Monday, September 29, 2008

BA on Sandoval

Wanted to note Baseball America's take on Sandoval, that's freely available here. Here are some tidbits on Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval:
  • "Sandoval is equally adept from either side of the plate, and he can pull the ball to hit for power or take pitches the other way. He shows a willingness to take what pitchers give him, and though he swings hard he shows good plate discipline."
  • "Though he has arm strength and threw out 46 percent of basestealers with San Jose, his hands and lack of agility work against him at catcher. San Francisco also played him at both infield corners, but his squat body and limited athleticism don't profile well there either."
  • "The Giants have liked Sandoval's swing for years.... With a strong, compact frame and a powerful, short stroke from both sides of the plate, he produced at all three stops."
  • "He can really, really hit," an AL scout said. "I saw him again at the Futures Game, and he fit right in with the better hitters there."
  • "He has a strong arm, but the scouts contacted for this list who had seen Sandoval catch didn't believe he could play there regularly in the major leagues. Two managers said Sandoval had problems just physically squatting behind the plate, while two AL scouts both used the same cliché: "He can't catch a cold.""
  • "Interestingly, Sandoval is an ambidextrous thrower with nearly as much arm strength throwing lefthanded as he has righthanded. He would profile better defensively at first base if he moved there and focused on throwing with his left hand. He has seen time at both corner infield positions."

Giants Thoughts

This should temper fans expectations on Sandoval, though I should note that BA has to keep a hard line on him, they didn't list him on their Giants prospects list for two years running, even after his good season in 2007, so they had their reasons for not putting him on their Top 30 list (luckily I didn't listen to them and drafted him in my Fantasy League) and are probably still holding to them.

One thing I found odd is the mention that has "limited athleticism" and "lack of agility". Most of the stuff I've heard this year was that he is more athletic than his body would lead people to assume. And anyone who has seen his two scores in the past week, dodging around the catcher to score critical runs, would have to say that his body belies his athleticism, it almost makes me think that whoever saw him saw him in limited play, because I would describe his scoring as almost balletic.

Particularly the one I posted on where he slide perfectly, PERFECTLY, to the foul side of the plate, dodging the catcher and then deftly reaching his hand out to touch home plate. Then again, the one where he scored and injured his quad (which would be understandable if you saw it), he lept in the air to avoid the catcher's tag then scrambled to touch homeplate and score and that was pretty good in itself. I don't say this to be mean, but it reminded me of Disney's Fantasia where there were dancing hippos who were extremely graceful. He was just that good.

There are not a lot of plays in baseball where I would call them a thing of baseball beauty but I would count both of Sandoval's slides among the top in my memory of Giants players, up there with Willie Mays' World Series catch and throw against the Indians, Shinjo's amazing throw (from a blown catch by the RF), much like Mays, he just grabs the ball and hurls it blindly with his back to home plate, to home plate (I still wish I kept the Tivo newscast for that play), any of Vizquel's numerous beauties, Snow's great plays at 1B, plus his score and snatch of Darren Baker. Call me an oddball, but I almost felt a tear coming to my eye watching Sandoval score, he couldn't have made a more perfect slide to score, the margin was that slim, and I was in awe.

Thus, I wonder how apt their suggestion that he stick to 1B is, as perhaps he is athletic enough to still handle 3B. Plus, if he's as good a hitter as he is, we could play him at 3B (though the times he did play there, his range was woefully poor in the majors, 1.42 Range Factor vs. 2.23 Range Factor for the league) in 2009 while the Giants try out Bowker and/or Ishikawa at 1B, then if they don't pan out, he could move to 1B (range factor poor there as well, but much closer to league average) for 2010, or even could be a roving utility player, getting regular starts at C, 1B, and 3B, much like we had envisioned for Velez.

If he's as good a hitter as he has shown, then even if we don't have a regular position for him, as long as we can play him regularly, there will be an AL team willing to trade good talent for Sandoval to be their DH at some point in the future. But I'm more hoping he can settle into one position and play a while for us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Giants Second Straight Most Spectacular Pitcher

Been wanting to mention that our Madison Bumgarner won the Most Spectacular Pitcher Award for 2008, given to the pitcher who had the lowest ERA in the minors for that season. It was the second year in a row for the Giants, won last year by Kevin Pucetas, also at Augusta, like Bumgarner.

The amazing thing is that Bumgarner started the season out of sync because the Giants asked him to modify his mechanics, so they let him go back to his old form, and yet he still won this award because he had something like a sub-1.00 ERA after he went back. He was also one of the youngest pitchers in the league, making it all the more amazing.

I wonder if the team will give him a Green Jacket in commemoration of his award? :^)

FYI, Pucetas followed up his award winning year by hurling a 3.02 ERA at San Jose, good for second behind teammate Tim Alderson for pitchers with over 100 IP. Also, he was third for over 90 IP and fifth for over 80 IP. However, he is age 23 for the season and thus he is right at the average for the league. Thus he's good but not that good, so his future is still questionable regarding the majors, whereas Alderson, being only 19, is very good.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Ghosts of Giants Drafts: 1984 Draft

I'm looking to update my draft study with the draft data that Baseball-Reference.com now provides at their excellent website. I get AB and OPS data for all players plus ERA and WHIP for all pitchers, which I just realized is not that good for judging pitchers easily as there is no way to easily assess how long a career they have had, other than by how many games they have won or loss or saved, or tangentially by how many ABs they get. So I will have to re-think whether I will try to update my study now.

If I did update it, it will take a while to compile everything, plus then time to analyze the data, and I thought while I'm collecting the data, I can stroll through memory lane and list some names of past Giants draftees, and give some commentary on what I remember plus what could have been.

1984 Draft

Today, I look at the Giants 1984 draft. This is the first draft where I can remember thinking the Giants blew it. They selected Alan Cockrell when I looked at the next player selected and wonder why they didn't select Mark McGwire. McGwire did so many things at USC and Cockrell, well, he was known more for being a QB, at least, that's what it seemed like to me.

Just think how different things could be had the Giants selected Mark McGwire. For one thing, would the Giants have selected Will Clark, another 1B, the following year? And risked another Willie McCovey/Orlando Cepeda situation? Or more possibly, would they would have corrected a mistake made a few years before when they were unable to sign him and draft/sign Barry Bonds? There were other names right around there, Bobby Witt, Barry Larkin, Pete Incaviglia, but Bonds could have been their choice if we had McGwire already. The main question is would Tom Haller, who didn't sign him the first time (he says its a myth, but reports/rumors back then were that the Giants were $5,000 apart from Bonds, offering $50,000 when Bonds wanted $55,000, and thus Bonds didn't sign and went to school instead).

What if we had Bonds and McGwire in the lineup from 1986 to 1992? Could we have won throughout most of that period? Could we have won it all then? Impossible to know for certain, but think about the possibilities.

Fantasy Baseball

While both started playing in the majors in 1986, Clark played most of the season in the majors, while McGwire was mostly in the minors. However, from 1987 on, they were both regular starters. I won't argue the relative merits of either here, but assume that their impact offensively would have been very similar.

And think how that might have affected the A's. Without McGwire available, their next best choices after him were Shane Mack, Oddibe McDowell, and maybe Scott Bankhead. Would have been quite a drop in value, no? And the Bash Brothers could have been Bonds and McGwire in the Orange and Black.

Then the Giants OF could have been much different for their playoff run. They might not have traded for Candy Maldonado, though at that point, who knows if the Giants were ready to bring Bonds up; however, he did well enough for the Pirates to bring him up in 1986. And he played CF his first season plus part of the next, before settling in LF. That would fit in well with Giants history, Leonard was traded away in 1988, opening LF for Bonds. Meanwhile, he would have played CF with Chili Davis in RF, Gladden was traded to the Twins in 1987. Thus, instead of just having 1993, we could have had something like 1993 from 1987 to 1993.

Believe it or not, Bonds would have been a downgrade from Candy, who had a 127 OPS+ in 1987 vs. Bonds 114 OPS+. But after that, Bonds was on an uptrend while Candy went down, which could have kept the Giants in contention in the period from 1990 and 1992. Who knows, if the team was successful enough, Lurie might have never sold, we might not even have AT&T Park.

Bonds in LF would have ramifications for the 1989 World Series team. Would the Kevin Mitchell trade still have been done? Possible so, because he was a starting 3B when we got him and played mostly 3B for us for the first couple of years. And his range factor and fielding percentage wasn't all that bad there, so it could have worked long-term except then where would Matt Williams play, if not at 3B?

Ah, that's the fantasy I've had since Williams became a regular, what if they kept him at SS? Can you imagine a lineup with Matt Williams, Kevin Mitchell, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds? The only question would be, with Bonds around, would Candy been around? The OF would have been Leonard, Bonds, Davis, with no space for Candy, so would he been traded or even not trade for in the first place?

Still, imagine a lineup with Terry Kennedy catching, Mark McGwire at 1B, Robby Thompson at 2B, Kevin Mitchell at 3B, Matt Williams at SS, Bonds in LF, Brett Butler in CF, and somebody acquired to play RF? Wouldn't that been one of the greatest HR hitting lineups in history?

Still doesn't beat the best "What if" scenario for the Giants, though: what if the Giants had outbid the Braves for Hank Aaron? They were both bidding for his services and just got beat (win some lose some; they barely beat out another team for Willie Mays). Chew on that one for a while.

After Cockrell

The Giants actually did OK with their next pick, selecting Terry Mulholland, whose signature play still plays delightfully in my memory: dribbler to the pitcher firstbase side, and as pitcher and hitter race towards 1B, Mulholland realizes that the ball is stuck in his glove, and he's losing the race to the bag, so he did what he had to do, he threw the glove, with the ball in it, to the firstbaseman to get the out.

But they struck out in the rest of the draft, which, by the way, is not that out of the ordinary for most teams, so that's why it's hard to discern when a team is actually just bad at picking or just dealing with the low odds of the situation. With low odds of finding even useful major league players, teams will find some years to be shutouts. The only drafteee besides Mulholland out of the 26 total picks to experience anything beyond a cup of coffee call-up was Tony Perezchica, who got all of 101 AB. There were two who came up for a cup of coffee: Stu Tate and aforementioned Alan Cockrell also got a taste of the majors as well.

Moving Ahead with Study

P.S. I think I will give it the old college try and see what I can do with the data, even if it's not good for pitchers. With this dataset, I can do more analysis on high school vs. college type of analysis, plus, with my old set of data, I still have the designation of whether they are good, useful, or not, as the case may be, so I can use that as a guide and finetune up or down with the baseball-reference data.

I will still expand the years so that my study is comparable with the Baseball Prospectus study that came after my study. My point, which was not refuted by the Baseball Prospectus study, or any study that I've seen since, is that the distribution of talent availability plus the difficulty in identifying those who will make the majors, makes it very unlikely that any team will find a good major league player with even a late 1st round draft pick. My study found that only approximately 10% of draftees become good major league players out of the picks 21-30 overall in the draft between the years of 1986 and 1998.

Thus, a team could skip a pick, like the Giants did with the Tucker signing, and not materially hurt their development of major league players from their farm system. Given that the team has been almost totally rebuilt from the farm system in the years since provides strong evidence that my conclusion was not incorrect.

Sabean Deserves Chance to Finish Job

That we did it while still trying to win with Bonds is testimony to Sabean's vision for the future. As much as fans like to deride Sabean's efforts and results, and recently a Baseball America writer did just that, find me a better pitching rotation than what we have, made up young pitchers? Of all the trades made, as of right now, did he not keep the right ones when it counted?

And despite the cries of fans over our lack of position player development early this sesaon, our lineup actually looks like it's shaping up nicely over the next few years, with Lewis, Sandoval, Posey, and Villalona being the core hitters, and Burriss, Frandsen, Bowker, looking like OK supplemental hitters, plus Noonan, Fairley, maybe Rodriguez, Gillaspie, also contributing at some point in the near future.

That is why I have been preaching patience with seeing how Sabean's efforts are developing and not throwing the baby out with the bath water. I said I was happy he got a two year extension because then we get a chance to see him develop what we got further. After year one, there are a lot of positives and I'm gladder than ever they kept him.

I'm at the point where I would be willing to give him another two years but managerially there is no need to do that now, the Giants can do that in mid-2009, after another half year of seeing how things turn out. Plus, I now vaguely recall someone saying the Giants have an option on Sabean for 2010, so that would make it even easier if true, use the full 2009 season to see how the team develops and pick up his option at the end of the year if things are still developing nicely, don't if not.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2008 Giants: August PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of August 2008, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this).

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

Basically, you want to see a pitcher's DOM% to be over 40% and ideally over 50%, and you want their DIS to be under 20% and ideally under 10%. For example, Johan Santana has a 76% DOM and 3% DIS in 2006 (2.77 ERA), whereas Orlando Hernandez had a 52% DOM and 28% DIS (4.66 ERA), and Adam Eaton had a 31% DOM and 31% DIS (5.12 ERA). See my explanation down below on methodology plus read the link, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and particularly how low DIS% is so important.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2008 Season (as of August 31st, 2008)

Matt Cain - (60% DOM, 7% DIS; 18:2/30): 3, 0, 4, 0, 5, 2, 4, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 5, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4, 4, 3, 5, 3, 4, 2

Kevin Correia - (37% DOM, 26% DIS; 7:5/19): 4, 4, 4, 1, 3, 1, 4, 2, 0, 0, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 0, 4, 2 (did not count start where injured)

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (79% DOM, 0% DIS; 22:0/28): 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 3, 5, 5, 2, 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4*, 5, 5, 5 (didn't count relief outing as start; * start where he was injured by batted ball, just 2 outs away from DOM 4 game so I gave it to him.)

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

Matt Palmer - (0% DOM, 67% DIS; 0:2/3): 0, 3, 0

Jonathan Sanchez - (46% DOM, 25% DIS; 11:6/24): 0, 5, 2, 3, 5, 3, 0, 0, 5, 3, 5, 5, 4, 2, 5, 5, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 0, 3, 4

Barry Zito - ( 19% DOM, 37% DIS; 5:10/27): 1, 1, 3, 3, 0, 0 (Skip), 4, 3, 2, 4, 4, 0, 1, 1, 0, 4, 2, 5, 2, 3, 2, 3, 1, 3, 3, 3, 0


Giants season overall - 47% DOM, 21% DIS out of 140 games counted (66:29/140)

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

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

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

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

Giants Month of August- 45% DOM, 17% DIS out of 29 games counted (13:5/29)

First, some procedural notes. I didn't count Lincecum's relief session as a start, nor did I count it as a start for Valdez, in the D-gers game. I also didn't count Correia's injury start where he only pitched a third of an inning. However, I did count Misch's first outing, in relief of Zito, as a start because he went 6 innings and I felt he deserved it. And I counted Lincecum's start when he was injured by a batted ball, as he was dominating up to that point and only needed two more outs to reach 5 IP and get a DOM 4.

I normally write something about how they did here, but basically it was all Lincecum, all the time, again. Cain had some good starts as did Correia, while the rest of the starters stumbled along or worse; collectively the rest had 1 DOM start, 4 DIS starts out of 11 starts.

Overall, our rotation is top-notch. Lincecum's DOM is still up among the elites of the majors, if not the best in the majors, Cain is up among the best in the majors, even Sanchez is up among the good pitchers in the league, and even Correia is up among the OK pitchers of the league. Overall, our rotation is, as a whole, ranked almost among the best pitchers (best pitchers have DOM 50% and higher).

Zito, however, has been just plain horrible, but that's what happens in a transitional year like this where he had to hit bottom, with a thud, and has been slowly re-building and re-making himself. I don't know his September results yet (though could calc if had the time) but I do know his first two starts were DOM starts and yesterday's start looks like it was a DOM too, so he looks like he is well on his way, particularly since he has been able to up his velocity back up to the 88 MPH range where he needs to be in order to be successful with his stuff, which is evidenced by his ability to strike out at least the innings pitched minus 2 necessary to qualify for a DOM point.

And strikeouts are very important to DOM starts. Strikeouts are a key component to two DOM points - K >= IP minus 2 and K >= twice BB - making it a critical element of a dominating game, PQS-wise. It also makes it harder overall for hits (less AB's to get hits in) and thus is affecting whether the pitcher can keep his hits total equal to or less than his IP. The last two points are not related at all to strikeouts, IP >= 6.0 and HR <>

What's Good and What's Not

A DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes. Thus what Correia has done so far in limited starts is still good, and that's why he earned a spot in the starting position for the 2008 season.

If you had to chose a high DOM% or a low DIS%, pitchers tend to have a lower ERA when you have a low DIS% vs. a high DOM% (obviously if you combine both, you have a much better chance of having an elite pitcher). That's how Lowry was able to pitch well last year, keeping his ERA low while still recovering from his strained oblique and being unable to strike out hitters as much as before, he had very few disaster starts until he had his arm problems and got bombed in September, he had a good ERA, in the high 3's until those starts.

August's Comments

Again, normally write more, but since it's so close to the end of the season, I'll only note that the youth movement didn't really do much for the Giants this season until Sandoval and Ishikawa were brought up and both started hitting like they wanted to stay here a long time. That helped the Giants to a winning month for the first time this season and first since late 2007 season (also August) and best winning percentage since April 2007. In addition, Hinshaw and Romo came up and did likewise, they have been very good in the bullpen, and both could in the set-up spots in 2009 if they continue to do well.

So there was a lot more hope for the 2009 season as of end of August 2008. Lewis has established that 2007 was no fluke, he looks like he'll be manning LF for years to come (bunion permitting) as a league average offensively. Sandoval looks like he'll be rotating around 1B, 3B, and C in 2009, perhaps even start at 3B (probably his most regular position in 2009). Ishikawa has put his name back into strong contention for starting 1B. Burriss was also doing well too, eventually leading to being named starting SS, though he will have to fight off all comers in spring training.

Meanwhile, the Giants signed all their top draft picks, Posey, Gillaspie, Kieschnick, and Crawford, who all immediately become top prospects in our talent poor farm system at, respectively, C, 3B, RF, and SS. Our team appeared to be shaping up very nicely when August 2008 ended.

Lastly, I will leave you with this thought: the Giants record this season is basically what it had last season - with 70 wins, they will be right around last year's 71 wins - which means that the Giants basically replaced Bonds great performance in 2007 with a bunch of players contributing equivalent production overall. Through Lincecum, Fred Lewis's manning of LF, Wilson, Sandoval, Valdez/Hinshaw/Romo, Sanchez, Bowker, Burriss, Schierholtz, and now Velez, plus, of course, Aaron Rowand, all those bits of performance basically equaled replacing the run production of Bonds, which was still very good in 2007 (and also made up for horrible performances at SS until August). Chew on that for a while.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MAJOR ANNOUCEMENT ABOUT JT SNOW

As reported by Andy Baggarly, the Giants are poised to make a major announcement concerning JT Snow at 6 PM today. As noted, only Brian Sabean will be at the press conference. Tim Kawakami also opines on what this means in his blog as well. There is nothing currently on sfgiants.com regarding this.

I think both their speculations make some logical sense. If Snow was taking an on-field job, then Bruce Bochy would be there. But with Sabean making the announcement, it must have something to do with what Sabean controls as GM, and nothing much with Snow's current trio of roles as broadcaster, coach, or special assistant to Brian Sabean (well, maybe tangentially that but there is no MAJOR growth that can come out of this position). With the PR department using an ALL CAPS headline, presumably this position is very significant, and not some community-rep or other non-decision-making job.

Baggarly throws out there the thought that perhaps it would be naming Snow as the new manager of the Giants, but notes that this is something that would be more likely to happen after Bill Neukom takes over, not slightly before. Yeah, I agree, not a move that should happen without Neukom and it would happen after he takes over, not before, unless, that is, he wants it done as part of the Magowan era, kind of like how Epstein quit the Red Sox for a while when they got rid of some popular player or something, then miraculously became GM again right afterward.

Kawakami goes a bit more speculative, saying that since Larry Baer isn't there, perhaps Sabean is taking on some of Baer's duties while Snow takes over Sabean's duties, leaving Neukom at top, Sabean/Baer next level, then Snow/Barr the next level. I don't see that happening without Neukom there to oversee the proceedings, too big a change without him and Magowan there.

A logical growth from his current position would be becoming a senior advisor like McCovey, but he's too young I think to take on that type of role plus that would lessen Willie Mac's role publicly being "paired" with Snow. Same goes for being Special Assistant to the GM like Felipe Alou, which is on the GM side of the house.

Looking over the various titles and people in those roles, my wild guess on this is that Snow is being named Director of Player Development. Stanley just got that job last year from Jack Hiatt, when Jack retired, but it says that he has 41 years of professional baseball experience, this being his 42nd, making him at least 60 years old and perhaps as much as 63 years old. He could have a multitude of reasons to leave - family (son and daughter), health perhaps (not saying he has something, just that it could be that at his age) - and obviously Snow has some interest in player personnel issues since he was assistant to Brian Sabean and not to Peter Magowan or anyone else.

Nothing else would warrant an ALL CAP headline, though I do recall some announcement this year getting the big PR push and it was not really much of anything. But still, if Brian Sabean is going to be in the press conference, that has to be a pretty significant move somewhere in his department as GM, else he could sent up Tidrow, Barr, or Evans to make the announcement with Snow instead. This role must be something where Snow is reporting in to Sabean, and the role should be significant enough to warrant a press conference, else it would have been quietly announced like all the additions to the Player Personnel area the last couple of years when Barr, Siegle, Schueler, Creech joined the Giants.

Then again, when Stanley took over for Hiatt, that didn't warrant a press conference either.

The only other position worthy of a press conference would be if JT Snow took over as Director of Player Personnel from Bobby Evans, who, if he's not in the press conference, is moving on to another position somewhere else. Another thought is that perhaps the additional duties Evans took on that were more baseball related than operations related (when Colletti bolted) either didn't appeal to him or he didn't do well there, and they are having Snow join in an equivalent position to Evans where he would be the book-end to Evans, taking on the baseball talent evaluation related duties (assuming he has any). Even then, Evans didn't get a press conference when he was named to this position.

2009 Player Draft Position Watch: 5 games to go

First, sorry guys and gals, but I've been busy with work. Still got the August PQS to do and September (and season's) almost over...

One thing I've been watching is where the Giants will get to draft in 2009. For a while there in July, it looked like the Giants would get another Top 5 pick. For a while in the past week or so, it looked like we could fall out of the Top 10.

Currently, the Giants have the 7th pick of 2009. Atlanta is just ahead of them in 6th, half a game "ahead". That's likely the best they can do, as #5 Baltimore is a cushy 3 games "ahead" with 5 left to play. It would take their resurgence and the Giants collapse to do that. I would rather not see that, I want a nice 3 game sweep of the D-gers, I want to humiliate them, I want them to see their playoff chances die on the field in front of us (however, they have a cushy 3 game lead with 5 left too, over the D-backs, which requires the D-backs to grow a pair suddenly).

The Giants can still fall further back in the draft. They are slightly ahead of the Tigers and the Royals, 1.5 games for both of them. That would push the Giants to 9th in the draft. And Colorado is only 2.0 games back, which would push the Giants to 10th, but with the 11th pick of the draft because the Nats gets pick 9A to replace their 2008 pick since Aaron Crow did not sign. There is a very outside chance that the Giants could fall behind the Reds, who is 4 games back - each would have to win and lose, respectively, all the rest of their games. The magic number for guaranteeing at least the 12th pick overall is one game, either a loss by the Giants or a win by the Reds.

Overall, the Giants look like they are most likely going to get a pick from 6th to 9th overall. Not great position, but there is a chance that a well regarded player with signability (or other) issues will fall to the Giants again. That's how we got Lincecum and Posey, and was slated by draft experts to have a chance for Wieters in 2007 except that the Orioles dashed those plans (I'll forgive them for now since they draft Matusz in 2008 and allowed us to get Posey; if he develops into a good MLB starter, then I'll forgive them fully, but no need for Posey to outdo Wieters, though I wouldn't mind that at all). And I wonder how many teams today wouldn't mind having Bumgarner instead of the guy they selected ahead of us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

138 Pitches... and counting

I have a much larger post that I was going to do after the 132 pitch game but work called so it sat in my inbox. I will finish it one day soon but below is a post I did on El Lefty Malo and then one I did on Extra Baggs, about Lincecum and his growing pitch count; they are modified so that you can understand what I was responding to.

ELM

I had some initial anxiety about his high pitch count, but after reading the after-game comments by Bochy and The Kid, I really think everyone just need to pay attention to what Lincecum is saying about his health, he should be the source people listen to.

He says he's fine, he's still not icing his arm, he was out the next day and throwing hard (again, like usual), what more do people need to hear to understand he's different?

Bochy also noted that he takes less pitches to warm up, so that allows him to take more pitches in-game relative to other starters.

And it's not like he's one of those dumb "take ball, throw hell of ball even though my arm is killing me" type of pitchers.

For one, he knows what's at stake. He turned down high 6 figures from the Indians, holding out for $1M, else he'd be doing his wonderful Timmy-ness for the Indians right now and he, Lee, and CC would be leading the Indians to an AL Central title right now.

Second, he's not looking for a contract like Cain and Lowry, he's going commando and going for arbitration gold and platinum with added bling on top. Think he's going to risk that by pushing his arm outside its comfort zone, just to keep his spot, like Jesse Foppert apparently did? He's already eyeing 2-5 seasons ahead, why would he risk that just to get a complete game shutout in his pocket for 2008? When he has accomplished so much with regards to getting a good salary in arbitration sooner than later.

And, not only will we not know for years whether he will have an injury from this, we won't even know if there is any connection between the 138 pitches and any future arm problems. It could be his throwing so much every day for so many years. It could be it was just the time for it to break, age, not usage, could be the trigger. It could be genetic and randomly broke when something else happened.

We don't know, we won't ever know.

And as much as I want to do a celebratory dance over a Giants World Series championship (like the French did over their victory) as much as any other Giants fan, it's not about you or me, it's about Lincecum and what he wants to accomplish in his career, in his season.

Like Bochy noted, it's like being a parent, you are not comfortable letting them do things you would rather not let them do, but at some point you have to let go and trust in them that they will do the right thing. If he wants to accomplish this and he seems capable of doing it (he was still firing in mid-90's fastballs at that point) and, more importantly, been honest previously in saying when he was fine and when he was gassed, which Bochy says he has been, then why not let him take his steps without you (and pray he doesn't fall)?

Ultimately, this can be very insulting to Lincecum. Here are these outside people, albeit Giants fans, who think they know my body better than I do, think they know better about my welfare than I do, think I'm an idiot who is throwing just for the hell of doing it, think I'm not smart enough or mature enough to think about my future, think I don't want to do the fun French celebratory dance with them.

Extra Baggs

Baggarly commented on how Bochy could go that far with the pitch count when managers have stopped going that far over the the past 5-10 years (only Livan and Jason Schmidt had pitch counts that high in recent years).

This reminds me of a joke:

1: What’s that gun you have?
2: It’s an elephant gun.
1: Elephant gun? There isn’t an elephant for hundreds of miles!
2: See! It’s working!

The lack of starting pitchers throwing a lot of pitches is totally a sign that managers are CYA’ing because there is no concrete proof that, say, throwing over 130 pitches in a game will absolutely cause a player to perform poorly or become injured. It has been all theory for the most part, theory that didn’t stand up to muster in Bill James’s opinion.

Just like managers used to not favor high OBP hitters previously, that didn’t mean that there was no value to them, just that it wasn’t recognized. Just like managers used to sacrifice all the time with their best hitters or try to steal just to steal, that didn’t mean that those were the right things to do either. And they did both for many years, without evidence that they were the right thing to do, they just had a theory, which sabermetrics helped proved to be wrong.

Every player is an individual. I’m satisfied that the Giants management are monitoring Lincecum. Sometimes you do the right thing and a bad result happens or a the wrong thing and a good result happens. Doesn’t change the situation for me, I think the Giants are doing OK by Lincecum, if his arm isn’t hurting enough to ice, which is something almost every other major league starting pitcher has to do (and I think Oswalt has stopped doing that, he has started icing his arm now) then I don’t think his arm is getting that stressed by the game. So even if something happens to him, I think it was just meant to be, not because of poor management.

And particularly since he himself is observant enough - and frank enough - to talk about when exactly his arm does feel fatigued. How many players talk about when they are weak or vulnerable in any way, like none?

Believe it or not, sometimes it is not about the team or about you, the fan, it is about the player. Lincecum has a lot of pride and he wanted both a complete game and a shutout. Fortunately he was able to get both of the them out of the way in the same game. And it is something like getting both a shutout and a complete game that will catch the eyes of Cy Young voters, they are still in the 20th Century in that regard, though improving.

It would also help that he gets 20 wins, but the complete game and shutout was there in his grasp and he was not tiring, whereas 20 wins would be dependent on winning three more games, particularly against a Colorado team that appears to own him and particularly because the rotation would have to be adjusted to give him another start. If he was not tiring, I think adding another game to his season vs. that one additional inning, would be more harmful.

And if the Giants decide to shut him down a bit going forward, voters would be understanding of that, I think, now and would have that shutout to keep his Cy Young hopes alive and well. Plus, when you get down to it, it is still a macho type of thing to do and I think voters can respect that, whereas squeezing in another start to get him 20 would appear more manipulative and less seemly.

Giants Thoughts: In Timmy We Trust

As I noted, got a much larger post coming soon, but while I can sympathize with the worry over Lincecum throwing 138 pitches in a game, I think we have to trust in The Kid. It's his life, his accomplishments, his career, his life.

He knows what's at stake long term, he has been self-aware of himself and how others consider him to be odd for a long time, and he's been not only OK with it, but able to be himself in spite of the peer pressure to conform. Most of us don't have the self-confidence period, let alone when you are 24 years old (and younger, he's been battling this for years now), to not do what others are telling you to do?

I understand that there are those baseball players who throw out their arms all in the glory that is baseball, but Tim Lincecum is not one of them. He knows what he is capable of doing and at some point people should stop doubting him if he says his arm does not hurt, if he says he is OK. He's not happy just to be a major leaguer, he clearly has career aspirations that goes beyond just being a major league pitcher, and he won't be able to accomplish them if he is stupid with his arm and pitch when he's straining or tiring or hurting. Either you trust him or you don't.

And not to be so blunt with this, but he's looking for his share of the MLB golden goose, fair and square. He doesn't need Boras to bully owners and/or cut ethical corners to get his money, but he's not going to just be happy here either, he wants what he has earned, nothing more, nothing less, and he is willing to work hard to earn that. That's true American values right there, something to be admired.

I will end with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, which was given to me by my 12th grade English Teacher, Mrs. Holland (she got me):
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he
hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however
measured or far away.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's the Matter with Travis, He's All Right


(With thanks to the Flintstones, the title paraphrases a Flintstone song)

For a long while now, I've been accused of being in "love" with Travis Ishikawa. I once got into an on-line "discussion" that turned nasty with the other poster trying to use my dead father to insult me, while also lying that he had "research" that showed that a player repeating A-ball had never. And never is a long time in baseball, so I knew he was trying to blow smoke up people's behinds, as he would have to go through the minor league history of every major league baseball player to prove that and I called him on that. He whined that I was "ruining his fun".

The funny and sad thing is he took pride in "telling it like it is" without holding anything back and giving others the heat. I later gave him the fact that Moises Alou had repeated A-level and he claimed that he said few, only he didn't know that the Internet Archive had his post captured for posterity, including his assertion that Travis Ishikawa was not worth keeping after his rough start of the 2004 season (he wanted to DFA him) and that it would be better to keep Brad Vericker and Jason Columbus.

Now that Travis is having great success in the majors, I finally have the opportunity to say this: it's only one year, it's small samples (though his MLEs for this season support a nice OPS), he will need to prove it next season and the season after that. He has had too many setbacks plus too many current negatives to say that he has arrived for certain, so all you people who recently jumped on the Ishikawa bandwagon should take pause.

First of all, he still hasn't figured out how to hit LHP. Even in the minors, where the LHP are not as crafty as they are in the majors, he hit an MLE of .158/.283/.219/.502 in 114 AB. The only good thing of note was that he had 20 walks to go with his 29 strikeouts (and that's a very high rate of strikeouts in any case).

Second of all, he still strikes out too much. Even against RHP, against whom he has hit an MLE of .279/.341/.536/.877 in 2008, with 17 HR in 308 AB, he still struck out 59 times, or about an 81% contact rate (or 19% K-rate), which is OK but the better hitters can keep their contact rate above 85%, meaning that he's going to struggle to keep his BA high even against RHP.

Third of all, overall his MLE of .252/.331/.458/.789 for his minor league stats would only be adequate at 1B, the average MLB 1B has an OPS in the .810-820 range, the better ones in the high 800 and above. And his HR -rate would put him roughly in the 20-25 HR range, again, only adequate at 1B, which has a much higher standard for offense than any other position, mainly because the best hitters who cannot field any other position ends up here, as 1B is considered an easier defensive position. The only good thing is that .789 would be great compared to any Giants 1B of the past 5 years at least.

That said, I think Ishikawa deserves a chance to start at 1B for 2009, though in competition with Ortmeier, Bowker, McClain and whoever else wants a MLB starting job. Including his superlative MLB stats thus far into the MLE would probably boost his OPS for the season to an adequate level for 1B. He has also been known for this great 1B defense and he's probably among the best in the farm system in terms of defense there.

He is what he is, probably a platooon 1B who can kill RHP, but overall has a low BA, high walk and strikeout rate, and high HR rate - a true three true talents ballplayer - and also play great defense at 1B. Sandoval would make a good platoon buddy with him, with Sandoval catching regularly but playing 1B against LHP, allowing him regular rest from catching but keeping his bat in the lineup, and giving his backup regular play. But with Posey positioned as our backstop of the future, Sandoval probably would be either our regular starting 1B or 3B at some point, depending on where Villalona ends up, so Ishikawa's time with us might be short unless he can figure out all the problems I noted above. The good thing is that with his emergence, he has plenty of trade value that might come in handy in a year or two when Posey comes up and mixes things up for us (in a good way), or even before. Maybe Seattle might like a native son returning home and starting at 1B for them?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Conor Gillaspie Got Some Big Balls: But Can He Walk the Talk?

Interesting quote by the Chron from Gillaspie, after he grounded out in his first MLB AB:
Gillaspie is one cocky 21-year-old. He said, "I made contact and got down the line pretty good. Hopefully they'll throw me in there the next couple of weeks, maybe a couple of starts. I think I can play as good as any of these guys up here. That's why I'm up here."
Makes Baggarly's speculation that the reason the Giants promoted Gillaspie was a handshake deal that, while they won't give him a major league contract, they would promote him to the 40 man roster in September, when it probably does not cost the Giants one of his four options years (for players with less than 5 pro seasons after being drafted, their team is allowed 4 options) appear to be the truth.

Basically he was upset getting drafted so "low", but the Giants weren't going to go much over slot for him nor give him a major league contract, so he settled for the opportunity to be on the 40 man roster (which also pays him extra money on top of his bonus, about $66,000 according to Baggarly) which gives him exposure to the major league staff, and if he can walk the talk, then he could win the starting 3B position for 2009.

This also boosts his ego publicly: this move implies that he showed so much talent in his short time in professional baseball that the Giants brought him up and gave him a chance to win the starting 3B job. He implied as much with his statement. And that's better than getting a major league contract then struggling, this way he has shown clearly with his overall play that he deserves a shot at the starting 3B position and is promoted to the majors on merit, not collegiate projection and guess-timation. This says he's the real deal.

And for that, what does the Giants lose? If he's right, we have a new starting 3B. If he's wrong, the Giants are only out less than $100K, but they still have 4 option years on him plus he could play a utility role in his 5th year, like Feliz did, manning 3B, 2B, and 1B, which should be plenty of time to see whether he's got the stuff to be a starter or not.

By the 5th year, you have a very good idea what you got, normally, because few player suddenly blossom in their 7, 8, 9, 10th year to be more than a utility player. This is supported by the findings of my draft study, I found that it took players typically 4-6 years to pan out to be major leaguers or not, the better ones a bit less.

In any case, you stroke the ego of your new prospect, who needed stroking because he was licking his wounds because of where he was drafted, for not much monetary outlay or business risk. Now all Conor has to do is start walking the talk. Good luck, because we can sure use a good starting 3B.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quickee Laugher of the Day: Giants "Winning" Record

Just had to post this from sfgiants.com article on last road trip of the season:
The Giants sit at third place in the division and would love to finish with a winning record.

I would say they would: they would have to win every game for the rest of the season to do that. They are 65-80 and only a 17-game winning streak would bring them to finishing with a winning record - 16 wins would only bring them to 81-81, or .500.

If there were to do the impossible and finish with a winning record, and assuming the D-gers finish playing .500 for the rest of the season (and D-backs continue to fade or at most play .500), they would still be two games behind the D-gers for the division title. Just shows how far behind we are with so little games left.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Youth Marches On; Some to the DL

Various Giants news I wanted to cover:
  • Assignments for the off-season have been made:
  • Arizonza Fall League: Osiros Matos, Kelvin Pichardo, Kevin Pucetas, Alex Hinshaw, Emmanuel Burriss, Ryan Rohlinger, and Ben Copeland. Most of the top prospects on the cusp of making the majors end up playing here, so the competition is very high level, though there are a number of players who are question marks who the team sends here to see how they do against higher competition. I guess Kevin Frandsen will be playing winter leagues this off-season, to get ABs, while Burriss won't be playing for the Dominican team that drafted him.
  • Hawaiian Winter League: Waldis Joaquin, Steven Edlefsen, Buster Posey (!), and Roger Kieschnick. According to the Merc's account, player personnel director Bobby Evans says, "The pitching in Hawaii is essentially on a Double-A level. It's a great opportunity for a couple of guys in the draft who need to get caught up on at-bats." Also a nice treat for Posey, getting to spend time in Hawaii, but he lucked out in that the Giants were allowed to bring on a C and OF to the team, so they were able to chose him. If the assignment was SS, I suppose Brandon Crawford would have gotten the call instead. Baggarly speculates that "his performance here could influence whether he is assigned to Class A San Jose or Double-A next season." Notice he didn't say Connecticut, there are rumors the Giants might switch teams for next season (good riddance!). Wanted to note the reference to AA level, that was odd, because I could have sworn it was more A level because when Schierholtz was sent there a couple of years back, I had the impression he was facing lower talent. If it is AA, then this would be a good test of Posey, though given how well he has done in the California League playoffs with San Jose, I think it would be an upset if he doesn't start the year in AA; still Weiters did this route last season and he did very well there, so that will be a nice comparison point for us with Posey, Kieschnick too. Nice to see Waldis Joaquin get the call, he's a high potential pitcher derailed by Tommy John Surgery who appears to be regaining his stuff, so this is a good sign that he is back in the Giants eyes and getting more IP to make up the loss of experience when he sat out last season.
  • Velez drove in Sandoval for the winning run in yesterday's game. If you have Tivoed the news last night, re-watch Pablo Sandoval score the winning run. First, he was amazingly agile in running the bases given his husky body type. But more importantly, look at the way he scores the winning run, he astutely dives to the far side to touch the plate, just scoring a split second before the catcher reaches to tag him out at the plate. There was literally no margin for error there, he did it perfectly, like an Olympic gymnast, only he's built like a fire hydrant.
  • Zito strikes out 9 in 6 IP, striking out the side twice, including his last IP. Since he started his nice streak with his start on June 25, Zito has gone 7-5 with a 4.52 ERA, 7.5 H/9, 7.0 K/9, 0.6 HR/9, .223/.319/.361/.680, BABIP roughly .250, the only bad stat (and it's pretty bad) is his 4.6 BB/9, but that is how he has survived all these years anyhow with a higher BB/9, he was able to keep his BABIP lower than the mean that everyone is suppose to regress to. Still, he will need to reduce that down to the mid-3's to return to old-Barry goodness
  • The more significant number among those is his 7.0 K/9. When Zito was able to win during his early to mid-career years, he was able to keep his K/9 higher. He last reached this rate in 2004, when he had a 6.9 K/9 for the season. He had much higher K/9 his first two seasons, so he's not back to that Barry, but he is about the rate for his 2002-2005 period, when he compiled an ERA of 3.58 in the AL (equivalent to a 3.30-3.40 ERA in the NL, as the NL has a lower ERA due to lack of DH and getting to pitch to lousy hitting pitchers instead).
  • Zito won't lose 20, Giants won't lose 100. With his no-decision, Barry officially cannot lose 20 games, something a Giants pitcher hasn't done since the great Rube Marquard lost 22 in 1914 (he won 24, 26, and 23 games the three seasons before, 201 in total). With the four game win streak, particularly their first game win over the D-backs, the Giants are now 64-80 and the worse they can do is lose 98 games, so they will not "achieve" the loss total that many Giants fans had them pegged for. My prediction, I believe, was that they would be closer to 80 wins than 62 wins (i.e. 100 losses), so they will need to win 8 games out of the last 18 (or go 8-10) in order to reach that. I think it could go either way, but if they give Lincecum an extra start (probably last minute change of his last start to move it up a day so that he gets his normal days rest between starts, enabling him to start against the D-gers on the last day) depending on whether he has a chance to win 20 games or not)
  • Burriss to "DL", Lewis Soon to Join: Emmanuel Burriss, right after being annointed the starting SS for your 2009 Giants, hurt the accursed oblique muscle and will miss the rest of the season, but since it's September, they don't need to put him officially on the DL. However, as noted above, he'll be going to the AFL as he should be healed by then. Fred Lewis is finally going under the knive for his painful bunion (can you imagine how well he might have done if he wasn't bothered by it?) on Friday and will miss the rest of the season. According to Baggarly's account, he should be healed in time for spring training, though sometimes it could take as long as 6 months.

Also wanted to note some baseball news:

  • Derek Jeter passed Babe Ruth on Yankees all-time hits list. He just got his 2,519th hit, moving past the Babe for second place. Lou Gehrig is first with 2,721, which means that despite the long gloried history that is the Yankees, they have never had a player who reached 3,000 hits with them, not Ruth (started career with Red Sox), Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, nor Mattingly. Jeter is only 35 for next season, and will need roughly 2.5-3 seasons to reach 3,000, so while it is not a slam dunk that he will reach it, the Yankees will probably stretch it out enough so that he can and then they can celebrate that and his career at the same time.
  • But will he reach 3000? The ominous thing is that his OPS+ this season is 103, the worse since he was 23 in 1997 when he had a 103 season. Since then he has been able to keep it above 110, ranging from 110 to 153, mostly between 121-132 for the 10 seasons in-between. In fact, he has declined from 132 in 2006 to 121 in 2007 to 103 in 2008. The end could be nigh for Jeter, he can definitely be able to play another two seasons but the third is questionable given this trend and the drop back to OPS+ levels not seen since his early days.
  • D-backs Falling Back. As a Giants fan, I'm torn. The D-gers just passed the D-backs like they were standing for first place and now lead by 2.5 games (maybe more after the Giants swept them), after the D-backs had led all season long. If the D-backs lose the pennant again, that could really get into their psyche and since they are mostly young guys, they could be haunted by this for the rest of their careers. However, if the D-backs don't win, then that would mean the D-gers would win, and I fundamentally have a problem with them winning anything, particularly since it could be Jeff Kent's last hurrah season. However, if the D-backs take back the lead and the pennant, that could give them a boost that would last for the career as well. Meanwhile, the 'DoRocks lurks in third place, much like last season, though they are only 4-6 in their last 10 games and 7 games back, close enough to dream but not realistically doable with only 17 games left for them. If they were to win AGAIN their confidence will become ginormous and with their young core, they could become formidable as well in the coming years. The 'Dres are too far back to even hope that they would pass up the Giants, let alone the leaders; heck, they are mathematically out anyhow. So, sadly, I find myself drawn to, not rooting for the D-gers to win, but for the D-gers, D-backs and 'DoRocks to lose (particularly since the Giants are facing the D-backs again in a week) and let the spit land where they land. I'm just hoping, whoever wins the division by default, loses big in the first round, and, particularly if the D-gers are in the playoffs, Jeff Kent has a nice big fat goose-egg as a send-off on his career, which, by the way, I don't think is Hall of Fame worthy, despite what other people say.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Burriss Named Starting SS for 2009

Or at least it is his position to lose: Merc's account.

Emmanuel Burriss is the first big winner in the Giants' youth movement sweepstakes.

General Manager Brian Sabean said Sunday that Burriss has made enough improvement in recent weeks that the starting shortstop job will be the 23-year-old's to lose when the Giants open camp next spring.

"He plugs that position as far as I'm concerned,'' Sabean said before the Giants' 11-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. "He's come a long way. He's more confident defensively, he's certainly done well with the bat — he's probably exceeded some expectations — and his arm's gotten better.''

Burriss is batting .358 (24 for 67) since mid-August...


Looks like he's learning from Carney Lansford on how to hit better. Plus, his defense was always a question mark coming up, some thought his best position would be 2B. But given the Giants plethora of options at 2B but paucity of options at SS (Bocock didn't hit well when he returned to the minors, in fact, he did extremely poorly at AAA; in the Giants season of "throw the jell-o to the wall and see what sticks" methodology to trying out prospects, Bocock didn't stick) as long as he is at least passable at SS defensively and can hit OK, he's got the job.

Also:

Burriss split time at shortstop with Vizquel for much of June and early July, but until recently his future appeared to be at second base. After more than a month at there, Burriss was in the lineup at shortstop on Aug. 29, and he's been the starter there for eight of the past nine games.

Asked if he feels like he's establishing himself as a major leaguer, Burriss said, "I feel like I'm working on it. They are putting me in the position to feel like that.''

Now the Giants are convinced he can handle shortstop. His development, especially as a hitter, convinced the Giants that he's a better alternative to seeking a free agent this winter.

So congrats to Burriss for his achievement, he has done very well since he got his chance.

SFGiants.com had their version of the events:

General manager Brian Sabean asserted Sunday that he's projecting Emmanuel Burriss as the starting shortstop as the offseason nears. The switch-hitting Burriss, 23, who has eclipsed 41-year-old Omar Vizquel as the team's primary shortstop, entered Sunday's series finale against Pittsburgh batting .355 (22-for-62) with eight RBIs in his previous 20 games...

Burriss' emergence will enable the Giants to focus more heavily on other priorities, most notably finding a power-hitting corner infielder. "You guys know the price of doing business in the market. You're not going to get a shortstop and solve your other needs, too," Sabean said.

Barely more than a month ago, Burriss was included among the crowded field of candidates for the second-base job. But since starting 24 games at second from July 27-Aug. 27, Burriss has made eight of his last nine starts at shortstop.


About the Giants 2B situation, Sabes had this to say:

Sabean was less definite about the Giants' chances of filling their second-base vacancy from within. Contenders include Eugenio Velez, Ivan Ochoa, Travis Denker and Kevin Frandsen, who's recovering from a ruptured left Achilles tendon.

"Franny's the wild card," Sabean said. "Anything he does this year, we won't critically analyze or evaluate. We're going to have to wait until Spring Training and see how it looks. Anything he does on the field, whether it's in instructional league or if we brought him up here for the end, would be a bonus."


The Merc added about the 2B situation:
Top among those needs is a second baseman. The Giants are taking a long look at defensively challenged Velez. Sabean said the club would not consider moving third-base prospect Gillaspie to second base in hopes of adding a power-hitting third baseman this winter, but said Kevin Frandsen will be in the mix even though he's missed the season with an Achilles tendon injury.

Interesting point here was the note about Gillaspie. There were rumors of moving him to 2B because it was feared that he won't hit or field good enough to man 3B. Obviously, with the call-up, he is getting his chance at 3B.

About Posey:

Sabean also sounded duly impressed after watching catcher Buster Posey play Saturday night with Class A San Jose in a California League playoff game. It was Sabean's first opportunity to see Posey perform in the flesh since the Giants selected him fifth overall in June's First-Year Player Draft.

"He was as advertised," Sabean said. "He caught and threw exceptionally well, threw a runner out easily, blocked the ball, caught third strikes." Sabean added that Posey demonstrated power, discipline and plate coverage while going 1-for-4 with an RBI single.

But Sabean said that the Giants won't summon Posey to the Majors, as they have done with third baseman Conor Gillaspie, their sandwich pick in this year's Draft.

"We've already got that position spoken for, at least for this year," Sabean said. "It would be counterproductive for the people here, not for him. He might have good experience here, but with Bengie [Molina], [Pablo] Sandoval and [Steve] Holm, there's no reason to experiment. We need to experiment more at third base."

Sounds good, plus Posey is a much larger investment, they are going to give him all the chance and time in the world to deliver value, whereas they didn't pay that much for Gillaspie, so they could be a little more rushed in evaluating him, because if he doesn't develop in three years, he's probably not the long-term solution there either.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Giants News of the Weekend

Just wanted to note some accomplishments:
  • The biggest was Conor Gillaspie was brought up to the majors, mainly because he's a 3B and we really have no 3B other than Sandoval who is ready (apparently Rohlinger has not impressed enough in his time up here thus far). However, this does not mean that Posey will be up, as Sabean noted that we are full up there already with Molina, Sandoval and Holm. Some have noted that this starts up his clock on the 40 man roster, limiting him to getting up to the majors in the next three seasons. Frankly, if he isn't up by then for good, then he's probably not going to be that significant a contributor anyhow, he would be reaching the age (26 in his fourth year) where you become a non-prospect and given that he is considered to have advanced batting skills but is poor defensively, they should be able to figure out whether he's ready by then or not.
  • Posey on the other hand, with a $6.2M bonus, is going to be given every chance to stick and make it, so there really is no use to adding him to the 40 man now and bring him up to the majors. Since he's in the neighborhood anyhow, he can come up and soak in some of the atmosphere when he has the chance. Meanwhile, his clock don't start up and he can make the majors on his own time. Yes, I understand the concept of sunk costs but that doesn't happen in baseball, if you spent the money, you try to get some value out of it.
  • Nate Schierholtz hit his first major league homerun. He is like the 10th Giants rookie to do that this season, which must be some kind of record, I would imagine. I think it is a good sign that he's ready to do some damage up here, but we will have to see if he can continue it. But he's at least getting a hit each day, so I don't think Bochy will take him out of the lineup as long as he's doing that. As I've been saying for over a year now, we need to trade Winn and allow Schierholtz to take over as starting RF. I like Winn and he would be a good complementary player on a competing team but he'll probably be retired by the time we are competitive again, in probably 2-3 seasons (I think we have a chance in 2009 but it would take a lot of our young players delivering - Burriss, Sandoval, Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Lewis, Sanchez, Hinshaw, Romo, Wilson - for us to do that, which is not likely)
  • Scott McClain had his second HR and he enjoyed it more, since it was in SF and helped to put us ahead. I should also note that he got his first HR ball back with no problem as the fan who caught it on the road immediately tossed it back on the field. I was deathly afraid that he would not get his, like Bowker whose first HR ball could not be bribed away from the fan even though he follows another NL team and couldn't care less about a no-name Giants rookie.
  • Wow, I knew the offense could be good, but the Giants, led by their rookies, scored 10 runs in one inning in Sunday's game. Last time was like in 1997. As I said, if they produce as they appear capable of doing, then the offense should be good in 2009 but they would all have to consistently perform and right now that is a huge question mark. But dang, that felt good listening to them run around the bases and scoring at will!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

September 2009 Call-ups: Standing Up

I've been fiddling with a large post on pitch count and, shame on me, didn't report on the call-ups for this season. Players who got the call-up in September, not in any particular order:
  • Brad Hennessey

  • Scott McClain

  • Geno Espineli

  • Nate Schierholtz

  • Pat Misch

  • John Bowker

  • Steve Holm
In addition, Jonathan Sanchez was taken off the DL and put on the active roster. To make room for McCain on the 40-man roster, Guillermo Rodriguez was the guy who was released. Thanks, Guillermo, we hardly knew ye!

The young guys have had some bright spots this month. Pablo Sandoval has been the brightest and most consistently bright and has continued it into September, but also Travis Ishikawa has had a number of good moments (and big RBI games) and just had another one today. Burriss has been very hot, even hotter, hitting around 1.000 OPS over the past 7 days and past 14 days.

Among the actual call-ups, Scott McClain had a big day today, as well, including his first major league home run, which is great considering he has 287 homers in the minors (and counting) in 13 seasons. Nate Schierholtz followed up yesterday's 2 for 6 game with one run scored with today's 4 for 5 game with three runs scored: he's 6 for 11 now, with 2 doubles and 4 runs scored. It's nice to play in Colorado when you are a visiting hitter.

Augusta Pitching Coach Interview

Andy Baggarly had a nice interview with the Augusta Greenjackets' pitching coach, Ross Grimsley, focused mostly on Bumgarner. Here are key bits of information in that interview:
  • Apparently the Giants tried to get him to change his mechanics, causing him to give up 10 runs over 11.2 IP in his first three starts. He returned to his old mechanics and had a 0.90 ERA in the 21 starts since then.

  • About his extraordinary command, Grimsley noted: "...he’s around the plate and aggressive. He goes after hitters, as all our pitchers have done, and it’s been great to watch. That’s the first step in this process to get to big leagues: to have confidence in yourself to throw strikes while establishing your fastball to both sides of the plate."

  • Grimsley compared him to other Giant's lefty pitching prospects: "At his point in his career, he’s further along than Jonathan Sanchez was, than Francisco Liriano was when they were here. He’s done better at this level, and that’s really impressive. The sky’s the limit."

  • About Bumgarner's pitching: "He tops out at 95-96 mph and pitches around 92-93. That can vary depending on the situation of the game. When he needs to jack it up a notch, he will. He’s already got a good idea, and that’s what impresses me the most. He’s learning these things now, so when he gets to the big leagues, he can focus on the other things he’ll work on. I’ve always felt you don’t learn to pitch until you’re in the big leagues for two or three years. I think this young man will be there a lot longer than that."
Giants Thoughts


There has been a question over the years whether the Giants have any sort of pitching philosophy that is taught to our young pitchers, mainly because a number of them seem to have trouble finding the plate and end up walking a lot of people. The statement above is the closest I've seen about this from Giants management. I'll quote here again for emphasis:
He goes after hitters, as all our pitchers have done, and it’s been great
to watch. That’s the first step in this process to get to big leagues: to have
confidence in yourself to throw strikes while establishing your fastball to both
sides of the plate.

Not a big statement, but that's a start. Perhaps the problem has been that the Giants have focused more on the big strikeout guys who also usually have a problem throwing the ball over the plate and into the strikezone with consistency.


Also big to note was how dominating Bumgarner actually was, with is 0.90 ERA using his regular mechanics. That's Lincecum dominating when he was in the minors. Perhaps he can make the jump to the majors by sometime next season, that's what the Giants did with Sanchez, though in a relief role, but if the #5 starter is as crappy as he has been this season, it would not be shocking to see one of Bumgarner, Alderson, or Sosa up as the 5th starter if they are doing very well at the mid-season point in 2009.


About the call-ups, the major surprise to me was that Denker and Horwitz did not get the call. Maybe surprise is too strong, more like disappointed but understanding. The main thing is that the Giants are trying to evaluate Burriss, Ochoa, and Velez right now, leaving very little time at 2B for Denker, and any spare time at 3B will go to Sandoval, leaving no playing time for Denker, whereas the outfield has Lewis, Rowand and Winn probably seeing a lot of play still, with Schierholtz and Bowker needing a lot of playing time as well, particularly Schierholtz, leaving no playing time for Horwitz.


Besides which, it seems to be the same trait that is harming both players' chances to get called up now: neither one fields well enough to get their bat into the lineup. Denker is particularly bad defensely, making him a right-handed version of the guy he was traded for, Mark Sweeney. Horwitz appears to be a hitting machine who is passable in the OF, but without the power to warrant inclusion into the lineup, though he muscled up this season, and, oddly enough, wasn't much of a hitting machine up in the majors, but hit 2 HR in 36 AB.

I think both could become key bench players in the 2010-12 Giants, when we are hopefully returned to competitiveness and don't need to try out prospects in bench roster spots. They provide hitting and power from the bench, which is something every team needs, plus could be key if the Giants ever make the World Series and need a DH.


The outfield will be interesting, with Lewis, Rowand, and Winn wanting regular playing time, with Roberts also available, and with the Giants wanting to play Schierholtz and Bowker regularly (as long as Ishikawa is hitting, Bowker isn't seeing any time at 1B most probably). Yesterday, Rowand and Lewis sat so that Roberts and Schierholtz could play (Winn also played); today, Rowand sat so that Schierholtz could play (Lewis and Winn played).


With Schierholtz going 6 for 11, I don't see Bochy sitting him down anytime soon, so Winn will probably not start the next game, allowing Schierholtz to play RF. Besides which, the Giants know that they owe Schierholtz for not bringing him up earlier when all the other prospects got the call and yet he was doing really well too, they've been saying it is not fair since spring training, both Sabean and Bochy, so I expect somebody to be sitting down in most games to allow Schierholtz starting playing time, perhaps 3 out of every 4 games, much like how Frandsen and Ortmeier got their opportunity last season, plus that is about the frequency of LHP starting.


Speaking of which, Ortmeier also didn't get the call, but that's not too surprising as he did not hit well in the minors after he recovered from his injury. Had he been slugging the ball like, say, Sandoval or Ishikawa, he would be up here making playing time interesting at 1B and the corner OF positions. Given how well players in his possible positions are doing (Ishikawa, Sandoval, Lewis, Schierholtz), his window of opportunity to start is probably closed and his best bet would be a versatile bench player who can switch hit with power and speed to steal while playing 1B and the OF positions (he's manned CF a few times).


FYI, Buster Posey was promoted after helping the Giants win the Instructional League to Short-Season Salem-Keizer, which is battling for the Northwest League title again (third straight time if they can win again this season). Not sure how he did in instructional league, other than what I reported previously. Conor Gillaspie is also playing for S-K as well. Augusta and San Jose are also battling for league titles as well. The Giant's teams have been dominating the lower minors for a number of years now, hopefully such success will rise to the majors in short order.

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