Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Flogging Cain: Analyst's Nice Words About Cain

I've been touting Cain as capable of being the ace for the Giants in 2007 and there have been some naysayers, so it is nice to see that another analyst feels similarly. Patrick Sullivan of The Baseball Analysts had some very strong words about Cain:


He's 22 and one of the most valuable commodities in baseball - a young pitcher with years of cheap service time ahead of him. The San Francisco Giants, and in particular their General Manager Brian Sabean, may have a reputation for assembling old teams but Cain is one of the best young players, position or hurlers, in all of baseball. I look for Cain to be a Cy Young candidate in 2007.

"Cy Young candidate". I haven't gone as far as to say that, partly because I've been accused of being too Pollyanna-ish, but given how well he pitched in the second half, after the all-star game, I don't see how that is being so outlandish: 3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.48 K/BB, 9.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9.

That ERA would have ranked him 4th in the NL last season and the key thing was that his BB/9 was so low, relatively, for him. Ideally, you want it under 3.0, but when you are striking out 9 batters per 9 IP, getting under 4.0 is perfectly good as well, particularly when he can get hitters to get less hits overall, as his H/9 was only 7.0, when most pitchers struggle to get it to 9.0.

However, I must note that I used Baseball Musing's Day by Day Database and calculated the leaderboard for ERA for the second half of 2006 and Matt was much further down the list: he was 10th with his 3.26 ERA. Still, that's not too shabby a spot to be in, as a starting pitcher. And an even greater place to be when you are only 21 years old. He will be 22 for the 2007 season.

And we got him for another 5 seasons, at the minimum, yippee! Unless, that is, the Giants took my advice in my prior post and offer him a 7 year contract (looking back at that contract I proposed, the Giants probably should make at least one team-option for the final year of the contract, and perhaps the last two years, but you don't want to insult him either).

And as I noted in that same post, hopefully the Giants will be announcing a nice, long (and cheap) contract with Cain sometime in spring training. Go Giants!

Barry Bonds Finally Signs

After what probably seemed like an eternity to some Giants fans, me included, Barry Bonds finally came in to the Giants offices on Monday and got his physical and is now a member of the 2007 San Francisco Giants. He's going to make $15.8M, with $10M paid this year, $5.8M deferred, and another $4.2M in incentives that he can earn (which makes his "I will never, never, ever, accept any incentives!" statement ring hallow; can only believe half of what he says, indeed! :^). I'm guessing that it is games incentive because he said in the press conference (I'm basing most of this info on the Merc's version of the press conference and some from what I gleaned from KNBR this morning) that he wants to play more than the 130 games he played last season. Funny how incentives and light a fire under his "tired" ass.

I'm a little leery, however, of one portion of his answer. The Merc noted "Bonds divulged few specifics about his physical condition - another key issue, given his troubled knees and the left elbow that required arthroscopic surgery in October to remove bone chips. He said that he has 'worked out really hard' but won't know his condition until he gets on the field next month at spring training." How many years have he been playing, 20+? Shouldn't he know how his condition compares to how he felt in the past? Or at least enough to give an educated guess, like, "It has been tougher than in the past because of XYZ, I'm not up to the levels of where I was before, so I'll have a better feel for it in spring training."? Or something? I guess we will see in spring training soon.

Larry Baer on KNBR's Murph and Mac

Mac was not around, else I would have been hoping he might sing a version of the Clash's "Should I stay or should I go now", changed to "Should we sign Bonds or should we go now", but Murph was all over Baer, at least as much as an KNBR host can (one would have thought he was still on the Chronicle's payroll still :^). He asked about Balco and Barry's potential legal problems, which Baer sidestepped with something like, "He's innocent until proven guilty and until all the facts are in, we can only deal with what we do know right now." He also asked Baer about Barry's greenies use reported by the NY Post and Baer said that their research showed that there were great inaccuracies in the Post's account and therefore that is over.

Giants Young Starting Pitchers Is the Future

Baer also noted, in response to a question about getting Bonds, that in their search for a young (is there anything better? :^) cleanup hitter, the other teams always wanted Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, Sanchez, and the Giants said that they are not trading away any of their young pitchers. So, instead of going for a young slugger, they instead signed another young pitcher (Zito) to boost up the rotation (well, that's the gist of it, I couldn't write everything down while driving and my memories been going lately; I recently was given - not asked for but given - the Senior meal discount at a Sizzler lately... :^).

That's been my mantra this offseason, that the Giants young starting pitching is our future, but it is nice to get confirmation of this from someone as high up as Baer. Hopefully that will calm the fans who worry incessantly that Sabean will trade one of our young starters for an old grizzled vet. I assume they are not untouchable - if the other team wants to throw a boatload of great young players at us, the Giants will surely accept - but that's probably not going to happen, and unless it is a no-brainer, like getting an Utley, Wright, or Cabrera, I would be more than happy to see the four of them in Giants uniform over the next 5-6 seasons and see what they can do for us.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that having a solid pitching staff, especially 1 to 3 or 4 in the rotation, is the best way to make it all the way through the playoffs. Hitting can be neutralized on any day by good pitching by a so-so starter (see Bobby Jones, 2000 playoffs), but if we have a great staff of pitchers starting and in the bullpen, the games will usually be close enough that our team will get a chance to tie or win late in the game.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Giants Had One of the Most Efficient Starting Rotations in 2006

I found this interesting article on The Hardball Times today about the efficiency of major league starting rotations, in terms of pay and production, using Bill James Win Shares counting stat. According to their analysis, the Giants had the highest Net Win Share Value in the National League, and the third best in the Majors, behind only Detroit and Oakland.

The Giants had an overall NWSV of $16.5M. THT has a calculator you can use to calculate this, here. To get the data you need to fill in the calculator, you need to go here. Amazing how much value even Lowry and Morris generated for the starting rotation, despite all the crap some Giants fans have said about the two, particuularly Morris. Very interesting that Lowry's 2005 was about as good as Schmidt's 2006, in terms of WSAB, which I'll go into in the next part.

Zito Replacing Schmidt: Better

Comparing Schmidt to Zito, I was pleasantly suprised double-fold. First, Zito had a higher Win Share than Schmidt, 18 to 16. Most commentators said the Giants went down a step in switching Zito for Schmidt, but according to this metric, Zito actually contributed to more wins. Second, Zito had a higher WSAB, which stands for Win Share Above Bench. In this glossary entry, WSAB basically is Win Share's version of production above replacement player, except that the author had a problem with the concept of a replacement player versus a bench player. Here, Zito has a 12 WSAB while Schmidt had 11 WSAB. So by this measure, the Giants not only replaced Schmidt, but improved on him by getting Zito.

Of course, the caveat there is that Zito's win shares for 2006 was his high for the past three years whereas Schmidt is about where it was when he was doing better in 2004. The good news is that Zito has been improving for the past three seasons while Schmidt has been wildly up and down. Plus Zito is only 29, heading into his peak physical years while Schmidt is headed into what is normally the starkly declining years for a pitcher, his late 30's. Zito's acquisition looks better and better for the short term - we just need to cross our fingers and toes for the long term.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My apologies for lack of recent activity

Sorry, I was called off to a week-long business meeting where I thought I would be provided internet access, so it was my intention that I would be posting at night, but did not get the access after all. I will post replies to comments where I think I can add value.

Go Giants!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hank Aaron Had Unfair Advantage As Well

{I was going through my drafts and found a bunch of articles mostly written but unpublished; I'll be posting them along the road to the 2008 season}

With all the Bonds haters railing about Bonds unfair run at Hammering Hank's all-time record, I've been reading over and over again about this when I realized something: it would be hypocritical of Aaron to complain of getting unfair help when it is known that the Braves pulled in their fences to help him reach and beat Babe Ruth (I realized this while over at El Lefty Malo and posted much of the below stats there, but, as I am wont to do, I then added more stuff to provide more post-like structure).


Aaron Had Home Advantage


Everyone from that time period knew about the Launching Pad, due supposedly to its high altitude, but not many know that the fences were brought in. I never knew that until recent years when I saw it posted, so I investigated and found that it was true. How many homers did that help Hank Aaron out with?


Well, his HR/AB rate increased 50-100%, depending on which years you compare, between his late 20's to his late 30's, leading to him continuing to be a consistent 40's HR guy through his career and in fact setting a career high when he was 37 years old and hitting 40 HR when he was 39 years old. Maybe he doesn't reach Ruth if he didn't get such help from his park. Maybe he doesn't even reach Mays.


HR Rate Comparison

One way to examine how much help Aaron got is via his HR-rate. His HR/AB started peaking at age 35, which was higher than his previous peak at age 28 by 6%, then topped that at age 37 and again at age 40, which was 34% higher and the peak for his career. Sounds familiar, eh, as that is what happened with Bonds. Overall, his homerun rate increased 47% when comparing his HR-rate from 35 to the end of his career versus 34 and younger. As some people like to note about Barry, that reverses 100 years of baseball history with Aaron increasing his homerun rate nearly 50% after age 35.

He hit 203 homers from the age of 35. Reducing his HR rate by 47% to his youthful rate would result in only 138 HR, or 65 HR less than before, meaning he would have ended his career at 690 HR. Add in the fact that most hitters don't hit as well for HR after 35 as they did before 35 - see Mays for example - and one can speculate that Aaron might not have passed up Mays if not for the help he got. But who knows, maybe Aaron was unique, like Ted Williams was in increasing his HR-rate late in his career. As I will show next, perhaps he was.

Home Vs. Road


We can slice things even finer (thanks to Baseball-Reference.com's great Play Index stats) to examine HR-rate by home and away in Atlanta. From 1966-68, his HR-rate at home was 7.0% vs. on the road 5.4%. So he was benefiting from home already. Then after that to 1973 when he had his last power year, he had a 10.7% HR-rate at home, 6.3% HR-rate away. That meant that he did improve a bit when older - probably the middle-aged girth that comes with your reduced metabolism helped by increasing his mass - 16.7% improvement, which is what Ted Williams improved by using a similar ratio as above, comparing 35+ against 34- (about 15.2%).


Applying that rate to his home numbers would result in 48 less homers, or 707 HRs. If he was that close, he probably would have played one more year, but he only had 10 his last year, so passing the Babe would not have been a slam dunk there. It would have been severely in question whether he would pass it the next season and thus he would have probably had to play another two seasons to catch Ruth and pass him. In addition, he played his last two seasons in Milwaukee, benefiting from being a DH those two years. So he would have passed Ruth as a Brewer instead, much like Ruth retiring as a Boston Brave, unless Atlanta decides to hold onto him until he reached Ruth.


But he hit .229/.315/.369/.684 in his last season (and not much better the year before) so he could only have gotten worse if he played another season, let alone another two. Those would have been sadder than Mays's own last season, when he hit .211/.303/.344/.647. It would be questionable that any team would have allowed Aaron to set the record hitting as poorly as he was at that time, though still a possibility since it was the Brewers and Selig was such a fan/friend of Aaron.


Interestingly, both Aaron and Mays were both 42 years old in their final seasons as MLB players, which is striking since this is Bonds 42 years old season and he batted .269/.491/.549/1.040, while being tested for PED usage, while being investigated and most probably followed 24/7 by IRS and other Federal agents, while presumably having no access to such PEDs while he and anyone near him are being followed and investigated by the government, particularly since they finally filed their suit against him.

What's Unfair Cheating and Ethically Corrupt Behavior?

Like Bonds and his possible use of PEDs, we'll never know how exactly much help Aaron got from his ballpark. In Bonds case, if he is doing so well at age 42, while seemingly clean of PED usage, that puts into question how much help he actually got from his alleged PED usage. In any case, any try at theorizing exactly how many more homeruns he hit because of PED (or any other, someone recently proposed that his elbow brace helps him, discussion here plus link to original article at El Lefty Malo) help will be pretty much wild guesses that people pull out of their you-know-whats.


Aaron, however, we all knew about the Launching Pad and never thought much about that. What I didn't know until recently was that supposedly Atlanta pulled their fences in sometime in the late 60's to help Hank Aaron hit more homers. If that is not artificial help and cheating, then I don't know what is.


However, it was not against the rules of baseball at the time. On the other hand, clearly only players who played games in Atlanta benefited from it, and Atlanta's players benefited the most from it, not because of any natural advantage or abilities, but solely because they played for Atlanta.


Since not every player had that advantage, isn't that a morally corrupt way as well to achieving the record? It is one thing if the park was just built like that and the players benefited from that, like Coors Field and Texas's Ameriquest Field at Arlington. But Atlanta changed their field right around when Aaron started closing in on the greats, when he had 510 career homers. Then moved them back out once he had the record.


At least Aaron didn't request that the Braves do this for him, or hopefully so given how secrets have been getting revealed over time and sports heroes are more human than we wish, so it probably wasn't something he purposefully chose. But at minimum, they must have made it known to him that they were changing the fences or he should have realized it on opening day and saw where the fences were now, but he chose to abide by the change instead of making a stink about it publicly. He must have known that it would help him hit more homers, that it would help him catch Willie Mays, and that it would perhaps help him pass up Babe Ruth. He was that close.


And the damning fact, if I remember right, is that the park dimensions were returned to their original lengths right around when Hank Aaron left, or perhaps once Aaron was within reach of the Babe. That implies that it was deliberately done to benefit Aaron: the fences were changed the season after he passed 500 homers and were moved back to their original configuration around the time when he was passing Ruth. What other reasons would explain such a coincidence of timing?


Life is Unfair


I bring this up not to disparage Aaron's record but to point out that there is always more behind any number, particularly in sports. Every era have different factors affecting the players. In the early parts of baseball history, the so-called Dead-ball era, the reason the ball was so dead was because the teams would play with the same ball until it was pretty much beaten dead. You could make the best swing of your live but the ball wouldn't go anywhere. Then George Henry "Babe" Ruth came along and livened up the game.


But even he wasn't enough, at least in the eyes of MLB baseball, so they instituted two rules, one official, the other unofficial: the official rule was that baseballs had to be taken out of play and replaced, which provided a fresh supply of balls for hitters to hit out; the unofficial rule, unproven other than by examining the statistical record, is that the "lively" ball came into use around that time and suddenly everyone is hitting out homers. Of course, a large income for those capable of hitting homeruns didn't hurt either. Both those innovations in the game helped boost the number of homers Babe Ruth hit.


Another help was that Ruth was not playing against the best players in America, but the best white players in America. Clearly, from the records of the Negro Leagues and observers, particularly MLB players who played against Negro League teams while barnstorming during the winter (to get more income), there were a lot of talented players who played there, plus who knows how many more would have chose a professional career had that option been available beyond the Negro Leagues.


Now most of these were not personal choices by players, they reflected societal and MLB-wide decisions that were generally out of their hands, but World War II changed that, they started making decisions to help themselves. To help out soldiers in the field deal with fatigue and such, amphetamines were routinely given out to soldiers during WW II. Some of these soldiers carried this habit back to the Majors when they returned from war. And its use had continued unabated - documented by various mentions to it by ballplayers in books and interviews - until the MLB recently banned its use.


Another, more positive, habit they brought back was most probably physical fitness. Soldiers had to be in shape, and the Marines in particular taught their men to be in tip-top shape. I've never seen this mentioned anywhere, but it dawned on me while looking at Ted Williams career record that it was probably no coincidence that he was one of the few players to continue to hit well and for power late in his career, and was a well decorated fighter pilot for the Marines, who twice served our country proudly and well.


And speaking of the military, a couple of players most probably would have either been close to passing Babe Ruth or would have passed, if not for the military. Ted Williams missed a good portion of his most productive years as a hitter in serving our country twice, WW II and the Korean War. Some say he would have come short, I think he would be have been close enough that he might have decided to continue playing and pass Ruth up. After all, he had 29 HRs in 310 AB the last season he played. Plus he had a severe injury that cost him another large chunk of a season. Add all that up, and he probably would have passed Ruth up first long before Aaron did.


Willie Mays would have been very close as well, he missed around 270 games, 1,000 AB, by going into the military. If you averaged his HR-rates for the seasons before and after, then used that for those 1,000 AB, he would have hit another 58 homers, putting him at 718 careers homers. If that had happened, Aaron would have passed him the next season.


Then again, as was noted first, players have been using amphetamine or speed since WW II. Ted Williams was a military man, so it is possible that he used at some point. Willie Mays was outed by a former Mets player as someone who supplied some sort of red speed concoction that helped give him a boost, and was also in the military. How many of their homers were derived from using?


As far as we know, Hank Aaron has been clean, but he still certainly benefited from his team moving in the fences at his homepark just as he entered the career homerun race and soon after he caught, or was close enough to catching, Babe Ruth. If they had left the fences untouched either times they changed the fences, then it might be another matter, but they clearly changed the field configuration to benefit their player. Hank might not have been involved in that decision, but I would think that any intelligent man knows that moving in the fences could only help him and that Hank Aaron had enough clout with the Braves management that if he told them to leave the fences alone, they would have.

Barry Bonds and PEDS


Which brings us to Barry Bonds now. It seems pretty clear that he used steriods when his trainer was feeding it to him, but he claims that he was told that it was flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm. People, particularly journalists, believe that he knew, but to me, it is possible that Anderson acted on his own, poisoning his "friend" with his drugs in order to further his drug dealership business, so while I believe he used, I don't know if he did it knowingly, though probably he did. And without his connection with Bonds, he has no business.


And haven't you used or eaten something your friends gave you? How many times have you eaten food at your friends home and not know what was in it? Being Chinese, there was this concotion in a jar with all sort of wild stuff in it and some sort of alcohol that I was suppose to rub into bruises and other various ailments but it sure smelled; I still have no idea what was in that. If your friend says that he's giving you flaxseed oil and arthritic balm, do you make him show you the packaging or do you trust his word, particularly if he is your trainer? Particularly for something as innocuous sounding as those two?


Probably Bonds used but there's a high probability that we will never find out the exact truth, as everything appears to be a "he said/she said" type of situation. Evidence may suggest things, but we don't know what exactly is the truth. Greg Anderson might say eventually, one way or the other, but most probably we will be left wondering what those suspicious files meant, for who is to say that Anderson wasn't a bit bent, in his own little fantasy world that he designed to prop up a failed high school star athlete's adult years. We know from examples like John Lennon's killer and President Reagan's shooter that there are people who live in their own world and act according to what they see in that world. What is real and what is somebody's version of reality?

Axe To Grind with Bonds

And all others who have accused Bonds of using are people with an axe to grind against Bonds. His former mistress was cast aside with no nestegg so it behooves her to make her story with Bonds interesting enough to make her a celebrity, because a former mistress to an athlete carries no cachet today, it's no big deal today. Her story is starting to smell given that there's been no action on her assertion that the cheated on his baseball card income; something like that should have been very easy to check, you verify with the card company that he received payment, you check to see if he filed that in his income taxes. Also telling is that her plans to write a book has been greeted with the sound of silence by the book publishers, none of them were interested enough to pay her for her story, so she ended up posing for Playboy and telling her story there.


His former trainer needed to boast about Bonds using - how else is he going to convince others to use his stuff? We don't know what's the truth there either, whether he was truthful or just had a lucrative practice trading on his relationship with his childhood friend by creating a lie with other athletes that his buddy got that way by using Anderson's stuff. How better to sell your products, it is not enough to say that you are Bonds trainer, you have to take credit for him doing so well and with your products. As proof to your real customers, you point at Bonds's accomplishments and show them the schedule that you set up for Barry to take.


Who Watches the Watchmen?


Reporters have the most to gain. The Chronicle writers were nobodies until the grand jury testimony fell into their laps. It makes no news if Bonds used but wasn't aware. The story sell more - including a book - if Bonds is the sinister ballplayer. They are now millionaires (or at least set for life) and many people know their names now, giving them a lot of fame. One of them recently was hired away, by SI if I remember right.


Pearlman is a former SI writer, and it appears that they have take a collective blood oath to bring down Bonds. He's making a lot of money off his tell-all book about Bonds. He has made a lot of accusations and he claims to have taped conversations of all these people saying that Bonds took, particularly the athletic apparrel representative. Let's suppose they are all true.


If this is true, then Bonds and Griffey would know who these people who sat in this dinner was. If I were Bonds as described by many journalists, as someone who has some clout in the industry, I would hire investigators to seek out these people and see who they work for today, then put some pressure on the companies to either fire or destroy the career of these people; I could work out an exclusive deal with the company for some product but just before signing mention that we cannot deal with you anymore, you have so-and-so on your payroll and he's a rat.


And if I were the athletic apparrel rep or the two associates, would I tell a reporter such a story if I knew that Bonds could link it back to me and given the reputation of Barry being such a horrible person, wouldn't you be afraid of reprisals of some sort? With the details that Pearlman weaved in his excerpt, if it were true, Bonds should have no problem identifying who those people at that meeting were. At minimum, he could get with Griffey and figure that one out.


And it would go beyond just Bonds, in my mind. An athletic apparel rep with a reputation in the industry for tattling on an athlete's private conversation would have a very short career. If ballplayers are as chummy as Pearlman paints them to be, news should spread pretty fast among the better players that they should avoid so-and-so who works at such-and-such company because of how he/she treated Bonds. They would close ranks pretty fast according to the way Pearlman portrayed them when, well, they closed ranks and the ballplayers he claimed did or said something for his book, now claim otherwise.


Jay Canizaro, an otherwise nothing former Giants player, is one of the players quoted in the book but then claimed he didn't say it. He is reported to have see Barry's back all covered with zits and it was obvious to him that Barry used because he used. But I don't use and I frequently have zits all over my back because for some reason I get them when I eat fish. Sushi, cooked, broiled, fried, it don't matter, I break out in zits all over my back and I'm getting old enough for a "mature" discount (and now have a gut when I was once super skinny).


So if you are going to rat out Barry Bonds in such a way, then you should be willing to go public with your accusations, because you just committed career suicide but felt you did the right thing. Or if you aren't in the industry anymore, so that Barry can't touch you, again, you should be willing to go public with your accusations. It is over a year and a half since that book came out with the accusations and still no release of the tape or the name of the source, that would easily settle the score on whether this was a fabricated story (see Jayson Blair) or if it was a real quote.


What's the fear? If it is the truth, Bonds could or would have done something against these people already. They should have nothing to lose right now. If anything, they would get great fame as the one who outted Bonds, to help save our great game, as the journalists have been selling their witch hunt of Bonds, and Pearlman would be vindicated. Plus, they would get some fame today, as George Mitchell's report has gotten Congress to start hearings again and I'm sure they would love to hear about Bonds's alleged declaration that he was going to use steriods.


Now, perhaps they don't want fame, they just wanted to rat out a cheater like Bonds. But there are ways of testifying before Congress without revealing your identity (though supposedly grand jury testimony is secret as well and it took forever for the government to figure out who did that; and I will admit here that I thought Novitsky did it and I was wrong). And Congress, if they really want to get to the bottom of things, should be able to locate these people, how many athletic equipment people get to have dinner with Griffey and Bonds at the height of their fame? Just sic a few g-men at these companies and narrow the list down.

Irony: Their Miscue Makes Some of Them Rich

Still, I find it a bit ironic that the people who were supposed to be watching out for us - and now climb on their bully pulpit to lecture us on the dangers of PEDS and make money with their outrage - are the same people who were asleep at the wheel during the first 15 or so years of the golden age of steriod usage, which I call time zero being around when McGwire and Canseco became major leaguers. Where were they when all these injections where happening? The rumors were rampant throughout the industry, I know I read the whispers along the way about them and their muscles, and I was busy starting a new career, family, and home.

In particular, why didn't one of these now outraged media members find the will to decide to investigate Mark McGwire when he was caught with the Andro in his locker, initially laughed it off, then realized that he better speak out against it or be burned at the stake. Gary Hart, former wunderkind congressman and the hot candidate for president at that time, dared reporters to investigate him and was caught with his mistress on a boat. What more did these reporters need to start an investigation, isn't it their job to dig deep when there's smoke? And that Andro was smoking more than the forest fire that created Smokey the Bear.

Numbers Are Tainted and Probably Will Continue

One of my main point is that any career number is tainted in some way or another by factors within the players control and outside of their control. Even Hank Aaron's number, so revered, was tainted by his team's clearly cheating to help him reach Babe Ruth's number. Who knows what else we will discover with time.

Plus, we are barely into the era of the exposing of PEDS usage. The Mitchell report should just be the tip of the iceberg given all the high numbers of users given by some people close to that scene. We don't know what we will find out in the up coming years.

And, frankly, the PEDS era will probably never end, there will always be people looking for that edge and people trying to figure out how to give that edge. That has been true in baseball from Ty Cobb's sharpened spikes to segregation to real spitballs to amphetamines to watering down the base paths to Gaylord Perry's spitballs to steriods to HGH. You know that there will be another scandal in the future.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Interesting Posts on Zito, Very Informative

Sorry, busy today (Friday) for my wife's b-day, plus discussing why I think Ortiz is better than Park in a now long comment thread, but ran across this great 3 part series from an A's fan's site, which was linked to by The Book's author, TangoTiger.

Very interesting and detailed information about Zito, on a website called Catfish Stew (which is a nice pun, ties the far past - Catfish - with more recent - Stew for Dave Stewart - in a nice title; I love word play like that, like the Beatles Apple Corps):

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

It's a bit late and I probably should go to bed now, but wanted to pass this info on as it was great stuff to read (more technical than I could really understand, but good stuff!). The Part 2 article has a good discussion of reasons other analysts had given as reasons why Zito is not good, and he counters with a lot of good data. TangoTiger had an interesting bit of info on how significant his low BABIP is.

I would also note that this is how Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have been surviving with high walk rates, it is not just the strikeouts, they both keep hit rates low as well. And the author notes Zito's great curveball and, coinkydink enough, Lincecum is suppose to have a great curveball too, maybe Zito can share notes with him....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bonds Reportedly Tests Positive for "Serious" Amphetamine Usage Plus Thoughts I'm Throwing Out

Boy, it sure does get worse for our boy Barry. It has been reported all over the place that Barry Bonds tested positively for usage of a "serious" stimulant last season. According to the reports, Barry blamed a substance that he got from Mark Sweeney's locker when he was notified of this transgression.

His excuse is also about as lame as Sosa's corked "batting practice" bat, though obviously Palmeiro/Tejada is the gold standard since he blamed Sweeney: Thanks for Giants Idol and the positive publicity I got from it Mark, I'll toss you under the bus now...

Some Thoughts I Would Throw Out

On Murph and Mac today on KNBR, Brian Murphy speculated that Aaron was a user of amphetamines too. While I have not seen any rumor about him and the use of greenies, I offer you these interesting facts.

  • Aaron is one of a handful of players who were able to keep hitting homers at a high rate into his late 30's.
  • Ted Williams, Darrell Evans,and Barry Bonds round out that group, as far as I could find (someone had done research on players with high OPS+ late in their career and I used that group of high achievers to put together this list).
  • Not only did they keep on hitting homers, but they also somehow boosted their HR rate as well, on a HR/AB basis.
  • I think it is pretty clear that it was the use of amphetamines in WW II by soldiers that led to its use in baseball afterward and we all know that Ted Williams served our country in WW II as well as the Korean War.
  • And if Willie Mays was a big user of amphetamines (he served in the army in the early 50's, though I don't think he saw combat), obviously he then endorsed its usage, so it makes me wonder what type of advice he gave his godson, Barry Bonds.
  • I would also note that Darrell Evans and Hank Aaron were teammates for a good number of years with the Braves.
So no hard evidence, but Aaron is one of a handful of players in baseball history who not only was able to continue hitting 30 HR or more into his late 30's, but was able to increase his HR rate per AB as compared to his peak period, which is normally from 28-32. Not only that, but the other players in the group have some logical connection to amphetamines, particularly given Bonds recent positive testing for it plus his strong connection to Mays.

Obviously, amphetamine usage did not appear to help Willie Mays at all, he declined about as soon as he entered his late 30's, but everyone's body is obviously different, some get help from drugs and some don't. Plus some continue to function well late in their life and some deteriorate sooner.

My Speculation About Hangup Over Bonds's Contract

According to the Merc, the major hangup is about Bonds's entourage's access to the clubhouse. He apparently feels that since he was able to do it before, why change it now. Obviously, the team does not agree, at least thus far.

Now many fans have been complaining that signing Bonds sends the wrong signal, that it does not show that things are changing. What if this hangup is the signal? What if the Giants make this their line in the sand? Could the Giants just not sign Bonds? That would be a pretty clear message, should it happen (and it would bring out budget back in line with $85M target, I would note). We do have Klesko ready to play LF plus Linden could platoon with him there (though Linden hits RHP better than LHP, go figure since he's a righty). The Giants might pick up another OF vet for backup should the Bonds contract not go through.

Of course, this is just my speculation, I don't know either way. But I thought I would throw it out as food for thought. My guess is that the contract will eventually go through, because Bonds is not going to get a $20M contract from another team, particularly this late in the game. He's going to have to suck it up and bend over. So he won't be humilitated by a low figure contract, but he'll have to bend to get the contract.

Can his ego take that? Don't know, but I assume the call of the green benjamins will get him to sign. He can only sell so many signed bats.

I can only guess how he might take this contract "defeat" on the field during 2007. He needs to play well if he's going to get to Aaron and any other career goals (3000 hits) he might have. However, I can see him being too "tired" to play near the end of the season if he is close to Aaron and ends up short by one or two homers of tying him, seemingly forcing another season to get that record.

I don't know what the Giants would or could do in that case. I don't know that they would want to do another year with him and, after this revelation, Bonds reputation is pretty much in tatters now, so I don't see how any other team would dare sign him up for the 2008 season. His story just gets sadder and sadder.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lincecum Invited to Spring Training; Ortiz Coming Home Too

The Giants announced today that Tim Lincecum, among others, has been invited to spring training. This was an expected development since he totally dominated in the lower minors last season and many scouts felt that he could have pitched in the majors last season.

Other notables include:
  • Tyler Walker: still rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery, he could be ready to play by mid to late season, judging from past surgeries, it seems to take a year before they starting playing regularly again.
  • Damian Moss: Lefty starter we got in Ortiz trade and traded away in Ponson trade. I guess he figured out what his problems were, but he's 30 now.
  • Justin Hedrick: good RHP reliever
  • Todd Jennings: catcher who I thought was playing 3B
  • Chad Santos: 1B who came up and played well briefly for us, home is Hawaii
  • Brian Horwitz: OF who led his leagues in hitting first two seasons with us, I don't think he reached such heights this past season, but a good hitter, just not for much power.
  • Eddy Martinez-Esteve: Probably the best hitter currently in the Giants minor league system (Villalona should eventually pass him up but it is too much to hope that Angel is currently our best hitter, i.e. if you put both in the majors today, who would hit better)
  • Clay Timpner: Seems to be the latest in the tradition of all glove, no bat CF, from Darren Lewis to Calvin Murray.

The other invitees are RHP Scott Atchison, David Cortes, Daniel Giese, Carlos Hines, Matt Palmer, and Mitch Wylie; LHP Ryan Meaux; C Stephen Holm and Guillermo Rodriguez; IF William Bergolla, Julio Cordido, Tomas De La Rosa, Luis Figueroa, Justin Leone, Scott McClain, and Ivan Ochoa.

Now We Have Them All

Today, the Giants announced that they have resigned Russ Ortiz to a one year contract and will give him the chance to win the 5th spot in the rotation. Apparently he lost his way mechanically and finally fixed it while in the bullpen with Baltimore last seasons, then continued to improve while pitching in Winter League, in Puerto Rico. He's looking to start but knows that he just needs a spot in the majors first. He'll be battling Hennessey and Sanchez for the final spot.

Apparently, he figured out his problems but still couldn't pitch really well. His ERA by month with the Orioles: 11.57, 6.92, 5.73. However, his peripherals looked good, mostly, his last month, so that's something: 11 IP, 13 H, 4 BB, 10 SO, however, he gave up 5 HR, which ruined everything else. One step at a time, I guess and he's only 32 according to the article. Plus HR are reduced in SF.

Now we have everyone from that trade: Russ Ortiz, Damian Moss, and Merkin Valdez.

Giants Bite the Bullet, Hires Siegle To Replace Colletti

The Giants posted on their website the other day that their 9 free agent signings actually have not signed their contracts yet, but rather they have only signed letters of agreement with most of them, except for Barry Bonds. In the article, it noted that Bobby Evans was handling all those details and, obviously was new to the job, since Colletti used to handle all those details. The next day, the Giants announced the hiring of Tony Siegle to be senior advisor to Sabean on contract negotiations and roster rules. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Sabean says explicitly in the press release article:

Sabean said Siegle isn't replacing former assistant GM Ned Colletti, now with the Dodgers, noting director of player personnel Bobby Evans and baseball operations director Jeremy Shelley have assumed those duties.

"I want to underscore that these guys have stepped up," said Sabean. "Baseball is a game like life -- you learn from your elders. It's how you learn the trade. Everybody's got a niche."

But really, clearly, the two moves are connected. Obviously Evans (and Shelley) are having growing pains with their learning on the job, based on the first article I linked. So they hired the perfect mentor for them, someone who knew the organization before, someone who has worked here and with Sabean, someone the organization is comfortable with.

In addition, when Colletti left to join the D-gers last off-season, Siegle's name came up as a possible replacement for Colletti, but he was still working for the Washington Nationals - which is the job he jumped to from the Giants after 2001, when the MLB beckoned after taking over the Expos - and apparently happy. However, he was fired soon fater the season ended, so I had thought at that time that maybe finally they would get him, but no.

I guess that was a good sign, that Sabean saw the light that it doesn't pay, eventually, to have all the duties being handled by just the one person and see him walk away, leaving your organization vulnerable. So that probably lessened the Giants interest in Siegle and resulted in the assignment of those duties to Evans and Shelley (two people being trained) when Siegle was mentioned earlier. But really, what did he think would happen once Colletti left, after he would boost up Colletti in the press after he missed out on another opening?

So now instead Siegle gets a promotion to senior advisor and, while not handling all of Colletti's old duties, since they made the point that Evans and Shelley are the employees who are now handling them, Tony is like the cleaner and Yoda, all wrapped into one: he will be there for Evans and Shelley to go to, a resource, a guru, when they have questions and minor problems, but he is here now specifically to clean up the mess that has been created with the "minor" changes that Evans had made to the contracts that has caused the free agents to stop from taking the final step of actually signing their contracts with the Giants. With his experience and relationships, I would bet that these contracts are signed way before spring training starts, perhaps within the next week or two.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Allfrank Getting His Money's Worth: Zito!

Mea culpa Allfrank, I'd gathered all the data together and, you know me, I like to create monster posts in answer, so this has been a project that has took some time to put together. But I'm done now plus you get more, more, more, much more than you paid for!

First off, winning is normally an event that depends as much on your team's offense and defense as your pitching, so Zito's wins is normally so randomly related to his ERA that sabermetrically, most people don't pay attention to it. That said, I believe that there are pitchers who can pitch to win, like Krukow, Rueter and Dave Stewart. Usually those types of pitchers are hyper competitive and Zito does not profile that way. However, he is known as a very zen person so perhaps he can do it that way. Don't know, haven't followed him closely enough.

As I had linked before, Oakland apparently has wide foul grounds, but, on an overall basis, according to Bill James park factors, Oakland and SF have amazingly similar park factors, only triples, HRs, and errors, if I remember right, are significantly different. However, there is a crucial difference between the two parks on a handedness scale: lefties hit worse in SF, both for average and particularly for HR (73 vs. 100 average park vs. 103 for Oakland). And that is a crucial thing for Zito, because....

Zito vs. Handedness

Zito for his career show poor stats vs. LHH relative to RHH, when he should dominate:

Type - WHIP - BAA - K/9 - BB/9 - K/BB - HR/9
vs. LHH - 1.45 - .250 - 7.26 - 4.34 - 1.67 - 0.93
vs. RHH - 1.20 - .228 - 6.81 - 3.33 - 2.05 - 0.93

His skill in making and playing in the majors have been his ability to handle RHH better than LHH and his ability to keep his hit-rate down. So going from Oakland where there is more average park factorness to SF where LHH suffers, plus Dave Righetti was a similar pitcher stats-wise plus also a similar lefty thrower, though with more power, I think that Zito will see improvement going from A's to Giants from this aspect. His HR/9 should plummet vs. LHH (slightly overall since only 20% or so of AB is against LHH), and that should help in keeping his BAA and BB/9 down (you don't have to be so fine with your pitches if you don't have to worry about giving up the long-ball and that snowballs into better ball/strike situations), while getting K/9 up, but his BAA against RHH will go up in SF, though when you throw the pitchers in there, it could bring it down overall, not sure of the exact impact of each.

Zito in NL

I think the best reading of this is his stats in NL parks. As I had noted before, it looked pretty crappy overall, don't recall the numbers, not sure where I put the spreadsheet, just believe me. His AT&T numbers are OK: 4.05 ERA, 3 games, 20 IP, 9.0 H/9, 1.35 HR/9, 5.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 (no IBB! What, he never faced Bonds? :^). Other NL West parks (one game each):

Park - ERA - IP - H - W - K- HR
Coors - 1.29 - 7 - 8 - 4 - 5 - 0
Chase - 1.50 - 6 - 6 - 0 - 10 - 0
PETCO - 5.40 - 5 - 8 - 4 - 3 - 0


I don't think there's enough games to say what he might do, based on his performances in NL. Just in general, the NL obviously have pitchers batting 3, maybe more, times a game. That alone should add 1-2 strikeouts to his K/9. And drop his BB/9, both from facing the pitcher and there being less baserunners in general. Plus AT&T Mays Field has dampened HRs. He should improve from his move to the NL, plus getting to pitch in SF, LA, SD, which all have pitchers parks, plus Colorado, which was like a pitchers park for much of last season until they ran out of the properly humidified baseballs.

Zito Sabermetrically

As I noted before, plus posted on this, Zito's numbers do not look good sabermetrically. And Allfrank is right - and I do this sometimes - Zito's simple K and BB rates do not tell us all we need to know. But it is a good filter normally, it does raise some red flags, but that should mean further investigation, not my "sky is falling" post on Zito. The good news is that Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA seems to do a pretty good job on Zito's stats, though not necessarily his ERA.

PECOTA has been pretty on the mark for Zito's eqERA and PERA, ERA based on base stats that they calculate, plus base stats like H9, BB9, SO9, Hr9, and VORP. It is wildly off on actual ERA, missing about about 0.50 +/- each of the past 3 seasons - I don't have 2006 stats yet, their book isn't published yet. Also, I posted on saber-estimates of Zito already and most see him in the high 3's or low 4's, and given our rotation, that should be good enough.

Here's some sabermetrics you don't see elsewhere, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat :

Pitcher - LD% - GB% - FB% - h.HR/9 - a.HR/9
Zito - 19.0% - 38.0% - 43.0% - 11.8% - 6.1%
Schmidt - 20.2% - 38.6% - 41.3% - 10.1% - 5.8%
Cain - 16.3% - 36.0% - 47.7% - 4.2% - 11.0%
Lowry - 19.0% - 39.0% - 41.9% - 7.1% - 11.5%
where LD% = Line Drive%, GB% = Ground Ball%, FB% = Fly Ball%, h.HR/9 = home HR/9, a.HR/9 = away HR/9.

On the Giants staff these pitchers most resembled Zito's high BB/9, high FB%, high HR/9 stat-line. Remember, Zito's line occurred in Oakland. Now the sabermetric research shows that HR/FB tends to be a fixed number the most pitchers have no control over, they will tend to regress to the mean of 10% HR/FB. Zito showed this in 2006 and 2005 (which I didn't list) and thus he really lucked on out the road in 2006 with only a 6.1%, so that would suggest a down performance on the road for him in 2007, had he stayed in the AL. Schmidt also showed this tendency as well in 2005 and 2006, he also lucked out on the road greatly in 2006 and thus should regress back to the 10%.

However, both Cain and Lowry, who are more similar to Zito overall than Schmidt because Schmidt strikes out a lot more than the other three, both had 11%+ on the road but significantly less at home, 4.2% for Cain, about 7.0% for Lowry in 2005/6. This is also confirmed, as I noted before, by the reduction in HR/9 generally in SF, which should translate into a lower HR/FB at home.

That suggests that perhaps Zito will also experience a permanent reduction in his HR/9 by pitching in SF, which would mean that his home stats should beat his road stats, having given up significantly less HR in SF. Also, given this, most Giants will have expected ERA above what they got in reality because the latest sabermetric equations uses only FB and not HR/9 in its calculations. Under the old formula, Cain and Lowry would have an expected ERA about 0.20-0.30 lower.

Zito Home vs. Away

Zito's poor home stats appear to be random unless something happened to the park after the 2004 season: home was better by a lot in 2002, 2003, and 2004; away was better in 2005 and 2006. So it appears that 2006 was just an aberation on the whole.

For his career, the stats are about the same:

Place - ERA - WHIP - BAA - K/9 -W/9 - K/W - HR/9
Home - 3.66 - 1.22 - .234 - 6.69 - 3.16 - 2.12 - 1.04
Away - 3.44 - 1.28 - .231 - 7.10 - 3.89 - 1.83 - 0.83

I would expect his Home to be better than his away in 2007, plus he'll be pitching in more pitchers parks in the NL West overall, vs. the AL West. According to Baseball Forecaster, AT&T Mays Field does not make all pitchers better, only good pitchers become better pitchers in SF. Here are the Home/Away ERA splits for our starting 5:

Player - Home - Away
Schmidt - 3.45 - 3.75
Morris - 4.40 - 5.57
Cain - 3.22 - 5.57
Lowry - 3.61 - 6.79
Wright - 6.24 - 4.32

So this would suggest that Schmidt, Morris, Cain, and Lowry are good pitchers. And since I would consider Zito to be a good pitcher, now after examining all his stats and career stats and career splits, he should also do better.

Zito by the Calendar

Zito has normally pitched as good or better in the second half of the season, but 2006 was different, he pitched much worse. In an interview, he blamed that on not having his fitness trainer available to him during the off-season last off-season, because he started throwing more to keep in shape instead of doing his normal fitness routine, and he thinks that caused him to weaken in the second half of 2006. Hopefully his new financial status will enable him to hire a personal trainer all for his lonesome. His stats by halves:

Half - ERA - WHIP - BAA
First - 3.83 - 1.29 - .243
Second- 3.26 - 1.21 - .221

In addition, for his career, he has pitched very well after April, but horribly in April. I guess it takes him a while to get going:

Mon - ERA - WHIP - BAA
Apr - 5.04 - 1.39 - .254
May - 2.98 - 1.20 - .221
Jun - 3.80 - 1.30 - .247
Jul - 3.51 - 1.27 - .237
Aug - 2.76 - 1.13 - .212
Sep - 3.57 - 1.25 - .227
Oct - 3.00 - 1.22 - .227

Like Lowry, he really excels in August. and just pitches well most months except for April. The extra throwing did not work for him either, in 2006, because he had a horrible 5.93 ERA in April, pitched reasonably well within career norms from May to August, but he just stunk in September with a 5.40 ERA. However, in 2005, his September ERA was horrible too, 6.50, it was just that his July and August were so dominant. Looks like he's a stretch run pitcher when he doesn't overwork his arm, so hopefully that will happen in 2007.

Summarizing Zito Acquision

Allfrank noted, "I think there must be a substantial reason that Sabean spend $126 million ON THIS PLAYER. I see much to like... I would certainly like to know what Sabean, Rags, Bochy, Gardner, plus the scouts see that we do not see in the numbers." I think I've discussed what my thoughts on this are, but I'll repeat here to get this all in one post and I might ramble (more than usual) here.

I think this move makes sense for the short term, 3-4 years. Beyond that is anybody's guess, even Sabean and his brain trust. Historically, long contracts for a pitcher have not ended up prettily. I have to assume that the push for Zito must have come equally if not more so from Magowan and Baer.

This was a huge gamble, just like the contract to Bonds was a huge gamble. They made out like thieves on the Bonds contract, but Bonds was at the age then that most players start to drop in performance. Look at Willie Mays for a big star example, if you substituted his similar age stats for Bonds, would you have been happy paying $90M for that? But Barry was big-time into keeping in top physical shape, so they took a leap of faith and signed him to that big contract.

Similarly, they see Zito as the same type of fanatical body builder mindset. And thus think that the chances of Zito going bad during the 7 years of the contract is minimized by this. But pitcher's arms are much more fragile than hitters'. If something snaps midway through his contract, it could look ugly (see Darren Dreifort and what happened to the D-gers during that mess, they didn't really come from under that cloud until that contract was over).

But Zito will be 29 in the first year of the contract and it covers his 29-35 years, which means prime physical years from 29-32, then there is usually a dropoff around that age for pitchers. Since he is able to pitch effectively without speed, which is the skill that degrades the most seriously in that age range, that suggests that he will be able to pitch effectively to a latter age than most pitchers.

It has been noted by some that Zito has pitched a lot of innings. It has ranged from 3,500 to 3,900 pitches (approximately) for the past six seasons. Most pitchers have suffered physical problems when pitching that much in a season, let alone six straight seasons. Bochy for the past three seasons, have not pushed any pitchers to season pitch counts above 3,500, even though some starters reached the 32-34 starts that Zito regularly threw. To my eye, 3,500 appears to be the point separating pitchers for abuse, on an annual basis, and Bochy has been able to keep his pitchers under that mark for the past three seasons. So that speaks well for Zito going forward with the Giants, despite the abuse. But it is still a risk.

All in all, this was a calculated risk taken on by the Giants. A huge calculated risk. They probably can expect to get 4-5 good seasons out of Zito realistically, but to assume any more would be ignoring the realities of pitchers attrition rate. They are making the near term pretty good - with a rotation of Zito, Cain, Lowry, maybe Lincecum and Sanchez - and then hoping that Zito lasts into his mid 30's still relatively productive, though that obviously didn't work with Kirk Rueter. But for now, enjoy the road, but don't look into the side mirror, Zito's career downturn might be closer than is comfortable.

OT: Ralph, Chill, Please

I was listening to The Razor briefly today and he was ranting about how can the Giants consider using Benitez when he's is so lousy, yada yada yada (I think that's a verbatim quote :^). He's got an MBA, he should know better: as a manager or sales person, how do you get more value for something you are trying to sell, by saying he is a lousy piece of crap, or by saying that he is our closer if he is healthy? Do you want Yusmeiro Petit as the trade piece or would you rather settle for Manuel Olivera? So chill, totally, Barbieri, or you'll blow the deal for us.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Giants Top 2007 Prospects

Just got my 2007 version of Baseball Forecaster, so I'll be posting info about the Giants from the book for the forseeable future. As I've noted before, this is a great book to get if you haven't before, if you want to learn more about sabermetrics in baseball. I never really put everything together from what I had read in Baseball Prospectus until I got BF.

That said, buying the annual is not worth buying UNLESS you also play fantasy baseball (which I do) or you really want to see their new studies and research results. If you can wait a year or two, they usually sell past years' editions at half price or less.

But I can vouch for the book. It helped me win one of my leagues in 2005 and finish top 4 (after a horrendous start where I ended up with much of my team looking like the 2005 Giants opening day roster - yes, that bad :^), then in 2006, I finished 3rd in one and I think 6th in the other.

Giants Prospects Among Top 100 Prospects

One area where the book really helped me out is in determining which prospects to look out for when they are brought up. Helped me get Weeks in 2005, for example, and Barfield and Hanley Ramirez in 2006.

The author of the section, Deric McKamey, tries to combine sabermetrics, which is where he started from, then he took the various scouting classes one can take and started seeing players from a scout's perspective. These are the players the Giants have (and rumored to have) on the Top 50 list for the 2007 season: Tim Lincecum, Yusmeiro Petit (#34 overall, thought I would throw in this since he's rumored to come if the Marlins want Benitez), and Nick Pereira. I'll post what was said about Lincecum and Pereira, plus a few comments.

  • Tim Lincecum: He was the 10th prospect, OVERALL! It noted, "Lincecum posesses the most electric arm of any 2006 Draftee. His curveball is lethal and his power sinker from an unconventional delivery is incredibly heavy." I don't think any other draftee from 2006 is on the list, either. In general, the players on the Top 50 from last season had a number of significant contributors but there where those who did not even make the majors. This confirms the impression I've gotten from most prognosticators that Lincecum will be ready to pitch in the majors by mid-season, probably as reliever, else as a starter by the start of 2008.
  • Nick Pereira: He was the 46th prospect! It noted that Pereira shows exquisite command (2.1 SO/BB) and ability to keep the ball low (0.6 HR/9), though he rarely pushes 90 MPH. His slider is tough on RH batters and he has made improvements to his changeup. I have not seen his name on anyone's Top 10 prospect list for the Giants, let alone the 46th top prospect for 2007. Wow!

Baseball Prospectus Top 10

BP recently released their top 10 to subscribers but you can get the Top 10 list plus blurbs about the top 3 via their site. I recommend reading this for info on Lincecum, Villalona, and Sanchez, particularly Lincecum and Villalona. Here is their top 10, I like the way they separate how good each is, this is missing from most prospect lists plus if you read the link, I like the way he set up each one:

Excellent Prospects

1. Tim Lincecum, rhp

Very Good Prospects

2. Angel Villalona, 3b

3. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp

Good Prospects

4. Emmanuel Burriss, ss

Average Prospects

5. Eddy Martinez-Estevee, lf

6. Sharlon Schoop, ss

7. Fred Lewis, lf/cf

8. Nate Schierholtz, lf

9. Billy Sadler, rhp

10. Mike McBryde, cf

I really recommend going to BP and reading the Villalona blurb - it will keep you warm and fuzzy all winter long reading about our first legit hitting stud prospects since the days of Will Clark and Matt Williams. The Lincecum blurb will then make you feel a bit sweaty and overheated. :^)

The Giant Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!

OK, I know it's waaay too early for this plus he only used 100 simulated seasons but still, gotta report it: Replacement Level Yankees Weblog posted his simulation of 100 seasons using the current team roster for every team (at that time) and inputing in the CHONE prediction for their performance because he wanted to see how the Yankees do, but he posted the full MLB stats and guess what?, the Giants had the highest average win per the 100 seasons, with 88.6!, a full six games ahead of San Diego. In that simulation run, they were in the playoffs, either by winning the division or gaining the wildcard, in almost exactly two-thirds of the simulations.

Of course, that's possibly because of Barry Bonds playing 162 games or the assumption that Klesko hits like he did in the past (his CHONE forecast was not in the released database), but it was Diamond Mind that was used to play the simulation, so perhaps they can set it to target an AB/PA goal for each season. However, the Giants lead the entire NL in runs scored with 836 runs average, with the Cubs a distant 2nd with 804, and Atlanta 3rd with 803, so there must have been some hocus-pocus done to our lineup, it does not seem capable of that many runs.

Here is the CHONE rate stats for our lineup hitters:

Bonds - .290/.458/.575/1.033 - 21 HR in 284 AB, try again next year...
Durham - .283/.357/.468/.825 - 17 HR in 491 AB
Molina - .296/.339/.447/.786 - 11 HR in 342 AB
Roberts - .282/.359/.400/.759 - 5 HR in 452 AB, 30 SB
Winn - .284/.345/.428/.773 - 13 HR in 575 AB, 13 SB
Linden - .249/.330/.414/.744 - 16 HR in 458 AB, 8 SB, way too high AB unless someone DLed
Aurilia - .272/.329/.415/.745 - 13 HR in 466 AB
Feliz - .263/.304/.449/.753 - 20 HR in 527 AB
Vizquel - .274/.338/.353/.691 - 3 HR in 523 AB, 17 SB
Klesko - as noted, no forecasted performance

CHONE for pitchers:

Zito - 3.88 ERA, 166 SO/79 BB in 206 IP, 190 H
Cain - 3.90 ERA, 177 SO/87 BB in 184 IP, 158 H
Sanchez - 3.95 ERA, 83 SO/43 BB in 87 IP, 77 H; must have him slotted as reliever?
Chulk - 3.96 ERA, 67 SO/31 BB in 77 IP, 70 H
Wilson - 3.98 ERA, 48 SO/31 BB in 59 IP, 54 H
Taschner - 4.06 ERA, 78 SO/35 BB in 78 IP, 70 H
Benitez - 4.13 ERA, 32 SO/17 BB in 41 IP, 39 H
Sadler - 4.15 ERA, 64 SO/41 BB in 65 IP, 55 H
Lowry - 4.18 ERA, 133 SO/62 BB in 183 IP, 182 H
Correia - 4.24 ERA, 56 SO/30 BB in 74 IP, 72 H
Kline - 4.31 ERA, 35 SO/23 BB in 54 IP, 54 H
Morris - 4.36 ERA, 112 SO/51 BB in 194 IP, 207 H
Hennessey - 4.55 ERA, 77 SO/59 BB in 146 IP, 152 H

As I noted for the Zito forecasts, who knows what exactly went into the forecasts. Sounds like he tried his best to account for things though.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Player

Run Element

Dave

Roberts

2.00

Omar

Vizquel

1.48

Barry

Bonds

1.17

Ryan

Klesko

1.04

Mark

Sweeney

0.82

Randy

Winn

0.75

Todd

Linden

0.71

Jason

Ellison

0.54

Ray

Durham

0.48

Lance

Niekro

0.39

Rich

Aurilia

0.39

Pedro

Feliz

0.31

Kevin

Frandsen

0.30

Benjie

Molina

0.25

Eliezer

Alfonzo

0.18

Sorry, I'm testing out Blogger's integration with Gooble Doc's to see if I can create better looking tables for my posts. This will disappear once I'm done.

Giants Run Element

I was reading this article on this blog, The Baseball Analysts, where they described an old technique of Bill James for determining the type of hitter you got and where you would want to put him in the lineup, based on his Run Element, which was a metric that Bill James created to determine this trait. Here is the quote from an old Bill James Baseball Abstract describing this metric:

Run element ratio divides the parts of secondary average into that which is valuable early in the inning, valuable for scoring runs (walks and stolen bases) and that which is valuable late in the inning, or valuable for driving in runs (power). The formula is (SB+BB)/(TB-H). If a player is over 1.00, then generally speaking you want him up early in the inning. If he is under 1.00, then he is more valuable later in the inning. Vince Coleman's career run element ratio is 4.4, meaning that he has little use except as a leadoff man; Don Mattingly's is .38, meaning that he is much more valuable later in the inning.
You can read the rest of the article to get the author's stats on the MLB and his discussion, but I'll just focus just on the Giants, old and new, who appeared on the lists.

  • Dave Roberts (2.00): He was 4th in the majors, making him one of the premier leadoff men in the majors.
  • Omar Vizquel (1.48): He was 15th in the majors, so he would make a good leadoff hitter as well, which I had noted before when constructing lineups - with his lack of power, it would have made more sense to bat him leadoff and have Randy Winn bat 2nd where his extra power could drive in Vizquel, instead of being wasted batting behind the pitcher and #8 spot.
  • Shea Hillenbrand (.239): He had the 6th worst run element in the majors in 2006. These are the odd-ball hitters, good enough to drive in runs but bad enough hitters that you don't want them batting 3/4/5. Which we Giants fans already knew about Shea.
  • Benjie Molina (.253): He had the 7th worst run element. So I guess he'll take Shea's spot. Luckily, whereas Shea would sometimes hit higher in the lineup, Bochy already has Molina and Feliz slotted for the bottom of the order, where these low run element types should hit. Unfortunately, we also have...
  • Pedro Feliz (.306): He had the 10th worst run element. As noted, Bochy is batting him at the bottom and traditionally managers would bat the catcher 8th, but Molina at least has a rep for driving in guys whereas they sort of fall into Feliz's lap, plus Molina is the better hitter, OPS-wise, so I am hoping Molina bats 7th and Feliz bats 8th.
  • Rich Aurilia (.385): He had the 19th worst run element. Epps! Thus far, talk has been about batting Aurilia 3rd.
Giants Run Element

I took all the players who will and might play for the Giants in 2007 and calculated their 2006 Run Element (for Klesko, I used his 2005 stats) and here is the table (I tried the HTML from Google Docs again and the spacing was even worse! So back to the lame table format):

Giants - Run Element
Roberts - 2.00
Vizquel - 1.48
Bonds - 1.17
Klesko - 1.04
Sweeney - .82
Winn - .75
Linden - .71
Ellison - .54
Durham - .48
Niekro - .39
Aurilia - .39
Feliz - .31
Frandsen - .30
Molina - .25
Alfonzo - .18

Giants Lineup Construction

Well, we all knew Bonds should be batting in the middle. Klesko is a bit of a no-brainer too, so hopefully he has returned to his old self, which is what Bochy is selling us, so hopefully he is right, as Klesko would strengthen our 1B (and additionally 3B because then Feliz will probably see less ABs if Klesko returns to his old self and pushes Aurilia to 3B). Looks like Winn is the most obvious choice for batting 3rd, still he is suppose to be able to run well, but, as I noted, Bochy has thus far suggested Aurilia.

[Side note/thought, but as the lineup spot calculation I had did before and other lineup analysis have shown, the #3 spot is not as important to the offense as the #1, #2, #4 or #5 spots. The article I linked above quoted Bill James's discussion and he basically came to the same conclusion using his analysis.]

Unfortunately, we don't really have any good candidates for hitting 5th and, relatedly, 6th. Based on the run element methodology, Durham is not a very good candidate for a #5 hitter because of his low 0.48 run element. Randy Winn would make a better candidate with his 0.75 and Linden would even be better with his 0.71.

Even more unfortunately, our lineup have a lot of low run element hitters - Durham, Aurilia, Feliz, and Molina - but we only have one 8th spot. Durham is probably the best runner of the bunch (and probably the best hitter too), so he would probably be the best choice to hit 3rd if you believe in the run element philosophy.

Best Giants Lineup Using Run Element Method

This is the best Giants lineup that I could come up with, based on my reading of the article and following what Bill James advised:
  1. Roberts
  2. Vizquel
  3. Durham
  4. Bonds
  5. Winn
  6. Aurilia
  7. Molina
  8. Feliz

When Roberts is sitting against LHP, Linden plays RF and Winn plays CF:

  1. Vizquel
  2. Winn
  3. Durham
  4. Bonds
  5. Linden
  6. Aurilia
  7. Molina
  8. Feliz
Sure, this would be a risk with Linden #5, but we need to see what he can do, don't we? However, probably what will happen is that Winn and Vizquel will probably be flopped at the top, Durham will bat 5th, Molina 6th, Linden 7th, and Aurilia 3rd.

If Klesko is hitting like he had in the past, even his poor (for his career) 2005 season, this would be a pretty good lineup:
  1. Roberts
  2. Vizquel
  3. Durham
  4. Bonds
  5. Klesko
  6. Winn
  7. Aurilia
  8. Molina
That would give us 6 hitters with .350+ OBP at the top of our lineup, which is pretty good. In addition, if Klesko is hitting, then when Bonds sit, Bochy might be making the choice of who better to start, Feliz or Linden, because Klesko can play LF or 1B, Aurilia can play 1B or 3B. And if it were my choice, I would play Linden in LF, Klesko at 1B, and Aurilia at 3B. Though, of course, we will have to see how Klesko handles AT&T Mays Field, which has destroyed better left-handed hitters than he.

Thus far, he has been hurt but not especially so, by SF: in 45 games, 164 AB, only 3 HR, but .268/.342/.415/.757 is not that bad plus he was facing mainly the good Giants pitching staff of the first half of this decade, not the rotation/bullpen of the past couple of years, and most of his ABs where when AT&T Mays Field was a pitchers park, not the neutral park it has been the past few seasons (which I attribute partly to San Diego's even more pitching oriented PETCO Park, though that moderated in 2006 due to their changing the field's dimensions and partly to hitters finally figuring out the park, much like Giants hitters had to go through their learning curve at their new park in 2000 and Grissom, Durham, Alfonzo, and Pierzitski when they joined the team). He is only off his career OPS by about 100 points and .757 is good, though not great.

However, Mark Sweeney just couldn't figure out AT&T Mays Field last year. He had horrible splits between home and road: only .228/.282/.283/.565 at home (145 AB!) vs. his normal .281/.385/.509/.894 on the road. And I noted that Pierzitski was horrible his first month or so with the Giants, hitting very poorly. Tucker also hit poorly his first month, before turning on fire. So we will see if Klesko has a similar adjustment period or not.

But since his stats have not been that bad thus far in SF, hopefully any adjustment period is short. Grissom, while a righty, had been labeled a poor hitter while with LA, but his AT&T numbers were good (while his LA numbers were horrible; ya hear that Pierre? Juan has a career mark of .281/.333/.331/.664 in LA; enjoy that sucking noise you hear, LA!) and when he joined the Giants, he had no problems adjusting at all and hit his normal high .700 OPS he normally did, when not playing in LA. Hopefully Klesko can hit the ground running.

Klesko Could Be Key to Good Giants Offense

While the acquisition of Bonds is clearly the best move for the offense, followed by Durham, the key tipping point acquisition for the offense, which turns it from average to good, might well be Klesko and whether he has recovered like Bochy (and the Giants) think he has. Bochy noted when Klesko was signed that Klesko looked like his old power-hitting self the final two weeks of the 2006 season for the Padres - he was finally healthy after having the AC joint on his left shoulder surgically repaired (this was from Chron). ESPN added further that Bochy liked how Klesko was hitting batting practice late in the season and quoted him "It looked like the Ryan Klesko I knew two or three years earlier." 2-3 years ago, Klesko was a mid-800 OPS hitter, which would be great for a 5th place hitter, plus more importantly, his OBP was in the high .300's back then.

Klesko also noted that he wouldn't have come back to play baseball, and would have retired, if he didn't feel good, as when he is healthy, he has power and can get on base. If he can do both, he would be a crucial addition because he is more a true #5 hitter than Durham is and would free Durham to bat 3rd plus more importantly, push Aurilia out of the #3 spot and down lower in the order. And Klesko hitting like the Klesko of old would give us a big RBI guy that we could use in the 5th spot.

Also, Klesko hitting like old would probably put the competition for playing time between Feliz and Aurilia, and Feliz will probably lose that competition and spend more time on the bench than he or his agent was planning. And when Bonds is sitting, the competition becomes Feliz vs. Linden and if Linden can hit like he did in 2006, he should get the starts. And if this plays out like I've just laid out, by mid-season, the Giants might be in the position to trade Feliz off to another team to drop his salary plus maybe pick up a decent prospect (we got a decent one for Tucker) if the other team desperately (we are talking about Feliz, after all) need a 3B after an injury to their starting 3B.

Let all Giants fans bow our heads down now and pray now for Klesko to return to his past form of .800 OPS hitting. For he is probably the key to the Giants having a good offense in 2007, as it looks pretty average otherwise, and if he can hit, he can play 1B and let Aurilia and Feliz battle it out for 3B. And don't get too hung up on Feliz's high salary, what's done is done and unfortunately, the Giants didn't have any better choices on the market other than Aurilia (but unfortunately they could not get a good 1B before they signed Feliz). Ideally and hopefully we can flip Feliz for a prospect by mid-season (when he should still be hitting: 2006 pre-ASG .274/.306/.486/.792; post-ASG .202/.248/.348/.596. That's a pattern for the past two seasons - 2005 pre .276/.315/.438/.753; post .217/.271/.402/.672 - when he has been a fulll-time player - and NOW he thinks he should get in shape, sheesh!)

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