Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks for Cain and Lincecum

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

This post originally was at El Lefty Malo, in a discussion on the merits of trading Tim Lincecum for David Wright (as if that was possible; a poster there suggested that). I've been thinking about this from different angles for a while so that post got me to get off my butt and finally put some of my thoughts together, putting together bits of info I've been collecting and writing about for the past few years now. Following is basically what I posted, but, yeah, I tweak:

Given the stats you provided, yes, it would seem to be a no-brainer, you go with David Wright.

I think the problem with this analysis is that it focuses mainly on winning during a season, not winning when you are in the playoffs.

I think we can all acknowledge that when you have a good pitcher, there are many games he can dominate and control, and with a great one, he can dominate a signficant percentage of his games.

I see your geek stat [Note: Lefty used WARP] and present The Baseball Forecaster's P.Q.S. (Pure Quality Starts) which takes the quality starts concept and updates it for the sabermetric era. For each start, a pitcher gets one point each for doing something that sabermetrically shows that he pitched well, whether it be pitching over 6 innings, giving up hits equal or less than IP, striking out within 2 of IP, striking out double or more walks given up, and giving up less than 2 HR.

Thus a start can range from 0 to 5, with a score of 4 or 5 denoting a dominating game. Then they calculate the percentage of starts a pitcher dominates.

Good pitchers dominate over 40% of their starts. Elite pitchers dominate 50-70% of their starts. The best dominate over 70% of their starts. Most pitchers are under 40%.

I've kept this stat the past two seasons on my blog for the Giants and Cain dominated 52% of his starts in 2006, 56% in 2007. However, Lincecum dominated 67% of his starts in his first season.

Now, I don't know the stat for players this season, but in 2006 the only pitchers over that were over 60% while starting most of the season were:

Chris Carpenter 66%
Roger Clemens 68%
Francisco Liriano 69%
Pedro Martinez 70%
Mike Mussina 75%
Brett Myers 65%
C.C. Sabathia 68%
Johan Santana 76%
Curt Schilling 71%
Ben Sheets 76%
John Smoltz 74%
Brandon Webb 64%
Carlos Zambrano 70%

Pretty exclusive company, eh?

So in his first season, he dominated the league as well as pitchers who took years to reach that level of dominance.

I won't even mention that he was even better once he got over his rough patch in his second month. Or that he should be even better next season as he figured things out: he had a 4.62 ERA in the first half of his season, 3.39 ERA in the second half. This is someone who had obvious deficiencies in his pitching repertoire in college, and worked at it until he developed his secondary pitches so that he could reduce his weaknesses. He's going to get better.

In a short series, when you have tough pitchers like Cain and Lincecum going at the other team, particularly when winning three games cinch the first round with them starting 3-4 of those games, that improves the odds greatly don't it?

Same with 7 game series, when they get to start 4 of the first 6 games.

Having a dominating pitcher helps things, but can you see that having two of them provides a tipping point where it greatly influences a team's chances of winning in a short series, particularly when you can set the rotation to begin with them?

And can you see how powerful it would be if one of our young pitchers come through in the next year or three and join the two of them in the rotation, how powerful THAT TRIO would be?

But having a David Wright does not do as much for us if the other team walks him all the time like they did Bonds. They can help neutralize his offense by pitching to our lesser players. And where will we pick up the protection for Wright in the lineup, trade Cain after trading Lincecum?

I think traditional sabermetrics ignores the significance of how much a pitcher can affect a game. It is really the only time in a baseball game when one player can dominate the other team simply by being good to great regularly. A home run every 10-20 AB is great but that's only 1-2 homer in a short series and you need more offense to win a game, let alone win a series. As we saw in 2002, you can have one of the best series in the history of the game like Barry did and we still lose. A pitcher can dominate a game, and when you have two or more of them, you can dominate series.

THAT is the future of the Giants, not trading off our unique situation for a great offensive talent. Sure, Lincecum can become injured, pitchers are more prone to that that position players. But you don't trade that off either, just because of that. We have a good situation here with Cain and Lincecum, I would rather see what happens with the two of them, then try my chances by trading one to get an offensive talent that I think would just be a band-aid on the offense, we need more than one great offensive player to win with an OK pitching staff, I think last season showed that. But if Cain and Lincecum can continue to develop, they can become great starting pitchers and we can have a great pitching staff, and we won't need that offensive player to win.

People forget that we don't need a great offense to win, we just need a good enough offense if the pitching is that good. And having a great offense didn't do much to help us in 2002 either, did it? And getting one good offensive player won't make our offense suddenly great either, even if we got David Wright through some miracle, our offense will still be sucky, we would still need to stick our fingers in the dam to stop the leaking.

We need to have a season take a bullet, we need to treat 2008 as a re-building year where we assess what we got and how much further we need to get. Getting a great offensive talent for Lincecum (or Cain) will not suddenly make us contenders, we are too far gone for that. We need to see what we got with Frandsen, Lewis, Schierholtz, Davis, Ortmeier, maybe others like Ishikawa, Bowker, Timpner.

Once we get a better sense of that, then we can think of a drastic thing like trading away a future Cy Young winner like Lincecum might be. Yes, his WARP is less than a top hitter like Wright, but in tandem with a pitcher like Cain, we can dominate short series. THAT is the key to future playoff success, not a shiny bauble like David Wright. If I recall right, the Mets had him and they didn't even make the playoffs either, and they have Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado. Wright helps you win the battle that is the season, but Cain and Lincecum can help you win the war that is the playoffs.

24 comments:

  1. I think you are off base here. First, you can't even think about the playoffs if you can't win enough games in the regular season with a seriously subpar offense to make it there. You're putting the cart before the horse.

    If you have a choice between a top, young, dominant offensive player and a similar pitcher, given the Giants current situation, you have to choose the offensive player. There really is no other way to look at it.

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  2. And it's useless to get a top young dominant offensive player and put him into our current lineup and expect him to make the offense suddenly above average. We had Barry Bonds last season and it was still a subpar offense, Cabrera added to the mix will improve it but we were at 4.2 runs per game, and the average offense was something like 4.7 runs per game, I don't see Cabrera adding 0.5 runs per game above what Bonds did, plus any offensive pluses elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, you mortgage the future because you know you aren't getting Cabrera one for one for Lincecum, you will have to give up a lot more than that for him, probably some mix of Frandsen, Schierholtz, Correia, Lewis, Misch, Hennessey, Sanchez, maybe Sosa, will be gone.

    Plus, our rotation suddenly goes from extraordinary to just good with Cain, Zito, Lowry, Correia, Misch/Sanchez. Why screw up the one thing we have that is extraordinary just so that we can have an ordinary rotation and lineup? That makes no sense to me strategically, you don't destroy your one competitive advantage just to make your team ordinary.

    Unless you see a lot of prospects suddenly becoming above average coming up the farm system right now or (and I assume you don't want this either) they sign some significant offensive free agent, though that would be hard if we just signed Cabrera to a 10 year, $200M contract, to go with Zito's big contract.

    And that's the thing people are missing, when you have great pitching, you only need a subpar offense to win games, particularly if you have one that can manufacture runs, which Sabean has been trying to build.

    Last season, as bad as it was, with 4.22 runs scored and 4.44 runs allowed, they should have been at 77 wins, only 4 games away from .500 (I know this is normally called 8 games under .500; but it is 4 games won instead of lost from .500). Cain will have another year of seasoning, hopefully less struggles, and really, I'll take that kind of struggle if all my starters were like him. Lincecum had that one bad patch, but was pretty dominant most of the season, his PQS was 67% and 3.39 ERA after ASG. If he and Cain can pitch consistently well in 2008, they can lower the runs allowed to 4.22 by themselves.

    Then you have Zito, who admitted that he struggled mightily with dealing with the "$$$" label and the pressure that came with that, his ERA went from 4.90 pre-ASG to 4.11 post-ASG. And Lowry was pitching very consistently until the end of the season (I'm getting the feeling he's not going to be traded this off-season, maybe mid next season).

    Then the bullpen will improve from the addition of Wilson and Walker into the mix, that should also help with the starters as there should be less inherited runners scoring, as well as less runs scored for them relative to other relievers.

    I just think it is too soon to break up something good in the pitching rotation hoping that some young guy will come up and take Lincecum's place.

    Maybe after next season, and yes, a player like Cabrera will probably not be available next season, but if the other pitchers don't develop, then we'll have an ordinary offense led by Cabrera walking all the time, and a good (but not great) pitching staff.

    Plus, as I reported before, both Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times, in two different studies (and methodologies) of success in the playoffs showed that the key to being successful is having a great pitching staff, a great closer and a great defense.

    Success is NOT related to having one of the best offensive players on the planet on your team, it doesn't even have a pulse statistically.

    With Cain AND Lincecum, we will probably have a great rotation for years to come; with Cain and Cabrera, we have no guarantee of greatness, other than that Cabrera will be great by himself, but that is useless unless the team itself is good enough to win.

    The problem is that you like to talk a good game about rebuilding, but rebuilding involves patience with the team not being very good for a number of years as they re-tool the team for success later. Trading away a whole bunch of young players, in addition to breaking up the one great thing about your team, just to get one offensive player who would not make our team good by himself, but just be a good marketing ploy, is not the way to long-term success, this is the same as all the free agent signings we have done the past 4 seasons to band-aid the team, it'll be like what the Rangers did by adding A-Rod to their team, they didn't have the pitching to go with him and still lost with A-Rod.

    I would rather let our pitchers develop and try to figure out how to cobble together an adequate offense to support them. Hopefully Villalona will be here in a couple of years to boost it too.

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  3. All the pitching in the world is not going tomake up for the complete lack of talent & prospects that the Giants have in the major & minor leagues. You have to start building an offense at some point and building it around a 24 year old potential Hall of Famer is much better than trying to build it around a bunch of marginal prospects. Who cares if they have to give up a Schierholtz, Ortmeier, Sanchez, etc.? I'd still rather have a Cabrera or a Wright.

    You keep talking about how the pitching staff is going to dominate in a short playoff series and the only thing that comes to mind is the famous Jim Mora press conference....."PLAYOFFS??? PLAYOFFS???? I'm just trying to win a game. PLAYOFFS????"

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  4. Again, you haven't answered my main question. The key question is how we are going to build an offense around Cabrera?

    If you trade away most of our trading chips to get Cabrera, we have no chips to fill in the lineup around him. Yes, all of them are average type players for the most part, but have you seen the salaries for players like them on the free agent market, they are getting $8, $9, $10 million per year.

    We still need to field a team, we can't just trot out Cabrera and say, Viola, instant offense. Look at Florida, their offense is slightly above average and they have Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham, Jeremy Hermida, Dan Uggla, and Mike Jacobs. We would only have Cabrera, Winn, Roberts, Molina, and sub-par players at SS, 2B, 1B, and the last OF position, so clearly we won't match Florida's offense, but our pitching will be that much worse.

    And given how well Lincecum has pitched and how fat Cabrera has gotten, who is to say which of these two players are more likely to be Hall of Fame players?

    But let's assume you are correct and that Cabrera is a Hall of Famer and that Lincecum is merely a very good pitcher. After trading off much of our MLB ready prospects - which is what Florida wants - we will have the same situation we have had since the World Series: a Hall of Fame player, nothing much else in rest of the lineup, nothing much in the farm system.

    The only way we can then fill up the rest of the lineup is to sign the same free agent mediocrities that we have been signing since 2002 in order to fill out the lineup around our Hall of Fame hitter. I think we've seen enough of that strategy.

    I would rather we focus on our own farm system and players and see what we could do with them first, that's how re-building works. Getting Cabrera would probably condemn us to another 3-4 years of what we have seen in the past 3-4 seasons.

    The lucky thing for me is, I doubt we'll get to see how it would work out if we got Cabrera, this speculation is moot. Florida would be crazy to trade for Lincecum and spare parts if they can get Kemp, LaRoche, Billingsley, and someone else good from the D-gers or Kendrick, Santana/Weaver, Wood, and someone else good from the Angels. There's no way we match up with that unless we trade away both Cain and Lincecum, and I don't think the Giants would do that, or at least I hope not, I would be pretty crushed if they did something like that.

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  5. Plus, you mock me about making the playoffs, show me how the Giants would get into the playoffs with Cabrera, given your distaste for how the Giants have been run the past 5 seasons, it will just be more of the same by trading for Cabrera.

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  6. Hello Martin. Happy Thanksgiving. I am looking up some numbers to try to get a handle on a few things. First, I have long said I thought the Giants, despite scoring but 683 runs last year, should have had a much better record than they ended up with.
    In '06, the Giants despite the Niekro/Hillenbrand/Sweeney 1b platoon, scored 819 runs. They had a dismal season because they gave up 812 runs. (In '07, BTW, they scored 683 but gave up 720, a 92 run improvement).
    In '07 the scored 683 runs. The number 8 team (Cubs) scored 752. If you eliminate the top two (bandbox) teams, #3 and 4 (Atl & NY) scored 810-804 respectively. Nos 15 & 16 (SF & Wash) scored 673/683. Averaging these 4 numbers gives an average very near to the median (the Cubs at 752), which is 743.
    So, to have an "average" offense, the Giants will need to score 740/750 runs, about 2 1/2 runs more per week. It is not readily apparent why the Giants scored so many runs in '06. Omar and Durham had huge years (295 and 293 BA), Bonds was Bonds (270, 26 HR), 'Winn was down (262), Feliz was Feliz and the 3 headed 1b hit 250 (which is a bit better than in '07).
    For '08, I think our OF, collectively, will be slightly above average, as will our catching. I predict a slight, but basicallly insignificant, improvement from Omar and a noticeable improvement at 2b (Durham's 218 vs Frandsen's predicted 275). So, if we can get a 3b that will hit 268 that will be a slight (15 point) improvement. The Aurilia/Klesko platoon hit 255; so, if an Ort/ptbn platoon hits within a couple of points of Ort's '07 287 BA I am not seeing much more than a run a week, say 30 runs, putting us at 713. We are going to have to count on better D at 2b (Frandsen over Durham), LF, CF (Davis/Lewis over Roberts) and a push at C, 1b, SS, with only a drop off at 3b. 2 runs a month (12 runs). [Running total, + 42].
    Put another way, so far, our O is 713 (+30 over '07) runs. D has given up 12 fewer, so we are at 700 runs scored against
    In otherwords, we're already just above 500, and we haven't even begun to look at the improved pitching. In otherwords, while I don't see how we can get to league average O, even an improvement of a run a week should bring about a pretty dramatic improvement in W/L record and our standings.
    To respond to your argument, the Giants are going the way of the old Koufax, Drysdale, Podres Dodgers. That is why I don't think they will trade for the statue that is Cabrera. Wright, I do think, is a different matter - different because it would be so risky for the Mets to trade him. While a one for one trade would be very hard to turn down, I still think pitching does more to win games than hitting. This is because, if a top line SP is on, he can control the other team for 7 innings. A David Wright (or Barry Bonds, even) can pop out, hit into a DP, K - even if he comes to bat with the game on the line and runners on base, he has about a 30% chance of succeeding. And that is if and only if he doesn't get the Barry bonds treatment of taking the bat out of his hand.
    So, in thinking about this, it just seems it is too expensive to get a Wright type of palyer. One for one would be doable, altho I think it is easier to build an average team around great pitching than it is to both assemble a great offensive team + an adequate pitching staff. I actually think the Giants are close. They have the SP. Without trades, they are very close to having the BP (if somebody beats out Messenger). They have the OF and the middle IF. I would love to see an improvement at C, but we can live with Molina for another year. What we need are very good defensive 1b and 3b who can hit about 270. Sounds easy, but they are VERY hard to find.

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  7. Here's the problem: if Cain & Timmy are so dominant why did the win only 14 games between them? Why was Cain 7-16 when he managed to keep his ERA at a very respectable 3.65? The answer is that the offense wasn't able to score enough runs to win enough games. Apparently dominant pitching is not enough.

    Now you propose that we should not replace the one of the most dominant offensive forces that the game has ever seen with a young, surefire HOF talent because that offensive talent would be wasted. Instead you say that we should hang on to our pitchers and our sub-marginal propects and aging veterans and that ought to be good enough. In the meantime, you hope that we can find some offensive talent some time in the next 4 years when, criously enough, we would just about be losing control of these good young pitchers.

    I don't seem to able to make sense of your plan. Perhaps I'm missing something.

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  8. I think you don't see it, partly because you don't want to see it, partly because you have a philosophical approach that is fairly different from mine - and you just dismiss mine out of hand.
    But to look at one year and Cain's '07 record as proof that my ideas are wrong and yours are right is completely groundless. What I talked about was the Giants realizing improvement in Cain and Lincecum (and the other SPs), improvement in the RP, as well as improved defense. If, for example, the SP, as a group, improves by 1 1/2 runs a week (40 runs over the course of the season), and the defense improves by 1/2 a run a week, and the RP improves by a run a week, you have a total improvement of 75-80 runs over the course of the season. Even with zero improvement in run scoring, the team, based on the pythagoran theorum, should be several games over 500. Even if I am being optimistic by half, if the improve3ment (SP, RP, defense) is only 40 runs, we are still at about 500 ball.
    Nobody said that we should hang onto our "sub marginal prospects and aging veterans." You are the one who likes to use insulting and inflamatory language - and make up weak arguments and attribute them to those with who you do not agree. Nobody is advocating standing pat. What I am saying, and I am not alone, is that it is not a very good idea to dilute the strength of the team, which is SP. Because SP has more to do with the outcome of a ball game that any one hitter. So, while you ridicule my point of view by citing Cain's record, you ignore that the team also was completely miserable while having one of the top 5 offensive forces on the roster. What I am saying is, if a SP can dominate a game for 7 innings, he does far more to assure a victory than a Cabrerra, who will hit 1 or 1 1/2 HR a week. The model I point to is the 60s Dodgers, who had the T and W Davises, the M Wills and etc, who played outstanding D, and excellent small ball. And won.
    Of course I am just an optimist, but I am excited about an improved Cain and Lincecum, an improved Zito and whoever we end up in the 4 & 5 slots - I think that group is far stronger than what we started '07 with. I admit we have a fair amount of work to do on the RP.
    As far as '08, I am comfortable going in as a rebuilding or evaluation year. If we can come up with a 1b and 3b without gutting our roster or minor league system, we could have a quite successful '08. As I have said repeatedly, I think we are fine as far as SP. I am optimistic about our RP, but there is more work to do. We are fine in the OF and at C (slightly above league average). What drug us down last year was Aurilia, Klesko, Durham, Omar, Feliz. I am hopeful that either Velez or Frandsen wins the 2b. I am Ok starting the year with Ort at 1b, maybe even platooning him. I wouldn't argue if we did better. That still leaves 3b. That is one hole. I am opposed to creating 4 other holes to fill the one - even if it brings in a HOF player. We just went through 15 years with a HOF player - some great seasons, some awful. The HOF player is not what makes us perennial contenders. Pitching is.

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  9. Boof, again I repeat my question: what makes you think our team's offense will be good enough with Cabrera in it? I've seen no analysis from you other than "Duh, he's a Hall of Fame player, ergo the offense will be good and we will win". We've seen the past couple of years that that's not necessarily true. Gettin Cabrera would weaken us needlessly.

    Here are some facts, which you haven't cared to discuss. Studies from two respected baseball analysis sites showed that it is pitching and defense that wins in the playoffs. While offense obviously has a hand in winning, there was no link between a good offense (or bad offense) with success in the playoffs. However two independent studies, using different methodologies, tackled the question of why Billy Beane's methods don't work in the playoffs and came up with the same conclusions: pitching and defense.

    We have great pitching and our defense has been good. Yes, maybe injuries will take the pitching away, like Prior and Wood from the Cubs pie in the sky dreams, but we have a tandem that is the envy of the league and should provide us with 4 seasons or more of great pitching. They may be more fragile than position players, but they are more valuable to winning in the playoffs than Cabrera ever will be, particularly since he is one of the worse fielding 3B in the majors today, according to PMR (Baseball Musing). Feliz would have been responsible for 60+ more outs than Cabrera per the number of balls hit to Cabrera. And as I mentioned, offense is not the key to winning in the playoffs, pitching and defense is.

    You say that improving our chances to win in the playoffs doesn't mean a thing if we don't make the playoffs. I say, I'm tired of just making the playoffs, I want to win it all, I want my miracle Mets, BoSox, etc. We've had a nice run of making the playoffs, I want a World Series championship, and those two studies verified what my gut has told me over the years, that dominant pitching is the way to go towards winning it all.

    Look at the D-gers with Koufax and Drysdales. The Orioles with Palmer and a number of different top pitchers of their day. More recently, Big Unit and Schilling, plus Schilling helping the Bosox win twice. Look at our 2002, our offense KILLED the Angels, but unfortunately our pitching let us down, with that offense, we should have won early on, but the pitchers just kept on giving up runs.

    So it just comes down to belief. You like having a Hall of Fame hitter in the lineup and is OK that it might never lead anywhere other than maybe the playoffs. Studies have shown the efficacy of having dominant pitching in winning playoffs, and there are not many pitchers as dominating as Cain or Lincecum, and we have two of them, which is one or two more than most teams, in terms of young dominant pitching.

    We need to build around them, not shuffle one of them off to rebuild an offense. That's like chopping off your leg to replace your arm, it can turn out pretty ugly and you are just plugging up one hole and opening up another.

    Let them and our other prospects develop, if we get more like them, then we can trade Cain or Lincecum off at that point, but rebuilding requires patience and trading all our prospects now to get even the greatest offensive hitter ever won't mean a hill of beans if we have nothing left to re-build around this shiny bauble.

    And, as I noted numerous times, there's no studies linking a great offensive player to success in the playoffs, but two independent studies by well-known baseball analysts showed that it is pitching and defense that wins in the playoffs. We need to keep this pitching and build around them instead of tearing it all down and getting a player that's not even necessary for winning in the playoffs, based on those studies.

    Show me a study that getting Cabrera or David Wright or whoever will win us the World Series and I'll be on that bandwagon, but until I see such evidence, all the evidence I've seen, both empirical and these studies, show that pitching and defense is the key to winning in the playoffs and that's what I'm going to support.

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  10. I never said that getting Cabrera or Wright would instantly make us a winner. I don't know where you get that from.

    What we do need to do is rebuild the roster. That we agree on. However, you apparently do not see the value of rebuilding the roster around a HOF caliber offensive talent. These guys are both 24 years old and they are not prospects......they are for real ML established talents. These are the type of players that you can build a team around over the course of a few years and off into the future. It's not a short term bandaid.

    I do not believe you can build a team solely around pitching & defense. You must have some real offensive threats. You must have some balance on your roster between offense, pitching & defense. Right now, the Giants have a surplus in pitching. They need to bite the bullet and cash in some of that surplus and begin to totally rebuild the offensive lineup. There is a lot of work to do here. In my estimation, all 8starting offensive players need to be replaced in the course of this rebuild. If you wait on trying to find all 8 of these position players through your minor league development.......knowing what a wasteland the Giants minor league system has become under Sabean's watch.........it will take much longer than the time the Giants have where they will still maintain control of these young pitchers that you want to hang on to. They must try and achieve some of the balance sooner rather than later. You can't even raise the playoff argument until they start making some inroads to this balance.

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  11. Boof, if it was just Lic for Cabrerra or for Wright it would be an interesting argument. But, as reported in the Ft. Lauderdale Herald, Nov 26, tha Angels and Marlins are discussing a MLB 2b (Kendricks), an MLB OF (Willits), a MLB pitcher ( Santana or Saunders) and a high grade minor leaguer. The reports I have read indicate it would take Linc, Correia or Hennessey, Lewis, Frandsen, + a prospect.
    The key phrase in your blog is "building around." WE are currently trying to rebuild around pitching. If we try to rebuild around one of these 3b, we will gut our system of the building blocks needed. The Angels can do this because a) Cabrerra would be a final piece and b) they won't miss any of the players traded. (Figgins goes to 2b, Willits was their 5th OF, and they already have 6 MLB SPs, so losing Saunders or Santana won't be felt at all. Without Lewis, you need a LH bat to platoon with Davis; You create a rather large hole at 2b - unless you think Velez is equal to Frandsen; and you gut the pen or, if Correia is included, the rotation.

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  12. If all it took was Hennessey, Correia, Lewis & Frandsen in addition to Lincecum, I would say go for it.......as long as they could sign Cabrera to a longterm contract simultaneously. None of those guys (except Lincecum) would be missed that much. Unfortunately, I really don't beieve that the Marlins really want any of those guys very much (except Lincecum). I'm pretty sure that they will also want Villalona.

    The Giants could reduce the package by taking on the Willis contract. That might be a way to get a deal done. You could probably take Villalona off the table in that deal and substitute Sanchez with some of the other cannon fodder that you mentioned.

    One other thing...these names that are being bandied about are mostly speculation & trial balloons. Don't believe everything you read on this. I really don't see the Angels giving up that kind of package for Cabrera, just like the Dofgers are not going to give up the 4 players that have been mentioned either.

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  13. I posted this at McChronic:

    The thing is, two well respected baseball analyst groups - Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times - investigated the question about how to win in the playoffs, and neither one found that offense is a significant key to winning in the playoffs. The keys were pitching and defense.

    I'm not as familiar with THT's study, other than BP's basically tackled the same question from a different angle, which was "Why doesn't Billy Beane's sh*t works in the playoffs?" BP's study found that the pitching staff's K-rate, the closer's WXRL, and the defense, were the key variables to success in the playoffs. It doesn't guarantee it, but out of all the various offensive, pitching, and defensive factors/metrics, those three were the only ones that had a significant effect on winning.

    The only offensive factor that had an effect on winning, though deemed not significant, was the number of steal attempts (which was odd, since the success rate in stealing therefore is not significant, which implies that it is not the steals that was significant, but perhaps that overall team speed or overall management mindset).

    If you believe these two studies, and I see no reason not to at the moment, then the conclusion one must make is that getting Cabrera doesn't ultimately add to our chances of winning in the playoffs (he doesn't even steal that much), but having a pitcher who strikes out a lot, like we do with Lincecum is. And particularly if we end up trading Sanchez along with him.

    That's why I've been advocating a few lateral moves and seeing what we have with our prospects. Like trading Lowry, who has been a very good pitcher, but just has a horrible K-rate, and replacing him with Misch, who has a very high K-rate in AAA and it's time to see what he can do in the majors. Like starting Frandsen somewhere, either 2B or 3B. Like starting Ortmeier at 1B and see what he can do in full-time play, see if he can do that or need to platoon. Like moving Ishikawa to AAA or even to the majors, it's his last option year, we need to see what he can do up in the higher levels, plus he plays great defense at 1B. Like starting Schierholtz in RF, starting Winn in CF, and platooning Roberts and Davis in LF (Davis was horrible after his first hot month with us, though he did better in his last games with us).

    2008 has to be a transitional, kick the tires type of season, to see which position prospects can do what, to see if our top starters can further develop, to see if our new starters can be at least average, to see if our bullpen can shape up.

    If not, then it's another spend the money to try to win season, and I don't think that will end prettily, much like the last few seasons. We need one season to see how our hand develops, to steal a poker term, then we can trade and sign free agents after the 2008 season based on how things turn out. The free agent class sucks this season, so why throw good money after bad players, save it up for next off-season, see what our cheap young players can do, particularly Frandsen, Ortmeier, and Schierholtz.

    To me, talking about trading for a top hitter with one our top pitching is no different from the impatient, let's win it all now, philosophy that has permeated Giants management since we lost the 2002 World Series. Let 2008 be a break year to assess how things are developing, then we can move forward with better knowledge about what we got in our hands and what we need.

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  14. Boof, sometimes I wonder why I bother to respond to you. Try harder to read what I write. I'll go through each of your points one by one.

    Where did I say that getting Cabrera or Wright would instantly make us a winner? All I asked for was show me a study that showed that getting such a player would help us win in the playoffs. I've shown two studies that says that having dominant pitching (which Cain and Lincecum are and hopefully Wilson will be) improves your chances of winning in the playoffs. Neither one showed that having a great offense, or even just a great hitter on your team, adds significantly to your chances of winning in the playoffs. Show me a study showing that having a great hitter like Cabrera or Wright will help us win in the playoffs.

    I have no problem rebuilding around a 24 year old established HoF potential position players; I have a problem with what we are giving up for him. You need to be able to separate what the problem really is if you are going to argue about it.

    Balance goes both ways. If you have a great pitching staff, you don't need to have a great offense, you just need one that is good enough. We already have the great pitching, we just need to develop (or purchase) a good enough offense. If we trade off Lincecum, we would have to develop another ace PLUS continue to improve our offense. Trading Lincecum weakens our pitching significantly while not making our offense anything to be scared of. That reeks of slipping backward, not moving forward.

    I think we need to spend 2008 figuring out how productive players like Frandsen, Ortmeier, and Schierholtz can be, plus see how Cain and Lincecum consolidate their gains/learning from 2007. We can not be selling off players before their potential is reached just because, as some have offered as a reason for doing such a trade, young pitchers often have a short shelf-life. That's not a good reason to trade him off, it sounds more like CYA risk mitigation.

    In your case, Boof, you say we have a surplus in pitching and need to bite the bullet and cash in some of that surplus to rebuild the offense.

    I think you are seeing it incorrectly. We do not simply have a surplus, we have a superiority with Cain and Lincecum. It is the classic case of the whole being bigger than the parts alone.

    That's because pitchers can and do have a significant effect on each particular game, and that effect is magnified in a short series such as the playoffs. Most pitchers are flip a coin in the air reliable, but when you have a pitcher like Cain who can throw a dominant game over 50% of the time, and Lincecum who was nearly 70% of the time, and that included his brief struggles, which puts him in Johan Santana territory, they have a huge effect in a best 3 of 5 series, and a large effect in a best 4 of 7 series.

    Take one of them away, though, that advantage is gone.

    It is all about leverage. Each game in short series is not equally important. Each win or loss magnifies the importance of each subsequent game. When you have dominant pitchers throwing in 3 of 5 games and 4 of 6 games, as long as you have coin toss pitchers in the other games, you should win a lot of series.

    Trading surplus would be trading Lowry, Sanchez, Misch, Sosa, or any of our other starting pitching. Trading away Lincecum would lose us superiority that most other teams cannot really talk about right now. That is the difference that you cannot see.

    And you still don't understand the balance of offense and pitching with your comment on needing to replace all 8 starting offensive players. When you have great pitching, you don't need great hitting. That is the fallacy that most baseball fans fall into, they compare each position player against the best at each position, and of course find their players lacking.

    But when you have great pitching, you don't need great offense, you just need good enough offense. Roberts healthy is a great leadoff hitting and top of the line offense starter with his high success rate of stealing. Winn, on average, is an average hitting player, not an advantage but not a liability either. Molina is a slightly above average offensive catcher. We now have to find pieces who are good enough to start with them.

    Here's another fallacy of your thinking: that the Giants minor league system has become a wasteland. Sabean has changed over the entire pitching staff solely with home-grown players or players acquired with home-grown players, except for Messenger. That's half the team right here. A wasteland of a farm system doesn't do that.

    Now if you want to call it a wasteland for position players, I will have to say that is correct at the moment. But baseball is funny in that one moment you have something great, the next moment it can be all gone, OR one moment you are a wasteland, then the next you are doing well. That's why I preach patient in seeing how things turn out before you go labelling things.

    That's why I haven't said that Sabean is doing a great job with the farm system or poor job. There are a lot of promising pieces, but they can fall apart at any moment as well. But the promise is there and if they continue to improve, it could be a great job. I'm advocating patience to see what develops, then if it doesn't work, then get the pitchforks out. I think two years is perfect for this evaluation of Sabean, by then we see how the pitchers and hitters who have promise now has turned out.

    Boof, you say it will take much longer than the time the Giants have where they will still maintain control of these young pitchers, but then in your other breath, you say that we should sign Cabrera to a 10 year contract, damn the money. Why not just do the same with Cain and Lincecum? Why can't they be signed to as long a term as Cabrera? If the Giants focus their resources on Cain and Lincecum, we can hold the two of them for their whole careers.

    You say the Giants must balance sooner than later. We basically agree but you are insisting that we do it today, when we don't know exactly what we have with our players, whereas I'm saying we wait a year and see where we are. This is the impatience that has gotten us to where we are today.

    And what is the use of the "balance" you preach, if all that gets us is the same old playoff lossess of before? Even following your line of thinking, the Giants have to rebuild anyhow. If we are rebuilding whether with or without Cabrera, why not keep the clear advantage that we currently have with Cain and Lincecum, than destroy that advantage, all in the name of "surplus", and try to rebuild it again with Cabrera?

    It is this short-term thinking that hurts companies today, they don't think of the big picture, the long-term landscape. If you are to manage any organization properly, you must take the long-term view and build to that vision, and if success in the playoffs is part of that view (which is what I want for the Giants), then, yes, you better freaking raise the playoff argument long before you try to rebuild a team, it should be the DNA infused into all the decisions, big and small, that you make towards the roster construction. Making decisions just for a short-term fix of making the playoffs dooms you to lack of long-term playoff success.

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  15. Martin, I have made the point elsewhere that with Lincecum and Correia in place of Morris and Ortiz, we are much stronger SP wise going into next year and that with the additions of Walker and Wilson and the subtractions of Benitez and Taschner or Munter, we are stronger in the pen. I also think it is unlikely that we get such poor performances next year as we did last year from so many veterans. So, even if there are no more significant moves, I think next year's team will be better - and will be close to a 500 team.
    So, my question is: do you think it would be better (since '08 is or should be largely an evaluation year of all our young OFs and Frandsen, Ort, and Velez) to not trade our young pitching prospects this year, but let them develop for a year with the idea that they will be more valuable as trading chips next year?

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  16. Talk about trying harder to read what is written, you should follow your own advice on that one. Just because you write something doesn't make it gospel. Believe it or not, there are other streams of thought out there that don't necessarily coincide with every point you make. There are other people out there who don't agree with some of your basic premises.

    For instance, I do not believe that your point about strong starting pitching dominating a playoff series is wrong. It's just not relevant, given the Giants current situation. The state of their team right now is that we cannot possibly make it to a playoff series as constructed. Therefore, worrying about how you're going to win one of those series should not be the focus of what is trying to be built here.

    What is relevant for the Giants right now is how are they going to fix their team in order for them to make the playoffs going forward into the future. If you take a look at the team right now, we have very decent starting pitching and, really, very little else. The Giants need to achieve some balance between pitching, offense & defense while keeping an eye on shifting away relying on aging veterans and infusing young talent throughout the roster. When I speak about the Giants' pitching surplus, I am also including some of the very young pitchers that they have recently drafted. Assuming that one or more of them pans out (which requires a little leap of faith), I think they can afford to move a Cain or a Lincecum in order to begin to fix the offense.

    I believe, unlike you, that you need more than just an OK offense to contend for the playoffs. I just don't see how getting a 24 year old proven major leaguer of the quality of Cabrera can hurt. I do not think that it is shourt sighted at all, nor do I feel that his addition to the offense would be a waste. I do not agree with your basic premise on that. It's a philosophical difference that we have between us. You're worried about the playoffs.......I'd just like to get there first.

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  17. Boof, I don't write like it's gospel, I present information that I've accumulated over time and until someone shows me convincing info to the contrary, that's what I'm sticking to.

    You have presented no info as far as I'm concerned, you express your opinion and that's fine, you can hold onto that. I'm at least working from a theory that some expert analysts have found to be true about success in the playoffs.

    There are few things we can actually "know", there are degrees of wisdom to what the available knowledge can provide and as more and more detailed data is made available, I'm sure I will shift my opinion again, I do not hold any of this to be gospel truths, only truths that appear to be the right direction right now, so why not go in that direction? Particularly when it makes sense given the two ace theory I've presented.

    See, you are missing the whole problem again, as I noted in the last post. I have no problem getting a 24 year old proven major leaguer of the quality of Cabrera, that would never hurt. It is the trading of Lincecum that is the problem that you refuse to address and I've resigned myself to your head being in the sand on that.

    You at least acknowledge that there's a leap of faith that trading Lincecum means that we need to hope that some of our pitching prospects need to develop. So, in other words, you admit that getting Cabrera doesn't ensure anything.

    We already have two top pitchers who need perhaps no more seasoning to be proven vets or at worse one season. It took Brandon Webb two seasons to bring his DOM% to the elite status. Cain and Lincecum has done that for every full season they have pitched.

    I don't see why you cannot understand that having two pitchers like that pitching in a short series is a huge advantage, but I've given up trying. I'm hoping the Giants will hold onto the two of them and show you.

    I'll grant that you are right that you need more than an OK offense, but only in that you need a consistent offense that can score enough runs even against the best pitchers. One major problem in 2007 was that the Giants scoring was lumpy, lots of low combined with high run scores, and consistency would have resulted in a 77-85 record. But my overall stance is still that you just need an OK offense.

    You need more than a Cabrera to build up a good offense; even with Cabrera, Ramirez, Willingham, Hermida, Uggla, and Jacobs, the Marlins are not even in the top third of the league in offense (they were 6th). How do you hope to build up a good offense based on YOUR premise that the entire Giants lineup needs to be overhauled after Cabrera? You really don't realize how much time that is going to take, particularly since the Giants would have to trade off most of their best talent just to land him. The only teams I've seen able to rebuild a whole lineup from the farm system went through signficant years of suckage to build up the talent in the farm system.

    And as I noted, I'm looking long-term vs. your short-term. It's like you want to put up a shack, no matter how shabbily constructed, as long as you have a house built, but I'm looking ahead to weather storms, earthquakes and other things the structure should protect against and that may take a longer time with greater care to build, but once it's built, it will hold up better.

    allfrank, good points about the pitching. I don't know about the lineup though, what if Winn scuffles again, Vizquel proves to be over the hill, Durham proves to be over the hill, Molina continues his offensive decline of 2007, Roberts gets hurt again (he does have injuries rather regularly in my opinion, over his career). But yeah, I think the team can be .500 in 2008 even without Bonds, as long as Roberts, Winn, and Molina can hit like they have during their careers and Durham can have a rebound year, and the youngsters continue to like they showed in 2007, particularly Frandsen, Ortmeier, and Schierholtz.

    I think Lowry should be the only major pitching trading chip to be traded, and only if the other team overpays, otherwise I'm more than OK keeping him in our rotation, I think it can be a monster rotation with Cain and Lincecum at top, Zito as our #3 (he should pitch well enough to be a #2 in 2008), Lowry as #4 (he should pitch well enough to be a #2 in 2008 also), and one of Sanchez, Correia, and Misch in the #5.

    Basically what you say is what I would like to see, let our pitching continue to develop and build value, particularly in the starting rotation, and see what our best top position prospects can do over a full season playing relatively regularly (at least over 100 games and 400 PA).

    By next off-season, Bumgarner and Alderson will be tradeable and in the mix hopefully, and this year hopefully we can trade Lowry for a good 3B prospect, like Edwin Encarnacion of the Reds or one of the variety of spare 3B prospects that the Angels seem to be coming out of their ears with, thus allowing two of Sanchez, Correia, and Misch to start at the back of the rotation and prove to be as good as they have appeared to be in the minors as starters.

    The basic thing is we have a park that is more conducive to pitching than offense, so we should focus more on making the pitching great and less on building a great offense. Building a great offense is like rolling a boulder uphill, you are fighting the park.

    And we have great pitching and now some fans want to break that up. Contrary to what's being said, we have no surplus of pitching in regards to Lincecum, we have a competitive advantage having Cain and Lincecum, but we lose that advantage by trading either of them to gain a premiere hitter and you end up with no advantage on offense. When some other pitcher step up and exhibit ace-like abilities, then we have a surplus in that regard and can think about trading to get that top hitter.

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  18. Again, you didn't read what I said, because you state what I said incorrectly.

    You said... "I don't see why you cannot understand that having two pitchers like that pitching in a short series is a huge advantage, but I've given up trying. I'm hoping the Giants will hold onto the two of them and show you.
    "

    I said...."For instance, I do not believe that your point about strong starting pitching dominating a playoff series is wrong. It's just not relevant, given the Giants current situation. The state of their team right now is that we cannot possibly make it to a playoff series as constructed. Therefore, worrying about how you're going to win one of those series should not be the focus of what is trying to be built here."

    I agreed with you that your 2 Ace theory is not wrong. It's just not relevant to the Giants right now and for the near future. You can worry about constructing a rotation that will dominate in the playoffs if your team is never going to be good enough get there. You're putting the cart before the horse. You keep saying that I don't understand your point, however I wrote very clearly that I do understand an I agree with it......it just doesn't apply to the Giants right now.

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  19. Sorry about that Boof, I just got wound up with the rest of the stuff and forgot you put that down.

    But we'll just have to disagree, it applies totally to the Giants, you have to look down the line into the future, no use making the playoffs if you aren't going to maximize your chances of winning there, that's been the flawed strategy of the Giants since they passed up trying to get Vlad, I wrote it then, I write it now, they had a choice to go for greatness (Vlad) or settle for mediocrity (what they did) and we've now seen what passing up greatness has accomplished.

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  20. Couldn't agree more with your point about Vlad. I said the same thing then also. They were idiots to pass on him. This is exactly why I don't think they should pass on Cabrera. Unfortunately, the circumstances are not the same...Vlad was a free agent wher Cabrera is not.

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  21. Boof, I think you are showing a fair amount of impatience. And I think your proposed trade guys the team, puts us in a position where we would not contend for many years.
    First, as I keep saying over and over, we are not that bad, at least not as bad as our record from last year indicates given a surface look. Pythagoranly speaking, we should have had quite a bit better record thatn we ended up with. We were in something like 94 games decided by one or 2 runs and only won 36 (not our share). One big factor in all of those outcomes was the poor pen. Going into next year, we are considerably stronger with our SP. It is too early to say how strong we will be in the pen (but with your trade, we'll be quite a bit worse). I think - I'm not promising - but I think there are good and sufficient reasons to think the pen will be significantly stronger next year.
    I think your trade guts the team sooo much we will not recover. It is true 3b is an important position - and in the current reality a difficult position to fill. But, what did Cabrerra do for Fla?. He is, after all, just one of 8 position players, and definitely not more important to the outcome of the game than the guy who stands on the hill in the first inning. This team is average (in offense), or near average at these positions: OF, 2b, C. Excluding C, they are above average, to well above average in D. At two positons we are slightly below average: SS, 1b (that assumes Omar bounces back to hit 265 and the team finds a platoon partner for Ort - and the 1b tandem hits 275). The big question is 3b, hence this debate. I would much prefer to get a Mike Lamb or Crede (I would love Roberts for Crede, but it looks like the WS are after Rowand. Or I would like to see a AAA guy who could hit 260. This team would be a little below average offensively, but I think their runs scored would be higher than their BA or SLG because of the speed and aggressive small ball approach. Your way, we're weaker at SP & BP. My way we are extremely strong in SP, strong in BP, strong to very strong in D, and narely average in runs scored. This team would have a future, because, if we if fact find we have average to slightly above average 2b, CF, RF. WE are reducing the number of holes we have to fill - while still hanging on to our trading chips, so that in '09 we can bring in, say, a bona fide (but admittedly non HOF) player, say at 3b. And by that time, I think, the hope is Burris will be ready to step in at SS. And a good D, adequate C is much easier to find than 3b or 1b.

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  22. We all know that you keep saying that, Frank. Unfortunately you're in the vast minority that bringing in mediocrities like Lamb or Crede is going to make any kind of difference on this team. It's more of the same type of thinking that has gotten the Giants into this position in the first place.

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  23. FYI, allfrank, it looks like Rowand has priced himself out of the ChiSox price range, so they are now looking elsewhere. If we are to trade someone, I would prefer it be Winn and not Roberts, at least Roberts is an elite lead-off guy, Winn is average overall as a player and there is no important lineup position that he's really qualified for, except for perhaps batting second.

    Boof, just because we are in the vast minority does not mean that we are incorrect, though I'll have to agree that bringing in Lamb is more of the same that resulted with us losing the past few years.

    Crede might be OK, but only if we are not trading much to pick him up. We need a 3B, and he's not bad there. I don't think he's worth any of our good pitchers though, perhaps some minor leaguers is what I see him being worth in trade, they want to dump his salary so that they can play Fields at 3B in 2008.

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  24. The difference is that getting Cabrerra requires us to spend more than he is worth, and creates holes in other parts of the roster. Adding Crede instead of Cabrerra is a better plan becuase we are, overall, stronger by doing so. Getting Crede for Roberts (my suggestion) or Winn (Martin's) adequately fills the 3b slot and doesn't cost us, as we would be losing a player for whom we already have a replacement and who we are not countin on in the future. Same with Lamb. He is a FA (and I do not think he costs a draft pick), so we don't lose anything to pick him up. Is Cabrerra better than either of those players? Yes. But does the difference by which he is better enough to make up for the loss of so many important players on our current roster? I think the answer is clearly No.

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