Monday, October 29, 2007

A-Rod Opts Out as Red Sox Sweeps Rockies

It has been reported on numerous media that A-Rod has opted out of his contract with the Yankees; here is the MLB account. Apparently they announced this in the middle of the World Series game 4, before the game had ended - and it ended, as noted in the title, with the Red Sox sweeping the Rockies.

I don't know if I had mentioned it here, but very recently I've been positing that A-Rod would not opt-out because no team can afford to pay him the $30M that he wants, not only for the 10 year contract that reportedly he and Boras will pursue but also for just one year. That's over 30% of the payroll for any other team other than the Yankees. And the Yankees have said repeatedly, including in response to the news of his opt-out, that they will not resign A-Rod if he opts out.

They would have huge egg on their face, plus lose any credibility for their statements going forward if they change course and pursue him anyway, and that is not likely at all, one because King George just recently installed his children as the new leaders of the club and so this is their first really official decision, and two because they are Steinbrenner and kowtow to nobody, much as Daddy George has been the straw that stirred the drink all those years ago. So that's not happening.

Heck, $30M is 50%+ of some team's payroll, so the list of teams which can bid is pretty limited. So the Giants with their huge cache to spend this season will be a target of Team Boras, particularly with Barry gone. But so will other big spending teams, particularly the Angels and D-gers because they are in LA and he seems to like the bright lights of Hollywood so much. In addition, the Cubs could have new owners in time to make a big splash like signing A-Rod, plus like the Giants, could use a better SS, which I would think would be an allure for A-Rod, returning to SS. I still don't think the Giants can afford to sign him, nor able to outbid other teams, particularly the Angels, who could use a 3B and has a Latino owner who has shown that he's willing to spend a lot, both to win and to sign big Latin stars, like Vlad, Colon, Cabrera, for examples.

Congrats to Red Sox

Congratulations to the Red Sox for sweeping the Rockies. Wow, that was all I could hope for, a thoroughly demoralizing sweep, where the Rockies couldn't do much of anything, and when they did, the Red Sox came back and slapped them back down. Really, the fact that they relied on Josh Fog for such a long winning streak, that was just incredible, as well as unbelievable, so this day was coming due for a long time now. At least they made the big show for the first time with their incredible streak, at least they got that. And they could be scarier going forward, once Ianetta and Stewart figure things out and contribute, and assuming the pitching continues to develop and improve.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

World Series: Go Red Sox Sweep!

Being baseball superstitious, I probably shouldn't post this, but I'm hoping the Red Sox sweeps. It was bad enough that the Rockies made the World Series, but the thought that they might even win it really bothered me. And their, what, 21 wins in 22 games mantra, was getting under my skin.

However, a sweep would go a long way towards making the World Series a wholely frustrasting experience for them. They've been pretty much the forgotten NL West team all these years, so I've never really given them any mind, but for Tulowitski to come out with his open hatred for the Giants because of his love for the A's, I have a special place for them in my Hall of Teams I Hate Because I'm A Giants Fan, almost up there with the D-gers.

And I have no problem with him coming out about this, I wish more players would be open like this, then we wouldn't have atrocities like Brett Butler, Jeff Kent, and Jason Schmidt kissing the ground in open gratitude when they signed with the D-gers after being significant contributors to the Giants. We could have traded them away when we could have gotten some good value for them, instead of watching them go and getting compensation draft picks. Schmidt probably should have been traded 2 years before we lost him, Kent maybe 1-2 years, and we would have had young prospects that would have been aiding us during the past few losing years and maybe been better teams.

Not that I'm complaining. When you are paying Barry Bonds $20M per year, you have to feed the beast and try your hardest to win each and every year he's on the roster at that amount, else you are just throwing that $20M away. Still, optimally, one can see after the fact that trading them a little early, like the Bill Walsh doctrine, would have been the best thing to do long term, but not the right thing to do at that point in time.

So go Red Sox, beat them Rockies into sand and nab your second World Series in four years. Seems like the Red Sox dominates for a while, then laid dorment for 90 years, and now is dominant again. And as good as the offense has been this series, it has really been their pitching who has helped them win the games, except for the relievers' glitch in game 3, but the starters and relievers had been very good up to then, offense or no offense. They are why they are up three games, instead of 2-1 or even 1-2.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What Makes a Great Baseball Player (Plus Villalona News)

There was an interesting article on baseball players, written by scientists, that I wanted to share: Mind Games. It talks about some of the personality traits that mark the good players vs. the bad players. It even mentions Billy Beane, though not as a GM, but as a failed top prospect. I thought it was a good read.

My Apologies, Tambien

Also, sorry I haven't posted much lately, but I've been busy with outplacement classes and since I got only that one month (not that I'm not appreciative, at least I got that much, I know others who don't even get that), I had to maximize the use of that service. I think it has been time well spent. In fact, I've had a Lowry post written since I had that long discussion with others on him, but haven't had time to post it. But my service just ended, so I'll be having more time to post, at least until I start submitting resumes and getting interviews.

Also, I joined a new fantasy baseball league that is starting up and I've been knee deep in drafting players as well. I think I'm doing OK: Santana, Lincecum, and Dice-K leading the rotation; A-Rod, Brandon Phillips, Eric Byrnes, plus Khalil Greene, Corey Hart, and Shane Victorino. I've been focusing on the top power-speed players, after being "forced" to select Santana with my first pick and Lincecum with my second. Not sure who to get next, maybe a catcher, maybe a closer, maybe just the best player available, though I've spent big thus far (we are using Cot's contract salary info) and now will have to be conservative in my spending going forward after adding A-Rod's big contract.

Hiatt Retires, Stanley Takes Over: What About V?

Long-time Giant Jack Hiatt, who has overseen the Giants farm system for years now, has retired and Fred Stanley is taking over. I listened to the press conference on and while it was suppose to be about Hiatt retiring and Stanley taking over, there was an extended chat about Angel Villalona in there due to the Chronicle's John Shea's persistence (thanks John!).

First, Hiatt was asked by Shea about V's weight problem. He noted that while it's true that V came in heavier than the Giants would have liked, it was all explainable and rectified with maturity.

Let's put it this way, he was 16 years old, so when he went back home after some instructional league after his signing, he was left alone and didn't work out at all, because he didn't know how to take care of himself. And so the Giants spent much of the spring teaching him how to take care of himself while he got himself into shape. He gained maturity and got slimmer in the process.

He learned that it's OK to fail sometimes, and Hiatt took his hat off to him, as V learned from all this and was playing better. The money, prestige and attention he got after signing kind of made him think that it will all be easier, and he has learned from that too. So he's learning to take care of himself better now, getting in to shape plus eatting more properly, plus getting over his homesickness - he was still only 16 much of the season, after all.

All in all, Hiatt thinks V's going to be a strong impact type player.

Then Hiatt mysteriously dropped out of the conference call, cell phone problem of some sort, and Stanley handled John Shea's oft-repeated question: so when's he coming up? Stanley said that V is just now understanding how to play baseball in the states. Growing up playing in the Dominican is nothing like playing in CA and growing up there. So there is a lot of "on the job" training that V is going to need to get, a lot of things he need to learn, because they want him to have learned all that he needs to learn so that when he finally comes up, he will be up to stay, instead of bouncing up and down.

Stanley thinks that 3 years would be conservative in saying when he'll be up. He also noted that the Giants are only playing him at 1B as well as 3B this season so that he will have flexibility coming up, not because of any other reason.

Giant Thoughts

All I can say is that if I made a $2M investment in a teenage, I would have hired someone to come in and teach him all the things he needs to learn to become a professional ballplayer. We must have some Dominicans on the payroll somewhere, give them bonus pay to live with Angel for a while and teach him all those things, taking care of himself, keeping in shape, etc. Then bring Angel to Arizona early - or is there some rule on that? - and set him up to live in AZ and again have someone there to watch over him and to guide him. Just get some of those things out of the way so that he doesn't start out slowly and help accelerate his learning curve. How hard is that?!?!?

Looking over Villalona's season, obviously it is impressive that he was rated the top prospect in the Arizona Rookie League when he was just 16 years old for much of the season. One note of caution is that he had an extreme home/road stats, so it is possible that his good stats (.279/.338/.441/.779) were home park driven and not talent driven.

Home: .304/.357/.490/.847, 3 HR in 102 AB (34 AB/HR), 34% XBH
Road: .255/.319/.392/.711, 2 HR in 102 AB (51 AB/HR), 27% XBH

In addition, he started out hot (in a short month), then cooled off greatly the rest of the season:

June: .333/.375/.667/1.042 (only 21 AB)
July: .247/.347/.412/.759 (85 AB)
Aug: .296/.321/.418/.739 (98 AB)

In addition, his plate discipline dropped a lot as well.

June: 2 BB/2 K (1.00 BB/K; 9.5% K%)
July: 10 BB/ 18 K (0.56 BB/K; 21% K%)
Aug: 2 BB/ 24 K (0.08 BB/K; 24% K%)

The main good news that counteracts (hopefully) all these bad news is that he actually hit very well against RHP, but sucked big time against LHP, and he is a right-handed batter, so he should improve greatly against LHP both because it was limited AB against LHP (i.e. small sampling) and if he's the hitter he's made out to be, righties should mash LHP and he should get much better.

vs.LHP: .200/.229/.444/.674, 0 BB vs. 16 K, 67% XBH, .259 BABIP (45 AB)
vs.RHP: .302/.367/.440/.807, 15 BB vs. 28 K, 29% XBH, .352 BABIP (159 AB)

When viewed this way, he was hitting at least as well as he did vs. RHP (807 OPS) and probably closer to 900 OPS if he had hit LHP as well as he should have. And the average batter in the league only hit .264/.350/.377/.727, where the average age was 20 years of age. Thus, at 16 years old, hitting against mainly 20 year old pitchers, he hit much above average against them.

In addition, oOut of the 52 players with the 150 AB to qualify, Villalona was 19th with his 779 OPS and was 12th in SLG with 450. And most of the top hitters were 21 and 22 years old. Only 4 of the 11 hitters ahead of him in SLG were under 20 (FYI Nick Noonan was one of those under 20's and Andrew D'alessio was one of the 20+, and with a huge OPS, 2nd highest in the league, only one of two with OPS over 1.000).

Patience Needed

It is hard to be patient but we need to remember that he just turned 17 in August. So if the Giants conservative estimate is that it would take him 3 years to reach the majors for good, that means he would be coming up late season in 2010 WHEN HE'S JUST TURNED 20 YEARS OLD.

With Cain and Lincecum succeeding at such a young age themselves, some might get jaded and think that's no big deal, but most ballplayers figure things out in their mid-20's, many latter, and it is the truly rare players who can come up in their early 20's and dominate. We could have three of them by 2010 with Cain, Lincecum, and Villalona. And from what I've been reading about Bumgarner and Alderson, our first two draft picks in the 2007 amateur draft, they might join them.

That Goes for Sabean Too

That's why I've been urging patience with Sabean. Yeah, the past farm system sucked, but the recent past actually has been pretty good but overshadowed by our major league club's lousy seasons. Baseball is not a sport of instant gratification like it is for the NFL or NBA, where young players are drafted and thrust onto the starting lineup from day 1 often. It takes time, you have to be a farmer and not get too upset with poor performances in the way past, AS LONG AS THINGS ARE APPEARING TO GET A LOT BETTER.

With Lowry, Cain, Lincecum, plus Hennessey, Correia, Sanchez, Accardo, and apparently Wilson, coming up in quick succession, and others (Lewis, Schierholtz, Frandsen, Ortmeier) looking like they can be decent contributors at the major league level, the farm system has taken great strides the past few years. I think things are getting a lot better.

To throw out Sabean now would be like getting mad at the farmer because the seedings haven't broke through the ground, you need to let things play out and see where they lead, because the seedlings he has cultivated thus far - Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, Sanchez - are excellent enough that we have to have the patience to see it through, rather than ruminate on past slights (farm system from 1997 to 2002) or current problems that can be fixed with young players (MLB club from 2003 to 2007).

Two years is not a long time in baseball. It is not like basketball where you get a Lew Alcinder (Kareem) or Shaq and become a winner just like that, or pick up a whole new defensive backfield like Walsh did with the 49ers (or draft 6-7 new starters one year), or draft Wayne Gretzky and become a legit contender.

Put another way, when teams go bad, they tend to go bad for a long time. Witness the Giants from the 70's to late 80's. Braves before Cox took over. Tigers before Dombrowski. Brewers before Melvin. Also still rolling the stone up the hill, only to watch it roll back, are the Pirates, Rangers, and Royals. Plus the Rockies and Devil Rays had stunk since joining the league until the Rockies had their miracle run at the right time of the season (and cooled off at the wrong time). And that's off the top of my head.

So if things were totally horrible, yeah, dump Sabean. But with potentially great players like Cain and Lincecum, and maybe Villalona, coming to maturity and productivity soon, and a number of other good players doing the same, I think two years is not too much to ask so that we can further evaluate where the Sabean Ship is going.

It is almost like politics to me. Voting for Sabean, to me, means that you like Cain and Lincecum, plus Sanchez and Villalona, and the rest of the gang. Voting to dump Sabean means that you don't like all that. The Nathan trade is over and done with, and so is the Accardo trade, they are sunk costs that don't matter in the financials going forward. What matters are the young players coming up and I like what has come up and what is coming up, and hence I vote for him to stay on the island. Either you like Cain and Lincecum, or you don't, I think it is as simple as that. And I LOVE Cain and Lincecum.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2007 Giants: September PQS, Season Ending Stats

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of September, as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this last season and compiled their stats on a regular basis and I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this).

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

Basically, you want to see a pitcher's DOM% to be over 40% and ideally over 50%, and you want their DIS to be under 20% and ideally under 10%. For example, Johan Santana has a 76% DOM and 3% DIS in 2006 (2.77 ERA), whereas Orlando Hernandez had a 52% DOM and 28% DIS (4.66 ERA), and Adam Eaton had a 31% DOM and 31% DIS (5.12 ERA). See my explanation down below on methodology plus read the link, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and particularly how low DIS% is so important.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2007 Season (as of end of the 2007 season)

Travis Blackley - (0% DOM, 50% DIS; 0:1/2): 3,0

Matt Cain - (56% DOM, 19% DIS; 18:6/32): 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 0, 3, 5, 5, 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 1, 5, 3, 1, 0, 0, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 3, 5, 0, 3, 5, 4, 4

Kevin Correia - (63% DOM, 13% DIS; 5:1/8): 0, 4, 4, 5, 2, 3, 5, 5

Tim Lincecum - (67% DOM, 21% DIS; 16:5/24): 0, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 0, 0, 0, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 0, 3, 4

Noah Lowry - (31% DOM, 19% DIS; 8:5/26): 5, 3, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3, 3, 3, 0, 3, 2, 4, 0, 2, 5, 4, 1, 4, 4, 2, 0, 2, 2, 3, 0

Pat Misch - (25% DOM, 25% DIS; 1:1/4): 3, 3, 4, 0

Matt Morris - ( 29% DOM, 19% DIS; 6:4/21): 3, 1, 4, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 5, 3, 3, 5, 4, 0, 2, 2, 3, 0, 0, 4, 4 (traded)

Russ Ortiz - ( 13% DOM, 25% DIS; 1:2/8): 2, 4, 2, 2, 0, 2, 3, 0 (DL: Tommy John)

Jonathan Sanchez - (25% DOM, 50% DIS; 1:2/4): 3, 4, 0, 0

Barry Zito - ( 39% DOM, 24% DIS; 13:8/33): 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2, 0, 3, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 3, 3, 0, 5, 2, 0, 3, 0, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 1, 4

Giants season overall - 42% DOM, 22% DIS out of 162 games pitched (69:35/162)
Giants Month of April - 29% DOM, 4% DIS out of 24 games pitched (7:1/24)
Giants Month of May - 43% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games pitched (12:5/28)
Giants Month of June - 33% DOM, 30% DIS out of 28 games pitched (9:8/27)
Giants Month of July - 48% DOM, 32% DIS out of 25 games pitched (12:8/25)
Giants Month of August - 52% DOM, 16% DIS out of 25 games pitched (16:5/31)
Giants Month of September - 48% DOM, 30% DIS out of 27 games pitched (13:8/27)

After doing pretty well in April and May, then declining greatly in June and having a pretty mixed month of July, the Giants pitchers turned things around in August, on a collective level, then fell back to July's standards in September. Cain continued doing well with 3 DOM starts and Zito ended the month with 4 himself, but Lincecum was shut down after three starts, getting 1 DOM start. Correia was a full-time starter in September with 5 starts and 3 of them were DOM starts. Also, as a reminder, if he didn't get an automatic zero PQS for having under 5 IP in his first start - the Giants limited his innings since it was his first start in two years - he would have gotten a DOM for that start as well, it would have rated a 4 PQS had he gotten two more outs without damage.

Sanchez, Misch, and Blackly started as well during the month. Each had nicely pitched games, then the big disaster starts, bringing down the rotation's average for the month. For September, out of 8 DIS starts, the three of them were responsible for 4 of them (Zito was responsible for 2 of the others).

What's Good and What's Not

A DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes. Thus what Correia has done so far in limited starts is startingly good, that's why he is now in the mix for the #5 starting position for the 2008 season, as Sabean had noted in one of his post-season talks, along with Sanchez, who previously was the favorite for that spot; now it's a competition.

If you had to chose a high DOM% or a low DIS%, pitchers tend to have a lower ERA when you have a low DIS% vs. a high DOM% (obviously if you combine both, you have a much better chance of having an elite pitcher). That's how Lowry was able to pitch well last year, keeping his ERA low while still recovering from his strained oblique and being unable to strike out hitters as much as before, he had very few disaster starts until he had his arm problems and got bombed in September, he had a good ERA, in the high 3's until those starts.

September's Comments

The staff was led by Zito and Cain, who had 4 and 3 DOM starts, respectively, and one could have made the argument that Correia was the best pitcher in September as he had 3 DOM start and none DIS starts. Lincecum was shut down after three starts, so conceivably he could have had 1-2 more DOM starts. But that was OK, as it allowed Blackley, Misch, and Sanchez to get some starts in. Our starting rotation is suddenly overflowing, with Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Lowry, Sanchez, Misch, and Blackley looking like they can all start in the rotation for somebody (OK, Blackley not as much, but I think he did OK in two starts, which should be good enough to give him some value and projectibility for the majors).

Overflowing Pitching Rotation

Cain and Lincecum are clearly our future and Zito is starting to earn his huge contract: if they are all on in 2008, they could be the best 3-some in all of baseball, and could have a nice stretch together from 2008-2011. Lowry had pitched well enough to be in the top 20-29 in ERA in the NL from 2005-2007, which makes him #2 worthy in the NL, and he could be our #4 pitcher in 2008.

Correia had a great stretch of starts for us at the end of the season. He had been wanting to start and chomping at the bit for the past two years, because he wanted to start, not relieve. He clearly took his opportunity to start and ran with it. Counting the first start as a DOM, he would have had 6 DOM out of 8 starts with no DIS starts, which is a great stretch for anybody (75% DOM, 0% DIS). That is ace-type dominance if he could keep it up throughout a season and I think he pushed himself ahead of Sanchez for the #5 starting position for 2008, assuming no starters are traded away.

Focus on Pitching Starting to Pay Off

This is when the pitching focused strategy starts to pay off. Having so many will allow the Giants to consider trading off one or two out of Lowry, Sanchez, Misch, and Correia, to get young position players who could be part of our core from 2008 on. Sabean has said as much in his post-season conferences and interviews, that they will consider trading young pitching for .

Each year will bring more opportunities to trade off pitchers to get position players. It was rumored that the Mets was willing to trade Carlos Gomez, a young speedster for the Mets, straight up for Sanchez. The emergence of Misch and Correia as viable back of rotation starters, where teams don't really need even journeyman-like performance, makes Lowry and Sanchez expendable for the right price.

And that's what a lot of impatient Giants fans have not been getting, that we need to wait for the right package. We don't want to trade off Lowry or Sanchez just for any old position prospects, they are very good pitchers and we should get the right value for them. Just because the Giants probably won't compete next year doesn't mean that you go out and trade off pitching just for the heck of it. They have to wait for a team who really needs a starter, and then get top value for our pitchers we trade away. I don't see that happening before the 2008 season, but I think by June/July, teams will be clamoring for our starting pitchers in trade, that's when we will have leverage and can get top value for our pitching.

Other Teams Need Pitching

Look at the Brewers, don't you think that they are going to be dying for starting pitching for next season, particularly with Sheets frequently injured (and DLed) again this season. Maybe they'll be willing to trade off one of their good position player (or two) in order to get a great #2 starter like Lowry. Lowry is now an established starter with good to great performances all through his career. That should be worth at least two good position prospects - guys with potential - versus getting a known hitter.

The Mets need pitching too. So maybe the Mets would give up Gomez and Milledge for Lowry, just for a thought: one who had done well in his limited time up (Gomez) plus one who has great potential, but not capturing it in the majors (Milledge). That wouldn't be a bad haul for Lowry, though this is not probable because the Giants have so many OF prospects as it is.

And if no one bites, then we have a great rotation overall, plus the flowover will make the bullpen that much better, and better in 2008 than 2007, particularly with the loss of Benitez and additions of Wilson and Walker. Quality pitching will raise the bar for our pitching staff, and improve how they perform in 2008 versus 2007 collectively. And that will improve the team, even if the offense probably sucks again in 2008.

Rebuilding not only takes time, but it takes patience so that you don't throw away any advantage you have - as the Giants do in starting pitching right now - by just doing a knee jerk reaction just to do something, show something to the impatient fans. You don't build championship teams by always reacting to fan sentiment for action. You have to build as fast as the market allows you, and sometimes that's slow. Look at the Brewers, they have been building up to this over a 12 year period, in ernest around 8 years now.

Stupid trades can hurt more than not making a trade, which is something some fans forget. It is like trying to catch one of the huge fishes of the sea, you don't reel him in immediately when you feel the tug, you have to work it in order to catch the fish, else you risk losing it, you must exercise patience, knowing that it is just part of the process towards your ultimate goal. You can't just jump in and fix everything just like that.

Two Hitting Coaches Released

It has been reported (Chron) that hitting coach Joe Lefebvre and 1st base coach Willie Upshaw (who was also acting as a hitting coach) have been released by the Giants, though Lefebvre, who is Brian Sabean's old high school buddy, will be offered another position with the team (probably roving minor league hitting instructor :^), as was Upshaw (who was formerly the roving instructor, so maybe both will be roving now :^).

This move makes sense since the offense has been a problem the past few years, so you fire the guys who were in charge of that. Particularly, as the article suggests, both shared the same hitting philosophy. You would want to purge whatever is was that caused the poor hitting, and if both shared the same philosophy, both should go. But it would be very lame if they got a job as minor league hitting coaches in the farm system then, so I have to think that they get other jobs, HOPE that they get different jobs.

It would be interesting who they make as hitting instructor. That should give a hint as to the current hitting philosophy espoused by the team's management. Given all of Bochy's talk about small ball, I would think whoever they hire will be good at teaching that. I have no idea otherwise, just know that it would be interesting to see who they hire (Barry Bonds! :^). I wonder who Bochy's hitting coach was before with the 'Dres, could it be back to the future all over again, like his hiring of best bud Tim Flannery?

Ricky Henderson would have been an interesting choice as he could have been both hitting instructor as well as stealing instructor. But I think he's the Mets hitting coach right now, or at least some sort of coach. And he would be interesting, though whether he would be effective would be another thing. :^)

I've seen JT Snow mentioned as a possible candidate by some fans. I think he would be an interesting choice, based on how he was able to control the strike zone and get a lot of walks. But given that he was never able to figure out the park, he would be kind of useless then, wouldn't he, with our lefthanded hitters?

Jack Clark, I think, would also be an intersting choice. He might be able to instill in the hitters his "killer" instincts that earned him his nickname of Jack the Ripper. Plus he remembered when it was an huge thing to be an OF in the Giants farm system, the honor and the pride, and might be able to instill that in his young charges. However, I would be afraid of him taking said young hitters to local car dealerships and talking them into buying sportscars and asking for a ride. Bad news seems to follow him, so that would be the big risk there.

Hey, think Bochy could talk Tony Gwynn to take over batting coach duties? :^) Now THAT would be inspired! However, it would be unlikely, he seems happy coaching, plus could have done that with the 'Dres, HIS team for so long, when he retired and Bochy was manager, so why would he do that now?

That's all I can get out of this sleepy brain right now. I don't think most hitting coaches are that important to a team that he would make or break a season, though I would like to note that Ted Williams totally improved the team's offense after taking over as manager. Iconic batting coaches are few and far between, unfortunately. However, I think he can totally affect fans' expectations going into the 2008 season, after the failures of the past few years. And might be able to help out some of the hitters we have. So it will be interesting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It Was the Worse of Times: NL West Teams in 2007 NL Championship

That's all I can say about the D-backs and D-Rox winning their series, ensuring an NL West team in the World Series. I don't know who to root for. The D-backs making the World Series again with another ex-Giants catcher as skipper? It would kill me to see them win - again - particularly with Livan in their rotation and the outfielder the Giants should have had, Eric Brynes.

But then root for D-Rox? Ugh, I guess I will have to root for them. But Troy Tulowitzki truly angered me with his comments about the Giants - the prototypical A's fan who is a sadist. I personally don't care either way about the A's, so I've never rooted for or against them, except of course the 1989 World Series (ironically lost because of steroid-enhanced hitters helped them out; if I can admit that Bonds probably took the stuff, I can say that McGwire's lame response to the Congress is pretty much an admission of guilt AND an admission that he took them purposefully since he was caught using Andro before). Ultimately, I know that this is a game and I am following for fun and enjoyment, so while I would enjoy it greatly if the Giants won the World Series, I know it wouldn't mean that I would suddenly be "better" than another person because of it, I just have bragging rights for a year, because things can change quickly.

But that's the problem I've always had with some A's fans who want to lord over me the fact that their team have won so many World Championships while we have none. They purposefully try to make me feel bad about that, like I'm beneath them or something. It was never personal for me unless the other person made it personal for me. And Troy did that with his comments about the Giants this season, speaking as an A's fan, so I don't really want to root for the D'Rox either.

Still, between the two evils, I would rather see the D'Rox go to the World Series. Besides the fact that I don't even want Livan sniffing the chance of winning one, after the implosion he had in game 7 for us, then chiding us for not recognizing all the games he had won for us up to then, I think the D'Rox has the better storyline between the two young teams. They came from behind and far back, whereas the D-backs just appear totally lucky to be there because of their horrible RS/RA Pythagorean W/L.

Either way, though, still rooting for the Indians to win the World Series in a sweep, even if Kenny Lofton is with them. Go Indians!

Friday, October 05, 2007

2007 Giants Minors Review: Giants see big gains from top names

The minor league's website had a nice article detailing a number of the top players in the Giants farm system this past season. I will make comments on the items the author covered.

Organization Players of the Year

The author (as they noted, they were not selected by the team) selected John Bowker and Sergio Romo. While I can understand perhaps why the author picked the two, and the two did have nice years, particularly nice for Bowker since his prospect status was "none chance" to steal from Duane Kuiper's vocabulary, I think their selection shows that the author is not a Giants fan, nor a particularly thorough researcher.

Even from my standpoint, where I haven't gone through all the minor league teams yet and check to see who did the best, from my readings on the Giants prospects, I think you have to select Nate Schierholtz and Henry Sosa.

Nate had probably one of the best performances of the year and at AAA, continuing his ascent to the majors, where he did well too, well enough in my opinion, that trading away Randy Winn to open up RF for Nate would be the best thing because 1) Randy should net us a good prospect or two, due to his average but OK hitting, good defense at all three OF positions (particularly useful if you have a bunch of old players out there with a history of injury problems), and OK contract, now that a similar player in Gary Mathews Jr. got that mega-contract long-term, it would be like the Matt Morris contract, it is now cheap enough and short enough to be valuable to a team, and 2) we have so many OF prospects who have exhibited enough at the major league level, including Fred Lewis, Rajai Davis, and Dan Ortmeier (though he hopefully will play 1B mostly), that we can rotate in Schierholtz, Davis, Lewis, Ortmeier into the CF and RF spots, depending on who is doing well at the time, but with Davis in CF and Schierholtz starting in RF, to start the season. While Bowker had a very good season and lifted his name into consideration for the mashup we have in the OF in the 2009 timeframe, perhaps even late 2008 if he kills at AAA, I think you have to give Schierholtz credit for figuring out AAA and then doing well in the majors.

Bowker, though, is a close second, so perhaps I'm being picky, but really, you have to give it to the guy who did well in AAA and then the majors. Unless you have someone who has a lot more potential and move up a lot. Angel Villalona did well in rookie ball and was younger than everyone there, so he's probably up there too, and I would have given it to him if he could have hit well in A-ball somewhere. Nick Noonan also deserve consideration and I would give honorable mention to Culberson and D'Alessio.

Henry Sosa totally dominated A-ball, then stumbled moving up to Advanced A, so Romo had success at a higher level. However, Sosa was doing it as a starter whereas Romo is a reliever. Though we need relievers more than starters, there needs to be more credit given for doing it as a starter, and particularly as dominating as Sosa was in Augusta, plus he got promoted. Not really sure who would be next, Brian Wilson probably since he did it as a closer, then Misch perhaps because of his success at AAA then majors.

Prospect Ratings

The article then delved into prospects who rose, stayed the same, and lastly fell. Nothing much to add there. I know people think I love Ishikawa or something, but given the Giants lack of position prospects, I just really don't want to waste one if he's really OK. And really, he hit well in San Jose, just as well as he did in 2005, so his skills were never gone, just wasting away in that hell-hole called Dodd Stadium. Kudos to Bowker for doing well there, but even he was greatly affected, which means he really busted out after a stagnant, regressive season in 2006:

Dodd: .271/.330/.422/.752, 6 HR in 251 AB (42 AB/HR or about 15 HR seasonal rate)
Road: .345/.397/.689/1.027, 16 HR in 267 AB (17 AB/HR or about 35 HR seasonal rate)

Still, given that AAA is another rung up, I have to say that Schierholtz is still "da man." He hit .332/.364/.559/.922, 16 HR in 410 AB (26 AB/HR or about 25 HR seasonal rate) during the season. But, more importantly, he figured things out later - as he has done for most of his career - as he had this great batting line in July and August in Fresno: .321/.360/.611/.970, 12 HR in 190 AB (16 AB/HR or about 35 HR seasonal rate). That's basically as good as Bowker did on the road in AA, except that Schierholtz did it one level higher.

There were two players who I think deserve mention from this section though. Ben Synder is a LHP out of Augusta this season, and he had a 2.09 ERA and struck out 145 in 151 IP, which is 8.6 K/9, which is pretty good. Eugenio Velez, who normally had played 2B but played a lot in the OF this season, hit well at Connecticut (which while bad for power hitters, doesn't affect non-power hitters as much), with a .298 BA and 49 steals.

On The Radar

This is a pretty good section, covering players to keep an eye out for in the next year or two. The players listed are:
  • Adam Cowart: Despite reports that his skills will not do well at higher levels, he followed up a 1.08 ERA with 8 walks and 55 strikeouts in 83.1 IP in 2006 at Salem-Keizer, with 2.39 ERA with 28 walks and 95 strikeouts in 169.2 IP in 2007 at Augusta. He's now 24-8 as a professional.
  • Sergio Romo: He did very well in San Jose, with a 1.36 ERA as the closer in 2007 (he started and relieved in 2006). In 66.1 IP, he gave up only 35 hits and 15 walks, while striking out 106, for a stellar 14.4 K/9! His WHIP was also stellar, at only 0.75.
  • Kevin Pucetas: It's going to be hard for Pucetas to top 2007, when he receieved the Most Spectacular Pitcher Award for having the lowest qualifying ERA in the minors this season with 1.86 ERA at Augusta. In 145.1 IP, he gave up 129 hits and 21 walks, while striking out 104, 1.03 WHIP.
  • Henry Sosa: This was his first full season and he totally dominated A-ball with Augusta, going 6-0 with a 0.73 ERA before earning a promotion to San Jose. He didn't do great there, but he has a high-90's fastball, so he'll probably do much better next year when he'll still be only 23 years old.
One of the thing that pops out to me, particularly after the picks in the 2007 draft, is that the Giants are concentrating on (or taking on a team philosophy of) pitchers who have incredible control. Where under 3.0 BB/9 is considered good, Cowart has a 1.5 BB/9, Romo has 2.0 BB/9, and Pucetas 1.3 BB/9. Sosa is kind of wild, but wild like Cain was before. Still, he strikes out so many that his K/BB was good, 2.4 with Augusta, then 2.1 with San Jose, where you want your starters to have over 2.0 to be good.

2007 Draftees

Unfortunately, Bumgarner and Fairley signed too late to start their professional career. However, Alderson did OK with five shutout innings in Arizona Rookie League, only 4 hits and no walks, plus 12 strikeouts! There were other notables:
  • Daniel Otero: He was Salem-Keizer's closer and the most amazing thing is he had zero walks in 22.1 IP.
  • Nick Noonan: Hit .316 with 3 homers and 18 steals in the Arizona Rookie League as an 18 year old, not too shabby.
  • Jackson Williams: Didn't hit well (though small sampling) but he hit with power, amassing 5 homers in only 126 AB (25 AB/HR or about 25 homeruns in a full season). However, he didn't have that great a batting line. The good news is that his contract rate was 79%, which is OK (ideally want over 85%) and his BB/K was 62%, which is OK. Those suggest some hitting ability and give some hope that his BABIP of .263 will rise if given a full season to play.
  • Charlie Culberson: Hit .286 with 19 steals in the Arizona Rookie League as an 18 year old too.
  • Andrew D'Alessio: Hit .306 with 14 (!) homers in the Arizona Rookie League, but he was much older than the competition there. I have hopes but they are tempered by his being much older. 2008 will give a clearer indication of his abilities.
  • Craig Clark: 2.98 ERA starting for the champion Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Giants Fans Guide to 2007 Playoffs

The playoffs begin today, whoopie, because the Giants are not in it. For those more into baseball right now, here's one Giants fan's historic guide to rooting interests:
  • Chicago Cubs vs. D-backs: The Cubs stole the manager Sabean was targeting first, Piniella (not that I wanted him, but still), then snatched Alfonso Soriano away from us in the free agent market (it could have been Bonds in LF, Soriano in CF). However, they are facing the D-backs first, and I hate all NL West competitors. I'm rooting for the Cubs to win here, but lose in the NL Championship (hopefully in a Bartman type of way so that they REALLY think the gods are out to get them). I expect them to lose anyway, the Cubs have great pitching all the way around, the D-backs only have had good bullpen, only Webb was really good in the regular season. Plus they have Livan, another reason for us to root against them, hope he does as well as he did in the 7th game and blow it for them horribly.
  • Colorado vs. Phillies: Again, hate all NL West competitors, particularly the Rockies since their SS Troy Tulo-snitch-ki is a life-long A's fan from the East Bay and hates the Giants with a passion. Same to you Buddy! Hope the Phillies sweep their asses home in a humiliating way, then win the NL Championship to get to the World Series. I also expect the Phillies to win; against anyone else, the Rockies appear to have been on such a huge streak that no one can stop them, but the Phillies have been on a similarly huge streak. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. Somethings going to break, and I think the Phillies have more.
  • The Angels The Angels vs. Red Sox: Hmm, a team that Tattoo from Fantasy Island would love or an idiot with a blog who is a pitcher with blood (or catsup) on his sock and who wrote disparaging things about Barry when it was none of his business. Nothing to really appeal to a Giants, but since they cost us 2002, I hope the Red Sox sweep the Angels all the way back to their thumb-sucking Rally Monkey, but with Schilling crushed with, like, 6 runs given up in a third of an inning, in his only start. Then they can lose in the next round. No specific expectations, don't really care for either team, so like Dr. No said to Bonds, "I expect you to DIE!"
  • Cleveland vs. Yankees: Gotta hate the Yankees, plus if A-Rod stinks up the joint in the playoffs, King George will say "extension my fat fanny!" and let A-Rod go free agent and seriously hold to their promise not to bid for him; one less bidder mean more chance the Giants have of signing him. If anything, we Giants fans owe the Indians for 1954, so I'm rooting for the Indians to win the series and the AL Championship. I couldn't believe it at the end when I saw that Cleveland not only was on top of the AL Central, but competing for best record. They have great pitching in Sabathia, Carmona, and great hitters in Sizemore and Hafner, so I expect a tough battle but that they will pull it out like they did all season long and come up on top.

Obviously, I'm hoping for Phillies vs. Indians in the World Series. If it did really work out this way, I guess I will root for the Indians for the karma of 1954, though that would remove ANOTHER team which hasn't won the World Series in a longer period than the Giants. We lost Red Sox and the White Sox in recent years, and I think that would leave the Cubs as the only other club with a longer streak. I also expect that the Indians would come out on top in such a meeting, their pitching is so good, but I would be OK with either team winning, as long as they make it exciting.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

2007 Giants Post-Mortem: Sabean-Bochy Conference

Forgot that there would be a Sabean-Bochy conference call with the media yesterday to discuss what the Giants management is thinking for the 2008 season, after the 2007 season ended. They used to post the call on-line and I would transcribe it, but I guess the media got mad that the Giants took away one of their differentiators from bloggers, and they stopped that practice.

The interpretation is here: what I've found from previous years is that each sportswriter usually emphasizes a different point than any other writer, sometimes get a whole different meaning from a phrase than another writer, and each will include sometime a bit of information that no other writer included in their interpretation. I've found it best to cull all the information together and found the Merc's version and the Chron's version, so I'll be referring to these three sources.

"Warriors" Wanted

First thing I would note is that Bochy wants more of an aggressive "warrior" attitude (and I'm sure he's not aware of how ironic that is given how poorly the Golden State Warriors have played for such a long time) and is looking for a change in the clubhouse culture, while avoiding criticism of Bonds sometimes lacksidaisical play. He noted, "I don't know for sure if we quite had the warrior spirit at times that I would like. That's a mentality I'd like to change, make sure that we're all going out there playing to win. It's not that the guys aren't trying, but there is a difference between going out there playing to win versus trying to survive or not make a mistake."

This echoes the public comments by Matt Morris and Bengie Molina made earlier in the season about whether winning was the focus or not. I still don't think that's totally fair comment on the team, I think it's only natural to focus on Bonds' career achievement when you are so close to it, it is up to the vets, coaches, and manager to keep the team focused on winning and not on "Wow, it's Barry Bonds setting another record!" If you want to complain publicly about something like this, then I think every vet on the team has to look hard in the mirror.

Back to the Future Competively

Again, Sabean was selling that the Giants can be competitive in 2008. He noted the same things he did in the Bonds conference and his on-line chat, that parity will boost their chances because there's not as much of a gap between the haves and the have nots, that other teams have turned things around in one season (not quite true, they suffered many losing seasons before returning to over .500), that the Giants weren't as bad as their record showed in 2007 (very true based on Pythagorean W/L), and that the bullpen is an area of big bang for the bucks improvement because of the Giants poor record in close games (most in the league).

The Giants felt that it was the bullpen and not poor offense that led to a lot of those losses, and he will be pursuing a veteran reliever on the free agent market (Bochy's buddy from SD, Scott Linebrink will be available, but would cost us a draft pick AND a huge contract, probably more than Justin Speier got from Angels, who outbid us for him). The bullpen is clearly a major area of improvement the Giants are targeting for 2008. But it is also clearly an area that has important pieces on hand already in Brian Wilson, Tyler Walker, and Brad Hennessey.

Trading Places

He likened the Giants current situation to how they were in 1997 when he took over the GM seat. But, unlike that time, he has no Matt Williams to trade, and when asked if he would trade Cain or Lincecum, he said essentially that that Cain and Lincecum are off-limits (which is not quite what he said just a little earlier in his on-line chat when he said "probably"; he's usually much more careful about his words and wording). Basically, he is hoping to trade from his surplus of starting pitching to get the players he needs/wants, and expects to be more active trading than in signing free agents. That means the rest of the starters are available for trade, though Zito's contract makes him essentially untradeable, unless we find another team like Pittsburgh willing to take that on.

However, with the weak free agent market supply of starting pitchers, led by the not even mediocre Carlos Silva, he has something that other teams would want. Still, he noted that "Everybody's young players are so much more valuable today, especially positional. In '96, Cleveland wanted Matty as a piece and they went to the World Series with him. I don't know what people's appetite will be to trade young players or marquee players, but it'll probably take multiple players on our end." So it is not a slamdunk that the Giants will get what they need via a trade, it is only an option they will pursue.

The Giants have identified six teams who they believe are pitching hungry and have position player depth. He expects to start having conversations with them in a few weeks, which implies that some of them are playoff teams. I would think the Mets would be interested in more pitching, and they have some great position prospects, though they are OF and we have a lot already. However, they are still head and shoulders above our OF prospects in terms of potential and are highly ranked overall. Seattle should be looking since they were desperate enough to take on Jeff Weaver. St. Louis too. Angels have a lot of position prospects all over the place, maybe we can pick off a few for Lowry, he's from that area too.

Replacing Barry

But for those expecting to "replace" Barry Bonds, Sabean is quite blunt: "I don't want to say it's a black hole, and we've got to explore every avenue, but to say we're automatically going to get a marquee player that will quote-unquote replace Barry . . . I don't know that we're prepared to say that." That's not to be unexpected. For one, until players are declared free agents, their current team can negotiate with them until the free agency filing deadline, so Sabean don't know which players will be available for the Giants to sign. It would be kind of stupid to say we are going to replace Barry and then, say, only sign minor free agents. It would put you in the situation where you have to put up to match your rhetoric, and just overpay for the nearest best player available on the market.

Also, to trade for someone like that, you can expect to lose at least one of Cain or Lincecum, in a package deal. Promising to come up with someone would give the other team leverage to use against Sabean in trying to extract more and/or better players from us in any deal. Again, it would be stupid to do that publicly then, to promise to "replace" Barry Bonds. Sabean has been practicing and preaching this for many years now, so this is no surprise.

Besides which, amazingly the Giants have done better in games without Barry than with, and by a very large margin. With Barry in the lineup, the Giants averaged a horrid 4.03 runs per game. But without Barry, the Giants averaged a robust 4.67 runs per game (in 46 games). Obviously there is a small sample effect, but still, if the Giants can do it again in 2008, that would bring the Giants up to the 85 win level by that increase in scoring.

Coaching Changes

There was also a discussion about possible coaching changes. Sabean and Bochy noted that it is under review, Bochy having told his coaches last Saturday that a decision would be made soon. Sabean said, "Change is possible, like it is every year." He also commented that the late hire of Bochy didn't allow much time for Bruce to make the recommendations he would have liked to have made to Sabean. Then again, he had enough time to hire Tim Flannery, his old buddy.

The Chron noted that a coach on the bubble is Joe Levebrve, our long-time hitting instructor. Though he and Sabean are buddies from high school, a source told Henry Schulman that their friendship will not play into the decision on whether to retain Lefebvre. After the Giants offense limped into next to last place in runs scored, beating out the last place team (Nationals) on the last day, it would appear that a hitting coach would be one thing they are looking for. As I noted yesterday, Willie Upshaw, the 1B coach, is also a hitting instructor, so he could be gone as well, to make room for another of Bochy's pals, perhaps from the 'Dres coaching staff, I think he was prohibited from stealing anyone last season, but they should be fair game this off-season.

Future Roles

There was a lot of good info on players' roles in 2008, as a few of the Giants' young players were impressive enough to merit strong consideration for everyday jobs next season, Sabean said.
  • Rajai Davis will get first crack at CF with Dave Roberts moving over to LF, where he is excellent defensively and where Sabean thinks is his proper position. That is presuming the Giants don't sign a premeiere CF like Andruw Jones or Torii Hunter.
  • Kevin Frandsen will get a shot at starting at 2B next season, said Bochy. He noted also, "I think he showed he can play up here. It's pretty impressive what he did the last three, four weeks. He was swinging the bat as well as anybody. Not just his bat, but his [defense] -- you could see it getting better and better." That's a pretty good endorsement.
  • Kevin Correia and Jonathan Sanchez will report to spring training as candidates for the starting rotation, that is, if they aren't traded first.
  • They believe that Brian Wilson, Tyler Walker, and Brad Hennessey will be able to handle the end of the games, but will, as noted above, still be seeking an experienced reliever or two.
  • About Durham and Aurilia, "They're going to be given a chance to see if they can rebound, because it's not like we're going to eat those salaries," Sabean said. That's typical of most any team, as much as fans complain about the Giants doing that.
  • It sounds like the Giants are amenable to Vizquel and Feliz coming back, because of their defensive prowess, but will explore all options - trades, free agents - before inviting them back. As I've been advocating, Vizquel if he comes cheap, Feliz not at all. According to the Merc, Vizquel is a good bet to return while Feliz's defense is "alluring."
  • Dan Ortmeier looks like he might make the 2008 roster, but they didn't mention anything about starting at 1B. Bochy liked his switch-hitting, power, and ability to play 1B and OF, and Sabean thought he was a "quick study" at 1B.
  • Nate Schierholtz, Fred Lewis, and Eugenio Velez are in the mix for next season as well. They, along with Dan Ortmeier, will be evaluated further in the upcoming Arizona Fall League.

Giant Thoughts

Some interesting news came out of the conference, but as usual, more of the fluff that Sabean hands out at these media interviews. But, as usual, that's to be expected out of any good manager/leader, you give out only enough information to satisfy the audience but never anything that anyone can use against you later (much).

The biggest news appears to be that the starting OF appears to be Roberts, Davis, Winn - I would have thought Davis would platoon with Roberts with maybe Schierholtz starting in RF. But I guess they want to see how Davis does in a starting role over more of a season before designating him a platoon player.

Though I would say the most important bit of information is that Cain and Lincecum are off-limits, contradicting what he said in his on-line chat earlier, but confirming the media's info that had been leaked previously. I am quite adamant about keeping the two of them, they can be our Koufax/Drysdale combo for the next 4 years at minimum, and hopefully long term like the Braves had with their great pitchers, into the 2020's.

Good to hear that Frandsen will get a good chance to compete with Durham for the 2B position. Since Sabean noted that Frandsen will get a chance to start somewhere in 2008, I would have to think that 3B will be kept open so that Frandsen could start there if Durham returns to normal, else Aurilia could start there instead (he could move to platoon with Ortmeier at 1B if Frandsen is at 3B).

I'm a pretty competitive person so I like that Bochy wants to infuse that attitude into the 2008 team. I would like to see a team that just hates to lose and that will claw and battle to the end. Losing so many close games would certainly be a sign that they don't have that killer attitude. Cain reportedly has that in him big time, and Lincecum, despite his looks, sounds like he would fit right in with that. They are young, but perhaps they can lead the way on this attitude change, given their obvious importance to the long term success of the team.

Sounds like the Giants will be peddling their young starters to try to get a young hitter. I don't see how Noah Lowry isn't a part of such a trade, none of the others (Sanchez, Correia, Misch) has that type of value on the trading market. I would also note that Brad Hennessey is probably part of any package because Lowry isn't enough alone to net a good middle of the lineup hitter. He has good value because he can start, he can relieve, he can setup, and he can close, and do them reasonably well even when thrown into the role at the last second. Then we would probably also give up some lower level pitcher to round out the trade.

Seems like the Giants can afford to go after good free agent hitters with all that money they have available this off-season. I really don't see them going after Andruw Jones, but they could if (when) they lose out on the A-Rod sweepstakes. They both should be signed very late and thus close to each other. The Giants might keep some pretense of interest in Jones while pursuing A-Rod with a lot of effort. I don't see how they don't pursue A-Rod after freeing up that much money for this off-season. But I just don't see how the Giants can outbid either of the LA teams or Boston or the Cubs for A-Rod. We will only be used to drive up his final contract total.

I see a number of coaching changes happening, solely because Bochy didn't get much of a chance last off-season. Definitely the hitting coach and probably the 1B coach as well. That would give Bochy two more of his buddies, while keeping Righetti, Gardner, and Wotus.

Overall, didn't hear anything I didn't want to hear, other than that Feliz is "alluring". The team sounds like they are focusing on what appears to matter most in winning in the playoffs: pitching, closing, and stolen bases. Hopefully Sabean can return to exciting the fan base with his moves, like he did early in his tenure as GM, when he was freer to do things than he was later in his tenure.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sabean Post-2007 Season On-line Chat

Brian Sabean had a chat earlier today on-line. I tried to get in but was blocked out for some reason relating to my ID name (Persona non grata? :^). Below is the chat, I've inserted "ogc:" whenever I put a comment in.


briansabean:3:05 pm
Thank you all for joining us today. Obviously, we wish we were in the position of the nine other teams that are in still in play today. Unfortunately this season did not go the way any of us wanted it to.
ogc:That's putting it lightly. Many, including me, thought the Giants would have been competitive.

briansabean:3:06 pm
Thank you for your continued support this year, and I'm looking forward to answering your questions.

aquila49:3:06 pm
I'm really excited about next year's rotation. What are the organization's plans for Tim Lincecum this Winter in preparation for 2008?
briansabean:3:07 pm
Timmy will not participate in winter ball, but will work with our training staff on a strength and conditioning program.
ogc:The Giants have played it pretty safe with Lincecum since they signed him and they continue to treat him with kid gloves.

DannyN:3:07 pm
Are you going to offer Omar Vizquel a contract?
briansabean:3:08 pm
Omar's situation will be addressed shortly, as we're considering his talent vs. the free agent field. But we still think he can contribute on the field and in the clubhouse for our organization.
ogc:Given the lackluster SS market and this positive comment, it appears the Giants might be OK with signing him. And signing him wouldn't preclude the Giants from signing a 3B who could play SS in the future too. :^) I don't think there would be a huge difference between playing Vizquel or playing Ivan Ochoa, who was our SS for Fresno this season, so as long as Omar doesn't cost too much to resign, I would be OK with him coming back, as long as he's batting 8th.

Chip54:3:09 pm
Brian, are there any changes planned for the player development staff or draft strategy to maybe emphasize offensive players? The other teams in our division are overflowing with young home grown impact hitters.
briansabean:3:09 pm
We are in the process of reviewing all our baseball operations departments, player development, scouting and international, and there will be some personnel changes as well as policy changes.
ogc:Typicaly Sabean answer, answers without answering the question, by talking about whatever the question is about and listing the general things related to that question. Every team not in the playoffs are in the process of review. The main interesting thing is that there will be personnel changes as well as policy changes, but this chat format precludes follow-up type of questions that vague answers generates.

But this corroborates with an article I saw that noted Bochy might be changing some of the coaches on his staff, particularly since he really only got to bring on one person, Tim Flannery, the 3B coach. I see at least one change probably, the 1B coach, who is Willie Upshaw, who was our farm system hitting instructor previously. But the hitting coach Joe Lefebvre is an old pal of Sabean (high school teammates, also worked together with the Yankees), and obviously Righetti will stick around as pitching coach and Mark Gardner as bullpen coach.

I don't know about Ron Wotus. He is a respected bench coach, plus knows our system well, so he's probably staying, but he could be up for managerial jobs again so if he takes off, then obviously Bochy will replace him. But I don't have a sense of whether Bochy would want to replace him in any case since he would be an obvious replacement should the Giants decide that Bochy is not the right fit as manager.

giraffe22:3:10 pm
Who are you looking at in terms of a middle of the order impact type hitter now that Bonds is gone?
briansabean:3:12 pm
In moving forward without Barry Bonds, we understand that we will need to address the need for a middle of the order presence. We'll thoroughly explore the trade and free agent markets, knowing that our pitching depth may engage us in trade talks for such a player.
ogc:A wasted question. Sabean can't talk specifically about who he's looking at without getting fined for tampering. Besides which, is he really going to share his plans with the public, particularly the agents of these players central to Sabean's plans? That would given the agent leverage against Sabean when the Giants are negotiating. You have to keep this type of information under your hat.

Michael24:3:13 pm
For 2008, do you envision Kevin Frandsen as the every day 2B, SS, or utility player?
briansabean:3:13 pm
Kevin will probably be given a chance to be an everyday player with a position to be determined.
ogc:Now that's a great question, and a fairly useful answer. As I've been saying, it's time to see what Frandsen can do. If he sucks, as one commenter said, Aurilia could then take his place in the lineup, so we would be covered there.

SF_Fan_21:3:15 pm
When current contracts expire for the '07 season, what is the team's payroll, and what is our 2008 projected payroll?
briansabean:3:16 pm
In terms of payroll for 2008, we've budgeted roughly the same amount that we did for 2007. Bear in mind that while we have money to address our needs, there are many players under contract due for raises.
briansabean:3:17 pm
However, we will have the wherewithal to fill the holes we need to fill this winter.
ogc:A wasted question. Sabean had already stated in the "Barry Bonds Won't Be Resigned" conference call (video was available on too) that the Giants were going to roughly have the same payroll. Still, with the raises, there should be at least $30M available to spend (from what I remember Lefty Malo calculating), which should be enough to fill a lot of holes. Thank you Pittsburgh for taking Morris AND his contract.

Thanatos:3:19 pm
After a tough season, how much blame do you put on Bruce Bochy? is his job secure for next season?
briansabean:3:20 pm
Bruce is under contract and will return next season. In my estimation, he did a very good job under trying circumstances.
ogc:Nice sidestep of "how much blame" by focuing on the end result of whether his job is secure or not; good question, poorly stated, in chats you have to keep the questions short and sweet or you allow the chatter to focus on the one aspect they are willing to talk about, and perhaps not what you wanted to really know.

Steinbeck:3:21 pm
In your opinion, who was the Giants' 2007 MVP?
briansabean:3:21 pm
Bengie Molina.
ogc:Hard to argue against that. I would personally go with Cain and Lincecum as co-MVP's.

Raldoo:3:22 pm
I do not mind rebuilding. The Giants method that has lead to tough years had previously lead to years of success. Is there anything we can learn from Diamondbacks success or is that a case of freak chemistry?
briansabean:3:23 pm
Producing homegrown players is going to be one of our main goals in the future. Of the 35 players on the big league roster at the conclusion of the season, 18 were products of the Giants farm system.
briansabean:3:24 pm
Two of our minor league clubs won their league championships in 2007, while five of the six teams posted winning marks. In fact, only the Yankees farm teams have a better winning percentage over the last three seasons than the Giants.
ogc:Nice question, but again Sabean was able to sidestep what Raldoo probably wanted answered, which was about the D-backs. Again, Sabean goes with the corporate-speak, ... "main goals"..."two...won championships"..."five of six teams posted winning marks"... "IN FACT"...

Yargmada:3:25 pm
Have the Giants named the second player from the Matt Morris trade? Is Nyjer Morgan on the list of potentials he seems like he might be a good fit.
briansabean:3:25 pm
We completed the Matt Morris trade by acquiring right-handed pitcher Stephen Macfarland. He's a reliever who spent last season at Pittsburgh's Single-A club in the Sally League.
ogc:Wasted question, please people, don't waste these questions on things you could have easily found out on, say, McCovey Chronicles by posting the question on a diary or El Lefty Malo in a comment, lots of knowledgeable people there, particularly Lefty, could have answered that there. Heck, even I posted who we got in a prior post.

BigBeaver:3:26 pm
What are your thoughts on Zito and what will we see from him in 2008?
briansabean:3:27 pm
We all have to be encouraged by the second half -- quite simply, finishing the season on a winning note. We expect him to be more consistent throughout the season next year.
ogc:Yes, Sabean can tell the future, hence why he allowed the past three losing seasons to happen. Sigh, another wasted question. What other thoughts is Sabean going to say, "huge mistake", "what were we thinking", "yeah, we saw this happening and did it anyway"? He has to say something nice about a player typically, but especially when the player is going to be around for another 6 seasons. He's not going to anger any player who he wants around or who is expected to be around for a long time.

SerraPad03:3:27 pm
the closer position has been a huge hole in the giants bullpen the last couple of years, do you think Brian Wilson and maybe Jonathan sanchez have a chance to be the new closer for next year or are you going to look in the free agency pool?
briansabean:3:29 pm
From what we saw from Brian Wilson, Tyler Walker and Brad Hennessey over the last month of the season, we feel like we have the building blocks for the start of our 2008 bullpen.
briansabean:3:30 pm
We realize the bullpen will be a vital part of our success in the future. The Giants played the most games decided by two runs or less in the Majors this season (94). Many of these contests were decided late in the game and with an improved bullpen, we can turn those numbers around.
ogc: Nice question, nice answer, though any diehard Giants fan could have given this answer too and Sabean didn't give out any really new information, though it is nice that he confirms that the three are the building block of the bullpen. That's a small window into the Giants management's thoughts and plans.

PaulInLV:3:31 pm
What should Giants fans expectations be next year in order to be realistic? Given that quite a few players are under contract, will the team really be that different or should we postpone our hopes until 2009 and beyond?
briansabean:3:32 pm
While we did finish in last place, this team didn't necessarily play like a last-place team. As I mentioned before about the games decided by two runs or less, we were competitive throughout the season.
briansabean:3:33 pm
Parity is rampant in Major League Baseball this year, with no teams posting a .600 or better winning percentage and no team having a sub-.400 mark for the first time since 2000. There have been seven different world champions since the turn of the century, and for the eighth straight year, there won't be a repeat champion.
ogc:OK question, but Sabean again didn't say anything really interesting or new. Without saying that we will be competitive, he gives reasons why we should be competive in 2008, thus implying we should be competitive but not outright saying it so that he can't be shown to be wrong.

davetheaddick:3:34 pm
This season was obviously disappointing for all the ballclub and fans alike. Do you think that it will be wholesale changes for next season or minor tweaks to strengthen a few key positions?
briansabean:3:35 pm
We're definitely looking to build this team around pitching, speed and defense, all attributes that are suited to both AT&T Park and the style of play in the National League West.
briansabean:3:36 pm
Our starting pitching is among the best in the game, and there are a lot of clubs that would like to be able to say that. Again, we realize that we have to upgrade our offense and our bullpen.
ogc:OK question, OK answer, though again any die-hard fan could have answered this. Again, confirmation is good, that the team will be built around pitching, speed, and defense, which as Baseball Prospectus showed, are the three areas a team can emphasize to improve their chances in the playoffs.

kidsplay08:3:37 pm
What is your view on potentially keeping Ortmeier at first? The kid has the build at 6'4"/215, the agility, and has been showing he can give decent production to be a first baseman.
briansabean:3:38 pm
Danny has impressed everybody with how quickly he's been able to pick up the first base position. Hopefully he'll develop the power desired from a corner infielder.
ogc:Good question, OK answer. Ortmeier has shown some good power: at his rate this season, he would have had around 20-25 homers in a full season, which is OK power for a corner IF, but most desire 30+ homers from a corner.

What I want to know is why wait until this August to put Ortmeier there? Jack Hiatt spoke as far back as early 2006 that he thought all OF should learn to play 1B in order to help their chances of making the majors and specifically mentioned Ortmeier. Why did Ortmeier resist until now? It could have been ego and pride. Then perhaps Lewis's and Schierholtz's success at the major league level made him realize that he's the odd-man out in the young OF with Roberts and Winn around, and perhaps Bonds still, so 1B would be a quicker avenue to the big show. So far, so good, good luck Danny (first time I've seen him referred in that way).

sfgiantsschmidt:3:40 pm
What would you consider the biggest dissapointment of 2007?
briansabean:3:40 pm
Not winning more games at home and not winning more games against division rivals.
ogc:I would have put not being competitive for the division title.

Steinbeck:3:41 pm
The top 4 starters seem pretty obvious for next year. What are the plans for the #5 guy? Are you looking to give Correia or Hennessey that spot or maybe aquire another arm?
briansabean:3:41 pm
Correia and Sanchez will be given that opportunity.
ogc:Now that's good info to know. I would have wished/thought that Misch would get a chance too, but he's probably not getting a chance until/unless Lowry is traded, they are similar type of pitcher and both are lefties too.

natomas33:3:42 pm
Are Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum "untouchable" as far as possible trades in the offseason?
briansabean:3:42 pm
ogc:That's a disappointing answer. Previous media accounts have quoted the Giants as saying the two ARE untouchable, but now it's "probably". Maybe the offer would have to be one he can't refuse? But what's the likelihood of that? Still, I would have preferred a stronger statement than "probably", we need to build our team around Cain and Lincecum.

Sabes:3:44 pm
With a thin you see the Giants venturing into free agency once again?
briansabean:3:45 pm
From early analysis, the free agent class will not be as strong as it has been in the past, with only a few "difference makers" potentially available. With that said, we're obviously going to look at all avenues to improve the club.
ogc:Wasted question and stupid too, with so many positions open and $30M in payroll to spend, of course the Giants are venturing into free agency, the only question is whether they WILL spend all they got, or just go in with the idea of spending it all.

The good or bad news, depending on how the Giants react, is his point that the free agent class will not be as strong as it has been in the past. Good if the Giants don't go fishing, bad if they do. And they said that they expect the payroll to be the same, implying a lot of fishing, unless they catch one BIG fish. Hopefully they don't pursue the middling players and only go for the difference makers only.

Herkie:3:45 pm
What is the status of Nate Schierholtz for next season? He seems to have all the tools to be a fixture in left field going forward.
briansabean:3:46 pm
Nate will play in the Arizona Fall League this offseason and gain more at-bats against quality prospect pitching.
briansabean:3:47 pm
He obviously played well enough at the big league level this year to be in the mix for playing time next year.
ogc:Nice question, again Sabean sidestepped the main thrust of the question. However, usually only the best prospects who the team is thinking of playing in the majors very soon (perhaps next year) get placed in the AFL to see how they do against top competition.

And it sounds like, reading between the lines, that Schierholtz is no slam dunk to make the 25-man roster to start 2008, since he's only "in the mix", so that's disappointing since he did pretty well in the majors, except for the homering part, but he's done that at almost every level, he would hit but for low power, then suddenly becomes muscleman power-hitter again. I'm hoping he's in the majors at the start of the 2008 season.

Dogbone111:3:49 pm
Speed and defense are essential. However, don't you need power next year to compete in the small ballparks?
briansabean:3:50 pm
Frankly, the parks in our division are considered pitchers' parks. The only club in our division that has bonafide power is Colorado. As Bruce has said on occasion this season, "speed doesn't slump."
ogc: Again, a repeat of the focus on speed and that "speed doesn't slump". Just confirms what Sabean has been saying for years now, about the need for the Giants to move to being a speed team. I would have thought the D-backs park would be power as well, but I haven't seen their numbers for the past two seasons.

merizobeach:3:52 pm
Sir, how happy are you with the Davis-Morris trade?
briansabean:3:52 pm
ogc:Got to laugh at that response!

armandosdad:3:55 pm
Brian - in the press conference announcing the team's decision to part with Barry Bonds, it was noted that Bonds' deferred salary will count towards the team's future payroll. May I ask how much is deferred and for how many years?
briansabean:3:55 pm
Bonds has deferred monies coming to him over the next few seasons, which will count in our player payroll.
ogc:Wasted question, Sabean wouldn't give such specifics on a contract, the questioner would have been better off keeping it non-specific.

giraffe22:3:56 pm
What is our draft position and who are you eyeing? Hitting, pitching?
briansabean:3:57 pm
We pick fifth. In that position, you expect to get the highest profile player, pitcher or hitter.
ogc:Confirms what I wrote earlier today about the Giants getting the 5th pick. And, of course, up that high, you pick the best talent available, irregardless of need, so another wasted question.

54wasgood:3:59 pm
What is the off season homework for Eugenio Velez?
briansabean:3:59 pm
Velez will participate in the Arizona Fall League, playing mostly second base.
ogc:That was already announced, so no real new info except that he's playing 2B. Interesting that they are planning on playing him at 2B when he played a lot of CF this year. Does that mean that the Giants still see him as a future 2B, meaning Frandsen might not be the 2B of the future? Or just that they want him playing 2B in AAA, but then what happens to the 2B of this past season, William Bergolla?

NextTime:4:00 pm
What were positives this year?
briansabean:4:01 pm
Unquestionably, our starting pitching and the emergence of Wilson, Walker and Hennessey at the end of the game.
ogc:I would also add the play of Bengie Molina, the return of Randy Winn, and the better than expected performances from our young position players: Frandsen, Lewis, Ortmeier, and Schierholtz. Nothing much was expected out of them, but they played pretty well considered their non-prospect status, certainly as well as a group as the much higher regarded D-backs prospects.

Plus the play of new addition Rajai Davis, though he tailed off terribly at the end, so that doesn't bode well for him platooning with Roberts in 2008. However, though he had a horrible slump at the start of September, "Raj" hit well in his last week - .300/.462/.300/.762 in 13 plate appearances, so perhaps that was just a bad slump by a young unproven player (just as much as his hot hitting was a hot streak by a young unproven player). The main things are he has good bat control and eye - only 28 K's in 190 AB this season, with 21 walks for a good 85% contact rate and 0.75 BB/K ratio - and can steal a lot of bases - 78% overall, 80% with the Giants, 22 overall in those 190 AB, that is a LOT.

Sam_K_:4:02 pm
how important is situational hitting to the Giants new direction? can this be taught?
briansabean:4:03 pm
Situational hitting is one of the fundamentals that we will strongly emphasize in Spring Training.
ogc:OK question, but Sabean's answer is one of his usual patented non-response response.

Again, these chats are usually not that informative, you have to pick around to find the golden nuggets of information, which I tried to do above.

Questions I would have asked, if allowed:

* Dodd Stadium, the home field of the Defenders, is a horrible park for power hitters to hit in, their slugging percentage and HR rate is cut almost in half; what are the Giants going to do about that? It seems penny smart and pound foolish to wait for the Defenders owners to fix the park when it is damaging our young power hitters.
* What are the Giants plans for Henry Sosa?
* Where do the Giants think our 2007 high draft picks will play in 2008? (Bumgarner, Alderson, Fairly, Noonan, William, and Culberson)?
* What are the Giants thoughts about Andy D'Alessio's good hitting? What position will he play?
* Where will Angel Villalona play in 2008? Does he look like he could be a quick mover up the system?
* What are your thoughts about Eddy Martinez-Esteve?
* Will you play Travis Ishikawa in AAA in 2008, because we could lose our rights to him soon, his options is up in 2009 I believe?
* Thoughts on Nick Pereira?
* Thoughts on Ivan Ochoa?


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