Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tell Me Something I Didn't Know: Ortiz to Return to Bullpen

The Giants have announced that Ortiz will be coming back to the major league roster in the bullpen. Which is not surprising given how well Lincecum has been doing in the majors and, before that, the minors. As I've been beating the drums on, this helps the Giants bullpen greatly by adding another experienced arm in there, particularly one with closer experience, so perhaps he can beef up the setup situation - not that Hennessey hasn't been very good in that role, but rather that now we should have two very good options to go to in those situations.

However, his role is up in the air right now, could be long relief, could be other situations, according to the article. I think it's going to be like April when Bochy was trying to figure how where everyone's strengths and weaknesses are, and how they respond to certain roles. Ortiz will find himself doing everything, long, short, middle, setup, perhaps even close if Benitez has been used often. As I noted, I hope for him to assert a strong role in the bullpen, perhaps even usurping Hennessey's role.

If he can do that, then he might become the closer we were looking for in spring to take it away from Benitez. I'm hoping the skills he showed before as closer will come to the fore now and he can "close" in setup situations and occassionally in actual closing situations. This would give the Giants an option in case they decide that they want to trade away Benitez - to get something for all the trouble he has caused to the franchise - when there are some desperate teams looking for bullpen help (and you know there will be a number of them) - and maybe pick up a good bat somewhere.

It would also give us an option to go to looking forward should Wilson continue to struggle with his control in AAA Fresno, because there's no way in hell Benitez should be re-signed. But then what do we do for closer if Wilson is not ready? Hennessey has been nice, but I don't look at him right now and think "closer!" And I know Giants fans probably think the same about Ortiz and his penchant to walk guys, but at least he's been in the closer's role before, been very successful doing that, is known to the organization, and should be cheap again next season because the D-backs are still on the hook for $6-7M for the 2008 season, if I remember right.

Who Can It Be Now?

The Giants is being coy about what would happen once Ortiz returns because that will result in someone being sent down. The most obvious choice to me is to send Sanchez back down and become the starter that he should be, so that he can be ready to compete for a starting role next season - or perhaps prove that he belongs in the bullpen. Either way, he hasn't been doing that well in the bullpen up here anyhow.

If the Giants were to go in another direction, there are really only two choices that I can see among the position players: Ortmeier and Frandsen. Given all the blab about how Frandsen was going to come back up quickly and get a lot more play, plus Durham's and Aurilia's recent minor ache and pain that kept them out of the lineup, it would seem that it would not make sense to send back Frandsen.

Meanwhile, Ortmeier is replaceable on the roster. Sweeney and Klesko can play LF, Winn and Lewis can play CF and RF, plus we have already seen Sweeney take RF this season, have seen Feliz in RF a couple of years ago, plus have seen Frandsen take a game or two in the OF as well. Plus Durham could probably do a game in CF without problems as well, people have been talking about how he should be a CF since before he joined the Giants.

Also, look at how little he has been used since both he and Lewis joined the team. Of course, Lewis's hot streak probably has a lot to do with that, but Ortmeier also came up and hit the ground hitting as well. But he still sat, even though there has been a number of LHP starters that Lewis could have been sat down for and allow Ortmeier a turn in RF. So Ortmeier looks like the most logical choice among the position players to send down.

Given the innings the bullpen has been throwing recently, it would seem to make sense to send down Ortmeier, particularly with all the other possible OFs who could play in a pinch and the lack of usage he has been experiencing when Lewis could have sat a game or two to allow Ortmeier an opportunity. But Lewis has grasped the golden opportunity and rung the bell.

I still would prefer to send Sanchez down now. There's still around 3 months left in the minor league season, so he can ramp up his innings pitched and get his arm into starter mode. Also, this stops the ticking on his major league service, so that we don't waste it on bad relief outings and instead on good starts 2008 and beyond. This gives Ortiz more opportunity to throw in the bullpen, as there would be one less option.

Why I Like Ortmeier

Also, I like Ortmeier. As recently as one year ago, he was still considered a prospect who could be a starting corner OF. I believe that playing in Dodd Stadium for the Connecticut Defenders has screwed around with his confidence and that, given time, could return to that state in which he was a good prospect. I think if he can get some extended play in the majors, much like the Giants were going to do for Linden this year, he can become that player again. After all, there must have been something there that Bonds liked a lot for him to help him out in spring training (beyond a photo-op; I don't see Bonds doing something like that to court favor, otherwise he would have kissed up to reporters long ago) when he could have helped out other prospects but didn't.

And what's there not to like? He has double-digit power and, more importantly, he has basepath smarts, which he has converted into a lot of steals, unusual for a big man like him, he could get double-digits in steals as a starter. Thus he would give the Giants a stolen base threat on the bench, which we currently don't have with Klesko, Sweeney, Frandsen, and Alfonzo on the bench (and Linden previously). Thus he would be ideal as Bonds's designated pinch-runner/defensive replacement, then throw him a few bones by giving him starts when Bonds rests.

Like Linden, he was mainly a corner OF but once the Giants started thinking of him as a utility guy, he started getting starts in CF in AAA, and thus could play all OF positions. And he's a switch-hitter too, so he would be useful in pinch-hitting assignments. Besides, once Roberts returns from the DL, he's a platoon guy but Fred Lewis bats left so he would not make sense as a guy to get starts when there is a LHP; however, Ortmeier would. So why not keep him up and get him acclimated to the 5th OF role that Linden was suppose to occupy?


  1. Actually, Martin, I think you're using Dodd as a bit of whipping boy. Ortmeier had BY FAR his most impressive year in his minor league career playing at Dodd. It was, surprisingly, at Fresno that his career seems to have hit the prospect skids a bit. Actually, I think the issue began in his original SF cup of coffee back in '05. The organization publicly stated that they thought he was "overmatched" at the major league level, and that they were disappointed in his performance. I suspect that in ST of '06 they made him aware of their disatisfaction and that he wasn't in a very good mental place when he went to Fresno. I know I saw him play a few times after he was then sent back to Connecticut in the second half of '06 and his body lanaguage and demeanor certainly suggested he was highly depressed at being back in AA for a third time. He's a guy with an interesting skillset who could be a very useful 4th outfielder if he makes the adjustment to the game at the major league level, so it would be great to see him turn it back around.

  2. I'm aware that he had a better year in AA - his second year there. He hit .304/.378/.471/.849 in Advanced A San Jose but then sunk to .252/.352/.424/.776 in AA Norwich. Part of that was getting injured but his status as a prospect fell because of that. He recovered by doing well in Norwich his second year there, hitting .274/.360/.463/.823, before screwing up in Fresno.

    My point all along is that hitters will eventually adjust their game to suit hitting in Dodd Stadium, but then that screws up what made them successful coming up in the first place. That could explain his failure at Fresno his first time up.

    And, as I posit about Dodd affecting their overall stats and then their approach to hitting, that could have led to the team voicing their dissatisfaction with his performance when it was the park screwing with him and his stats.

    Look, my position on this is based on how I've read that batters have adjusted their hitting to swing for the homer at the Big Green Wall in Boston. That then screws up their swing that had made them successful and when they get on the road, they are less successful. It is a bad cycle.

    Given how badly Dodd Stadium suppresses homers, how much better would his stats been the seasons he hit in Dodd? Would the Giants not been disappointed then and then he wouldn't have been moping and would have done well last year (or even 2005) and we wouldn't have signed Winn or Roberts?

    In 2005, 20 HR in 503 AB. Assuming evenly split ABs at home and road, and approximately 50% worse AB/HR rate at home, he hit 13 HR on road and 7 at home. Boosting that up, he would have hit 26 HR that year, and instead of .274/.360/.463/.823, he would have hit .274/.360/.487/.847, assuming doubles became homers. And each out becoming a HR would add 4 points to his OPS for a potential of .286/.372/.511/.882 if 6 outs become homers.

    Those are pretty good, entering more elite territory, over .850 OPS with 26 HR.

    Here's a story that I think is appropriate here. One time some researchers came to an elementary school and split the students between two teachers. For one, they gave the teacher all the best students but told him that they were poor students - they didn't do well under him. For the other, they gave that teacher all the worse students but told her that they were good students - they did well under her.

    This shows the power of expectations that someone in authority can wield over someone in their charge. Not everyone will be affected similarly, but it can have a deleterious effect on the underlings confidence and performance.

    So I still think Dodd has affected Ortmeier negatively, he wouldn't have gotten the bad review if he had hit the 26 (or so) HR he should have hit, rather than the 20 he had. And perhaps he wouldn't have struggled his first year there and been able to move up to Fresno, helping his confidence.

    That could be what's happening to Ishikawa now, he had an OPS in the 800 range on the road, but probably got the speach Ortmeier got because of his poor hitting at home. Plus the sick to the pit of your stomach he might get knowing that he is condemned to play again at a park that doesn't play fair and makes him look bad when he was actually hitting the same as he did in 2005, when he was in San Jose. His road numbers in AA was very similar to his overall numbers in advanced A San Jose.

    So I don't think I'm using Dodd as a whipping boy. The Giants acknowledged the problem with the field there by requesting that Connecticut change the field to be more fair. By looking at the data, I can see that the only place the field doesn't play fair is their HR rate. Ishikawa's main value as a hitter is to hit HR, so how do you think that affects his chances for promotion, when your homers are halved at home? And how would you feel if a major strength you have in your job is weakened greatly in your job situation, like if you are a programmer, you can only use your right hand to type?

  3. But the bad review was specifically about his performance in SF, not in CT and after the '05 season, not the '04, so i just don't see the application. Ishikawa's problem is contact rate and always has been.

  4. And I'll repeat what I said: he could have altered his swing to do better at Dodd, which screwed him up for doing well elsewhere, much like the batters trying for the Big Green Wall homers.

    For example, if you can't hit homers in Dodd, wouldn't it be logical that some of them alter their swing so that they make more contact and, as the Defenders GM told me, run like the wind when you hit it in the gaps. You give up trying to hit homers, you instead eventually just try to get hits and stop hitting for loft.

    However, your whole scouting report is all about your power and you get brought up, and now you are dinking these hits to the outfield in order to get hits, so the big boss tells you that they are disappointed because you are a power guy and you are dinking in hits.

    Yeah, have no idea what exactly went down, but this scenario seems very logical to me, particularly after a player's second year stuck there.

    I never said that contact isn't Ishikawa's problem. Please focus on what I wrote not what you are anticipating or thinking. The problem is if you are known as a power hitter and you don't hit for as many homers what do you think your bosses will think of you and your abilities? They will think you regressed.

    OK, you got me to do more analysis. I dug up Ishikawa home and road numbers to see if I could dig up some more dirt. Here it is:

    Park - Extra Base Hit%
    Home - 24%
    Road - 50%

    Thus, not only are his homers halved, but his extra base hit percentage is halved as well. There is a wide split similar to this (though not as extreme but then he is a true power hitter and most of the rest are not, except for Schierholtz) for all the hitters with at least 4 HR:


    Park - XBH%
    Home - 32%
    Road - 41%


    Park - XBH%
    Home - 21%
    Road - 32%


    Park - XBH%
    Home - 21%
    Road - 35%


    Park - XBH%
    Home - 33%
    Road - 46%

    Von Schell:

    Park - XBH%
    Home - 28%
    Road - 54%


    Park - XBH%
    Home - 23%
    Road - 35%


    Park - XBH%
    Home - 32%
    Road - 46%

    Obviously, with so many hitters on the team affected, the team numbers are not that good:

    Team - XBH%
    Home - 26%
    Road - 33%

    Eastern - XBH%
    Home - 31%
    Road - 31%

    So it is as bad as I showed with my stats on the Eastern League, showing how the SLG percentage went down significantly relative to the League Average (and remember, their stats also brought down the average). XBH% went down 21%, it was 85% of the Eastern League average.

    And that is propped up by the non-power hitters on the team, clearly from the list of hitters above, many not even what I would call true power hitters, are signficantly affected, having their extra base hits reduced anywhere from 33% to 50%.



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