Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Interesting Giants News

Cycle Around A Posey

Baseball America reported that our shiny new catcher of the future, Buster Posey, nearly got a cycle in the best way - only needed a single - for our Arizona Instructional League team. Going 3-for-3, he hit his third double, first triple, and first homerun as a professional. In addition, he walked twice, scored three times and drove in three as well. Through 4 games, he's 7-for-16 (!) with a batting line of .438/.500/.938 (which doesn't make sense: 7-for-16 means his batting average is .438, but with two walks, his OBP should be higher than his BA, however, .938 sums the first two numbers unless it is a coincidence that his SLG is the same as his BA plus OBP, in which case his OPS is a Bondsian 1.438; yep, his SLG is .938).

Bullpen Effective in One Key Way

While the bullpen has been bad at times in terms of giving up a lot of runs, one area they have shined in this season is inherited runners. reported that the Giants rank 4th in the NL having stranded 73% (178 of 245) of its inherited baserunners. They probably just hasn't been that good with their own

Pitching Staff Having Nice August

Before yesterday's blowup, the Giants had a 3.99 ERA in August. If they can keep it there or lower, it would be first month this season where they were able to collectively keep it under 4.00. Previously, the prior four monthly ERAs were 4.11 or higher.

Hit Streaks Over

As well as Pablo Sandoval ending a 9 game hitting streak recently (he's only played 11 games!), Emmanuel Burriss also had a career-best 6 game hitting streak end as well in Tuesday's game. Burriss also had hits in 9 of his last 10 games played, a streak where he hit .464/.583/.500/1.083, one of the few times you are ever OK with seeing a player have an OBP higher than his SLG. He had 8 walks versus only 2 strikeouts in 28 AB. That's one good thing about Burriss is he's able to avoid the strikeout, putting more balls into play. And Carney Landsford thinks that he can hit for more power and will be working with him to get that working by next season.

I blame myself for Sandoval's Oh-fer: I added him to my fantasy team that day... In the games he has started for the Giants - obviously skewed since he hit in most of those games - the team has averaged 4.4 runs per game; for the season, the team has averaged 3.8 runs per game where Sandoval didn't start the game. With the August runs allowed of 4.24, that works out to a .519 winning percentage, or roughly a 84 win season. If the pitching can improve - and August was skewed upward by Palmer two poor outings - and get the runs allowed to the 4.0 level, that works out to a 89 win season if they can consistently score 4.4 runs while allowing only 4.0 runs.

Low Runs Allowed in 2009 Possible

Such a low runs allowed is possible in 2009. Lincecum has been, and looks like he's going to be, unstoppable. Cain appears to be consolidating his gains in development and dropping his ERA, most probably, for the second straight season. Any lower, and he's an ace to pair up with Lincecum. Sanchez appears to have had a breakout year and hopefully will consolidate his gains in development in 2009. Correia in his last few starts is starting to show the starter that he was at the end of 2007, and if he can just be consistent, he could get his ERA into the mid 4's or lower.

Lastly, for the rotation, Zito has shown sporadic signs that he might finally be coming out of the abyss that has been his Giants career. We will see. But if he is finally able to "hang loose" and pitch like he used to when he was with the A's - a big "if" - then that would be a huge factor in whether the starting rotation can keep their overall ERA below 4.

For the bullpen, Wilson has been the only consistently solid season-long performer there, though I should give Yabu some props for what he has done. For the rest of the pen, while there are stinkers that boost up the overall poor performance, if Hinshaw and Romo can continue to do well, then the Giants could have their setup men for 2009 set, and the performance should be that much better.

Also, I like Taschner and think he can continue to do well as a LOOGY. He was lights out in May and June, before a mediocre July then a horrible August thus far. His ERA would be under 4 right now if not for the bad August stats. So yes, bullpen has been bad this season, but right now it looks like it will be in much better shape in 2009 with Hinshaw and Romo in there, plus Taschner and Walker being used more strictly as LOOGY and ROOGY.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Message to Extra Baggs readers

For some reason, my links to my studies won't post at Extra Baggs, so I had to post my comment here. Here is what I was trying to post:

BHF (and anyone interested) I wrote on the crapshoot that is the draft a while back: click here.

I also wrote on the Giants angle in my full series (links embed): click here.

Generally, even in the first round, a small percentage ever makes it to the majors, even for an AB or IP, smaller yet get to see regular time, even smaller become the good players that fans want to see.

Among Top 5 picks (appropriate because of Posey), less than half (around 40-45%) become these good players, the rest are useful players like Grissom or Tucker or never make much if any impression in the majors, either because of injury or general lack of development.

Basically, we just made a $6.2M bet on coin flip odds, though obviously the odds are hopefully improved if we have good scouts. Of course, that's debatable at the moment (laughable if it weren't that we added John Barr to the mix - he found Russell Martin for Dodgers, which I now realize is about what we could hope for in Posey, roughly - and Lewis, Pablo, Bowker, Ishikawa, Frandsen, Burriss, Horwitz, and Schierholtz are an OK bunch of position prospects that provides some hope for the future of our lineup).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lincecum Reaches 200 Strikeouts

Tim Lincecum in his last start reached 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career. He had 196 between the majors and minors last season and 199 in college once. Accomplishments (from Chron, Merc, accounts):
  • He became the first Giant since Jason Schmidt accumulated 251 K's in 2004 to reach that level.
  • The 24-year-old is the ninth Giants pitcher to reach the 200-strikeout level since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.
  • Tim Lincecum's the seventh different San Francisco Giant to strike out 200 hitters. His predecessors are Jason Schmidt (2003, 2004), Juan Marichal (1963-66 and '68-69), Gaylord Perry (1966-67 and '69-70), Sam Jones (1959), Ray Sadecki (1968) and John Montefusco (1975).
  • Lincecum maintained terrific stuff to the end, popping the glove at 96 mph while striking out the side in the seventh inning. Lincecum offered more reassurance that he is built for a long race: "My body feels the same. It feels strong."
  • Lincecum also improved to 14-3, matching the second-best record among San Francisco pitchers through 17 decisions. He matched Juan Marichal (1968) and Scott Garrelts (1989) and trails only Gaylord Perry (15-2 in 1966).
  • The bullpen has squandered leads in six of Lincecum's starts; the rubbery right-hander was in line for the victory in five of them. Thus, he could be 19-3 right now with perfect bullpen support.
  • He leads the league in strikeouts (200) and ERA (2.48).

In addition, the Giants shut out the 'Dres behind Lincecum and Wilson's pitching. The Giants' 10 shutouts this season tied them with the Dodgers and Mets for the National League lead entering Saturday. The last San Francisco team to record more blankings was the 2002 club, which had 13.

Go Tim!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sickel Reviews His Giants Top 20 Prospect List From Start of Season

John Sickel's, a prospect maven on the web (I think he used to work for Bill James and then worked for ESPN, so he has some cred), regularly publishes his thoughts on a team's top prospects early in the year and he just recently reviewed that list and gave his thoughts on how the players did this season.

There are a lot of good information on a lot of players there, so have a read, I'll note the ones that caught my eye; a lot, however, many Giants fans know already so the below I think are more value added (my comment in parens):
  • Angel Villalona: .248/.298/.400 with 13 homers, 18 walks, 111 strikeouts in 407 at-bats for Augusta in the Sally League. Horrible strike zone judgment, but just 17 years old most of this season.
  • Henry Sosa: pitching time limited by knee injury.
  • Madison Bumgarner: Not nearly as raw as most expected, breaking ball still needs some work but tremendous fastball command has made him unbeatable at this level.
  • Nate Schierholtz: Has nothing left to prove here. Needs a clean chance in the majors or a new organization. (No position for him, plus he still needed development after 2008 and thus regular playing time, something he wouldn't have gotten if he got promoted. It was all good, I believe, but 2009 will be different, and he really needs to be in the majors and starting, Winn must go!)
  • Nick Noonan: Poor plate discipline is biggest concern right now.
  • Clayton Tanner: Efficient strike thrower who gets grounders. Double-A transition in 2009 will tell the tale.
  • Eugenio Velez: Speed and versatility will get him more chances (Sickels noted his poor stats this season).
  • Wendell Fairley: Unimpressive, tools are not turning into skills yet. (Biggest disappointment of the season, all talk so far no action... I was a little worried about that, given his off-field problems, that he might not be that into his work and play, he would be more into his off-field stuff. Next season will show if he's capable of manning up and making up for his poor 2008 or if he sinks lower; seems to have a world of talent though, so we need to be patient)
  • John Bowker: He's capable of better but I don't see why he gets to play and Schierholtz doesn't. (Because Bowker really socked ball out in AA last season, it was masked by Dodd Stadium, and Nate struggled a bit with AAA last season and still needed development time, really)
  • Charlie Culberson: Not producing much of anything, just six steals, no power, weak on-base skills. Young enough to improve. (He might end up repeating at Augusta while everyone else moves up...)
  • Osiris Matos: Should be a useful reliever. (Despite his poor first time up in majors, along with other relievers, people forget that it is not just a competition adjustment coming up, but there are a lot of other things to deal with as a major leaguer; this is why Earl Weaver liked to bring starters up slowly, as a reliever where he can control his opportunities for success as he adjusts to major league life, then he gets to start next season)
  • Wilber Bucardo: Gets grounders and throws strikes, other marks not impressive at all.
  • Sergio Romo: Gotta love the K/BB and K/IP. Main concern is strong fly ball tendency leading to excessive homers. (Despite being a finesse strikeout pitcher, I think he's capable of doing well in majors based on the time he has spent so far in the majors, he just need to be more of a pitcher than a thrower, odd to say about a finesse guy, but his problems in the majors shows he's doing something wrong.)
  • Emmanuel Burriss: Good speed, but total lack of power will preclude big success. (Giants realize this, that's why Carney Lansford will be working with him during off-season and spring training to get him to hit more line drives, as recent Merc article noted. "As big and strong as he is, he should be able to drive the ball better.'' Apparently he's OK right-handed, but is totally weak as a lefty. "...he wants Burriss to develop gap power as opposed to hitting the ball out of the park. "He's done a very good job putting the ball in play. But he chases too much and there are other things we'll work on to help him. He's got the potential to be a much better left-handed hitter."" Sounds good to me, that's why I think he'll be the starter at 2B in 2009 with Frandsen at 3B; hopefully Burriss can develop and man SS after 2009. While I think Frandsen's better position is 2B, I think Noonan will grab that sooner or later, and I think Frandsen can hit at the major league level).
  • Ben Copeland: Still looks like a reserve outfielder to me.
  • Ben Snyder: Having problems making transition to Double-A, a common issue for finesse pitches.
Here is his final summary:

Villalona could develop into a superstar. He could also fail to gain
command of the strike zone and end up as a big bust. It is just too early to
know. Alderson has been really good, and Bumgarner has been unstoppable. The
middle infield options don't look too great right now, with failures to hit
sufficiently among the guys on this list. But overall the Giants system is in
better condition than it has been in recent years.

Not too surprising on Villalona, chill out if you are worrying, as this is normal stuff for such a young player playing at such a low level. The key point is that he is holding his own while playing against much older competition. That is a key to him making the majors at a young age, but it is a gaunlet he will go through as he rises up the minors, he will have to re-prove himself each and every season.

The rest basically captures our 2008 minor leagues except for our big breakout success of Pablo Sandoval. And the farm system obviously looks a whole lot better with the addition of Posey, Gillaspie, Kieschnick, and Crawford.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hey Neukom! My Giants Business Plan: Good Enough Offense Example

It had been so long I did my writing that I left out an example I had put together with some research and analysis.

Good Enough Offense Example

Let's take the following example. Let's pretend that the Giants pitched and played defense well enough to match what the Padre's did last year, allowing 4.11 runs per game. This would mean that they would need to average 4.60 runs scored per game in order to win 90 games. That's roughly the number of runs the Chicago Cubs scored last season.

So I decided to examine what type of offense they had as we would need similar goodness. For the below, I analyzed the Cub's lineup by OPS. For each position, I compiled where they ranked in the NL in 2007, where a Top 5 is considered Good, a Bottom 5 is considered Bad, and being in the middle 6 is considered average.

Cubs By Lineup Position

Here is how they did in 2007 by lineup position:

Leadoff: Good
2nd: Average
3rd: Average
4th: Good
5th: Bad
6th: Average
7th: Average
8th: Bad

The Cubs had two Good, two Bad, four Average.

For the Giants in 2008 (as of 08/18/08):
Leadoff: Average (mostly Lewis; Roberts/Velez brought down below Good)
2nd: Average (but very close to bad; mostly Castillo, Velez, Ochoa, Burriss bad)
3rd: Bad (but very close to average; mostly Winn doing poorly)
4th: Bad (very bad, last; mostly Molina but Rowand bad here too)
5th: Bad (mostly Rowand, but Bowker and Aurilia horrible, would have been Avg)
6th: Average (Mostly Bowker doing bad plus Castillo, but Aurilia did very well)
7th: Bad (Aurilia was easily Avg, but Castillo was bad, Burriss horrible)
8th: Bad (Vizquel and Bocock horrible, Burriss and Holm were good here)

The Giants had three Average, five bad, but one should have been good and four should have been average, leaving three bad. That's pretty close to the Cubs in 2007. Amazingly, Vizquel was so bad that he barely beat out Bocock.

For the Giants in 2009 using current personnel and 2008 stats (OPS to be ranked):
Leadoff: Winn .787 (.787 Good/.722 Avg)
2nd: ??? (.767 Good/.709 Avg)
3rd: Lewis .817 (.893 Good/.777 Avg)
4th: Molina .731 (.874 Good/.788 Avg)
5th: Rowand .790 (.832 Good/.776 Avg)
6th: Ishikawa/Sandoval (.783 Good/.719 Avg)
7th: ??? (.745 Good/.714 Avg)
8th: ???(Ochoa .694) (.672 Good/.588 Avg)

The Giants look to have one Good, three Average, one bad, three ???. Ishikawa/Sandoval should probably beat .719 for Average ranking; if we get a power 3B via free agency, he would bat 6th and they should probably beat .714 for Average ranking as well. Frandsen should be able to do well enough to be Average at any of the question marks, could be good 7th, maybe 2nd too. Ochoa hopefully can be at least average at 8th and SS, but too soon to tell; good now though. Given these guesses, that would leave the Giants at one Good, five average, one bad, 3B still ?. If we could get a good 3B, we could have an offense similar to the Cubs.

Cubs By Playing Position

Here is how the Cubs did in 2007 by playing position:

C: Average
1B: Good
2B: Average
3B: Good
SS: Bad
LF: Good
CF: Bad
RF: Average

The Cubs had three Good, three Average, two Bad.

For the Giants in 2008(as of 08/18/08):

C: Average (mostly Molina)
1B: Bad (last by a lot, mostly Bowker, but Aurilia too)
2B: Bad (close to Avg, only due to Durham who was very good, Burriss and Velez very bad)
3B: Bad (last; mostly Castillo, but all bad)
SS: Bad (last by a lot; mostly Vizquel, Bocock very bad too; both Burriss and Ochoa average)
LF: Average (mostly Lewis who was close to good; Roberts/Ortmeier brought down)
CF: Average (mostly Rowand who was close to good)
RF: Average (close to Good; mostly Winn, but it was others who brought close to good)

The Giants had four Average and four Bad. It looked better earlier when I first did the analysis but that's life within a season, as earlier, we were good at C, CF, RF. Much like how nobody noticed Winn early on when doing well, fans started busting his chops when he had a very slow summer, but now he is on a monster hot streak leading off for us.

For the Giants in 2009 using current personnel and 2008 stats (OPS to be ranked):

C: Molina .731 (.777 Good/.665 Avg)
1B: Ishikawa/Sandoval (.841 Good/.784 Avg)
2B: ??? (Frandsen?) (.751 Good/.688 Avg)
3B: ??? (.788 Good/.714 Avg)
SS: ???(Ochoa .694) (.754 Good/.693 Avg)
LF: Lewis .817 (.864 Good/.712 Avg)
CF: Rowand .790 (.820 Good/.724 Avg)
RF: Winn .787 (.816 Good/.747 Avg)

The Giants have four average, one bad, three ???. Ishikawa/Sandoval most probably are going to be Bad, but if they hit like they did in minors, could be average, particularly as platoon. Frandsen should be at least average at 2B or 3B, could be good 2B. If Ochoa wins SS, could perhaps be average, most probably bad. That would work out to five average, two bad, one ?. Rowand could be good in 2009, he had a horrible June/July, plus he has had problems at home but has been improving during the season. No other chances of another good unless we acquire good 3B. Still, should be much better than all the bads from this season.


The Giants do not appear to be that far from having an offense like the Cubs did in 2007. If Ishikawa/Sandoval could continue to hit like they did in minors that would solidify 1B and bottom of lineup. If Winn could be traded, I think Schierholtz has the potential to get RF into the good category, but shouldn't be a setback either to drop it to bad, plus provide another RBI and power bat to underwhelming lineup. Frandsen is a potentially good 2B, he has hit everywhere he has played, and should at least be average; would be good hitting #2. Lewis has the potential to move up to good as well, though it will be harder moving away from hitting leadoff and being in LF.

The key thing appears to be getting another plus bat into the lineup, however that can happen. In free agency, 3B appears to be a bit barren, both of power and of youth. Young 3B are signed up quickly, typically. A trade will be problematic unless we give up somebody good ourselves, like Sanchez or Bumgarner (I am hoping Cain and Lincecum are untouchable; Sanchez and Bumgarner are getting there in my mind but not there yet).

The best thing, I believe, is to wait another year, let our young players play in 2009 and see what happens. Ideally, Posey will force his way into lineup by 2010 and be a good C and lineup position for us, and be that plus bat; there is also the possibility he could end up at SS (and be good there) if Sandoval proves to be good as a C. Villalona could be that player as well by 2010-11, depending on how he advances in 2009, ideally at 3B. Dark horses would be Nick Noonan at 2B and Conor Gillaspie at 3B/2B in the 2010-11 timeframe as well. And I would throw out Brandon Crawford at SS, as well, for he could surprise since he was very highly rated in the pre-season, he needs to figure out how to bring that potential back into play, as he did not do that well this season, relatively.

Hey Neukom! My Giants Business Plan: Good Enough Offense

After a long break - sorry about that, been busy with things, plus Giants things I wanted to write on, but I did have this written long ago...

Obviously, the Giants have focused more on the pitching side of the equation with their drafts and clearly has had more success there as well. And thus a lot of Giants fanst have been grumbling about the lack of position prospects. Go to any popular Giants watering hole and there will be someone making Sabean another orifice for the team's lack of position prospects.

And that makes sense at many levels. Giants fans are used to great offensive teams led by stars like Mays and McCovey, Bobby Bonds, Jack "The Ripper" Clark, Will the Thrill, Kevin Mitchell, Matt Williams, Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent. We have been blessed with great offensive stars throughout most of SF Giants history, while pitching has really been limited mostly to Marichial and Gaylord Perry, with a nice run by John "The Count" Montefusco, for the vast majority of the team's first 50 years.

BP Study on Playoff Success

As I've been writing, BP's study found that pitching/defense were the only significant factors that contributed success in the playoffs. However, there is a flip side to BP's study: 0ffense doesn't give you any advantage once you get into the playoffs. While defensive metrics were shown to statistically significantly affect playoff success, improving playoff chances, conversely, there was no correlation between any offensive metric with playoff success. NONE, ZERO, NIL, NOTHING.

Even a metric as elemental and simple as Runs Scored - one would naturally assume the higher that is, the greater your odds of winning - had no effect on success in the playoffs. No effect. That means you could be one of the best offensive teams over the past 20 or so years, and according to BP's study, that lineup would confer no extra advantage to your team.

Now this does not mean the converse, that you can just ignore the offense, for even the best pitching staffs still need some level of offensive support to win. But as I showed long ago in my section on great team defense, if you have a league leading pitching staff and defense in terms of keeping runs allowed low, you can get into the playoffs even with an offense around the worse in the league. When you have the best overall pitching/defense, you just need a good enough offense to make the playoffs, then succeed in the playoffs.

Simple Business Strategy: Focus on Scarce Valuable Resources

Still, for those who lament the Giants relative slowness in developing position players, why not focus on those elements of the draft which confers some advantage in the playoffs, which are pitching and defense? Why spent a lot of top picks on position players who most probably are not going to be stars?

When faced with lowered resources (back in the first round draft picks), you could spread your chances everywhere and try to get pitching and offense, but you don't know what you are going to get, whereas if you focused on pitching, you more likely will fill your pitching needs, then fill in the pieces offensively.

And remember, if you hit the jackpot with pitching, you just put in another good starter, another good reliever, improving what we got, whereas you could end up with two good players in the same position and be forced to trade and hope for the best, but that doesn't always work out, like the Indians trading away Kouzmanoff because they wanted Jesse Barfield to fill 2B and had Andy Marte in their system; oops!

They still picked up position players - they have to field full teams at every minor league level - but just didn't spend many of their surer bullets (first round draft picks that are late in the round) on many hitters, they focused mainly on pitching: Kurt Ainsworth, Noah Lowry, Brad Hennessey, Matt Cain, Tim Alderson, etc.

Once the pitching rotation looks pretty good, plus you have some good bullpen pieces, then all you need to do is cobble together a good enough offense to sustain a pennant winning number of victories. Free agency can help you pick up at least one good piece of the offensive puzzle at some point, like how we picked up Aaron Rowand, who has delivered above average offense and defense at a premium position, CF. The International market can help you pick up maybe another good piece or two, like how we got Pablo Sandoval, Angel Villalona and Rafael Rodriguez. Trade could also give you a good piece or two, though the Giants have not pulled that trigger yet.

Finally, once you are deep into your rebuilding and losing enough games, you can pick up a good offensive player or two via a high draft pick, like how we just got Buster Posey and we should get another very good pick (Top 5) in next year's draft. Meanwhile, the players you drafted later in a shotgun fashion, some might turn out good, like Fred Lewis has, and perhaps John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz, Emmanuel Burriss, Ryan Rohlinger.

That can help you craft together a lineup with a few good hitters, a bunch of average hitters, and a few great defensive players who might not be that good offensively. One that is good enough.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Analysis of Buster Posey on Baseball Intellect

Baseball Intellect recently published his analysis of Buster Posey as a prospect.

Sounds very good overall, but for $6.2M, I would have hoped for more than a B/B+ grading that the author assigned to Buster's potential.

Still, very good skills all around:
  • Defense: Buster's athleticism has been touted for a long while, and it is here too. Due to this, he is projected to be at least average defensively with the potential to be plus.
  • Ratios and splits stats: walked about twice his strikeouts - the best hitters get one walk per strikeout. So that's pretty good, albeit in college ball. I wonder what it was on Friday, when he typically faced the other team's best pitcher. In that venue, though, he was just about as good, suggesting that he probably walked a lot there too as well. And he hit well against both LHP and RHP (though hard not to do when you hit .463).
  • Swing: Good for "moderately-high batting average" plus gap power for a lot of doubles, but not good for huge power. That would be great in AT&T Park. He has a couple of flaws that needs to be fixed; maybe the additional coaches that Neukom wants can help him with that.
  • Overall: Sees 35+ doubles and 15-20 HR annually from Posey, with a "solid" batting average, which to me means not .300+ but high .200's, .280 to .290. Those plus the ability to take a walk results in "a pretty good offensive player." That plus playing at a premium defensive position means that he has the potential to be in the Top 5 catchers. And with his overall polish to his offensive game, he thinks Posey can move quickly. Which is good, the Giants need Posey to move really fast, ideally making the majors in 2010 after Molina's contract ends in 2009.

Giants Thoughts

I know this doesn't pertain to the article, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense the bonus amount. The main goal was getting more than Tim Beckham and Pedro Alvarez, or really, anyone, he was the Golden Spike winner, he was just as highly rated as Matt Weiters who got $6M last season, he was the top offensive guy plus played great defense, for college. Obviously, Beckham was a set target since he signed so early for $6.15M, but Alvarez was the stumbling point, what's he going to get?

Given the reports that Posey had already flew in and gotten his physical earlier in the week, I think that he and the Giants had basically agreed to most of the parameters and the Giants were willing to help him get what he wanted, which was the biggest contract, and gave him at least a couple of options, either $6.2M upfront or, if he wants more, the Giants have to go with a major league contract - which allows them to backload the payments - and the total is $7.5M but spread out over a number of years and still $6.2M present value. So the question is, which one is good enough to beat what Beckham got and Alvarez might get, because Boras likes to get the highest contract?

So they waited all week, still Alvarez is not signed, and Buster's negotiating team hit on the idea of leaking the $7.5M figure so that Boras hopefully will wave the white flag and concede. Remember, they were the ones to leak the $12M figure for Buster; and about that, the experts in the media would opine that it was to get to the higher spending clubs and scare off the cheap clubs, but the way I've always seen it is that it has dual purpose: yes, one is to reach a bigger spending club, but there is another reason to move back in the draft, and that's to reach the teams who have a better chance of winning.

Look at the top drafting clubs, do any of them really look like that they have a clue of ever winning regularly? Tampa might be winning this year, but it is the clubs who pick later who have the better chance of winning. Pittsburgh? KC? Orioles? Please, do you really want to get stuck with any of those clubs, given their past record of failures? Sometimes it works, like when Porcello fell to the Tigers. Most times it don't, like when the Orioles picked Weiters.

Anyway, don't know if Boras called to congratulate them and thus both could move on, but somehow the log jam got broken and the contract got signed by Buster for "just" the $6.2M. In any case, I don't think that it is a coincidence that Baggarly was the same person who reported the $7.5M figure plus then noted later that the delay was due to a "pissing contest" between Alvarez's agents and Posey's agents. And the Giants weren't technically "lying", deciding on the final figure of a contract is a huge negotiation point.

Back to the analysis. I would take .280+, 15+ HR, 35+ doubles with good to gold glove defense at catcher anyday. That would be huge to have under control for 6 seasons. I would have preferred seeing an A grade, and I don't quite understand why it wasn't since he can be a top 5 at his position. But, whatever, that batting line about would be great to have, particularly with a lot of walks too. That would be perfect in the #3 lineup spot, would work at #5, would be good #2 as well, since he should get on base a lot plus hits LHP as well as he hits RHP. This solves another spot in the Giants future lineup.

He gives us 3 legit middle lineup guys in Lewis, Rowand and now Posey. Add Villalona into the mix and that, assuming they hit what the appear capable of doing, would be a darn good offense, maybe Posey #2, Lewis #3, Villalona #4, Rowand #5, then we need to find us a good leadoff guy, plus Schierholtz should be OK batting #6 or 7.

And that lineup could happen as soon as 2010 if Villalona can advance like Justin Upton did and if Posey can advance fast, like both Will Clark and Tim Lincecum, two fellow Golden Spike players, did.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Posey Period Pegins: Buster Posey Pens Line for $6.2M Bonus

OK, this is the latest from Andy Baggarly and apparently it came from Baseball America, which, by the way, he is an excellent correspondent for. According to the report, he signs for $6.2M, the largest up-front bonus in draft history, as it is not a major league deal (nor was he a two sport player like Tim Beckham, who had his bonus split), and thus the Giants are paying that full amount immediately instead of spread over a number of years (remember, they ended up reducing their payroll this season from their original mid-90-mil to high 80's, which will just cover Buster's bonus).

So it is both larger than Tim Beckham's bonus and Matt Weiter's bonus, plus, per Baggarly's comment here about how both Alvarez and Posey wanted to have the highest bonus this year, apparently Posey won that battle, as BA reported that Alvarez signed for a straight $6M bonus. It is also higher than any bonus paid over the past four drafts, beating out Weiter's $6M in 2007, Justin Upton's $6.1M in 2005.

I guess Baggarly's source has egg on his or her face, as this was not close to the $7.5M figure he reported. It ended up being pretty close to what I was hoping it would be, I was thinking $5-6M. I'm happy it is only $200K more than that. And I guess Allfrank will be happy too. :^)

All in all, I did sweat some bullets after 9PM passed and there was no news, but it made too much sense for both sides not to make a deal that both sides would be happy with. I heard some yahoo on KNBR suck up to Damon Bruce and scream at the Giants for signing Zito and not overpaying Posey a few millions to get him signed "three months ago (sic)" [not quite right, it was 2.5 months ago], while Bruce yells at the Giants for that as well. (CLICK, turn on my daughter's Camp Rock CD for the umpteen millionth time, anything than hearing the ravings on KNBR at night, I used to love late night sportstalk...).

Well, duh, unlike what many think, Sabean has been pretty smart over the years, certainly it was unquestioned early in his tenure, but given the excellent state of the pitching rotation, I'll forgive any of the trespasses that bothers others. When all is said and done, the Giants now look set at catcher for many years, both offensively and defensively, with Posey, as well as in the pitching rotation and closer spot. Hinshaw looks good thus far for one of the two key setup positions (don't forget how Munter flamed out after one good season though...) and there are a lot of candidates for the other spot, though Walker is starting to look done (however, people forget that he recovered from TJS just at the end of last season, so his arm strength is probably not built up yet, and still forgot how good he was at the beginning of this season, so I have some hope for him next season).

Go Giants!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's Official: Neukom KominK In-K

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but the MLB uninanimously and officially voted Bill Neukom into that 30-man fraternity known as the "Owners" of an MLB club, it was announced on today.

Thank You Peter!

I will forever be thankful to Peter Magowan for getting the Giants this far as a franchise:
  • Keeping the Giants in SF
  • Building that beautiful park by the Bay despite decades of inertia in the SF political scene
  • Making it possible to keep the Giants in SF for the indefinite future, with no future potential move hanging over the franchise for many years to come
  • 8 straight years of winning baseball, the longest stretch for the Giants since the 14 straight years of winning baseball from their first season in SF to basically when I became a fan (a coincidence, I assure you :^), the longest stretch of winning in the past 36 years (next longest is 5 years from 86-90), which means that in the last 36 years, only 13 were in stretches of sustained good performances, 23 years were either losing or winning just one season before losing again
  • Bringing the pride in the franchise back again
  • Bringing Barry Bonds (and by extension, Bobby Bonds) back home, where he belonged
  • Making the Willies (Mays and McCovey) a big part of the Giants scene, as well as a lot of other past Giants, great, loved, or both

When It's Time to Change, You Got to Re-arrange

But it was time for a change.

As I've been writing since the 2003 season, the Giants could either dream big by spending extra money to shore up the team by getting Bonds' replacement (Vlad, Ordonez, Beltran, for examples), or they could pinch pennies and buy a bunch of mediocre players. Peter Magowan chose the latter path, leading to our current, long losing seasonal streak. As managing partner, he could have either brought in new investors to boost the cash flow to sustain such an expanded spending during those critical years or convince the current owners to pony up more money. He was unable or unwilling to do either.

Lucky for us, Sabean has been able to cobble together an excellent pitching rotation and closer, plus promising pieces in the bullpen and lineup (basically many of the rookies and near-rookies who have seen some playing time this season), while fulfilling the general order from ownership to buy the best vets available within the budget we had. In addition, there are a number of promising players now in the farm system who should be arriving starting in 2010 (and perhaps as early as late 2009), starting with Bumgarner, Alderson, Posey, Sosa, Villalona, Noonan, Gillaspie, and Rodriguez.

If these pieces were not in place already, I would be on board with changing GM today, but I'm not willing to jeopardize this re-build - and risk having the new GM trade away Cain or Lincecum, as many fans today irrationally feared - by making a change today. But we need to see progress each year still or then we risk losing our star pitchers to free agency before we start winning. If we do not progress each year, I would be OK with a GM change.

Long Live the Neukom!

I've already liked the stances and his messages thus far, which I'm paraphrasing. "We will do what we need to do in order to win, winning is the prime directive. " Which to me says if we need money to do what we need to do, he will bring it in, somehow. "Build the Farm." Which we all know is the right way to build a club. I am sure there are others, but these two come to mind fastest.

In this latest opportunity to send his message to the public, he added another nuance, which is something I've complained about and asked for over the years: add more coaches. Here is the quote: "That means we've got to keep building our farm system and our coaches, because those are the people who teach so the kids can play the game in the Major Leagues at the highest level." (italic bold emphasis is mine).

Invest in Coaches and Other Services

In today's world where the team spends literally $100M on the MLB payroll plus tens of millions on the draft bonuses plus on top of that the expenses for the farm system, why aren't there more coaches at each and every level, helping each team. I don't mean rovers, but actual coaches on every team. Heck, you can probably hire and assign someone to focus on and mentor our top prospects.

For example, we should have RHP and LHP on call who can come out and pitch extra batting practice when hitters need or want it. If it is something Barry Bonds (he had a LHP pitch to him at home and on the road), who is arguably one of the best hitters ever in MLB history, felt would improve his performances, it might help those lesser mortals, like Dan Ortmeier or any of our lefty hitters, to get more practice against LHP and perhaps not be labeled platoon potential starters. Likewise, have a RHP on call for the right-handed hitters, just for repetition. That's not coddling, that's ensuring your investments mature and develop and get the practice they need.

In addition, something I've touched on over the years is expanded medical care. There should be no excuse for Eyre not realizing that he needed drugs to help him with his ADD or countless other hitters who we suddenly discovered that he needed glasses to help him see the pitched ball. Our doctors should be catching such things and taking care of them proactively, not reactively.

And how much would that cost per season? I'll bet no more than $3-5M per year. Which is a small insurance policy amount to help ensure that we get the most out of our players. Overall, the team is probably spending at least $150M with regards to players and their development and care. That much extra per year is a pittance to the benefits those services can bring the team.

I was going to go over this in one of my segments in my Hey Series, but this was a good time to get it out there, given that the changing of the guard is now official. Hopefully, Neukom is both a man of his words and a man of action, and put all his directives into motion. But he probably wouldn't have been selected to head the powerful American Bar Association (I still think of a pub when I hear that :^) for a two year period if he weren't either of those. I believe that the Giants are in good hands and that he will bring needed changes to the culture and philosophy of the club.

And the Beat Goes On: Giants Sign Posey, Kieschnick, Crawford

This news direct from Andy Baggarly from his Extra Baggs blog (thanks to Allfrank for heads-up!):

* Posey gets in the neighborhood of $7.5M (very nice neighborhood! :^), which when I think of it, is more where it should have been, not the $5-6M that I thought he would get, because slots were up 20% this year over last, and 20% added to $6M is $7.2M which is close to that reported amount. In addition, it is a major league contract, which means he's on our 40 man roster starting next season and starts burning options, but given his achievements, if he doesn't make the majors within 2-3 seasons, that would be a huge disappointment.

* Kieschnick got $525,000 or $40K over slot

* Crawford got $375,000 or $92K over slot. He was not exactly confirmed, as the news is from the UCLA office who said that he told them that he's not coming back to school, and why and for how much.

* Extra news, Giants also sign 13th round pick, Juan Carlos Perez, who broke the Division II junior college record with 37 home runs. He fell because of visa issues, according to Baggarly, and thus the Giants signed him to a 2009 contract in order to allow him time to work that all out. He is an outfielder.

We are set at catcher now with Posey, both defensively and, hopefully, offensively, Gillaspie looks like he could cover 3B or maybe 2B, we'll see if Kieschnick is a corner OF and if Crawford can hit enough to be SS, as his defense, from reports I've seen, has been excellent though inconsistent.

I hope these signings stop the Naysayers mistaken assertions that the Giants are cheap and wouldn't go over slot. As I had documented from previous drafts, the Giants have been generous before, and for more recent examples, they gave Lincecum $200K over slot, and I think about the same for Bumgarner too.

Of course, giving Posey over $7M is way over slot even if he were the first pick, but given his achievements this year both in hitting and winning awards, can be justified, and especially since they need him that much as well. Leverage is good and Posey had it. At least it is much closer to the $6M Weiters got than the $12M that Posey was rumored to be asking for.

BA Pre-Season

I didn't report on this before, but Baseball America, in their annual prospect book, listed the top college and high school players at the time of publication. Posey "only" ranked 17th among college players; his play during the season obviously boosted his stock. Crawford was actually ranked HIGHER than Posey, he was 10th. And Gillaspie and Kieschnick were ranked near Posey, they were 21st and 22nd, respectively.

Rundown on Signees

Looking back, I didn't include Jonathan Mayo's excellent profile comments when they were originally picked, so I'll run them down here with some comments:
  • Posey: Posey has advanced hitting skills, good knowledge of strike zone. Thinks his power is gap-to-gap, and can develop into 10-15 HR annually. Despite his SS pedigree, he doesn't run much better than other catchers and is still a slightly below-average runner. His fielding is behind other catchers but he already as quick footwork and should improve the more he catches. His strength is that he's a highly sought-after package, a catcher who'll be able to stay behind the plate and can hit, but that's his weakness, his inexperience as as catcher, only converting from SS to C two seasons ago; experience will teach him the nuances of the position. Summary: College catchers who can stay at the position and can hit are always a hot commodity and Posey will be no exception. He's got a great approach with the bat and has a little power. As a converted shortstop, he's still a little raw behind the plate, but all the tools are there for him to be just fine and help ensure he gets drafted fairly early.

  • Gillaspie: Gillaspie is a left-handed hitting third baseman in a Bill Mueller-type mold. Hitting is his best tool, very good hitter, knows what he's doing at the plate. However, with not much power, he's basically a hitting machine. He's also got below average speed but excellent base runner, so he'll steal some bases. He'll make an adequate 3B, but his lack of power keeps him from having a true profile position. Summary: After a strong Cape season, Gillaspie has followed up with an excellent junior campaign. He's a terrific hitter and has been over .400 for most of the year. His lack of power makes it hard to profile him anywhere other than as a Bill Mueller-type third baseman. There are worse things to be, of course, and a team that values what Gillaspie can do will surely take him.

  • Kieschnick: He is a big, athletic left-handed hitter (throws right) who reminds some of Mark Teahen. The big things for him is that he has excellent raw power, mostly to the pull side, and he's a 5 tool type of player, though hitting is his biggest question mark. He has above-average speed, and being aggressive, could steal 10-15 bags a year. He has the potential to be an above-average RF, he has a plus arm and gets good breaks and angles on balls, plus is very aggressive in the OF. Strengths are his raw power, good speed, aggressiveness in all facets of the game, and his weaknesses are his hitting mechanics, which leads some to wonder if he'll hit enough in the pros. Summary: Kieschnick is a potential five-tool corner outfielder who could hit for power and steal a few bases. He plays a fearless outfield, getting to plenty of balls and showing off a good arm at times. The one knock is an issue with his mechanics at the plate that concerns some about his hitting ability at the next level. Still, an aggressive college outfielder -- in a weak class of outfielders -- who has those tools should get plenty of interest.

  • Crawford: There is what was and what is now. In the past, Crawfod has shown an ability to drive the ball, but he has struggled thus far in 2008. He has raw pull power and a solid average runner, though confident enough to steal bases. Defensively, his hands have always been good, though he's not making the spectacular plays as regularly as he has in the past, as he seems to have lost a step and isn't getting to as many balls as he once did. When he's going well, he's an all-round shortstop who can hit, hit for power, steal a base and make the plays, but his confidence is shot this year and it's reflecting in almost all facets of his game. Summary: After his first two seasons at UCLA, Crawford seemed poised to be one of the top collegiate middle infielders in the class. But a rough Cape season appears to have carried over and he's lost some confidence in his game, both at the plate and in the field. Some added thickness to his lower half has taken away a little of his quickness, though he's still a solid shortstop. If he can right himself, he's the kind of player who usually sees himself go off the board within the first couple of rounds.

Also, here is some info on Juan Carlos Perez that I dug up:

  • Perez: The reigning NJCAA Div. II National Player of the Year, the Dominican had one of the greatest offensive displays in junior college baseball history (and as Baggarly noted, Albert Pujols was a Dominican who play junior college baseball) playing for Western Oklahoma State. He rewrote the NJCAA Div. II record books by blasting 37 homeruns, shattering the previous mark of 23 and also the national record for RBI's also belongs to Perez as his 102 total now stands as the benchmark. He also hit .465 and stole 29 bases. An article noted his excellent speed and a strong arm. He was also teammates with the infamous Danny Almonte, and he played against Almonte in youth leagues in the Bronx and when they were in high school. He appears to be 21 years old, being three years out of high school (based on info in this article) and before this college season, he had spent two years playing in local men's leagues after finishing high school plus spent a winter with Almonte at Play Baseball Academy in Miami, Florida. At the academy, he became a student of the game, learning the finer points of defense and base running. He says he is also diligent in working out each morning to stay in shape. What I like is that he planned to pursue a degree in engineering in case things didn't work out in baseball, you got to have plans if you want to get ahead in life.


All in all, it looks like the Giants made a great pick with Posey, particularly since we have a need at both C and SS, positions he can play and be plus offensively - there has been no talk about moving him away from C, and it is not like Sandoval is a great defensive catcher, but I mention that only because we have no real good SS prospect and Posey can play both positions. Now he just has to deliver.

And with two players who were legitimate #1 pick overall material - Lincecum and Posey - in three drafts, that's pretty good picking (and lucky picking, it takes a community of teams to not select them and leave them for us to pick, but still you have to be smart enough to select them yourself and not follow the crowd).

Gillaspie is a question mark in that while he can most probably hit in the majors, where he will fit is the question. Offensively, he looks more like a 2B but he appears to be adequate enough defensively to play 3B and that is a position of need for us, though Rohlinger is developing. Still, he's a good pick that should pay off in the future.

Kieschnick and Crawford are both very raw but both had talent and tools enough to warrant pre-season selection as players who could go in the first round, Crawford especially, while Kieschnick probably would have been somewhere in the first half of the supplemental first round picks though could have gone somewhere late in the first round.

As I've noted before, my study on the draft shows that the amount of talent typically available in the back of the first round is not that clear cut, though the potential is there, and thus many of them fail to become good players, but still, the odds are much better for those types of players than it is for even 3rd and 4th round drafted players (except for those who fall down due to signability issues), almost exponentially so (about 10% vs. 1-2%). The upshot of all this is that unless you are getting Top 5 draft picks, finding good players via the draft is more a volume shotgun jell-o on the wall type of venture, the more you have the better. And the higher the talent level of players you are getting, the better off your system is.

Thus Kieschnick and Crawford are good additions to the farm system because they are considered better talents who had off-years that dropped them back a bit in the draft. Kind of like how we got Brian Wilson, his abilities would have warranted a higher pick, but he had the unfortunate timing of getting TJS the year of the draft. Of course, not the same situation as while TJS is pretty common today, not every player return to prior goodness and velocity, but my point is that it can be worthwhile to add players with questions marks (like EME and Marcus Sanders with their health) when they have a good set of talents that normally would get them drafted much higher. Again, it's the shotgun-jell-O-traveling salesman approach: it's scattershot but if you do it systematically, then it works out overall.

Pitching, Pitching, and Pitching

And, again, that's why I like the Giants emphasis on pitching in the draft. If you are not sure what you are going to get out of the draft, you can't really plan much things out. But by focusing more on pitching, that builds a core competancy and talent level in pitching in your organization until you have a complete - and superior - pitching rotation, and then you have the luxury of pushing good pitchers who don't have an open spot in the rotation, into the bullpen and build that up as well. Plus there are always pitchers who flame out as starters but can excel in the bullpen.

That's why we could leave Brian Wilson in as closer. Up to last season, the Giants were not sure whether they wanted him to start or relieve, though they kept him in relief because of his TJS history (I presume). If we didn't have Cain, then Lincecum, and now Sanchez, the Giants management probably would have felt the urgency to think about moving him into the rotation. Now they can safely leave him in there for the long-term, much like how Boston finally went with Papalbon as closer, when he was a starter before and wanted to start.

This way, the cream rises to the top until we have too much cream and our cup will overflow. And while trading is harder today, it seems, there is always a need for pitching, whether more or better, and if we have a cupboard full enough, we will be able to trade off pitchers to get the position player we need without hurting our chances of winning.

Meanwhile, you still pick up some position players along the way - you still need to field a team in the minors - and hopefully some of them are the lottery ticket that gets you a nice position player - not good but nice - as while no team requires a lineup full of great hitters, at minimum they need to be good enough to complement the good players you do have.

Which leaves free agency, both MLB (Rowand) and internationally (Villalona and Rodriguez), and trades as avenues to get the good players you need for your lineup as you rebuild.

I think the Giants have a good setup. Success is not assured but I like the way the organization is shaping up. Pitching is pretty set and even if the bullpen is unsettled, Bumgarner and Alderson should be able to shore it up starting in 2010. In the lineup, we have Rowand as a plus and Lewis as an average (but good) player. By 2010, Posey should be good at catcher. Villalona hopefully will be super at 1B, but that's not a give yet. However, Sandoval looks like he'll be OK at 1B, with Ishikawa as backup there, or even catching next season if Ishikawa can continue whacking the ball like he has. Schierholtz looks like he could be good in RF. I still think Frandsen is the guy at 2B and he could be average (but good) there as well. That leaves SS and 3B. Not too shabby, overall

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Giants Youth Brigade Marches On

Breaking news broken by Andy Baggarly: The Giants call up Travis Ishikawa, Pablo Sandoval, and Ryan Rohlinger and send down John Bowker and Stephen Holm plus DFA's Jose Castillo.

The trio has been on fire in the minors, particularly after getting promoted to the next level. Ishikawa was batting .312, Sandoval owned a .339 average and Rohlinger was at .296, according to

Meanwhile, Bowker has been ice cold for a long while, Holm has never recaptured his early season shininess, and Castillo hasn't been good for a long while.

No, Thank You!

But thank you to Castillo for filling a hole in our roster for as long as he did. He kept the spot warm, essentially, until Rohlinger could figure some things out in the minors. And who knows, both Boston and Tampa are both missing 3B, perhaps they would be willing to throw us a prospect so that Castillo can stop-gap for them (though I had been hoping either of them would send us a decent prospect in exchange for Aurilia)

And Holm got to experience the big leagues for most of the season, something he most probably wouldn't have gotten to do if Alfonzo didn't have his problems then got suspended again for PEDs. I don't think he'll be making the majors again, barring injuries.

And thank you to Bowker for giving us Giants some early season hope in this transitional rebuilding year. He was actually not doing that well early on, despite all those homers against the Cards, but moved things up a giant notch in June, but just couldn't adjust back in July and August when other teams started figuring him out. Some think the Giants blew it by bringing him up too early, but given that he hit .325/.373/.584/.958 in June, with 4 HR in 77 AB, I think he was ready to come up, he just wasn't able to adjust back lately. I assume this is not the last we see of him, he will certainly come back up in September and will be in the mix at 1B and OF in 2009.

New Trio

Ishikawa, 24, first hit .291/.382/.462/.844 in AA with 8 HR in 234 AB (30 AB/HR) then was promoted to AAA and hit .310/.370/.737/1.107 with 16 HR in 171 (11 AB/HR). He takes over for Bowker in hitting against RHP at 1B and hopefully will see time against LHP as well.

Rohlinger, 24, first hit .285/.368/.419/.787 in hit happy Advanced A San Jose with 7 HR in 277 AB (40 AB/HR) then actually brought things up a notch at AA, where power goes to die normally, and hit even better, .296/.358/.497/.855 with 6 HR in 159 AB (27 AB/HR).

Sandoval, newly 22, first hit a scorching .359/.412/.597/1.009 in San Jose with 12 HR in 273 AB (23 AB/HR) then almost kept it going in AA by hitting .337/.364/.549/.913 with 8 HR in 175 AB (22 AB/HR).

So our young crew has been heating things up in the minors for much of the season, though I must temper any newbies thoughts that this all mean they will dominate up here, it is much different down in the minors than up here, there are actually pitchers up here who know how to pitch, unlike the minors, and they will expose you fast once they figure you out, much like Bowker, or Niekro before him, or any prospect ever. Here are their MLE's:

Ishikawa: .267/.319/.595/.904, with 12 HR in 176 AB (15 AB/HR) based on AAA
Rohlinger: .248/.297/.399/.696, with 4 HR in 164 AB (41 AB/HR) based on AA
Sandoval: .287/.309/.447/.756, with 6 HR in 177 AB (30 AB/HR) based on AA

So don't expect too much out of any of them right yet, though obviously Ishikawa would be the better bet based on his hot streak and MLEs. Still, it is a huge jump from even AAA to the majors, so you never know. Rohlinger got the start today and the other two should see action soon enough.

My Life Passing In Front of My Eyes

Or a nice sucker punch, right up into my gut. That's some of the merriment I (and millions of Giants fans) enjoyed when they first learned of Lincecum's unfortunate appointment with a batted ball. It could have been a shattered kneecap, though when I finally saw the footage in the evening news, it was clear to me that the damage couldn't have been that bad, he was still hobbling around - I would think a shattered kneecap would just leave you on the ground sobbing.

The X-rays proved negative: he did not suffer any breakage. So he should just have one nasty bruise where the ball hit and the talk is that he would make his next start, though I would prefer that they either skip his next start, or push it back a few days to give him more rest and recovery. His agent has already said that he's OK and ready to start his next scheduled start.

Good Pitching Is Good to Have

This incident serves to remind us that he won't be with us forever and that a player's future could be taken away, just like that, on the baseball field. That's why it is good we got Bumgarner and Alderson waiting in the minors, plus Sosa as another possibility. Pitching is a good commodity to have a lot of.

Can never have too many pitchers, and that's the beauty of focusing on pitching, when another good one comes up, you can just slot him in almost anywhere, rotation, bullpen, closer (assuming he's THAT good). Unlike position players where if you end up with two of them, you often need to trade one away (like Texas with their litany of good 1B, Texiera, Hafner, Adrian Gonzalez; or the Giants and Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda). Pitchers can be easily additive to almost any staff, everyone can use another good pitcher and insert him in somewhere; hitters, not so much.

And what's up with Brad Ausmus? He's a nothing catcher offensively whose name I seem to hear every time we face the Astros, and never in a good "another DP" way. I'm sure there is a Lincecum Death Squad of Giants fans already headed for Houston to take out Ausmus when the time is right. Make it so.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Giants Moves Afoot: Ishikawa and other prospect talk

According to the crack reporting of Andy Baggarly, apparently the Giants are looking to boost the offense by making some changes. The most significant change would be replacing John Bowker, who has been very cold for a long while offensively, with Travis Ishikawa, who has been hot since the start of the season, and white hot since he joined Fresno a little while ago. Ishikawa just went through a recent stretch where he hit seven homers in 33 AB, and he has hit .317 with 16 homers in 167 AB since joining Fresno.

This following blurb was in the article about Ishikawa:

Ishikawa was once on the verge of flaming out as a prospect and there were
times the Giants questioned his commitment. But farm director Fred Stanley said
the organization didn't light a fire under him.

"He did it himself,'' Stanley said. "Some people take a little longer maturity wise. He's driving the same pitches that he fouled off last year. He looked like he waited a long time just to see if the pitch was a strike. Now he's confident enough to know he can
expand the zone, attack pitches and drive them out of the ballpark.''

I had heard that before, that he was thinking too much when going to his AB. Nice to see that he appears to have finally figured that out. Then again, with Ortmeier, then Bowker, plus Villalona, appearing to be above him on the organizational totem pole, that should have been fire enough to get him moving, without a good season this year, he was probably going to wash out as a flamed out prospect after the season. Much like Bowker last season, something finally clicked and he started whacking the ball with more authority, more frequently.

Prospect Talking

Andy Baggarly has a great blog where he posts stuff, like his recent talk with Fred "Chicken" Stanley, who is our new farm director, taking over for long-time chief, Jack Hiatt. There was a lot of good stuff about some of our top prospects:
  • Sandoval: Ready for the big leagues now. Crushing balls from both sides of the plate... No longer taking ground balls at third base; that experiment is over. Very competent at first base, though, and has some skills behind the plate. A very strong arm, too. Quote: "... once there is a need, he'll be here."
  • Ishikawa: Really turned it up a notch this season. Playing with more confidence and appears driven. The organization didn't need to challenge him; he did it himself. He was too indecisive last year and let pitches get too deep on him while trying to figure out if they were strikes. Thus, he whiffed or fouled off hittable pitches. This year, he’s driving them out of the park. Most of his shots are going to right-center, though he hit a ball out to left-center at Round Rock last week. Quote: "...but he's ready if they need him."
  • Noonan: He might jump to AA next season, skipping San Jose. He already has the best strike zone discipline of any hitter in the system. They expected maybe .250 but he's hitting .283 this season, plus 26 SB in 29 SBA, very good success rate for minors. Great that he has been able to grind it out in his first pro season.
  • Tanner: Had a shoulder issue but is back on the mound. He’s building up arm strength again. Got away from throwing strikes because he got hit hard in the Cal League. That’s typical because pitchers stress over results and those can be warped in some of those hitter-friendly Southern Division parks. (Trust me, the wind has never blown out of Wrigley Field like it does at Lancaster.) Quote to note: “These kids just have to learn you’ve got to be a strike thrower to pitch in the big leagues.”
  • Alderson: What a great debut season despite a challenging assignment at High-A San Jose. He works fast, hits spots and disrupts the hitter’s rhythm. He always seems to make quality pitches. Competing extremely well. (This is not from Stanley, but I’ve heard others say that Alderson really reminds of Derek Lowe. Throws a heavy, heavy ball with great command. If he adds a bit more velocity, and the Giants think he will, he could have Kevin Brown stuff.) He’ll finish the season in San Jose and probably take instructional league off.
  • Bumgarner: “He’s a special kid.” Bumgarner is throwing strikes with his fastball, which sits at 94 mph and is known to come in a tick faster at times. He’s working on a changeup. He’s got a little deception where guys don’t pick the ball up on him, which makes it tough when he buries them with an inside fastball. His slider down and in on right-handers is very tough. Like Alderson, Bumgarner will complete his full season at Augusta and probably take instructional league off.
  • Gillaspie: There was talk of moving him to second base when they drafted him. But obviously, the organizational depth chart is much thinner at third. They’ll let him get his feet on the ground before they make any heavy evaluations.

Good stuff to hear about these prospects. Exciting to know that Sandoval and Ishikawa is ready. Particularly given the above about bringing him up and taking 1B from Bowker. Noonan too, he's gotten too little notice, me included, because of Villalona, but he's been holding his own as an 18 year old much younger than most players there. He could be one season away from the majors at this pace, he could be a September call-up next year, being in AA.

Tanner, I was wondering what happened to him, good to know it was injury that caused his poor production this year, but bad to know it was an injury, that's not a good sign for the future, particularly since it is a shoulder injury. Got to keep your fingers crossed with him. Alderson, wow, comparison with Kevin Brown, Brown was totally dominating when he was on. Bumgarner, double wow, great run down of his positives. He is coming around very nicely, I'll be surprised if he didn't jump two levels to AA like they might do with Noonan. Gillaspie, nothing much there, just hope they stick with him at 3B for now.

Expert Says "Don't Worry About Posey"

Baseball America's latest "Ask BA" column discussed the top picks who haven't signed yet. They also noted some above slot signings in the 3rd and 4th round by the Nats.

Posey Situation

BA says: "Fear not, Giants fans." They note: "We're going through the usual last-minute rhetoric, with both clubs and players laying it on thick. "

They predict that "... Florida State catcher Posey (No. 5, Giants) will get [one of] the most lucrative deals in this year's draft, landing [a] major league contracts worth more than No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham's deal with the Rays. Beckham signed a draft-record $6.15 million bonus, with MLB calculating the present value at $4.7 million after Tampa Bay spread it over five years under provisions for two-sport athletes. "

And that's what I've been guessing as well, something in the $5-6M range, something like what Weiters got last season. For lazy agents who are Boras wannabes, they drag the negotiations to the last moment in hopes of getting that final bit of leverage and help pay for their high agent fees when the draftee probably could have signed a contract like Tim Beckham did without much haggling. They are just doing this to justify their fees and their existence.

That's why smart players like Ray Allen (NBA) negotiated on his own and hired experts on a consulting basis to look over the papers and make sure there are no legal backdoors and such. Saved himself a huge agent fee and probably got himself about what the agent would have gotten. With the slotting of baseball (or any other major sport), you only really need an agent if the team is a cheapskate historically (Giants have not been in that category) or you really want a lot over slot, which could be the draftees in the top 5 to top 10 picks overall. Those players have been going with Boras.

Over Slots

With the Nats signing Long Beach State shortstop Danny Espinosa (third round) for $525,000 and Florida high school pitcher Graham Hicks (fourth) for $475,000, that gives us an approximate ceiling on where our 3rd and 4th round picks, Kieschnick and Crawford might get, though Hicks had more leverage as a high schooler and got a bit more for that probably (if he had a good advisor). I don't see how they can turn down half a million now for the chance to improve their performance next season and maybe get a million as a first round draft pick.

If they can really improve their performance next season, then if they signed for $500K now, they would be doing it as a professional and probably a season closer to the majors (which pays nearly $400K per season), than they would saying back in college, and risking having little leverage as a senior. If you really believe that you can do better, wouldn't it be better in the minors than in college? Plus, had they signed early like some did, they would both have 100-200 ABs under their belt, and if they were as good as they think they could be next season, they could have boosted themselves even higher up the minor league ladder.

Haggling over what would probably end up being less than $100K difference from the slot doesn't nothing for their security (though it does give their agent a nice payday) plus prevents them from showing what they think they got and getting a headstart versus most of the rest of the draftees. All over an amount that is not lifechanging (not anywhere close to how lifechanging the bonus itself is).

Hopefully they sign, I don't have a gut feeling either way for the two, I am pretty sure Posey will sign one of the highest deals of this draft, but these two should have signed already. Yet they still haven't so that is discouraging to me, because that means that they have advisors who might not be totally representing their best interests, as it was in their best interest to sign quickly and prove yourself quickly before the others do.

If they are as good as they think, they would have been competing against a bunch of players from the later rounds and could beat up on them quickly and maybe get promoted quickly to Augusta or even San Jose. Now there will be little time to evaluate them - because while they might have nice college stats, this is the pros now, things are way different - and they will probably start lower than they could have been next season, had they played and proved themselves.

It is not like they were early first round picks, who are more of a sure thing, they were back of the first round type of guys, who are pretty much rolls of the dice to see what happens. Talent like that cannot really leverage to get much over slot, it's not worth it for the teams to do that. Now, they might believe that they are top of the draft talent, but neither of them were considered that highly from all the draft news I read.

I am more confident about Kieschnick signing than Crawford - Crawford has a UCLA degree he's working for that is valuable - but, still, not sure if either will sign.

Monday, August 11, 2008

BA Report on Villalona: Positive But Ignoring Elephant in the Room

Baseball America had a blog post on Angel Villalona today. It gives some new news on Angel, plus, more importantly, shows a relatively sveltve physique in the photo of our wunderkind.

They noted that he started slowly then improved each month, but that's debatable, even doubtful, because his split stats show his OPS dropping from May to June to July, and his homers going down as well, so I'm not sure what they mean by improve each month, his only steady improvement is his BABIP, which could be argued is finding his true level since it's still early in his pro career, but is not normally a stat anyone would hang their hat on in regards to a prospect.

Where he has been hot is he has hits in 11 of his last 12 games. In addition, while his 13 home runs don't seem like much, he leads the team in homers plus they are the most by any 17-year-old in the Sally League (South Atlantic League) since Adrian Beltre hit 16 for Savannah twelve years ago, during the 1996 season. Plus, he kills lefties, hitting .333/.369/.583/.952 with 4 HR in 96 AB (24 AB/HR).

However, his big Achille's Heel this season is hitting againt RHP. He is hitting a Neifi-ish .222/.278/.348/.626 with 9 HR in 293 AB (33 AB/HR) against righties this season, and, of course, unfortunately, there are mostly right-handed pitchers in baseball. This is something he has to solve before we can expect much out of him. Right now, with this type of split, he's more a platoon hitting 1B, maybe sharing time with Bowker or Ishikawa as the right-handed half of a platoon at 1B.

The good news is that last season, he hit RHP much better than LHP and, more importantly, well (OPS .792). However, that is still small samples, despite a good 190-ish plate appearances last season. So that could have been the aberration, not this season's stats.

The best news is that he's only 17 years old in a league of pitchers who are 4-5 years older than him, meaning there's a double whammy he's fighting: they have 4-5 years physical maturity on him plus 4-5 years of college and/or professional baseball experience over him. Plus the years in organized baseball when they were in high school, playing the various circuits where high schooler's show off their prowess and getting experience with and against a higher level of talent than their high school teammates.

All that should give the pitchers a huge advantage over him and yet he's handling them OK. It obviously would have been much better if he was killing all of them, like Bumgarner has been doing against hitters there. But still, he's an above average hitter in the league despite all the advantages the pitchers should have over him (league is pitching oriented) and has hit more homers there since Beltre, which, when I think about it again, isn't that great, he only had that one great season, he has been very Pedro Feliz-like otherwise in his career.

Also good news is that he is aware enough that he could analyze his hitting. He mentioned that he knows how to handle inside pitches (implication, obviously, is that he can't handle outside pitches) so "I keep myself going through the middle and the other way...". It is important that he knows his shortcomings and show that he is working on rectifying them.

He also noted that he is working hard on his defense on 1B. Again, good to know that he is working at it, there are so many prospects before (and yet to come in the future) who thinks he can get by on his god-given ability to hit the baseball and thus he gives little effort to even be decent as a fielder (like EME has shown, both in Florida and here with us)

As I mentioned, his picture looked really good physically, unlike the Baby Huey physique I saw this spring training. They noted that he is also working hard on keeping his weight in check. Hopefully that is true, that wouldn't be good for his career, or his future health, if he was an oversized pear.

Unfortunately, despite all the talk about him still taking balls at 3B, this is the first article that noted that his body "already precipitated a move during spring training across the diamond from third base to first base, where he's currently listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but he's shown a good aptitude for his new position after workouts with former gold glover J.T. Snow." Fortunately, the article did not say that the Giants organization viewed him as a 1B now, the article implied, to me, that it was the author interpreting the move as being due to his size, rather than the Giants pronouncing that he's has officially moved to 1B now.

They also spoke to him about his trip to Yankee Stadium for the Futures Game, and he was savvy enough to know it was special because Babe Ruth set foot on that field and that they are tearing it down after this season. I think it's good when players acknowledge the rich history of MLB baseball and know the history of things, unlike uncouths like Jeff Kent who couldn't be bothered with the history of our great game.

Here are some by-the-book (seemingly prepared to my eye due to its generic rah-rah quality) quotes from his hitting coach at Augusta, Lipso Nava:
  • "The organization is really high on him. ["Noooo! Do tell!" Tell me something we don't know...] They know he's really young. He has to mature as a player. This is their baby - he's only 17 years old. He's a legit hitter. He's a big league hitter, and he will be there. He needs to get more at-bats, more experience and I think he'll be there sooner rather than later."
Other than that last statement about when he will be in the majors, I could have basically said the same thing, so there's nothing really new here. Glad to know the organization thinks that he'll be there sooner rather than later. I'm OK with no timetable, no use putting any additional pressure on him, he's already tackling a whole plateful of pressure, living away from home and family, learning a new language, trying to get by in a new place with no practical English language skills, other than maybe saying "cheeseburger cheeseburger Coke Coke" at local fast food chains, knowing he got a huge signing bonus and trying to live up to that.

Overall, I'm very encouraged by Villalona's season. Again, I would have loved to see DOMINATION, but he's holding his own with men who are much older (he's still a boy, though he'll be turning 18 in a couple of days) and experienced than he is, so check off A-ball as well done and let's see how he does in San Jose next season. I'm still excited that he's in our farm system and I still think he can be a huge factor starting at one of the corner infield positions for years to come.

Friday, August 08, 2008

2008 Giants: July PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 2008, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so 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 2008 Season (as of July 31st, 2008)

Matt Cain - (63% DOM, 8% DIS; 15:2/24): 3, 0, 4, 0, 5, 2, 4, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 5, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4

Kevin Correia - (31% DOM, 31% DIS; 4:4/13): 4, 4, 4, 1, 3, 1, 4, 2, 0, 0, 2, 3, 3 (did not count start where injured)

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (73% DOM, 0% DIS; 16:0/22): 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 3, 5, 5, 2, 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 4, 5 (didn't count relief outing as start)

Pat Misch - (38% DOM, 38% DIS; 3:3/8): 4, 0, 4, 4, 2, 0, 2, 0 (counted relief after Zito since 6 IP)

Jonathan Sanchez - (45% DOM, 27% DIS; 10:6/22): 0, 5, 2, 3, 5, 3, 0, 0, 5, 3, 5, 5, 4, 2, 5, 5, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 0

Barry Zito - ( 24% DOM, 38% DIS; 5:8/21): 1, 1, 3, 3, 0, 0 (Skip), 4, 3, 2, 4, 4, 0, 1, 1, 0, 4, 2, 5, 2, 3, 2

Giants season overall - 48% DOM, 22% DIS out of 111 games counted (53:24/111)

Giants Month of April - 43% DOM, 30% DIS out of 30 games counted (13:9/30)

Giants Month of May - 61% DOM, 14% DIS out of 28 games counted (17:4/28)

Giants Month of June - 48% DOM, 22% DIS out of 27 games counted (13:6/27)

Giants Month of July - 38% DOM, 19% DIS out of 26 games counted (10:5/26)

First, some procedural notes. I didn't count Lincecum's relief session as a start, nor did I count it as a start for Valdez, in the D-gers game. I also didn't count Correia's injury start where he only pitched a third of an inning. However, I did count Misch's first outing, in relief of Zito, as a start because he went 6 innings and I felt he deserved it.

The Giants starters had a marginally better July than they did June, in that you want to reduce this DIS but then they lost a lot of DOM too. Cain brought things up a notch, basically equaling what Lincecum has been doing, plus doing something he hasn't done in a while (throwing a complete game) and doing something he's never done before (two consecutive starts with no walks) but Sanchez hit the wall and crashed and burned, there is no better way to say it. And Correia appears to be pitching himself back into shape, but meanwhile, his results have been pretty poor overall. Balancing those drops, slightly, was Zito's return to OK-ness by, while not dominating, he at least wasn't having disaster starts. That enabled the staff as a whole to reduce their DIS starts from 6 to 5 and nearly half the 9 that they did in April.

Cain and Lincecum led the way with 4 DOM starts each. Nobody else did that well, however. As noted, Zito didn't contribute a bunch of DIS starts, so at least he was OK starting. However, both Correia and Sanchez had some bad outings, though Correia appears to be starting to break out a little in his last two starts, pitching well overall, but having a key mistake or two cost him a good performance.

What's Good and What's Not

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. Thus what Correia has done so far in limited starts is startingly good, that's why he is now in the mix for the #5 starting position for the 2008 season, as Sabean had noted in one of his post-season talks, along with Sanchez, who previously was the favorite for that spot; now it's a competition.

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.

July's Comments

Unfortunately, the starting rotation was Jeckyll and Hyde this month (Cain and Lincecum great, Correia and Sanchez horrible, Zito in the middle), costing the team any chance of a good month. We depend too much on our starting pitching to be able to withstand that.

On top of that, the bullpen has been giving up leads and blown saves a lot more in July, costing Lincecum two wins, for example. That obviously hurts the overall team win-loss results and is evidenced by all the call ups and downs for relievers, as ineffective ones are sent out and the Giants try out new ones. That is life, however, when you are re-building with young players, you just have to accept that.

Furthermore, the offense totally sank as well. I wonder if the trade deadline had anything to do with that. Both Winn and Rowand had poor July's but has been percolating lately, particularly Winn. Lewis despite his bunion, appeared to even do better after his bunion problem was released. Bowker, however, has really hit the skids and risk the Giants bringing up someone, anyone, from AAA to take some AB away from him.

Meanwhile, while Ivan Ochoa has brung things up a notch once he started getting regular play at SS, Burriss has continued to sputter offensively with his regular play at 2B. There had been talk about sending down Velez, but if Burriss continues this poor performance, Velez will probably start seeing regular play there instead. The good news on Burriss is that his downturn is totally tied to his drop in BABIP, while he has been doing very well in terms of contact (i.e. K%), not striking out very often, plus walking enough to keep his BB/K respectable, though it would be much better if he could double his walk rate.

I think we will see more of what we saw in July in August, as Cain and Lincecum continue to do well, and the others have uneven results. Sanchez really appears to have hit the wall and then some, he might get shut down soon if he continues to do as poorly as he has. Correia, however, appears to be coming around, so that will help. Zito as well, appears to be coming around as well, though he has had ups and downs all through his career as a Giant. At least he's having fun now, maybe the results will start to improve for him as he had his first 10 strikeout game with us in July plus he also did something he hasn't done since early in his career, and not so frequently over the past 5-6 seasons, which a three game streak where he struck out more than his IP and at least double his walks - last one in 2004 - but then he went and had three straight mediocre starts before his last start against the Padres.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Talking 'bout Sabean

In the wake of the trading deadline period passing, I have read a lot of whining about Sabean and his inaction, his love of vets, his inability to value players, etc. Then with the improperly reported Sergio Romo waivering, there were a lot of people's true feelings about Sabean coming to the fore, as there were a lot of gnashing of teeth when they thought the Giants had - gasp - lost a reliever who hasn't really been that good in the majors, but by gosh, they are not going to let Sabean go with losing anyone who might have a smidgen of trade value, well, because, that's why. Of course, I think it is all baloney.

Love of Vets?

First off, his supposed love of vets. The big problem here is that people don't remember what Sabean did when he took over: he traded-for/signed a bunch of young guys. Kent, Hamilton, Snow, Nen, Livan, Estes, most of the guys were just entering their prime physical period. Also, young players like Aurilia (albeit took forever), Kirk Rueter, Russ Ortiz, Shawn Estes, got the call up from the minors to play, Sabean didn't just go out and buy the nearest vet who filled a need. Of course, another problem is that many of these "know-it-alls" weren't around when Sabean rebuilt the Giants, they only know AT&T/PacBell Park and some only know them from their 2002 World Series.

For these people, he only went with vets in recent years because the ownership mandate was to win with Barry. To optimize that, you get and start vets, you don't try out young guys because they sometimes, oftentimes, crap out, like LaRoche did in his brief trials with the Dodgers, even though he was one of the highly rated prospects for the past couple of seasons. Or Anthony Reyes for the Cardinals before they recently gave up on him and traded him away.

For another reason why they are full of hooey: look at our pitching staff, all young guys, he didn't just fill the staff with hired guns, he totally re-built that and did a great job with that thus far, which few seem to acknowledge. Only true vet there are Zito and Yabu, and Yabu is probably gone very soon, we have a nice group of young relievers in our system, and if Valdez proves to be healthy next season, Yabu would not have a place on the staff.

It's like people would prefer to have one nice hitter and one nice pitcher, but still scrapping along everywhere else, and be happy with that. Or they just have blinders on and just think "Sabean bad; no Sabean good." The WHOLE FREAKING PITCHING STAFF IS RE-BUILT, or at least all except for Zito, and he appears to finally start being of value as a pitcher - he has been greatly responsible for much of the Giants poor home record, as I noted previously. Most teams would KILL to have a pitching staff like ours. One lost soul actually called into Gary Radnich's radio show and complained about the pitching staff, and actually dismissed Matt Cain as being inconsistent and therefore not that good.

If you play young players, they are going to be inconsistent. They will be gloriously good one moment, maddingly bad the next. There are few who are like Pujols and come out hitting, most will have their high of highs and low of lows. They are prospects, they are the young players people are crying for, they need to realize that this is part and parcel with going young: inconsistency. The point is, how is Cain doing overall? He has been just fine, in fact, more than fine, he has been very good.

Inability to Value Players

Please, except for the Pierzynski trade and Accardo trade, Sabean has been pretty much winning most trade deals. When you are trying desperately to win - and that was the mandate from the owners - you have to pay top dollar to get the players you want on the open market, those contracts are almost by definition "over paying" because the market has been in an inflationary mode the past few years. Still, he often got the best players available on the market when he had the payroll - unfortunately, they were not always that good or healthy or both. If you want to call it him going down with his ship, so be it.

But that is not the same as being unable to value players, you can only take what the market will bear you in free agency and that was an ownership mandate. That has nothing to do with overvaluing a player, that only has to do with having the winning bid to get the player you need in order to complete your team.

People don't think about the consequences of not signing players, the alternative was having young unproven players like Feliz or Torrealba or Mohr taking significant roles on the team when you could have a vet. If you are betting $20M on Barry Bonds, you have to go all in with your bets, you have to try to maximize your chances of winning. And you don't do that giving positions to unproven players who never did much in the minors to convince even the prospect experts to think that they are any good.

And, in a trade, you can control it to a much greater degree because you need to sign off on the deal before it goes through. And most deals he has made have been to the Giants advantage. He just hasn't done as many blockbuster ones lately, but is that his fault, or because other GMs are leery of getting fleeced by him and thus avoid dealing with him? I think it is a mixture of both, nobody is perfect, nobody will have great deals all the time. And in total, his trades have been in the plus column significantly.

Agent Ned and A.J.

I still believe that Ned Colletti is responsible for the Pierzynski trade. I think I now have additional logic supporting that. In a recent column, a LA Times writer, who don't think much of Colletti and writes about this regularly, writes the following:
"Some of those are minor league deals and I had nothing to do with them,"
Colletti protests when I mention his trading track record, and while I find it
odd the Dodgers' GM doesn't have final approval of all deals, he adds, "The
player development people made five or six of those."
This is exactly the practice that Colletti praised when he was with the Giants and working under Brian plus in interviews just after getting hired by LA. He talked about how Sabean would give the people who work for him a lot of lattitute in doing things that a GM would normally do, such as making trades. It looks like he has reduplicated Sabean's policies in LA.

I think this is another piece of evidence supporting my assertion that it was Colletti who probably did the Pierzynski trade. Magawan long ago disavowed the trade, saying that he would have killed the deal if it had been brought to his attention. You would think that Sabean would know when to bring something to Magowan's attention or not; you wouldn't think that one of his underlings would, however.

And on the face of it, just from a talent basis, it was a steal, BP said as much in their annual after that trade, as relievers are considered fungible by a certain saber-crowd, and the prospects were suspects, and for that you get an All-Star young catcher you control for another three years.

That's a move a desk-bound fantasy baseball administrator like Ned would do, not a baseball trained scout like Sabean who should know the talents and personalities about most of the players in the majors because he has watched most of them make the leap from H.S. to maybe college to the lower minors, then upper minors, and finally the majors. He would have known from multiple reports from scouts that A.J. was a horse's behind and difficult to deal with, but Happy Ned didn't have that knowledge. He just saw "All-Star Catcher" and drooled and pulled the deal. That pattern has continued in LA with his deals to get Schmidt, Loaiza, Pierre, Andruw, and now Manny (LaRoche for 2 months of Manny?), for example.

And then to compound the problem, Ned, in the job he was suppose to do, horribly underbids A.J. in arbitration, costing the Giants precious payroll budget space. All the media reports had the figure at basically $3M, so even I knew that, but unfortunately Ned didn't read Sporting News, he didn't do his homework. The Giants offered only $2.25M so the arbitrator went with the figure he felt was more fair, A.J.'s $3.5M demand.

Of course, that was the one season that the Giants didn't really have much money in their budget for players, forcing them to do the Tucker draft pick move to save money, so not only was the trade made, but that took up a large portion of the money that was left in the budget, and then took up more because of his stupid mistake with the offer. Ned screwed the Giants all around on that one and escaped blame on that one, I believe.

Long History of Recognizing Talent

Sabean, on the other hand, has been recognizing talent since he was the draft coordinator and player development person for the Yankees in the early 90's. It was under him that the Yankee's acquired players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Duncan, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite, players who led the Yankees to multiple World Series. He also picked up guys like JT Snow and others who were traded to help the Yankees return to greatness.

Then he showed it with the Giants. He picked up Rueter just before being named GM, then made the blockbuster Matt Williams trade that worked out well for the Giants, as they picked up Kent in that deal. He also picked up JT Snow for Alan Watson, who pretty quickly pitched his way out of baseball, and signed Hamilton, who he later traded to get Ellis Burk. He also traded for Nen and Livan for peanuts, then pulled his best trade, even better than the Williams trade, he got Jason Schmidt for next to nothing, at least the Indians got Williams for Kent.

People cry about Sabean's deals since the World Series, but:

1) you can't do many deals when everyone simplistically wants your best prospects, Cain, then Lincecum, then Sanchez, now Bumgarner and Alderson.

2) you can't do many deals when the roster gets old while ownership wants to "win one more time" with Bonds.

And most of all, they miss the most important detail: look at our pitching staff. If he cannot recognize talent, then how did he amass such a great load of pitching talent together and has even more coming up within the next couple of years in Bumgarner, Alderson, and Sosa. If he cannot recognize talent, he would not have been able to do that, the pitching staff would be in much the same shambles that the lineup is.

The thing is, it takes many years to rebuild, you cannot rebuild quickly unless you have cornerstone type players to bridge the two successful eras. We had a team full of vets whose time has come and soon to go and young pitchers who were not ready to shoulder that load. This is much like the Braves teams when they awoke from 6 seasons of losing hell, full of young pitchers and hitters coming to the fore, supplemented by veterans in the rotation and lineup. If you want to get mad at Sabean for not being able to rebuild without losing, then you would have to fire 99% of the GMs who have ever held the title - rebuilding without losing is not a reasonable expectation.

Rebuilding Nearly Done

The thing is that I believe the team is pretty much done rebuilding. As anyone can see, the pitching staff is pretty much complete, we have the starters who will lead the way for us over the next 4 seasons in hand, the closer who can dominate for the next 5 seasons, and a load of potentially good relievers - I believe that this can be settled within the next season or so, particularly if the Giants bring up Alderson or Bumgarner to take on relief roles initially before moving up to the starting rotation.

As I've shown in my "Hey" series, a pitching staff that can lead the NL in ERA don't really need a top offense to win games at a pennant winning level. Lewis is looking like the real thing each and every day. Rowand looks like he will be another good piece of the offensive puzzle. Schierholtz looks like he can be another good piece once he is given a chance. Hopefully the Giants can trade Winn at some point before next spring training - his recent hot streak should boost interest in him and perhaps a key injury or poor performance somewhere could convince a team to give us something decent for him plus take on his 2009 contract. Plus, Buster Posey could be another key offensive piece of the puzzle, perhaps the last piece if Schierholtz and he can produce offensively, as we hope, that would give us four good position players offensively.


Has Sabean been perfect? Not even close. But has he been good? I believe so. The Giants plan since the World Series has been basically buy the best available free agent that our payroll can afford for the positions of need in order to compete today with Barry Bonds in the lineup. This obviously did not work and I believe it didn't work because ownership wasn't willing to shell out the money to get Bonds' successor nor willing to accept greater financial losses during that key period.

I have seen some blame Sabean for not getting ownership to change the plan. There is only so much you can do before the question becomes: do you believe enough to quit your job? That's easy for most people to do, there are normally plenty of different options for the vast majority of people.

But there are only 30 major league GM positions, and it is normally not easy to just quit your job and move on to another GM job. For one, MLB team ownership is a pretty exclusive club, and if one owner decides to tell other teams that you were a horrible GM to deal with, your career is pretty much dead. For another, you might particularly enjoy your position and team, but the owners just don't see your point for whatever reason, it is an autocracy, ultimately.

For example, that has plagued any GM who has worked under Steinbrenner, the Yankees have won in spite of him, not because of him, as the glory of the late 1990's was built during the years Steinbrenner was forced out of baseball due to some illegal campaign contributions or something like that, and while he was out, the smart baseball men under him - which included Brian Sabean - obtained many of the key players who led those winning teams: as noted above, when Sabean was director of player development and scouting, the Yankees obtained Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Riviera, and Andy Pettitte, among others, cornerstones of the Yankees for the past dozen years or so.

The thing is that the Giants, while not winning the past 3, now 4, seasons, at least has been re-building at the same time. The rebuild is nearly complete, with all the major pieces necessary for a successful pitching staff in place plus major pieces probably coming down the pipeline. As I've been quoting frequently, research by Baseball Prospectus (and similar research done at The Hardball Times, I just recall) have found that the key way to add competitive advantage for the players is through pitching and defense.

Positionally, the key thing is that they did not commit long term to players while trying to win with Bonds; they will all be gone by the end of next season, during the final phase of the rebuild. Meanwhile, they have added Aaron Rowand long-term, a plus offensive and defensive CF. Plus Fred Lewis appears to be a good LF offensively and, according to data quoted by Bay City Ball's Chris, has been good overall defensively, though that is something I believe is a work in progress because he does not have a good defensive reputation and still makes egregious mistakes in the field, that fortunately his speed appears to mitigate. We need probably two more good offensive pieces to fill out the top spots in the lineup.

Defensively, that is still a work in progress, besides the above. The infield is in flux. Ochoa and Burriss look like a good double-play combo up the middle, but it is not established yet if they can do the job offensively, though they have had flashes of goodness thus far at the MLB level. Posey appears to be a huge upgrade defensively at catcher, but he'll have to sign first, then perform well. 1B and 3B are open positions, but currently Bowker and Castillo are offensively and defensively below average thus far, even if they return to their usual positions, plus Gillaspie is considered only average defensively at best. Frandsen, should he win a position, would probably not be a plus defender, though probably average. Villalona, however, should he make it, appears to be good defensively, as well as offensively.

In the outfield, Schierholtz appears to be our future RF, but his defense is considered below average. Velez at any position, whether OF or IF, is probably below average. Rowand however is very good and Lewis is improving. Bowker, should he return to the OF, would be below average. So fielding and offensive is a work in progress, but a number of good pieces thus far.

Still, I think we have a good start towards a team strong in pitching and defense, and getting there offensively, particularly if Schierholtz, Posey and, eventually, Villalona develop as hoped and projected. In addition, perhaps we can find a plus young player via free agency. And there is always the possibility of trading for an offensive piece at some point, Sanchez should be quite the trading chip over the off-season.

Sabean should be done re-building within a year or two, hence why I was happy he got a 2 year extension: that gave time to be able to see how his rebuild develops (pretty well so far, Lincecum, Sanchez, Lewis, and Wilson took huge leaps this season at major league level, Bumgarner and Alderson at the minor league) and to better assess where the team is in terms of its rebuild, allowing us to retain him during assessment, while if the rebuild wasn't going well, he could be gone soon enough and his salary would be a drop in the bucket to eat. So far, so good, I say.


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