Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Need To Scream!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm listening now to KNBR and I need to scream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (that was a while ago, when I started this post;  I finished it up during lunch;  but it was cathartic!  :^)

I normally like to listen to Brian Murphy but now I have wonder about his intellect after this.

This is not verbatim, but he basically said something like this:
The Giants need to get a big bat, why don't the Giants trade for Encarnacion or Cantu, just trade Sanchez, and, you know, if Sanchez goes bad, at least you have a big bat in Encarnacion or Cantu.
And who says that Sanchez will go bad?  What if Encarnacion or Cantu goes bad instead?  As in, the reason why the Reds fans have pulled out their hair over Encarnacion's ups and downs, or the reason why the Rays released Cantu last year before the Marlins picked him up?  Odds are, both of them are all they will ever be, but Sanchez, to me, is on the cusp of becoming a top of the rotation starter.  In any case, Encarnacion, Cantu, and Sanchez all have their issues, but to frame a question like that?  That's just leading.

I'll give him a break on this one, but this was just infuriating to me.  Sanchez can be a top of the rotation pitcher when he is going good.  He just had his first season as a starter and did well, until mid-season, when his arm appeared to tire.  We need to see if he can put it together or is just flakey like Oliver Perez, another lefty with potential.  

However, Encarnacion and Cantu are not going to be a top 5 thirdbasemen no matter what they do.   They don't have that talent.  Sanchez has that talent, not every starting pitcher can strike out a hitter per inning consistently like he can.  There is still a lot of potential to tap there.  Both Encarnacion and Cantu are defensive liabilities and neither appear driven enough to improve that area of weakness nor are good enough hitters to make up for that.   It's like selling your cow for a bunch of "magic" beans:  a huge loss in one area in hopes of fixing up another area.

Selling low just because you are "desperate" for something is not the way you run any business.   Reducing talent significantly in one area to improve another area of the team marginally is what killed the Giants during the 70's and 80's.  The George Foster trade is the epitome of that philosophy, but the fallacy is that, like the cliche about fingers in the dam, when you move your finger to plug up a hole, you now have water coming out where your finger was before and that could be a bigger hole now than the one you just plugged.

We are not in a position to be making wasteful trades in order to become more competitive (and should not want in any case to do that).  We are rebuilding and selling low to speed up the rebuilding process is what puts a team into a downward spiral and a roller coaster ride of ups and downs but not really getting anywhere.  I lived through that in the 70's and 80's and don't care to do that again.

The 2009 Lineup

Let's examine the lineup that Bochy listed out yesterday, which got Murhpy all hopped up:

Winn RF
Renteria SS
Sandoval 3B
Molina C
Lewis LF
Rowand CF
Ishikawa 1B
Winner of Burriss/Frandsen/Velez 2B

The main problem is with Molina batting cleanup but that is understandable.  Brian also had a problem with Sandoval batting third, questioning whether he is up for that after very little time in the majors.  Here's the news, as I noted in a post recently:  Sandoval spent most of his time batting 3rd in 2008 in the majors and, you know what, he didn't wilt.  He also had a large percentage of AB at 5th too, and some at 4th.

Lewis was also mentioned.  Lewis had a batting line of .282/.351/.440/.791.  In the NL in 2008, the average #5 hitter hit .261/.337/.456/.793 and the average LF hit .271/.350/.453/.803.   Not the best around, but an average player is actually pretty good, hence why the concept of replacement player is used to examine the worth of players.  

Rowand was not mentioned, but let's examine him as well.  He hit .271/.339/.410/.749 in CF and most consider it a very poor season.  The average CF hit .267/.334/.426/.759, so he was basically average which is what a lot of people thought he was, average.   The average #6 hitter hit .259/.331/.423/.754.  So he is now where he should be batting, based on his hitting in 2008, and he could be plus if he can consistently hit well, as he does in short stints over the years, like the first two months of 2008 when he hit .342/.408/.549/.957 to June 2nd, or even his 2004 and 2007 seasons.  

Ishikawa was also mentioned.  He's batting 7th and the average 7th place hitter in the NL hit .259/.326/.406/.732, which is not a very high hurdle to hit.  His MLE for the minors last season:  .252/.331/.458/.789.  His batting line in the majors in 2008:  .274/.337/.432/.769.  He benefited from playing mainly against RHP in the majors in 2008, so that batting line should go down a bit, but with such a low average to match, at worse he should be very close to average, heck, even Neifi would have been close to average at his "prime".  

I would say that right now, the Giants lineup is shaping up nicely.  It is not done by any means, but we have hitters who should be around the average for the NL at most lineup spots:  Winn, Renteria, Lewis, Rowand, Ishikawa, and Burriss/Frandsen/Velez should all be able to match or slightly exceed the average hitter in the NL at their batting position, with the ones who are above, like Winn, maybe Renteria, making up for those who might be below, Ishikawa, maybe Lewis.   

The major problems are 3rd and cleanup.  Molina should not be batting cleanup.  He is an above average offensive catcher in the NL, but he is woefully inadequate batting 4th.  However, I understand why Bochy is doing this, and Molina has been relatively nice about biting the bullet on that one, of taking one for the team, because he has the mental wherewithal to not change the way he hits just because he's batting 4th, he's trying to stay within his abilities and doing what he can do, instead of trying to crank one out as most people think a cleanup hitter should do.

Molina ideally should be batting 7th, maybe 6th, as he would be a plus hitter in those spots.  If Rowand is hitting the way he is capable of hitting, he would be our ideal #4 hitter, he can reach the .844 OPS the average cleanup hitter hits.  But given his struggles, it would be folly to put him there now.   Ideally, if we had an average 1B, he would be our cleanup hitter, but Ishikawa hasn't proven himself to be that yet, if ever.  

Now, if Sandoval can continue hitting like he did in 2008, he would be our ideal cleanup hitter and our lineup will suddenly be looking average.  He would take over cleanup, Lewis would move up to bat 3rd where he got significant ABs in 2008, Molina would move down to 5th or 6th (Rowand possibly 5th if he's hitting again would put Molina 6th where he belongs).  

And while average is nothing to write home about, with a pitching rotation that could be very good, depending on what Sabean does about the #5 starter (like signing Randy Johnson) and how Sanchez and Zito capitalize and expound on the good things they did in 2008, an average offense would lead us to over .500 plus probably put us into division title contention because the other teams have been retrenching or could suffer huge losses if no replacements are found.  

And once we are in the playoffs, our rotation could just shut down the other teams and we can move deep into the playoffs.

Also:  As the CC Turns

According to most media reports, the Yankees have come to local Vallejo, even during the big Winter Meetings, to woo CC Sabathia, and reportedly he has agreed to a 6 or 7 year contract for somewhere in the $140M to $160M range.  So the fantasy that the Giants might sign him is over.

As much as I wouldn't mind having him in our rotation, I am OK with this move.  I think it would be a monetary overcommit to our rotation to have signed him.  Save the money for next off-season and see if we could pick up a high priced slugger from a team cleaning out their roster (which is more and more likely with the economy looking worse with every bad economic news) or a free agent slugger who is worthy of such money.   No hitter this off-season appear to be worth the money they are asking, but with one bad economic year under our belt (presumably) in 2009, free agents hopefully won't be asking for as much next off-season and we can make a nice signing.

In addition, we have a large number of up and coming hitters in our system, you never know if one should bust out like Geovany Soto did for the Cubs in 2007, he could become that hitter we are looking for.   Posey is one obvious possibility, but we cannot write off Villalona either, he could be almost ready for the majors after the 2009 season, if he follows in Justin Upton's career path.  Even if he doesn't, if he can at least do well, he could be looking to make the majors in 2011.  

EME as Dark Horse for 2009-10

Unfortunately, the well is dry beyond them for 2009 and breaking out, though I would mention Eddy Martinez-Esteve here as a dark horse candidate for breakout.   I have been having a pretty big argument on MCC about EME's (which I'm pretty done with now) prospects going forward.  He had a pretty nice season in 2008 (low strikeout rate, and thus high contact rate, very high BB/K ratio) with only power his main negative (beyond his usual defensive liabilities) and I think he is flashing power now in the Puerto Rico Winter League (which led to the argument) as, even if it is small samples, he is flashing power now in a league where not everyone is flashing power (meaning the league is not some sandlot where even I could hit for power) and other more established hitters are not easily taking advantage of the lesser pitchers here (Justin Maxwell is having his struggles in this league;  he's a top Nat's prospect).

In his season in AA, no matter how you cut his stats for the season, he was not flashing any power in any circumstances (I will note here that some did not agree, and if you have a problem with that, go post it on MCC) and, according to his stats, the only way he was showing any power in 2008 was when he was hitting flyballs.  Thus, he has to hit flyballs to show power (i.e. extra-base hits), and that's true for most hitters I would imagine.  Furthermore, if he is showing power now in the PR league, he must be hitting flyballs, and if he is hitting flyballs, he must be lofting them now, which started the argument.  If you don't agree with me, fine, I've noted your disagreement or feel free to post on MCC, prospect #17 thread.  

Schierholtz Hopes Fading

My hopes of getting to see Schierholtz start for the Giants in 2009 is fading but Sabean threw a bone out to fans by noting that Rowand will probably be getting more rest that will free ABs for Schierholtz to start (and not Roberts).   That, plus normal rest for Winn and probably some rest at some point for Lewis, in case his surgery on his bunion causes any problems for him in his recovery or affected his stamina in any way, would give him 30-50 starts.  Adding in DH starts (where Rowand and Winn would probably swap off on), that would mean somewhere around 50-75 starts for Schierholtz in 2009, assuming he gets all those gigs and Roberts don't get any.  

After two years of getting nothing much from him but injuries, Roberts has no right to complain if the Giants bench him and use him as an expensive pinch-runner or pinch-hitter.  Unless, that is, he's willing to void that last year for nothing back.  Then he can mouth off all he wants.

50-75 starts would give Schierholtz about 200-300 AB, not the best but not too bad either.  The only cloud on the horizon regarding that is Winn's agent is talking extension in the news and I'm hoping the Giants just take their chances and let Winn go (and get one or two draft picks for him).   But we will see how that goes.  They might want to sign him in order to have some stability in the lineup.   

I'm hoping that they just take their chances and let Winn go into free agency.  They could still sign him up then if necessary, and meanwhile, they can see how Schierholtz handles more play in the majors.  If it follows his form up the minors, he should be starting to figure things out and starting to hit for power going forward.  But since it is MLB pitchers, it could take a while longer too.  It will certainly be interesting times, as the old Chinese proverb goes.

9 comments:

  1. Too much post to respond to, but I am quite happy with the team going into '09. They had a successful off season. Most importantly, they didn't make any mistakes. They have positioned themselves to be better, significantly better in '09 than they were in '08. They are balancing well the competing interests of fielding a competitive team, playing/evaluating younger players (Schierholtz, TI, the 2b triumverate, Sando), they've significantly strengthened the pen while still having room to look at several pitchers who were in the minors lat year. They look to have about an average lineup for '09, balanced a bit by its being above average defensively. Considering the only guy they are oliikely to likely to lose for '10 is Molina, they are only one, maybe two, big bats away from being a very strong contender. And there are lots of guys who got a taste last year and may well break out in '09: TI, Bowker, Burriss, Schierholtz, even Ort. It is true, if there is no break out here, our highly touted minor leaguers aren't going to help until '10 at the very earliest.
    But I am much more looking forward to this year - we are set with at least average (talking O) players at 5 positions (C, SS, 3OF). We have reason to hope/expect at least average O from the 3 remaining positions, as well.
    To address some of your comments, Martin, I'm not bothered by Molina in the clean up slot. True, he would be better in the 6 slot but he is a clutch hitter, proven and productive. There is not enough potential advantage to put the burden of the clean up slot on someone else (Sando). Let the younger players get in a full year; hitting 3d is enough of a challenge - and Sando will get a full year of Benji's mentoring. And maybe we get a huge bat next Winter.

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  2. Oh man, KNBR was killing me this morning too. Having to listen to Dibley hype up a 10 year contract for Teixeira was just too much. Really? I mean, that's just completely idiotic and totally removed from the reality of the team and its future. I'm sick of Radnich and Ralph crying about how this team has no star power. Sorry dudes, the steroid era is over and with it are your 55-70 HR hitting Giants. Get over it. You want star power, watch American Idol, this is National League Baseball. The 2008 team was just plain fun to watch. Unlike in 2006-2007, which was a completely joyless Bonds send off era, last years' team seemed to care. In 07' when the fog started to roll in heavy in the seventh inning on a monday night, that team decided it was time to get home and warm, and so did the vast majority of the fans. Last year, that team never quit. Sure, most of the 8th and 9th inning rallies fell short, but there were rallies. There was effort. The team cared, and it made me care too. That's why I'm a fan, of not just the giants, but a fan of Lewis, Velez, Burris, Sandoval, Rowand, Molina, and Winn. Those guys formed a team that was worth rooting for. And I'm in the minority here I know. And I know this because at every game I go to, I'm one of the only people booing Lou Seal (should get the same beer in the face treatment that the crazy crab got at the stick) and Cable Car Racing. There was a reason I choose to be a Giants fan and not and A's fan as a kid, and it has something to do with being a baseball fan not and entertainment fan. Sure home runs are entertaining, but a one out sac fly and a 4 hit 1 run pitching performance are baseball. And by the looks of it, the 2009 Giants are gonna be a baseball team that deserves a bit of love from the fans.

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  3. Frank, this Giants team as it is currently is NOT going to be above average defensively. If anything, it will be well below average defensively. They have minus defenders at every position, except RF when Winn plays and perhaps C when Molina plays. The rest of the team, perhaps with possible exception of Ishikawa, is below average. I really don't have a lot of faith that Ishikawa will be able to hold on to the job, which will mean some other player at 1B wo will most likely be below average defensively (Bowker, Phelps, Aurilia, Sandoval, take your pick).

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  4. I have to agree with Boof about the defense. Sandoval and Renteria will be below average on the left side.

    However, Ishikawa should be above average, his defense has been highly praised from the time he was drafted, McKamey rates him as plus on defense, BA noted "He's an excellent defender at firstbase...". I think he'll eventually fall into a platoon with someone, maybe Phelps, who is probably below average defensively.

    2B will be a question mark, Burriss would probably be good there eventually, Frandsen would be average, and Velez below average.

    In the OF, while Winn is considered one of the best in RF, many say that Rowand has slipped a lot in CF and is below average now. Lewis in LF, according to most stats I've seen, he's OK there, but from listening to games, we know that's probably because he can make up for his multitude of mistakes with his speed.

    Thus, defense, at best, will be around average, though it at least should be better than last year, where we had Bowker at 1B, Castillo at 3B, Durham at 2B. I don't think that they will be "well below average defensively". The OF collectively should be about average, Winn making up for Rowand. Molina is OK at catcher. Sandoval was not that bad at 3B, just not average, Ishikawa should cancel that out, leaving Renteria and the 2B. If Burriss wins, he should cancel out Renteria, leaving the team around average defensively.

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  5. Allfrank, cleanup is one of the major spots in the order where you want a plus hitter there. While Molina is arguably good at driving in runs, another key role the cleanup hitter plays is as a baserunner for the guys following him to drive in. Molina does not get on base enough to do that for us.

    That's why he's inadequate as a cleanup hitter.

    If Rowand starts hitting again like he did at the start of 2008, I would rather he bat cleanup with Lewis 5th and Molina 6th. Or, if Sandoval hits like he did in 2008, he should bat cleanup, perhaps Rowand 3rd, Lewis 5th, Molina 6th. Most studies find that 3rd place hitters are actually not that important to the offense, certainly not the way we were brought up to expect, so Rowand's swings up and down offensively won't hurt us there as much. But if he's hitting high all season, he should stick to important spots like 4th, 5th.

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  6. KNBR is frustrating me too!

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  7. If you really want frustrating, listen to the latest Ralph-Sabes interview. Ugh.

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  8. What do people know about Luis Perdromo, our Rule 5 pick up today? I found this info which actually got me a bit fired up on the pick. Its a year old, and from his indians days, but a small dude with a plus plus fastball in the pen sounds fun. Anyway, the Cardinal boards I found were filled with redbird fans kind of bummed that the team let this guy go. Does he find a place on out 40 man this year? Does anyone have better info on him?

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  9. oops, forgot, he's have to make the 25-man roster. I guess its a wait and see how he does in March type of deal. Who would he need to beat out to stay up?

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