Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Sandoval, Burriss

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I was out traveling to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm (or Merry Farm, for the holidays) to help my nephew celebrate his upcoming birthday, so sorry for the long stretch of no posts.

Catching up plus will discuss some stuff I found from the past that is pertinent now.
  • Pablo Sandoval's Defense: Lots of people have been pushing to trade Molina and start Sandoval there as catcher until Posey is ready (if ever, of course, if that isn't clear to everybody). I ran across some info from Baseball America, from a chat not too long ago, which went over his defense at the catcher's position.

    From their Cal League description, they noted, "He looks considerably less comfortable on defense. Though he has arm strength and threw out 46 percent of basestealers with San Jose, his hands and lack of agility work against him at catcher. San Francisco also played him at both infield corners, but his squat body and limited athleticism don't profile well there either."

    From their Eastern League description, "He has a strong arm, but the scouts contacted for this list who had seen Sandoval catch didn't believe he could play there regularly in the major leagues. Two managers said Sandoval had problems just physically squatting behind the plate, while two AL scouts both used the same cliché: "He can't catch a cold." Interestingly, Sandoval is an ambidextrous thrower with nearly as much arm strength throwing lefthanded as he has righthanded. He would profile better defensively at first base if he moved there and focused on throwing with his left hand. He has seen time at both corner infield positions."

    So there you have it, scouts from two different leagues basically say that he's not going to make it at catcher. Maybe that will convince some people that he would be better off playing a corner infield position.

    On a happier note, both extoll his hitting abilities, " "He can really, really hit," an AL scout said. "I saw him again at the Futures Game, and he fit right in with the better hitters there." " PLUS "Sandoval is equally adept from either side of the plate, and he can pull the ball to hit for power or take pitches the other way. He shows a willingness to take what pitchers give him, and though he swings hard he shows good plate discipline." So I feel good about him in our lineup, but not so sure where he fits best, though I would just play him at 3B and hope for the best, as we have prospects who we can try out at 1B in 2008. He can take over 1B in 2010 if the other 1B guys don't pan out (or he might go down if he don't pan out, he's no sure thing either).

    I'll end with a John Manuel quote, "He just hits. If I were the Giants, I'd stick him at first base next year and leave him in the middle of the lineup. I doubt he can play third base or catcher well enough to be a big league regular, so maybe he should try throwing lefthanded more often to help him be a better defender at 1B. ... Dude can hit."

  • Burriss's Defense: In new news, apparently, not only is Emmanuel Burriss not good enough defensively at SS, hence the Giants pursuit of Furcal and Renteria, but he might even be up on the trading block. On, it was reported that "... insiders believe they added shortstops to their shopping list after watching Emmanuel Burriss struggle defensively in the Arizona Fall League. Burriss hit .318, but he committed 10 errors in 24 games for Scottsdale -- perhaps justifying projections that his future is at second base. "It was really out of character from what I saw in the [regular] season," said a National League scout who watched Burriss perform in the AFL. "He was all out of sync on defense." " Many fans are upset over the possible signing of a vet SS, and would rather start him at SS, but it has been known since Burriss was drafted that his best position was 2B, that his defense at SS was suspect.

    In addition, Andy Baggarly noted in his blog that Sabean could be thinking of including Burriss in trade proposals. That was a surprise to me, though I guess it's logical as he's one of the few Giants prospects with some success in the majors. But the Giants typically don't trade players they think are keepers, though perhaps with Frandsen and Velez around (followed by Noonan), they feel like they have enough 2B prospects that they can trade away Burriss.

  • Giants Hire Scouts: Chris Haft of reports that the Giants have signed four new scouts: John Castleberry, Joe Salermo, Ron Merrill and Mike Metcalf. Castleberry signed Joey Votto when with the Reds; he will become the Giants' Northeast scouting supervisor. Salermo worked in the Mets' scouting department when they drafted Scott Kazmir, Lastings Milledge and David Wright; he will taking on the role of Latin America cross-checker. I would be more confident of Salermo had they listed some Latin America finds. Still, nice addition to John Barr, who joined last off-season, he was the one who found Russell Martin for the D-gers, which boosts my confidence that Posey is going to be a good contributor to the team once he figures out catching at the major league level.

  • Posey Defense: Speaking of which, Baseball America recently had a chat about the Hawaii Winter League. John Manuel noted about his adjustments to catching in the pros, "It sounds like Posey already has made some of those adjustments. There were certain pitches he was having trouble receiving, but he made some quick adjustments in two weeks in instructs and throughout the Hawaii season. He's going to hit; the power is a bit of a question, but he's going to hit. and he's athletic and has a natural feel for receiving and throwing, so he'll be able to make the adjustments we've talked about. I do think 2010 is fair for an ETA." He likes him a lot and think he'll be superior to Weiters defensively, while Weiters is superior overall because of his switch-hitting and power. BA ranked Buster the top prospect in the HWL this year.

  • Kieschnick info: In that same chat, it was noted that Kieschnick has a number of tools: athletic, good arm, runs fine, hits for power, but he's never going to be a contact hitter. Some think of him as a Rob Deer, all-or-nothing kind of player, but his other tools elevate him from that typing. Still, BA ranked Roger 10th top prospect in the HWL, just ahead of the A's Chris Carter, who has been highly touted. Not too bad for a new pro adjusting to pro life, enjoying the Hawaii environment, in a league that Bobby Evans equated to roughly AA level (the AFL has been described as a AA/AAA hybrid).

  • Howry Interest: Haft also reported in the above link (actually, this was the main subject...) that the Giants, according to Bob Howry's agent, has intensified their interest after Howry was one of the players who were not offered arbitration by their former teams this off-season (Renteria, another Giants target, was also non-tendered).

    A former Giants farm product who we traded away to the ChiSox in 1997, he has been a very effective reliever for a long while but had a pretty bad season in 2008, with a 5.35 ERA. But it appears that it might have been bad luck, as his BABIP was a horrible .354 (most pitcher's mean regression is .300) and he suffered from an elevated HR/FB of 11.7% (whereas most pitchers regress to 10%), while his strikeout rate was still a good 7.5 K/9 plus he had a stellar 1.7 BB/9 for a K/BB ratio of 4.54, leading to a FIP of 4.49, while still high for him, is not as bad. In fact, he reduced his line drive percentage as well as increased his GB/FB ratio, both normally signs of a better season.

    Just goes to show you that small sampling inherit with a reliever's lack of IP in any season, can made a good pitcher look bad. The key thing is that he is 35 years old, so he'll be either willing to take a lesser deal, particularly given the economic news, or a one year deal to show a return to his prior performance, or both. It is also key because it could be a sign that he's getting too old, but as I noted with all the good things about his 2008 season, it just looked like a perfect storm of bad luck with regards to BABIP and HR/FB%, and perhaps also poor bullpen support behind him, letting his runners score.

  • Other Giants rumors: Chris Haft noted a number of rumors plus information in a recent article. As we all know, the Giants are looking for a power hitter to hit in the middle of the lineup, but has expanded the search to middle infielders, kicking the tires of Rafael Furcal, Edgar Renteria (apparently making an offer already and their first choice now that he won't cost a draft pick), expressed interest in Orlando Hudson (interest probably less now that he's been offered arbitration) and Juan Uribe (but that rumor died fast) and is known to have contacted the agent for Orlando Cabrera, though no preliminary talks yet.

    In addition, the Giants appear unlikely to sign any of the top three free agents - Sabathia, Teixeira, or Manny - but apparently the Giants have been in contact with some of them, just in case. (Probably kind of like how they asked Gary Sheffield if he would sign with us for under $10M; hey, you never know if you never ask!). But Manny's demand for over $20M per and Teixeira's demand for a 10-year deal will probably end the Giants interest in them. In addition, they have expressed interest in Casey Blake, former 3B for D-gers. But the rumors on is that the Twins and D-gers are his main pursuers.

    No surprise, but he says Jonathan Sanchez is the most likely to be traded since Lincecum and Cain are off-limits. However, he also notes that since Rios was all the Giants could get last season for Lincecum, the Giants would have to include other prospects with Sanchez to get any good hitter. Also, he noted that the Giants are as reluctant to trade Bumgarner and Alderson, as they are Cain.

    Lastly, one rumor is that Aaron Rowand has been brought up in trade talks, which would be unusual, if true.
  • Final Arizona Fall League stats: The data is at this Baseball America page, and it shows that out of 97 hitters, Kevin Frandsen was 49th with an OPS+ of 96, which is not too bad for middle infield (8th overall for MI), hitting .331/.392/.421/.813 with 10 SB in 13 SBA (however, 6 errors playing SS) in 133 AB. Again, didn't strike out much, only 13 for 10% strikeout rate or 90% contact rate and 7 walks, very good.

    Emmanuel Burriss was 63rd with an OPS+ of 81, hitting .318/.370/.376/.746 with 7 SB in 9 SBA, but 10 errors playing SS in 85 AB (he was 11th overall for MI). He also didn't strike out much, only 11 for 13% strikeout rate or 87% contact rate but only 4 walks. Still, .370 OBP is nothing to sneeze at.

    Lastly, the guy we got in the Durham trade - Darren Ford - got very limited play and did very poorly, 44 OPS+, .190/.379/.190/.570 in 21 AB with 10 strikeouts and 6 walks. Great OBP rate but the rest just detracts too much. We might have been better off trying to get


  1. And the Giants waste no time and signed Bob Howry to a one year, $2.75M contract plus incentives.

    The bullpen is pretty much done: Wilson, Howry, Affeldt, Romo, Yabu, plus two from Hinshaw (most probably), Taschner (probably), Sadler, Matos, Pichardo, perhaps Valdez if he returns from his injury. That is quite an upgrade over what we had during much of the season, plus Howry would probably have a thing or two to teach to the young guys, Affeldt too.

    Plus, should the situation warrant it, Affeldt could spot start, allowing another reliever in the pen. I would prefer having him in the bullpen though.

  2. Nice analysis of why Howry will be better in 2009 than 2008 at Fangraphs:

    Basically covers what I wrote on other sites but I didn't want to go searching for them.

    Age is a factor, but he's been good so long that a steep drop in ERA, but good numbers otherwise, suggest that 2008 was a small sample blip that affects even the best relievers sometime.

    And even if he is on the downside, $2.75M isn't that much and it's only for one year.

    Our bullpen is fixed, the young guys have two nice role models to learn from in Howry and Affeldt, and it'll be potentially very good if Valdez returns to health and can actually pitch a full season. I would also keep an eye out for Misch and Matos, I think they are next to bust out in the bullpen.

  3. AP (via Merc) has further info on incentives:

    Howry can earn an additional $500,000 based on games, getting $100,000 each for 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 appearances. He can earn $1 million based on games finished: $100,000 for 45, $200,000 for 50, $300,000 for 55 and $400,000 for 60.

  4. Yeah, the ERA and age scared me at first, but looking at his numbers, Howry looks like a it could be a winning deal. I always get a bit freaked out when I have to convince myself that a new Giant just had a "down year" and will bounce back, because people always bounce back as they age. Right? But mainly his ability to not walk people would be a nice change of pace in the bullpen. Plus, if unlucky homers were his problem, AT&T is the perfect park for him. Its way easier to put a ball on Waveland then in McCovey Cove.
    What's more worrying is the Renteria situation. I'm not sold on him right now. Please, some one sell me so I can keep believing in Sabean.

  5. I thought I covered this in another post, Bobo, but Renteria's down-year is still a huge improvement over what the Giants SS in 2008 did for us.

    Furthermore, he should improve in 2009 to career norms. Looking at his stats, he improved on his strikeout rate and kept his BB/K rate OK, along career range, plus his LD% and GB/FB was about the same as his career.

    However, his BABIP took a huge dip over the previous 3 years and for his career, so that hurt him, but his BABIP should revert back to higher ground. Plus, he suffered from something early in the season, killing his stats from May to July, but he had very good stats .812 OPS in the second half of 2008. He appears to have hurt himself in early May, didn't hit for 3 months, then recovered to hit well in the last two months of the season.

    So most indicators suggest that 2008 was just a fluke year that he should recover from.

    However, I have no good word on his defense, other than perhaps he'll be better in familiar surroundings returning to the NL, where he has had most of his success - 2 of his worse seasons in the last 7 were in the AL, his only two seasons in the NL.

    Oh, according to Baggerly and ESPN, the Giants are pretty close to a deal with Renteria.



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