Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sabean Bashing: In-Crede-able But True

Rumors have been circulating that Joe Crede has been conditionally traded to the Giants for two prospects once he comes into spring training and is deemed healthy. I found a blurb here on MLB Rumors, which is the site that states the two prospects, and a post here on MLB Trade Rumors.

Apparently it is being driven by Brian Sabean's new right hand man, Ron Shueler, former ChiSox GM, and by new Giants CF Aaron Rowand, buddy of said Crede. This has caused a lot of consternation among the Giants fandom, as can be seen here at McCovey's Chronicles.

Your Stance on Sabean Is Showing

I was going to write a post previously on this, and never got around to finishing it. It seems like what people believe of Sabean leaks out into their commentary about what they think Sabean will do next. If they think he's stupid, they suggest that he'll make a stupid move. Then others would chime in and add something on top. It's like a crowd agitating to lynch someone.

But people are forgetting some facts in this situation. Like some fear a long extention at a high salary to Crede. First, given his Feliz-esque stats, and the Giants refusal to go three years, the most Crede could expect from the Giants is another year on top of his contract for 2008. Second, Boras is not going for a one year contract extension, particularly with his client playing in a park that damps down HR power, his one key offensive skill (sole skill really). He's going free agency after 2008 without a big money extension for many years. Third, by holding steady to a 2 year contract for Feliz, they show that they want to keep 3B open for other options in the near term, appearing to acknowledge that 2008 is a transitional year and 2009 is probably transitional year, but by 2010, we need our long-term solution to 3B in place.

As long as the Giants are trading players from their "OK to Trade" list (it has been reported previously that the Giants have a "Keep/OK to Trade" list, columns which are self-explanatory), much like when we traded Martis away (his stats that year was not that good and each month it got worse...), I would be OK with trading for Crede for a one year. I won't be happy but I would be OK.

I don't see that the Giants absolutely NEED to commit a full-time starting position to Frandsen. He's 26, don't have any really strong skills, and frankly has no speed and not much power, so his sole offensive contribution would be getting on base, mainly by maintaining a high batting average. He is a nice, average player and while we need players like that so that we can afford to pay the really good players, it won't kill our future to not give him a full-time starting position.

However, I really like him as a person and he has gone through a lot in his personal past to make it up this far. A nice feel good story like him becoming a starter in the majors would be good for the 2008 season, which the Giants at least has acknowledged as a transitional year, if not the rebuilding year that many of us Giants fans want to see.

So, for me to be OK with Crede coming in, I think the Giants sit him down and tell him, "Look, we know you want to do well before your free agency, and we want you to do well. We are planning on starting you in 5 out of every 7 games and give 2 to Frandsen. We are going to do the same with Durham in order to give Frandsen ABs, or about 4 games started out of every 7." In addition, if Crede and Durham do well, I want the Giants to trade both of them for good prospects, and if either are not doing well, I want the Giants to DFA them and start Frandsen instead.

Frandsen doesn't need to start every game of 2008. But he should be starting a majority of them and getting to show what he can do. Getting Crede should not get in the way of that plan and hopefully will lead to us getting a good prospect for Crede later.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Thoughts on the Johan Santana trade

It has been reported in a number of media outlets that Johan Santana has been traded by the Twins to the Mets for CF Carlos Gomez and SP Deolis Guerra, Phillip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey. Baseball America and John Sickel has them as the Mets 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th top prospects (though the two have Guerra and Gomez positions swapped). This is a huge steal for the Mets, but it could pay off for the Twins in the long-run, given additional growth by Gomez and Guerra (both I see as the major pieces of this trade for the Twins) similar to that which they showed before.

Carlos Gomez

Some in the Mets org thought that Carlos Gomez was Jose Reyes in CF, so perhaps that is what they sold the Twins on with him. Gomez is only 21 and so he still has a lot of growing to do, so I think he's the real wildcard with potential in the deal, if he can become another Reyes.

Some think he might be rushed, but I don't agree. After a slow start in the majors in May, which is understandable for a 21 year old in his first taste of the majors, he then had a pretty good June, playing almost full time, hitting .299/.351/.403/.754; league average was .768 according to Baseball-Reference.com. Then he got injured soon after that then didn't come back until the September call-ups and just played utility role then, which he didn't handle well (unsurprisingly since, as I noted, he's 21 and still adjusting to being a pro, being in the U.S., and all that, let alone handle that role that even baseball vets have a problem with, playing part-time). But he had that good June once he settled down, before getting injured.

If he fulfills the potential some internal Mets scouts had for him, that would be a very good return on Santana (plus the other prospects). I would also note that his walk rate improved greatly in 2007 vs. his career: nearly 10% of his PA vs. 5-6% previously. And he's been able to have a K% of around 18% in the minors, which is OK, but not good. But with the improvement in BB%, that is a huge improvement, so I think that there were some good signs of development that he exhibited in 2007.

Deolis Guerra

I have read that Deolis Guerra has had a number of injuries already at such a young age - he'll be 19 for the upcoming season. Sounds oddly (and sadly...) like a former Giants prospect traded to the Twins: Francisco Liriano (I wouldn't have trade him just for the name value: Francisco Liriano, pitching for San Francisco!).

Not that great strikeout rate in 2007, but that's partly because of the learning curve for him and his youth. In Baseball America's 2007 Prospect book, it was noted that he started off slow then caught on. Digging into his splits, in 2007, he didn't do well at the beginning again, but then got injured.

However, then he did well the rest of the season: 6.90 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 2.50 K/BB. And he was only 18 years old pitching in a league where the average hitter's age was 22.9 years old. I think that's pretty impressive, so he's one in this trade who can come back to haunt the Mets, much like Liriano did the Giants.

While the injuries are a big worry, they did figure out how to keep Liriano healthy throughout the minors before he blew out his arm in the majors (and he was injured seemingly every year he was with the Giants too, I expected him to blow up way sooner than he did). I give them a lot of credit for that. Hopefully for them, it was more skill than luck.

The Fillers: Mulvey and Humber

The other two are OK prospects but don't appear to be that strong a prospect, despite Mulvey and Humber being Baseball America's and John Sickel's #4 and #7 Top Mets prospects for 2008.

Mulvey is nice but his K/9 is too low for my tastes, he's at best a middle of rotation guy.

Humber's stats suffered from a poor strand rate in 2007. However, his K/9 took a dive so he looks like he's not going to be that good a starter.

Met's Steal Santana

I think it's still a huge steal for the Mets right now, the Twins basically traded for high potential players. But there's still a mountain of development for Gomez and Guerra to go through in order for the trade to work out for the Twins and reach those high potentials.

But the Giants fans thought that too, and this is structured much like that one, except the upside is more evident with these players than it was with the Giants players (only fitting because of Santana's stature in the game).

But at least they got something for him now, instead of letting him go into free agency next off-season and getting, what, probably a high 1st round pick (20-something pick overall) and a supplemental 1st round pick? That's not nearly enough value for how good Santana is, and is a way worse return than the players the Mets traded for him now.

However, as I had read elsewhere, why they didn't wait until mid-season, I'm not sure, because there's sure to be a big money team desperate for a Santana by then, willing to back up their prospect farm and unload them for him then. I guess perhaps they didn't want to risk him getting injured, but then that seems too conservative, then why not trade him sooner, like last off-season and get a haul like the A's did for Haren? Maybe Santana told them that he wouldn't negotiate with any team for an extension if he's traded mid-season, as he has full no-trade clause in his contract, that would basically force the Twins to trade for him now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happyness: Feliz Now a Philly

The Phillies have signed Pedro Feliz pending a physical, to a two-year, $8.5M contract with an option year. It can total $15M including bonuses and the option year. The Giants get a supplemental pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds, the 37th pick overall at the moment.

Giants Thoughts

Hooray!!! Feliz Feliz es gone. I guess they have schools there for Feliz's kids. I thought his comment about "other cities have schools too" was pretty classless to me. It was he who brought up the reason why he wanted to be back with the Giants the other season, so it was legit for reporters to ask him that - he didn't have to give such a snotty answer.

Also, every year, he promises that he has turned a new leaf, that he's been training hard during the off-season, that he's doing some new thing that will make him a better hitter, and every year, it's the same old thing, only older and worse, at least offensively - I do credit him for making himself so good defensively.

And the Phillies make total sense, they were one of two teams that had worse production coming out of 3B in 2007 than the Giants, but they are competing while Pirates are not. So as bad as Feliz is, he is an upgrade for the Phillies both offensively (though marginally so) and defensively. He would also at least double and perhaps triple the number of HR hit at 3B for the Phillies, vs. 2007.

I wouldn't boo but I'm glad he's gone, I'm glad we got a draft pick, I'm glad that Frandsen's a step closer to starting at 3B, though I suspect a trade sometime in spring training to get a starting 3B.

Mainly, I'm glad the Giants are NOT going to sign Feliz. Sometimes in a relationship, it's just time to separate. It was time for Feliz to go, and while I won't wish him well, because if he does well, well, he should have done that while with the Giants and not afterward, I won't wish him ill either. With the Phillies homepark having a HR park factor of 145 in 2007 and 135 for the past three seasons for right-handed hitters, and AT&T Mays Field having 74 in 2007 and 84 for the past three seasons, Feliz could conceivably hit 30-35 homers for the Phillies - and still not walk that much.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pitcher's Command: Giants Starters

The Hardball Times have an article on what's important when looking at a pitchers' K/BB ratio. The standard is that you want starters with K/BB over 2.0 and ideally over 2.4. But are there other factors that should guide your opinion on which pitcher is better?

Walks Not Always Bad

What the study by Derek Carty does is separate starting pitchers into three categories: low strikeout pitchers, solid in both, and high walk. Low strikeout pitchers was categorized as having: 2.00+ K/BB, 5.00- K/9, 50+ IP. Solid in both pitchers had: 2.00+ K/BB, 2.75+ BB/9, 7.00- K/9, 50+ IP. And High walk pitchers had: 2.00+ K/BB, 3.50+ BB/9, 50+ IP.

When the pitchers were split in those three categories, what he found was that pitchers with high walks had the best ERAs. In the NL, the High Walk pitchers had an ERA of 3.85, while the other two had 4.21 and 4.28 ERAs. The split was even wider in the AL, the High Walk pitchers had a 3.75 ERA, while the other two had 4.40 and 4.48 ERAs. How can that be when it has been drummed into us that high walk pitchers are to be avoided or at least strongly admonished?

What he concluded is that: "All K/BB rates should not be treated equally." Which, as he noted, is pretty obvious from the data. He also noted:

"Pitchers who achieve their K/BB rates using pinpoint control and poor strikeout rates are not nearly as good of a bet as those who achieve their K/BB rates by getting a high number of strikeouts, even if they have below-average control."
Leave Them Young Giants Starters Alone

Of course, what a lot of Giants fans have been saying, me included, is that Lincecum and Cain need to get their walks under control if they are to become elite pitchers. But as this study shows, even if you walk a lot (over 3.5 BB/9), as long as you strike out a lot as well, that mitigates the danger inherent in walking batters and adding runners, as a lot of strikeouts means less balls in play, and less BIP means less hits, and less hits means less run scoring hits, even if you happen to walk more than is usually prudent.

All in all, they are not just another brick in the wall, they are clearly among the elite in the majors and we have the privilege of getting to see two of them pitch for our beloved team, the Giants. Just another piece of evidence that keeping them is better than trading them away for even very good players like Rios. As the table shows, there are only 17 of them like that in the NL, and we got two of them.

That is a strength, that is a competitive advantage. An advantage throughout the season, an advantage any season we make the playoffs. Now Sabean has to build us a lineup that is capable of scoring enough runs for the pitchers to win more often than not.

Strong Starting Rotation IS Competitive Minimum Now In NL West

I think that it should be noted that while it is a competitive advantage in general, it is the competitive minimum in the NL West starting in 2008 (in order of finish):
  • D-backs: Arizona upped the ante with their bold trade for Dan Haren to pair with Brandon Webb. They also have The Big Unit, Randy Johnson, contributing as well, plus Micah Owings and Doug Davis. Still, Johnson is a big question mark with no established or up-coming starter in the wings other than untested Yusmeiro Petit and while Owings had a great season and a better second half, curiously, he was much worse on the road than at home - 3.81 ERA at home vs. 4.96 ERA on the road - suggesting that his home numbers was the fluke and thus he should suffer a sophomore slump in 2008. Other negatives: despite low groundballs%, his BABIP was a strong .280, suggesting that he should suffer a regression to the mean and see his BABIP rise to the .300 area; his K/9 is a relatively weak 6.25; his BB/9 is borderline at 2.95 (3.0 is max you want to see it at); he pitched more games at home, where he did well, than on the road, and this should even out in 2008. He falls into the Solid in Both category, which had the worse ERA among the three categories. Even with Haren, too many question marks to be top rotation, but still strong and led by two ace-type starters in Webb and Haren (though as I had cautioned previously, Haren probably will not pitch as well as last year, despite moving to NL, he was lucky in a number of ways).
  • D-Rocks: Colorado has a nice set of starters who could be comparable to the Giants rotation: Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh, and Ubaldo Jimenez, with Franklin Morales waiting in the wings. However, while Francis and Cook are solid, they are not as good as any other team's top two starters. Hirsh still needs to put things together and pitch to his potential, though since he's in the back of the rotation, he did OK last season. Jimenez needs to show that he can pitch like he did in 2007 for a full MLB season, when batters get another chance to figure him out. He did do a lot (LOT) worse in September than he did in August (with low BABIP too, though he does get a significant amount of groundballs and give up less line drives). Same for Morales, whenever he gets a chance to start, D'Rocks have Kip Wells in the rotation at the moment.
  • D-Dres: San Diego has Jake Peavy and Chris Young heading their rotation, and a year ago, they were probably the elite of the NL West, but now the other teams have caught up and perhaps even passed them up. The rest of their rotation includes the incomparable Greg Maddux (but very old now), Mark Prior (who hasn't been healthy in ages), and Randy Wolf (who hasn't been healthy AND good for ages now, and will be 31 in 2008; you don't get healthier with age).
  • D-gers: LA has Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, and Chad Billingsley heading their rotation, plus Hiroki Kuroda and Esteban Loaiza, and Jason Schmidt lurking around, saying he's feeling better and probably competing with Loaiza for the last spot in the rotation.
So why trade one off now to build up the rotation? Because if we do, we would just have to get another one somehow once the lineup is fixed. And the Giants right now - with Cain, Lincecum, Zito, Lowry, and Correia - is probably comparable with the rotations above, based on past performances and expected performances in 2008. Why break up that strength (and probably make it a weakness) by trading off one of the top two guys in Cain and Lincecum? To me, that would be like covering up a hole in the dam by removing your finger from another hole in the dam: either way, the dam is leaking and you are no better off overall. And in this case, even worse now, you don't have twin aces like the rest of the division.

I think there are a number of strengths to having Cain and Lincecum together. Both Cain and Lincecum ranked among the leaders in a number of the leaderboards for starting NL pitchers in the Bill James 2008 Handbook and in THT 2008 Annual. If one should falter, the other should be good, there should always be one pitching like an ace - if you only have one ace, like when we only had Schmidt on top, when he did poorly, there was no one else around to pick up the slack, and the team suffered. Their high K/9 pitching will help us in the playoffs. And in short series, like the playoffs, they can pretty much take over them as a tandem.

The rest of the rotation is pretty good too. Zito is comparable to the other teams' #3 starters, given that others have injury history, short history of success, and/or are old. Only the D-gers appear to be comparable, or even superior, to our top 3.

However, Lowry pushes us above other rotations. I think Lowry is head and shoulders above any other teams' #4 starter. None can really match his performance and experience. And while he has had health problems, the others' #4 had worse injuries or has less successful experiences which put them much below him.

Given Bochy's history of protecting pitchers, I see him not letting Lowry go as deep into games as he did in 2007, in terms of number of pitches. He let him go to 100 or more pitches in half his starts (13 out of 26) and he went 105 or more pitches 6 times, over 110 pitches 3 times, and he reached 125 pitches one time. Though he still only averaged 98.5 pitches per game in 2007 and the number of starts over 100 is much much less than what Alou put him through, I think Bochy's going to restrict him even further in 2008. I think he will continue to target him at about 100 pitches, but will not let him go beyond 105 pitches anymore, and perhaps could even try to keep him under 100 each game. I could also see the Giants try to rearrange the rotation in the second half to give him less starts overall.

Lastly, Correia is about as questionable and potentially good as any other #5. This can go either way in wide swings, but generally, a team's #5 starter should not affect the top 4 overall competency much, unless he has a totally breakout or totally disastrous season.

Lots of Groundballs Are Good Too: Sign Lincecum Soon

He also noted a table he put together that showed that pitchers who can get more than 50% groundballs are also able to keep their ERAs low. So that's a way a pitcher can get away with poorer K/9 and/or BB/9 rates. Still, while Lincecum is a high K/9 pitcher, he also gets a lot of groundballs in his balls-in-play too, a great combination to have in a pitcher. And hence another reason why he should not be traded.

The only reason he should be traded is if the Giants medicos decide that his arm really is ready to fall off. Otherwise, we should sign him soon and buy out all his pre-free agency years plus get an option on his first free agent year, if not try to get his second year as well.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Do Managers Matter? The Hardball Times Study

I've been happily chewing on the 2008 The Hardball Times Baseball Annual and came across a chapter entitled "Do Managers Matter?" by David Gassko (pg. 159), who I consider to be a good analyst and his work at The Hardball Times website have been top-notch.

In his study, he looked at how players did for a manager compared to what would be projected based on the past two years performance. This is to investigate whether a certain manager results in players hitting better with him than without him. He added up all of the "plus" and "minus" performances and came up with a rate stat: wins added per 162 games.

In the book, he published the career {added this, made mistake previously thinking it was just for 2007; my bad} wins added for managers in 2007 and Bochy had the 4th best out of the 21 managers who were managers in 2007 for the full season. He was at nearly 1 win.

Managers, according to the study, from best to worse, only account for at best a 4 win swing from best to worse, so managers matter and can be worth a lot to a team.

P.S. Interestingly enough, Dusty Baker makes the Top 10 list all-time; he was 7th. But I wonder how much of that is driven by Barry Bonds, who is now under a huge steroid cloud.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Giants Youths Seek ABs

The Giants young position duo most likely to get significant playing time in 2008 - Kevin Frandsen and Dan Ortmeier - met with the press yesterday (Wednesday), along with Brian Sabean, and the Chron and Merc had their versions of the press conference.

The Chron's version noted Kevin Frandsen's and Dan Ortmeier's determination to win playing time by building up their bodies and changing it per the team's instructions. Frandsen showed off his new physique, and Ortmeier likewise added more muscle and changed his proportions in order to generate more power.

That was the key for Geovanny Soto, a prospect for the Cubs who like Ortmeier was a good prospect coming up, but hadn't been doing much at the higher levels. So last off-season, he worked on his body and got into tip-top shape and had a monster offensive year in AAA, then coming up and earning the starting job then and for 2008.

Not that either Frandsen and Ortmeier can hit as well as Soto, just that sometimes it doesn't take much to get the prospect to another level. Also, Frandsen talked about his strong feelings of friendship and respect for Durham but also basically challenged Durham publicly that he's going to take the starting job. But can he?

Sabean had some good words to that effect, stating:
"I think at this point it looks favorable. I think the players realize that, and Boch and the coaching staff realize the transition we're in. To not give guys like Frandsen and Ortmeier a chance to play, in the phase we're in, would be counterproductive."
Still, Sabean added that nothings in stone, that the offense and roster will be a work in progress into the regular season, mainly through trade, though free agents remain a possibility. Basically, that's the same as any year, if you produce, you have nothing to worry about, if you don't, we will replace you with someone we think can do the job. Also, both players were asked about that and responded that neither of them were promised anything by Giants management. Ortmeier noted:
"But I respect that because I want to be ready to compete and win a job," Ortmeier said. "That was my mindset from the first day of the off-season and it remains the same today. Whether we sign somebody tomorrow or we don't sign anybody at all, I'm focused on being healthy and ready to contribute."
Bochy was there too and had some info to share:
"Kevin looks like he's ready to take over and play on a regular basis," Bochy said. "But you do have another second baseman (Ray Durham) who two years ago threw up some great numbers and hit in the heart of the order. We're geared toward pitching and defense, but we'll have to knock in runs, too.

"So as manager, there'll be some tough decisions, especially when you're coming off a season like we had. We want to get back on track. It usually comes down to how much trust you have in your young players and who else you have on your ballclub. Right now, I'd say Ortmeier and Frandsen would get a lot of playing time."

Bochy said Ortmeier still has to answer questions about his defense and his switch-hitting stroke, especially from the left side.
Happiness: No Feliz

The good news is that the Giants have moved on from Feliz (though there appears to be a tiny window open). They offered him a two year contract and he turned it down. So the Giants are moving on and looking into trades and other free agents, apparently.

Morgan Ensberg was mentioned by the Merc (I like him best, no cost in prospects, could be low cost/risk, high reward if he returns to past excellence, which I think is still possible, Garner didn't like him or use him well, I heard) and Crede has been a constant name tied to the Giants, and now there's a link, in that Rowand highly recommends him and Ron Schueler, Sabean's new advisor, was the ChiSox GM when they got Crede, and Ron has been pushing for Crede.

However, Sabean had to add the word "pretty", as in, "we've pretty much moved on," which leaves a window open for the Giants to sign Feliz. But that is the Chron version, the Merc version quotes instead: "We moved on," Giants G.M. Brian Sabean said. "I don't see us doing business." I don't see means that there's wiggle room for something he didn't see.

And according to the Merc, sources close to Feliz said that Feliz is thinking of dropping his agent and coming back to the Giants, either at the Giants terms (two years) or possibly even if it is only a one year contract. But according to Baggarly, it was left unclear if Sabean would reopen negotiations with Feliz.

Frandsen and Ortmeier Show

The two young players, though, were the star attractions. Both are hoping to get a lot of ABs. Ortmeier said that he wanted 500 AB, to which Frandsen then retorted that he wanted 700 AB (which is only possible if he led off and didn't walk or get HBP much). Both are excited over the opportunity they might be getting.
"It's a new era, a fresh start for all of us," Frandsen said Wednesday. "All we care about is playing for the Giants, for this city and the fans in our ballpark. We're here to show them they should be excited about us because we can play. We've watched each other have great success in the minor leagues."
Ortmeier knows that he's not going to replace Bonds's production:

"I'm definitely not going to come in and try to hit more home runs," Ortmeier said. "I'm going to try to do what I do, which is make good, consistent contact. I think I'm strong enough, and my mechanics are good enough, that if I hit the ball, it's going to go. I'm not too worried about that. You can't come and think, 'I gained 10 pounds. I'm going to hit 15 more home runs.' "
The Chron noted that at this time, Aurilia looks likely to be sharing time with both Frandsen and Ortmeier, at 3B and 1B, respectively. It also noted that with Aurilia around, the Giants will not be in the market for mentors like Tony Clark or Mark Sweeney. That kills the rumor that the Giants are interested in Tony Clark, which to me has always appeared to be just a suggestion that Clark's agent threw out there to drum up business for his client.

We'll end with a quote from Frandsen, who talked about working out with Dustin Pedroia, who the Red Sox stuck with after a horrid April:

"There's no bigger confidence boost than having someone stick with you after a month like that," Frandsen said. "It's what you'd hope the Giants would do if they give me an opportunity: stick with you and let you go through your lows, let you fight out of it."
Niekro Gone

Unsurprisingly, Lance Niekro is no longer a Giant. He recently signed with the Houston Astros, which is where he grew up when his father was an Astro player.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Giants Offense: 2007 vs. 2008 (first in occassional series)

Many Giants fans have been discussing how the Giants offense would do in 2008 without Bonds. Many don't see how the offense could possibly be equal to that without Bonds. I tackled that myself in another post, though that was probably not that great a take. And I won't say I have the answer here, but here's another take, another angle, on viewing this question.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008 Datapoint

I liked the 2007 version but the 2008 book is even better. They even give you files to download, which I find great. One chapter is on a Markov Model (statistical method) for baseball and it gave some data there that I think would be useful in explaining the conundrum of how the 2008 offense could possibly perform similar to the 2007 offense with Bonds.

I don't think I explained it well enough before, but it is not that the offense will be the equal to what it was with Bonds but that the offense underperformed greatly in 2007 with Bonds. And with regression to the mean, the team in 2008 should perform as well without Bonds as with.

Pythagorean Stinks

The Giants horribly underperformed their Pythagorean Wins in 2007. With their offense and defense/pitching, they should have won 78 games in 2007. However, they only won 71 games (pg. 126, 2008 Annual). That's 7 games of underperformance.

They weren't the only ones to do poorly. Boston (-5 wins), KC (-6), Texas (-5), and Atlanta (-5) also did poorly. However, the Giants were the worse of the bunch in 2007 with a -7 wins. 19 of the 30 teams were at -3 wins to +3 wins in 2007.

But Bonds Didn't

In the Markov Model chapter, the author of that chapter examined what the effect of a Barry Bonds would be on a lineup. He calculated that Bonds's offense was good enough to count for +5 wins by himself. That is a huge hit for any team to take to their offense.

Easy Go, Easy Come

However, while the Giants will lose 5 wins from the loss of Bonds, they should gain anywhere from 4 to 10 wins from the regression to the mean relative to Pythagorean Wins (i.e. the Pythagorean differential for the Giants will return to the more standard range of -3 to +3). Thus, the loss of Bonds should be covered by the team being less unlucky and winning what their scoring should be providing, putting the Giants at anywhere from 70 wins to 76 wins as the net of the loss of Bonds and the regression to the mean.

However, there are other factors that should help the 2008 team improve over that range of wins. One is that we essentially replace Bonds with Rowand in the lineup. That should add something to make up for the loss of Bonds, and that should counteract whatever loss we experience at 1B with Ortmeier and whomever playing there in 2008.

And all the other positions are about the same, or possibly better. At 2B, Durham 2007 was a huge hole in the offense and either he returns somewhat to normal as many predicts or Frandsen would take 2B and should be able to outdo 2007's horrible .226/.304/.337/.641 that 2007's 2Bmen hit. Frandsen's MLE in 2006 was above that, and he hit above that in the majors in 2007. At 3B, either Frandsen or Aurilia should be able to easily match or exceed Feliz's pathetic output there, though obviously the defense won't be similar.

Winn, Vizquel and Molina should be able to match what they did in 2007, perhaps do a little better. Roberts should be much better, and hit what he hit in the second half (which matches what he hit in 2005-2006), plus his platoon buddy would be Rajai Davis, who can't hit RHP but nails LHP. They should steal 50-75 bases together.

Add that all up, and the offense, while obviously not as good as it was with Bonds in the lineup, in any fashion, should be able to produce enough to keep the team's offense good enough, with their improving pitching staff, to keep their win total at or most probably above the 71 wins they achieved in 2007.

To sum up, regression to the mean alone should make up most if not all of the loss due to no Bonds. Add to that Rowand's addition, improvement to key areas like leadoff, plus improvements to our young pitchers in our starting rotation and key bullpen spots like closer (Wilson), and the Giants look like they should easily match 2007's 71 win total and with growth on the part of Lincecum, Cain, Frandsen, Ortmeier, and Wilson, and adequate production along the lines of career production from Molina, Durham, Vizquel, Roberts, and Winn, we could even see .500 in 2008.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Arbitration: 2008 Giants

It was announced the other day (and reported here in the Chron and in the Merc) that the Giants were able to sign Brad Hennessey to a contract, avoiding arbitration, while they ended up apart with Kevin Correia and Vinnie Chulk, and thus exchanged salaries ahead of arbitration (though they could come to an agreement before the scheduled meeting).
  • Hennessey: signed a one year contract for $1.6M. He pitched in increasingly more important situations for bullpen during the 2007 season than he had in past seasons, plus it was the first year he didn't get yanked back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen, reaching a zenith of being named closer when Benitez was finally traded. He did well in that role for a while, at one point getting saves 14 straight save opportunities, the most since Nen had a 28 straight streak in 2000, and 17 out of 19, before losing it and going 2 out of 5 before Brian Wilson took over the closer role. His inherited runners scored percentage was low but jumped with his troubles and finally ended at 47% inherited runners scoring, which was very poor. In 2007, he had a 3.42 ERA, 13 holds, and 19 saves in 69 outings, but lousy peripherals: 3.0 BB/9 (barely good), 5.6 K/9 (again borderline), 1.7 K/BB (which is not good for a reliever, the best relievers are above 2.4). I think he earned his raise from the $400,000 he made in 2007, though it is unlikely that he's going to be saving that many games in 2008, but when the arbitrator looks at the situation, he's only going to consider what he has done in the past, and 2007 looks pretty good, hence the Giants sought to get him signed without arbitration (where they would be forced to point out all his flaws as a reliever).
  • Correia: the Giants offered $850,000 while Correia asked for $1.3M. Correia had an OK statistical year then really stood out with his starts: in 8 starts, he had 46 IP, giving up 38 hits and 13 walks, getting 34 strikeouts. That works out to .259 BABIP (that's low, particularly in light of his .293 career BABIP and the .300 BABIP most pitchers should be around, so he was lucky with hits as a starter), 7.4 H/9, 2.5 BB/9 (good, want it under 3.0), 6.7 K/9 (OK as long as it stays above 6.0, then it gets dicey), 2.6 K/BB (very good, want it over 2.0 for starters). In relief, he was OK but not great: he had a 4.20 ERA with 12 holds in 51 relief appearances and so-so peripherals: 4.4 BB/9, 7.4 K/9, 1.7 K/BB (which is not good for a reliever, a good reliever would be over 2.4). Overall, Correia had a 3.45 ERA in 51 relief appearances and 8 starts. The amount he asked for would make sense if he was headed for sure for the rotation in 2008 - something his agent must have talked him into - but based on 2007 and his past, I think the Giants offer is closer to the truth. Hopefully they will avoid arbitration with a contract around $1M. He will get more money if he can repeat his great starts at the end of 2007, but his OK relief (and can't find the stat, but I recall his inherited runners success rate to not be that good either) and lucky starts (due to the much reduced hits) says that he should repeat success as a starter before getting bigger bucks, and there's no guarantee that he will be even starting in 2008, he has to beat out Jonathan Sanchez as well as Pat Misch, who both should give him a lot of competition (I'm betting on Pat Misch, though who wins between Kevin and Pat, I have no idea; I would love to see either starting, though I would like to see Misch starting more, I see him as being Lowry's replacement if a trade could be made).
  • Chulk: the Giants offered $725,000 and Chulk asked for $975,000. Chulk also had a nice season: Chulk had a 3.57 ERA with 9 holds in 57 appearances with good peripherals: 2.4 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, 2.9 K/BB. They most probably will avoid arbitration by splitting the difference at $850,000. Lots of Giants fans look past him, and admittedly his inherited runners scoring was bad (again, unavailable, but recall it not being good; most of the staff, from what I had remembered, were not good except for Kline, who fans are not enamored with either), but his numbers in 2007 look pretty good except for the inherited success rate.

The Giants have usually sought to avoid arbitration with their players and have been successful for the most part in avoiding (and winning the ones they don't avoid except for one nasty exception where they totally screwed up) actual arbitration meetings. I don't think they will have to go to the meeting as most of the time, the two sides just split the difference between the two amounts. Because of the bigger gap for Correia, the amount might end up more on his side since he obviously wants much more.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Alas: D'gers not interested in Feliz

This will be a short post to note that the D'gers are not interested in Feliz, read this in an article on mlb.com about Colletti talking at their mini-camp. Apparently they are happy with Nomar competing with Andy LaRoche for the starting spot. I guess Colletti was just "kicking the tires" with Feliz, probably to see if he would be amenable to a one year plus option contract with the D'gers. :^)

Other news on the evil empire from the article is that apparently Juan Pierre, he of the 5 year, $44M contract with 4 more years to go, is in competition for a spot in the outfield, with Andre Ethier (hey, think Beane and the A's could use him now?). I wonder how he feels about that one, though I suppose he'll be laughing all the way to the bank. Of course, new acquisition Andruw Jones will be starting in CF and Matt Kemp in RF.

Andruw Jones: Beginning of the End?

Speaking of Andruw Jones, most forecasts of his performance has him doing well but under the high levels he had previously reached. Looking at his stats, he actually increased his FB% in 2007, but his HR/FB% fell drastically: he has ranged from 18.7% to 25.2% but only had 13.4% in 2007. That makes it look like he actively tried lofting the ball more in order to make up for his HR shortfall, which probably hurt his batting line even more, particularly since it came out of his line drives percentage. And that is a power outage of nearly 20% in terms of HR/FB% with no injury to explain it, suggesting that age is taking over (or, given recent steroids scandal and PED crackdown, there could be other explanations...).

I wonder if any of the forecasts took into account his change in address from Atlanta to LA. In Atlanta's Turner Field, right-handed hitters got a boost to their homer total, with a 103 park index in 2007, 102 for 2005-7. The park is pretty neutral, some slightly above, some below, at least over the past 3 years, because 2007 had some extremes to it.

In LA, right-handed hitters over the past 3 years got a nice boost with a park index of 106, but in 2007 had a deflated amount with a park index of 96 (it really pays to be a lefty HR hitter for the D-gers, park index of 118). The park has been mostly neutral, but like Atlanta, had odd jumps and drops in 2007.

From this, it looks like even if they did account for the park, there would only be minor changes to his projections (data from Bill James 2008 Handbook; hopefully they are correct this year, I was using his numbers last year when I found out, totally by accident, that the park indices, among other sections, were all wrong. I don't know if I can buy the book again if there is huge errors again.). He might gain a little in HR but if the 2007 park index continues, he would lose a little.

In any case, the projections are that he will be right around his career numbers, which is a conclusion I have to question. He appears to be on the downside of his career based on what I see in his career numbers, which is not impossible since he will be 31 for the 2008 season and once a player reach his 30's you have to keep an eye out for the signs.

To me, it is significant that his BABIP was down to his career lows again, just as low as it was in 2005 and, more significantly, it is lower than even when he started, though marginally so: .250 BABIP in his first season, .244 in 2005 and .248 in 2007. Still, two of his lowest BABIP of his career have been in the last three seasons. That's not a good trend.

At least, if you are a D-ger fan; if you are a Giants fan, they have what appears to be a declining Andruw Jones who will suck up $18M per year for two years, plus a Juan Pierre who wasn't much of an offensive weapon to begin with and could find himself a $9M bench player in 2008, depending on how he competes for the LF position with Ethier. They were both players that could have ended up with the Giants, depending on the alternative universe scenarios - Pierre was bid on by the Giants and there was a lot of talk among Giants fans about getting Jones over Rowand - and I'm glad it's the D-gers who have to worry if Jones is done or not, to the tune of $18M per year, plus are saddled with Pierre, whether he plays or not, that's money they cannot spend elsewhere on their roster.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Good News or Bad News: Competition for Feliz

According to Ken Rosenthal - which I read quotes from MLB Trade Rumors - four teams are seriously interested in signing Pedro Feliz: Dodgers, Brewers, Phillies, and Giants. It was also noted:
Phillies Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed interest today in an MLB.com chat. Rosenthal admits that the Dodgers don't seem like a great fit. He says Bill Hall would have to be traded to make room for Feliz, though Tom Haudricourt implied today that Hall would stay put.

So I can't quite say whether that is good news or bad news. Good news that some other team might take Feliz off our hands and give us a supplemental draft pick early on. Bad news that it might force the Giants to overpay and give Feliz the three years he desires, nay, demanded.

I would have to say that given that we are already into the new year, that usually means that players who sign typically don't get that good a contract, as most good free agents are pursued and signed before the year ends, you know, get things settled on your team before the holidays roll around. This is when supplemental players like Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders end up getting a contract in the $1-3M range as another team decides that they need whatever gift they provide on the cheap and, OK, I guess we can really use you. The A's just did one with Emil Brown yesterday, most probably, given Brown's poor year last season.

However, I still cannot quite shake that Sabean was willing to give two years - I would guess most probably a one year contract with an option that can vest if Feliz plays a certain number of games, as that seems to be what Sabean gives to players who want to be able to vest, though it could be just a team option, as has been done before. Plus, he has regularly gone the extra year when he really wants someone, like Edgardo Alfonzo and, more recently, Aaron Rowand. So will he do likewise with Feliz this year?

And we know that Sabean likes to build a good defensive team. Feliz was considered among the best in 2007, fulfilling Felipe Alou's (at that point, seemingly crazed idea, or so I thought) pronouncement that Feliz deserves a gold glove. Usually, a player is a good defensive player or not, they don't usually develop over time, though the best sometimes do, like Mike Schmidt. I only wish Feliz would have spent that energy on hitting instead, who knows how good he could have become. :^) And offense was more what we needed, particularly today, not defense.

Now, I know the Phillies probably are serious, as they signed Wes Holms, I think, last year to play 3B and he didn't do that well and so they are looking again. It excites me that the D'gers are excited because that means that they will have a giant logjam at 3B with Feliz presumably the starter, then what happens to Nomar, plus then there is Andy LaRoche, very highly rated 3B, waiting in the wings.

I've been hoping that, despite the history of not dealing with the devil, that the Giants might, since there is the Sabean-Colletti connection, be able to pry LaRoche off the D'gers hands and if they sign Feliz, that might be an option that gains more possibility. I would be totally OK with trading Lowry for LaRoche and another prospect or two (Blake DeWitt too, can I dream? Or even Chin-Lung Hu?).

Still, there is a gnawing in my gut that the Giants might be the one who ends up signing Feliz to a 3 year contract. Just say No!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Giants Give Invitations to 15 for Spring Training

News on sfgiants.com: the Giants have invited 15 non-roster players to spring training. The players invited include:
  • Bartolome Fortunato: never heard of him! Righty reliever, 33 years old, missed 2007 due to Tommy John surgery, but he "was dominant for Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, going 3-0 and tossing 13 1/3 scoreless innings over 15 relief appearances. He struck out 12 for the Gigantes while yielding four hits in 41 at-bats for a .098 opponents' average." He only has 20 games of major league experience, be still my heart! On the pictorial scale of prospects, he is "throw jell-o at the wall and see if he sticks".
  • Victor Santos: 31 year old right-hander won 11 games for Brew Crew in 2004, but hasn't done much else and has been bouncing from team to team the last few years. He doesn't strike out a lot, though enough, but then walks too much, particularly given his lower strike out rate, and gives up a lot of homers, plus righties are hitting him now, as well as lefties. He also doesn't miss bats enough, he gives up more than the .300 mean pitchers are suppose to regress to. However, Baseball Forecaster lists him as 4.95 ERA in 2008, meaning he could get down towards usefulness in the mid-4's pitching in SF. Not really a prospect, just a body in camp in case the young pitchers expected to take spots in the rotation, namely Correia, Sanchez, and Misch, all fail to do their job, then he probably pitches in AAA and be ready to come up if injuries, god forbid, should happen.
  • Keiichi Yabu: righty reliever, I think he's 38, was with the A's one season, so he has some experience and is not a prospect, just there to see how he does and in case younger relievers flake out.
  • Steve Holm: catching prospect, already 28 years old but catchers tend to develop later, power hitter, wasn't good enough to make Baseball America Top 30 in last season's list, but hit well with Connecticut, hitting for average and sporting a great BB/K ratio of 1.08 (hitters who can keep that ratio over 1.0 regularly hit .300) and that's due to him walking a lot (a great 14%), plus not striking out too much (15% strike out rate translates to a 85% contact rate, min for good hitters). Wow, really nice road numbers, Dodd Stadium strikes again: .276/.392/.447/.840 overall and 10 HR in 257 AB, which is good (though not good MLE apparently, probably due to age), but at home he hit only .244/.356/.386/.742, 3 HR in 127 AB (42 AB/HR), 142 ISO versus away he hit .308/.427/.508/.934, 7 HR in 130 AB (19 AB/HR), 200 ISO (huge power). That's very similar to the splits that prospects playing at Dodd suffered in 2006 had suffered in their power numbers, and his BABIP at Dodd was .277 vs. road of .308. I assume he'll be in AAA in 2008, sharing time with the loser between Alfonso and Rodriguez for the backup position, heck, if he hits as well as his road numbers suggest, he could win the backup spot - though I have to assume that his defense probably is not the greatest if he's hitting well, like he did in 2006 and didn't make the prospect lists.
  • Pablo Sandoval: young (21 year old) catcher who revived his prospect status with a good year at San Jose this past season. He was highly touted going into 2006 but couldn't do much right trying to move to 3B from C, so they still advanced him to San Jose, Advanced A, but moved him back to C and he did well there, hitting .287/.314/.476/.790 with 11 HR in 401 AB (36 AB/HR). I assume he goes to the black hole that is Dodd Stadium by advancing to AA, and with his poor plate discipline of 0.31 BB/K, much like Ishikawa, he might stumble there and lose his renewed prospect status, as it is his power (and to a lesser extent, his BA) that is moving him up. The ray of sunshine is that unlike Ishikawa, he has a good eye and only stuck out 13% of the time in 2007, or a 87% contract rate, which only the best hitters get above. Since that seemed to help Holm, perhaps Sandoval will be able to hit OK enough there to get moved up to AAA in 2009.
  • Jackson Williams: catcher we drafted in supplemental round in 2007, he hit well in college (will be 21 early in 2008 season) but apparently the scouts were not impressed as he's not expected to be that good a hitter. His main value is that he is considered to be a very good defensive catcher, who is capable of calling games (a rarity today apparently). He didn't hit that well in the minors - he signed early enough to get into a bunch of games - but his splits suggest (though small samples) that it might have been flukey, he's a righty but hit very well against RHP but poorly against LHP, and he hit very poorly at home but very well on the road. They probably want to see him up close and personal, being from a top college, he should be playing at a higher level than he did last season, when he was up only to get his feet wet, and need to check him out to see if San Jose is better (advanced A) or Augusta (A-ball).
  • Brian Bocock: Was 26th ranked prospect on BA's Top 30 list for 2007 season, the soon to be 23 year old middle infielder who plays mainly SS, did well in Augusta - for most peripherals except power - but then scuffled in San Jose when he was promoted. Speedster, he stole 41 bases (but was caught 18 times, so that's not good).
  • Emmanuel Burriss: Was a top ranked prospect for the 2007 season but started very cold - reportedly because he improperly prepared for the season, a mistake that he will not repeat, but also perhaps because he was promoted too high, to San Jose. He did better when he was demoted to Augusta. Has a lot of speed, stealing 68 bases (18 CS, adequately successful, but could be deadly with some technique; hello Dave Roberts!) and made BA's Top 10 list for 2008 prospects (I think he was 10th).
  • Brett Harper: New lefty hitting 1B Giants picked up from Mets farm system somehow (was the Mets #14 prospect for 2007), he's 26 year old for the 2008 season and did really well in AA for last season after missing much of the 2006 season due to shoulder injury, but for some reason wasn't promoted at all after hitting .296/.343/.500/.843 with 24 HR in 476 AB (20 AB/HR, very good) and 204 ISO. BA thought that despite his all or nothing hitting approach and poor defensive presence, if he continues to hit for the power he is capable of, he can be a regular for someone somewhere, if not for the Mets - he had 36 homers between A+ and AA in 2005 in 466 AB (13 AB/HR, great rate!). Heck, forget about Ishikawa (see McClain comment below; for some reason my cut/paste function disappears when I'm using Blogger), Harper should be the starting 1B in AAA. Son of former major leaguer, Brian Harper.
  • Justin Leone: very old (31 years old soon) prospect who can play 3B and, if I remember right, he also played CF too at Fresno. Has lot of power and some speed/stealing technique (26 steals, only 1 CS!), leading some fans to think that he could be the answer at 3B or CF during 2007 season. There's a reason he has little MLB experience (32 games) and is over 30.
  • Scott McClain: very old (36 years old in early season) prospect who can play 1B. Has a lot of power and got the call-up in September, where he got into some games, but he has even less MLB experience than Leone (30 games). Seems like he could be an OK backup and power source off the bench, but he's blocking Ishikawa's way to AAA, where I think he should be playing since his options are up this season, and either he stays with the MLB team in 2009 or have to be put on waivers and risk being claimed, but it looks like he's slated for AA again in 2008, where he has zero confidence (or at least has shown zero confidence there), may as well kiss him good-bye.
  • Ivan Ochoa: Nice pickup we got from Cleveland for last season, his bad rap had been his hitting as his fielding at SS as been considered ready for the MLB, but he had a nice year in AAA with Fresno. Only just turned 25 years old, so if he has another good offensive year in AAA, the Giants might decide to release Vizquel before he can vest his option for 2009 by appearing in enough games, and play Ochoa as his MLE was .646 OPS in 2007, which is not far from what Vizquel hit after his cold April. But don't hold high hopes, as he had struggled for a long time to hit, so he needs to repeat in 2008, but the silver lining there is that his contact rate has been nearly 85% the past couple of years, so he does have some ability, just never put it all together until last season. The only head scratcher is that he stole a lot of bases in 2006, but not so much with us in 2007.
  • Ben Copeland: top draft pick (but 4th round because we lost all our higher picks due to free agent signings) in 2005, the CF just turned 24. Has had two OK seasons with Augusta and San Jose, so I assume he jumps to Connecticut this season. Exhibiting little power - none of his HR power in college translated to the pros unfortunately - he should not be affected as much by Dodd offensively. Had 30 SB in 2006 but only 14 in 2007. He is considered a good athlete and a total package but no tools stand out, according to my BA Handbook for 2007 prospects. Looks like another in a long line of CF who can play good defense, use his speed to steal bases, but can't do much else. The good news is that he hit OK the last two seasons, so if he keep on advancing, he could make the majors in 2009-2010 and be a good 4th OF.
  • Brian Horwitz: The 25 year old leftfielder has hit at every level he has played at, and almost always wins the batting title whereever he has played professionally (when he has enough AB/PA to qualify :^). Unfortunately, that's the only thing the Giants #30 top prospects by BA can do, as he has no power or speed. He made the move to AAA last year and did really well. He really reduced his strikeout rate in 2007 - and it was good before, just among the best now. He probably would make a good 4th OF in 2009 and main PH. He has also played some 1B, so he might see some games there, but his power profiles more like a SS, so he's definitely lacking the power to start at 1B.
  • Mike McBryde: Rated the fastest player in the system by BA, in a system that has a lot of speedsters, the #12 top prospect, the soon to be 23 year old CF had what I would call a disappointing season in Augusta. Only 14 SB (11 CS) and struck out way too much for someone who would profile as a lead-off hitter (and walked way too little to boot). But that is kind of too be expected as he is kind of raw for a hitter, as he also was a closer as well as CF in college (low 90's fastball with a plus curveball). BA said that the Giants view him as above-average defensively in CF already at the start of the 2007 season, and that they will have to work hard with him to make him into a legitimate hitter.
For 2008, keep an eye out for Harper, Ochoa, and Horwitz, maybe Yabu, Fortunato, Holm, Leone and McClain, in about that order (maybe flip-flop Harper and Ochoa). Harper seems the most likely though, given his power and only Dan Ortmeier standing in his way. As much as I've been advocating Ortmeier, I would be just about as happy with Harper if he can force his way to the majors with a great spring. I'm just looking of cheap there who has potential of doing well there. Heck, they could even platoon, Harper is a lefty.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hall of What Are The Writers Thinking

The Hall of Fame voting was released the other day and only Goose Gossage made it this year. Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven, and Andre Dawson were close but missed again.

Why No Blyleven?

How Bert Blyleven isn't in the Hall of Fame, I have no idea. When he was playing, I remember how the media sang about his curveball, he quite possibly had the best curveball ever in the history of the game, according to some that I read. He was only 13 games short of 300 wins, but that wasn't his fault, he started 685 games and had a 3.31 ERA when the league average was 3.90, giving him a career ERA+ of 118, which is very good.

Don Sutton is a Hall of Famer, and his ERA+ was only 108. Gaylord Perry, another famer, had an ERA+ of 117. HoF's Fergie Jenkins's ERA+ was 115, plus he didn't win 300 games either. The link between Blyleven and these pitchers? They are the top 3 in similarity score for Blyleven in Baseball-Reference.com's profile page for him. Other Hall of Fame pitcher in his Top 10 similarity score include: Tom Seaver, Early Wynn, Phil Niekro, and Steve Carlton.

Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, I can go either way. I put them in the Bobby Bonds category, they were good for a long time but not a very long time, and that hurt them. I've stated that I think Bobby Bonds belongs - and campaigned for it in previous years - but I don't think he's ever getting in. There was the slim chance that when Barry Bonds got voted in, there might be some sympathy vote that gets him in that same year, but with the whole steriods cloud hanging over Barry's head, he'll be lucky to get in himself now.

What's Wrong With the Media?

Other people voted in by the new Veteran's Committee (the last version had HoF players manning the committee, in hopes that they would be more inclusive, but instead they voted nobody in) include World Series-winning managers Dick Williams (the only one alive of this group) and Billy Southworth were elected along with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss.

In addition to Blyleven, how could Walter O'Malley and Dick Williams take so long to get elected? I know the media wasn't responsible for other group, specifically, but they are suppose to help champion causes, why no outrage over O'Malley not getting voted in. As much as I hate the D'gers, I respect the history and interlinking their franchise have with the Giants franchise in the past. And what more did Dick Williams have to do? He won two World Series, got into another, and was a winner for most of his career as manager.

I know that when you get a big group of people together, some people will disagree and vote no for the Hall of Fame. But when you have obvious players who deserve to go in, like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron, NOT get a unanimous vote to get in, you have to wonder about the mental abilities of the writers who chose to not vote for them.

I've never been able to figure out how to fix it so that people who clearly are not qualified - really, how can anyone not vote for those great players above and numerous other players into the Hall of Fame - but I am not ready to give up yet.

I had thought maybe that automatic expulsion if someone got 90% (or some high number) and they voted no would do it, but then you would have people voting yes for players in fear of getting drummed out. Another idea I had is having all the votes by the voters be recorded somewhere. That way, they will have to live with the public shame of voting no to obvious Hall of Famers. Again, that might lead some to vote yes when they wouldn't have.

Another idea I had was that each voter would get 10 gimmees (one for each year they were in the writers association in order to be eligible to vote), where they use up a gimmee for each time they vote no for a player who had 95% (or some high percentage) of the votes, and once they lost all 10 gimmees, they lose their voting rights.

Post your ideas, I would love to see if anyone has a way around this problem.

Rowand: Harder and Harder

I was going to post this photo but for some reason blogger wouldn't comply, so here is a link: photo of Rowand at park.

Aaron Rowand met the press of the Bay Area newspapers yesterday and there were accounts of his visit in the Merc, the Chron, and sfgiants.com. Again, each account gives a similar account but with different details that each thought was important.

All in all, it was a "feel-good" session, a "meet-n-greet" with the Giants new star (highest paid position player), in order to get to know him better. Didn't know this, but apparently he once had a dirt-bike accident that damaged his shoulder in the off-season but luckily for him it healed enough to enable him to play the season. Apparently he was millimeters away from dying in that incident (lots more than the shoulder was broken/hurt) and he swore off dirt-biking, and presumably other dangerous activities, see this good quote from the Merc:

"More than anything, I learned that it's not worth risking the future of my family," said Rowand, who is married with two kids. "I almost ended my career - and my life."
But it was that charge-hard attitude that he brings when he crosses the white lines that got him injured twice, first with his collision with the CF fence (but he still caught the ball) and then his collision with Chase Utley.

Still, he felt that he was unfairly characterized as injury prone (Phillies, in the contract negotiations), for he noted that the only two times he was on the DL was for the two aforementioned collisions, which was the same season, and that he played 161 games last season. It sounds like he has learned from his hard knocks in life and, while he will always try his hardest to get things done, perform well, and win games, he knows that he has to amp it down sometimes too, so that he doesn't get injured.

He sounds like he takes the team leader label to heart and is taking the challenge that Bochy gave to lead the team by example, to have that "warrior" attitude that Bochy spoke about after the season. One version noted that there was a dichotomy between Rowand's professed "one-of-the-guys" attitude and the Giants wanting him to represent the club, but I don't see it nor do I see any problem with that. It was noted that Rowand could hide behind outsized personalities with the White Sox or stay in Ryan Howard's shadow, but when Rowand busted his nose/face catching that ball, Howard wasn't much more than a highly hyped, unproven prospect, who did very well (VERY well) the season before, but there was still some question how he would do over a full season. At that point, they were pretty much on the same footing, if anything, Rowand was the vet, he had a great season just two seasons before. And being the new kid on the White Sox, yeah, he probably didn't go up front, but that wasn't his place either.

I see no problem with him being both "one-of-the-guys" and being a leader, the face of the franchise. He can do that in the clubhouse by acting normal and like one of the guys, but then when the Giants PR beckons, go out and be the glib funny star of the team, the guy the media will go to for quotes and stuff. Some players have too much ego for that, and is aloof from the rest of the team, or worse, think that they are above everyone else, but there are still people who have checked their egos permanently at the door and can be one of the guys. Rowand sounds like one of them, based on what I read in the accounts and previous articles.

I like this quote from the Chron's account, which appears to be in response to a question about why he joined the Giants, partly for the 5th year that other teams didn't offer, partly because Bochy told him he wants Rowand to infuse his style of play into what has been a staid team:
"Boch wanted to get the team going in a direction of playing the game hard, getting dirty, being aggressive," Rowand said. "He wants to build this team around that style of play, and that's the way I play. It's a very good fit for me as a player. In Chicago, they called it grinder style."

The Merc version had a good take on what the Giants are hoping to get from Rowand beyond what he brings to the table as a player, the elusive intangibles label that is used to sell a new player:

In creating their post-Barry Bonds locker room, the Giants wanted someone who could rejuvenate the sagging atmosphere. They wanted a gritty, selfless, hustling, nose-to-the-wall, heart-on-his-sleeve maniac who would show younger players what it means to be a professional.

In addition, Chron noted that he feels that teammates need to be close. So he organizes things with teammates in order to get them to know each other and be closer. He feels that establishing cohesion would translate into wins:

"That's how you create chemistry," he said. "That's how you can hold people accountable, because you go up and say something to them and they're not going to get pissed off at you because they think you're attacking them. You're saying it to them as a friend and a teammate."

He sounds, overall, like he will do what Mark Sweeney had tried to do for the team the past two seasons with his Giants Idol competition, except that he'll be one of the leaders of the team, and not (no offense to Sweeney) one of the scrubs, the reserves. It takes one of the stars to create such an environment in the clubhouse, as admirable a job as Sweeney did, and Rowand now has the mandate to do such a thing.

I like this quote from the sfgiants.com account, as Rowand noted:

"I have a passion for the history of the game."

I love history, you can learn a lot from history, and I think it is good when players know the history of the game and not just think about the money they make from the game. That, to me, shows proper respect for the game.

Rowand also appears to read my blog. :^) Here are his thoughts about how the Giants can be competitive in 2008:
"This team is going to be very competitive this year. I guarantee it," Rowand said. "Who knows? If guys have some good years, this team can win the division."

"Pitching is No. 1," Rowand said, recalling some of his Chicago White Sox teams that finished second despite robust hitting. "Everybody [asks], if you're all about winning, why did you go to San Francisco? I'm like, take a look! Look closer. Don't just look at the fact that they were in last place. Look at the pieces they have, the young guys who are going to be here for a long time. It makes sense to me."
It is going to take a heck of a lot of good years, but I like that he thinks that way, or are at least is willing to smile cheerily for the press and say good things about his new team. Hopefully he can convince the Giants to never entertain the idea or even the thought of trading Lincecum or Cain. Yes, TINSTAAPP, but you have to roll your dices somewhere, I would rather we roll it with our young pitching prospects and see where it leads us than trade them for the comforts of a nice hitter.

Thought I would end with a quote from the Merc, I think it captures Rowand's essence well:
"When I go home every night, I can put my head on my pillow and go to sleep," he said. "I don't lay there and wonder: What if I'd tried harder? What if I'd given more?

"That's how I play. That's the game that I bring."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yippee: Feliz Talks Run Aground

The Chron reports that the Feliz contract talks have run aground. The Giants had set a deadline for Feliz to agree to a contract and it has passed. Unfortunately, it doesn't totally eliminate the possibility of resigning Feliz. But the closer we get to the end of the Feliz era in SF, the better.

Bay City Ball posted on this and suggests that the Giants should pursue Morgan Ensberg. I was going to post a similar sentiment when he was released, but never got around to posting it, so I put my comment up at Bay City Ball if you want to read my comments, plus further thought and analysis.

Happy if No Feliz

The more I think about this, the more I am against Feliz returning. Sure, he would have to do well if he got a one year or year with option contract from us, but I don't believe in trying to retain disgruntled players, they tend to bring their resentments to the ballpark and this will affect their play. The best players turn that into a positive and do well, but after all these years of Feliz saying that he has turned a new leaf in one way or another - and then he doesn't - I don't believe he can do it, he has cried wolf one too many times for me.

And if he returns to the Giants, after making bold statements in public about "3 year contracts" and "other cities have schools too" (a reference to his preference for 2007 season to return to the Giants last off-season because his children go to school here, apparently; I wonder if his kids get taunted by other kids because Pedro can't hit or get a walk?), he is going to have egg on his face and would feel a sense of shame, losing face in such a public way, and perhaps lose confidence, having to come back to the Giants without the 3 year contract he so publicly demanded.

In any case, I still prefer having 3B open for Kevin Frandsen to start there if he does not beat out Durham (essentially a competition between Frandsen, Durham, and Aurilia for 2B and 3B), but if the Giants have to get someone, I think I would rather have Enberg than Feliz. He is possibly nearing the end of his career, but he is a good defensive 3B (he was a top 10 in Plus/Minus in Fielding Bible), and right now we could use a hitter who can get on base well plus hit with some power. In addition, given his recent problems the past couple of seasons, we can probably sign him for half what we would have to pay Feliz to play for us in 2008. Feliz made $5.5M in 2007 and probably expects a raise - again! - for 2008, when I think he should get a pay cut, much like I thought last off-season when he got a raise again. I would also think that having a manager who believes in him would be a boost to his confidence, I would think that Garner's lack of confidence had to have affected him.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

D-backs Re-Arms: Haren Trade

Now that's an upgrade! I'm a bit late but wanted to post my thoughts on this trade. The Arizona D-backs traded for Dan Haren by giving up nearly half of their 2008 Baseball America Top 10 (#1,3,7,8) - Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham, and Chris Carter - plus Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, a pair of pitching prospects (Eveland was once #7 on BA Top 10 for the Brew Crew).

The A's get a bundle of top prospects/suspects in their haul for Haren. It reminded me of the Vida Blue trade, young popular pitcher for the A's, traded for a bushel-load of players. But it is a pretty good haul for the Athletics. Eveland has dazzled as a starter in AAA but has struggled in the majors; however, he's still only 24 years old. Greg Smith reached AAA in 2007 and could be ready soon for the majors; he had great command in 2007 (96 K/32 BB in 122 IP). And the BA Top 10 prospects could comprise 2/3rds of the A's outfield in a year or two (Gonzalez and Cunningham), a 1B/DH in Carter, and another starting pitcher (Anderson) to add to Eveland and Smith. Of course, not all of them are going to pan out, but there's a lot to work with here, plus Beane will probably pick up some more prospects when he trades Blanton and Street at some point.

Tim Kawakami took a swipe at the A's for not having a good farm system, when the trade happened, but as I have been noting, when a team is consistently winning for a long period of time, the odds of selecting a good prospect with their first round pick is severely diminished and thus the farm system will get progressively worse over time unless they invest money into the international free agents and/or save up money to select the great prospects who happen to fall down to them in the draft, like when Detroit picked up Porcello, a clear Top 5 pick (if not #1) with their pick - 27th overall - in 2007's draft or Arizona picking up Stephen Drew #15.

Twin Aces

Seems like the D-backs have been reading my thoughts! :^) But, truthfully, I got my "aha" moment from the D-back's Johnson/Schilling pairing for their World Series championship team and cemented it with the D-ger's Koufax/Drysdale pairing during their nice run together.

The D-backs essentially replace Livan Hernandez with Dan Haren, pairing him with Brandon Webb in a duo aces rotation that I've been advocating for the Giants as a way to improve their chances in the playoffs. In particular, they now have two pitchers who can put up good PQS stats. Webb had a 65% DOM/0% DIS in 2007 and that's pretty much what he put up in 2005 and 2006, an amazing run of consistency and domination. Haren was good previously (50%/18% in 2005; 53%/6% in 2006) but elite in 2007 with 74% DOM/3% DIS.

The only negative I can see is that Haren had a huge leap in 2007 that was created by improvement in two areas that might not repeat in 2008: HR/FB about 40% less than normal and a BABIP that was unsustainably low (0.23) in first half of season; when they did not repeat, he had a pretty normal ERA relative to his past career with the A's. In addition, analysis by Baseball Forecaster says that, still, overall, his second half and first half were about the same skill-wise, and similar to his previous two years with the A's, so he probably won't be as good as he looked in 2007 (i.e. Billy Beane sold high on Haren, perhaps very high). Still, he benefits from joining the NL, where he gets to face pitchers, and is hurt by pitching in Arizona, where offense rules. It will be interesting which Haren shows up.

Meanwhile, they have mortgaged their short-term prospects who might have come up and help, but they were all extraneous to the team, as they are set in the OF long-term with Brynes, Young, and Upton, and with this trade they are set in their rotation long term with Webb, Haren, and Owing, with Doug Davis and Randy Johnson as the rest of the rotation (though Johnson's poor health in recent year suggests they will have to use someone from the minors, like Yusmeiro Petit and their new acquisition, Billy Buckner, from the Royals. In addition, they saved a lot of money long term by trading away their closer, Jose Valverde, money they can use to sign their young players long-term.

Speaking of which, I was shocked by the timing of the Valverde trade, clearly they are related, because you don't trade away one of the league's top closers when you think you are World Series worthy. There's no reason to do a trade to get Haren unless you think you close enough to going all the way.

I think the D-backs did what they had to, should do, but that they will be second guessed after the 2008 season if it does not turn out to be as great as 2007, which is my expectation. They were horribly over their expected wins based on their runs scored and allowed, so they would have to duplicate that in 2008 in order to contend because they should have been 79-83, not 90-72, an 11 game swing. Part of that was their ability to close out games, led by Valverde plus a bunch of relievers that I would have to say had career years. They had better hope that Qualls is ready to close.

Plus, as I noted above, Haren will have some obstacles against him repeating 2007 in 2008. His home park is a big question mark, there is 11% more runs scored there than in an average park (according to Bill James Handbook), that pretty much eliminates the advantage of moving to the NL for Haren. His FIP was 3.66, much above his actual 3.07 ERA, though still better than his previous years. But he's just 27 years old in 2008, so these are the years one would expect to see sustained improvement as he enters his peak physical years. But those are pretty strong forces pushing towards an ERA at least in the mid-3's. Still, that's pretty damn good.

Giants Thoughts

As a Giants fan, I cannot help but feel afraid that the D-backs could be the cream of the division for a while, with their combination of vets and a lot of youth, good to great youth. Plus the 'Dres and D'gers appear to have a similar mix of vets and good youth, remaking the NL West from the NL Worst to NL Best. The Giants more than ever need to hold onto Cain and Lincecum this season and then figure out everything else around them. I think that the D-backs will be formidable starting in 2009, with several key young players needing to further develop in 2008, resulting in what their fans would view as a disappointment relative to their great success in 2007.

Still, they are in a much better situation than the Giants. But I must note to those who are down on the Giants because of this, that the D-backs are deeper into their rebuild cycle than we are, they have been rebuilding since 2004 and their rebuild got a big boost of a year or two when Stephen Drew fell to them when they had a relatively bad #15 pick overall. If they had not gotten him, it could have taken another year or two for them to rebuild.

That's a benefit the Giants did not take advantage of when they passed over Porcello and drafted Alderson; nothing against Alderson, I still think that he can be very good, but Porcello was considered among the top picks of the draft and Detroit, who was in the World Series the year before, was able to pick him, subverting what the draft is suppose to be doing, driving talent to the weaker teams. That enabled them to trade Andrew Miller to the Marlins and pick up Cabrera and Willis.

This emphasizes for me even more that the Giants must look towards punting the 2008 season, try out a bunch of young guys and see who can actually play in the majors, select a good HITTING prospect in the June draft, and then look to getting competitive in 2009. Even with our weak offense, our pitching is very good and should only get better, barring any injuries. But it won't be good enough for even this weak offense to be more than a .500 team, so the Giants should look more to the future in 2008, and think ahead to 2009. By then, hopefully the young pitching will have matured enough to be consistently good to great, and we would have picked up another good bat that will boost the offense enough to get the team to and past .500 in 2009.

Giants Old News: No McPherson

As I noted before, I had written a bunch of stuff, so pardon the staleness of the news, but I wanted to get them out nonetheless. I usually make it one big post, but I think I'm going to post them individually.

Some news during the holidays on the Giants:
  • Giants and McPherson go their own way: not too surprising when his agent is Scott Boras, money is the main objective, opportunity to be the future long-term 3B is secondary since there might be opportunities elsewhere. But the longer he's out, there's a chance Boras might come back to the Giants, hat in hand, for McPherson; I just read that Cory Patterson, another Boras client, had priced himself out with the Orioles, but now that starting OF opportunities are drying up, they have come back to the Orioles to see what they can get, so he might try that same tactic for McPherson soon, spring training will be starting pretty soon.
  • Giants kicking tires with Tony Clark: not too surprising, Clark is a part-time 1B and so will be paid like one, he has power, with the idea of Ortmeier getting a chance at 1B but Clark is a nice (in Giants mind) fallback/replacement should Orty fail. I wouldn't be thrilled by such a move, but as long as he doesn't cost much money it's a "meh" type of move, nothing exciting either way. I would rather the Giants just start bringing up their 1B prospects in the minors, any of the old guys from AAA last year still around (Leone, McClain) or even give Ishikawa a final chance, his options are up in 2008, may as well see what he can do with an extended chance, his defense is great, see if he can survive up here and deliver some power than rely on an old vet who will cost money to play for us. In any case, I think this is probably a red herring as it's source was Clark's agent talking about places Clark could play at: "Yeah, he'll fit right in there, just give us a nice two year contract..."
  • Giants kicking tires with Kent Benson: not too surprising, Benson could be a buy low, sell high opportunity, but I think the main reason the Giants were there was because Sabean's new advisor, Ron Shueler (former GM of ChiSox), makes his home nearby to where Benson recently pitched in front of scouts to generate interest in his services. I assume the thinking is that he might be an option for the rotation should the Giants be able to trade off Lowry and/or Sanchez for a good hitter, but, again, why not give Correia and Misch the opportunity to start? Plus, by the May/June time period, if either is failing at starting, there's always Hennessey to take a spot, plus there should be a minor leaguer or two who show enough promise to come up and get a shot. Nick Pereira has been touted by some fantasy analysts as a pitcher who would get a chance to start with the Giants in 2007, so he's a possibility for 2008 as well. Henry Sosa has a blazing fastball, he could rise up fast if he can harness his heater; Sanchez made just as fast an ascent, if not faster.
  • Fear and Loathing, Part Feliz: the longer the Giants are without a 3B, the more I worry that they will resign Feliz. Not that getting him would be the end of the world forecasted by some fans, but I really want Durham to get a chance to try to make himself valuable enough to trade, and that would mean Frandsen gets moved to 3B initially (notice that Aurilia's name has not popped up once as an option) to start, with the plan being to either DFA Durham or trade Durham by or before mid-season, install Frandsen as starting 2B, and either start Aurilia at 3B or obtain a 3B prospect by then. Plus the thought of him getting a raise or, eww, a two year contract, is enough to make me, well, you know....

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Giants 2008: Work In Progress

Sorry it's been a while everyone, but my kids' great-grandmother passed away and we needed to go to the funeral and take care of other things.

Giants 2008: DOA?

Speaking of funerals, most Giants fans have been writing the Giants 2008 epithet already - "DOA" - and I would be personally happy with that. My underlying objective, which I don't think I've made explicitly clear up to now, is to earn another Top 5 draft pick with a pretty lousy 2008. In other words, a rebuilding year. This philosophy has driven much of my thoughts on what the Giants should be doing at each position and how they should approach any trade proposals. So I've been wanting to post my collective thoughts on my master plan for the 2008 Giants.

Starting Lineup

There are some clear starters. Molina at C. Vizquel at SS. Roberts/Davis platoon in LF. Rowand in CF. Winn in RF.

I was initially not happy about Rowand's addition, when I first heard the news, because I wanted Schierholtz to start in RF, but after thinking through everything and looking over Rowand's career stats, I'm pretty happy with his acquisition. His contract size is that for an average OF, but if he can hit like 2004/2007, we have an above average OF for an average salary. And even if he is average, with the 10%+ salary inflation of the past number of years, he'll be cheap at the end of the contract, salary-wise, so he could decline in performance and still be reasonably priced. More importantly, the Giants management HAD to HAVE a better hitter in the lineup, and better signing one than trading Lincecum or Cain for one.

I think Durham should start at 2B initially with Frandsen starting at 3B. If Durham returns to normal, he should be tradeable for a nice prospect mid-season, and Frandsen then starts at 2B and Aurilia at 3B. If Durham sucks, then bench him and Frandsen then starts at 2B and Aurilia at 3B. I would be OK with signing Morgan Ensberg, he has a nice history as a hitter and fielder, but prefer giving Frandsen playing time, however it happens. Also, we might be able to flip Ensberg for a nice prospect mid-season if he returns to his former levels of production.

I think Ortmeier should start at 1B. I like him and think he can do well if given the chance, but realize that his career numbers suggest otherwise. If he plays well enough - something in the high 700 OPS range - plus provide power like last season (about 25 AB/HR) and get to steal some bases, great. If he flops as most seem to expect, that's OK, Aurilia could start playing more.

What people are forgeting is that flopping can be good too, in that our offense doesn't do well and we lose games and get better draft position. I think Ortmeier and Frandsen can do OK for us at 1B and 3B, and that Durham can return to some performance level at 2B, but even if they don't we don't lose much money or prospects in trying to obtain players who would be better than they are in performance AND we get better draft position.

I would like to see Randy Winn traded to a contender. People seem to prefer trading Roberts and keeping Winn, but I don't see why. First, Winn is the better player, has a very reasonable contract, and would return more in a trade. Second, he plays a lot of games, but we have a lot of OF prospects who needs playing time; keeping Roberts gives these other players more playing time because he's a platoon player and is prone to injuries. Third, people seem to be forgetting that we don't have any player other than Roberts who makes sense as a leadoff hitter. Winn was never a leadoff hitter and the next most obvious hitter would be Rowand but we need him hitting in the middle of the order. Most importantly, trading Winn opens a position for Schierholtz in RF, whereas trading Roberts would probably push Davis out of playing time, as Schierholtz should start full-time, was would Rowand and Winn.

Starting Pitching

As I've been advocating for a long time now, the Giants centerpiece going forward should be their starting rotation, with Cain and Lincecum as the core, key top of rotation pitchers for the time being. If we are lucky enough to have more aces come up, then we can think about trading one of them for a hitter, but for now, we should keep Cain and Lincecum for their full six years, minimum.

Obviously, Zito's going nowhere with his monster contract, but I'm not worried about him. Sure, his peripherals stink, but he's capable of pitching well without great peripherals, as he showed in Oakland his last two years there, and as he showed at the end of the 2007 season once he settled down and stopped trying to be an ace and just be himself (something like a 4.11 ERA in the second half). People need to get past his salary and look at his position in the rotation: he's probably the one of the best #3 starter in the majors.

And while I've been pushing to trade Lowry, I'm more than happy to keep him as I think he's shown that he's capable of pitching well even with bad peripherals too. He has been able to keep his ERA in the sub-4 region for much of his career - except for when he tried to pitch with an injury in September 2006, ruining his sub-4 ERA he had prior to that month - and only top of rotation pitchers are able to keep their ERA in that range. I won't argue with anyone (that means you Boof! :^) about whether Lowry is one or not, but if he can deliver another sub-4 ERA season in 2008, he should be the best #4 starter in the majors by a wide margin.

That leaves #5. Correia was outstanding in his 2007 starts and should have the inside track to taking that position. Sanchez and Misch will also contend, plus if Lowry does get traded, both would get a shot at replacing him. I love both Sanchez's and Misch's high K/9 in AAA and above, so I think the Giants should definitely keep the two of them starting in 2008, even if in the minors, but given management's history, they probably will end up in the MLB bullpen in 2008. I think people should keep an eye out for Misch, he's just waiting for an opportunity I think.

Bench

Given that I view 2008 as a rebuilding year where we should try to get a Top 5 draft pick for 2009, I just want to fill it with farmhands, no new vets. Alfonso or Rodriguez as backup catcher. Aurilia as backup for the entire infield, plus ready to start at 1B or 3B. Probably Eugenio Velez to backup 2B and OF, maybe SS. Then Schierholtz and Rajai Davis in the OF.

However, the Giants will probably keep Lewis as backup and start Schierholtz in AAA, give him more seasoning plus keep him in a starting role. Unless Winn or Roberts is traded, then Nate's in the majors.

Bullpen

I like the bulllpen overall. Brian Wilson closing, with Tyler Walker and Brad Hennessey set-up. Steve Kline and Jose Capellan as loogies (sorry Taschner). Vinnie Chulk should also make it. Then Messenger, Taschner, Threets, Sanchez, Misch, Sadler, Anderson battle for the last spot.

2008 Giants

People are clearly right that losing Bonds is huge, but we had a bad luck of the draw year in 2007. Looking at the stats, I realized that when Durham hit 5th, he had a really horrible OPS, but in other lineup positions, he hit better. So when Bonds was in the lineup, he often had Durham hitting 5th behind him, leading to the anomaly where the Giants only scored 4.0 runs per game with him in the lineup and 4.7 runs without him, resulting in a 4.2 runs per game average overall. Using the lineup calculator, I estimate that Durham's poor hitting costed the Bonds lineup 0.4-0.5 runs per game.

Plus there were a couple of lucky double-digit blowouts without Bonds. Without those, the Bonds-less lineup dropped to 4.4-4.5 runs per game. I think with Rowand's addition and either Durham's return or Frandsen's ascendency, the current lineup can keep scoring in the 4.2-4.3 runs range, which combined with our stellar starting rotation and improving bullpen (runs allowed around 4.4 in 2007, development and improvement should drop that to 4.2-4.3 in 2008) , should return us to the .500 level, a level, I would add, that we would have been near anyhow in 2007, had the team performed to Pythagorean levels - they should have won 77 games in 2007, and switching 4 of those losses would return us to .500. As Bill James noted before, teams who underperform one year tend to move in the other direction (i.e. get lucky) in the subsequent year.

.500 is Death

But as Billy Beane recently said, it's better to be either contending or doing poorly, because it is death to be in the middle. That fits in with what my research showed about the probability of selecting good players via the draft and my study of how teams have returned to winning ways after losing for a number of years. It is basically what my Phoenix Theory of Rebuilding entails: in order to rebuild efficiently and effectively, you need to shift quickly from contending to sucking, pick up some Top 5 draft picks for at least 2 seasons, then start trying to contend again by signing premiere free agents to fill positions of need. That means jettisoning useful major leaguers, like Barry Bonds, and playing more of your prospects in important starting roles.

And that means not signing middling talent via free agency, only signing above average talent at a reasonable price. Acquiring middling talent via free agency doesn't do anything for you other than use up your payroll. We've seen this with the Giants since they passed up on trying to sign top players like Vlad or Carlos Beltran. As I wrote the season they could have pursued Vlad, with limited payroll, the Giants could either spend a little here and there on mediocrity to fill out the roster, or they could swing for the fences and sign a Vlad. Or fill in the appropriate name after that, like Beltran, Ordonez, etc.

There's no way the Giants can compete effectively in 2008 and win it all unless the players all reach their potentials together in one year, very unlikely. Thus give Ortmeier and Frandsen a chance to start, plus hopefully Schierholtz. Give Wilson a chance to close. Don't sign any expensive free agents (anything over $2-3M per season) and pour money into the international market, look into Japan, China, Taiwan, look deeper in the Carribean. Try to outbid other teams for international prospects even if they think the player isn't worth that much, just focus more on getting good prospects to sign with us. I see other teams getting good prospects for under $1M, we should be getting those prospects instead if money is all they are looking for, we can overpay a little, we must overpay, to add talent to the system.

All the worries I've seen on other sites and other fans are really just alternate forms of "shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic" type of moves. They pooh-pooh Ortmeier at 1B, Frandsen at 3B, etc. Unless some team gives us some great prospects for Lowry and/or Sanchez (which is possible in his case, the Mets reportedly offered Carlos Gomez for him once), our offense will not be good enough to be strongly competitive, to be World Series caliber, unless we get lucky on the level that the D-backs got lucky in 2007, which is very lucky.

In addition, .500 teams get a draft pick in the middle of the draft round, where the odds are still greatly against you finding a good player there, unless Boras has scared teams away again from a prospect (like Porcello last season, Hochvear previously, etc.), in which case the Giants should sign him and pay him what he wants. Getting draft picks in the middle of the round dooms you to a long and unproductive draft replenishment of talent.

You need to get Top 5 picks to really speed up the rebuilding process, it increases the odds of finding a good player multi-fold over the middle of the draft, and especially over the end of the first round, where winners pick. We lucked out with Lincecum (who really should have been a top 5 pick), hopefully we will luck out with our #5 pick in 2008, and I am hoping we can get another top 5 pick for 2009 by losing in 2008. Those picks will go a long way to making the Giants team strong in the 2010-2012 time frame, particularly with Villalona coming up around then.

And the cheapest and best way to do that is to play all of our prospects who show some potential in 2008 and jettison all the veteran players who are blocking a viable prospect, first Bonds, but also Winn, Durham, and Kline. Unfortunately, Durham is not tradeable, so the odds are we will be stuck with him, so we may as well start him and hope he returns to career form and thus be tradeable for a nice prospect, which again builds for the future. At least Frandsen will be able to start at 3B, else I would be for dumping Durham immediately, Frandsen should be starting somewhere.

Roberts might be blocking a viable prospect like Fred Lewis, but I think one of the problems the 1970's and 1980's Giants had was that they did not have a lot of vets there long enough to teach the youngsters how to play the game, and given the speed we have in our system, I think Roberts should be kept to help our young players adjust to the majors and more importantly teach them something about stealing as well. Having him for multiple seasons will allow him to influence our speedburners.

All in all, 2008 should be a rebuilding year. If the youngsters can perform well and we have a .500 season, that's great, because that means we have additional talent as building blocks for 2009, and perhaps are one good player away from competing again. If the youngsters don't perform well, as many Giants fans suspect, we'll have a crappy season from a winning viewpoint but a great year from a drafting viewpoint. Either way, the Giants would be advancing in 2008, either via a great draft pick or by identifying additional viable major league hitters and pitchers who could contribute in 2009 and beyond.

That, to me, would be a successful 2008 season. Hoping and manuevering for more, for a competitive season, is unrealistic, and worse, it would stall the rebuilding process that we need to go through in 2008 in order to hopefully return to competitiveness quickly so that we don't waste too many seasons of Cain and Lincecum to rebuilding efforts. Acquiring veteran players who hold back prospects only slows down the rebuilding, which ends up wasting another season of Cain and Lincecum together. We must rebuild as quickly as possible.

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