Friday, August 31, 2007

Giants Had Best Draft in 2007

Carlos Gomez, whose articles I have been referencing for a while now and who has made a nice reputation for himself the past few years by analyzing the mechanics of pitchers and hitters, particularly those who are young hot prospects and also newly drafted prospects, recently came out with the DRAFTYs, his analysis of which prospects were the best in certain categories and which teams had the best draft in the 2007 draft.

Best Draft in 2007

As noted in the title, the Giants were rated as having the best draft in the 2007 Amateur Draft. Here is what he wrote:
They wouldn't have been this high had they not landed Bumgarner. I like Bumgarner, Alderson, Fairley and Noonan. Culberson is not a bad pick either. Yeah, it helps that they had six out of the first 51 picks. They're taking risks here (they're all high-schoolers), but they're good risks.

He also rated Madison Bumgarner (10th overall) the 4th best pitcher in the draft, noting:
Big athletic lefty with good mechanics. There's a little work to do to tighten up his mechanics, but I'd trust the Giants on this one. I love this kid's potential.

Rated as the third best pick in the draft was Nick Noonan, the 32nd pick overall, but he didn't say much other than:
Needs to stick at short to be a real steal.

Noonan was also rated the top favorite non-first round pick. Not sure how he is doing defensively in rookie ball right now, but he's been hitting really well, and for some power. Hopefully he will continue to do so.

Giants Thoughts

I don't know enough to compare our draft with other team's drafts, but I had heard a lot of good info on the players we did draft to at least think that we would be in the running for best draft. It is nice to know that one expert thinks that the Giants did well in this draft.

The Giants have been pretty productive in recent years, as most of their pitching staff is either supplied internally or traded for using farm products. Hopefully this will continue the nice streak the Giants have been on since drafting Lowry and Hennessey in the first round of the 2001 draft.

Thus the Giants have rebuilt about half their team over six years of drafts. For comparison, the Brewers, who people were pointing at as an example of how to do things, have rebuilt their team over a twelve year period, from when Geoff Jenkins was drafted.

I don't think the Giants will have to wait another six years to compete for a division title, like the Brewers have to get to competing in 2007. Despite the poor performances of the relief corp this year in terms of inherited runners, the pitching staff as a whole has been pretty stellar, with expected improvements now that Zito has apparently gotten over his big contract and Morris is gone with Misch, Correia, or Sanchez taking over, and I think they can match what he did for us this year overall. Plus, Brian Wilson and Tyler Walker look ready to perform well in 2008 and Hennessey is pitching like he wants to stay the closer. Despite all the harping on the bullpen, you don't need the whole bullpen to be Robb Nen's to win, you just need a good closer and setup guy and that should cover all you really need, everything else would be extra (and nice).

Sure, the offense is probably going to be sucky in 2008, even if Bonds do re-sign, but I think most of us already realized that 2008 is going to be a rebuilding year, a growth year for our pitching staff, as they mature and further develop (SIGN LINCECUM NOW! :^), and hopefully we will see a few position players push themselves into the starting equation for 2008/2009. Ortmeier is one I'm encouraged by - Merc compared him to Matt Holliday today. So is Davis, Lewis, and Schierholtz.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another Reason Why Cain Must Be Kept

I have seen various people suggest that we trade Cain to get position prospects in exchange. I have been steadfast in saying that Cain and Lincecum must be the core of our rotation for the long-term, plus, of course, Barry Zito, since we ain't trading him away with that contract, no one would take him (though if he can continue to do as he has in his past three starts for all of 2008, maybe in 2010 or 11). I saw this blog linked at a diary at McCovey Chronicles and at El Lefty Malo, and it has a great profile and analysis of Matt Cain that I have not seen anywhere else before.

Cain Uniqueness

I have been saying that Cain is very rare for a pitcher, so young to do so well. Jerome Williams was in a unique class, as well, I recall someone comparing him with Dwight Gooden (as well as other pitchers who flamed out). But I never did any research on just how unique nor saw anything like that until this blog did the work. And blog did it the way I like to do it, show how rare something occuring is, in order to appreciate just how hard or rare it is.

First, he noted how rare it was for a 21 year old to throw so many innings in a season. Since 1901, there has only been 89 pitchers who are 21 or younger who threw 190 or more innings with an ERA better than league average. So, in the last 107 seasons, only 89 have done that. And in the last 10 years, only two (including Cain; C.C. Sabathia is the other one) have done that.

Second, he noted how rare it was for a 21 year old to strike out so many. Since 1901, his 179 strikeouts last season (when he was 21) ranks as the 25th most ever for pitchers 21 years or younger. And over the past 10 years, only three pitchers are among the top 25: Cain, Rick Ankiel, and Kerry Woods (not a great comparison group). Other familar names include Vida Blue, Dwight Gooden, Frank Tanana, Bob Feller, Bert Blyleven, and Christy Mathewson.

Third, he noted career trends that are very positive. His HR/9 had dropped, mainly because he is allowing less fly balls, dropping from around 52% to around mid-40's, while his ground balls have similarly risen. His BB/9 has fallen, though his K/9 has also fallen a lot - which I should note here that for some reason Cain was trying to nibble corners again this year and didn't rely on his fastball for strikes until early August, he had to notice (of all people) Morris throwing strikes to get that. Also, his average IP per start has risen from 6.15 to 6.57 IP.

Lastly, he needs 6 more starts this season to join a very elite group. Since 1901, there has been only six pitchers who have made at least 70 starts by age 22 and have a K/9 of over 7.5: Dwight Gooden, Vida Blue, Frank Tanana, Sam McDowell, Bob Feller, and Dennis Eckersley. With 74 starts, he only need 6 more (plus average approximately 7.5 K/9 over those six games; probable based on recent games, improbable based on how he was doing earlier this season) to join this very elite group of hurlers.

The blog noted that the average pitcher of this group had an ERA of 3.41 and 208 wins vs. 163 losses (or a .561 winning percentage). Thus far in his career, his ERA is 3.75 and 21-26, a .447 winning percentage. As the blog also noted, Cain has had the worse support this season, he should be around 11-8 record, one of the worse luck by far in the majors, by nearly double. By Bill Jame Pythagorean rule, they should be 66-66 right now, instead of 60-72, so the team has been pretty unlucky this year, by -6 games. In comparison, the D-backs, who lead the division, should be 62-70, instead of 74-58, so they have had good luck of +12 games. The Giants, by James's theory of regressing to the mean, should do much better next season whereas the D-backs should do much worse.

D-Backs Are Horribly Over-Hyped Because of Their Record

If that does happen, that would show how wrong the baseball writers have been this season, writing up the D-backs "success" with their young prospects while dismissing the Giants. There has been only one hitter with an OPS+ above 110 (Eric Brynes), and ALL their young prospects that writers have been drooling over have average OPS+ or worse. Stephen Drew has an OPS+ of 68, Chris Young has 88, Carlos Quentin has 68, Scott Hairston 67, even Justin Upton has a 73 right now. Their best young hitter is Mark Reynolds (23) with a 102 OPS+. Meanwhile, albeit in limited playing time, Frandsen 62, Lewis 98, Ortmeier 97, and Schierholtz 95.

And that's been a problem since at least 2003 when the D-backs Baby-backs were touted and none of them really did well, certainly not per the hype given them, and certainly not any of their prized position players have broken out, they have been steady major leaguers but no one is a star except for Brandon Webb, who was so well recognized that none of the prospect lists I could find that year would even list him, let alone count him among their top prospects. Meanwhile, the Giants have added Cain and Lincecum since then. So the D-backs best player by far is a player that no one thought much of, showing how lucky they were, and how wrong people were in hyping up their prospects back then, and, for now, in the present, as I showed with the OPS+ above.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Giants Acquire Steve MacFarland to Complete Morris Trade (and other news)

The Giants received RHP reliever Steve MacFarland from the Pirates to complete the Matt Morris trade. He's 21 years old, and was the Pirates 9th round pick in the 2006 draft. He was 3-2 with a 4.80 ERA, 1.59 WHIP for Class A Hickory this season, his first full professional season.

The good news is that he doesn't allow a lot of H/9 and strikes out a lot (around 9 K/9 for his pro career). The really bad news is that he walks a ton as well, 6.5 BB/9 this season. And, unfortunately, he was like that in college as well, before he was drafted and signed by the Pirates.

The good news then is that his stats this year was skewed by a horrible April - he has been pretty good, stats-wise, except for his walks, from May to now. Despite the walks, his OPS has been very low, partly because he strikes out so many, partly because he strikes out so many that he doesn't give up that many homers. Plus, he's a groundball pitcher, 75 GB vs. 47 FB. Which is good for a relief pitcher.

Still, all those damn walks will haunt his outings if he doesn't get them under control. But, assuming the Giants think they (he) can solve that problem, he would be an awesome reliever, low H/9, high K/9. But none of the prospect books I got thought enough of him to include him, so he's a major project. But pitching is the Giants specialty, so let's see what they can do with him.

Other News

Chulk has blood clot; Tyler Walker up: Vinnie Chulk was diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm and put on the DL. Fan Favorite (for some :^) Tyler Walker was called up to take his place. He has been closing in Fresno for a while, 7 saves in his last 7 appearances, 1.23 ERA. He could be in the mix for the closer position in 2008. Chulk's injury is not that unusual - Kenny Rogers and Aaron Cook had it - but it sounds pretty serious, as they needed them repaired or replaced. Wait and see situation.

Giants AFL Roster Members Named: Jonathan Sanchez, Scott Munter, Nate Schierholtz, Nick Pereira, and Brian Anderson were named to the team. This usually serves as a test of a player against higher competition than they normally would get, to see if they might have something more than others. I'm surprised that Munter was put on the team, he's been doing better, but his callups since his good season have not fared well. I have to assume this is his last chance to impress.

Pucetas Named Most Outstanding Pitcher of the Year in the Sally League: RHP Kevin Pucentas won this award with a 15-3 record in Class A with Augusta, 1.81 ERA which led the league and ranks second in the entire minor leagues. His teammate Ben Snyder was named the leagues' top lefty, with a 15-5 record and 2.11 ERA. Quite a pair we have there in Augusta!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Giants Acquire Travis Denker To Complete Mark Sweeney Trade

The Giants acquired 2B Travis Denker, 22, who was hitting .294 with 10 HR and 57 RBI in Class A California League for Inland Empire this season. All you really need to know about him is that he is in his fifth season as a minor leaguer, meaning he started when he was 17, and he could only reach Advanced A ball.

But at least he has been an All-Star twice, so he has shown some potential before, but just not lately. And he is only 22, so he might still start showing something soon. But if this is his 5th year as a minor leaguer, we probably only control him for another year, maybe two, I don't remember the exact rule on when a player can be a minor league free agent; I do know that Lance Niekro will be a free agent after this season, as that was reported recently when it was noted that he is finally going to try to throw his family's trademark, the knuckler, as a pitcher. The Giants want to throw him out there enough to evaluate him before he leaves.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Drafting Pitchers Could Be A Good Strategy

As any Giants fan knows, Sabean loves to draft pitchers. This makes sense from a variety of perspectives, which I've covered before. First, every team always needs pitching, so why not keep a steady supply coming. Second, a pitching prospect who proves himself can take almost any of the 11-12 pitching spots in your 25-man roster, whereas a position prospect can only improve maybe one or two positions on your roster. Third, along the same vein, every team always can use better pitching, so you can trade with almost anyone in the league, even if they are not currently looking for pitching, if that particular team has the position player you need. Fourth, as I reported on recently, Baseball Prospectus research found that two pitching stats (out of three stats that showed significance) are tied to playoff success: strikeout rate and a very effective closer.

So for these, and other reasons I've gone over in past posts, focusing on drafting pitching can be a good strategy. Here is the latest reason I've uncovered: pitching is easier to identify than hitting.

Good Pitching Easier to Identify

A recent article in SI that I found the other day (published in early June 2007) made the very interesting point that evaluating young hitters is tougher than pitchers. A number of experts supported this point in the article. Baseball America's Jim Callis noted for the article:
I ask guys the hardest things to scout. The hardest thing to scout is whether a guy can hit. Pitchers are probably riskier than hitters as a whole but that's more because of the injury factor. A lot of times it's easier to project a pitcher. You can see how much arm speed a guy has, how much life there is on the fastball and if he can throw strikes. ... It's not like you're going to take a high school kid who has had a bad curveball and give him a plus curvevall through instruction."
Dodger scouting director Logan White also noted in the article:

We usually can predict guys who can hit the fastball - that's bat speed. When I see kids having trouble making the transition to the big leagues, they can't hit offspeed pitches. They get out in front, they can't stay back, they try to hook balls. And that's a tough one to predict, how well they're going to adjust to 98 and then an 87 mile-per-hour changeup and then (other pitches).

With high school kids, you might only see him swing a bat four times (in a game). You might only see him swing twice if he walks a couple of times. A pitcher, even if throws an inning or two, you're going to get to see him do his thing 20-30 times. You get a better feeling for his mechanics... You don't get a feeling for hitting mechanics at a game as much.

So two experts on prospects says that it is much easier to figure out how well a pitcher will do - based on seeing more of what he can do plus knowing that what he can do will translate to the majors much easier. Thus a team that focuses on pitching in prospecting will find that a volume business will return more than a niche draft selection which mixes in position players in equal portions to the make up of a major league roster, basically 1:1 today (13 position players, 12 pitchers).

Living is Easy in the Minors

Even AAA hitting success doesn't provide much of a clue for MLB success. This is because there are few pitchers there who can throw hard or have a special curveball (or breaking ball). If they are capable of either or both, they are moved up quickly to the majors. Thus the better hitters can live off a feast of fastballs and mistakes over the plate.

However, in the majors are pitchers who have a wide assortment of pitches. As Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus noted in the article:
It's the inability to recognize good curves, sliders, and changeups. They don't see enough really good ones."
The author, Jon Weisman then quoted Jim Callis, who noted similarly:
If you watch the big leagues, you can be down 3-1 in the count, and the guy might be able to put a fastball on the outside corner for strike two. You're not going to get the cripple pitches as much (in the minors). You just see fewer mistakes in the big leagues. A lot of guys in AAA can throw 95, (but) maybe not 95 and put it on the corner or 95 and get much life on it."
These two was then quoted on two examples of hitters who flamed out despite good prospects. Callis gave Sean Burroughs as his example. "The guy was such a good hitter, always very young for his league." Goldstein gave Matt Bush as his example. "He was still a legitimate top-10 talent." Yet, unable to hit in the minors, even in rookie ball, Bush recently announced he was going to try to make it as a pitcher.

What we learn here is that while the mechanics of pitching success can be seen from almost the get-go with good scouting, the mechanics of hitting success is something that can still go awry even with success at the highest levels of the minors. Hitters rarely face major league quality pitching in any parts of the minors, and even when they do, these pitchers tend to get promoted fast, allowing hitters to get fatter stats at the expense of lesser pitchers. Which is a luxury these hitters don't get in the majors.

Drafting Hitters a Challenging Task

The article ends noting that while teams usually have a pretty good assessment of who are the best prep and college hitters in the country, however, they have at best only an educated guess about how these skills will translate at the major league level.

Goldstein is quoted:
Anytime you're picking, you're still betting on a guy and putting a certain amount of money on him. You hope you have some confidence before you give a million dollars... That first round pick is going to get a fifth of your whole (draft) budget.
But sometimes unexpected issues crop up and aren't ever solved. Logan White stated:
One of the things that can happen - kids' mechanics can change. You have a car that has brand new tires and axles and it runs great. Let's say the axle breaks on the car - its not going to run as good. ... Sometimes kids, especially when they are young, they get into bad habits, and sometimes their mechanics can change from what they were.
White has the right attitude - "no excuses" - but clearly there are a number of challenging issues involved with evaluating hitters that is much harder to judge than when evaluating pitchers.

Giants Thoughts

As I have been making the case for, over the past few years, Sabean's apparent strategy of focusing on pitching via the draft has a number of advantages that accrue over time as that strategy comes to fruition. I've seen a lot of Giants fans then jump to the knee-jerk reaction that the Giants must trade somebody NOW and get position prospects ASAP. These people show that they don't understand what a strategy is by their reaction - a strategy does not unfold immediately or even after a year or two, it takes many years.

They like to point to teams like the Brewers and Tigers and think that they did all that just like that. No, it was a painfully long process, extending over a decade of losing (horrible losing in some cases), with changes of strategy (and GMs) along the way, before finding their way. The key point is not that Sabean has had 10 years to implement this strategy, the key point to me is that we are reaching the boiling point soon with the strategy.

We have the makings of a great rotation, with Lincecum, Cain, Lowry, and Zito, plus Misch and Correia apparently ready to move up and Sanchez perhaps a spring training away from being rotation ready as well. The bullpen, while not great, has a number of good parts in it, with Wilson appearing to be the missing piece - the overpowering closer. We do not need to have great pitching throughout the bullpen, we only need a few key parts doing well - closer, a couple of setups - to have a good season. Hennessey, while not great, has been good at keeping inherited runners from scoring, so he could be the setup guy to go with Wilson. Then we just need another guy to do well, plus a LOOGY (Kline? Taschner?) and we should be set.

With the major league roster pretty full for the pitching staff, that means that any pitchers moving up will then create a nice dilemma for the Giants: promote the guy but first trade the pitcher he replaces, or trade the guy himself. Right now, there's not a lot, but a playoff team does not need to have a rotation of 4 starters who can pitch well enough to be a #2 starter (or better) as the Giants appear to have with the four, so if Misch and Correia continue to impress as starters, it could free the Giants to trade off one of the four. Obviously, no one's taking Zito, so that basically means trading Lowry, as both Lincecum and Cain delivers on strikeouts. But that's only if it looks like Misch, Correia, and Sanchez can take over two of the starting spots in 2008.

The same works with the bullpen. As new guys move up, the experienced relievers will have a record of success (hopefully) that would allow the Giants to trade them at opportune times to get an average to good position player, then bring up the new guy. I don't think we are at that point yet in the bullpen evolution, but in a year or two, that should be generating tradeable chips as well.

But what Giants fans need now is patience. As much as some think it is easy to change things around fast, it takes a much longer time than they think for the other teams who have rebuilt to do what they have done. They must exhibit a similar patience with the Giants, as changing management now would probably only screw up that strategy and put us back at square one with that new GM's strategy. I want to see where this leads us first, and it should only take 1-2 years to see if it is really working.

{Editted 8/26: I should have also ended with some thoughts on the article I linked to, Doh!

The author and the experts make a good case that it is much easier to identify pitching skills that are translatable to the majors than it is to identify hitting skills.

This is not to say that hitting skills are impossible to ID, but just that there are more hidden icebergs of difficulties that can happen with hitters, whereas pitchers pretty much are what they are. What you see when you draft them, that's what they will have if they reach the majors, perhaps they might learn another pitch, but at minimum, you see what they got already and can project how they do in the majors based on that.

So while it is risker to draft pitchers because of the injury factor, it is easier to identify pitchers. And if you focus more on pitching, you can make up in volume what injury takes away. That will provide a steady supply of pitching prospects coming up the system, whereas hitters can be more variable (hit and miss) because it is hard to project how they will do in the majors against really good pitching until they are up here. }

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Our Wunderkind's Next Virgin Step: Lincecum and the Ninth Inning

I wanted to note Lincecum next step in his evolution into a cold-blooded 20+ game winner with over 200 K's in a season and teams trembling and hoping his turn in the rotation skips their team (ha! But we'll probably offset Cain so that every team will face either Lincecum, Cain, or both!). It is like a child's milestone checklist:
  • First inning in pro ball: check!
  • First inning with the major league team in spring training: check!
  • First inning in the majors: check!
And now first inning in the 9th in the majors, in his start on Tuesday.

What's the Big Deal? Another Hurdle Gone

Why the significance? Not that there's anything wrong with this, but when Lincecum comes into a new and different situation, his adrenaline flies skyward and so does his pitches, going high in the strike zone, where professional hitters swat them all around the field, mercilessly. But then he learns and calms down the next time, so that he's learned from that, gotten comfortable with that. That's what happened in the 9th against Chicago, his pitches flew upward, and he got whacked, then removed. That's OK, he usually learns his lesson the first time, in his time as a pro.

He doesn't always do that. His first bad spell as a pro, earlier this season, I think in June, he just did horribly until he finally figured out that trying to throw the ball faster and harder just makes things worse, so he calmed down and he started mowing down batters again. He has been good since then, for the most part (except for Pittsburgh), until that meltdown in the 9th against Chicago.

So that's OK with me, just another notch on the headboard, another tickbox checked off, in Tim Lincecum's development. Hopefully he gets most of these out of the way in 2007. Then in 2008, we would have a bonafide Cy Young candidate starting for our rotation.

Sign Lincecum NOW!

Sabean, first order of the 2007 offseason: get Lincecum signed to a long-term contract, STAT!!! The more rookie mistakes he makes, the better the case we can make for giving him a lower sized contract offer.

But I suspect that his agent team will be playing hardball, we won't luck out like we did with Cain's contract, we would probably have to play Lincecum anywhere from 50% to 100% more (worse case 200% I think) in contract size than Cain, to get him long-term. I think he'll still be worth every penny.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wouldn't It Be Nice if Brian Wilson Was Our Closer?

Just had to post that. Brian Wilson earned his first save of the 2007 season, second of his MLB career, yesterday. His pitching this year is probably close to what we are going to see during his career, not that many hits given up, but a lot of walks and strikeouts, and probably a lot of saves too. I think he's going to be good, but he's still got to work on his control so that he doesn't walk that many. But given the paucity of closer candidates in our farm system, I think we should just let him take over and see how it goes.

Hennessey Has Been Good

However, that's not fair to Hennessey, who jumped in and has done a credible job as the closer since Benitez was traded. While Hennessey's K-rate is nothing to write home about, he has had excellent control, leading to a good K/BB ratio while in the closer role (heck, it was good even before). Since taking over, he has 11 saves in 29 games, 30.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 29 H, 10 R/ER, 9 BB, 19 SO, 2 HR, .259/.325/.402/.727 batting line against. That's pretty good, though ideally he would have more K's and a better K/SO, but at least that's over 2 (2.11 but ideally over 2.4).

The Future is Now: Wilson is the Future

I guess he deserves to finish the year out as closer, but I would rather look to the future at this point. We all knew going into the season that Wilson was going to be THE closer at some point, so shift Hennessey back to his set-up position, where he did great at, and let Wilson close. The future is now, let's see what Wilson can do with the job.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bumgarner and Fairley Signs Officially; Bonds End Near?

{First, on a personal note, I've been laid off, so paradoxically, I will probably have less time to post items. I will do my best to, but I've never been laid off before so I'm not sure how I will react to this news plus there is the business of finding a new job. To those thinking it, :^) no, it was not because of my work performance due to spending so much time posting, but just the trouble you get when the sector you are in is retrenching a bit and they need to cut costs to raise margins. Anyway, I was busy dealing with that, so hence this is a bit of old news plus as the title notes, some new speculation on my part.}

Final Signings

As this report notes, Madison Bumgarner and Wendell Fairley signed. All the hang-wringing and angst at all the public Giants watering holes were all for naught, other than to show who supports Sabean and who doesn't. As I noted all along, they were not going to hold out. They weren't that good, frankly, to turn down a sure $1-2M. Even if it don't work out, you go to college afterward and you'll still have that money (post-tax natch!).

They got about as much money as I suspected. They probably wanted the symbolic nature of "$1M!" and "2M!", hence why Alderson signed earlier than they did. Meanwhile Sabean did his job and waited them out to see how badly they wanted that figure.

Deadline Was Meant to Be

As I was thinking about this recently, I figured that the dynamics of the situation forced this to happen:

1. There are clear slots for everyone, so you can do nothing and insist on slot and probably get around there, depending on the team.

2. Each player has an agent, so to justify his fee, he has to drag on out the negotiations, to make it seem like the player got his money's worth - else why get an agent, just sign for slot and be done with it.

3. The GMs have an incentive to drag things out as well, they have to appear to their owners that they are locking horns with the agents and trying their best to get lower than slot from the players.

Those all add up to a lot of players signing at the last moment.

It's like I've been saying elsewhere: you just won the lottery and been picked in the first round. You are guaranteed at least $1M, maybe a lot more.

However, you can drop dead tomorrow, or your arm could fall off, or you could sleep wrong and suddenly your mechanics are off, or your lucky charm broke, and you won't get drafted that high next year, unless you are clearly that good and can show it like JD Drew and Luke Hochvear did in independent league. But still, the LF could run into you and injure you: suddenly you are out of the game and your career. But at least you got your $1M+ by signing.

Now hopefully they can go out and impress over a short period of time.

Bonds End Near?

The Merc noted that the Giants were going to sit Roberts more in order to play Rajai Davis more. Roberts was understanding but made it known that he wants to play. How does this affect Barry?

The problem is that with Barry and Roberts, we have two players who shouldn't/couldn't play every day, requiring more OF on the bench. Barry is too old, so he needs his rest, while Roberts should be platooned (.772 vs RHP, .463 vs. LHP in 2007) with a right-handed hitter. If Rajai shows enough to start, the Giants might just move Roberts to LF, where he is an above average fielder, and play Davis in CF, with, say, Ortmeier taking up the ABs against LHP (though he hasn't been that good against them either, but at least would be getting regular ABs). That would mean no Bonds in 2008.

And I'm beginning to go there as well. I understand he is old and creaky, but at some point, even if he's still the hitter he is, we have to move on, even though we would take a big offensive hit. If 2008 is to be a rebuilding year, it doesn't make sense to sign Barry at big bucks, it would only make sense to sign a great free agent player who can play everyday, unlike Barry. But I don't think there is anyone coming free after 2008 who qualifies. So perhaps if Barry can accept lower bucks, then he should be signed on.

But this depends on the widow owner, Harmon, she was the one who pushed to re-sign Bonds this year, and it could happen again in 2008, perhaps if Barry promises to retire as a Giants after the season ends. So it could just be that Davis is just auditioning to become Roberts platoon buddy in 2008, with hopes of starting in 2009.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fairley Signs!

As someone kindly posted in a comment, Wendell Fairley signed today; here is the Baseball America notice. He signed for $1M, or $10,000 above the slot of $990,000. I don't know if I mentioned it in a post or comment, but I thought that $1M was going to be the magic number for Fairley because of the significance of that figure. I assume he also gets the package the other high schoolers got, about $100K for college if they decide to go at some point.

As mentioned in another Baseball America report, and by Chris of Bay City Ball in a comment, it appears that Madison Bumgarner negotiating position is demanding Clayton Kershaw money, the $2.3M that last year's top high school lefty got from the D-gers as their #7 pick. As we all know, you ask for more than you hope to get in negotiations, so I have to assume that Bumgarner's representation is hoping to get the money that Tim Lincecum got last year, which was $2.025M, which is higher than the slot money of $1.8M that this link says is his slot figure.

Giants Thoughts

While the BA report views Bumgarner as the most difficult to sign of the remaining first round picks, I think that the deal will be done because the Giants went over what they could have paid Lincecum last year as well. Based on the bonuses paid around him last year, Lincecum should have gotten only $1.8M, but he ended up getting the money that the #8 pick got with his $2.025M bonus. In addition, from my analysis of prior bonus signings, the Giants have always been generous with their first round picks and appeared to pay more than other teams were paying draftees around them.

So I have to think that the Giants will shell out the extra $225K to match Lincecum's bonus and sign Bumgarner. They could also be waiting until the Tigers report that Porcello is signed way over cap so that their piddly $225K over is a pittance in comparison. Or just do the signing tomorrow so that the announcement gets lost among all the other signings that are much more over the slot, as all the Top 5 picks will get much more publicity for their signing than our #10 would.

In addition, Bumgarner was not expected to go so high in the draft, most had him falling to the middle of the round, so if he misses out on this pick, he might not be so lucky in the next draft, particularly if he should do poorly at the community college, he risks falling to the back of the round next year with a poor performance. So it is possible that he could sign for less than the $225K extra, he might accept less, or maybe the Giants don't give him the money for college and put that into the bonus instead.

I understand the symbolic importance of $1M but Fairley probably lost much of that extra $10K in minor league salary lost from not playing for the past month and a half. And incalcuable experience. Emmanuel Burris really made a name for himself by signing early and playing well, persuading the Giants to jump him all the way up to Advanced A San Jose. Unfortunately he wasn't ready so he got dropped back to Class A Augusta, but Fairley could have done something this season to get considered for a higher class next season, but will probably just start out low now and see where that leads him.

In addition, the sooner you are in the pros, assuming you are confident of your abilities, the sooner you reach the majors and earn the $380K minimum, or whatever that is now. $10K is about a half weeks pay at the major league level. So he lost both monetarily and professionally by holding out until now.

But no matter, as Wendell Fairley noted minutes after being selected by the Giants: "[he's] a Giant now." Hopefully he can get some games in somewhere in the farm system in the final two weeks and get a taste, and be ready next season to move through the system. He will probably play in Instructional League, which is where Ishikawa first got his power noticed, so he will get a chance there to shine.

He and Villalona are our best chances right now for good position prospects and they are both at least 3 and most probably 5 or more years away from the majors. Hopefully Fairley can get a good running start going next season since he's missed out on this season. He would have to really dominate in the next two weeks to get pushed up for next season.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mediots Beware: It's Hammering Hank Time!

Mediots: (ME-DE-ots) Concatenation of "Media Idiots"; those of the Media who ignore what is being said by an interviewee in order to promulgate their point of view.

As I've been harping, the Media sees what they want to see and Hank Aaron has finally came out and gave his side of the story at his local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As I noted, even with Hank's great and inspiration video message, the media would continue to claim that Aaron in some way was protesting Bonds passing him up.

This should clarify thing greatly and, as I expected, the media is not owning up to pushing their point of view, of seeing the errors of their ways, heck, they won't even apologize for ALL THIS TIME putting words into poor Hank Aaron's mouth when he did not feel that way. They talk about how classy an individual Aaron is, doesn't he deserve a public apology from EACH AND EVERY SPORTS COLUMNIST WHO MISPOKE ON AARON'S INTENTIONS AND FEELINGS? How classy is it that the mediots misrepresented someone they view as so classy and yet are so classless to admit publicly that they were wrong?

Avoidance of the Hubbub, Not of the Chaser

Let's go through the column point by point, shall we? First off, Aaron "didn't want any part of this Bond thing, because it reminded him of that Ruth thing ,when he was an African-American player chasing the record of a white icon through a slew of death threats and hate mail." Not many remember, but Aaron when through a lot of BS (hate mail, death threats, etc.) when he was approaching Ruth's record, and when his parents went to hug him once he did it, they did it not of joy alone, but because they feared that someone might shoot him dead; not too much time had passed since JFK, RFK, and MLK were assassinated, so that was in their heads at that time.
Hank Aaron did not enjoy that period of time, much like Roger Maris didn't enjoy his time approaching then passing Ruth's single season record. The media pressure, the hate mail, the much ado about nothing as far as they were concerned. They just wanted to do their job and not be part of this circus orchestrated by the media. Just like then, he just want to live his life and not be harassed by the media.

If I were to interpret this, I would say that it appears that Aaron is saying that the media is treating Bonds the same way Aaron was treated when he was approaching the record, since Aaron is now the white media icon and Bonds is the one receiving all the hate mail. And thus Aaron shows that he sympathizes with Bonds in this regard, via his reluctance to interact with the media during the final stretch this season. Because Aaron did not enjoy that aspect of the chase, and this was giving him flashbacks to when he was the one getting the hate mail.

He's His Own Man: None of Them Know Him, Including Bonds

Hank Aaron is the strong silent type who is his own man. As he noted, "Oh, I'm tremendously relieved. I'm so glad this [Bonds' record chase] is done with, and now I can just go my own way." Along with the media scrutiny and ridicule for not making some sort of statement, apparently Bonds was upset that Aaron never called him in general or visited him when the Giants came to Atlanta.

Aaron had an answer for Bonds, any others who were acquaintances, and, ultimately, the mediots themselves:

"It really got to the point where a lot of people started wanting to give advice about what you should do, and they didn't know what the hell the situation was. I mean, these were people that you had been knowing for a long time, but they couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting involved in this thing.

Then they would come forward and say things like, 'Well, you need to do this. You need to do that.' They wanted to give you all of this advice, and they didn't know what was all involved in it, really.

That's the thing that really bothers you. Friends that you've had a long time are all of a sudden coming forth and telling you things like, 'Well, I don't understand why you aren't making comments, or why aren't you doing blah, blah, blah.'

Well, you know what? You're not suppose to understand any of it, because you're not in it."

And you know what? That's basically the way Bonds has answered some of the media's questions in the past, that they are not in it, that they can't understand, and he was viewed as arrogant for saying that.

Aaron was clearly frustrated that people, particularly those he thought were friends, couldn't see his point of view, though he understood why, and was bothered that people would still butt into his business and tell him what the right thing to do is. Like he doesn't have a brain of his own, so thus they have to give him their advice, when it was just that they themselves didn't understand his situation. He clearly had enough of these acquaintances who thought they knew what was best for him to do.

He's Old and He Don't Mind Admiting It

The next thing I thought was interesting was about where he was when Bonds passed him up. He noted that he "was asleep. It was 1 o'clock in the morning [chuckling]. Heck, I'm not going to sit up and watch a baseball game. It's just like I wasn't going to be able to travel all over the world to watch [Bonds break the record]. It wasn't being disrespectful or anything. It's just a matter of, hey, the body needed to go to sleep." The mediots just couldn't identify with a 73-year old man who, though he tries to stay fit, is mature enough to concede when his body cannot take the extended travel.

Also, he wasn't trying to ignore Bonds' chase, but he had his own life, his own schedule, his own things he felt was important to do. For example, the week before Bonds tied Aaron, he was supporting an annual event in Puerto Rico called the World Children's Baseball Fair, which had more than 4,000 kids from around the world. He's too humble to note it, but he's an important man and he has obligations, a life of his own to pursue.

And Aaron clearly did not ignore Bonds' approach of his record, as he recorded that video message to Bonds and the baseball world that played after Bonds set the new record over a month ago. The Giants management noted in a few interviews that they had approached Aaron and he agreed to do the message. They gave him some talking points that they thought he could expound on, but Aaron did it his way, the way he wanted to do it.

And, personally, I cannot imagine a better speech that could have been made, it was sincere, beautiful and heartfelt. I still cannot believe that anyone could take that and try to twist it like Aaron was still giving a negative message to Bonds. And yet the mediots persist.

He's Not Avoiding Bonds; He's Happy for Bonds

The last point I wanted to note upon was what he said after being asked if Aaron will do something with Bonds: "Eventually, if I happen to see him somewhere, I'd probably say something to him. To be honest, I'm as happy for him as anybody." He's as happy for him as anybody, there's no way to twist that in an Bonds Hating way, Hank Aaron was happy for Barry.
Who Watches the Watchmen?

Hopefully some of the mediots got Hammering Hank's message loud and clear, that he has no hard feelings against Bonds, that he is happy for him. Unfortunately, a lot of the mediots don't care to read up on the subjects they write on, they are happy to be obtuse and oblivious and ignorant, so they will miss this illuminating interview and continue to live with blinders on. And as I've written before, they don't feel the need to apologize or to point out when they provided a knee-jerk reaction or had their facts wrong, particularly regarding Barry Bonds, they just move on and ignore the facts.

And which I find ironic, since newspapers and magazines are designed to be read by people who are not any of those, people read the newspaper to be in the know, to not be obtuse, oblivious, or ignorant. I grew up admiring journalists and still love reading the newspaper everyday, but something is not right if they can go on and on about any subject but has nothing filtering them or correcting them when they are wrong. Where are their editors? Where is their conscience? Where is their journalistic integrity?

Giants Thoughts

As I have posted here before, the media has been reading Aaron's silence to mean that he was unhappy with Bonds and his linkages to steroids, using his silence as a media hammer to strike out against Barry Bonds. Clearly, from this interview with Hank Aaron (ironically enough, via the media - there are still some good eggs out there), Aaron should have dispelled any notion by the mediots that he was showing up Bonds in any way by not being there. He's old, he can't travel all over the country to wait for Bonds to hit the record breaker. To quote Aaron, "It wasn't being disrespectful or anything."

As Hank Aaron showed with this interview, he is his own man, he will live and conduct his life the way he sees fit, despite everyone's good (and bad) intentions. He's happy for Bonds and glad to move on from the hullabaloo and live his own good life. He just didn't like getting asked all sorts of questions about Bonds and the record, and was uncomfortable in the situation that the media put him in. He wasn't trying to be disrespectful, as he is as happy for Bonds as anybody, but nobody understood him, because they are not in it, like he was. Hopefully the mediots finally get that and stop bothering him. Assuming they bother to keep up with the news.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wilson up; Sanchez down

Not a huge surprise for a number of reasons. One, Jonathan Sanchez has stunk for a while in relief. Two, Brian Wilson has been great in relief in AAA, particularly lately. Three, the Giants have a large number of games to play, on consecutive days, and will require a lot of pitchers, hence the merry-go-round we have been having lately with pitchers going up and down.

Four, the bullpen has been particularly putrid for a while now, all the relievers have been severely ineffective for most part for a while now. Five, we all know Hennessey is not the long-term solution at closer and our season has been pretty much done for a long while now, so we may as well bring up our putative closer of the future and install him in that position sooner than later; it sounds like he will get to pitch in a set-up role initially, plus occassionally get the 9th depending on the situation (Hennessey pitching too much or too ineffectively, more the latter lately since the Giants haven't been holding many leads).

Lastly, the Chronicle's version of the decision noted that Sanchez might start at some point, but the sfgiants.com version noted specifically that Sanchez is going down to get more work pitching as a reliever and work on relaxing when he is on the mound, they feel that this is leading him to be inconsistent in his performances. Sounds like they will work him more innings and more often to get him to work on getting more consistent and becoming more relaxed out on the mound. Pitching more will hopefully give him that comfort level to relax and be comfortable with the situation.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sweeney Traded: Sweet for Ortmeier

Mark Sweeney has been traded to the enemy - the LA D-gers - for the same old, same old, the noted PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later). This is the first trade between old buddies (and twins) Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti, and the first trade between the Giants and the D-gers since 22 years ago when we acquired the immortal Candy Maldonado (gee, are Giants RF's cursed, he had the slide long before Jose Cruz Jr.'s dropped easy flyball) for Alex Trevino, a catcher we had. Despite the slide and missed flyball, we got the better of that exchange.

We are not going to get much of a prospect for Sweeney, in terms of near-term help, maybe we might get a long-term project like 1B Kyle Orr, a nice power-hitter they drafted last year but still way down the system, or a failing/failed prospect like 1B Cory Dunlap, but none of their more interesting prospects like Andy LaRoche, Chin-Lung Hu, or Blake DeWitt. Still, a prospect is a prospect, he should be better than whatever we get in compensation with Sweeney as a free agent, though I kind of doubt we get anything for him.

Sweeney was a clear B-free agent rating last off-season, so he probably would still yield a B this off-season, though it might be close because the eliminated 10% of the A's, which moved up the score he needs to be a B. Since it is cut off at the 40% level, it should be around 45 this year and he was tied for 41st last year. However, his stats this year, as stellar as it has been as a pinch-hitter, is down from 2005, as the rating is based on two-year production, so it looks like he might have fallen down to the C level, which gets no compensation this year. So any prospect for him right now is probably better than the nothing we probably would have gotten once he signed with anyone (though even that would be in doubt, we would have to offer arbitration as I doubt any team is going to sign him before the deadline for compensation, as I doubt there is a lot of competition for him).

To sum, Sweeney was a good soldier, though he was a little miffed early this season when it was speculated that he might be dropped off the roster, so it is good that we got someone for him, even a spec. And he has been a great teammate, setting up the Giants Idol competition both years, generally being a good influence in the clubhouse. Or maybe he's one of those Morris was sniffing at about accepting losing? :^) As a Giants fan, I salute him and his contributions, but wish him nothing but nothing since he's with the evil D-gers now, sorry, can't wish him good hitting.

Ortmeier Promoted

Dan Ortmeier, come on down! He's the lucky prospect who gets the call-up, and not a moment too soon, given Roberts injury - Roberts will probably be out for at least a few days. Sweeney was a luxury a losing team don't really need, we needed someone more like Ortmeier on the roster instead, one who could be a true 4th OF, who can play all three OF positions, and who is young and can hopefully learn and develop up here.

I like Ortmeier, and there must have been something there that Bonds saw because he actually was helping Ortmeier before spring training, I think in 2006, and given how Bonds don't normally give his teammates the time of day, that seemed significant to me. Besides, how can you not like a guy who is that tall and yet can steal bases in double figures plus hit the long ball as well?

Other Compensation Thoughts

First, for those who don't think much about Morris, he was rated an A-compensation pick last season, but will drop to a B this off-season because of the change in the latest CBA. A lot of Giants fans (and other fans) like to disparage him and his stats, but he really was a good pitcher, that is how far ERAs has risen in our era, due to whatever started runs to rise in the 90's (I'm going to post one expert's very logical take on this; I just realized that not everyone has seen everything I have).

Given that Rajai Davis looks to be good enough to be Dave Roberts platoon buddy in 2008 and to play the other OF positions OK, I think we got pretty good value for Morris, better than what a B-compensation pick, which is at best a 2nd round pick, but could fall to later rounds easily. And the player to be named later - which will probably depend on how well Morris does, so wish him well, except against the Giants (I'll bet he'll be amped up like he was last year and have a poor start against us, much like he has since mid-June) - will be like a cherry on top.

Other vets on the trading block possibly:
  • Klesko was a B after 2006, but with the change in the ranges and his good but not improved hitting overall, he's probably a C after this season, and we would not be due compensation for him.
  • Durham was clearly an A, but with his collapse this season and smaller A-range, probably falls to a B but if he recovers next year, he should be still around there.
  • Aurilia was an A, but he'll be a B even without his poor season. I think he'll be lucky to be a B after next season, even if he recovers in 2008.
  • Vizquel was an A bare would barely be one this season after the reduced A-range, and his poor season would appear to sink him, but as I noted in my pre-season discussion, he seems to alternate good and bad seasons so he was due to be bad this year, just not this bad. But he has suddenly come alive and if he can keep this up for a while, he might be able to catch up with here he was in 2005 and keep his A-compensation rating. Unfortunately, we have no SS ready - though Ochoa looks interesting - so the Giants might be tempted to re-sign him, particularly if he is willing to take a big paycut (he mentioned he prefers to stay in SF). We will see, but if a good team signs him, we get a back of the first round pick possibly (if he is that team's best A signing) plus a sandwich pick, very rich for him.
  • Feliz was a B last year, but that rating would only earn a C this off-season, plus he's hitting worse this season, so he's probably not going to earn any compensation. Then again, who would want him?

I don't think Molina, Roberts or Winn will be traded, so I won't cover them.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2007 Giants: July PQS

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

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

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

Giants Starters' PQS for 2007 Season (as of July 31, 2007)

Matt Cain - (48% DOM, 24% DIS; 10:5/21): 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 0, 3, 5, 5, 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 1, 5, 3, 1, 0, 0, 5
Tim Lincecum - (67% DOM, 27% DIS; 10:4/15): 0, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 0, 0, 0, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5
Noah Lowry - (38% DOM, 14% DIS; 8:3/21): 5, 3, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3, 3, 3, 0, 3, 2, 4, 0, 2, 5, 4, 1, 4, 4, 2
Matt Morris - ( 29% DOM, 19% DIS; 6:4/21): 3, 1, 4, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 5, 3, 3, 5, 4, 0, 2, 2, 3, 0, 0, 4, 4
Russ Ortiz - ( 20% DOM, 20% DIS; 1:1/5): 2, 4, 2, 2, 0
Barry Zito - ( 24% DOM, 24% DIS; 5:5/21): 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2, 0, 3, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 3, 3, 0, 5, 2, 0

Giants season overall - 38% DOM, 21% DIS out of 104 games pitched (40:22/104)
Giants Month of April - 29% DOM, 4% DIS out of 24 games pitched (7:1/24)
Giants Month of May - 43% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games pitched (12:5/28)
Giants Month of June - 33% DOM, 30% DIS out of 28 games pitched (9:8/27)
Giants Month of July - 48% DOM, 32% DIS out of 25 games pitched (12:8/25)

After doing pretty well in April and May, then declining greatly in June, the Giants pitchers had a pretty mixed month of July, Lincecum turned himself around with 5 DOM starts and Lowry had 3 himself, but Zito, Morris, and Cain had two or more disaster starts in July. As the pitchers showed in April, a low DOM does not necessarily sink a month (or a season), but a high DIS does.

A DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes.

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

Latest Comments

The staff has been on a falling trend in terms of disaster starts, month by month. As May showed, a high DOM% does not translate to wins readily, but a high DIS% does translate to losses readily. And thus the Giants had a June Swoon of great proportion, dropping them to last place and about 10 games (or more) below .500 for much of the month. July was not as bad, only because Lincecum righted himself and Lowry continued to pitch very well, else the month would have been another disaster. As it was, the Giants continued to occupy last place by a large margin most of the month, going 12-13 but still gaining a game in the standings.

The staff was led by Lincecum and Lowry, who had 100%DOM/0%DIS and 60%DOM/20% DIS, respectively. The rest, as noted above, had at least 2 disaster starts each, Cain having 3 of them; to keep your DIS% low, you can only afford 1 disaster start every two months.

This fits in with what I've been saying about the Giants starters, that because there are pitchers who can keep their BABIP lower than average, like Zito and Cain, and Lincecum when he is on, plus Russ Ortiz, this PQS methodology does not capture their full abilities as a pitcher, as they can walk more and strikeout less than others and still be successful even though they don't have as many DOM starts. However, disaster starts are disaster starts, and that appears to apply to all pitchers equally well.

Lincecum's Towering of Power; Cain's Towering Inferno

Lincecum had a particularly good month in July, reversing what he did in June. He righted his ship totally and has been the best pitcher on our staff for a while now. He even got his walks down low as well, with only one game really bad and two good games, including one with zero walks and twelve strikeouts!

In Cain's case, again it appeared that his disaster starts was a matter of Cain thinking that batters were better than they were and him not being as good as he was, so he didn't trust his fastball. You would have thought he would have learned his lesson last year, but he didn't. He explained after he righted his ship that he was watching the other starters and realized that he better start throwing strikes again. Oy! I would have thought that's the first thing you learn as a pitcher, hopefully this time this will stick with him, he's much better throwing strikes. :^)

August: Surge Up?

Well the July surge I was hoping for happened and didn't happen, as the DOM went up high but the DIS continued high. August looked to be very interesting until Lowry got injured but then Misch had his great first start, so who knows, we could find the Giants returning to near .500 territory again.

Lincecum is on a hot roll, Lowry was on a roll, and Cain appears to be on a role and all three looked ready to go into their superman mode and totally dominate. Misch looks like he might be able to take over for Lowry OK for a while, while he is out. But Zito is still up and down; this looks to be a lost season for him, but if he can end on a favorable note in August and September, that would be something to build off of for 2008.

In the rest of August, the Giants finish facing the sad sacks Nats and Pirates at home, then has an odd double-header in Pittsburgh to make up for two rained out games, before continuing on the road to Atlanta and Florida. Then they get the Cubs and Brewers at home before 3 at home with the Do'Rocks to complete a stretch of 31 games in 30 days; they have only one day of rest in August, on the 30th. So they are playing plenty of subpar team and perhaps can gain some ground.

Unfortunately, the teams above us are playing a similar set of teams, randomly distributed across them, so they could go on a run themselves. For the D-gers, the offense is nothing special and probably will continue to do so, but their pitching has been very good and could continue doing well. For the 'Dres, it is not likely that all their starters can continue to pitch so well, but perhaps it is their season. But their offense is nothing to write home about still.

I don't know how the D-backs are doing it, their hitters are OK, but they have been playing well with their youngsters and took first place, so perhaps they finally figured things out.

Still, they all have things that are going better than expected and if they revert back to norm, their record will not be as good anymore. The Giants, meanwhile, have a lot of things which are below norms, and I would argue that none of the pitchers are doing anything that they have not shown themselves to be capable of previously, and Zito should get better too to offset that. Plus Cain and Lowry has gone on torrid hot streaks during this time period.

That gives us the chance to get back to .500, and a slim chance to get back into the race. But when you are this far behind and it is July already, all you can do is first focus on getting to .500, then second to get within 5 games of first place, then finally can we think about being in the pennant race. But it looks too late for this year, we just have to lick our wounds and start thinking about next season and play the young guys extensively.

Go Giants!

And the crap begins: Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury

And the crap begins, here's Ann Killion's take. She calls the Giants and the record tainted. What's tainted is her writing.

Rose-Colored Glasses

As she shows in this piece, she still clings to her image of her beloved Willie Mays as a beacon of pureness compared to the evil stain that is Barry Bonds. So either she is in denial or she is not that big a baseball fan because it has been pretty much exposed that Willie Mays not only was a user of a liquid red amphetamine, but he was giving it to other players for a "pick-me-up", essentially a non-profit pusher, a sharer of illegal drugs. How many of his homeruns are "tainted" by the use of amphetamines?

Not that I have anything against Willie, he's one of my favorite Giants players and will always have a place in my heart, but it just shows how unrepentant these Barry haters are, juxtaposing the two baseball greats and treating the situation as black and white when it is all grey.

He's Not a Travelling Man, Is that OK With You?

As I suspected, she again ignores the fact that Hank Aaron is a 70+ year old man who doesn't want to go travelling around the country on the Barry Bonds HR tour - as I noted, he would have begun this trip at least 3 weeks ago and disrupted his whole life and routine - and who can fault that? Well, reporters do, even after Hank taped one of the most sincere, heartfelt, touching, history-spanning speeches ever, she and others disrupt that by mentioning that he wasn't there.

Hello?!? Would you make someone who you are good acquaintances with but not good friends with travel around the country while you try to catch up and beat that acquaintance? Just to feed your ego? People have lives, as momentous as the moment was, not everyone feels the need to be there.

Aaron, as was noted, is a private man, I would even say a humble man, so why can't reporters just respect his wish to be in the background, to not acknowledge his greatness? Perhaps he feels that this is Bonds's moment and does not want to intrude on it. And yet reporters insist on reading into his actions or non-actions and inserting their bias and feelings into their reporting.

Aaron's Choice

The fact is despite all the crap reporters has written about how Aaron is unhappy about it, Aaron had the opportunity to respectfully decline to a videotape. Then he had the opportunity to add whatever qualifiers he wished to his videotaped message, I doubt that the Giants thought that they could control everything he says, and you can also be congratulatory but clearly withhold support, much like Selig has. Or he could have waited until now, once Bonds reached his milestone, and give Barry both barrels publicly for all to see. Instead he chose to show his support of Barry in a very public way.

No, the fact is Aaron gave his support fully and without reservation in his video speech, he was very genuine in his congratulatory statement. Please listen to it, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you are from that era, you will feel goosebumps, it was quite moving. If Aaron, who would have the most reasons to resent the moment, could be so positive about the situation, why can't writers be the same.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Yet Killion persists, noting "Yes, important witnesses were missing." Well, I watched Hank Aaron hit #715 on TV and I don't recall seeing Babe Ruth's daughther there nor the representative of the Babe Ruth museum, whose most recent successor took to the airwaves with a denunciation of Bonds when Bonds was misquoted/misinterpreted as dissing Babe Ruth. They, by Killion's logic, were important witnesses and they were missing and therefore they were unhappy and resentful of Aaron passing up the Babe.

But everybody is different. If my friends are getting married, or getting some big award, I would be there in a heartbeat, but if some acquaintance who I know who works in my field and who might be beating me out for something, I don't know that I would care to be there. That's his or her moment, I am part of the past. Others might feel the need to be there and support your colleague in their moment of triumph.

But if I were someone's godfather or father figure, I would do my best to be there, though if I'm in my 70's there is going to be some physical limitations, particularly in regards to travel today, with all the security measures making trips longer and harder to handle. So why make such a big deal over Willie Mays showing up and Hank Aaron not? Barry hasn't talked with Aaron in a couple of years now; they are just acquaintences.

If Ann Killion won some writing award, would she expect all the past winners to come by and show her some love? If she got recognized by the White House for exemplary work as a sports news columnist, would she expect the past winners to show up too, just to show how important you are? No, but you would hope that your friends and family can be there to share in the moment with you.

Insulting

What I find insulting is that these reporters seem to know exactly what Aaron is feeling and doing and they've probably never even met the man in his life or had more than a passing conversation or interview. Yet they deem themselves capable of interpreting his actions to mean one thing or another. Aaron's actions spoke loud and clear but the reporters are not hearing it, they are stuck with their blinders on, because they are right and you are wrong.

Except, whoops, they are just as culpable about the situation, they had a chance to hoist Canseco and McGwire up by their necks in the 90's, particularly McGwire when he was caught with the Andro and then with his tepid response to that until he realized that he was in deep doo-doo. Where where the Gary Hart exposers when that happened?

It couldn't have been that hard to catch them then, they were really into using it back then, a little diligence would probably have given you the story of a generation, of a lifetime. Perhaps they should be like the priest Dinsmore in "The Scarlet Letter" except that they should scourge themselves in public for allowing that to happen. They left the barn door was left wide open and now they are mad at the horses and cows that left the barn, when they should be mad at themselves.

Reporters Only Deluding Themselves

She feels sorry for people who are longtime Giants fans. The facts of the case is that we don't know how involved or complicit Barry Bonds was and probably never will. In this world of Unabombers, Osama Bin Laden, 9/11, BTK killer, is it really that outrageous to suppose that Greg Anderson did all this on his own without Bonds knowledge?

Perhaps he refuses to testify and "rot" in jail as she puts it because he feels guilty for dragging his childhood friend into this mess and testifying would do nothing for Bonds's reputation? Maybe he feels he is doing it as penance for doing this to Bonds. In any case, if he says Bonds is clean, no one will believe him so why speak up, and if he says that Bonds was unknowingly using, then he would have buried his friend when Bonds didn't do anything to bring this on himself other than to help out an old friend.

We still don't know if he was just boasting to boost his business or because it was true. Both he and Conte has publicly stated that Bonds is clean but then threw all these other athletes under the bus. Why would Conte lie for Bonds? He would get more fame and notoriety for bringing down the career homerun king than he would for gold medal winners where cheating is pretty much dime a dozen and not some outrageous thing to consider. Baseball is still swirling in scandal and that would be good for getting him more publicity, more notice. That's why he gave that exclusive interview to 20/20 (I remember that as the TV show), because he loves the limelite and likes being viewed as the big-shot ring-leader.

And Greg Anderson is a nobody without his connection to Bonds. Of course he has to take some credit for Bonds's improvement, how else is he going to get his drug buyers to buy from him. "Oh, he's a natural freak; but buy my stuff, I'm connected to him!" We don't know if that was bravado and a lie or the truth. It would not be the first time a salesperson lied about his product if he did all this on his own. And of course there's folder with "BLB" on it, he has to show his marks, er, buyers, that he's authentic, that Bonds is really using.

Real or Not Real

And it could be that it is true that Bonds was really taking. But that's my whole point, there are a lot of ways to look at the situation and we don't really know what's real and what's not. Jayson Blair claimed to be writing the truth. Another had Howard Hughes diary, another had Hitler's. Lots of other writers have twisted the truth, the facts, to fit what they wanted to say.

For while most of us are pretty sure Bonds was using, with intent being the dividing line, the main thing is that we don't know for certain yet. Given that the prosecutors want to nail Bonds, and that Pearlman gave very specific information about the alleged meeting that Bonds reportedly claimed to start using the hard-stuff, one would think that after 18 months since this revelation came out with Pearlman's excerpts, the government would have tracked down these people and gotten them to testify against Bonds for perjury.

How Hard to Figure Out?

It should not be too hard, you just subpoena Ken Griffey Jr and get the names of these people; though if it's true, he could claim memory problems, in which case you go through his taxes and see which athletic clothing companies paid him money over the years, and start asking there. How many major athletic clothing companies are there in the world, and how many of them had contact with Ken Griffey Jr. It should not take 18 months to dig that up if they are reduced to coerce a nobody like Jason Grimsley to casually walk up to Bonds, who he was only acquainted with, and start talking about steroids.

Same with the tax evasion that Bonds's ex-mistress has accused of. It has been over a couple of years now that she leveled that at him. Seems pretty cut and dried, she should know the approximate date and location this happened, you check in local newspapers for the announcement in the local library, you locate the business that did the card show, you check their tax records for paying Bonds for baseball card signing income against Bonds's reported income for that year. If the IRS got Pete Rose and Willie McCovey pretty quickly on this in he 1990's, then they should be able to get Bonds pretty easily too, IF HE DID IT.

After all this time, one would think the government would have had more than enough time to bring Bonds up on either or both charge. And yet no word yet on either one. How hard could it be?

Sigh: Resignation

I am resigned to the fact that there might never be any resolution of this. I'm open to either way, whether he cheated or didn't. Obviously, if he didn't use then that is great and I hope the reporters would eat their words and apologize publicly instead of burying their "oops, I did it again" inside the front page where no one will see their errors that they made. But how do you prove a negative? That's like trying to answer the question, "do you still beat your wife," there's no way to really answer that in a satisfactory way.

If all this was true, then I will not demonize Bonds if he really did decide that he couldn't stand being passed up by other players who are using. The press and the league put him in that position, if either were doing their jobs, then he might not have thought he need such an edge, and while he made the wrong choice, I would be able to sympathize with his helplessness over the situation.

Cheating is in Human's and Therefore MLB's DNA

And the story of lesser players using any means to get an edge has been going on longer than when the story of Faust being tempted by the devil was written. Humans will always be tempted to cheat in some way, whether speeding while driving, keeping extra change given you by the cashier, or selling their brother with the multi-color robe into slavery.

And cheating has been happening since the beginning of baseball, from John McGraw's brand of dirty play (he was known to block or trip baserunners while the umpire, only one then, followed the flight of the ball), to Ty Cobb's sharpened spikes (he would willingly maim and stab anyone who dared to tag him out), to the spitball, to throwing games, to the lively ball (there were people who loved the dead-ball era and viewed the live-ball era to be a cheat), to the hidden-ball trick and stealing signs, to amphetamines, to scuffing/altering the ball (Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton were known for that), to modern science allowing players to play more years than previously, to corked bats, and finally to steroids and other PEDs.

Where is the line? What's more unnatural than taking someone's ligament out of their leg and transplanting it into their arms and allowing them to pitch like they used to? It allows a player to do more than what their natural body could do without medical help. Of course, everyone can do that, but some recover and some are even better, but there are a good number of whom who are not the same again.

Of course, it's not illegal in society so there's that, but I find maiming people generally to be illegal and spitballs are definitely illegal in baseball. So why hasn't Gaylord Perrry (who I also loved as a ballplayer, I've regretted that trade for a long time) been drummed out of baseball by writers: he has admitted to cheating, not everybody utilized this cheat, he got a lot of fame out of his cheating, doing things pitchers don't normally do, plus it got him into the Hall of Fame. If the press is worried about legitimizing cheats, why hasn't there been a backlash against him, particularly after he wrote a book about all his cheating.

What I'm Doing

I am enjoying this moment because cheating or no cheating, he was going to be among the greats in terms of the number of homeruns he was going to have. Not to besmirch Aaron, but we don't know if he ever used amphetamines either. Ours is the steroid era but his is the amphetamine era. That's the times we live in today, we can't trust athletes, we can't trust celebrities, we can't trust journalists, we can't trust business leaders, we can't trust politicians, we can't trust our president. Father doesn't know best anymore, and the Beav is no longer doing harmless hi-jinks, he's out racing his new sports car his daddy gave him, running over and killing an elderly couple out for a stroll, before killing himself and his best buddy by wrapping the car around a tree.

But as a baseball fan, legal or illegal, tainted or not tainted, earned or unearned, it is still a moment that only comes around about once every lifetime in baseball, and I've been lucky enough to live to see it twice, and, god willing, I'll be around to see the next one, whether it's A-Rod or Albert or some 9 year old tugging at his daddy's arm and asking him to play baseball with him.

As some historians say, most times we are usually too much in the middle of our times to provide proper perspective on our era, our times, and besides which, there are still a lot of unknowns today that might be revealed in the future and change our view of our past. In addition, feelings that run strong now for some people might fade over time as they finally see things for what they really were.

Did William Shakespeare write all his great works or did he get credit for someone else's work? Either way, it is still a great body of work. However Bonds got to be as good as he is, his swing is still a thing of beauty, as are his homeruns, as steroids certainly didn't help Neifi Perez hit at all and he's been caught three times already whereas Bonds is only accused of using.

For me, I would feel worse accusing someone of something they didn't do, than I would believing that someone was innocent and proven wrong. I already feel some of that guilt because I had defended Bonds for years but it was impossible after Balco, so I retreated to the position of him using Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to be good still afterward. Now that it has been shown that HGH does nothing to help an athlete become better, then what's the answer for why Bonds continue to do well? Particularly since I assume he's followed closely by government agents and his associates would be investigated as well once suspicious activity occurs.

So I will enjoy Bonds's performances as history sorts itself out. Maybe he will be cleared, maybe he'll be proven to be a cheat; most probably we will never get any resolution, only suspicions and accusations. But it will always be a heck of a homer: "It's Outta Here! #756!"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Congrats to Barry Bonds on #756: the New Home Run King

Congratulations to Barry Bonds on hitting career home run #756 today, off Mike Bacsik, whose father, incidentally, also faced Hank Aaron when he had 755 and Bobby Bonds, Barry's dad. He will now live in history, linked with Barry. Hopefully, it is a duty that he does not mind.

Reporters Are Full of Crap

Giving reporters across the land a giant F-U middle finger salute, Hank Aaron was the video presentation the Giants played after his historic home run. Unfortunately I was not able to listen to the game at that time, but Jon Miller said that it was very appropriate and inspiring (I just listened to it off sfgiants.com and it was).

Most reporters have been implying (or worse saying) that Aaron was not comfortable with being associated with Bonds, that he was unhappy about Bonds passing him up, that he felt that Barry had obtained his homers illicitly and hated that Barry was going to pass him illegitimately.

However, clearly, with Hank Aaron willingly taping a congratulatory message for Barry, he showed that he had no problem with Barry, that all the reporters were full of crap for saying that Aaron had a problem with Barry passing him up. His message was sincere, humble, grand and expansive, and inspirational. There was no reservation in his message, unlike what Selig has been passing off as congratulatory messages, no mention of anything untoward or wrong with Barry passing him up.

It probably was as I has suspected: who wants to travel with Barry all over the country while waiting for 756 to happen. Barry has been within reach since July 19 when he hit 2 out in Chicago. That was 19 days ago, and since the Giants have been playing almost a game a day, probably 17-18 games ago. That would have been a good 3 weeks of traveling, from Chicago, to Milwaukee, to SF, to LA, to SD, again to SF (approximate; from memory). That's tough travel for young ballplayers, even worse for someone in his 70's like Hank.

Reporters Have No Shame

The reporters even got it wrong about his children. I read that they were not that supportive or excited. But his son met him at the plate and gave him lots of hugs and pats on the butt, then, from Jon Miller's description (on sfgiants.com), all his children were there and celebrating with their Dad. How do these reporters sleep putting words and feelings in children's mouths, reflecting how they feel and not what the children are feeling?

I wonder how the reporters will twist things now that Aaron has showed them where his sympathies lie. I doubt any of them will admit that they got it horribly wrong or apologize for characterizing Aaron as being unsupportive of Barry in his pursuit. I know that they won't apologize for stating that his children were unsupportive. Like most errors made by reporters, they will probably bury it quietly, hoping that no one noticed that the reporters were way off base.

Good Job Barry, Now Hit Some More

Congrats to Barry, hopefully this will release a stream of homers as he makes it harder for A-Rod, Pujols, and others to catch up with him. And thanks for all the homers.

2007 Draft Round One Unsignings

Given that the Giants have two Round One draft picks unsigned - Bumgarner and Fairley - I thought I would report on rumors on other picks.

Boras Is Playing Hardball

He doesn't apply to us but he is the agent for a number of players still unsigned. Here are his unsigned prospects: Mike Moustakas, Matt Weiters, Rick Porcello, Andrew Brackman, Julio Borbon, Josh Fields, Matt Harvey, Jake Arrieta, and Kantrail Davis.

He appears to be playing by fear. I have seen two recent reports on his negotiating tactics with #2 overall Mike Moustakas and third-rounder Matt Harvey: the teams have made several tries at communications but there has been no or virtually no communication between the teams and their picks. "They've had absolutely no interest in talking to us."

Giants Thoughts

Perhaps that's what is delaying negotiations with Bumgarner and Fairley, their agents are following Boras's lead and waiting until the last minute to negotiate. It is not like Bumgarner is affected much by Boras's players, only Wieters is near him in the draft, at #5, but Madison is all the way back at #10. He is probably more affected by the fact that the guy ahead of him and the two after are unsigned as well plus another one two after that in Heyward.

Fairley is affected by Porcello two ahead of him, and Brackman right behind him. Plus the next guy, Smoker is unsigned as well and Revere signed for low money ahead of him. But still, averaging out the players signed ahead and behind him, he should be getting around $1.05M, so what is the hangup, does he want Top 15 money?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How to Win in the Playoffs: According to BP

As long time readers of my blog, and fellow obsessive compulsives who has read through all most old posts here and at my old blog, might recall, I've been saying that the best way to win in the playoffs is to go in with dual aces like Koufax and Drysdale, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and I think we have them with Cain and Lincecum, at least they appear to be thus far. If Sanchez can join them, all the better, and now I have to add Misch to the equation, I love them strikeout pitchers. However, it is one thing to have a theory, another thing to try to prove it.

Then I ran across a study by Baseball Prospectus in their latest book called "Baseball Between the Numbers" and Chapter 9, Section 3, is titled from a paraphrase of a Billy Beane quote from "Moneyball": Why Doesn't Billy Beane's Sh*t Work in the Playoffs. In it, the authors of that chapter section investigates what are the factors that contribute to success in the playoffs. (BTW, I wholeheartedly recommend the book, only $10 at Amazon plus shipping, no shipping if you order only $25, what a deal!).

Why Scoring Doesn't Correlate and Pitching and Defense Does

In the book, BP studied Playoff Success Points (PSP), which they created for this investigation. In it, points are assigned based on various characteristics of each playoff team. For example, a team gets 4 points for winning the World Series. And they studied the 180 playoff teams between 1972 and 1995. What they looked at first was the correlation coefficient between PSP and each team's runs scored per game and runs allowed per game (that's earned runs plus unearned runs over a season).

They found that runs allowed accounts for 0.22 of the change in PSP for a team, which, while it seems small, still signifies that pitching and defense matters to a certain extent in the success of a team in the playoffs. Which is better than what the offense contributes: essentially a zero correlation between PSP and runs scored per game. Thus, while preventing runs correlates with post season success, scoring them does not. There literally is no relationship between regular season offense and post season success, based on the results of this study. I found that very amazing.

They also noted, "Does this mean that defense really does win championships after all? The short answer is yes, probably." What is "clear is the diminished importance of offense in the playoffs." They then observe, "It isn't that good pitchers have a structural advantage against good hitters, but that good pitchers have a structural advantage against good-hitting teams." That advantage comes to the forefront in the playoffs, when all the teams can hit pretty well, they added.

Digging Deeper

This is confirmed by their analysis of individual offensive, defensive/pitching, and other possible factors. Among offensive stats, as was shown on an overall basis with runs scored is shown for the individual offensive metrics, except for stolen-base attempts which had a correlation of 0.13, which is slightly more than half the correlation for runs allowed.

Pitching and defense has a number of correlations. There is a 20% correlation between all starting pitcher VORP and PSP (VORP is BP's metric for valuing a player over a replacement player), and most of that is delivered by the Top 3 starting pitcher VORP which has an 18% correlation with PSP.

There is an even stronger effect in the bullpen, specifically the closer: "The relationship between the closer's Win Expectancy, adjusted for replacement level and the opposing lineup (WXRL, also known as the increase in the probability of a pitcher's team's going on to win the game given the game situation...) and PSP is quite strong - stronger in fact than when we look at the bullpen as a whole." Which means that the performance of the non-closers is not of significant importance to playoff success. Which is not to say you should not have a good bullpen, but that it is not significantly correlated to playoff success as defined by PSP.

The one with the highest correlation to post season success is the Opponent's Batting Average, which is pretty obvious. But interestingly, avoiding walks doesn't seem to have much relationship with playoff success. And that ties into the point above about facing good teams solely in the playoffs: you don't let the good hitters beat you, it's better to walk them.


This also ties into this correlation: Fielding Runs Above Average has one of the higher correlations with playoff success at 0.16. The better your team's defense, the lower the Opponent's Batting Average. In addition, there would be less errors that could lead to unearned runs that could cost you a key game in the playoffs. A team's playoff fortunes can swing from one end to the other of the success spectrum based on one game where the defense fails you. I think Giants fans can relate to that (koff, Jose Cruz, Jr., koff).


Another interesting relationship found was that between a team's playoff experience and playoff success. Though only a slight relationship - about 0.12 - plus it was skewed by the Yankees last dynasty in the late 1990's, they don't think that this hypothesis can be dismissed out of hand. However, the relationship isn't statistically significant, especially when one considers that it is the better players who tend to accumulate a lot of postseason experience.

So obviously, you need a good enough offense to win given your pitching, but once you get into the playoffs, having the best offense doesn't do anything to help you achieve success in the playoffs, as it is apparently not only negated by facing the other team's best pitchers more often, but rendered to be a non-factor in playoff success.


Deeper Analysis: Regression


Next they did a regression analysis using all the variables in order to identify the factors that are the most fundamental and direct relationship with PSP. The following are the factors that significantly ties into playoff success:
  • Closer WXRL
  • Pitcher Strikeout Rate
  • Fielding Runs Above Average

The importance of an above average closer is clear: post season games are usually close contests between evenly matched teams. And that results in many more opportunities for the closer to pitch in high-leveraged situations. I would also add here that in the playoffs, one game swinging from a loss to a win can be pivotal: instead of being 2-1 and one game from winning the first round, you could be 1-2 and one game from being eliminated; or instead of being tied 2-2 in the second round or World Series, you are down 3-1 and one game away from elimination.

The importance of the strikeout is also clear: the good hitters can't harm you in any way if you strike him out. This is particularly important when facing the good offenses you normally run into in the playoffs. Also, good hitters tend to tee off against finesse pitchers while they lose some of their advantage against power pitchers.

Lastly, again, it is clear why good fielding is important: the ball is put into play more often than not, so having good defensive players is key to not giving away runs. Also, the pitcher might feel more comfortable challenging hitters if they know they have a good defense behind them when the ball is put into play.

However, when you can combine a strikeout heaving pitching staff with a great defense, it can become nearly impossible for its opponents to get hits and generate rallies. Of the 33 teams to win the World Series from 1972 to 2004, only 5 had a below-average defense. Defense is important against good offenses since good hitters put hard-hit balls into play and test the defense far more frequently and strikeouts are important because it reduces the number of balls put into play.

These three do not strongly determine success but if the team can be strong in each one, you improve your chances of winning greatly. When the 180 teams are ranked by these three measures (averaging the three ranks), 8 of the top 10 won the World Series and one of the teams that did not win ended up losing to the team with the better average composite score. The bottom 10 didn't do anything in terms of World Series success, all of them did not reach the World Series.

Sabean Ahead of the Pack, the Times

What has been the hallmarks of a Brian Sabean team? He has always seeked a strong closer and a great defense, plus, of course, there was Barry Bonds. What has Brian Sabean been advocating lately plus drafting and trading for? Creating speedy teams that can steal bases and play good defense. What type of rotation should we have for the foreseeable future? One led by Cain and Lincecum, two top strikeout pitchers plus there's Jonathan Sanchez waiting in the wings plus now Misch had a very nice first start, after striking out a lot as a reliever. And as I have shown above, from the BP study, are all shown to be key determinants of playoff success and particularly World Series success.

What has Sabean naysayers been complaining about Sabean? About his lack of position prospects. About his lack of good hitters. As another chapter in the book makes clear (very interesting read and I've only read maybe 10% so far), you need to balance offense and defense/pitching on your roster, you can't focus just on pitching to the detriment of offense, nor vice-versa. So it is not like Sabean can shirk this GM duties on offense, so that is not a point I'm trying to make here.

However, to get the players that contribute in a significant way to improving your chances of winning it all in the playoffs, as outlined above, the best way to get these types of players is to focus your draft on pitchers and to draft a lot of them. You need to kiss a lot of frogs along the way - Grilli, Vogelsong, Ainsworth, Williams, Jensen - to get your aces (plus a dash of luck - Lincecum - but as the old saying goes, you sometimes have to make your luck), particularly when you are drafting back in the first round, where the odds of finding a good player - period - is not that good at all, even worse than the odds of rolling a 7 on your first roll in Craps.

And how hard is it to find good defensive players? It appears that the key is to field a strong defensive team, with a couple or three key offensive players, based on what I've seen in studies that analyze batting orders: leadoff, cleanup, and maybe 5th or 2nd spots. Fans complain constantly about one player or another who is deficient offensively but no team fields a lineup full of good hitters, most have average or poor bottom of the lineup hitters plus someone with no power hitting second.

Thus half your starting lineup is probably OK to average hitters but good defensively and be relatively cheaper, leaving the bulk of your payroll for your strongest hitters because the pitching staff is relatively cheap since you are focused on developing pitchers. For example, as maligned as Pedro Feliz is, despite his poor offense at a classic power position, he is very good defensively (near the top of most of the advanced stats I've seen for 3B) and his bat is good enough to hit in the 7th or 8th spots. They key is to stock good players elsewhere in the starting lineup.

This reminds me of economics, David Ricardo's comparative advantage principle that if each country (or organization) focuses on what they do best, the economy will be better off overall, with more production. That is essentially what Sabean has been doing with his focus on drafting pitchers and acquiring other teams' pitching castoffs, like Scott Eyre, Alan Embree, and Felix Rodriguez.

By doing this, eventually he will be a major supplier and controller of two of the main areas of proven significant connection with playoff success, closers and high strikeouts. Once he gets the pitching factory to produce pitching surplus, he will be able to trade off his suprlus to other teams for parts he does need. With a pitching staff that is pretty much complete and full of pitching prospects - except for a dominating closer - the Giants appear to be capable of doing this going forward as young prospects like Misch, Wilson, Sadler, Anderson, Sosa, Cowart, and Joaquin, for examples, continue to develop and advance in our system, and new draftees like Tim Alderson join the system.

Meanwhile, he has a team full of complementary offensive pieces that will hold the fort until we can obtain the better offensive players. With an extra $13M added to the payroll for 2008 from the trade of Matt Morris, the Giants should have around $40-50M cleared from the payroll for 2008, money that can be spent on obtaining better players for the starting lineup. Up for grabs right now is an outfield spot (unless Bonds somehow re-signs; doubtful given the Giants pronouncement that 2008 is not necessarily a competitive year), 1B, 3B, and SS.

With Roberts and Winn capable of playing all three positions, the Giants might look into players like Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter. I'm not sure who else are premium players coming up in the next two off-seasons, but one or two good signings, plus a trade, probably of Lowry, should yield the players we need.

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