Sunday, September 30, 2007

We Own the #5 Pick!

Of course, it's not official, but I went through the standings and with their extended losing skein to end the season, the Giants have "earned" the 5th pick in the draft. There are only 4 teams which won less games: Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants are actually tied with Florida, but from my understanding about ties, the first tie-breaker is the team's record the year before, and the Giants had two less wins than the Marlins in 2006, which would give them the #5 pick overall in the 2008 amateur draft.

From my previous study of the amateur draft, I found that the proportion of good players selected dropped significantly after the 5th pick, so it is not a small deal that we got the 5th pick and not the 6th, on a general basis. Of course, each year has it's own level of talent and one year's #10 pick could be better than another year's #5 pick, but I'll take any bit of additional advantage we can get in the draft.

In addition, good players often fall down a bit due to signability issues. For example, this year, Matt Wieters was considered one of the best hitter in college, if not the best, and he played a premium position - catcher - and was considered to be very good defensively. However, partly because he had Boras as his agent, most draft experts had him falling into the teens of the draft, which excited me because the Giants had the 10th pick. Alas, the Orioles screwed up that scenario by picking him with the - wait for it - 5th pick overall. And, of course, Lincecum fell to us for other issues when he could have been a top pick also. So each pick up overall gives us a better chance of having a top player fall to us for whatever reasons.

Hopefully it will be a good draft year for college position players, as those normally develop and produce faster than a high school player, and we can pick up a good hitter and hopefully at one of the premiere offensive positions: LF, RF, or 1B. Though an outstanding 3B would be good too, but they are much more rare to find, those you need to hold onto them. If he is good enough, maybe he'll be contributing to the team as early as 2010. A high schooler falling to #5 probably is still a bit of a project, whereas a good college player will be that much more polished and developed, and hopefully can move up faster.

Frandsen Starting 2B 2008?

Duane Kuiper was asked by Brian Murphy of the KNBR morning show if Frandsen might start in 2008, and Kuiper replied that, though he has no inside info, in his opinion Frandsen has earned the starting position at 2B with his play over the past two months, particularly during the month of September. Durham would then be a utility player unless he's traded, a possibility which Kuiper noted that Durham had endorsed recently if he's not starting. It appears that Durham can smell it too.

Key Pivotal Point?

The way the Giants go with this decision could signal a change in strategy going forward. During the Barry Era, it made good business sense to keep the high priced players around, despite their struggles, because if you are spending 25% of your payroll on keeping Barry around, you have to try to win it all with him, you have no choice but to spend all your available payroll on the best players available on the free agent market and cross your fingers and hope they work. Else, why bother to spend all that money on Barry? That led to the series of player acquisitions that fans have lambasted and on which I have concurred, but am willing to forgive because he had to do them, he did the best with the situation he was given by ownership.

People (like Sabean Naysayers) like to point at the Alfonzo signing as the start of the downturn, but really it was the Nen contract and career ending injury that started it. A lot of fans have not realized this connection, they would complain about the payroll being poorly allocated, ask why we would sign mediocrities like Tucker and Hammonds, and punt the draft pick, but when you have an $80M payroll, Nen's $9M of uselessness meant we only had a $71M payroll, then about $52-3M when you subtract Barry, then around $45M when you subtract Schmidt.

If you complain about any of the above, then you are really more accurately complaining about the signing of Nen to his contract because that was the domino contract that forced the Giants to scramble. That was the start if you are going to hindsight things, because if we had his salary to spend, we could have still had the relievers we had and who did well, but another $9M to spend on draft picks and better free agents. I pushed in a post for Nen to do a deal that would spread out his salary over a number of years (plus interest and an extra $1M) should his career be over but with options that would return his salary to normal levels if he returned to normal, but nothing was ever done, he just collected his money and his salary handcuffed the team to seeking out mediocre players while his contract was active, then Benitez's blowout just continued the misery.

But with the Barry Era over, the Giants, by making Frandsen the starter, would signal a change in strategy, as the Giants typically would give the vet the benefit of the doubt since they had done it before. Here's how it might happen. The Giants will start spring training with Durham as starter, Frandsen utility, but Frandsen will be a near starter, much like Feliz was, particularly as I expect the Giants to then resign Vizquel for a cheap $1M contract - they will want good (enough) defense at SS for the price - plus sign someone good defensively at 3B, either very cheap or very best, or perhaps even start Frandsen there (I think that's the best solution to getting him AB).

If things work out ideally, Durham will return to normal hitting in spring training and some contending team will lose their starting 2B (or have their expected starter perform very, very poorly) and they will willingly trade for Durham since he has only one year on his contract. For him the Giants would get a low level prospect they like but who had a slip up somewhere, much like Blackley or Denker. At worse, I think Durham would hit well enough to interest a desperate team with the Giants paying the whole contract and getting a similar type of prospect.

Giants Thoughts

I think Frandsen should start in 2008 to see what he can do: it's time. The only question is where. Ideally 2B should be it but Durham screwed things up with his terrible season. I think the Giants expected 1) Durham to hit well again, 2) to miss significant time again, giving Frandsen an extended chance to show what he can do plus play a lot anyhow at other positions, and 3) be tradeable if Frandsen proved himself capable. But Durham put the kibosh on that by hitting like Neifi Perez.

I've been pushing for Frandsen to start as the starting 3B but obviously it would be better if he was the starting 2B, I just didn't see the Giants being able to trade Durham. But with Durham talking consistently about wanting to be traded, I think where's there's smoke, there's fire, so he could be gone sooner than I had thought. And in today's Merc, there's even a rumor of a Durham for Jeff Kent trade that shocked me! (only if they throw in Andy LaRoche! I'll even take Chin-Lung Hu, he's suppose to be a sharp fielding SS. :^)

Otherwise, my previous scenario of Frandsen starting at 3B until the Giants could unload Durham and free 2B for Frandsen and 3B for Aurilia (and probably utility for Ochoa) would seem the most logical sequence of events. In any case, Frandsen should be the Giants starting 2B of the future, probably within the 2008 season. The next question is will he keep that position for 2009, or would we find Sanders, Burris, Velez, Denker as our future 2B? It is one thing to get the chance to prove you belong as a starter, it is another thing to keep that position.

But Frandsen has been hitting well in AAA since he was 23 plus has hit well the past two months as a semi-starter and hit really well the past month as a regular starter, so there is some hope, though it would have been much better if we could have seen how he did over a full AAA season, so that we know better that his good hitting stats were not small sample flukes - which his weaker results in 2006 when he had his most exposure suggests, but which his dominating hitting in AAA this season plus hitting the past month helped ameliorate.

I am rooting for him, but I've rooted for many a player who didn't make it. I just think he has a great story and it would be nice to have a happy ending to it. Go Frandsen!

Friday, September 28, 2007

BEAT LA... BEAT LA... BEAT LA!!!

As much as I would like to see the Giants move up in the draft and get a top 5 pick - they are currently tied for 6th, though I think they would win the tie-breaker, and only 1 game away from 5th - I would never wish or even secretly hope for the Giants to lose to the D-gers, ever!!!

I want to see the Giants crush the D-gers in a three-game sweep. It looks like the Giants might agree, there are rumors in the press that the Giants are planning on shifting the rotation to have Barry Zito pitch Saturday and Matt Cain pitch Sunday - currently Travis Blackley is slated for Sat. and Barry Zito on Sunday. The Merc's Andrew Baggarly noted that Matt Cain took batting practice on Wednesday even though he supposedly has already made his last start of the season.

Please - No Cain

I think it would be a mistake to start Cain, as much as I want to sweep the D-gers. He is at 3,354 pitches this season. With another start, he's pretty much at 3,500 pitches (if he throws 120, he would have 3,474) and from my admittedly unscientific look at pitch counts for pitchers over a season, I found that most pitchers endure a down season in terms of performance of peripheral stats within a year or two. Only two came to mind who didn't: Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

Here's how I did it. I was perusing The Graphical Pitcher (now Player) book a year or two ago, and one of the stats they provide is the total number of pitches thrown each season, on a line graph. I noticed that pitchers would have a bad season - either that year or within two seasons afterward - when they had a peak in pitch count, and after flipping through a couple of times, it seemed like 3,500 was the magic number. Bad was measured by a stat they created based on peripherals, and there would be a big dip.

So admittedly unscientific, but with the season gone anyway, I would rather err on the side of caution with Cain, much like what the Giants did with Lincecum by shutting him down. I would rather push up Zito and then insert Misch to pitch the last game, as I would like to more see how he would do as a starter than I would Blackley. Misch's strikeout rate was so high in AAA that I want to see how he would do as a starter.

BEAT LA!!! BEAT LA!!! BEAT LA!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Frandsen Not Fizzling, He's Sizzling

Shame on me for not writing about Kevin Frandsen as a possibility at 3B in yesterday's post on Feliz: I've only been pushing for that for a few months now. :^D

Starting August 24th, when he came in mid-game, Frandsen has played in 21 out of 28 games, so he has been getting regular play for a whole month now. In 65 AB, he has scored 10 runs, drove in 9 and struck out only 6 times, with a batting line of .400/.431/.554/.985 and 2 SB (and a homer). This does not count yesterday's game, where he went 0-for-4 with a run scored and a walk. Still, pretty nice stats overall, the only thing to complain about is his lack of walks but that is relatively minor since he's keeping strikeouts to a low, his contact rate is a sterling 91%, which is elite status. When you are hot like this, you need to continue to be aggressive and get the hits, plus he was able to get walks when he wanted to last season, particularly in the AFL, so I think he can switch to getting walks when the need comes.

This great period is marked by his great hitting in September. He has played in 15 of 21 games in the month, and started 7 of the last 8 games. In 50 AB, he has scored 9 runs, drove in 5 and struck out only 4 times, with a batting line of .420/.444/.520/.964 and 2 SB. Again, this does not count yesterday's game, unfortunately baseball-reference.com has not updated their stats yet (still the best for baseball stats out there, they recently added minor league stats as well).

I would like to see Frandsen start in 2008, to see what he's got (so far, so good), and if we are unable to trade Durham away during spring training without paying most of his salary to his new team, I would rather play Frandsen at 3B, at least to start the season, perhaps Durham can recover to have a good season and be a valuable trading chip by mid-season. Then Aurilia could take over 3B as Frandsen shifts over to 2B.

Again, to my way of thinking, the Giants should not go all out in free agency to be competitive. Selectively sign only the best young hitters available, particularly if they are in the infield, and use our supply of OF prospects to fill in the outfield, while still pursuing a trade of Winn, though with Bonds gone for certain, there is not as much need anymore as there will be plenty of ABs for the young guys, but if we can trade Winn and keep Roberts, the OF could be Roberts in LF, Davis in CF, Schierholtz in RF, with Lewis getting a lot of AB across the OF, plus if Ortmeier is starting at 1B, he could play some OF if and when Aurilia starts at 1B.

Keep Roberts

Some have scoffed or pooh-poohed my thought that Roberts is the one to be kept because he can train our base-stealers. In yesterday's MLB.com article on Frandsen (which jogged my memory on Frandsen):
Fradsen [SIC] will be able to add baserunning to his resume pretty soon, too. Dave Roberts was giving him basestealing tips in the outfield before Monday's game, and Fradsen [SIC] looked like a quick study as he easily grabbed second in the third inning for his fourth stolen base of the season.

This is why I want Roberts around at least one season if not for his contract. We need him to spread his wealth of knowledge to as many Giants prospects as possible, preferably the speedsters in our system. To utilize speed properly, you need to learn enough technique so that you can steal at least 75% successfully, and the best can steal 80%+ successfully (and Roberts has been around there for much of his career). Else you become a Jason Ellison, full of speed but owner of a 65% success rate in 32 career steal attempts (21 SB, 11 CS).

Outs are so crippling, particularly when on the basepaths, that if we, as an organization, is going to devote ourselves to speed, we need to make sure that our players know how to steal bases using the best techniques around. And with apologies to Darren Lewis, who was a fair base stealer in his playing days (247 stolen bases but, whoa!, only a sickly 69% success rate, didn't know it was that bad, no wonder Ellison never developed), Dave Roberts learned from one of the masters, Maury Wills.

This shows from his career stats. Robert's career success rate is 81%, and over the past four seasons, it was 84%, with seasonal rates of 97%, 89%, and 86% in three of those seasons (he had a horrible year his first year with the Padres and Bochy, but has been excellent the past 2 seasons; that 86% is still in flux as he could SB or CS in the final games of the season). We need a player like him to teach our young speedsters how to properly utilize their speed on the basepaths so that they run into less outs when stealing. It is a significant difference between now having a runner on second when he was on first versus having one less out and base runner.

Just keep him around, we need to get our speedsters to be at their best.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Puh-lease, no Feliz Multi-Year Contract

According to the Chronicle, Pedro Feliz is looking to get a multi-year contract. Just say no, Giants, to this idiotic offer.

Feliz had his chance this year to show that he can hit better, and while he has greatly improved his strikeout rate, in fact to around elite status for a while, about 90% contact rate - or 10% strikeout rate - for May, June, July, though he started regressing in August and is back to his hacktastic best in September, his batting average hasn't improved at all, in fact, his hitting line is no better than it was last year when he struck out so many more times (.249/.287/.421/.708 in 2007 vs. .248/.281/.428/.709 in 2006).

Plus, his RBI production has dropped greatly despite striking out less and therefore putting more balls into play. Apparently all those extra balls he hit into play were all turned into non-productive outs - essentially - relative to last year, since his hitting line is unchanged despite turning 40 strikeouts into balls put into play and his RBIs are down greatly.

I'm OK with giving him another one year contract, because that leaves the door open to upgrade 3B after 2008 and we don't really have any good options coming up the minors until Villalona reaches AA and is successful there or above, and the rules of baseball says that we need to field a 3B. But, I'm sorry, he could be the next Brooks Robinson at 3B, but with offense that much worse than the average 3B, let alone the better hitters, his defense couldn't be that good to make up the difference because his OPS is about that of an average shortstop, which is bad for a 3B.

I would rather give sign someone cheap to man 3B, whether vet or failed prospect free agent, and go with that guy. Or maybe trade for a 3B using our pitching as trade bait. But I cannot take a multi-year contract to Feliz, I can't believe that another team would do that, but if so, god bless them and him, but I would want the Giants to pass.

The free agent class is nothing to cheer about either, other than probably A-Rod. I would sign Russell Branyan to a one year plus option, and see what he can do. If he can hit his career batting lines vs. LHP and RHP, though he would have a low BA and OBP, his SLG is so high that his OPS is right there for the average 3B hitter. I don't know what his defense is (probably very horrible given how good his batting line is), but I would rather give him a shot (with Aurilia as backup; I see Aurilia as our backup in 2008 if anyone should falter anywhere, getting a lot of time at a position because the guy who started first failed to perform) than to see Feliz get a multi-year contract hitting that poorly the past two years.

Or if there is a good defensive 3B free agent willing to sign for a one year contract, then get himself instead of Feliz. There is no player out there on free agency worth giving a multi-year contract other than A-Rod, given the Giants being so far behind the other teams in the NL West in 2008 most probably, we need to be looking ahead to 2009. Signing Feliz to a multi-year contract just doesn't make sense unless he's getting the same amount of money as he is in 2007 and spreading it over the multi-years.

Mo' Better Deal: Blackley vs. Ellison

Travis Blackley, the second Aussie native to pitch for the Giants (the immortal Damian Moss was the first), started yesterday and had a nice outing once he settled down: he started off walking the lead-off guy and then gave up a homer to the second batter, so he was down 2-0 to start, but then shut out the Reds the rest of the way, for 5.0 IP, 3 hits and 4 walks, 5 strikeouts with the 2 runs. Except for the walks, very nice start on his part.

The 24 year old Blackley came to the Giants in the trade that ended the Jason Ellison era in the pre-season. Given that the Giants were probably not going to be able to keep Ellison on the roster, what with Linden earning his chance last season and Ryan Klesko and Mark Sweeney in the mix in the OF too, plus Fred Lewis in the minors, I was amazed that the Giants could get another team to actually give up any prospect, let alone one who used to be a good prospect until he had surgery.

Blackley had an OK season with the Fresno Grizzlies this year: 28 games started, 168.1 IP, giving up 156 hits and 68 walks, with 121 strikeouts and 21 homers, for a 4.66 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, borderline OK 1.8 K/BB, 1.1 HR/9. But he's still only 25 years old for next season and by then will be two seasons past his surgery. It took Joe Nathan two years to recover from his surgery (though some never recover) so there is some hope that Blackley can return to the stellar form he displayed in 2003 as a 20 year old.

However, I'm not sure what our control over him is. He should have been a 6 year minor league free agent after last season, which would imply that the Mariners took him back when no one else would sign him up, before trading him to us. That would imply that we have some sort of control still, though I'm not up on those rules. I would hope that we keep him in some fashion, but given that his season's stats aren't that sterling, I don't see another team stealing him away from us, even if he were free.

Ellison's Interesting 2007

Meanwhile, Jason Ellison had what I would term an interesting 2007. I won't go into his stats too deeply, since he's not a Giant anymore, but with Seattle, he was on the roster most of the season but didn't get into many games as a starter or even a hitter, he was used mostly as a pinch-runner, from what I remembered. If he didn't set a record for least ABs for someone on a major league roster all season long, then that means that only Herb Washington, who the A's used ONLY as a pinch-runner, beat him. Then he somehow ended up with the Reds, who actually started him against us and he had some nice hits to help them beat us.

Good for him, but I'm happy with the trade as we got a young pitcher with some potential and still some time to reach his potential, for a player who wasn't going to do much for us that another player wouldn't do better or with more potential. Hopefully we get to keep Blackley and see how he turns out in the next couple of years.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Correia Stepping Up to the Plate

Kevin Correia has made it clearly known that he views himself as a starter and wants to be a starter, but has been equally the good soldier in doing what the team told him to do. For nearly two seasons now, he has been a reasonably reliable reliever for the Giants, with a good ERA, when injuries to starters created a need for starters, giving opportunities to Jonathan Sanchez, Pat Misch, and Kevin Correia. Each has made a nice case that they deserve a chance to start next season.

Correia's Case in Point

Obviously, as the title says, I'm focusing on Correia here. Today he pitched another good start - heck, it was a great start: 7.0 IP, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks but no runs, and struck out 6. That would be a PQS of 5, a dominating start, and, of course, would count as a quality start under that definition. Unfortunately, the offense failed to give him any support, but the bullpen picked up the team so that the offense could finally deliver 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th on a pinch-hit 2-run single by Durham (another RBI PH turn on his part) and get the team a win. I think the Giants are currently in a tie for the 6th draft pick with two other teams.

In six starts, starting August 14th, he has pitched 33.0 innings, gave up 27 hits and 10 walks, struck out 23, allowing 8 runs/ER, plus gave up 2 HR, for an ERA of 2.18 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 6.3 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 0.5 HR/9. Hitters had a batting line of .220/.278/.317/.595 in his starts.

That's excellent pitching, and thus he has made the big statement he needed to do in order to get his name back in the mix for the starting rotation, once he finally got his opportunity to show what he can do. He had to put up or shut up, and he put up with a restounding "yes!"

The rotation as it currently stands consists of Lincecum, Cain, Zito, and Lowry, which means that there is one spot to fill. Jonathan Sanchez has been assumed to be the guy who would take that 5th starter spot in 2008, but I think Correia and Misch have made a strong case for themselves. Given the recent talk from management about the need to trade off young pitching (while also making the point that Cain and Lincecum are untouchables) and the Barry Bonds decision, it appears that someone(s) from the group of Lowry, Sanchez, Misch, Correia, and perhaps Hennessey could be traded in order to get position prospect(s) to aid the reload of the Giants to return to winning in 2008.

I have had a rooting interest in Kevin Correia since he first came up in 2003. Steve Shelby turned me on to him early in the season and I have followed him ever since. He seems to be a nice kid, good head on his shoulders, and is a fighter. I hope he gets the chance he has been fighting for and get to start for the Giants. It might not happen, though, depending on how well Sanchez does (he's considered a higher potential pitcher) and whether Lowry gets traded or not (another open rotation spot would give his chances a huge boost), plus Misch is tempting due to his good K/BB and high K/9 (I like Misch too). Go Correia!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Baseball America Top 20 Arizona Rookie League: Giants Loaded, V for Villalona


{Note: this was at the bottom of the Bonds post but I had a change of heart and gave it its own post}

Baseball America is starting to list their Top 20 prospects in each league and they kindly made the list available to non-subcribers like me, and BA recently listed their Top 20 in the Arizona Rookie League and the Giants have 2 of the Top 3, 3 of the top 6, and 4 of the top 15.
  • #1 in 2007 is our Angel Villalona, who hit very well there despite being only 16 years old much of the season. He played 3B and he looked surprisingly slim in the photo on the front page (see above).

  • #3 was Nick Noonan, who took to pro baseball pretty easily and well. He did get games at SS, but from what I remember, his defense was as bad as feared and 2B looks to be his future occupation.

  • #6 was Wilber Bucardo, RHP. I assume he is from a Latin American country, according to the short article, there were more Latins there this year because most of the top picks didn't sign early enough to get much play. Even Alderson, who signed earlier only got a few innings under his wing.

  • #15 was Charlie Culberson, SS. I think he and Noonan split time at SS. I don't recall any mention of his defense, but his offense was OK. That's a pretty good showing given that most pundits called this pick one done to save money, but here he is, one of the top 15 prospects in the Arizona Rookie League.

That's a pretty good showing, particularly considering that Alderson probably could have made the list if he had enough IP under his belt, he did pretty well in his short time there. Hopefully they can all graduate to A-ball with Augusta in 2008.

I assume Villalona will get to skip a level for sure, to A-ball then drop back down to Salem-Keizer if warranted. Alderson and probably Bumgarner will get to start at A-ball. Noonan and Culberson too. I'm not sure about Fairley, I assume it depends on what he shows during spring training. Williams was already at Salem-Keizer this year, so he probably starts in Augusta too. Bucardo probably will end up in Augusta as well. I don't think the Giants will be shy about promoting people to San Jose if they excel early, either.

Bonds is Going, Going, Almost Gone

Big Thanks to sfgfan for a link to Barry Bonds' good-bye message. Apparently the Giants (Peter Magowan specifically) have just informed him that this is his last year with the Giants and he's upset he didn't get to do some unnamed extra something with the fans, but this is the right time, it's the last homestand, he can say goodbye and so can the fans, at least to him as a Giants, he could return back next season playing for another team.

Thanks Barry

That put a skewer in my assumption that Bonds is back, but that's OK, I was OK either way, as long as we weren't paying him that much. That's my guess right now as to why the Giants passed on Bonds, he probably still wants big dough to play in 2008, gave the Giants the range and they decided, "No thanks." Thus Bonds can now say it was a business decision on their part.

In any case: Thanks Barry Barry Much, Barry, for 15 incomparable seasons as a Giants player. I salute your dedication, your skills, your tenaciousness, your singular vision, that led you down this Hall of Fame path. Your numbers in the 2000's were much like the crazy stats I wrote up for my "baseball card stats" when I was a young kid, thanks for making them real.

Hopefully the idiots in the media don't decide that they are above the game and not vote for you, but I suspect that many will chose not to vote for you, just because they are mean-spirited and biased. I'm only sorry that we were never able to celebrate a World Series Championship together, but hopefully you will come back to the organization afterward and finally start teaching our young players all your tricks of the trade. Thanks for all that you have done.

Plot Complications, Plot Complications

With no Bonds, then Dave Roberts can play LF where he had stellar defense for SD in 2006, instead of CF, where he's probably just average. Randy Winn would then return to CF, where his offense can be considered good, and Nate Schierholtz would get to start in RF. I wonder if Schierholtz's good season in AAA and then his nice run up in the majors was the factor that finally tilted the Giants to not re-sign Barry.

Frankly, as much as I like Fred Lewis and Raj Davis, they cooled off a lot after their nice start with the Giants, so it was not like either had earned a starting spot even if one was available, though I would be OK with them, say, platooning in CF, should the Giants trade Winn away for prospects. Davis will probably be Roberts platoon buddy, and Lewis would be the 4th OF, sucking up ABs at all three OF positions, as neither Winn or Schierholtz can be expected to play 162 games. Plus there will be DH opportunities for someone. That in all could open up a total of about 45-50 games for Lewis, or about 200-225 AB, which is not that bad to get a nice gauge of how he is doing.

Given this turn of events, it looks more likely that Klesko will not be re-signed either, and Dan Ortmeier probably will get the call to start at 1B in 2008. Else why would JT Snow be working with him so extensively to give him a crash course in fielding 1B? That would mean a defense of:

C: Molina
1B: Ortmeier
2B: Durham
3B: Aurilia/Frandsen
SS: Vizquel?/Ochoa?/???
LF: Roberts/Davis
CF: Winn
RF: Schierholtz

Not the best, but I am OK with 2008 as a rebuilding year where success is not measured by wins but by development and progress.

Lince-Shutdown

After 146.1 IP in the majors and 31.0 IP in the minors - for a total of 177.1 IP - Tim Lincecum has been shut down by the Giants, with Bochy noting, "We just added it all up and said, 'There's just not enough to gain by throwing him out there the next couple of starts. The guy's too valuable to us. He's our future, and we'll just go ahead and rest him up and get him ready for next year." He emphasized that there's nothing wrong with Lincecum physically that led to this decision.

Mike Krukow, on his regular morning spot on KNBR today, assured the hosts that Lincecum is not injured, that this is just a precaution when dealing with young arms, particularly one who only last year was throwing in college and the minors. The college and minor leagues are not as long as a major league season, he noted, and he felt that to be safe, you shouldn't increase the pitcher's IP load more than 25 or so IP over the previous year.

In 2006, Lincecum had 156.0 IP in college plus his professional starts, so the increase in IP was only 21.1 IP from 2006 to 2007. However, from 2005 to 2006, he went from 104.1 IP to 156.0 IP, a huge jump. So by Krukow's standards, he probably shouldn't have pitched much, if at all, as a pro last season, as Lincecum jumped up in IP solely from college was from 104.1 IP to 125.1 IP, leaving at most one start or a series of relief appearances in the pros if this limit was followed.

Cain is Able

At least his jump is not as bad as what Cain did a couple of years ago while coming up our system. Cain didn't jump too much from his signing to year to the next - I assume he pitched at least 40-50 IP in high school, though I'm not too familar with the normal IP load for high schoolers - but from 2003 to 2004, he jumped from 74.0 IP to a combined 158.2 IP (started in San Jose and ended in Norwich). He then jumped again to 192.0 IP in 2005, when he pitched mainly in AAA before a sterling beginning to his major league career, and he really hasn't looked back since.

Since then he has been pretty much around the same. After the 192.0 IP in 2005, he had 190.1 IP in 2006 and 193.0 IP thus far in 2007, with just one more start to go this season (only 9 games left and he just pitched yesterday, means that he pitches the 5th of 9 games then the season ends). He was hoping to reach 200 IP, but it would take a very well-pitched game to reach that.

More critical, to me, is his total pitch count. After yesterday's 113 pitch game, he has a total of 3,241 pitches thrown this season. With one start to go, he will end up around 3,350. I'll admit this is unscientific but I went through a stat book that listed each pitcher's pitch count by season and it seemed like anytime a pitcher would exceed 3,500 pitches in a season, within a season or two after that, his key pitching metrics dipped downward, whether by injury or a significant drop in production. The only pitchers I can remember who were able to beat the odds on that was Randy Johnson , and we'll never know whether it was wear and tear or just plain old age that is causing his recent problems with injuries, and, of course, Roger Clemens.

Lincecum Pitch Count

Lincecum is at 2,399 pitches in the majors this year, which averaged out to 16.4 pitches per inning. With 31.0 IP in the minors (and probably much easier innings than in the majors), assuming 16.4 pitches for the minors (conservatively high), that's 508 pitches. Together, he has thrown approximately 3,000 pitches this season. He would have had two more starts so he would have ended up at above 3,200 pitches had he not been shut down.

Given the high and hard usage that his arm received in college - his PAP abuse score was off the charts in college, among the worse each year - I can see why the Giants are being cautious with their wunderkind. That he is still not icing down his arm, though, speaks to how little actual abuse he has received the past couple of years.

Not that I'm campaigning for Lincecum to stay in the rotation. I think this is the right, conservative move. Lefty Malo was pushing for this one start ago, when his ERA was under 4.00; I could go either way, but I think if Lincecum had his druthers, he would rather start the games.

Opportunity for Others

In particular, at least before the injury to Sanchez took him out of the rotation, one reason I would have shut down Lincecum sooner than later, was that I wanted to see Pat Misch put back in the rotation. I don't know if he'll be a good starter, some relievers can't translate their success to starting (see Ryan Madsen of the Phillies, great reliever, but his experiment as a starter last season was an unmitigated disaster), but Misch was so dominating in AAA that I think the Giants owe it to themselves to see if he can do it as a starter, which he had been for his whole career until very recently.

Now with the injuries and this shutdown, our rotation is reduced to Zito, Cain, Misch, and Correia. There is talk about starting Atchison, but why not throw a bone to Hennessey and let him start? He, like Correia, has been a good soldier and did the relief thing, but at heart they are still starters. Plus, he has been horrible as a reliever recently. Maybe as a starter, he'll get an adrenaline rush that gets him back on track. Just a thought, particularly since it looks like Walker and Wilson at the end of the game right now, there's only middle and long relief plus mop-up work left to do.

It won't hurt to have another starting option, particularly if the Giants do trade a starter from the rotation. Plus if he does well in his starts, he could become a tradeable commodity as well, he has pitched nicely the past two seasons as a reliever and then would also has appeal as a starter. And if he stinks, then clearly his arm is tired and we shut him down too. Seems like a win-win to start him.

Which is unlike starting Atchison. He's a long time AAAA pitcher, getting up there in years, being 31. Of course he should dominate AAA, he's so much older and experienced. I don't see much win in starting him, other than giving him a big thrill. And even if he did well, it would not enhance his trade value, as he has no trade value.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Silence is a Bargaining Tool Also

Tim Kawakami of the SJ Mercury makes the argument that silence on the Giants part speaks volumes on their intent with regards to signing Bonds, namely that they are planning on a future without him. However, what he's missing is that silence can also be a bargaining tool as well, to get Bonds to lower his price if he wants to return.

Of course, this is all speculation. As I noted before, my gut tells me that the Giants would re-sign Bonds if agrees that this season is his final one and that they can celebrate his career all season-long, plus be reasonable in terms of contract size, something under $10M. The questions, to me, are how much below that the Giants would want, and how low is Barry willing to take. I would think somewhere in the high single digits will be the salary, perhaps half that of this season, with the understanding that Bonds would not be playing as many games, just the majority of home games, and one game minimum of each road series, so that the young players get more ABs. He would also get to DH.

Despite all the rhetoric by his agent about teams willing to sign him, I don't see how any team would be willing to sign him period, let alone how much it would cost them. There's so much baggage. Sosa, at least, his stigma is mainly he wasn't that good his last time around (though there are whispers that he has used before), but Rafael Palmeiro, who was still an effective hitter but caught as a steroids user, wasn't able to find work the past two seasons.

As a Giants fan, I know having him around would cost us development time, but I would like to see him reach 3,000 hits plus retire as a Giant, and at a reasonable salary. However, I would also be OK with the Giants not pursuing him, even if no one tries to sign him, if that was their decision, I've seen enough baseball that this sort of stuff don't always happen for Hall of Famers at the end of their career.

Either way on Bonds, I just want to:

A) See Schierholtz get a chance to play at least 300-400 AB in 2008, if not regularly start (which means Winn traded); and

B) See Davis and Lewis get regular play in the OF. Davis should as Roberts platoon buddy, plus when Bonds DH, and Lewis probably should as Barry's stand-in in LF when Bonds isn't playing. That's not ideal, as both would get around 200-300 AB, but should give them enough AB so that they Giants have a better feel for what they got when 2009 season starts.

C) See the Bonds saga end, either now or 2008, whatever works for the Giants.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Giants to Trade a Young Pitcher

The SJ Mercury reported today (twice!) that the "Giants officials are coming to the realization they will have to trade at least one of their young pitchers to reconstruct the lineup this winter." The Merc noted that the success of Jonathan Sanchez and Kevin Correia have made the Giants management feel more comfortable about dealing a pitcher. I would give a link except it annoys me that they eventually take the link out of circulation anyway; just have a bookmark to their Giants page and go there when I mention them; or, hmm, maybe I'll just do that from now on! Doh!).

More importantly, the Update side-column on Lowry's Elbow makes the point that "Club officials said they continue to consider Cain and Lincecum untouchable." Amen to that, it is ridiculous for anyone to suggest that we trade either of them. Together, they could potentially be the nucleus of one of the best tandem's in Giants history and if Zito can keep it going, it could be quite an awesome trio as well, for many years to come.

So with Cain and Lincecum off the table, that leaves only one obvious choice to trade, which means nothing will probably happen over the off-season: Lowry. Zito's contract is still too large for anyone to take on unless the Giants pony up cash, and I don't see the Giants doing that. Sanchez could be one, but he's a big strikeout guy and still a bit erratic, so I see another team trying to low-ball the Giants.

Or they won't offer enough to make a big difference: the Mets reportedly offered Carlos Gomez, who some have described as having Jose Reyes potential in CF and he did well in the majors until he was injured. But we already have a OF full of prospects (albeit none as good as Gomez) and two CF already in Roberts and Winn (though Roberts plays excellent defense in LF). But even if we inserted him into the offense, he won't change the offense all by himself and make it suddenly respectable. We need more and Lowry, once he shows that he is healthy in spring training, would be the big draw to get two good position prospects from another team.

2008 Offense

Now Allfrank has been touting our offense for 2008 and, for a lot of it, I can agree with or at least see his logic (though I thought his numbers at Lefty Malo was off). But the way I've been trying to analyze the Giants chances year by year is by whether they can win the NL West crown and thereby make the playoffs.

Trying to see beyond that is futile, I think, even for the Yankees and Red Sox with their money-laden teams, except for trying to make your pitching and defense as bullet-proof as possible. I believe a troika of Cain, Lincecum, and Zito can make for a dominating run through the playoffs, but there is so much randomness in performances that to outright say one year or another that we're going all the way would be incredibly naive and disingenuous.

So each year, to me, is a matter of estimating how good the Giants are and then seeing how that fits against other teams in the NL West. In prior years, I wasn't scared of the other teams, so I felt that even if the Giants were no great shakes themselves, they had a good chance of winning the division still, if they just play to potential and be at or around .500. Then our chances are improved in the playoffs versus the regular season because Bonds would be in the lineup every day instead of sitting out a game or two per week.

But, to me, this season right now both the 'Dres and the D-gers look good enough - again - to be around 90 wins going forward and I know the Giants are not good enough to reach that without serious playing over their heads going forward. Hence why, as Anon noted, I was touting the Giants early in the pre-season but now don't see much going for 2008.

Before the season, I thought Vizquel and Durham were going to continue to be useful parts of the offense and that Klesko would show more than he did. None of that came true and they appear to be career ending type of suckitude, plus Roberts had elbow problems and Aurilia had neck problems. Hence why 2008 is clearly an offense that's going to suck, whereas I thought 2007, based on pre-season assumptions that proved false, would be better. I don't see why Anon can't see that.

The Real World

That's the real world, you make assumptions that appear to be valid, and when things go the wrong way, you adjust your thinking to fit what now appears to be the facts. Some may claim to have "known" that this was going to happen, but only if Durham could have had his normal .800-something OPS, we would be having a much better season right now, perhaps even not be in last place and close to the leaders. Add in a faster acclimation by Zito, Aurilia and Roberts being healthy for the year, and Vizquel hitting .700 OPS, we could have been up there.

But nobody predicted that Durham would have the worse season by far as a regular, heck, it isn't even an average season for anyone. It was a horrible season for anybody, it is bad when his numbers make you pine for Neifi Perez and he was the absolute worse. And nobody saw that happening.

Demanding, Sch-manding

The problem with some sports fans is that they set very high and very unrealistic goals for their team and puff their chests and crow about how "demanding" they are. I've been called optimistic but for the past few years, I've been calling the Giants a .500 team who's only in contention because the competition was so weak. I thought that was realistic based on the assumptions made.

Demanding doesn't make things happen (see Pirates and Royals). Nothing we do makes things happen. However, one can at least enjoy what we can and try to understand moves (or continue to lambaste them Vlad ). I have seen fans who couldn't enjoy the 2000-2004 period - that was about as good a period as there was in SF Giants history, particularly in the past 37 seasons - and I just don't understand that.

I Have Enjoyed This Season

I have enjoyed this season. Not because I'm optimistic, but because we had some nice performances from Lincecum, Cain, and some hope and excitement from Lewis, Ortmeier, Schierholtz, Davis, Frandsen, Sanchez, Misch, Wilson, Correia, and Hennessey. Winn and Molina also had nice seasons, and Roberts after he finally recovered from surgery. And of course, Barry's season of milestones. And given the twists and turns that Zito has gone through, to see him at a 4.41 ERA is pretty good because of his nice run since August started: 9 starts, 10 games, 58.2 IP, 39 hits and 18 BB, with 44 K's and 8 HR (6.0 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 1.2 HR/9, 2.44 K/BB) with a 2.61 ERA.

Of course, it sucks that we lost and lost a lot. And for all that we might still not get a draft pick not much different from last year's #10: today we have the 8th pick. However, we are only 1 game "ahead" of the 9th pick and is within 2 games of "rising" to the 3rd to 6th pick. So that will change day to day, with so many "vying" for a top 5 pick.

But the way I saw it early season, the way to enjoy the season was to enjoy the pitching staff, because they are the cornerstone of the future, they are the centerpiece. And for the most part, that has been enjoyable. I know the bullpen's not that great, but they did OK overall and there is hope with the way Wilson pitched at the end, plus Correia and Hennessey were steady influences again, much as they were in 2006, at least until Hennessey suddenly lost it all. The rotation was up and down, but how can you not enjoy it overall, looking at what Cain, Lincecum, Lowry did, plus Morris early and Zito late, and of course the turns by Sanchez, Correia, and Misch.

This is How I Do It

I come to baseball to enjoy it and this is the way I do it. You set certain expectations, plus look out for certain players. Was I happy all the time? No, but when you are hoping to have a .500 season, there's a good chance you are going to be a loser that season if some things don't go your way. And this season, there were a lot that didn't go our way, starting with Durham and ending with Linden.

So I don't focus as much on the winning in seasons like this, though I will always enjoy wins, but you pick through the remains of the game and see what positives you can see from it, much like how Lefty picks his PLODAG. We lost a lot of well pitched games, Cain in particular, but I could enjoy that our pitchers were bringing it overall, even if it didn't result in a win. And I enjoyed the nice performances that Lewis, Davis, Ortmeier, and Schierholtz gave in certain games during the season.

And it is encouraging to me that the bullpen was terrible in preventing inherited runners from scoring. Why? Because that means that if we can fix the bullpen with one or two key signings for 2008, plus key additions like Brian Wilson and maybe Tyler Walker, these runners don't score, the pitching rotation has an even better ERA, and the offense can still suck but win more games.

I don't need a World Series championship to enjoy the season, though I would love one that my dear Uncle who has been a fan since 1958 can see and experience. I enjoy what I can, when I can, and if that makes me an optimist, so be it, but to me, an optimist only sees blue skies ahead, and I see plenty of rain in the coffee for at least the next season, perhaps more.

2008 Looks Bad

We had only one player much above an OPS+ of 100 and that was Bonds, again by a mile. As much as I want to see our young OF play, he looks like a lock to be re-signed for 2008. I'm only hoping the Giants only pay him much less, like under $10M, and that it will be an agreed upon retirement tour, with celebrations and minimal play on the part of Bonds: enough so that he can reach his goal of 3,000 hits, but then we play the young players a lot, maybe half the time in LF (Bonds get some extra ABs from DH-ing).

And none of the free agents, including Torii Hunter look to make us that much better, particularly an OF free agent when we still got Roberts and Winn PLUS all the OF prospects. Ideally, we keep Roberts and trade Winn, start Schierholtz in RF and swap in Lewis and Davis in LF and CF with Roberts, depending on the matchups. But since Bonds probably is there, I'm hoping he just plays a light 90-100 game schedule, giving Lewis and Davis a lot of games in the OF, plus a few games in RF, as Schierholtz won't start the whole season.

And I'm encouraged that our young OF are all hitting respectably in their first season of MLB play. They all have OPS+ in the 90's: Lewis 96, Ortmeier 92, Davis 99, Schierholtz 91. Sure, you would rather have the Ryan Braun's and Hunter Pence's or Billy Butler's, but you need to fill your team with some average regular players somewhere in your lineup as well, then you don't have to go to free agency to fill empty spots on your team, you fill from within and maybe pick up the superstar off free agency.

The only free agent I see worth pursuing is A-Rod and we have about zero chance of signing him. Then again, I would have bet that we had zero chance of signing Zito as well and yet here he is. So you never know.

Plus pick up a nice set-up guy, to mix in with Hennessey, Walker, Wilson for the closer and setup roles, and try to solidify the bullpen so that the starters don't have so many runners scored after they leave. That alone could make our team a solid .500 team in 2008, which is still not good enough to compete with the high-80 win teams of the 'Dres and D-gers, but at least that's respectable. You have to start somewhere, and from where we are today, .500 is an improvement.

I Hope You Enjoy 2008 Nonetheless

And set your expectations low for 2008. I'm hoping the Giants chose to make it a rebuilding year and not sign many free agents, just key ones that would help the team in a significant way, like a tipping point, such as an A-Rod or a strong set-up reliever. Ideally you have young players all over: Ort at 1B, Ochoa at SS, Frandsen at 3B, Schierholtz in RF, Davis and Lewis seeing significant time in OF since Roberts platoons and Bonds is old and retiring, and hopefully Winn is traded (nothing against him, but we just need the space and Roberts can teach our speedsters a lot). Plus Molina catching, Durham at 2B (no one is going to take his contract without most of the salary paid for), and Aurilia getting regular starts across the entire infield: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS. But I can see Vizquel also getting a one year retirement tour contract as well, hopefully not more than the $1-2M range and we might be trading one of our young pitchers for a position prospect.

And watch and enjoy the pitching staff. With another year of experience for them, they should only get better in 2008, unless some injury bugaboo hits them, Cain and Lincecum especially. Oh, and hope that we sign Lincecum to a contract that covers him for the rest of his pre-free agent years. I think Wilson will be up the whole year in 2008 and hopefully he can close, but if not, I think Walker or Hennessey can do an adequate job overall and just hold the fort until we do develop a closer internally.

And we will have a ton of young players. We have a lot of young players who will be 27 years old and younger in 2008: Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, Sanchez, Correia, Messenger, probably Brian Wilson, maybe Misch, maybe Threets; Frandsen, Schierholtz, Ortmeier, Davis, probably Lewis. And some who are not very young but not old either: Zito, Hennessey, maybe Taschner, maybe Chulk, and the backup catcher, Alfonzo or Rodriguez. So the team is changing its stripes and slowly becoming younger. But I think that's a pretty good job of getting young while also trying to win with Bonds around the past three seasons.

2008 might not be a winning season but I look forward to enjoying it, particularly the young pitchers. Hopefully you will too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We Are the Champions: San Jose Giants and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes

Sorry, been busy with outplacement and "selling myself", so I didn't follow the SJ Giants story along the way, but all's well that ends well: they won the California League championship. Lenn Sakata did it again! It is his second championship in three seasons, having won in 2005.

They were actually only one game away from elimination after losing the first two games on the road, but then came home and swept to win the championship. Giants minor league sensation Henry Sosa combined with three relievers (including normal starter Adam Cowart - didn't matter, after all, it was the last game of the season, throw all your best pitcher out there) to shut down Lake Elsinore and kept them to only two hits with one run scored, recording 11 strikeouts. Which is fitting since the Giants led the league in ERA.

The Giant had the long ball to thank. 3B Mark Minicozzi hit a 2nd inning homer to tie the game at 1-1 and held a slim 2-1 lead before closing it down with the long-ball. Brian Bocock hit a three-run homer in the 4th (all the more amazing since he was 1 for 19 coming into the game) and Travis Ishikawa, who has been rejuvenated with San Jose, hit a two-run homer in the 8th.

Mark Minicozzi was named the series MVP. He batted .526 with 10 hits in the series. He also had the aforementioned homer. It was a nice end to a season marred by injuries. He noted, "I don't know how to explain it, but I hit really well in pressure situations," he said. "I love being in big games with the crowds. I want to be the guy that helps the team win the game."

The pitchers, as noted, were formidable. Sosa started and went 4 innings, giving up the 2 hits and 1 BB, and the only run, while striking out 3. Cowart came in and gave up nothing in 3 innings, striking out 4, and getting credit for the win. Then the usual end of game guys - Jason Waddell and Sergio Romo - came in for an inning apiece, both striking out 2 and giving up nothing. I got my news account from the MiLB.

Pablo!

I would also like to add a note about Pablo Sandoval. He was a hotshot prospect not a season ago but a very disappointing 2006 playing 3B dropped him off the radar. However, he returned to his previous position, catching, this year and he had a good season for San Jose.

The 21-year-old catcher hit .287/.312/.476/.788 during the season with 11 homers in 401 AB and 52 RBIs, then hit .267 during the playoffs and is tied for the team lead with seven postseason RBIs. Despite his poor ability to take a walk, as evidenced by his low OBP despite a high batting average, he had good bat discipline, striking out only 13% of the time, leading to a 87% contact rate, which is what you want to see from a hitter, a mark over 85%. And he had a good contact rate of 83% in 2006, so that was a sign that perhaps his poor performance was just a bad luck year for him.

Unfortunately, he should end up at Connecticut for the 2008 season and, as I've documented with stats previously, anyone who relies on power as large part of their offensive production will be frustrated by playing at Dodd Stadium until that field is fixed. Hopefully they will fix it this off-season, but I'm not holding my breath, the GM there actually thinks that the players should just chug out doubles when the ball is hit in the gap, which is fine if you are a punch and judy hitter with no power, but if you are not much of a runner, that's like telling the tortoise it's his fault for not running out that hit.

Volcanoes Erupt

The Giants seven minor league affiliates had a combined .575 winning percentage in 2007, going 441-326, and the Salem-Volcanoes contributed mightily to that by going 57-19, which not only was the league-best, but by pummelling their division so soundly, they were the only .500 team in the division. The ended up finishing 19.5 games ahead of second place Vancouver in the West Division. And their .750 winning percentage led the minor leagues. Plus they clinched with 16 games left to play, in a 86 game season. That's like clinching in the majors with 30 games left to play, or sometime late in August.

There was a lot of notable performances this season. Starters Thomas Brewer (round 35, 2007 draft) and Andrew de la Garza shared the league lead in wins with nine apiece. And Brewer had the third best ERA at 3.05. Daniel Otero (round 21, 2007 draft) lead the league with 19 saves. Matthew Downs (round 36, 2006 draft) hit .367, good for 2nd in the league, and led the league with 68 runs scored in 73 games. Garrett Baker led the league with 64 RBI. And Downs and Baker finished 1-2 in extra-base hits. Both of them were named to the NWL All-Star team and Downs was named co-MVP for his good performance.

With that as prologue, the Volcanoes won the Northwest Championship again, for the second time in a row behind manager (and long-time Giants fan favorite) Steve Decker, and for the fourth time in ten years. Which is all the more amazing because only one of the regulars were drafted in the first ten round (catcher Jackson Williams). Like the San Jose Giants, they also lost their first game but then won the next three and the championship.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Thought About Left-Hitting Prospects

The Giants have an abundance of hitters who can hit RHP but not so well against LHP. Fred Lewis, Dan Ortmeier, even Nate Schierholtz has had some problems with LHP in the past, though he was good this year. Well, what does one of the best hitters ever do to prepare to hit against LHP?

Barry Bonds has his own LHP come to the park with him and on road trips to throw to him and keep him sharp, because that's a major problem why they are not able to handle LHP, they don't face them that often. Why don't the Giants pay someone to do likewise for their prospects, both in the minors and in the majors?

Perhaps one per team, with maybe two for the major league team, to mix it up plus the guy has got to tire out at some point, so you have at least two to handle the guys having problems hitting lefties. It seems to me that it should not cost that much to implement, maybe $100K per MLB thrower, $50K per minor league thrower. It would be a way for some to stay involved with professional baseball when their playing days are over, and that's not bad money for half a year's work.

Also, the guy who pitches to Bonds is also allowed to throw whatever he feels like, just to keep it real. That would be good to implement as well. Just a thought...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Most Spectacular Pitcher: Kevin Pucetas

Giants prospect Kevin Pucetas of the Augusta Greenjackets (get it? Masters is held in Augusta) won the "Most Spectacular Pitcher" award, which sounds very impressive and, not to demean his feat that got him the award - which was that he had the lowest ERA in all the minors - but that's a pretty lofty title for an award based on just one statistic, albeit a very important one. The news is here.

A 22-year-old right-hander, Kevin received the honor after compiling a 1.86 ERA over 27 appearances (23 starts), where he threw 145 1/3 innings, gave up only 124 hits (pretty good!) and only 21 walks (now THAT'S spectacular; only 1.3 BB/9 when 3.0 is the highest you want to be), with 104 striketouts, which is basically a 5.0 K/BB (which is also SPECTACULAR! You want starters to be at 2.0 or higher; however, his K/9 is a pedestrian 6.4). Also wonderful is that he is a groundball pitcher with a 1.47 GO/AO ratio, which means for every 2 air outs, he has 3 ground outs. His batting average against was only .228.

Congrats to Pucetas, who earned a $7,500 prize with the award. Looking at his stats, I can say that it was pretty spectacular overall, but it would be nice if he could up his K/9 rate. He should be in AA next season, when he'll be 23, though he could jump to AAA if the Giants think he is ready.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

2007 San Jose Giants Playoffs: Game 1 Division Championship

The San Jose Giants made the playoffs this year by winning the first half. Saturday (yesterday) they played the first game of their playoffs against Visalia and won, natch, on the backs of their pitching. Fortunately for the proceedings, Mark Sweeney was traded.

Denker Does It Again

The guy we got in that trade, Travis Denker, had paid off immediate dividends for the Giants by hitting a grand slam and driving in 6 runs in his debut as a Giant, and it was his solo homer in the first inning that proved the game winner, 1-0. Going 2 for 3 with the homer, he was the offensive star by far, especially given that the Giants in total only amassed another 2 hits and a walk beside what Denker did.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

Paul Oseguera got the win with 7 shutout innings, only 4 hits and 1 walk given up, with 8 strikeouts. Sergio Romo got the save with a 1-2-3 9th with 2 strikeouts. Ronnie Ray and Jason Waddell joined the strikeout parade by collectively striking out the side in the 8th - Ray with 2 and Waddell with 1 (Ray gave up a hit too). The Giants in total struck out 13.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

2007 Giants: August PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of August, 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 August 31, 2007)

Matt Cain - (56% DOM, 19% DIS; 15:5/27): 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 0, 3, 5, 5, 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 1, 5, 3, 1, 0, 0, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 3, 5

Kevin Correia - (67% DOM, 33% DIS; 2:1/3): 0, 4, 4

Tim Lincecum - (71% DOM, 19% DIS; 15:4/21): 0, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 0, 0, 0, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4

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

Pat Misch - (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/2): 3, 3

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

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

Barry Zito - ( 33% DOM, 22% DIS; 9:6/27): 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2, 0, 3, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 3, 3, 0, 5, 2, 0, 3, 0, 4, 5, 4, 5

Giants season overall - 41% DOM, 20% DIS out of 135 games pitched (56:27/135)
Giants Month of April - 29% DOM, 4% DIS out of 24 games pitched (7:1/24)
Giants Month of May - 43% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games pitched (12:5/28)
Giants Month of June - 33% DOM, 30% DIS out of 28 games pitched (9:8/27)
Giants Month of July - 48% DOM, 32% DIS out of 25 games pitched (12:8/25)
Giants Month of August - 52% DOM, 16% DIS out of 25 games pitched (16:5/31)

After doing pretty well in April and May, then declining greatly in June and having a pretty mixed month of July, the Giants pitchers turned things around in August, on a collective level. Lincecum continued to dominate with 5 DOM starts while Cain turned himself around with 5 DOM starts and Zito ended the month with 4 himself, but Lowry continued a downturn that begun in July, having two disaster starts in August, his first poor August in his career. Apparently that injury he suffered affected him more than he thought it would, as he was totally hot until that happened.

Misch, Ortiz, and Correia started as well during the month. Correia had 2 DOM starts out of 3, and if he didn't get an automatic zero PQS for having under 5 IP in his first start - the Giants limited his innings since it was his first start in two years - he would have gotten a DOM for that start as well, it would have rated a 4 PQS had he gotten two more outs. Misch had too nice starts that could have been 4 PQS games had he gone 1 IP more in each start, his only blemish otherwise was giving up too many hits, but his BABIP probably is way over as he struck out a good number in those two games. Ortiz pitched poorly and we found out why: his arm was failing him and he now needs to get Tommy John surgery; I'm not sure what his future with our team is, but he's clearly not pitching until the 2009 season at the earliest now, as the recovery time for that surgery is at least one year, sometimes more.

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.

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The Giants was 16-15 in August and should have been way better. With a 52% DOM for the month, and conceivably another 10% in DOM had the pitchers' pitch count (since they were used mainly as relievers before) caused them to be removed, the Giants should have won a lot more games than they did. The offense let them down again, as it has much of this season.

The staff was led by Lincecum and Cain, who had identical 83%DOM/0%DIS. Misch and Correia, as noted, contributed nicely to the rotation. Zito, after having a very poor stretch that had begun in July, suddenly figured things out and had four straight DOM start, doing things that he either hadn't done since he started his career or since early in this career. His walk rate went from unmanageable and too high, to 3 consecutive games with 2 or less, one with zero walks. Lowry and Ortiz were the two strugglers, though as we learned, Ortiz had serious arm problems that were yet to be revealed.

Pitching Rotation Suddenly Overflowing

Cain and Lincecum are clearly our future and Zito is starting to earn his huge contract: if they are all on in 2008, they could be the best 3-some in all of baseball, and could have a nice stretch together from 2008-2011. Lowry had pitched well enough to be in the top 20-29 in ERA in the NL from 2005-2007, which makes him #2 worthy in the NL, and he could be our #4 pitcher in 2008. Misch, Correia, and Sanchez have all put in great starts (Sanchez did his on Sept. 1st) and if they can all continue to hurl good starts, we could have 7 capable starters for 2008 when we only need 5.

This is when the pitching focused strategy starts to pay off, allowing the Giants to consider trading off one or two out of Lowry, Sanchez, Misch, and Correia, to get young position players who could be part of our core from 2008 on. Each year will bring more opportunities to trade off pitchers to get position players. It was rumored that the Mets was willing to trade Carlos Gomez, a young speedster for the Mets, straight up for Sanchez. The emergence of Misch and Correia as viable back of rotation starters, where teams don't really need even journeyman-like performance, makes Lowry and Sanchez expendable for the right price.

And that's what a lot of impatient Giants fans have not been getting, that we need to wait for the right package. We don't want to trade off Lowry or Sanchez just for any old position prospects, they are very good pitchers and we should get the right value for them. Just because the Giants probably won't compete next year mean that you go out and trade off pitching just for the heck of it.

Look at the Brewers, don't you think that they are going to be dying for starting pitching for next season, particularly with Sheets frequently injured (and DLed) again this season. Maybe they'll be willing to trade off one of their good position player (or two) in order to get a great #2 starter like Lowry. Lowry is now an established starter with good to great performances all through his career. That should be worth at least two good position prospects - guys with potential - versus getting a known hitter. So maybe the Mets would give up Gomez and Milledge for Lowry, just for a thought, one who had done well in his limited time up (Gomez) plus one who has great potential, but not capturing it in the majors.

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

Rebuilding not only takes time, but it takes patience so that you don't throw away any advantage you have - as the Giants do in starting pitching right now - by just doing a knee jerk reaction just to do something, show something to the impatient fans. You don't build championship teams by always reacting to fan sentiment for action. Stupid trades can hurt more than not making a trade, which is something some fans forget. It is like trying to catch one of the huge fishes of the sea, you don't reel him in immediately when you feel the tug, you have to work it in order to catch the fish, else you risk losing it, you must exercise patience, knowing that it is just part of the process towards your ultimate goal.

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