Thursday, May 31, 2007
Don't Kill the Messenger
At least the Giants got a player who can help us out now, in the bullpen, and perhaps be a fixture there for a while. It was orginally Yusimeiro Petit we were suppose to get for Benitez, in spring training, but he ended up being traded to Arizona for their ex-closer and he's still a work in progress and a finesse type starter when we are full up on starters anyway. Messenger, a right-hander reliever, is the one of the main setup men in the Marlin's bullpen this season. He is 25 years old, 26 later this season. This is his second full major league season (he came up for a cup of coffee in 2005).
This season, he has a 2.66 ERA (good) but 1.52 WHIP (bad), 1.33 K/BB (badder), 4.6 K/9 (baddest). He has 6 holds this season, thus far. Stats from sfgiants.com announcement: "The newest Giants has been unscored upon in 19 of his 23 appearances this season... the 6-6, 240-pound hurler owns a 3-8 lifetime ledger with a 4.98 ERA ... over 111 big-league relief appearances..." He is a Sparks, Nevada, native, so his family can come down and see him every once in a while, since there is never any guarantee he will pitch in any particular game.
His stats last year was not that good either but he had nice stats in the uppper minors, so there is some hope there as he's still young and show spurts of goodness. For instance, last year he had a great first half, 3.19 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, which was almost closer good, but he was totally blown away in the second half, though a large part of that was bad luck with the long ball, over 13% HR/FB when 10% is the mean pitchers regress to normally. His command comes and goes, but he showed a lot of skill in the minors so hopefully he will figure things out, particularly throwing strikes.
He is described in my prospect book from last season as having a good fastball - "dominates with a lively FB" - that he can run it up to the mid-90's, and that he can contrast with his "slurvy-type" slider in the low 80's. He shows a "resilient arm." His main problem is his control. (Descriptions from my 2006 Minor League Baseball Analyst)
So who is the closer now? Brian Wilson hasn't been that great this season, though getting better, but if I recall correctly, he just came back from some injury. So I assume we are going with someone within our bullpen right now. I think Hennessey will probably get a shot at doing it but I'm hoping that Bochy will be trying out everyone in this role, including Ortiz.
I'm hoping that Hennessey and Taschner can eventually become a duo-closer much like the Giants had in the early 70's with Gary Lavelle and Randy Moffitt (trivia: brother to Billy Jean King), but it might be too early to rely on them exclusively as closers. Messenger looks like he can fill the setup role OK when he is on, but I'm hoping that Correia will get a chance to do that also. But I don't think either can be closers. Same for Chulk and Kline.
Ortiz is probably still the long man out of the bullpen as I think it is too soon to start him doing short work - from what I've read, it takes a while to adjust to relief work. But I hope that eventually he works his way up to main closer as both Hennessey and Taschner are still young and relatively inexperienced, and will have their ups and downs. And I think the two of them have done very well in the setup role this month, so it would be nice to continue that.
Giants in June
As the Chinese proverb (really more of a curse) sort of goes, "we live in interesting times." I still like the team as is - of course a better reliever and hitter would be great, as Lefty Malo is agitating for, but I'm realistic enough to know that getting one will cost us a good prospect and I would rather hold onto what we got right now.
he offense will be better once we get back Durham and if Klesko can play regularly against RHP. They are important parts of our offense, else there is only really Winn, Bonds, and Molina to count on, that's why the offense has been sputtering (oh yeah, plus Aurilia's struggles). That's why I think we should have a good month of June, Durham and Klesko will return to the lineup and we should start winning games like today when Cain struggled but then held the fort at 4 runs for 7 total innings. He should have gotten at least a no-decision.
It is still as I noted before the season, enjoy how well our pitching rotation pitches, and hope for the offense to deliver enough runs to win the well pitched games. Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to pray for our position prospects to show something this season so that we can maybe use them next season.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Giants have a number of pitchers who might not fit the DIPS model. Zito definitely has shown the ability to keep it substantially lower than .300 and Cain has been south of .300, and greatly so, while in the pros except for his first season, which was cut short. Ortiz was also south of .300 much of his career, though it is too soon to tell if he's actually able to still do that. And Lincecum certainly looks like a sub .300 BABIP pitcher as well, based on his minors stats.
Less hits means you can have a higher BB/9 (and thus K/BB) and still do well as a pitcher, particularly since BIP accounts for something like 60-70% of all plays and hits do more damage than BB. One way of accounting for this difference is measuring how high the pitcher's H/9 would be if their BABIP was .300 instead of whatever it was that season. The difference of what it would be and what it was, can be subtracted from BB/9 to get an adjusted BB/9, then an adjust K/BB can be calculated.
Example of BB/9 Adjustment
For example, in 2001, Russ Ortiz's K/BB was 1.86, OK but not great. But his BABIP was .280, not .300, so his H/9 was lowered 0.55. Subtracting that from his 3.75 BB/9, his adjusted BB/9 is 3.2 and his K/BB is 2.17, which is pretty good for a starter.
Plus there should be an additional adjustment higher for K/BB because a hit is not equal to a walk, even for a single, because a walk can only advance runners 90 feet, and doesn't do anything at all if first base is open, whereas a single almost always advance all runners an additional base, two if hit right and speedy baserunner. And sometimes that hit is an extra-base hit.
There's probably some way of truly adjusting to account for extrabase hits, but I think this is a good enough example to show how Ortiz did his high-wire act: he was playing with a loaded deck because the walks he gave up were not as damaging as the hits other pitchers gave up instead. If fans understood this, they might have not been so much on Ortiz for doing that.
The Back of the Rotation
Morris doesn't strike out a lot anymore but he has demonstrated over this career that he can keep his BB/9 down low and, once he lost his velocity, got his BB/9 down even lower. This season has been an aberration in that he's walking a lot more than usual, but has been extremely lucky in keeping HR/9 and HR/FB way down low. Each should approach his career means and counteract each other as the season progresses. In addition, since he's become a low velocity starter (about 2003 on), his BABIP has been on the lower side, though not dramatically so, but that's not necessary if you walk at a very low rate, like he does (mid to low 2's when 3 is good). The thing is, he's capable of a high 3 ERA, low 4 ERA, based on his peripherals, and he was there last season until the very end when at some point he got injured (and should have DLed but kept silent).
Lowry I've been worried about because he hasn't had a high K game since his strained oblique last season, but his recent game with 8 K's and 1 BB tells me that he's got his changeup working again and he'll be like he was in 2005 and not like how he was in 2006. Last season and this season, until his last game, highest he could strike out was 6. In 2005, 12 starts out of 33 that he had 7 or more strikeouts. In fact, he was slow starting that season too, he didn't hit 7+ strikeouts until May 6th, so he's right on target if 2005 is what he's capable of. And even though he couldn't strike out anyone last season, he still kept his ERA down in the low 4 until his sore arm problem caused him to give up a bunch of runs in September.
As I've been saying since the start of the last offseason, I like the Giants rotation a lot, both long term and for playoff success. Pitchers like Cain and Lincecum can be dominant when they are on, and Zito, Lowry, and Morris have good outings many more times than disastrous ones. That's why I like the Zito signing, because it made our rotation pretty top notch relative to most teams, he was the tipping point from a good to a great rotation.
If you examine how the rotation compares to the majors, they are basically a rotation of #2 starters (see The Hardball Times articles on starters by slot by Jeff Sackman). BP noted that Zito, despite his negatives sabermetically, is the top or #2 starter on most rotations (see their comments on Zito in their 2007 Annual, highly recommended). Cain had a high 3 ERA after his skipped start, low 3 after the All-Star Break, and clearly has been doing well this season. Lowry had a high 3 ERA in 2004 and 2005 and, as I noted, he seems to be rounding into 2005 form. Morris, was a low to mid 4 ERA last season until the very end when he was pitching injured. Ortiz, who knows now, but he was a #2 type previously but now the point's moot since Lincecum is now in the rotation - Lincecum gives us hope that he can be something like a #2 at minimum, but he's already pitching like an ace.
That's a rotation full of #2 starters (or better) that will be hard for any team to get through, during the season or in the playoffs, leaving it up to our offense to just be average and that will win us a lot of games if they can. After their slow start, they have been average and we have won a lot of games.
Oh, and what a game by Lincecum and Zito the last two nights! What a rotation!
Giants Ready to Start Winning Again
With the rotation rounding out nicely and the bullpen is good enough, once Durham gets back, the offense will be improved over early May now that Bonds is hitting again and Klesko has started to hit like he used to. I think the Giants is starting to gel, the starting rotation has been pretty good for the most part, the bullpen is rounding out nicely, except for Benitez up and down act, and the offense looks to be starting to hit on most cyclinders, with Winn and Klesko hitting like they were capable of during May, Durham returning to the lineup, Bonds rounding back into form, Molina hitting like he's capable, Feliz too, and Lewis doing OK in Roberts absence.
Only Vizquel has not been able to do well and I'm getting worried about him, he going to have his second straight sub-.600 OPS month, which he hasn't done in the last 5 seasons; in 2001, he had two 500's OPS but one was in April, the other in Sept/Oct and the last time he had sub-600 OPS in consecutive months was 1993, 14 seasons ago.
Despite Vizquel's problems, I think once we get Durham back, maybe as soon as this weekend series, the Giants should be able to mount sustained winning in the month of June and make a move on 1st place. The offense has been up and down but I think with Klesko, Bonds, Durham, Molina in the middle of the lineup, and Winn hitting up top, the Giants offense will be steady enough against RHP. And Feliz batting 7th is an asset, as most 7th hitters don't hit as well as Feliz can, plus his overall stats are suffering right now from poor hitting (i.e. bad luck, his BABIP is very low) against LHP, against whom he usually hits better than RHP - he's doing about average right now vs. RHP.
Yeah, might not seem like it right now, but I think they are on the verge of playing well and winning a bunch of series, and therefore a lot of games, going forward. I think they showed a lot, coming back after that demoralizing lost on Tuesday, and not only winning but shutting out the Met's great offense which hadn't been shut out all season until now. That shows a lot of heart, I think, a lot of guts and inner fortitude. Plus, as I noted, Durham in the lineup and Bonds over his cold spell and Klesko hitting for power (.525 SLG, 197 ISO, 45% extra-base hits, .922 OPS in May) will help the offense heat in June.
Interesting (and Curious) Sidenote
Makes me wonder about Baseball America's sources: there was a nice article on Fred Lewis the other day (May 29th, Tuesday) in the Merc, and it noted that:
Whenever Fred Lewis hears that he's making up for lost time on the baseball field because of his football background, he can only shake his head and smile.
"My momma wouldn't even let me play football until high school. I've been playing baseball my whole life."
So that's kind of scary then. Most analysis of his defense (particularly BA) has always carried the caveat that he is learned to play the outfield late because of his football activities. But according to him, he's been playing all his life. Nothing scientific, but I've been hearing on the radio regularly that he misplayed one ball or another, or did something bone-headed. I wonder what nickname that will earn him, Linden got the moniker "Magellan" because of his poor routes.
Anyway, I think his honeymoon is over, as he sat against a LHP the last two games, as Ortmeier started against the lefties - it seemed like Lewis played most games previously, though maybe it was just a long stretch of RHP starting.
That's just as well, he's hitting a horrid .067/.067/.200/.267 vs. LHP in 15 ABs. He's probably platooning with Ortmeier until Roberts returns and then going back to AAA, the Giants need somebody who can hit against LHP when Roberts sits against LHP and Lewis bats left-handed whereas Ortmeier switch-hits. Plus Ortmeier has been killing LHP (small samples) this season. He also hit well against them in AAA this season and last. Ironic since he is a natural lefty and hits poorly against RHP relative to LHP and there's more RHP than LHP... Hopefully he can learn to hit better against them now that he's up here and getting more/better coaching on hitting.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
- 2003: Cain drafted. "He has a live arm, but many observers were surprised at how high he was taken, even those who don't believe in a hard-and-fast rule of avoiding high school pitchers." They noted that six-rounder Jesse English, another high school pitcher drafted by the Giants that same year, was much more impressive in the Arizona Rookie League that year, a subtle dig at the Giants for chosing Cain. The Giants have walked to the beat of a different drum in the draft, earning comments like this, but it has netted them Cain and Lincecum. It is an especially hard jab at them because they noted that even experts who are OK with drafting high school pitchers thought that Cain was a head scratcher.
- 2004: "Baseball America named Cain the number-two prospect in the Giants' system. We don't rank him that high - chalk it up to squeamishness about 18-year-old pitchers who miss half a season with an elbow injury - but we understand the enthusiasm... The elbow, and injuries in general, are the concerns, as is always the case for pitchers fresh out of high school." As noted above, BP don't recommend drafting high school pitchers and they are clearly not on the Matt Cain bandwagon, thought they "understand the enthusiasm".
- 2005: "While Tony Torcato makes a case for the Giants' strategy of sacrificing first-round picks, Cain makes that tack look terrible. The 25th-overall pick in 2002 has zoomed past Merkin Valdez to claim top-prospect status in the Giants' system... Granting TINSTAAPP, you're looking at one of the five best pitching prospects in baseball." He was 28th best prospect that year, behind guys like Andy Marte #1, Dallas McPherson #4, Casey Kotchman #5, Joel Guzman #7, Daric Barton #9, Jeremy Reed #10, Eric Duncan #13, Yusmeiro Petit #15, Michael Aubrey #17, Chris Burke #18, Lastings Milledge #19, Chad Billingsley 120, Edwin Encarnacion #22, Brandon McCarthy #23, Anthony Reyes #25. "The Giants have shown no ability to develop hitters over the past ten years, but pitchers are another matter." Well, finally some praise for the Orange and Black, though they had to turn in into a negative, backhanding the Giants for avoiding draft picks in the past.
- 2006: "The second-youngest rookie in 2005 proved that he was worth the hype... If he figures out a decent change or slider - both of which come in way too fast and flat right now to be consistently useful in games - he could be outstanding. The Giants have worked with him on the changeup, and if the coaching takes, he'll do more than just survive in the major leagues in '06." He ranked 12th among prospects this year, behind some very good prospects this time, though Andy Marte is still ahead #7, Chris Young #8, Dustin Pedroia #11. "If Felix Hernandez is the King, then Cain may be the Crown Prince....With first-round draft picks like Cain, it makes you wonder why Brian Sabean is so eager to give them away." Again, praise with the backhand. By now, my study had been published on Yahoo, but they lack the fundamental understanding of statistics that distribution is not all bell curves but that the draft is really finding the needle in the haystack pretty fast in the draft, sometimes as soon as the 6th pick, sometimes as late as the 10th pick. Shouting out the Giants for avoiding the 29th pick overall is similar to getting mad at your friend for not buying a lottery ticket: "See that guy in the newspaper! He won a million bucks with his ticket, why didn't you buy a ticket?!?"
- 2007: "Cain went into the 2006 season as one of the game's top-rated prospects - we called him the twelfth-best pitching prospect [SIC] in the game, Baseball America said tenth-best, John Sickels said third. After a full season in the majors, he was no longer a prospect, but, if anything, his reputation had risen even further." Wow, praise with no backhand this time. I think they made a mistake, they rated him the 12th best prospect, period, so that is what they meant for themselves and gives them more credit for recognizing his potential.
Not that I'm knocking them for being reasonably cautious about Cain in the beginning. They had good reasons for it. Rather I wanted to note that he was not the slam dunk that they make him out to be today when they are knocking the Giants for selecting him (after knocking them in the first place for selecting him; can't have it both ways, they didn't see it at the begining and the Giants did).
As I hope to show in a future post, a rewriting of my draft study results for those who haven't read it and for those who didn't believe it the first time, draft picks in the range where the Giants had been picking when they were winning or competing strongly for the division championship, which typically puts you in the 20's overall, are pretty risky with low chance of getting any return on the player. So sometimes you pick a Matt Cain, most times you get a Matt Campbell (who happens to be the player the Royals picked with the pick the Giants gave up; he didn't even last a full professional season with them). It is all in the distribution, and the odds of finding a good player like Matt Cain would seem more random and lucky than insightful and well scouted, when you look at the results.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
- RP/Closer Tyler Walker has started throwing live batting practice and is expected to be assigned to a minor league affiliate in mid-June, about one year after getting Tommy John surgery last year.
- SS Emmanuel Burriss, who had a great start to his pro career for us on Salem-Keizer's Rookie A league team, was jumped to Advanced A San Jose this year but, unfortunately he was overmatched, batting only .165 in 139 ABs for San Jose, and so he was demoted to Augusta's A-league team in the Sally League (South Atlantic League). He is considered one of the fastest prospects in the minors, better than even Marcus Sanders. He is a hair behind Detroit's great prospect, Cameron Maybin.
- Winn's 20 game hitting streak ended yesterday, which tied Willie Mays for the fifth longest streak in SF Giants history and is the longest since Robby Thompson's 21 game streak in 1993 (hope the same don't happen to Winn, Robby's career went into the tanker after that season, after he signed that huge contract with us).
- Been meaning to report this, but Bengie Molina was interviewed a while back about his clutch hitting for us lately, particularly with 2 strikes, and he noted that when there is less than 2 strikes, he swings like he's 6' 5", but when he is at 2 strikes, he swings like he's 5' 6". Which is a nice way of following your little league coach's advice to choke up on the bat and protect the plate when there is two strikes. :^)
- Good news about Dave Roberts, as he continues to show rapid improvement in his recovery from surgery to remove bone spurs and bone chips from his left elbow. He hasn't started throwing yet, so there's still much to do and go, but at least he has started swinging a fungo bat, 10 days after surgery, which I guess is pretty good, based on the way it is written. Roberts noted, "I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, but it's pretty encouraging." As I noted in another post, I wonder who they will keep as the utility OF when Roberts come back, Lewis or Ortmeier. It would make more sense to keep Ortmeier, but Lewis has played very well since coming up so it would be a nice reward to keep him up. But if not them, who then? There is no real obvious other choice.
Maybe my speculation is true, that the Merc is kissing up to the A's with them moving down south to Fremont and how better than to bash Bonds and the Giants? Unscientific, but I've noticed many a time where the A's would get the front page of the sports while the Giants are buried inside. And I don't see a lot of positive-slant columns regarding the Giants, I still see the old refrain about the Giants farm system, even while the rotation is poising to be one of the best around - with 3 from the farm system.
Today, Ann wrote a column, "Giants paid for HRs, and Bonds isn't hitting 'em". Could be coincidence, plus at least they weren't totally brain dead and gave Lincecum the top headline, but this column could have been written anytime recently, particularly this weekend, why put it out the same day Lincecum does great again?
Where do I begin? How about the elephant in the room: Bonds has 11 home runs, tied for fourth in the NL, 6th in the majors. So only 3 have more in the NL, 5 in the AL. So how does that mean he isn't hitting 'em?
Before the season began, there was debate that Bonds was aging and therefore it was questionable whether he would pass Aaron this season in the eyes of many observers and opinion makers and analysts. But after hitting 11 so quickly, they clearly were all wrong, in fact, probably everybody was wrong, who would have predicted 11 homers by, what was it, May 8th that he would hit 11 by then? Even 11 by today is still TWO WHOLE MONTHS before when many prognosticators were predicting he would get 11, based on the rate of HR hitting they were envisioning.
None of this is mentioned at all during the article.
She then is at least aware that the column is a bit off since he has had HR slumps before and, while throwing in a dig about Greg Anderson, his longest since August 2000. But really, what was that "slump"? 36 at bats. What is his slump now? 34 at bats. So, what, the world will end if he doesn't homer by his 40th at bat? 50th at bat?
She also takes a dig at him when he says that he's tired from all the walks he's getting, saying that "is not exactly a great strategy for drawing fewer walks and getting more pitches to hit." But he's been saying this for years, what, the opposing team NOW takes notice he said this? No, they have known this for years now, but they didn't do it as much last year when he wasn't hitting as well, but after his great start this year, he's being walked a lot again.
In addition, she complains about his lack of RBI's since then as well. All together, a dry spell of 2 weeks, but, as she notes later on, he's played 41 of 45 games, and didn't note that the Giants just came off a stretch of 28 games in 29 days, which should tire most ballplayers out, young or old. Plus, you can't drive in many runs without homers when you get walked with runners on base. In the 12 games since May 8th, 18 walks to go with his 5 hits. 4 runs scored, but I'm guessing there were about 2-4 runs scored where a pinch-runner came in for him late in the game.
Then she explains herself a little but again it is not satisfactory. Why all the angst she says? First is the nation's eyes are on him. Newsflash, but the nation's eyes have been on him for a long time now. Maybe world's eyes would have been better to use, but so what if their eyes are on him? He's never been one to care either way.
I think the more salient point is that the drought occurred while on the road. When the time came for historic type of homers that he hits, he tends to end up doing a lot of it at home. But after such a long road trip, with only one scheduled day of rest, plus I think he didn't play the Sunday before that day, he's played a lot more baseball than he had last year or even 2004, his last season before his knee problems, so though he's home, he's tired. And another big road trip beckons after this weekend.
Second, there's talk about his age, he'll be 43 soon. And his injuries, apparently he had mentioned a hamstring was bothering him to her colleague, Andrew Baggarly, plus she harped on his surgically repaired knees (didn't bother to note his surgically repaired elbow, which was operated on a decade ago or so, or that he was operated on during the off-season to clear out bone chips/spur that was bothering him last season).
Well, if he just came off a stretch where he hit 11 homers in 5 weeks, I think mentioning his age in regards to his production is stupid, you don't magically pass this threshold and suddenly you are old and go from 11 HR to 0 HR, lickety split. What, should be now be worried about Albert Pujols because he is not hitting as many as thought, or even Ryan Howard, Mister 50+ Homeruns, nearly 60 last season, and he's hitting terribly, with only 6 homers? No, it is just a bad stretch, even the best go through them and 34 ABs is not that long to go without homers, give him a break.
Oh yeah, forgot, they like to break his balls anytime they can.
Well, he has 11 homers, that's probably 5 more than what most people were expecting from him and certainly no one was predicting that he would be in the top 10, almost top 5, in the MAJORS, in homeruns at the end of May. He's also coming off a long stretch where he played all these games - more than he usually does, she at least noted that he played in 41 of 45, which is 3 more than the "same stretch" last year (not sure if she meant 45 games or May 22nd, could make a difference with the games rained out this year). Why not at least give him some praise for playing all those games, Alou couldn't beg him to play that many games, but Bochy somehow got him to agree to so many games.
After 11 home runs, he can coast a little and still be doing well, home run wise. And while RBI's would be great, true Giants fans have known for a while that Bonds cannot drive in runs when the opposing team walks him with runners on base. It is up to Durham and whoever hits 6th (Molina seems to be winning that role) to drive in Bonds and, frankly, Durham has not been doing his job the best it can be, sure he has 12 RBI in the month, but he's hitting only .220/.300/.339/.639 and Bonds has scored only 4 runs during the past two weeks (maybe 6-8 in total to include pinch-runners). Perhaps it was his leg problems, that he finally had to rest over the weekend, that had been bothering him. Let's see how that goes over the next couple of weeks, we need someone hot behind Bonds to get teams to pay for walking him.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
General Manager Brian Sabean said the club wouldn't limit itself to cheap,signable players when the draft begins June 7. The Giants plan to be aggressive, even if the player they like happens to be a Scott Boras client or a top high school player who plans to leverage his college scholarship.This was the strategy that the Giants espoused last year and which I had been expecting them to follow again this year. So it is good to know, rather than to wonder.
The paper reported that the picks the Giants have this year early - 3 in first round, picks 10, 22, 29, and 3 in supplemental first round, picks 32, 43, 51 - signed for a total of $6.975M in last year's draft. This far exceeded what the Giants have spent in any draft before according to the report.
I would note here that with the $2.1M spent to sign Villalona last year (was not counted by reporter since not part of the draft) and $2.0M to sign Lincecum, the Giants still spent around $6.3M last year, so it would not be a huge leap to spend that much on bonuses this year versus last. Plus they overpaid Lincecum $200,000 over what one might expect based on the bonuses that had been paid already at the time of his signing, though toeing the line with the amount paid in 2005 for the #10 pick, so the Giants are not shy in giving out more money to keep the talent happy. Within reason, of course.
Giants Have Not Been Cheap, Just Different
The article also noted that the last time the Giants had multiple first-round picks was in 2001, when they selected Brad Hennessey with the 21st pick and Noah Lowry with the 30th pick. The picks were criticized at the time because neither were hard throwers plus the picks were viewed as financially motivated, the article added.
But as I showed in my post here, the Giants did not underpay them relative to the bonuses paid to the players selected right after them. For Hennessey, he got 11% more than the 5 picks right after him. For Lowry, he got 16% more than the 5 picks right after him. The Giants might have selected players that observers thought should have been picked lower but they weren't paying them like that. Their bonuses were in line with what the prospects picked afterward were getting.
Some critics of the Giants think the Giants are being cheap because they often select players were the critics are surprised that the player was picked so high, or was just surprised by the name itself, like Nate Schierholtz, when he was selected. I also did another study (sorry, can't find easily) where I examined how players were ranked pre-draft, and then comparing them to where the Giants picked them in the draft. In general, most of the picks, covering the first 3-5 rounds, were selected before where they were ranked, which can't be helped sometimes because your next pick often comes around in another 30 picks, but there were a lot of picks where the Giants selected the prospect more than 30 picks ahead of where they were ranked pre-draft.
While the Giants clearly march to their own drummer in terms of drafting (as noted already, Nate Schierholtz pick drew a lot of "huhs" and head scratching, though perhaps not today), and go their own way in terms of talent drafted, their bonuses still hew to the going market rates given other picks and are rarely under the bonuses paid to propects selected after them.
So the Giants have not been cheap with their talent, for the most part, but rather has followed a different path with their drafting strategy than the prevailing opinions, much like how Bill Walsh used to do all his scouting separate from the Combine and would surprise people with his draft picks. I think the Giants' rebuilt pitching staff, with mostly farm system developed players, shows the efficacy of his strategy thus far.
His problems started in 2003, dropping his OPS from the elite 900+ level to the still good but relatively ordinary 800 OPS level. He had a genetic problem where his shoulder bone, both of them, eventually became bone on bone, a very painful condition, that was solved one at a time, first one shoulder then the next in 2005/6 (not sure when exactly the surgery was, but he was out almost all of the 2006 season.
He was hitting poorly the first month, in April, .282/.333/.359/.692, with only a double and triple and 3 BB/9 K, but with his big game yesterday, he is now hitting .289/.373/.489/.861 for the month of May with 6 BB/4 K, 4 doubles, a triple, and a HR. If he can get another 2+ HR the rest of the month, I think that would be a great sign that he is back to his former level of hitting.
If Klesko's Back
If he is back to his former 900 OPS level of hitting, about a batting line of .290/.385/.520/.905 with 25+ homer power (20 AB/HR rate), then my master plan that I was espousing before the season can come true, only delayed by about two months. At 900 OPS, or even the 850 OPS, and particularly his high OBP, he could take on the JT Snow role a few years back, batting 2nd, like he did last night, or 3rd, and getting on base and driving in runs.
He would basically get 1B starts against RHP unless Bonds is resting, then he could play LF sometimes (or Ortmeier would get a start), it could open up the possibility I noted in spring where Bochy could decide to play Ortmeier (Linden originally) in LF, Klesko at 1B, and Aurilia at 3B, or he could decide to play Feliz at 3B, Aurila at 1B, and Klesko in LF. Now you can even throw Frandsen in the mix for 3B.
After Feliz's great defense at 3B the last few nights, I think people can see the value he brings defensively, but if Aurilia can hit around 800 OPS and Feliz is struggling around the low-to-mid 700's, then the falloff, though probably slight since Aurilia was a SS previously, would be worth the additional hitting that Aurilia can provide. And Aurilia was right around there most of April until that stiff neck problem caused his hitting to fall like a boulder in a road runner-coyote cartoon - through the ground - so he could find himself sitting as well while Feliz plays. It depends on who has the hot hand at the moment.
Also, with Vizquel's struggles at the plate - he's now hitting a Neifi-ish .235/.264/.265/.529 in May after a 1 for 19, 2 for 23 skid, after going 14 for 40 at the start the month, May 3rd - I can see situations where Aurilia would play SS, particularly if Klesko ends up taking up all the RHP ABs at 1B, the Giants would then slide Aurilia over to play SS and 3B more often, depending on matchups, though Vizquel and Feliz will probably still see most of the ABs at those positions, particularly Vizquel.
As much as I would like to see Frandsen more, clearly Bochy is only giving Frandsen about one start a week, and Aurilia will probably see most of the "rest" games for Vizquel and Feliz. Hopefully the Giants will notice that when he starts a game, he is 8 for 19, with a walk, double, and triple, .421/.450/.579/1.029 thus far (OK, only 4 starts but still :^).
Still, the main thing is whether Klesko is back to his former self or not, and in April, one would say "no" but he's swinging the bat great in May and also has been hitting very well in SF, despite the fact that he's a lefty and lefties often get screwed batting there. If he can bring a 900 OPS bat to our lineup, he would be the good hitter Giants fans have been clamoring for since the season started and, I think, should be good enough to push our offense to the next level of performance.
Already, with him hitting like this, the Giants are averaging 5.7 runs per game in May (really only 5.2 runs per game, taking out the 15 run game that skews things greatly) and this with Bonds going through his big slump of the season. Still, they have scored 6 runs or more seven times this month, out of 20 games, and only went 5-2, they really should win any game they score 6 runs in, so that's on the pitching for that. But they also had five games scoring 2 or less runs, so that's on the offense there, we went 1-4 in those games. For games where we scored 3, 4, 5 runs, we went 3-5 so that's about right, you expect to go .500 in those games, that's close enough.
It was noted that Sanchez needs to work on his breaking pitches, both his breaking ball and changeup, because he lost command of them and needs to improve his location, but that he still has a good fastball. They will put him in a regimen similar to the one they are using with Pat Misch - who I would rather see up here in relief than Sanchez - where Sanchez will pitch two or more innings in relief every two or three days to give Sanchez a chance to gain consistency. It would also allow him to work on refining certain pitches or mechanics, which he couldn't do with the Giants since he couldn't tire himself out in case the Giants needed him in the game later that day.
Bochy thinks it's the best thing for "Sanchie" and that once he returns, he probably won't see the minors again. But he must gain command of his off-speed pitches in order to earn that promotion. For the season, he had an ERA of 5.52 in 14 appearances with 13 walks and 21 strikeouts in 14.2 IP, a stellar 12.9 K/9 rate that ranked third among NL relievers but horrible command, around 1.6 K/BB, when good relievers should be at least 2.4 and good starters, 2.0. Either way, Bochy thinks he's going to add a lot of value whether from the pen or starting.
Again, I wish they would just start him and give Misch a try up here. Or at least give Misch a try up here while Sanchez works on his consistency - if Misch does well up here, then move Sanchez into the AAA rotation, if not, then they can go back to this plan and bring him back up when he is ready.
Of course, if we let Sanchez start, he won't have a spot in the rotation next year, what with Zito, Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, and Morris. So he'll be looking at breaking into the 2009 rotation, probably with Morris's option not being picked up, otherwise if it is picked up that would mean 2010 and his prospect status will dim. So perhaps this could be why they are looking at him mainly as a reliever right now, because they don't have a spot for him right now in the near future.
I would rather let him start in AAA and do as well as he can. If he can do very well in AAA and make himself one of the top pitching prospects, he would be a very valuable trading chip, whereas a reliever, even at the major league level, would not be as valuable, in my opinion, even one striking guys out at a 12.9 K/9 rate.
Or he could make someone who is in the rotation now, expendable in a trade and net us even more perhaps. However, I view Cain and Lincecum as untouchables, and Zito isn't going anywhere as long as Magowan controls things, so that leaves Morris and Lowry. If both can continue pitching like they have been this season, they will be very valuable indeed.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
However, his role is up in the air right now, could be long relief, could be other situations, according to the article. I think it's going to be like April when Bochy was trying to figure how where everyone's strengths and weaknesses are, and how they respond to certain roles. Ortiz will find himself doing everything, long, short, middle, setup, perhaps even close if Benitez has been used often. As I noted, I hope for him to assert a strong role in the bullpen, perhaps even usurping Hennessey's role.
If he can do that, then he might become the closer we were looking for in spring to take it away from Benitez. I'm hoping the skills he showed before as closer will come to the fore now and he can "close" in setup situations and occassionally in actual closing situations. This would give the Giants an option in case they decide that they want to trade away Benitez - to get something for all the trouble he has caused to the franchise - when there are some desperate teams looking for bullpen help (and you know there will be a number of them) - and maybe pick up a good bat somewhere.
It would also give us an option to go to looking forward should Wilson continue to struggle with his control in AAA Fresno, because there's no way in hell Benitez should be re-signed. But then what do we do for closer if Wilson is not ready? Hennessey has been nice, but I don't look at him right now and think "closer!" And I know Giants fans probably think the same about Ortiz and his penchant to walk guys, but at least he's been in the closer's role before, been very successful doing that, is known to the organization, and should be cheap again next season because the D-backs are still on the hook for $6-7M for the 2008 season, if I remember right.
Who Can It Be Now?
The Giants is being coy about what would happen once Ortiz returns because that will result in someone being sent down. The most obvious choice to me is to send Sanchez back down and become the starter that he should be, so that he can be ready to compete for a starting role next season - or perhaps prove that he belongs in the bullpen. Either way, he hasn't been doing that well in the bullpen up here anyhow.
If the Giants were to go in another direction, there are really only two choices that I can see among the position players: Ortmeier and Frandsen. Given all the blab about how Frandsen was going to come back up quickly and get a lot more play, plus Durham's and Aurilia's recent minor ache and pain that kept them out of the lineup, it would seem that it would not make sense to send back Frandsen.
Meanwhile, Ortmeier is replaceable on the roster. Sweeney and Klesko can play LF, Winn and Lewis can play CF and RF, plus we have already seen Sweeney take RF this season, have seen Feliz in RF a couple of years ago, plus have seen Frandsen take a game or two in the OF as well. Plus Durham could probably do a game in CF without problems as well, people have been talking about how he should be a CF since before he joined the Giants.
Also, look at how little he has been used since both he and Lewis joined the team. Of course, Lewis's hot streak probably has a lot to do with that, but Ortmeier also came up and hit the ground hitting as well. But he still sat, even though there has been a number of LHP starters that Lewis could have been sat down for and allow Ortmeier a turn in RF. So Ortmeier looks like the most logical choice among the position players to send down.
Given the innings the bullpen has been throwing recently, it would seem to make sense to send down Ortmeier, particularly with all the other possible OFs who could play in a pinch and the lack of usage he has been experiencing when Lewis could have sat a game or two to allow Ortmeier an opportunity. But Lewis has grasped the golden opportunity and rung the bell.
I still would prefer to send Sanchez down now. There's still around 3 months left in the minor league season, so he can ramp up his innings pitched and get his arm into starter mode. Also, this stops the ticking on his major league service, so that we don't waste it on bad relief outings and instead on good starts 2008 and beyond. This gives Ortiz more opportunity to throw in the bullpen, as there would be one less option.
Why I Like Ortmeier
Also, I like Ortmeier. As recently as one year ago, he was still considered a prospect who could be a starting corner OF. I believe that playing in Dodd Stadium for the Connecticut Defenders has screwed around with his confidence and that, given time, could return to that state in which he was a good prospect. I think if he can get some extended play in the majors, much like the Giants were going to do for Linden this year, he can become that player again. After all, there must have been something there that Bonds liked a lot for him to help him out in spring training (beyond a photo-op; I don't see Bonds doing something like that to court favor, otherwise he would have kissed up to reporters long ago) when he could have helped out other prospects but didn't.
And what's there not to like? He has double-digit power and, more importantly, he has basepath smarts, which he has converted into a lot of steals, unusual for a big man like him, he could get double-digits in steals as a starter. Thus he would give the Giants a stolen base threat on the bench, which we currently don't have with Klesko, Sweeney, Frandsen, and Alfonzo on the bench (and Linden previously). Thus he would be ideal as Bonds's designated pinch-runner/defensive replacement, then throw him a few bones by giving him starts when Bonds rests.
Like Linden, he was mainly a corner OF but once the Giants started thinking of him as a utility guy, he started getting starts in CF in AAA, and thus could play all OF positions. And he's a switch-hitter too, so he would be useful in pinch-hitting assignments. Besides, once Roberts returns from the DL, he's a platoon guy but Fred Lewis bats left so he would not make sense as a guy to get starts when there is a LHP; however, Ortmeier would. So why not keep him up and get him acclimated to the 5th OF role that Linden was suppose to occupy?
The big guy finally finds a home. The Giants do have three first-round picks, so it will be very intersting to see how they go about picking and signing those selections. They generally scout players based on their abilities only and don't shy away from signability concerns. Brackman came into the season as one of the top couple of arms in the draft and the raw stuff has been there. But the performance has not. Some think that perhaps he's experiencing a dead-arm period based on the fact that the former two-sport star has never thrown this many innings in a season. How he recovers and bounces back from that could determine his ultimate draft position, but he's definitely in the Giants' conversation.
There is also a draft report here plus there is a video link there too. Here are some key facts:
- SP who is a junior, 21 years old, 6' 10", 230 lbs, so he's a big one. Throws and bats right.
- Throw fastballs 92-97 MPH, both a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer. 2-seamer has plus life and was effective in the zone, he commands it extremely well, hitting the inside part of the plate at will.
- Also has a knuckle curve (78-81MPH) and changeup (82-84 MPH), which is just average but he can throw strikes with it. Command of breaking pitches not as consistent as FB.
- Strengths include above-average velocity on his fastballs, with plus command of the 2-seamer; weakness include poor command of his curve, which pro hitters will be disciplined enough to lay off of if out of the zone.
- Problem area: obviously was a basketball player before, so he has never spent an entire college season as a starting pitcher, so his durability is a concern and needs to be watched closely.
Sounds like a nice prospect, but he's not worth the $2M we would have to pay him based on this description, he sounds like he only has his fastballs plus will have to be handled carefully to bump up his IP and build up his arm strength to handle a full season starting. I suppose he could be like our old F-Rod and relieve based on the two pitches, but I don't think the Giants would want to pay $2M for a reliever prospect.
Other Possible Scenarios
As noted in the article, whether the D-backs can sign Scherzer or not will affect how this draft goes, as it adds another top 5-10 talent into the pool of possibilities. If he does go back in (most probably not but the D-backs would at least get a supplemental 1st round pick, so they might not sign him), then perhaps the Giants might be able to pick one of the players just ahead who might fall down to them. Plus a name I see as a possible Top 5 pick isn't picked in the article:
- Matt Dominguez: He might fall to us if the Rockies don't pick him as projected in the article. He's 3B but only a high schooler. His main asset is his bat and power, he's average otherwise and has drawn comparisons to Travis Fryman.
- Mike Moustakas: If the D-backs don't sign Scherzer, it might domino a player they like down to them, leaving Moustakas for the Giants. A SS/3B, he can "flat-out hit" and has "serious power". He's also has played catcher before, so he has great arm strength. His main weakness is his defensive range, which probably limits him to 3B. Says both Dominguez and Moustakas, who happen to be teammates on the same high school team "have the chance to be special hitters."
- Matt Wieters: He was not picked in the projection but according to a few comments on MLB.com, the D-Rays and Orioles are considering him and they have Top 5 picks. He is a catcher AND he is his team's closer as well. So he could technically move from catcher to pitcher, get a guy out, then return back to catcher, assuming there is another catcher still available to catch when he relieves. A switchhitter, he can hit for average and power from both sides. He is one of the top college bats in the draft, with above-average power from both sides, and his arm strength and accuracy are strengths of his, his throws are always on target. Tall for catcher (6' 5") but Mayo thinks he can stay a catcher in the pros.
- Beau Mills: He also wasn't mentioned but I've seen his name mentioned as a possible pick by the Giants. A 3B for Fresno State, he hit 22 HR as a freshman, then hit 14 HR in his sophomore year, plus hit .355 with a .675 SLG. After academic problems forced him off the team, he landed with Giant's favorite college to draft from, Lewis-Clark State, and hit even better there, with 16 HR and .914 SLG. He is the son of the Red Sox's bench coach, so he is totally prepared to be a baseball player. A lefty, he has excellent hitting skills and plus power, and can punish any mistake. However, there are questions on his arm strength and thus he might end up at 1B in the pros. There are few impact college bats, so the Giants could pick him as they need help soon for their wunderkind starting pitching. I wouldn't call this a positive description, but some has compared him to Scott Spezio according to the scouting report Mayo filed on him.
Given that they don't have a good catching prospect in the minors and already has a strong 16 year old 3B prospect, I would think that Matt Wieters would have the inside track even though Scott Boras is his agent and probably would want $4-6M in bonus when #10 normally get paid $2M. But Beau Mills appears to be a strong prospect right now and perhaps Frandsen could keep the position warm for Mills for 2008 or 2009, until Mills is ready, and the Giants just move Villalona to 1B (or even Mills there since his arm strength is suspect) - as much as they profess looking for talent over signability issues, that is a lot more to pay for your #10 pick and Mills appear to be equally strong as a hitter, though obviously Wieters play an important defensive position, catcher.
I'm a power guy so I would have to lean towards Mills right now. But either would be a great pick. I'm not so sure about Brackman, particularly since he is also a Boras client as well, but also because the Giants rotation is full already plus have Jonathan Sanchez capable of being a good starter already, why pay $2M+ for a starting pitcher who you might not have a spot for in your rotation, though I guess it would free the Giants to trade someone, but if they do that, signing prospect pitchers to such a contract might be not as likely as they would balk at the thought of signing a good contract then being traded off
Plus that goes for any starting pitcher, not just Brackman, as you don't want to pay that much for a reliever in the draft. You want an impact type of player, and in the Giants case, particularly a position player who is a hitter. Wieters and Mills appear to fill that bill.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
It seems unlikely that Lincecum throws only 2-seamers. I've been wrong before, but it doesn't make sense to me.
2-seamers generally have more movement. Most, if not all, sinkers are thrown with a 2-seam grip. 4-seamers are generally the pitch that hard throwers employ when they are trying to blow the ball past the hitter and have him swing under it. 4-seamers tend to stay up more than 2-seamers so it is a power pitcher's fastball.
IT seems unlikely that Lincecum throws only a 2-seamer, but if he doesn't, and is able to learn to throw a 4-seamer effectively, he should be able to throw more fastballs upstairs past hitters. A guy with Lincecum's arm slot and velocity should really throw mostly 4-seamers in my opinion.
There is evidence that in young pitchers whose arms aren't fully developed that throw too many curveballs, their forearm bones (radius, ulna?) develop abnormally. Breaking pitches that are thrown incorrectly are very stressful on the arm. More than anything, it's the incorrect technique of the pitch and probably not the pitch itself that hurts the kid. Until I get better info and research, I won't let kids throw curveballs til age 13 or later (depending on development).
Hope that answers your questions. That game was fun watching last night. Those two are the best examples of the mechanics that I advocate.
Thanks again to Carlos for his informative response, I greatly appreciate it. It confirms what Mike Krukow said in his morning radio show, that as good as Lincecum is now, already blowing away guys, he hasn't even learned to use a pitch that would make him that much harder to hit. Boggles the mind how good he can become.
I feel like screaming "pinch me, I must be dreaming!". :^)
I had such high hopes for him, particularly after his great year in AAA. Unfortunately, he is probably one of those prospects who take too long to develop, so he leaves his first team and finds success elsewhere, making the first team look stupid. Probably because he was a switch-hitter, and it took so long for him to figure out how to do that productively - the Giants were on him last year to just bat right handed from then on but he insisted on continuing to hit from both sides.
I'm a little surprised the Marlins took him. They have so many young good outfielders, so I'm surprised they have a spot for him, Willingham, Hermida, hmm, OK, maybe I'm thinking of Tampa Bay :^). They dropped John Gall for him, whose stats looks a little like Linden's career stats, except that Gall is now 29 years old, and at the end of the line. So I guess they don't have that many good OF. Actually, Linden's minors stats was better, so I'll give him that, plus he's only 26 years old, heading into his prime physical years. Too bad for John, too bad for the Giants, good for Todd and the Marlins.
I feel conflicted, one part of me want to wish him well, another part hopes he sucks and don't make the Giants look bad. But really, he did nothing - NOTHING - to keep his spot with the Giants. Lewis, however, is hitting the way we had been hoping Linden would. Plus the Marlins also play in a pitchers park, so I don't see him hitting well enough to stay up with the Marlins if they have a young OF waiting to come up, plus they have Reggie Ambercrobie, another failed top prospect, who was a better prospect than Linden, so he might just be the 25th man on the roster.
I'm still surprised that the Giants got something for Ellison but got nothing for Linden. But them's the breaks sometimes, timing is everything, if we had tried to trade him like Ellison, we might have gotten something for him then, but then if he hit like we had been expecting him, we would have looked stupid for selling him low. Go Lewis!
Friday, May 18, 2007
His pitching line: 7.0 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K's.
This is his first MLB start with 10 or more strikeouts. And this time he kept the hits way down, unlike his other two starts. He also kept the walks down again. He went 7 innings but he only threw 95 pitches (60 for strikes), so he could have probably pitched another inning or two if Bochy wanted him too. That's very few pitches given that he struck out 10. That works out to about 4 pitches a batter, he was very economical with his pitches, particularly considering the high percentage of balls called.
His ERA is now down to 3.44 and this is his second straight 5 PQS game, another dominating start. There is almost no way Russ Ortiz is returning to the rotation, unless the Giants want to showcase him for a trade or something. I would rather put him in the bullpen and be a setup guy, perhaps the guy who only comes in to start the 7th or 8th if that is possible. He gives up a lot of walks but if there is nobody on when he is brought in, that's not as big a problem, he could be effective in those situations. He's already publicly acknowledge this and appears ready to take that role.
Even before Lincecum shut Houston down, the Giants had decided to give Ortiz two rehab starts, thus it meant that Lincecum would get another start. Given that the second start is against Houston again and just a few days later, though in SF, I think the Giants wanted to see how Lincecum would do against good hitters again so soon after facing them, as the hitters should have adjusted to him so this would be a good test to see if he can adjust back, and be a factor in whether the returned to AAA or not.
Given how well he pitched last night, though, I cannot imagine that he's ever going back down again. I feel a nice win streak coming up for the team, as they realize what gems they have in Cain and Lincecum, plus Zito and Lowry and Morris, and the hitters are going to feel the pressure to do good by them and get those runs they need to win, and not allow many 2-1 or 1-0 losses. Pride will drive them to do more, to rise to their pitchers's level.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Aurilia vs. Klesko
Someone complained about Bochy playing Aurilia too much over Klesko. So I posted my reply:
I would give Bochy the benefit of the doubt regarding Aurilia/Klesko. Frankly, Klesko was weak hitting until recently and even now he's not hit for much power.
He hit .282/.333/.359/.692 in April and thus didn't see as many games as we might have hoped for, but had put the heat on this month and gotten more play. He is hitting an OK .333/.419/.444/.864 in May thus far.
But still only a 111 ISO for the month, which is very little power. And that's the role we were mainly looking from him, though his high career OBP looks good in replacement of Bonds.
Aurilia, on the other hand, started out very hot, his OPS was in the 800's and reached 908 on April 19, but then cooled off since then. Still, he still has 12 XBH to Klesko's puny 4, and the only HR of the pair, in only double the ABs.
Unfortunately, Aurilia has been colder than Finley's bat since his hot streak, so he should start seeing more rest days coming up.
In fact, in 24 games in April, he played in all 24 and maybe started 22 of them (only 2 games with less than 3 PA), whereas in May, he has played in 12 of 14 games, but got 3 PA or more in 9 of them. So he has already been reduced from 22 starts in 24 in April, to 9 starts in 14 in May.
And if his bat continues to be this cold, and Klesko, Feliz (.280/.321/.460/.781 in May), and Frandsen (.471/.500/.647/1.147 since he returned plus two great starts) hot, he's probably going to see even less.
And Klesko has actually been killing LHP, not RHP, which is the reverse of what one should expect of this platoon hitter:
That's a pretty sad performance for a hitter who had killed RHP before, I wish I could see his RHP splits by month to map his progress (or lack thereof). This is a poor sign of future performance, his LHP hitting should go down a lot, and his RHP hitting has been anemic. He needs to boost up his RHP or he could find himself Lindened this season too.
Closers On the Roster
Next, I commented about who would close should Benitez be traded at some point. I also got a dig in on someone who suggested that we do the Papelbon in Boston thing with Lincecum:
Who let the Dodger/A's fan in here? Lincecum's no closer!!! He starts!!!
I think the best short-term option is Russ Ortiz. He was a closer while coming up our system and I think he closed in college too. That was a long time ago, but I don't think that should matter, should be like riding a bike in terms of attitude and personality for it.
Whether he still has the stuff he had then is the matter, and he claims that he's got it back, and the Giants evidently believe that too, so put him there if he's not starting, seems like a good reward for playing down his Wally Pipp role with Lincecum, and being classy about it.
The best long term on the roster in the pen is probably Hennessey once he gets used to it. Let him set up this year, then Ortiz will go free agent and maybe leave, and Hennessey would be first in line for it. But he would have to fight off Correia, Sadler, and whoever else looks good in spring. And should Ortiz fail in his try, then these guys will be battling for that opportunity, should it present itself.
I like Misch too. I think all the pitchers down below get chances to save, seems like every starter in Augusta has a save. He probably don't get many opps, if any, to save, with Wilson and Sadler there, but he's doing so well, I would just put him in there and see what he can do.
By roster, I assume the premise was who would the Giants chose right now based on the stats right now. No one in the minors are really doing that well except for Misch, among the usual suspects (Sadler, Wilson, Valdez - and he's not even back pitching yet, as far as I know).
And by long term, I think Hennessey has shown the most as of right now. I still hope that Wilson fulfills his potential as was projected for him, and become the closer of the future for us, much like Accardo is doing it in Toronto, sadly, or Aardsma in Chicago, but he's still giving up too many walks in AAA.
Yeah, Aardsma and Accardo are doing well in their new homes. I still think that the Giants had to do those moves at the time, to boost their still alive chances to make the playoffs. Hawkins pitched well for us while he was with us, and Kline, who we got for him, has been good as well. Williams, meanwhile, has bounced from organization to organization, and was in the starting 5 for the Nats this season, but just went on the DL, which is just as well, he was doing pretty crappy from what I remember. Aardsma has been doing nicely for the ChiSox, but it took him around 3 years to figure things out and meanwhile we've gotten good performances out of Hawkins and Kline (plus Lincecum's immortal words, "Take off your sweater next time," when Kline came up - nude - and gave a big bear hug to Tim while reporters were interviewing him after his first career win).
Hillenbrand was a horrible addition and it hurts from that standpoint in trading away Accardo. But you have to give to get and Hillenbrand is a professional hitter so the concept of getting him was the right concept for us at the time because 1B was killing us offensively, and while Hillebrand was not the greatest hitter, his career differential (and season) over our 1B choices was significant enough to take the leap. Not every trade is going to work out great, if you don't take any risks, you cannot never get the rewards (Kent, Burks, Schmidt).
However, the trade worked for us in that Chulk is still around and he has been a good reliever for us. While he's not the closer material that Accardo was and is, the point is that he is a perfectly good reliever, good enough to earn first chance at the setup position before blowing it but he's been good since. So at least we still have something to show for losing Accardo, Chulk mitigated the risk of losing Accardo for Hillenbrand so that if we lost Hillenbrand, it was not a total loss, like it was in the trade with Minnesota (another trade good in concept).
Still, the point of the trades is also that even a farm system as maligned as the Giants can keep producing viable relief prospects to replace the ones traded away. Perhaps not as good as the ones traded away - that is yet to be seen, Wilson was much more successful and quicker in the minors coming up than Aardsma or Accardo, plus there was the expectation that Valdez would be coming up soon - but the Giants have a bullpen full of players they drafted and developed plus two - Kline and Chulk - who they got trading other bullpen prospects. Only Benitez is not somehow related to the Giants' farm system.
The questioning of Bochy's usage of Aurila and Klesko got me thinking about how Bochy has been doing as manager of the Giants. I've been pretty happy with him thus far. Don't really have many things I can complain bitterly about.
As noted, I think he has been handling the Aurilia/Klesko situation well. I also liked how he sat Feliz down and been playing Aurilia at 3B, until Feliz started hitting. Hopefully Frandsen will get some starts at 3B too.
Speaking of Franny, that's one thing I wished he did better and allowed Frandsen more playing time at the beginning of the season. However, I understand why things went down the way it did. I think Bochy wanted to see how the vets played first, this being his first season with them. It is one thing to look at their stats and see them from the other dugout, another to spend every day with them and dealing with them. Thus Frandsen probably wasn't going to be seeing much time early on.
Normally, this would mean leaving Frandsen in the minors and having someone else on the roster. But in recognition of Frandsen's future with the team, Bochy kept him on the team and let him experience opening day and home opening day. Then they sent him down since he got rusty, get his confidence back with some swell hitting, and brough him back with the intention so use him more, now that Bochy has a better feel for his vets.
Like Feliz. I was impressed that he embarrassed Feliz in front of everyone and pitched batting practice to him and yelling at him to hit to the other side and yelling at him like he was a freaking little leaguer, learning how to hit. Then he benched Feliz a few times, playing Klesko at 1B and Aurilia at 3B. Unbelievably, Feliz has responded to Bochy, after a cold April where he hit .236/.257/.486/.743 with 14 K/2 BB in 72 AB, during May he is hitting .280/.321/.460/.781 with, incredibly, 3 K/3 BB in 50 AB.
Here's the perspective on his achievement this month so far (still only half over). In 22 months of at least 50 AB in the month, excluding this month (meaning out of 21 months), there has only been 1 month out of the 21 where he had less than 10 strikeouts, his first month with over 50 AB when he had 9 strikeouts. He only has 3 this month!!!. In contrast, he has had 15 out of 21 months where he had 15 or more strikeouts, and a number of them over 20.
Then there is the bullpen. Bochy came in with a reputation of creating these wonderful bullpens, of getting these nondescript pitchers who didn't do much of anything before and getting them to perform well. The classic example of this was Cla Meredith, who the 'Dres got last season as a throw in when they traded Mirabelli to the Red Sox. He was lights out and great, pitching for Bochy.
This season, the bullpen went into the season highly maligned, with our best hope for performance, Brian Wilson, sent down to AAA due to poor performance in spring training when he was pretty much guaranteed a spot in the bullpen and was in the running to become either setup man or closer if he did well enough (if he did well, I suspect the Giants might have traded Benitez; that can still happen just before the trade deadline if Benitez is pitching well enough and enough of our bullpen was performing well enough to have candidates for closer). I was one of the few who thought our bullpen would be OK, but I will admit I had my moments when I wondered too. But they have come through for the most part:
- Hennessey: 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .247 BAA, 77% inherited left on (10/13);
- Benitez: 3.55 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .245 BAA, 40% left on (2/5);
- Kline: 3.72 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, .341 BAA, 89% left on (8/9);
- Chulk: 3.78 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .297 BAA, 40% left on (4/10);
- Taschner: 3.97 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .179 BAA, 69% left on (11/16);
- Correia: 4.34 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .209 BAA, 33% left on (1/3);
- Sanchez: 5.68 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, .286 BAA, 50% left on (2/4);
- Overall: 3.82 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 63% left on (38/60).
I have to think that the Giants will keep Lincecum around in almost any circumstances, other than getting totally blown out and looking like a total rookie. Even if he has a middling start, he has nothing to prove in AAA and Ortiz has already shown publicly that he can accept going to the bullpen if Lincecum is starting. Plus, Ortiz is an experienced bullpen guy and if he really has his stuff back, as he says it has, then he should be even better in relief for us, in long relief and potentially in setup and closing situations because he was a closer while coming up through our farm system.
So Bochy has done a good job thus far with the bullpen, both numbers and handling. He has left in pitchers so that he was not going strictly L/L or R/R no matter what. He has allowed Taschner to take on RHH and is open to having Benitez come in the 8th and pitching over an inning. This shows confidence in the relievers and puts less stress on them by not having them come into the game just for a batter and warming up every game. The pitchers have responded by pitching to their capabilities, they are all around what their career numbers would tell you, maybe a little better.
This is a huge difference over how Alou handled the bullpen and it appears to be working better. And yet Bochy does not shy away from using relievers, his usage of relievers are up there among the league leaders in the NL, but his handling of them does not appear to burn them out like Felipe did. And the bullpen has been very positive in their statements over how Bochy has been handling them, without knocking Alou. However, Krukow, in his morning show, while not criticizing Alou, per se, noting that it is just a matter of differing managerial styles, did say that he likes the way Bochy handles the bullpen and thinks that things are now better for the relievers in terms of stress on their arms.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Fred Lewis Cycles!
In particular, Fred Lewis hit for the cycle, going 5 for 6 (he also had another single) from the leadoff spot, scoring 3 runs and driving in 4 - he also struck out once. He was the 24th rookie in MLB history to hit for the cycle and first Giants rookie since Dave Kingman to do that (I remember him doing that, showing my age...). He is the 9th San Francisco Giants player to do this, Winn being the last one, and 22nd in Giants franchise history. He is also only the 4th in MLB history to hit his first career homer as part of the cycle (not only that, it was his first hit too). I got all this info from my daily Merc (gotta have my newspaper fix).
In addition, Kevin Frandsen had his first 4 hit game in the majors, going 4 for 5, with 2 runs scored and 3 RBIs and a walk. Normally a big talking point but overshadowed by Lewis's feat. Kevin probably doesn't mind because he got to start a game, which he hasn't done much of this season. Bochy has said that he should see much more regular play after his latest call up. Probably didn't see the need to rest the regulars early on, but then neither Vizquel or Durham has been burning up the league (neither has Feliz), so Frandsen will probably start seeing a lot of spot start duty at each of their positions, once every week or two, depending on circumstances.
Matt Cain, the baby of the group, went 6 IP, 5 hits, 1 R/ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 6 SO, 89 pitches, PQS of 5 for the game. He got his second win of the season, though he probably would have liked to have spread 12 of those runs in previous games, which would probably change his record from 2-3 to more like 5-1. He has pitched in a lot of bad luck this season, in terms of offensive support. He even contributed to the offense, getting a single, driving in a run plus scoring a run.
Lastly, Eliezer Alfonzo went 3 for 6 with a run scored (2 K's though) and Dan Ortmeier went 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs.
So over half the lineup was young, with the only oldsters playing being Vizquel, Feliz, Klesko, and Sweeney, but still with an average lineup age over 30, though barely at 30.2 years (and including Cain at 22) . They did well offensively today, it was a pretty thorough trashing - as one might expect from a 15-2 final score. Vizquel set an MLB career mark with a double play this game, passing Ozzie Smith for the most by a shortstop ever.
Outfield Until Roberts Return
Bochy noted that the lefty hitting Lewis would start against most RHP while Dave Roberts recovered, which presumably means that Dan Ortmeier would get to hit against most LHP. I assume there will be a few games both will play, much like this one, when Winn or Bonds get a rest. A bit of hyperbole, but Bochy noted, "Fred has so many skills, both at the plate and in the field. This guy has the chance to be a special player. He's got talent written all over him. He'll be an everyday major leaguer at some point, no question."
Most prospect books I've read says that he could be a starting CF, but nothing special, just your average starter. But even that is valuable, even without considering the history of futility of the Giants developing position players. When he was just starting out in his pro career, I saw one prospect analysis say that the Giants envision him as a leadoff hitter but when his body matured, he could be a run driving hitter who bats third. But then he hasn't really hit that well in AA and AAA, particularly for power, just adequately, though he corrected the major problem that was mentioned early on, that he can't take a walk - he does that in spades right now. So he can get on base pretty well and has very good speed, and thus has been pretty good with the stolen base totals (but not success rate), but strikes out way too much to hit better than the .250 to .270 level (which is OK with a lot of walks) and has shown only low double digit power at best.
There hasn't been much speculation what happens when Roberts returns, but assuming he can hit adequately, I assume Lewis will get the uber-4th OF role that Linden was envisioned to get where he gets 300-400 ABs while Ortmeier will get sent back down to AAA. I consider this an audition for next year, in case Bonds doesn't return, or even Klesko, because then he would get the LF starts where Bonds skips to rest. I've seen some talk of trading Randy Winn, but he is a good player, despite what many people write about him, and probably is going nowhere, at least next year. Maybe year after when Schierholtz is ready?.
Speaking of Schierholtz, I've never seen Francoeur's minor league stats so perhaps this comparison is not apt, but they appear to be similar players. Takes almost no walks, strikes out too much for any hitter, but hits for a higher average than one would think, nonetheless, in spite of the strikeouts, plus hits a lot of homers, and both RF with rocket arms. I had thought that he might come up once healthy but if Bochy sees Lewis as lefty CF platoon, then Schierholtz can't come up as he doesn't play CF, unless Bochy switches Winn back and forth between CF and RF, and he was hesitant to do that previously when Linden was around, said he wanted to keep Winn in one place. So it will be interesting whether they keep Schierholtz down or if they bring him up.
About Roberts, it was reported that the surgery was successful and that while the Giants are sticking to the 6 weeks prediction, there was some initial predictions of 4 weeks as the normal recovery time for this (even in one of the latest announcements, it was noted as "4-6 weeks"), so he might be back by then instead, the Giants are probably being conservative, particularly since this is the trainer's first year as the top guy and he wants to beat expectations. In any case, Roberts says that he is going to work hard to get back as early as he can.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
However, there was a blurb in the Chron today that the Giants had "misstated the rule regarding Todd Linden's future. If he is not traded within a 10-day period that began Thursday, he must clear waivers before the Giants can outright him to Triple-A Fresno." I think the original statement had stated that he would be put on waivers during that period too, which would allow the Giants to outright him to AAA after 10 days, not this corrected 10 days plus waiver period (3 days?).
Shouldn't that have been something relatively easy to know and handle? It isn't the first time a player has been DFAed, in fact, Niekro was DFAed just recently. Should this be boilerplated somewhere?
Just a thought about their administrative problems, I hope it's not a sign of an underlying problem, that can screw things up quickly if we are losing prospects due to technicalities.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Meanwhile his team could not even get a hit for six innings, until finally scoring a couple of runs in the 7th, to make it 3-2 Rockies. Then 2 in the 8th to take the first lead ever in the majors for Lincecum. Then 4 in the 9th to secure the win (or as secure as a 5 run lead in Coors ever is).
He pitched 7 innings, throwing 112 pitches, 75 of them for strikes (67% strikes, which is good), giving up 7 hits, 1 walk, 1 HR, 3 runs, 2 ER, and getting 6 strikeouts, which was good for a 5 PQS Dominating start, and he got the win. Taschner got another hold, but Sanchez had another shaky outing and had to be saved by Benitez in the 9th, though not officially.
The team was filled with players from Fresno last year, who all contributed. Fred Lewis led off and went 1-4 with a walk, scoring 2 runs and driving in 2 keys insurance runs in the ninth. He started the rally in the 8th by working for a walk after starting out 0-2 in the count, before scoring the tying run. Dan Ortmeier got his first start after being called up yesterday, going 2 for 4, with 1 run scored, which was in the 9th, driven in by Lewis. Even Frandsen chipped in, he was brought in as a pinch-hitter and singled in the 9th and drove in the 7th run. Taschner came in relief of Chulk in the 8th after the Giants had taken a 4-3 lead and Chulk had given up a hit to the first batter he faced, giving up a double to Matt Holliday, so there's not a lot of shame in that. Taschner faced the middle of the lineup and got Helton, a tough out, to fly out to left, the Atkins pinch-hit and lined out to third, then Jack closed out the inning by getting Hawpe to ground out to firstbase.
Great game overall for almost all involved for the Giants, as everyone in the lineup got on base at least once, and they all either scored a run or drove in a run or both, except for Bonds, who could only manage a walk. Despite being no-hit for six innings, the Giants bunched 11 hits into the final three frames to turn a tough luck loss for Lincecum into a tough luck loss for Josh Fogg and a win for Lincecum. Randy Winn, who didn't start, probably to help his back, came in ostensibly for defensive purposes in the 8th but the delivered a hit to extend to a 12 game hitting streak plus score a run.
Great also because it stopped a three game losing streak. Thus it was Lincecum's first win to stop a winning streak as well. Again, congrats to Tim Lincecum on his first major league win, which should be the first of many for him.
And So the Phenom Can Lead the Way to the Promise Land
No pressure :^) but if he can continue to pitch this well, he can provide a lift to the team equivalent to when the Marlins were losing and then Dontrelle Willis joined their team and gave them a jolt of his D-Train energy, which they rode all the way to the World Series championship. With a rotation of Zito, Cain, Morris, Lowry and Lincecum, losing streaks should be rather short if they pitch to their capabilities, but winning streaks could be long, as it was when we ran off a 10 game win streak. And adding Ortiz to the bullpen should strengthen it, particularly if Chulk is the one replaced, as he has not been doing that well.
And I think today's game gave a glimpse of what the offense can do when they have some offense coming from the CF and SS, which has been missing for much of this season until recently, when Vizquel started hitting after being switched to the bottom of the order. We don't need a great offense to do well with our pitching staff. As I showed in another post, the team could be as bad as it was last season and still win a lot of games. But if they can be improved, as I think they can be with the additions of Roberts, Aurilia/Klesko (1B) , and Molina, then we should win the division.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wow, after all the debates I've seen about who to call up, Linden has been DFAed and Lewis and Ortmeier have been called up, with Roberts placed on the 15-day DL. Apparently Lewis is in the starting lineup today, batting 8th. The future is now apparently with Lewis getting the shot at Roberts's ABs while he is on the DL. It is unclear whether he is playing CF or if Winn will get that spot while Roberts is out. Lewis was 5 for 11 last season in a late season September call up, so at least he has been successful in the majors thus far, though obviously he won't hit that while up.
I am sad to see him go and I am sad that he didn't do anything during this season like he did in spring training and last season, but he's clearly lost again in the batter's box. I would think that Linden would have some value, but then I would have thought the same about Niekro and he just went through waivers, where any team could have picked him up for free, and he went through, no problem. So maybe he goes back to AAA and get himself straightened out. Meanwhile, Fresno is now missing 3 OF, with Schierholtz ailing himself and no one on Connecticut doing anything special to get a call up, so I wonder what they are doing about that.
Meanwhile, I guess Lewis gets to be the starter for the next month, with Ortmeier getting ocassional starts, particularly with Winn's back being balky already. And once Roberts return, Ortmeier is the 4th OF unless Lewis does so well that the Giants have to keep him up and he becomes the 4th OF the way Linden was targeted for, getting about 300 AB the rest of the season (there was talk of Linden getting 400 ABs this season).
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Assuming he gets arthroscopic surgery for this (similar to what Bonds had done after the season last year), it will take a minimum of 4 weeks recovery time, from what I'm gathering from the AP article. He's flying down to LA today while the team is flying to their next series in Colorado, to be examined by Dr. Yokum, who operated on his shoulder when he was at UCLA.
Obviously he cannot play with it and he can't take medicine to help with it all season either, so I assume he's going to get the operation done now so that he's back sometime mid-to-late June, when there's still over half the season to play still. The team would probably be better off with him doing that now because offensively he's been killing us up top and still we are around .500 for the most part - if we can get better production from that position and from leadoff, where Winn will probably bat while Roberts is out, then the offense will be that much better.
I had forgotten until now that Roberts has a reputation for being a bit brittle and DL prone, so it figures he's going on it around his first month with us. Hopefully this will fix him right up plus he will be fresher from resting for a month and be a great catalyst for us up top of the lineup for the rest of the season.
Niekro Passes Waivers
Also thought I would note that Niekro passed through waivers unclaimed and he was assigned to AAA Fresno. He said he wouldn't pout and would work hard to get back up to the majors if he was unclaimed. It is not too surprising he passed through waivers, not much need today for a right-handed platoon 1B who can be neutralized in a pinch-hitting situation with a righty reliever.