Friday, November 30, 2007

Good News: Lincecum and Cain Trade Would Be Shocking

I'm a little late to this but what the heck. At a conference yesterday where Sabean announced a passel of new advisors, he answered some questions about the Giants plans. There are reports on that conference call at the Chronicle, the Mercury, and the Bee, that I've read.

Of course, as my long-time regular readers know, I've complained repeatedly that each reporter seems to have a different take on what was said in the conference call, or leaves out what I think is important information that another reporter fortunately saw fit to publish. That's why I wish the Giants would still post their press conferences on-line at their website so that people like me can hear what was said and get all the information.

There are great takes on it at McCovey Chronicles and El Lefty Malo. And I posted some stuff at both sites, of course.

The main takeaways are these, which I rank in order, that's about the main value I can provide over what's been done already:

First and foremost, Lincecum and Cain isn't going anywhere unless Sabean is "shocked" with a tremendous offer. Miguel Cabrera was asked about and he ripped the Marlins for asking for the moon for him. He basically complained that any team approaching the Giants ask for Cain or Lincecum and, reading between the lines, he's tired of them until they are ready to put up a blockbuster package. From the reports, Cabrera was not blockbuster enough because he's probably not signing an extension and would leave in two years, and neither was Delmon Young blockbuster enough. Our two ace pitchers are virtually untouchable because of "what their future brings".

Good, that's the way I feel too. It sounds like that Sabean is trying to work on other teams to give up a 3B and/or impact bat for young players other than Cain and Lincecum, and he speculates that once the winter meetings are over, the price might go down for such a player. He thinks he will get this player(s) via trade most probably, rather than free agency, and he has "about a half dozen" deals that he is working on.

Second, the Merc's account notes that Sabean said that he wouldn't shy away from acquiring players for major roles who haven't proven themselves at the major league level. That's quite a departure from past tactics and would open up the team to more trade possibilities. Andy Marte is mentioned in the accounts, and the Chron went through a laundry list, though I must say here that no NL West team is going to trade off a good prospect that they have to us, it can come back to haunt them repeatedly if they lay an egg in the trade.

I cannot remember the last position player we did that with during Sabean's tenure. In fact, I don't think that's ever happened, the closest would be obtaining Jeff Kent, who played a lot but wasn't a starter (that is, hadn't played a full season; he did start a lot of games so he wasn't untested or unproven, just wasn't ever given the opportunity to play a full season) when we got him. He's probably also the youngest non-starting player we obtained to become a starter too, heck, he's probably the only non-starter acquired to become a starter.

In addition, the Chron's version notes that they are open to hitters who play any position, even ones that currently seem filled. Sabean noted, "We're smart enough to know that whenever the iron strikes, you have to make the adjustment." I don't particularly like this because I'm afraid he might pick up another OF when we have so many OF prospects who 1) have done well in short stints with the Giants and 2) have done well in the minors, enough to earn a chance to show what they can do up here. But I guess a Delmon Young would have been nice, though still I would like to see Schierholtz get a shot in RF.

Third, Rajai Davis is not considered ready for CF, and more importantly, the Giant are thinking of moving Winn back to CF and, depending on which version you read, RF would go to Schierholtz or he and Lewis will compete for it. As nice a story and history that Lewis has had, I think Schierholtz has the bigger potential and hopefully he will become the starting RF for the Giants in 2008. That would provide a nice middle of the line-up bat right there.

The cloud in the coffee on this feel-good story is that the Giants are still considering free agents for CF and as noted above, they will acquire regardless of players we already have. It sounds like they will be among the bidders if Andruw Jones is willing to go with a 1-2 year contract. Plus they have apparently contacted Aaron Rowand's agent. And who knows who else they might be "kicking the tires" with.

The Merc's account also noted that the Giants has tried shopping Roberts, Durham, and Aurilia but found no buyers. It also noted that they were not looking to move Molina either. And Winn I think he still has a no-trade until sometime next year, maybe mid-season.

The main rumor out there for these vets has been Molina to the Mets, but that seems to be a false rumor now because the Mets just today traded for Brian Schneider, late of the Nats, because he is a strong defensive catcher and not much of a hitter, and the articles stated that they were looking for a defensive catcher so that they can possibly non-tender Johnny Estrada, who they just received in a trade and who is not known for his defense either, he's known for his offense. Molina is acceptable defensively in some quarters, not so much in most others. His main value is his bat relative to his position.

Fourth, the Chron's version includes a quote from Bochy that I found interesting. It followed Sabean's answer to the question of what happens if the Giants don't acquire someone, which was that he would focus on making "our pitching stronger" (so they'll acquire more pitchers?). Bochy said, "It's always good to have an impact player, but they [Arizona] didn't have an impact player. They didn't have one guy. We've talked about a different brand of ball, everybody contributing and not leaning on one guy or waiting for a guy to hit a three-run homer. Sure, they are great to have, but there are teams that win without them."

That's a view I've been hewing to in my statement, though not explicitly stated, that we could be competitive offensively with what we have. In 46 games where Bonds did not start, the team averaged 4.7 runs per game according to a post-season article in the Merc. Admittedly small samples, but still, that's not a small amount of games either, that's almost a third of the season plus it was sprinkled all across the season for the most part until the very end. There was that big scoring game where they scored 15 runs, and taking out that outburst drops it to 4.5 runs per game. The team allowed 4.44 runs per game in 2007 and I expect it to be better in 2008, due to improvements in the starting rotation (full season Lincecum, Cain more consistent, Zito over jitters) and the bullpen (Wilson and Walker should help improve the bullpen greatly), so that's a .500 record right there.

The main thing, whether it's starting Ortmeier at first and Frandsen at third as I've been pushing for, or Zito, Lincecum and Cain improving on what they did last season, is that we give it a shot and see what happens. That's the bottom line, you cannot get much cheaper than Ortmeier at 1B without trading away some valuable pitching to get an alternative at 1B, and there's no guarantee that we can get a good 1B or 3B for Lowry or any other package. And even if you get a better 1B prospect (again at the cost of a good pitching prospect like Sanchez), there is no guarantee he's going to be any good either, and even if he is good, it doesn't make us good enough to compete for the division title, unless we get the second coming of Morneau, Howard, or Fielder.

So give the youngsters a chance, it is not like the Giants are going to be that competitive in 2008. Worry over cost/benefit don't really fit in when the cost is giving up good pitching prospects to get a valid 1B prospect versus giving Ortmeier a chance at 1B. At worse, if he fails, Aurilia can take over, or perhaps we can trade for someone mid-season, just as suggested now by others. Why not give Ortmeier a chance to start and see what happens, we can always get that suggested player mid-season instead.

Fifth, the Bee's version quotes Sabean as saying that Frandsen could play 3B if the Giants can't talk Feliz into another one year contract. I know that there are people who don't want to see Frandsen at 3B, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm worried less about defense than giving our young prospects a chance and seeing what they got. But he doesn't have the starting job sewn up, Aurilia was mentioned too.

Apparently Feliz's agents are asking for a 3 year deal - as good as his defense has become, and Baseball Musing's PMR shows him as one of the best in the majors, getting 30+ more outs than expected for the number of balls handled, his offense is equally horrid - so good luck with that, I will put this demand up there with Aurilia's agents asking for 4 years, $32M initially when he went free agent with the Giants. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Seeing that Feliz was so good defensively according to PMR, I can swallow it if the Giants do sign him to another one year deal (but I won't be happy, it'll be like taking nasty medicine, like cod liver oil). But still, we need to see how Frandsen can do as a starter. So whether it's we just give him 2B, we give him 3B, or we trade Durham and give him 2B, we must give Frandsen a chance to do what he has done in the minors, and prep for 2009. It will be nice if we are competitive in 2008 (much like it would have been nice to be competitive in 1997, after Matt Williams was traded away; fortunately we were more than that) but I say again that our focus should be on 2009 and beyond, if we punt 2008, so be it, if some youngsters come through, hurrah and let's celebrate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Value of Base Running

As all good Giants fans should know, Brian Sabean for the past few years has been preaching that the game is changing, as it has in the past back and forth, from an emphasis on power to an emphasis on speed. That has led to his fascination with speedsters like Joey Gathright, who the Giants were rumored to be chasing after for a while a few years back, the pickup of Eugenio Velez from Toronto's scrap heap, the drafting of speedsters like Fred Lewis, Marcus Sander, Emmanuel Burriss, Antoan Richardson, Mike McBryde, and Wendell Fairley, and the signing of Dave Roberts, who is a base-stealing machine who learned at the feet of one of the greats, Maury Wills.

Baseball Prospectus recently had an article on whether baserunning is a skill, so I thought I would discuss what was said in the article, since this is something the Giants appear to be moving towards as a team philosophy. First, baserunning is a persistent ability. I know, Duh!, but this is shown statistically by correlating a players (BP metric) EqBR year to year. Second, when they correlated a player's Speed score with his (BP metric) EqBR, they found that speed is the most significant factor in his EQBR, again, Duh!, but it's nice to know stats confirm these no-brainers.

I found the last finding to be most interesting to Giants fans and hence I will quote it here:

The last question, of course, is how much baserunning really matters. And the general rule of thumb is that it can make about a win’s worth of difference at the extremes: a really fast/skilled baserunner will produce about 8-10 extra runs for his team on a going-forward basis as compared with a really slow/terrible baserunner. Or, if you prefer, a great baserunner will produce about an extra half-win for his team (4-5 runs) per season versus an average
baserunner.

This is nothing to sneeze at. Baserunning is another in that category of things that might be overrated by the mainstream media, but has nevertheless been underrated by sabermetricians.


I have to note it again: A great baserunner will produce an extra half-win for his team every season over an average baserunner. That's from taking the extra base as well as stealing bases, they all add up during a season.

That's why I've been pushing for Dan Ortmeier to get a chance at 1B. Even if he might fall short of 1B standards in terms of OPS - and he actually hit well in limited play in 2007 in the majors, his OPS+ was 107, or slightly better than average - he could make up for some of that shortfall with his baserunning skills. He has a big body that belies his keen baserunning skills that have allowed him to reach high teens in stolen bases every year since he started playing full season ball. Based just on his small sample in 2007, he would have stolen 8-9 bases in the majors at the rate he stole at.

And most firstbasemen are not even average baserunners, they are usually pretty terrible baserunners, and great baseruners add about a win over a poor baserunner, though admittedly Ortmeier is not great, merely good, so maybe he's only three-quarters of a win better. Still, in any case, his baserunning savvy would give him additional value over an average firstbaseman baserunner.

In addition, if a GM can build a team of speedburners, they can add 3-4 wins per season over what they can do as hitters. That's about what we need right now to get back to .500, based on last season's team, and as allfrank has been reminding me, the starting rotation should be improved over last year's overall version, with Cain improving, Lowry steady, Zito over his jitters, Lincecum learning and developing, and whoever is the 5th starter should be better than what Morris and Ortiz put together last season, moving forward.

Obviously 2008 will not feature a lot of speedburners, but we do have Roberts, Davis, and Vizquel, plus Lewis and Ortmeier, and perhaps Velez, on the bench at minimum, perhaps sometimes starting, so there could be lineups where there are a lot of speed in there.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks for Cain and Lincecum

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty exclusive company, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Giants "Aggressively" Pursues Miguel Cabrera

The Chron reported that the GIants have been more aggressive in pursuing Miguel Cabrera than the Angels or D-gers. This would undoubtedly mean that a top young pitcher would be included in the trade, with the Chron noting Tim Lincecum.

Giants Thoughts

I think the Giants should not pursue Cabrera. Sure, I would love to see Cabrera in our lineup, but at what cost? Undoubtedly, either Cain or Lincecum would have to be traded. That would greatly weaken our rotation. In addition, there has been packages from other teams quoted in the press, and assuming they are roughly accurate, the Giants would have to give up a huge package of Cain or Lincecum, plus Villalona, and others thrown in. I would not be happy giving up Cain, Lincecum, or Villalona.

I realize tha tto get good players like Cabrera at a young age, we would have to trade off our young pitchers at some point. But I think it's too son to trade off our top pitching, unless, that is, the Giants suspect future injury problems with the pitcher traded or that Lincecum will be expensive to sign to a long-term contract that buys out his arbitration years or that they think Bumgarner and/or Alderson would be ready to start in 2009. A rotation of, say, Cain, Zito, Lowry, Sanchez (maybe), and Correia would not be that formidable, requiring a better than average offense. And the addition of Cabrera would not make our offense better than average, rather, we would be lucky still to be average even with him added.

Then, on top of that there are other risks. One is that we would have to include another good prospect like Sanchez or Villalona to the deal. Another is that Cabrera might eat himself out of playing 3B, which is where we need him right now and for the future. More importantly, we only control Cabrera for two seasons and thus the trade would be a huge bust unless we sign him to a long-term, say, 10 year contract (probably at $18-20M per year average) because we would be losing all those years from the players we give up.

Maybe the Giants can put together a package that I could live with but I am prepared to hate it vehemently. I would rather wait a year or two to see how Sosa, Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Alderson turn out. If we have an abundance of young good starters (which we don't have now but is on the cusp of), we could have a great young rotation PLUS be able to trade off two of them for a top young hitter one or two years from now without harming the rotation.

Let's face it: with Cabrera or not, the Giants are not capable of being competitive unless a lot of things go their way in 2008. Zito would have to return to his A's form. Frandsen and Ortmeier will have to hit pretty much what they hit in September for a whole season. Durham and Vizquel will have to return to prior performance. Our young outfielders wuold need to play well as a group. Brian Wilson will have to take the closer role and make it his. And our newest starting pitchers would have to pitch to their potential and not like rookie starters. I can see some of that happening, but not all.

Alternate Scenario

I would like to note now that while the Chron reports strong, aggressive action by the Giants according to their source, the day before the Merc reported that their source said that the Giants do not anticipate being active in the talks for Cabrera. Putting these two together suggests that the Giants thought that the Marlins would insist on Cain or Lincecum, hence they would not be active, but then the Marlins was willing to think outside the box with the Giants and not ask for them.

The only way I can see this scenario happening is if the Giants are willing to take on Dontrelle Willis and his big salary in the deal, a la how the Marlins packaged Lowell into the Beckett deal, and if you look at what they got there, they did not get that much in the deal. Hanley obviously is great, but Anibal Sanchez was not that good a prospect, and the other two weren't that good either. While I think the Angels and D-gers can outdo the Giants in terms of quality prospects and could take on salary, I think the Giants can provide quantity that is still good and would be more willing to take on potentially wasted salary.

And just because the two teams have quality does not mean that they are willing to part with the players the Marlins desire. The names put out by the sportswriters are clearly better than whatever package the Giants could put together, but what if the Marlins are asking for players that the Angels and D-gers are simply unwilling to give up? It has already been reported that the Marlins want Howie Kendricks in a deal for Cabrera (and then they would move Uggla to 3B) and that the Angels will not let him go. I'm not sure who would be a deal breaker for the D-gers excatly, but Andy LaRoche (replacement for Cabrera), James Loney (Marlins are not totally happy with Jacobs), Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley (Marlins really need starting pitching) would probably have to be the set.

How would the Giants appeal to the Marlins over the other teams? First and foremost the Marlins must insist on players that the Angels and D-gers refuse to give up. As noted, for the Angels, Howie Kendricks would clearly be one, perhaps Brandon Wood is also off the table, which means they cannot provide the Marlins a way to replace Cabrera at 3B except for McPherson or Aybar and neither is good enough for a deal for Cabrera, and thus the Marlins would not get much from the next tier of prospects. As noted for the D-gers, LaRoche, Billingsley, Kershaw, and Loney would be the ones, as that would make the next tier of D-gers prospects worse than what the Giants can put together.

Second, the Giants would have to be willing to take on Willis and his expected big salary while the Angels and D-gers would have to be unwilling. That is possible because Willis was horrible last year and the Angels and D-gers need an upgrade in starting pitching and not take on an expensive question mark like Dontrelle. D-Train's K/9 has never been that good, but his BB/9 has risen to bad levels over the past couple of years, and his BABIP has usually been on the high side even though he pitches at a pitcher's park. But with his stats, he can expect to get a very high salary in arbitration for 2008 (he got $6.45M in 2007 so he's looking at $8-10M for 2008) and then he can become a free agent after 2008. If he has another horrible season like 2007, he could conceivably end up a Type C free agent (ranking is based on last two year's performance) and result in no draft pick conpensation.

However, the Angels and D-gers NEED an upgrade in their starting pitching, and as big their payrolls are, even they cannot afford to waste up to $10M on Willis plus take on Cabrera's big salary too. The Giants currently could swallow both of their salaries without much problem. Plus, the Giants might be willing to work out a deal with Willis for a longer term deal because he was a huge Giants fan growing up and might give a discount to get to pitch for his home team and to get some long-term security: if he repeats his 2007, even with his past, it will be hard for any team to give him a contract for more than one year and over $5M. So the Giants could backload the contract and have his salary not be so bad for 2008, plus add in performance bonuses that boosts his salary if he meets them (or have the player be able to opt out of the contract if he meets certain performance criteria).

Lastly, the Giants may not have a lot of top tier prospects, but they can provide a lot of valuable players because they have depth. Lowry is under control, and more importantly in the Marlin's eyes, cheaply (with his contract), for the next three seasons. Sanchez is a top pitching prospect who can start or relieve (the Mets were reportedly willing to part with Carlos Gomez for him - some have described him as Jose Reyes in CF). Throw in Henry Sosa, who had a great season in the minors this year (#2 prospect in Baseball America's ranking for his league), and the Giants can provide the Marlins with 40% of their pitching rotation for the next 4-5 seasons or so.

Then the Giants can also add in valuable position players. Eugenio Velez, recently making Baseball America's Top 20 in the AFL, has impressed with his stellar speed and line-drive ability, and he could possibly start at 2B and allow Uggla to start at 3B, or be a utility player getting significant AB's at 2B, SS, and CF. Then the Giants could also include Rajai Davis or Fred Lewis, who could start in CF, as they had Alfredo Amezaga starting in CF in 2007 and the best thing that can be said is that he doesn't strike out much. Lastly, with Wilson and Walker most probably the Giants setup/closer combo in 2008, we can include Brad Hennessey to the deal. He can start, relieve, or close and he's relatively cheap for 3 seasons. This multi-role is important because while they have a lot of bullpen candidates, they went through multiple closers last year due to injuries, so Hennessey can slide into a number of roles as necessary, and they still need starters, so if the bullpen is OK, Hennessey could be their #5 starter and not embarrass himself there.

Thus the deal would be Cabrera and Willis for Lowry, Sanchez, Sosa, Hennessey, Velez, and Davis/Lewis for sure, plus the Giants could throw in some more prospects, like Patrick Misch (though I would prefer keeping him), Nick Pereira, Kevin Pucetas (Most Spectacular Pitcher in the minors for 2007), John Bowker, Kelvin Pichardo, Clay Timpner, Travis Denker, Pedro Sandoval (they can use catchers), Brian Horwitz, Justin Knoedler, Adam Cowart, Joe Martinez, Waldis Joaquin, Dan Griffin, to help round out the deal.

This would not be wildly different from what Boston traded, Hanley was only rated the 8th best SS prospect at the time of the trade, Anibal was actually ranked higher, relatively, as he was 12th among starting pitchers, and in terms of overall prospects, Sanchez was 40th and Ramirez was 41st (ranking from Minor League Baseball Analyst; Baseball Prospectus had an even lower opinion as Sanchez did not make Baseball Prospectus's Top 50 prospect list and Ramirez only got an honorable mention). Again, I realize that quality-wise, the Giants would not match up to that with an offer of Lowry, Sanchez, Sosa, Hennessey, Velez, Davis/Lewis, et al, but they would certainly improve a number of positions on the current Marlin's roster, with Lowry, Sanchez, Sosa, Hennessey, and Davis/Lewis being an improvement over who they got now, and if they accept Velez as a 2B, then they can move Uggla to 3B (else we might be forced to include Frandsen, but it would break my heart to include him, his life story is too good not to have him start for the Giants, perhaps we could include Ray Durham but throw in his salary as well).

I know it's wild speculation, but I don't see any other scenario where the Giants can compete with the other teams. My bet would be that the D-gers would be the winners because they can include Andy LaRoche in the deal plus have a number of good pitching prospects that the Marlins might accept as they need starters.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bonds Indicted!

I guess Barry might retire a Giants after all...

The government has indicted Barry Bonds of numerous charges, which includes four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice and accuses him of lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson. According to accounts, the government has tests that prove that Barry took steroids and other PEDS, though the writer muddied by the water by adding, "and other professional athletes."

Good Buddy Freed

It also noted that Greg Anderson was released from jail at the same time. I guess they were hoping to squeeze him into ratting out his friend - assuming there is something to rat out - but once they got the indictment into the courts, they felt that they didn't need him anymore. There was no report that he was freed based on finally capitulating to the Feds and testifying about Bonds.

Based on the information that Anderson, Conte, and Bonds has said in previous accounts, the only scenario that makes sense, assuming all are telling the truth, is that Anderson and Conte tricked Bonds by giving him steroids and other substances under the guise of other homeopathic remedies. It will be interesting what comes out of the trial as to what really (or supposedly, since the truth might never get out) happened. If that's the story they hold to, I wonder how the Feds are going to prove that Bonds purposefully took the PEDs and not was tricked by his "good" friend, which apparently is now the story since Bonds reportedly tested positive (according to the indictment).

Wish Comes True: Bonds Retires a Giant

Of course, with this hanging over him, no team is going to even bother kicking the tires and seeing if he would sign with them. He would want much more than they would be willing to give him, and I don't think any team is so desperate to invite such a circus into their clubhouse. That would mean that Bonds would retire a Giants after all.

Odd Timing

Interesting that the Feds waited until now to file the indictment. If Anderson didn't testify against his buddy, then there appears to be no new evidence other than the charge that Bonds tested positive. But as I noted, a positive test still requires that the Feds prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Bonds deliberately and knowingly take PEDS and lied to the Grand Jury, and not, as he stated, just take two substances that the Feds BELIEVE is PEDS. It will be key to their trial, proving this (I will note that I'm not a lawyer, but that's what seems to be the crux to me).

One thought I had is that they waited because they know that their case is not airtight and if they tried to do anything while Bonds is chasing Hank Aaron, if they lose the case, Bonds could theoretically sue the Feds for lost of future income, perhaps slander, for interrupting his chase of Hank Aaron's record and preventing him from becoming the home run champ.

I'm no lawyer, so there could be something simply obvious to a lawyer why that won't happen, but given future memorabilia sales, which he obviously intends and markets assiduously, plus the contract value lost, that could put the numbers in the $100 million range, perhaps above, assuming a long life, the steep inflation of collectible prices, the novelty of an item being associated with the ALL-TIME home run champ, at least until A-Rod passes him up, though you never know, Durham suddenly became gimpy, so did Griffey, in his 30's, or maybe a stripper's tassel flies off and blinds A-Rod in his eye (given that he was caught by paparazzi doing the town with a stripper or something like that), or his private jet plane loses air and all the passengers die on flight, you just never know.

I downloaded the indictment from CNN's account here. If I get some time, I'll read it and see what's it all about.

No Tax Evasion

I will also note that there was not one word about tax evasion in the news accounts I have read. If that holds, this means that whatever Bonds's ex-mistresss, Kimberly Bell, told the Feds about his alleged tax evasion did not prove to be true, because either he did or he didn't. That's what seems clear to me, that there can be no gray area regarding that accusation, because she must have told the Feds enough detail to research and determine whether he did or didn't and her information was not good enough.

If that turns out to be true that there was no tax evasion, and she made that a major part of her "story" of her life with Barry, then what else was untrue in her testimony thus far? And how can authors' use her "testimony" as a significant source of information for their books without corroboration?

I'm not a professional journalist, but that seems to be what they should have done, not include her accusations in her book, since there could not have possibly been corroboration of any sort, since this came from "private" conversations between she and Barry. But, of course, it fit their storyline so well that they had to include her information.

But I thought that there should be some sort of journalistic integrity that would prevent the inclusion of her decidedly one-sided story given to them. It is a "He said, She said" situation, so it is unprovable either way. Of course, I've never read either book, so maybe there is some snakey way of reporting it but saying that it is uncorroborated, but most of the accounts of the books I have read never had such a warning attached, it reported every one of her words as the truth.

Plus, as I noted in previous posts, that's why I've focused on how the tax evasion portion of her story held up. That's something that I think is provable, and if tax evasion is not part of the indictment, then it appears that her story is not holding up in that regard, and it brings doubt upon everything else she has said and claimed. That would also explain why her book deal that she was working on never came through, the publishers knew that her story wouldn't hold up. I hope this detail comes up in other news accounts, I would be interested to see what happened to that line of investigation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The New Yankees: Wimps

According to an MLB.com account (and apparently A-Rod's website), A-Rod and the Yankees have resumed negotiations again. They are reportedly close to a 10 year contract worth around $290M. It appears that A-Rod and the Yankees are talking directly, without Boras around. The PC PR-talk of this announcement makes it seem like a fait accompli that he will re-sign with the Yankees.

Maybe It Skipped a Generation

What ever happened to Hank Steinbrenner's first significant statement as head of the Yankees: "It's good-bye." It makes him look like a wimp to kowtow to a player with his very first major decision after taking over the Yankees from King George. Then again, it is A-Rod, the best hitter, maybe player, in the majors today.

But his dad, say what you will about him and his ways, always earned my respect for being tough and showing he has cahones, he says what he means, he means what he says. Even if he contradicts himself now and again: hire Billy, fire Billy, hire Billy, fire Billy... I can not imagine King George ever going back on a grand proclaimation such as "It's good-bye." That's too dramatic a statement to just throw out there without having the manhood to back it up, because otherwise you really look like a wimpy fool, willing to kowtow to the right player. It makes you look like a very weak leader that you don't stand behind your words.

Unless, that is, Cashman negotiates a deal with A-Rod and then Hank Steinbrenner says "NO! Good-bye is good-bye. Good-bye!" But I'm not holding my breath, it looks like it's going to happen.

A-Rod Hell-A Smart

I've never really thought that A-Rod was that particularly intelligent, but he showed a lot of smarts by "re-opening" channels with the Yankees. He probably got spooked by the fact that there are not a lot of teams who can afford his type of coinage, and with Miguel Cabrera on the market now, there will be one less team bidding. Plus, really, the Yankees are the only team who can afford such a huge salary as Boras had been talking about.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

Just wanted to say my thanks to our brave vets who fought to keep us free. I've been watching "The War" and recommend that to anyone who don't know what these men and women went through to fight (and die) for us.

Defense

Baseball Musing has their annual defensive rankings/ratings and a recent one covered 2B. Of course, Durham was at the bottom defensively, I think any Giants fan would know that one, but Frandsen rated just slightly below average, in the middle of the pack.

There was also a CF take, and Roberts rated at slightly above average and Davis at slightly below average, a surprise to me, given the general concensus that Roberts was not that good there and the reports that Davis was good in CF because of his speed.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I Will Have Some of What Dave Is Smoking

I was listening to KNBR after lunchtime, driving home, and Fitz of Fitz and Brooks was on the air, talking with columnist Dave Del Grande, who I believe writes for the Contra Costa Times. Fitz asked what one move Dave would do if he were the Giants GM and he said that he would trade one of Cain or Lincecum to get two good bats to hit in the middle of the lineup for the Giants, because the offense needs that. He then gave an example, stating that we could trade Lincecum to the Rays for Delmon Young and either B.J. Upton or Carl Crawford.

I almost died laughing while driving my manual Civic on the freeway: fans always get pooh-poohed by the talk show hosts when they provide outrageous trades ("yeah, we could trade Pedro Feliz and Ryan Klesko AND Randy Winn and they will give us Johan Santana"), but Fitz didn't react at all to that outrageous trade. There is no way the Rays are giving up Young AND either Upton or Crawford. We probably could get one of them plus a nice but still developing prospect, but not what was suggested.

First Off, We Need a 3B

Plus, if we are going to trade for anyone, we are getting a 3B at minimum, in return. We have a good set of OF, both vets and prospects, so we don't need to pick up another, at least not until we traded off some of them to clear out space, else you are dealing from a position of weakness and the offers will be less than you could have gotten for them.

If we are giving up Lincecum, we should be getting Evan Longoria plus one of their MI/SS prospects coming up (they would want to keep Reid Brignac, so give us Ben Zobrist or Brendan Harris), plus a struggling formerly high prospect, like Joel Guzman, a former D-gers bonus baby (I think he got as much as Villalona got, but years ago) who had a lousy first season in AAA in 2007 (.689 OPS), can play 1B and 3B, lots of power potential but have only showed average power in the minors; he'll only be 23 for the 2008 season though, and/or Edwin Jackson, another former D-ger wunderkin gone bad.

Lincecum is a top talent so that's why we get Longoria in exchange, as he is a top talent too. But Ace pitchers are very hard to find and he has almost a full year of proven MLB experience while Longoria is good but still unproven (much like Kouzmanoff was good but unproven) so they have to give us Zobrist or Harris, one of two OK MI/SS prospects, not top line, but we only want an adequate replacement for Vizquel, plus a little high risk/high reward in Guzman and/or Jackson. I think that would be fair, though again I must state that I would not agree with Lincecum.

Proven is Better, He Sez

Dave also did the Sabean thing that fans and columnists deride and said that he chose to trade Lincecum because Cain is more proven. I will say right off that I don't know Dave's exact stance, but from my reading across the Bay Area, I don't think that there is one columnist around who thinks that Sabean should still be GM, or at least questions whether he's the right man for the job. And neither of them saw the irony that Dave was making his choice based on Cain's proven performance.

Much as I love Cain and think he's going to be an ace and the anchor of a rotation for years, I would keep Lincecum in a heartbeat if forced to chose between the two. Lincecum dominated the minors. Cain did nicely but struggled with his control while down there. Admittedly, Cain was a couple years younger than Lincecum when both were in the minors, but still, I think that Lincecum is the better pitcher, he just have better overall stuff, from what I have read and heard about the two of them.

Nyet: No Tradee LinceCain

Still, I cannot agree with trading either of them. Trading them is a similar to the dog trying to get the bone in the water, but ending up losing the bone in the water: you lose what you had before, trying to get something illusionary. We have a great situation with our pitching rotation with Cain and Lincecum in our rotation: two starters who can totally dominate the other team, both in keeping hits (and thus runners) down plus striking out a lot of batters.

It is idiocy to suggest that we trade off either one. If trading one of them would suddenly make our offense above average, then I would be for it, but even if we added Delmon Young and Carl Crawford to the team for Lincecum, we still have nothing at 3B (with the ugly thought that Feliz might return - <>) and 1B will be unproven, as well as 2B, with either Durham or Frandsen there, plus we will have an offensive sinkhole at SS again with the return of Omar Vizquel, who at age 41 for next season, can not be expected to have a rebound year, only players like Ted Williams can do that, and Omar, you are no Teddyball.

Omar Signing

Speaking of Omar, here is the official announcement of his signing. He is getting $5.0M in 2008 with a $5.2M team option for 2009 that vests to a contract under certain performance conditions (reportedly reaching 140 games played), else he gets a $0.3M buyout, making his total contract value $5.3M. The Giants are hoping that Emmanuel Burris or Brian Bocock ("their top shortstop prospects") will be ready to take over the SS position then.

Unfortunately, I read somewhere that Burris did not look good this season, and Bocock was not a top prospect last year, so it looks like of bleak going forward unless we can pick up a good SS prospect with our #5 draft pick in 2008. Don't know who is available though.

3B Is Next

In the press conference, Sabean noted that with Feliz going into free agency, he will concentrate on getting a 3B next, probably by trade. Surprisingly, Feliz has received "quite a bit of action" from teams seeking a third baseman, according to Sabes. In addition, apparently Feliz is looking for deal that could extend into a third year, which I interpreted to mean a 2 year contract with a 3rd year option.

Sabean then basically said that the Giants will not pursue Feliz "at this time" meaning that if they get desperate, they might re-open negotiations. Lets hope they don't get desperate. Though by that time, Feliz might be desperate too, and if the Giants really wanted to, they could start Aurilia at 3B, if push comes to shove.

He said that trade is the most probable avenue for getting a 3B. The article lists quite a number of 3B who might be available. The ones who seem most possible to me are Scott Rolen (feuding with manager, oft-injured, down year 2007, lots of $ for next 3 years), Troy Glaus (Toronto might want to clear out salary, play Russ Adams there instead and use money to get free agent), Akinori Iwamura (The Rays have the aforementioned Evan Longoria ready to move up; he could move to 2B, but they might want to play Harris there instead and flip Aki for prospects).

Ay, What About A-Rod?

The "A" word was mentioned (A-Rod) and the Giants appear to be taking the same stance as last year with Barry Zito: they will stay aside and observe what is happening, and reading between the lines, gauge whether A-Rod is truly interested or just using the Giants for leverage. The article noted that Sabean did not indicate his interest, but since it is known that Sabean and the Giants tried to initiate a trade with the Yankees for A-Rod a while back, I think it is pretty clear that the Giants (meaning ownership) are interested, but are waiting to see how the scrum gathering around A-Rod works out.

Lincecum Is Basically Unavailable, OK?

Lincecum was also brought up. While this writer noted that it was a qualified no-trade statement, I think it was pretty clear that Sabean is not looking to trade him, but, when you are one of the worse teams in baseball, you have to listen to every trade overture initiated by other teams for Lincecum. What Sabean said: "I am in no position to think that there's a trade out there that we would make to want to give up Lincecum. But when you finish 20 games below .500 and you're in last place, you have to listen."

So I think the author is being picky here. You never say never: if the Rays offered, say, Scott Kazmir, James Shield, Delmon Young, Carl Crawford, and Reid Brignac for Tim Lincecum, of course you trade Lincecum, but you also know that this trade would never happen in a million billion googol years. But for all intents and purposes, the Giants are not going to trade Lincecum unless they are overwhelmed.

People Don't Understand Management

That's what this writer and people I see posting on MCC always miss: Sabean cannot put everything out on the table as far as his intentions are because then the other side of the negotiating table will use that information against you. Sabean represents management, and you cannot go out there and say "Feliz is full of crap if he thinks he can get 3 years from someone", that's something you can do if you are anonymously posting your thoughts at your nearest blog.

When you do that, you can say whatever you want without consequence to yourself, so you get these "brave" souls who can rip you a new one with their rude and brutal comments, pretend that they didn't say something (they forget that the internet has a perfect memory), act like they know it all, and talk down to you like they are some high and mighty person.

You have to say something like what Sabean says when you are management, you never know when you are forced by circumstances to come back with hat in hand to try to sign the person you just disrepected openly. That will cost you, and you won't look good in the ownership's eye then.

As a public representative of the team, you are forced to say pabulum, give bland generic statements, because you don't want anything you say to come back to you, unless, that is, you decided once and for all on something, and then you can say "he's not coming back" with repercussions. I've made fun of that before, on MCC, but I know it's a dance that any public representative has to dance, that is, if you still want your job.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Official: Vizquel Giant Again

The Giants website, though oddly enough, not Giants management, announced that Omar resigned for $5.5M in 2008 plus a $5.2M option in 2009 that vests if he reaches 140 games played. Hopefully it will be a manager's decision to get him to 139 games. :^)

I still don't understand exactly why spend all this money on Omar when Ivan Ochoa probably would have been his equivalent in fielding - not as much flash, but Ochoa's forte has been defense - and would have been an experiment on offense.

However, he had a breakthrough year last year in AAA, plus always had a nice contact rate (i.e. lower strikeout rate) and improved on taking walks over the prior couple of seasons. According to his MLEs for 2005 and 2006, he is capable of hitting about what Vizquel hit last April - high 500 OPS - but for $5.1M less. His MLE for 2007 was probably much higher, into at least the mid 600 OPS, which is where Vizquel was in 2007 after the ASG.

But, it won't kill the Giants either, so that's something. However, signing Feliz would. Hopefully Feliz pisses off the Giants in some way, much like how Aurilia did when he first left the Giants as a free agent (Baker too), and the Giants don't bother negotiating with him.

First Bad Step: Vizquel for $5.5M

The Giants are reportedly close to signing Vizquel for $5.5M, as reported by Fox Sports on Tuesday, and regurgitated by the Chron here.

I don't understand this: Vizquel has the worse offensive season he has had since probably his rookie season, and having it in his age 40 season suggests more of the same, if not worse, in 2008, his defense, while still good, is not gold glove anymore, the Giants have an all-glove, previously no-hit (he hit nicely in AAA this season) SS prospect in Ivan Ochoa in the system (though he is a free agent) who we could pay a rookie's salary.

Now, the SS free agent pool is pretty crappy, so that might suggest that we rather re-sign Vizquel than dip into that toxic pool, where Royce Clayton, former Giant, seem to get tossed into every year, and yet, every year, someone picks him up. But $5.5M seems totally outrageous, particularly considering it's a $1.5M raise over what they paid him on his first contract. Even accounting for salary inflation, which runs at around 10% per year, that would have put Vizquel at just under $5M, so even with that, he gets a raise.

For what? 2007 was his first year without a Gold Glove win for us. Most state of the art fielding stats have Vizquel as a middle of the crowd infielder now, perhaps slightly above average.

And his offense was offensive this season. Part of it was a horrible April, but the other months were pretty bad too. The better thing is that he was close to his career normal in the second half:

Pre-ASG: .235/.284/.295/.579
Post-ASG: .259/.329/.342/.672
Career: .274/.341/.357/.697

However, the SS position has become an offensive position over the past few years and he is woefully below average there. Last season's league average for NL SS (www.baseball-reference.com):

Average SS: .273/.342/.436/.778

I was expecting him to sign a deal similar to JT Snow in his last season, somewhere in the low to mid $1M range. If this rumor is correct, and he is signed to a $5.5M contract, then I can see why the Giants did not want to sign on for a two year contract, that would only compound the problem.

Now, if Vizquel continues to bat 8th, then we can carry his bat in the lineup, as his relative high OBP would have some value down there as the secondary leadoff hitter (some teams like to put a higher OBP, leadoff type hitter down there to start rallies ahead of our best hitters 1-4). Still, that's a huge chunk of change for average defense and below average offense.

Then again, in the crazy market that is the MLB free agent market, average hitting players today are getting $10M per season, so $5.5M seems like a bargain then. I like that teams want to be competitive, but the Giants need a lot more before they can be competitive, and giving $5.5M to Vizquel is not one of them. Still, I don't think this move would kill them, though it probably kills any chance of them signing A-Rod, unless there is more money in the vault than they have been saying.

Hopefully this is the last and worse of the bad news. I do not want to see any Pedro Feliz signing, and if he holds true to his word that he's pissed off (when asked about his children, who he used as an excuse to return to the Giants last off-season, he snarled that there are schools everywhere) and wants a multi-year contract, then we should not have to worry much about him coming back here, particularly at a high price, his free agency will drag on and on until he and his agent realizes that there is not much demand for a 3B who hits in the low 700 OPS range, no matter how good his defense is (ACTA, which is associated with Bill James, recently announced that Feliz was the best defensive 3B).

I can swallow signing Feliz for $2-3M, but would rather see Frandsen get the start there with Durham at 2B, with the goal of enticing a team to accept Durham in trade for a good prospect or two, then shifting Frandsen to 2B and Aurilia to 3B.

Trading Lincecum: Over My Dead and Lifeless Body

According to reports from a respected baseball columnist, Tracy Ringolsby, of the Rocky Mountain News, the Giants are contemplating trading Lincecum, for the right package. Then again, a lot of respected baseball columnists have, at one time or another, been the conduit of false information and outright rumor.

Let me say right now that if either Cain or Lincecum are traded, the Giants management are out of their heads and have no imagination, nor vision of the future. And I will have to grudgingly join those who have been calling for either Sabean's or Magowan's (or both) head.

The future of the Giants is Cain and Lincecum. They are THE HOPE that will sustain us through this cold spell of constant losing. Pitching is the Giants forte and looks to only get better. As I have shown before, studies have shown that having strong pitching and defense is the only way to improve our chances to win the World Series.

Ideally, I hate to say this, but we need to become like the D-gers of the 60's, with Maury Wills generating a lot of runs and Willie Davis driving in a lot of runs, and a pitching staff headed by Koufax and Drysdale, their co-aces. We have a pair like that now, with Cain and Lincecum, so the Giants just need to keep them healthy and on our team.

It does not take a lot of offense to make our good pitching winners. And if the Giants can become adept at manufacturing runs, we will start to win more than our share of games, and not lose more than our share. And I think our position prospects can be average, can be productive, can fill a lot of holes in our lineup: Ortmeier, Frandsen, Lewis, Davis, and Schierholtz.

Just say no to trading Lincecum: no matter who we get, it will be second-guessed forever and would just break up one of the key strengths of the team, which is having him and Cain at the top of the Giants rotation. In addition, Giants management would probably lose the few voices who are still standing behind it.

The good news is that no matter how respected the writer is, he can get it wrong, either on his end or on their end. Communication is a two way street. Sometimes teams float an idea out as a rumor and gauge public reaction.

However, the reaction shows the Giants would be ill-advised to push or pursue a trade of their future. Pitchers like that don't come around very often, one would have to be an "idiot" to trade him away. Lincecum MUST stay a SF Giants.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

No No No No, I Don't Feliz Anymore!

Some of the reports from the Carney Lansford press conference, to announce his hiring, notes comments by Sabean about the Giants efforts to re-sign both Vizquel and Feliz. Apparently Vizquel was not shamed by his pretty lousy offensive year in 2007, and is trying to get 2 years, whereas the Giants appear willing to give him one year and an option year that he can earn.

The Giants appear to be holding firm to that, and I think that's good because Vizquel's 2007 makes it look like the end is here for Omar, and while we could use him for another year, two years just don't make any sense. I would rather start Ivan Ochoa instead, he's pretty good defensively, in AAA, and had a nice offensive year in 2007, though that's his first time he has done it in the high minors, so his performance is suspect since he missed a chunk of the season to the DL list.

Just Say No

But the horrifying news is that the Giants are trying to talk with Pedro Feliz about a contract, but, fortunately for some of us, has been unable to connect because Feliz is in the middle of changing agents. I'll bet Feliz is changing agents because of what happened last year and he thinks that changing agents is going to make him that much more attractive and get him the multi-year contract that he thinks he deserves. Not.

Just say "No" to Feliz, Sabean! Let Aurilia and Frandsen fight it out to start at 3B, as well as Durham and Frandsen at 2B, unless, that is, you are able to trade Durham, in which case you start Frandsen at 2B and Aurilia at 3B. If you thought that Aurilia was acceptable offensively at 1B, then he has to be even better at 3B, where there are less offensive-minded guys. I don't care if Feliz is pretty good defensively at 3B, frankly, with a pitching rotation of fly-ball guys, chances at 3B are going to be rarer than ever.

I can live with another year of Feliz, but he clearly stated that he wants a multi-year contract and he does not deserve one. He is a very poor hitter, can't hit for average, can't get on base on walks, he can only muscle the ball out for a home run occassionally. I don't want to be stuck next year with him at 3B if there is a better option available.

Carney Lansford: New Hitting Coach for Giants

Now that's exciting news to me. I've always admired Carney from afar when he was an A's player, and I secretly hoped that the Giants would draft his son who is a position player, but that was not to be. According to the article, he grew up cheering for the Giants from the south bay, so that's news to me, and make me regret more that the Giants didn't draft his son.

What's not to like? He was a former AL batting champ, lifetime .290 hitter with 2,071 hits, and batted over .300 five times in his 15 year career. I'm always for getting ex-players either with ties to the Giants or were Giants fans growing up, I think that's extra special for them and so they will give that undefinable extra zing to their work.

I always liked his hard-nosed attitude towards the game and hopefully that will rub off onto his young students. He didn't walk THAT (A's Moneyball) high, but 7.2% is not that bad, about 40-50 walks in a full season. But he had a very good career BB/K ratio of 0.77 - the best hitters are above 1.00 - and he improved that ratio during his career, and was on average above 1.00 in his last five full seasons (with BB% at 8%+ during that period too), after being significantly under for most of his career, except for a two year period early in his career.

I like this hire, it brings new blood into the organization, it brings "street cred" in that Lansford has done it before at a very high level, and most of all, I think it brings a new attitude into the coaching staff, he's the "never say die" type of competitive player that I've always liked and admired. Hopefully he can bring and teach what Matt Morris and Benjie Molina said was missing in our clubhouse last season. He has a two-year contract.

D-gers Shakeup: In With the Torre, Out With the Little

It appears to be a done deal now, with reports that Torre has signed a 3 year, $14.6M contract (which, by the way, is less per year than the $5M "insult" that the Yankees offered him) and, of course, Little falling on the grenade with his "it's not them, it's me, it's personal" explanation of why he resigned from the D-gers. "I'm going to enjoy my grandchildren."

Little Worth

I am sad to see Little go. I was happy when the D-gers signed him on.

There has been no public studies on differences between actual record and pythagorean record, but the general theory has been that each team should regress to the mean of zero, which implies that managers should too. I found that a bit hard to believe that a manager wouldn't have some effect, good or bad. So I did what I like to do: check out the data.

I did some null hypothesis testing of managers - obviously affected by the small sample size - where I assumed the null hypothesis of the average difference being 0, and found that while some managers were right there at 0, there were a number of managers who appear to have some significant difference from 0, both positive and negative, though not at the 90-95% level statisticians like, but there were many in the 60-80% range, which is still pretty high. Tommy LaSorda, for example, rated as one of the few managers with a long-term record that was decidedly negative. Baker, Alou, and LaRussa, however, were all positive.

Little had a "-7" differential his first year with the Red Sox, and was near zero (+1) his second year. So he had a "good" start, which made me happy the D-gers tried him out as manager. He was actually right at 0 both years as manager with the D-gers, so he appears to have just had that first bad season, then figured things out and has been at zero, essentially, since then. So that's good: even if he isn't a strongly negative manager, he isn't a particularly good manager either.

Torre, Torre, Torre

Joe Torre is another creature though. Before his Yankees years, he was a "horrible" manager in that he compiled a lot of negative years. Then he became the Yankee manager and suddenly he's a smart manager in that he compiled a lot of positive years. That could imply that the Pythagorean is off (which is it, slightly, in that the exponent isn't 2, it varies with the scoring environment that season, and - pulling from memory - it should be around 1.7 or 1.8; not sure how that affects winning or losing). However, Tommy-boy had a decidedly negative record while winning all those games for LA, so that was not strictly true either.

That led me to start checking out managers who lost a lot and thus didn't get to manage very long - I had started my data collection using managers who were considered good and had a long record of managing. And generally, that was true, the losers were negative and the winners were positive, and there were those who were just at zero. Plus, it was not always just winners who had a positive and losers who had negatives, though I probably should have done some sort of regression on the relationship to see if there was anything to that. Maybe someday.

It could also be that Torre finally figured things out. While with the Cards, he started racking up large positive differentials but then got canned. His stretch with the Yankees did not look that much different from when he was going good with the Cards, with only one negative year early on, else positive all the way through his tenure. Positive, that is, until last season, only his second negative year with the Yankees. So is Torre slipping or was 2007 just a blip?

I wish I knew, so I would know whether to be scared that he's taking over the D-gers or happy. I guess I should be scared, since catchers (Joe Torre was a catcher) seem to be very intelligent and get into management. Look at the Giants, Bob Brenly and Bob Melvin managed and did well at that, and of course Bruce Bochy was a catcher. But Torre is 67 years old, and at some point, age starts to affect your thinking processes, so perhaps he was starting on the downside of his managing career, much like how players reach their downside of their career in their 30's.

A-Rod Not a Given

I disagree with the speculation I've read that getting Torre is the first step to getting A-Rod. For one thing, one can not be sure that A-Rod even wants to work for Torre. They have had issues with each other previously, that came public. I'm willing to dismiss this one because I think A-Rod will play for the highest bidder, even if he has to wear a Jack-in-the-Box head like the actor in the commercials and tap-dance to the macarena. Still, it could be a factor, it is, after all, possibly his last big contract (at least until he opts out of his next contract, that clause will probably be in his new contract somewhere).

There has also been talk that the D-gers owners suddenly wants to make a big splash and spend a wad of money to show up the LA Angels of Disneyland, er, Anaheim. I find that hard to believe because the time to show up the Angels was when they first purchased the D-gers, and at that time, they didn't have enough money to keep the payroll going, resulting in cuts, so why would they suddenly expand things greatly this off-season? Of course, maybe he sold off a lot of property and suddenly is cash rich enough to fuel a D-gers shopping spree. However, such a reason would be obvious, I would think, and reported, and I've seen no such report thus far. So I don't see the D-gers suddenly having enough money to expand their payroll to handle $25-30M for A-Rod.

Plus, if one might recall, it was the D-gers who had egg on their face when JD Drew, whose agent is Scott Boras, opted out of his contract and signed with the Red Sox (who found out why he's no bargain when he can't play a full season regularly). It would seem kind of, well, humiliating if they signed A-Rod and again have an opt-out where he could take off again. Still, A-Rod is the type of player who some team might just turn the other cheek, so perhaps the D-gers might do that and hope for the best.

I think a factor that will affect A-Rod's decision is that D-ger Stadium is clearly a pitcher's park. He would want to go somewhere where he can compile his stats and set all sort of records, not only homers, but hits, runs, RBI, and D-ger Stadium will drag him down for runs and RBI. AT&T has been a neutral park for a few years now, though still a HR deflater, so that could be a negative for him there as well, for coming to SF. Overall, I just don't think the D-gers can or are willing to do what it takes to get A-Rod.

Not Coming to SF Either

Speaking of which, I still doubt he will come to SF. I can see the Giants offering a pretty good contract for him, perhaps even meeting Boras's 10 year demand, but the Angels seem too much of a good fit for him: owner has a lot of cash to burn, likes to make a big splash, likes Latino stars, and did I mention that the owner has a lot of cash to spend?

He might not meet the 10 year demand, but, despite the worries I've read that they fear pissing Vlad off by ruining the payroll structure, frankly, A-Rod is a bigger catch than Vlad and A-Rod has no back injury history like Vlad does, so how much longer can Vlad play anyhow, at his peak? A-Rod would seem a better bet.

And I can see A-Rod taking less money than the $27M per season he was getting before. One, he was willing to take less to get traded to Boston. Two, I think he's more worried about the overall guaranteed money than he is about the average per year. A 8-10 year contract would pretty much guarantee he will be well paid, no matter what, for the rest of his career. Plus, he has deferred before, so he could defer again, if necessary. Plus accept some sort of backloading so that it is lower now, then escalate greatly, say, when Vlad's contract ends and takes that money off the payroll.

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