Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm Back; Various Thoughts

I'll be sure to get to the various comments when I'm fully back, but I wanted to write about a number of things that I thought about while on vacation.

Ishikawa in AAA

I know people think I'm beating a dead horse, but I've never said that he's a sure thing major leaguer, which is what some of my detractors have repeatedly said I've said. All I've ever said is that power hitters who hit like Ishikawa is rare, particularly at such a young age, and thus you have to give him the chance to succeed. Throwing him into Dodd Stadium is like having Maury Wills try to steal bases in Candlestick after the Giants overwater the basepath to make it harder for him to steal bases: it effectively takes away his strongest attribute and gives him no chance to succeed.

Some say that he should learn to do other things better then. Then why not tell that to Dave Kingman? He had a very long career mainly hitting homers and nothing much else. To take a more contemporary example, how about Adam Dunn? He's basically the same type of hitter: lots of homers (though not as much power), lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, but not that many hits (but probably a much better fielder than Dunn). There are plenty of players in baseball history with one-note, two-note type of skills (technically, Ishikawa has three, his homers, his defense, and his ability to take walks). Leaving Ishikawa in Connecticut just proves that he can not hit homers there, what purpose is there to that?

That's why I was heartened (though I did feel sad for him) when I was vacationing in Hawaii I read that state native Chad Santos was released by the Giants. He was the player standing in Ishikawa's way since they both are left-handed power 1B. And lo and behold, when I get home, first newspaper back and it notes that Ishikawa had been promoted to AAA.

And that's all I've been saying. Give him an opportunity to succeed or fail. Particularly for a position prospect-lacking organization like the Giants, it is the extreme in wastefulness to not give Ishikawa a chance to make it. To keep him in Dodd Stadium, where, as I showed with the various cuts of data, using the best comparative methodologies I know that is accepted for comparing parks within a league, is stupid. He proved he could hit in AA - look at his road stats last year, same as it was for lower levels - but not hit in Dodd Stadium, so move him up to AAA, let's see if he can handle better pitchers.

And people keep on harping on how much of a hitters league AAA is and thus how he does there is not reflective of how good he is so why promote Ishikawa. How simply unoriginal is that thinking! That is the biggest "DUH!" around, particularly if anyone has ever bothered to read through my prior years' posts. One of the things I have done in the past is to show where Giants prospects rank against other hitters in the league they were in because I do know that how well they do in that league is greatly affected by the hitting/pitching environment of that league, as well as age, so I also do a ranking by similar aged prospects in that league, to get a better feel for how they are doing versus other prospects in general and similar aged prospects.

So the point of promoting Ishikawa to AAA is not to see how well he hits there, but, with a more nuanced approach, you look at how he does against other prospects, knowing that he is now hitting against much better pitching than he did in AA. Does he adjust to the skill level or sink quickly? Or maybe he hits 20 homers, but where does that rank him in the league? And how is he doing relative to guys of his age?

I think that is much more important, though there are always less datapoints for comparison. Older prospects almost always have an advantage against younger prospects. Thus I take with a giant grain of salt whenever an older player is doing well in any of the minor leagues, particularly if he has 3 or more years in age over the bulk of the competition. Of course he should do better, he has many more years of experience.

Also, some people, even so-called experts who want to get paid for their thoughts, think that young players are irredeemable, that they cannot learn, but I wholeheartedly believe that young players can and do learn. Thus initial failure is a setback to me, but not the end of the story for me, as long as he shows his base skills are around, just hidden. It is better to see what he does with experience: does he learn? does he get better?

But the key to that is to put him in a situation where he can succeed and thus learn from his mistakes. Putting him back into a situation where he cannot succeed, where he fails even when he is doing exactly what he was doing before for success, will test even the greatest of wills and industriousness. It really puts him into an impossible situation, in my mind. If Tiger Woods was put into a situation where his 300+ yard drives are reduced to 200 or less, it would muck with his confidence, it would raise doubts in his mind. That's Ishikawa in Dodd Stadium, to me. Now that he's in AAA, it's up to him to succeed or fail, but at least he has that opportunity there.

Wendell Fairley on USA Today's 2007 All-USA High School Baseball Team

Look who got ranked up there with some of the position high school players who the Giants could have taken with their 10th pick: the 29th pick, Wendell Fairley. I was waiting in the airport and luckily found the USA Today Sport section (thanks sis!), which listed their 2007 All-USA high school baseball team. Was I happily shocked and pleasantly surprised to see him considered to be in the same company as Mike Dominguez, Jason Heyward, and Mike Moustakas.

Some factoids from the profile in the newspaper:
  • Height 6'2"; Weight 190

  • Bats left, throws right

  • Was a two-way player in baseball, hitting .538 with 9 HR and 36 RBI, and going 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 109 strikeouts (unfortunately, they did not note how many innings; shameful :^)

  • He played in the All-American Game in Albuquerque and was all-state in baseball and football.

  • I like this quote: [I like] wooden [bats]. It's more of a challenge. You have to work harder (at the plate)."

  • I like his favorite player: Barry Bonds. "He can hit it out of the park. I like watching the ball get up there." I wonder if he made it known to the Giants that he would sign if they drafted him while letting other teams know that if they drafted him, he would be staying in school if they weren't giving him, say, $2M.
The feature noted that reporter Christopher Lawlor selected the team "in conjunction with a national network of analysts, professional scouts, and prep writers."

Obviously, with no ranking, there's nothing to say that he's on par with them, but if he makes the team with them, he's probably not that far behind them. And that corroborates some of the talk I heard when we drafted Fairley, that he has top 15 talent but dropped because of personal issues (a hazing incident). But compared to the accomplishments of the other hitters, he's clearly below them.

However, this mini-profile makes clear to me a couple of extenuating circumstances that brings him closer to these other players. First, he's the only one among them to be an all-state football player. Now that he is devoting all his time to baseball, that should help with his development as a hitter. Secondly, he's the only one among the hitters to be a very good starting pitcher. He struck out 109, while among the two pitchers making this team, Rick Porcello, who was player of the year, struck out 112 (1.18 ERA, 71 IP), and Jarrod Parker, who also made this team, struck out 116 (0.10 ERA, 70 IP). Like with his split attention with football, his focusing on being a position player only will help with his development as well. And to steal from his quote above, he likes a challenge and is willing to work hard to achieve things. That's a great attitude to have no matter what job you have.

There were a couple of other Giants draftees mentioned on the All-USA Second Team:
  • Madison Bumgarner: 6' 5", 200 pounds; 11-2, 1.05 ERA, 143 strikeouts in 86.1 innings.

  • Nick Noonan: 6' 2", 175 pounds; .540, 15 homers, 55 RBI, 42 of 44 stolen bases. He was the one described as being Chase Utley-lite (much less HR power, 10-15 per year). How that is different from Marcus Giles-like (which #52 Charlie Culberson was compared to), I don't know.
Giants While I Was Gone

The Giants continue to sink as the offense continue to struggle while the pitching has continued to be the centerpiece of the team. I can only say how sad I am about this. 11 games is a lot to make up from the start of July and while it is possible, it is not probable.

Though I would add that if Cain and Lowry go on their rampage that they have gone through every August of their major league careers, and Morris and Zito can pitch competitively as well (which Morris has easily done, Zito sporadically this year, but Zito has been stellar in post All-Star relative to pre for his career, 3.26 ERA vs. 3.92), then I think the Giants can at least get to .500 and respectability, then can see where they are relative to the competition then.

But it is going to take a hitter like Durham, Aurilia or Roberts to take off and start hitting really well to jump start this offense. They will need a boost like that, like Durham last year, Winn the previous year, to get the offense going. Hopefully they can clear their minds soon and start hitting the way that they are capable of doing, that will get us going to .500.

I am hoping and praying that the Giants don't trade off any of their young prospects. Just keep them and see how they do. I can see trying to trade off Durham, Feliz or Vizquel (with Frandsen taking over) and Kline (with Misch taking over) during the trade deadline, with perhaps Klesko as a possibility, though he has been hitting so well, I hope we can keep him for 2008 since no 1B is ready right now. I don't think anyone would take Aurilia, but he could also play SS or 3B, so that could allow us to trade off an additional player above.

Go Giants!

1 comment:

  1. OK, the Merc must have gotten it wrong. Ishikawa is listed as having started for San Jose on Friday, so he got DEMOTED, not promoted. Either way, Dodd Stadium was not for him, hopefully he can build up his confidence back in San Jose, but this stalls his development for a year, a wasted year, because of Dodd Stadium.



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