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.


  1. Anxiously awaiting your feedback re: Ishikawa getting assigned to Conn. I think he somehow got himself on the Giant's s***list along with Wilson, similar to Nathan and Ellison before them. I can't believe how negative the Giant's brass was to Wilson this spring, and how fast they send Ishikawa down. I wonder how many clubs treat their prospects with such disrespect.

  2. Yeah, I just noticed last night that Ishikawa isn't in Fresno. BULLS**T! Yes, batters are suppose to adjust to park factors when in the majors, but when players are younger and not as experienced plus building their confidence, this just screws with their minds playing in Norwich.

    If you don't believe that's true, then pick a sport you are not good at and then play someone who is very good at it for 74 games (or whatever the home schedule for Connecticut is). Tell me your confidence isn't shot, no matter how much you tell yourself that it's OK, he/she is much better than you.

    Even better, pick some sport you are good at, but then play with your non-dominant hand. Even major leaguers get their head screwed with (Ed Whitson), so why waste a good power 1B prospect in the minors and get a better assessment of his abilities in Fresno?

    If it was just Ishikawa being affected, then, yeah, maybe it is just something he needs to battle through. But it was him and all the power hitters on the team, plus the pitching staff as a whole gave up much less homers at home than on the road. I showed the stats cut different ways.

    Chad Santos seems to be a very nice guy, but he's not going to become anything more than a backup 1B, whereas Ishikawa has the potential to be a power-hitting starting 1B. Here's what my prospect book says about Santos:

    "Prototypical 4-A player whose power is negated by long swing and mediocre contact rate limits BA ability... Could have value as defensive sub/pinch-hitter"

    I would beg to differ, in today's baseball, particularly for the Giants and their 12 man pitching staff, defensive sub 1B has no value. 13 position players leaves 5 bench players. One must be a catcher, leaving 4. One must be an MI/3B, leaving 3. One must be a CF, leaving 2. Typically you have a corner OF as well, leaving 1. If that last one is a defensive 1B sub who cannot hit for BA or power, then I see that as a wasted roster spot.

    Wilson, I don't know what's up with him, I wonder if it is reporters trying to stir something up because Wilson, though a righty, talks quirkily like a lefty. Or perhaps he decided to pull the reporters' legs with his answers. From his personal journal from the AFL, he certainly has a unique sense of humor that I enjoyed, making me glad he did that.

    I think he would have to be pretty dense, stupid, or both, to not know that such a high ERA would earn him a ticket to Fresno. He was neither from his journal. I think he was just very disappointed in himself given that he was basically handed a roster spot and screwed up with that horrible spring performance. I think that he probably gave comical answers to the dumb questions from the reporters ("So, do you feel disappointed losing a spot that was virtually guaranteed for you?" "Nawww, that makes me happy...").

    I don't see the Giants as being negative on Wilson. All I read was that they still think he has closer potential, and that they just want him to go to Fresno and get himself straight. How is that negative? Particularly in light of the high ERA he had?

    The speed with which Ishikawa was sent down was no surprise, they had Aurilia getting acclimated there, Klesko back there after being gone for a while, and Niekro to evaluate whether to keep him or not. Ishikawa would have just took practice time away from them.

    I am just extremely disappointed that Ishikawa got sent to Connecticut, I wonder if it was that Justin Leone guy that the Giants picked up that precipitated that. He is suppose to be some power hitting 3B, but maybe they see him at 1B too. But he's 30 years old!

    Ellison is nothing more than a backup OF, cry not for him, at least now he gets to play on his boyhood team with a boyhood friend, that's pretty cool. His main value is defense in CF, hitting LHP, and that's about it. And he is so bad vs. RHP that the opposing manager should always switch pitchers if he is sent up as a PH vs. a LHP. You would think speed would be one strength, but all reports I've heard says that he is a horrible base runner, his speed is negated by his poor base stealing techniques. If he had learned how to properly steal, it might be different, but he just couldn't pick it up.

    Nathan, I think the main problem there is that Pierzitski was an All-Star C who could hit and play good defense, you have to give up something good to get something as good as that. If A.J. was just a nice person, that trade probably would be a good one even with Nathan, Bonser, and Liriano doing so well. Or if whoever the idiot who agreed to the trade (remember, Magowan said that had the trade went by him, he would have vetoed it, and one would think that after 6-7 years, Sabean wouldn't have pulled a blunder like that, plus Colletti praised Sabean before taking off to La-La land for giving him the latitude to do all sort of different duties, he was free to do whatever he felt able to do) would have done some due dilligence on Pierzitski and his prickly personality.

  3. Martin,

    In gerneral I agree with your view of the current status of the Mecury's reporting. But, I don't think it started with the A's announcing their planned move to Fremont. They (with the exception of Andy) have been Bonds haters and therefore increasingly Giants haters for longer then this. Frankly, I think the vast majority of not just the national media but the local media as well is trying to absolve their own guilt (for failing to investigate and report on steroids earlier when they had good cause and opportunity to do so) by placing all blame on one Barry Lamar Bonds. The therory is that if they can hang Barry Lamar Bonds they can get us to ignore the fact that they failed to be the watch dogs they were supose to be when they had every opportunity to do so.

    I also take exception to a couple elements of your review of the Bullpen and of Bochy. You did touch on the item that I think these performances (both Tuesday's and Wednesday's) demonstrate the most. The Giants relivers are lousy and cleaning up a mess started by another pitcher. Sancehz failed to clean up Correia's mess, Chulk failed to clean up Sanchez's mess, and Taschner failed to cleanup Hennessey's mess. Their is another point to be made. All of these messes started when the first reliever was asked to start a second inning. Here is where Bochy comes in. Bochy is beginning to learn (but has not yet learned) that he needs to only ask for one inning for all of the Giants relievers and that none of them are any good a cleaning up a mess started by another. If Sanchez had started the 7th inning on Tuesday instead of Correia, Chulk had started the 8th inning on Tuesday instead of Sanchez, and Taschner had started the 8th inning on Wednesday instead of Hennessey things might of (and I think probably would have) worked out better.

  4. To ignore the amount a player is being paid is foolish. When putting together a roster it's all about VALUE. The idea is to build the best team possible with the money available. In order to do so, a team needs to search for VALUE.

    Barry Zito is a good pitcher, but he wasn't a good VALUE. At some point in the future that will almost certainly cost the Giants.

  5. Good points giantsrainman, about the relievers not being good at cleaning up other's messes.

    sharkrog, that's an excellent point and one that I expounded upon long ago when he was signed. I showed how Zito can provide value, based on how the dollars are spread throughout the contract, and as long as he can stay healthy and provide #2/#3 type performance throughout the contract, the Giants get equal value.

    My point then was that people focus on the $18M per year, but he's actually only being paid $10M this year, which is not ace type money, but really about the level he is at, a strong #2 starter. Then he gets, I think, $14M, which would be high for him unless he performs close to ace level, then comes the big bucks, but all at about the same amount.

    If he pitches like he has the past two seasons with the A's, he will earn his money this season, but be a bit overpaid in 2008 and 2009, but with salary inflation like it has been, by 2010, he's being paid around #2/#3 type money again and his salary will look better each year after that.

    My point being that because of the way the contract is backloaded, even if Zito "only" pitches as well as he has the past couple of years with the A's (assuming no improvement from moving from DH AL to pitcher batting NL), the Giants will get fair value for money paid.

    Making the key question more, then, not that he's overpaid, but can he continue pitching at a #2/#3 type performance for the next 7-8 seasons? If you want, I can dig up the post for you, but I find the search function here pretty good, and it might have been labeled by then too.

  6. Also, ignoring the money paid is foolish if you are talking about getting someone or talking about how hamstrung a baseball operations will be in future years.

    However, during the season, the money don't really mean a thing, you have what you have, if you want to get hung up over the cost of everything during the season, that is your choice, but what's done is done during the season, you should really only focus on what we have and what they can do for us, this season.

    Sure, it might cost you extra salary that you could have used to acquire someone else.

    But for evaluating how a player is doing in the context of the season and how that affects our chances for winning (or losing) with the players we have, the money is superfluous, a sunk cost.

    Will the fact that Zito got the biggest contract ever for a pitcher affect who is the ace of the staff and how he pitches? No, unless you want to cry over spilt milk over who we could have gotten instead. Will the fact that Bonds got the biggest contract ever for a 42 year old affect how the lineup works? Again, no, unless you want to cry about who we could have gotten instead, or if we could have saved money and got someone better somewhere.

    That's all said and done, it's the season now, we need to move on and evaluate how our current team can do.

  7. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but isn't a reliever's primary job to come in a shut the door when a pitcher who is in the game is beginning to falter? If they'r no good at "cleaning up another pitcher's messes", then they can't perform their primary function and are, thus, not good relievers.

  8. Boof, the primary job of a setup reliever and closer is to shut the door down. The middle inning relievers, while he probably gets the chance to shut the door down, the point then is that probably the game is out of hand if he is going in, so you want innings out of him, not necessarily shut down, though that would be a bonus.

    Also, expecting a reliever to shut down things every time is not realistic, it's like playing with fire, so aiming to bring in people when there's no mess to clean up sounds like a good strategy.

    But I think Bochy is still trying to figure out his bullpen, so he's going to let them throw until they mess up, then throw another guy out there. Test their mettle. Alou did a lot of that early in the season too, I like that because no one is pigeon-holed into a "type" and gets a chance to prove they can (or can't) do something.

    In any case, it's really too early to label people, I was just trying to throw out possible reasons for why a player might not be doing well.



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