts:

Me: What do you think of this argument?

John: Oh yeah, I agree with him. This isn’t even controversial in exercise physiology.

Me: Why haven’t I heard about this in the media?

John: I guess no one has asked anyone in the profession to comment. People think andro works, and that is laughable.

Me: How does HGH work?

John: Unlike anabolic steroids, growth hormone doesn’t target muscle, everything grows. You will get bigger muscles, but you’ll also do things like enlarge your organs. In an adult who has finished growing, it’s going to result in acromegaly. Remember Andre the Giant’s gut? That wasn’t fat. That’s where his organs had to go because there wasn’t room in his chest cavity.

Me: But, doesn’t the subject benefit from bigger muscles.

John: There is no evidence of this. It seems that the muscle that is developed is abnormal and not mature. I’ll point you to some studies (see below).

Me: Wow. So you think there are no performance-enhancing benefits to using HGH?

John: Little to none, especially in baseball. An offensive lineman in football might benefit just from gaining mass, but there are probably easier and cheaper ways to gain mass—HGH is very expensive. If I were to use PEDs, I’d take steroids and there is no way I’d even touch HGH. If benefits to taking HGH exist they are tiny, and the health consequences are not pretty.

Don't that sound lovely, "your organs grow and has no place to go."

There goes another thing that Bonds has been accused of taking and helping him out. All he needs to do is have another outstanding season and that should prove to his detractors that, if he had used steroids, even inadverdently because of his friend giving it to him unknown to him, it was of little help to Bonds, because, with all the scrutiny he is under, plus government agents bringing their vendetta against him full-steam, there is no way he could be receiving any PEDS of any sort unless it is one of those sold in your local vitamin or health store.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Context is Everything

As regular readers know, I've been complaining about Dodd Stadium and its effects on our hitters and pitchers there. I just ran across an article by an expert in sabermetrics, who has written a book, that addresses this issue in the early part of the article:

If there's a single thing to understand, it's probably this. Context takes many forms — the park a player toils in, his league, his era, his spot in the lineup, and the quality of his opposition, to name only a few.

Most fans grasp that Coors Field benefits hitters and that Petco Park benefits pitchers, but knowing that really isn't enough. Shea Stadium, for instance, is much, much tougher on right-handed power hitters (like David Wright) than on left-handed power hitters (like Carlos Delgado). So it's not sufficient to say a park merely helps or hurts the offense or the pitcher. We need to know who it's helping or hurting and to what extent.


As for the differences in league, they have serious bearing on the minor leagues. The High-A Pacific Coast League[SIC-should be AAA], for instance, is a great circuit for hitters, while the High-A Carolina League is fairly hostile toward the offense. So it's especially important not to take minor league numbers at face value. What kind of league did he play in? What kind of park did he play in? Was he older or younger than his peer group? These are all vital pieces of information for assessing a prospect.

As he notes, "it's not sufficient to say a park merely helps or hurts the offense or the pitcher. We need to know who it's helping or hurting and to waht extent," and he asks, "What kind of a park did he play in?"

As I've shown in the various posts that I have done, HR power is halved at Dodd relative to the rest of the Eastern League. It is also significantly reduced when compared to any other stadium in the EL. Thus it hurts all our power hitters on the team, and it greatly helps all the starting pitchers we have on the team, making them look better than they really are. Trying to hit for power at Dodd is a Sisyphusian endeavor, trying to hit a homer there but failing over and over again, I worry for the confidence of any power hitter forced to play in Norwich, as long as that park is unchanged.

And as far as I know, the latest news was that the planned re-sodding to improve the fairness of the field was scrapped because, for some reason, ESPN did not want the field changed for some sort of filming that they were planning on doing there. Whatever amount ESPN paid to rent the use of the field was not worth the damage it will inflict on our hitters there this season.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No Fairy Tale Beginning

Well, that opening day game didn't go as well as one would have hoped for. But before we run like Chicken Little and scream the sky is falling, what really happened? I pick on the Merc mainly because I subscribe to them but I also like their reporting as well so it's interesting when I think they sucked. So I"m going to randomly run through some of the stuff they wrote about this game, as I'm sure there are many Giants fans who had the same thoughts.

"Nothing went right... It was a miserable day all around"

True, not too many highlights from the game. Here is one of the positives I got.

Zito had a typical Zito outing: low hits, low K's, moderate walks. He's never been a shutout dominating type of pitcher, he dings you to death. Bochy I've noticed tries harder than Alou in keeping pitch count down, so he took Zito out early this time, at only 86 pitches, probably because it's the first start of the season. Plus if Feliz doesn't do the error, maybe he pitches more innings plus give up less runs. For $126M, you naturally want more, but to objectively assess, you have to view it as sunk cost and just view it solely as how he did. He did OK, not good, but not bad either, he doesn't need to justify his contract to media commentators.

"The bullpen sucked"

Given all the complaints about the state of the bullpen, that's a pretty good knee jerk reaction: "the bullpen gave up 4 runs". But look at each reliever individually. Correia pitched an inning and gave up a run. While not great, you can't expect every reliever to shut down the opposition each and every time. And when he left, he hadn't given up a run yet, he needed the next reliever to save him.

Unfortunately, not only did Sanchez not save him but he gave up another 3 runs to boot. Truly awful performance on his part. Which actually should make most Giants fans happy, because the sooner he stinks up the place, the sooner they send him back down to AAA to hopefully become the starter he is meant to be. Personally, given the success Misch had been having relieving, I would have preferred taking him up instead of Sanchez and leaving Sanchez to pair with Lincecum and give Fresno a truly lovely rotation.

Next up, Vinnie Chulk. He did the same as Sanchez, not picking up for Sanchez's mistakes. He also pitched poorly as a reliever, allowing Sanchez's two runners to score. But as a pitching line, he was OK, 1 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 BB, 1 K. And he did what he was suppose to do, he got a ground ball that allowed a run to score but he still got the out. It was really only the double that was the problem. Every bullpen needs role players, maybe Chulk is not made out for picking up after others, maybe he can come in and give us quality innings, but his one real mistake this inning was the double, so I would say that his performance, while not good, didn't suck either.

Lastly, Kline came in. True, he gave up two hits, but again, you can't expect perfection out of relievers. The more important point is that he gave up no earned runs, either his own or others.

So, to me, the bullpen did not suck. Correia, Chulk, and Kline, I think they pitched acceptably, not great but they certainly didn't suck. Sanchez sucked, and perhaps this is a sign he should be back in AAA starting.

"The Giants Lost!"

Yes, after the tumultuous off-season of "We're going young" was misinterpreted by some fans as "Everyone will be young", and two losing seasons, and three seasons of no playoffs, you want to see your team win their season opener. But it's only one game, out of 162 games. Some might recall how rocky the 2000 season started, losing the first six games ever in what was then Pac Bell Park, but then the team came back and not only won the division but had the best record in the NL.

One can cry about the offense or one can tip the cap to Jake Peavy, who, when he is on, is one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball (and who, by the way, Matt Cain beat three times last season). What shame is there in being shut down by Jake Peavy? And by their good bullpen. And to point out that Bochy didn't affect the results much, well, if the other pitcher is dealing, he could be the best manager ever and that would mean squat.

So why point it out, unless, of course, you have an agenda, a thesis about the Giants success this year, plus a rooting interest against Bonds. Experts may be saying the Giants are in the bottom of the division, but, really, how many of them really dig down deep into their analysis of the team? Given surface knowledge of the team, you can easily blast the team's chances for 2007: "Ortiz? Give me a break! Roberts don't play every game, neither does Durham, Klesko is washed up, Aurilia benefited from Cincy's home, Vizquel is 40 years old, Bonds is 43 years old, Winn is washed up, Feliz is useless as a hitter, and Molina is washed up as a catcher. Cain will have a sophomore slump, Lowry is done, so is Morris, and Zito isn't worth $126M, plus there's no bullpen"

But as I've tried to show in my posts is that there is sometimes more to the story than just the surface knowledge. That's what computers can do, take the surface stats, apply some formulas, and Frank Viola, you have a bad forecast for the player. That's nice for batch processing of results, not so when you look at things individually.

Experts Not Always Right

Experts have said many things over the years and have been wrong. So saying that all the experts think that the Giants have no chance, as Boof commented, is cherry picking - you know why? Because a lot of the experts last season said that the Giants were going to win the division. So which is it, are the experts right this season, for sure, but not last season, or we can't accept what they said last season because they were high, "we" knew the Giants were not competitive, but they are correct this year?

It's one game. Chill. Zito is not the "savior" of our staff, as one columnist noted. Stop focusing on the money, money is not who plays the game. Zito just needs to do what he did before and the Giants should be happy: no DL, 200+ IP, ERA on the good side of 4.00, something in the 3's that is. He's not a strikeout pitcher, and he doesn't dominate games like other pitchers. He keeps the other team from getting hits, that is his main forte. Some games it works like a charm, others it hurts him. Kind of like when Big Daddy Rueschel used to pitch for us.

Feliz is an easy scapegoat, but he's normally a very good defensive 3B - comparing anyone to a gold glover like Eric Chavez will usually leave the other player short. But if one would bother to check all the available defensive stats that is accepted by the saber community, one would find that Feliz is considered to be a very good defensive 3B, among the best in the majors. If you are looking for perfection, then perhaps one should look in the mirror first and ask that question.

Mercury's Bias Against Giants: A's Kissing?

And it's amazing how one's biases affects your view of things. It was noted that Bonds, in his pre-game session with the media, "gritted his teeth and answered a number of questions, none of much import." Well, another journalist, the AP reporter Janie McCauley, had a greatly different view of the same session, with the title of her article, "Lighthearted Bonds ready to resume chase of Hank Aaron"? And she wrote "Bonds was light and breezy before the game on a glorious Bay Area day that perfectly matched the slugger's mood." This is the guy who "gritted his teeth"?

I don't know if this is intentional or not, but after it became clear that the A's were moving down south (eventually to Fremont), the Mercury appeared to collectively take a stance to, basically, kiss up to the A's. They get front page of the sports page reporting, whereas the Giants more often saw their story inside. The columnists collectively decided that Bonds is bad after all these years and take their pot shots at him, whereas previously they were much more balanced in their tone.

Bonds is not the face of the performance enhancers era, the reporter should look themselves in the mirror. To expect athletes to be clean is noble but naive, to expect management to do something, crazier still if the turnstiles are spinning, and to expect fans to do something, well, they really have no power over that, really, they want their games. It was reporters, as the self-appointed watchdogs who was asleep on the job when McGwire was caught with his Andro, that should have set in motion some Deep Throat action where significant stars are caught cheating, but unlike Gary Hart with his challenge to catch him doing something, nothing ever happened with the baseball reporters, they happily continued writing on the sport without addressing this issue.

And they drive a stake into the Giants chances for 2007, but neglect to mention that the A's replaced Frank Thomas with Mike Piazza, who hasn't seen 30 HRs since almost last century, their best pitcher (Harden) is extremely injury prone, so is their starting SS and Milton Bradley, and they have two unproven unknowns at the bottom of their rotation in Gaudin and Kennedy, so one can only cringe as to who they will have to bring up if Harden goes down again, their three main stalwarts of the bullpen, Street, Duchscherer, and Calero, all saw extended time on the DL the past two years, young or not, plus an unproven manager, who is highly touted by only one person - Beane. I want my old Merc back, fair, balanced, objective.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Schmidt Happens To the Worst of Us

For me, there is no lower form of living things than former Giants who join the D-gers and publicly state "I've always dreamed of being a D-ger". Well, besides being a D-gers player, that is. Brett Butler was one turncoat and Jeff Kent, unsurprisingly was another. However, I was pretty shocked when Jason Schmidt became the latest to add his name to this ignominous list.

So, while I don't wish ill upon anyone, I take pleasure knowing that the Giants didn't lift a hand to sign him, given the latest news on him. In Sporting News, Stan McNeil's Inside Dish column reported the following news:
Dodgers RHP Jason Schmidt's fastball, which fluctuated from the mid-80s to low 90s last season, was in the mid-80s at Dodger Stadium last week. Schmidt says he's not concerned.

I wouldn't be concerned either if I had a guaranteed 3 year, $47M contract. If I were D-gers's fans and management, I would not be too happy at all. If I remember right, he had a similar problem, I think at the start of 2005, that lingered throughout that season. He was still good, just not up to the standards he had set for himself in the previous years as a Giant. Given that he's pitching in LA (extreme pitchers park), his stats probably won't suffer to much relative to his numbers as a Giant, so he will probably look as good as ever, but if he's only throwing mid-80's, he's probably going to be beaten like a rug on the road.

How's that for a big question mark for the D-gers? Among others, like losing JD Drew and replacing him with Pierre, who makes Feliz looks like an average hitter in terms of taking walks. And he's batting 2nd in the D-gers lineup. Yippee! More another day....


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