Saturday, December 27, 2008

Early Merry Christmas for 2009: Randy Johnson signs!

Info from AP here:  $8M contract plus up to $5M in performance incentives. Another solid move this off-season by the Giants and Sabean.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants have to be considered favorites for the division in 2009, particularly if they keep Sanchez and he develops as I envision him doing, sub-4 ERA in 2009, putting together everything he has learned the past few seasons.  With a rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Johnson, Zito, and Sanchez, it won't matter which team we face, we will have a chance to win each game if our starters are on, and I think they will be on more often than not.

People worry about the offense but just because it is not a better offense in the league does not mean they cannot win.  With our starting pitching and now our bullpen, our offense should be more than enough to win this division, even if LA resigns Manny and Lowe, particularly if LA don't sign one or the other or both.  They are the last team who has not suffered significant losses to their starting lineup/rotation this off-season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reading the Tea Leaves: Bumgarner in AA?

I've been speculating that Bumgarner might end up in AA and be paired up with Alderson there.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Alderson will end up in AA, I just read some speculation that Alderson might stay in San Jose, but when you have one of the best (top for any starter with over 16 starts, 3rd for 14 or more starts) ERAs in the league when you are 2-3 years younger than everyone else in the league, I don't think there is that much more to learn there, so I am concluding here that this speculation was not very informed, and that Alderson will be promoted to AA for 2009.

Bumgarner, on the other hand, while totally dominating in 2008, was in A-ball Augusta and the normal path is to promote him to San Jose.  But I think that when you were as dominating as Bumgarner is, you jump him a level to AA.  I think they kept him where he was in Augusta because they wanted him to both bond with the guys there, in case they play together in the future, and because it was his first full year as a professional and they didn't want to move him around and let him get acclimated to being a professional.  Also, I think he grew up in the South, in that area, so he would feel more like he's at home than far away from home if they moved him to San Jose mid-season.

Another possible clue to him moving to AA Connecticut is this little factoid that came up in the news:  Ross Grimsley, who was Augusta's pitching coach in 2008, has been promoted to AA Connecticutt.  Seeing as he was Bumgarner's coach, one would think they would move him to the level Bumgarner will be at.  In addition, Bumgarner's manager, Andy Skeels, at Augusta has been promoted to Advanced A San Jose for the 2009 season, so it would seem obvious to move Grimsley up to San Jose too, since they were a good coaching team at Augusta in 2008 and particularly if Bumgarner was being assigned to Advanced A San Jose for 2009.  Instead, they moved him to AA.

Giants Minors Coaching Staff Announced

sfgiants.com announced their minor league coaching staffs.  I discussed Grimsley above.  
  • Alderson's old coach, Pat Rice, is moving up to AAA but I don't think he's going to join his coach there.  
  • Ol' Steve Kline will join us as San Jose's pitching coach.  
  • I've been saying Posey would go to AA where Decker, an old catcher would be, but Andy Skeels is also a former catcher, so there goes that theory.  
  • Salem-Keizer will be joined by a familar name, Brian Cooper, a nice organizational player who we were lucky to have.  
  • Mike Caldwell is the pitching coach for the Arizona Giants of the AZL, and we once had a pitcher of that name, though it could be another guy with the same name.  
  • Former Giants prospect, Carlos Valderrama will be the hitting coach for the Dominican Summer League Giants.
  • Looks like Jim Davenport's son, Gary Davenport, will be the hitting coach for San Jose.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008 Non-Tender List

The non-tender list was released today. The list is here on MLB.com. The following are interesting names to me (age is as of next season) for the Giants to consider:
  • Chris Capuano: A lefty with good seasons from 2005 to 2007, the 30 year old missed all of 2008. With nice strikeout rates and K/BB ratios, he could be a low risk, high reward type of situation to sign and stash in the minors in case he can return to his former performance levels.
  • Denny Bautista: A righty who has tantalized teams for years now, the 28 year old has always been able to strikeout a lot, he just couldn't control his walks. Still, his K/BB has usually been in the acceptable range in the minors and his FIPs have been good to very good, so if he could ever put it together, he could be quite an addition to a major league rotation or bullpen. He has only relieved in recent years, though.
  • Jonny Gomes: A righthanded power hitting OF, the 28 year old's problem has been hitting right-handed pitching, swinging and missing a lot, and poor defense. He would be nice to stash in AAA should there be any need at some point for a power bat off the bench. However, he's probably better off with an AL team, his position in the majors is really as DH. I mention him mainly because he is a local boy and I've been following his career for a while. Perhaps getting to play closer to home might motivate him to improve on his all or nothing swing and his defense.
  • Chris Britton: He's probably the one I would most want, if I could only chose one. He's a nice reliever who had a nice first season with the Orioles, but then, after being traded to a Yankee team dying for bullpen help, they inexplicably didn't utilize him at all. Strikes out a nice amount, don't walk a lot, good K/BB, though a lot of flyballs (no problem in AT&T). He's only 26 years old and looking for a chance to show that the good stats he had in the minors work in the majors. Both Bill James and Marcel project him for nice stats if only if he gets a chance in the minors. The only problem is that we can't guarantee him a spot, but he can compete in spring, and at worse be in AAA ready to come up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Need to Scream!!! Part Dos

As any reader of my blog knows, I occassional rail against the media, like I did earlier this week regarding the sports talk hosts comments.  Today, I'll pick on the newspaper media.  My source of ire, I won't source, because that company takes their content off-line into their vault anyway within 7 days (which I totally understand, it's a business and I know business), and I hate providing links that lead to nothing but a warning message, as I hate getting them myself.   But that's a big enough hint, as well as my first point.

People in Glass Houses

First, Mr. Sensitive, who not so long ago took on the blogsphere because someone (MCC Grant for another hint) dared to backlink his column when he had the brilliant idea that trading Lincecum for Rios was the best thing to do, and was upset that someone would do that, decides that Sabean should have recent contracts be the sole determinant of whether he should be retained after the 2009 season.  

As I've noted all along, you don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water.   Sure, Sabean has made some bad deals, but it's the overall big picture you have to focus on:  look at that rotation, nobody's perfect so there will be mistakes, but isn't the team in pretty good shape for long term domination?  I can smell it, I can taste it, but all these teenage boys here can't wait, they shoot their wad and expect everyone else to be so hot and heavy over 2009 when we should be looking at 2010-2015.

Sidetrack #1:  And the funny thing is, Grant didn't even name him or make fun of him, he was just discussing the whole Rios/Lincecum drama from last year.  But I'm not so lenient of the media.  Here's two scenarios, which GM deserves firing more:  1)  Sabean with the current situation, which is, we have Lincecum and a pretty good pitching staff, and a lineup that, based on ZIP projections, will be competitive and perhaps division winners in the NL Worst in 2009; or 2) this writer, who by hindsight and the ability to not be held accountable for any other bad moves he could have made, but suppose he didn't do the things he blames Sabean for - overpaying Zito by at least $50M (remember, his words), Rowand by $20M, and Roberts by $10M - but did do the one thing we have him on record for, which is trading the 2008 Cy Young Award winner, the Blue Jays Tim Lincecum, for Alex Rios.

Here is the glory that is Rios's 2008 season.  The power hitter that people were clamoring for only hit 15 homers (that's power?), drove in only 79 (in an offense that is about 0.5 runs better per game; that's 81 runs over a whole season), and he spent the whole season batting in a RBI situation, 3rd, and his batting line was .291/.336/.461/.797, which is a very average OBP, something that writers rail at Sabean for not understanding, and Rios's OPS isn't even league average, RF in AL hit .281/.351/.459/.810 and had a 29 AB/HR ratio (about 21 HR season), which is much better than Rios's 42 AB/HR ratio (15 HR).   And remember, he probably would have suffered some power drop coming to SF.  

I think anyone who would have pulled off that bonehead trade (and this guy was not alone, there were a bunch of KNBR knuckleheads who were all for it too) would be tarred and feathered by the fan base and would have no chance of getting an extension beyond 2009.  .

Roberts $10M Overpaid

Now let's tackle some of his assertions.  Roberts, well, can't argue with that other than you could probably raise it to the full amount and not be far off.  His signing was horrible.  But not as horrible as trading off a Cy Young winner at age 24.

Rowand $20M Overpaid

Rowand is also easy, as he's clearly not $20M overpaid.  An average player today with a few flaws gets $10M per year, if not $11M per year, both starting pitchers and starting position players.  And remember, an average player in the majors is actually a good player, that is why the concept of "replacement level" resonates well.  Last year, despite all his problems with offense and defense, Rowand was about average, though on the low side because his offense was a little lower in OPS (but higher in the more important OBP and his OPS+ was 94 with park adjustments).  Still, we were hoping for more, so that was disappointing.  

For the 5 year, $60M contract, over that same period an average player should earn, assuming we start with $10M in 2008 as average and 10% growth, $61M.  So basically we are paying Rowand to be an average player for the life of his contract, and he was basically average in 2008, and if he's average for the life of the contract, we come out ahead by $1M.  Since he was below average this year, there goes the $1-2M.  If he does that over the life of the contract, that's $5-10M below, at worse, but as we all (OK, those of you out there who thought he was done) learned with Randy Winn, a season marred by injury could be followed by a return to career norms when healthy.

People forget, but Winn was the pariah for his contract a couple of years ago and now he's almost sainted by some of the Giants fans. Rowand could easily do the same by keeping healthy and hitting like he did in early 2008. But we will see if he can be healthy or our new Durham. Still, $20M is totally overstating the situation and way too soon to be declaring yourself a  genius for opposing the signing.

Zito $60M Overpaid

Zito, well, can't say anything more about the first two years than what I've said before, he was about average in 2007, which was exactly what we paid for, $10M, but he got $14.5M in 2008 and he probably only earned about $4.5M of that, so he definitely was about $10M overpaid in 2008, if not a little more.  That leaves about $100M over the next 5 seasons, a daunting sum.  Using his numbers, $60M overpaid means that, given the $10M overpay in 2008, he is being overpaid by $50M for the rest of the contract.  Roughly, that's saying that Zito will earn $10M per season and be overpaid $10M per season.   That's implying that Zito will be a below average pitcher in 2009 and decline from there, a reasonable assumption.

However, 5 years is a long time and things can change. I was extremely encouraged by Zito's end of season spurt of strikeout-ability. This could be Randy Winn's situation writ large if Zito can turn it around in 2009.  Obviously, 2009 is the tipping point, the situation is clearly not good, but there is still time for Zito to make good on the rest of the contract, assuming he can return to what he did for the A's in his last seasons with them, he don't even have to be like his Cy Young season to make this contract work over the next five seasons.

Using old Giants-speak, our dauber is down, but he has time to become a Humm-Baby if he just returns to recent goodness (from 2005-6) in 2009, not even his Cy Young goodness back in 2002.  

He's Also Wrong About Anger

He also noted that Sabean was angry about getting attention for buying players in 2008, when he bought attention in 2006 and 2007.  That's far from what I got from Sabean's tirade.  Sabean's problem is not the attention from pursuing big ticket free agents, but rather that he thought he had made it pretty clear that the Giants were not really pursuing Sabathia, other than to, using the Sabean-ism, kick the tires since CC expressed interest in the Giants.    Meanwhile the media blared it all over that the Giants were doing this, that and the other in pursuit of Sabathia.

And I sympathize with Sabean on that, at minimum, given what he had told local media, even if the national media wants to chase its tail about unsubstantiated rumors, the local media should have been instead talking about, despite the rumors, how the Giants are not very far along with their talks with Sabathia, that there was not much to the rumors.   Instead, Mr. Sensitive, on THE DAY SABATHIA signed, wrote on his newspaper sports front page, wondering if Neukom was pursuing Sabathia like Magowan got Bonds, he's the one who got it wrong.

Not Mad About People Talking About the Giants

Wrong again:  he wrote that Sabean is mad that fans are talking, arguing, and trying to fix the Giants, but Sabean was not mad about that.  Rather, he was mad because the media (including him) gave the impression to these fans that the Giants were going to be big players in the free agent market and perhaps sign a Sabathia, when they were not even close to pursuing Sabathia, let alone sign him.  Now Sabean has to deal with these expectations that the media fanned with their headlines of Neukom's Magowan wannabe moment.

Vote of No Confidence

I guess this shows that he either doesn't read blogs or don't really know the Giants or baseball or both.  He notes that he doesn't think much of the Giants moves this off-season, saying it didn't "engender tremendous confidence".   He noted that Renteria got too much money, Affeldt will face two batters per appearance, and Howry would get to mop up after Zito in the middle innings.  This statement is so wrong on so many dimensions, I don't know where to start, but go at them one by one.

Renteria got too much money?  Not really

Regarding Renteria's $18.5M contract for two years, he hit .270/.317/.382/.699, which was a down year for him, but as I and other bloggers noted, he had a lot of bad luck involved with that, plus it was acknowledged that he came into the season physically unprepared, then played into shape, which makes sense as he only hit .254/.301/.326/.627 in the first half of the season, then .296/.343/.469/.812 the rest of the season.   In any case, the average SS in the AL hit .266/.319/.375/.694, so he was actually an average hitter, with subpar defense.

As I noted above, average players get around $10-11M today in free agency;  however, he got $9.25M, so he's being paid as a below average SS, which he is if he hits and fields like 2008.  However, he is a lifetime .290/.347/.405/.753 hitter, so which is closer to the real Renteria, his first half stats or his second half?  And that's a plus hitter at SS, so if he can return to previous goodness - and all indications are that his batting skills did not slip at all last season, just had a spell of bad luck (or bad conditioning) - we just picked up a bargain for two years.  If 2008 is his new norm, then we just paid for what we get.  We only lose if he's on the downside, as some fears, but the odds are against that because his batting peripherals were good, it was just the results were bad.

Affeldt will face two batters

If that were true, then Affeldt should have only pitched roughly 0.5 innings per appearance (because he won't get both batter out always, some will get on base).  In 2008, in 74 games, he pitched 78.3 innings, or roughly 1 IP per appearance.  That's roughly 4.5 batters per appearance if anyone bothered to look at the facts.  He had 24 appearances where he went more than one inning and a total of 51 appearances (out of 74) where he went one inning or more.  So he is no regular LOOGY, he can handle the setup position, which is the reason why the Giants got him, if a certain Mr. Sensitive would have kept up with the news and actually read what the Giants said they were going to use him for.

Howry as Mop Up

Again, if he would bother to read up, Howry is not here to mop up, he is here to shore up the set-up roles.  As explained here and elsewhere, Howry had some bad luck in 2008, but previously was one of the best setup men for the previous 10 or so years.  In addition, with his long experience of success, he will be able to impart some of that knowledge to the other relievers who aspire to being set-up guys, particularly all our young guys.

In any case, even if he were washed up, the amount of money is very minimal, certainly nothing to complain about.  Most of the Giants bloggers understood that, in today's baseball you have to take some risks, but calculated risks like Howry is what you have to do, to put together a ball team economically.

In addition, if Mr. Sensitive were more aware of the Giants circumstances, he would have known that the Giants bullpen blew a lot of wins that starting pitchers had handed off to them.  Fixing the setup spots would save a number of games that the starters was leading, bringing the 2008 Giants to around .500, just from these two signings (with Howry).

He throws out Sabean's phrase of a few years ago, Lunatic Fringe as a badge of honor for himself, but he's more like "Uninformed" or "Unintelligent" Fringe:  I am not sure if it is one or the other or both, but definitely one of them.  

He should just go back and bother the Raiders some more, he fits in with that crowd more, I think.  He and Al seem to be very similar these past few years:  wrong, sensitive when it's pointed out, likes to point fingers elsewhere, likes to make grand statements that go nowhere (or is completely out there;  remember, he thought Neukom was having a moment when there was nothing to that rumor...).  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Giants News of the Day

Besides the Rule 5 Draft today where we picked up fireballing reliever Luis Perdomo, we have some other Giants news to report:
  • One reason Perdomo was selected was because Merkin Valdez is going to have surgery again (see report on sfgiants.com). Wow, he's 27 now and felt tightness in his forearm (not similar to Lowry's ailment but it sounds like similar stuff) while pitching in winter league. He's going under the knife on Monday, with rehab to last 6-8 weeks (Baggarly had reported 4-6 weeks), allowing him to be on the mound and "somewhat" competitive when spring training starts. It is a "pain issue as opposed to compressed nerves," which was Lowry's problem.
  • Wow, the Cards got Perdomo and cash for former phenom pitching prospect Anthony Reyes, so now the Cards end up with nothing for him. I wonder why they left him unprotected, given how good his stats were. Reyes was the Card's Matt Cain, but while Cain has gone well, Reyes could never figure it out.
  • Info on Perdomo from Tidrow, as reported in the link above: "Perdomo possesses two above-average pitches -- a fastball that ranges between 93-95 mph and a slider. Perdomo's currently trying to refine his changeup while pitching for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League...the reports are [good]"
  • Giants have offered Jack Taschner a contract, which is part of the process of keeping the arbitration-eligible lefty reliever. Sabean recognizes Tasch's value: "He just needs to pitch in a spot in the pecking order where he can relax and have some success. He's been overexposed a little bit. And to have three lefties, including him, really helps. Not many teams can do that."
  • The Giants are one of the teams that Randy Johnson is particularly interested in joining, according to a report by the Chron's John Shea. As Sabean noted, "He can still pitch. He's an intimidating force." The Big Unit is favoring teams that train in Arizona, where he lives, NL teams, competitive teams. Barry Meister, one of his agents, noted: "Randy's really interested... We made a check list of everything that's important, and San Francisco checks off on every box.... San Francisco has a lot of appeal." As for the A's, "We're just trying to keep our options open." Ouch! Apparently, the Rangers are interested and wooing him with Nolan Ryan, an old buddy. Unless Ryan is going to room with him, I don't see how friendship is going to lure Johnson to Texas.
  • Haven't reported it yet, but the Giants have decided that they now again considering re-signing Rich Aurilia, after first saying they might later, then no, and now thinking about it again. It makes sense: at first, they wanted to take care of other things first before thinking about Aurilia, then they thought they were getting close to getting a corner infielder (probably 3B since they originally said Sandoval was at 1B) so they thought they didn't need him, then once that died, that's when they made the recent announcement (which I also didn't report) that they would be happy with starting 2009 with Ishikawa at 1B and Sandoval at 3B (which set off a firestorm among Giants fans). This way, should either falter or need a "break", or either case, need a platoon buddy (this way, for example, he could alternate between 1B and 3B when there is a lefty starter, giving Sandoval and Ishikawa, who both don't hit LHP well, some AB, but not a lot of AB, against LHP.
  • Ugh, super agent Scott Boras said his client 3B Joe Crede, who has a history of back problems, including one that ended his 2008 season early, could be an option, saying he's healthy (what else is he going to say?) and even sending Crede's medical records to teh Giants. Luckily, the rumor doesn't say that the Giants are interested, just that Boras is, in Sabean-speak, kicking the tires and doing his due diligence.
  • And if you live under a rock, CC Sabathia was so important that Brian Cashman flew to negotiate personally with CC in Vallejo during the important Winter Meetings, and came away with a new ace starter for a 7 year, $161M contract (that works out to $23M per year, which is greater than the $22.9M that Santana got).
  • And Sabean ripped the local media a new one for making it seem like the Giants were heavily into Sabathia when there was actually very little happening. While the media was at fault for that, and I sympathize with Sabean, this is the 21st Century and Neukom set Sabean and the Giants up for that by not committing publicly to a payroll figure, which would stop Giants fans from dreaming about getting, say, a Teixeira, with the "money" the Giants would have used on Sabathia.
  • Neukom will have to learn about the consequences of dealing with the media, and speak more strategically to let the fans know enough but not everything, and Sabean will have to get used to the 21st Century. For example, in this case, say the budget is around $85M again, and if you do expand the budget, as Neukom has said he would for the right player, you just say that you couldn't pass him up. People would be just happy the payroll was expanded and not ask "hey, but you went over the budget!"
Giants Lineup

I took the ZIP projections for the Giants, that's available off of Dan Szymborski's website, Baseball Think Factory, and calculated what the projected lineup and pitching staff would do based on his projections. He's actually quite complementary of the Giants and Sabean (for once).

The lineup, as Bochy had expounded, with Burriss would score 4.01 runs per game, while with Frandsen, it would score 4.10 runs per game. The pitching staff would have an ERA of 3.97 overall, though that is without Perdomo's stats in there, I assumed that Misch is the #5 starter (obviously big improvement if we do sign Johnson) and the bullpen is composed of Wilson, Howry, Affeldt, Romo, Taschner, and Matos (the best ERAs projected).

That works out to 82 wins with Burriss starting, 84 wins with Frandsen starting (don't have true RS and RA; but lineup forecast should not be including error related runs and neither does the pitching ERA since, well, it's the ERA. Based on the projections for the pitching staff, the ZIP projection was for 85 wins (using winning percentage for 162 games). In 2008, the D-gers won with only 84 wins, and that was only after making the big trade to get Manny; they were scuffling at .500 before that. In addition, they have lost much of their rotation to free agency, plus one to injury, as well as possibly losing Manny. And the rest of the division is retrenching and selling off their best players (Colorado and Padres) or letting them go for nothing in return, which should hurt them too (D-backs and Dunn). The Giants, as is, looks like a division winner based on the numbers from the ZIPS projections, which I've always considered to be very conservative (that is, too low).

FYI: substituting in Johnson for Misch, it works out to 3.90 ERA, 83 wins, 85 wins, and 87 wins.

Fangraphs have both Marcel and Bill James projections up, so I will compile those as well and see what the win totals are using those stats. But I thought this would be good, one, because the data is all in one place (almost), and two, since I consider them conservative, this would be, at least theoretically, the worse case scenario.

Rule 5 Draft: 2008

The results are here on MLB.com.   The Giants drafted:
  • RHP Luis Perdomo in the major league portion of the draft (from the Cardinal's)
  • LHP Matt Yourkin in the AAA portion of the draft (from the Marlins)
and lost three players:  
  • CF Ben Copeland to the A's in the major league portion of the draft
  • C Elio Sarmiento to the Rangers in the AAA portion of the draft
  • 2B Kyle Haines to the Phillies in the AAA portion of the draft
At the MiLB's rumor blog, Jon Mayo wrote this about Perdomo:
There were rumors the Nationals were going to trade the No. 1 pick -- with some clubs interested in moving up to take Cardinals reliever Luis Perdomo -- but they plan to use it to make their own selection.
So apparently he was much in demand.

Luis Perdomo

Formerly with the Indians (Bobo's kindly provided this link), the 25 year old (for 2009 season) was acquired by St. Louis just before the end of 2008.  He had a very nice season statistically, 72.1 IP, 49 hits, 2.36 ERA overall, 82 K, 30 BB, so good K/BB ratio of 2.7, though high BB%, which is acceptable when he strike out a lot.  Only bad thing to note was his ERA rose with each rise or change in farm system teams:  0.92 ERA in 39 IP in A+, 3.52 ERA in 15.1 IP in AA, with Indians, 4.50 ERA in 18 IP in AA while with Cardinals.  Still, very nice stats (though small samples) in AA with Cardinals:  18 IP, 18 hits, 6 walks, 22 strikeouts, plus suffered from a bad BABIP of .357.  He didn't deserve that 4.50 ERA.

He will have to stay on the 25-man (i.e. major league) roster all season or would have to offered back to the Cardinals for half the money the Giants paid.  He is probably competing with Yabu, Taschner, Hinshaw, Sadler, Pichardo, Misch, and Matos (plus Valdez if healthy and perhaps Pucetas, if he pitches well) for the remaining bullpen spots.  With a 7 man bullpen and Wilson, Howry, Affeldt, and Romo all holding spots, that leaves three open spots.  

None of my prospect books have anything on him for the past three years.   His stats were very nice peripheral-wise, but his ERA was nothing great plus he was beating up on younger players.  Even in 2008 he was old for the leagues he were in.  Still, with such a good strikeout rate, even some deflation would yield a very good pitcher.   And with a mid-90's fastball, he certainly has the talent to be a very good reliever.

But just remember, the Giants drafted a reliever last year (Jose Capellan/Red Sox) and he didn't make it, getting resent back to the Red Sox at the end of spring training.

Matt Yourkin

He will be 27 for the 2009 season, and has never made it beyond AAA.  In fact, the career reliever got sent back to A+ and AA in 2008, after making it to AAA the previous two years before.   He strikes out a lot of guys, but limits his walks, which is good.  Unlike Perdomo, Yourkin at least got his name listed on BA's depth chart, though not their Top 30 list for 2008.

Giants Thoughts

Both are nice pickups, strikeout artists, that will give our bullpen some extra competition.  I'm sorry Copeland never got a chance with us, but he has no power and strike out a little too much, though he does walk a heck of a lot.   This follows the A's picking off Rajai Davis from us last season, a similar AAAA player with more speed than Copeland.  Don't know much about the other two guys.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2009 Lineup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also:  As the CC Turns

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

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

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

EME as Dark Horse for 2009-10

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

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

Schierholtz Hopes Fading

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Giants Got 3 of Top 50 2009 Prospects

MLB.com started publishing a Top 50 prospect list last season, and just recently released their version for the 2009 season. Last year we didn't have anybody on the list but this year we have three, Madison Bumgarner at 6th, Buster Posey at 19th, and Angel Villalona at 48th. Here is what they said about each:

#6 Madison Bumgarner

Statistically speaking: It's hard to imagine a better statistical season than Bumgarner's first full professional campaign. He led the Minors with his 1.46 ERA, was third in strikeouts with 164 and tied for fifth in wins with 15. He was seventh with a 10.42 K/9 ratio and led lefties in all the aforementioned categories.

Scouting report: The left-hander debuted in pro ball with one pitch -- though that offering was a plus, plus fastball that easily hits the mid-90s with good late life. His curve and slider have shown great progress and the changeup is improving as well, though perhaps lags a bit behind the others. He also has excellent command on both sides of the plate. His work ethic is off the charts and he has excellent mound presence.

Upside potential: The kind of left-handed ace that everyone wants, but few possess.

ETA: 2011

They said it: "I'm running out of superlatives. I've never seen a player do the things he's done. I've never seen a player grow that fast and quickly. What he did was staggering. ... That's an unstoppable force, when you have that kind of talent and that kind of desire to get better. I think he's going to be a very special player for a very long time at the Major League level." -- Augusta GreenJackets Manager Andy Skeels

He said it: "It just kind of clicked. You just have to have confidence in what you're doing. If you don't believe in yourself, you're not going to be able to get it done. ... There's a lot of improvement to make. Even if I had a 0.50 ERA, there'd still be room to improve."

Awards/Honors:

11/24/2008 MLB.com Class A Starting Pitcher of the Year
10/02/2008 Baseball America High Class A All-Star
09/12/2008 Minor League Baseball Most Spectacular Pitcher
09/05/2008 Baseball America Minor League All-Star
08/26/2008 SAL Most Outstanding Pitcher
08/26/2008 SAL Post-Season All-Star
08/18/2008 SAL Pitcher of the Week
08/04/2008 SAL Pitcher of the Week
07/21/2008 SAL Pitcher of the Week
06/23/2008 SAL Pitcher of the Week
06/17/2008 SAL Mid-Season All-Star
06/16/2008 SAL Pitcher of the Week


#19 Buster Posey

Statistically speaking: In a whirlwind year that saw him play in the rookie-level Arizona League, the short-season Northwest League, the Class A Advanced California League and Hawaiian Winter Baseball, Posey made the most of his 128 total at-bats by hitting .328 with 23 RBIs in 34 games.

Scouting report: Very athletic catcher who used to be a shortstop. Has an advanced hitting approach, good strike zone knowledge, and should hit for average with some power. Ability to use all fields for extra-base pop.

Upside potential: Top all-around catcher who reaches the Majors quickly and stays for a long time.

ETA: 2010

They said it: "For him to come in and get three weeks of baseball in before the season ended, play in three different places, was not an easy task. He showed us he's very much ready for this level. The impact and impression he made in a brief time was very good. He's incredibly advanced in his way of approaching the game and his bat. He continues to show us why he achieved what he did at the collegiate level." -- Bobby Evans, Giants director of player personnel
He said it: "I'm learning to go with the flow a little bit and keep things in perspective. I'm still getting the chance to play the game that I love." -- On adjusting to the pro game in his first summer.

Awards/Honors:

11/16/2008 HWB Post-Season All-Star


#48 Angel Villalona

Statistically speaking: His overall numbers may not seem overwhelming, but he really turned it on as the season wore on. As he turned 18 in August, the big first baseman hit .308 and slugged .529 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 27 games.

Scouting report: A big, strong first baseman with plus, plus raw power from the right side. Has a chance to be an above-average hitter but will have to watch conditioning, which was much improved over the course of his first full season. Made a nice transition from third to first base.

Upside potential: An All-Star first baseman who hits in the middle of the lineup and hits 30-plus homers and drives in more than 100 runs annually.

ETA: 2012

They said it: "You come out of Spring Training and they're so young and never experienced a full season, so you don't know what you're going to get. For someone that young, it's a testament to what our staff did and a testament to the kind of kid Angel is. He's a tremendous talent and he dedicated himself much better to becoming a professional." -- Augusta GreenJackets manager Andy Skeels

Awards/Honors:

07/13/2008 Futures Game Selection
05/19/2008 SAL Player of the Week

Giants Thoughts

That is part of the beauty of having a Top 10 draft pick overall, getting them onto lists like these. And remember, Lincecum would normally be making a list like this around now instead of winning the Cy Young award, as it normally take 2-3 years for most TOP prospects to make the majors. For him to make it to the majors after a little more than a month or two of pro play is highly accelerated, and yet he was clearly ready.

Judging by how well Bumgarner did in Augusta, I think that he's clearly ready as well. Hopefully they jump him to AA Connecticut and team him up with Alderson. If he does as well there, he should make the jump to AAA by mid-season, and could make the majors early depending on how our #5 starter situation works out this off-season: if we have an unproven #5 starter instead of signing a free agent, Bumgarner could push to take his spot, even if that #5 is doing well. I think he will be that good. And I think we will see him, particularly if we are competitive, as I now expect, and especially if we are contending, as we will need all the help we can get.

With the 'Dres, D-backs, and D-Rox retrenching and LA apparently hung up on what they are going to do, but losing much of the rotation without much talk of how to replace them, the NL West could be won by a .500 team again (or worse, sub-.500 team) and the Giants are poised to be in that winning percentage range. Bumgarner could come up and give us extra OOMPH, whether starting or relieving, as the season heads into the stretch run. Perhaps Alderson too, he had the best ERA in the California League himself, so he's no slouch either. That was a great draft just for the two of them, let alone also getting Noonan and Fairley.

I'm not sure why he ranked lower than Jason Heyward, though, who was third. They described Madison as the "ace that everyone wants, but few posess." However, the best they could say about Heyward is "All-Star-caliber right fielder". Also, he wasn't even the best hitter in the Sally League, whereas Bumgarner was not only the best in the league but had the best ERA in all of the minors.

They also had Rick Porcello ranked higher than Bumgarner. I undertstand that partially, as he pitched very well in a higher level, Advanced A, but let's compare Porcello with Alderson, who is a year older but also in his first pro season and also started out in Advanced A after being in high school the year before.

Porcello: 2.66 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 2.2 K/BB, 2.48 GO/AO, 125.0 IP
Alderson: 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.6 K/BB, 1.20 GO/AO, 145.1 IP

Alderson had a slightly higher ERA, but lower WHIP, much higher strikeout rate, lower walk rate, much higher K/BB ratio, and pitched more innings. Yet Porcello was ranked 4th above Bumgarner and Alderson didn't even make the Top 50 list.

Of course, having a mid-90's fastball helped Porcello's case greatly, but still, the minors are littered with pitchers who have mid-90's heat but could never figure out how to get out major league batters with it. With such a low strikeout rate, I would think that does not bode well for Porcello moving up, if he can't get Advanced A guys to miss the ball, how can he expect hitters higher to miss?

Then again, he has a redonkulous groundout to flyout ratio, that helps to make up for the low strikeout rate. Apparently he fooled the hitters well enough to get them to ground out a tremendous amount of time. I wonder if the Giants would have selected him with the pick they used on Fairley had Porcello fell to them? It was close, the Tigers picked just a couple of picks before. Still, hard to argue with the Giants decision to select Bumgarner and Alderson over Porcello, they both arguably did better than Porcello did in their first season.

Buster Posey was the highest ranked prospect from his draft class, just beating out Brian Matusz, who was 20th, and Tim Beckham, who was 22nd. Alvarez didn't even rank and Hosmer was 29th. A 2010 ETA is just perfect as Molina's contract is over in 2009. That suggests that Posey does well enough in AA to move to AAA by mid-to-late season, then take over in the majors in 2010. Though I guess alternatively, that means he is in AA in 2009 and AAA in 2010, until getting a September call-up, making this ETA come true too.

It will be interesting to see how he does in AA in 2009, assuming he goes there, have to assume he does as he should go wherever Steve Decker goes (former catcher, tutored Sandoval on the art of catching). With Dodd Stadium's horrible effects on hitters' power, you have to wonder if that will cause Posey to press and do poorly. That will surely less his mettle early in his pro career. As well as Bowker, Sandoval and Ishikawa did there the past two seasons, they did even better on the road relative to their home numbers, which were severely depressed because of the dampening on their power. Posey isn't a homerun hitter, or not projected to be a big one in the majors, but he should be hitting for power.

In Villalona's case, the potential is down but still good: here he's mentioned as a future All-Star firstbaseman with 30+ homers. They have an ETA for him of 2012. He was one of the youngest players in the Sally League, turning 18 late in the season - only Michael Almanzar was younger - and thus would be 21 years old for the 2012 season, very young, and still, that's conservative, assuming he rises one level per year. As I mentioned before in a prior post/comment, he did better at lower-A than Justin Upton and yet was younger, and Justin was in the majors the next season. I'm not saying Villalona will necessarily make the majors in 2009, but I have to think sooner than 2012.

None of these guys should not be prospects for 2010, so I wonder how many we will have in the list next season. Assuming they continue to earn a spot in the Top 50, they could be joined by at least Tim Alderson next season, plus Rafael Rodriguez will be having his first professional season and could join with a very good first season, as he could perhaps wow in his first experience as a pro. Henry Sosa, Conor Gillaspie, Roger Kieschnick, Brandon Crawford, Nick Noonan, and Wendell Fairley could also make the list if they perform well enough in 2008. I would also throw out the names Ehire Adrianza and Hector Sanchez as well.

Free Agency and Unforseen Factors

One of the fun things about being a fan is making up trades and talking about what the team could do to better itself. But there are often factors that people are not aware about that influence decisions that go beyond baseball.

For example, there have been a number of potential trades over the years where it got nixed by the player because of other factors. I don't recall them from memory, but there have been, for instance, players who refused a trade to a contending team for one reason or another, which, of course, didn't make their team very happy at the time, as they would have dumped salary as well as pick up some prospects.

Giants Thoughts

I thought about this because non-baseball factors have affected the Giants more than once over the years since just the World Series loss to the Angels.

Mad Maddux Money

First that comes to mind is the recent news that Greg Maddux actually wanted to sign with us in 2004, instead of the Cubs, but his wife didn't want to go to SF for some reason. Think how our fortunes might have been much different during those years had he pitched for us instead (using the money they were hiding somewhere to get wish list items). Immediate to mind is that we probably would not have signed Morris to mentor Cain, as Maddux would have been mentoring him instead. In addition, we would not have signed Brett Tomko and Maddux would have pitched just as well.

Plus, as much as I hate Pierzynski, without Tomko around to make the cancer statement, plus Maddux is as much a pain in the butt as Pierzynski so maybe they enjoy each other's company, we might have retained him and not have to sign Matheny or Molina, and still get value out of that darn trade.

In addition, 2005 might have been a winning season (Tomko went 8-15 and the team was 12-21 with him; with Maddux, we could have won another 7-8 games and took the pennant, the 'Dres won it with 82 wins only and Maddux had a 4.24 ERA vs. Tomko's 4.48). In 2006, no Matt Morris 10-15 or 4.98 ERA, Maddux had a 4.20 ERA and thus the Giants again could have been .500, though not pennant contending. And that doesn't include the fact that, being with the Giants, he couldn't have pitched for our competitors and pitch so well for them, that would have helped our playoff chances as well

The down side of "What if Maddux" is that without Tomko messing things up in 2005, we would not have been in position to draft Lincecum in 2006 and Bumgarner in 2007 and Posey in 2008. So maybe it was for the best for our rebuilding.

Vlad Was Not Very Viable

Another what if revolves around Vladimir Guerrerro. I was one of the fanatics pushing for the Giants to get him, and from all publicly available information at that time, Vlad liked Felipe Alou, who was his manager when he made the majors and for a number of years. He gave this glowing interview when facing Alou while he was bench coach for the Tigers, it was so full of respect and honor. Pedro Martinez loved him, Vlad considered Pedro like another father, it seemed like all one big happy family there in Expos land.

However, according to Ted Robinson, local sports broadcaster with the ability to commentate as well in baseball as in the Olympics, Vlad would never have signed with the Giants because he didn't like Felipe. Ted is not one of those sportshow hosts who likes to shoot off from the mouth, his answers are always careful and well constructed, and sincere, so I do not doubt his veracity, though it took me some time to accept that bit of news eventually. I just REALLY wanted the Giants to get Vlad.

So, as much as I liked Felipe as manager for the Giants, if he really cost us getting Vlad - think of how the lineup would have been in 2004-2008 with him in our lineup? - then I would have to say that we are currently negative on the ledger until his revered status in the Carribean can deliver us a plus prospect player into our fold.

Rushed Out by the Ranchero Rapidly

Then there was the case of Carlos Lee. According to reports, the Giants were prepared to go higher with their contract but Lee informed us not to bother, he's signing with the Astros. Of course, no income tax in Texas helps with that decision, but the main factors that pushed him to sign with the Houston Astros was because he has a big ranch in Texas and they finally offered him the money he felt he was worth. Once they gave him that, he told the Giants to shove off. Apparently, he couldn't be bought, he only wanted what he felt was fair for him.

What happened next was that the Giants ended up signing Dave Roberts to cover CF (I guess Lee would have played RF and Winn CF, while Bonds stayed in LF) and then signed Barry Zito to his contract. Had they already signed Carlos Lee, they might not have been able to sign Zito and definitely would not have signed Roberts, who has been injured every year he has been with us.

Can't Go Home; Or Can You?

Then there was Gary Matthews Jr, who thankfully did not sign with us (I was wishing really hard for that one). There are many players who really want to play close to their childhood home, and that home for the Matthews clan (including Sr., who once played for us) is in Southern California. The Giants offered, from what I recall, something close if not equal to what he signed for with the Angels, but he chose them instead. Can you imagine if we had gotten both Matthews and Zito? Then again, Roberts and Zito is a pretty close second right now.

Kan't Kent Kagain

There have also been a number of fans who lament Sabean passing up re-signing Jeff Kent and instead getting Durham and Alfonzo. But they forget one pertinent thing at that time: Kent hated Bonds and he hated the Giants management for treating Bonds differently, and more importantly, preferentially, and he wasn't going to sign back with us. Too much had happened for him to simply return to the team.

Also, he only led us to sign Durham, it was David Bell taking off by not picking up his option and then signing with the Phillies that resulted in us signing Alfonzo. I think the Giants would have been OK with Durham and Bell, and would not have gone after Alfonzo. Instead, they would have been in the market for a 3B the next off-season; I'm not sure who was available before the 2004 season as a free agent, but scanning the transactions, Scott Spiezio was the only name I saw who could remotely play 3B and was still a regular at the time, though Rich Aurilia was also available, but not really a regular anymore (that was a pretty slow off-season, the big signings didn't happen until January for the most part).

Can You C CC?

Another reason this came to mind was the blurb that reported CC Sabathia's wife, if she had the choice, would want to go to SF. He would really give us a monster rotation for the next 5 or so years of his contract, teamed with Lincecum and Cain. However, the Yankees have offered 6 years, $140M and the Brewers 5 years, $100M, and the Giants reportedly are going to offer less than the Brewers.

I don't see how he can give up that much money, even to make his wife happy. But, man, what a nice "What if" that would be, with Bumgarner probably coming up in 2010 and possibly being another ace type pitcher with Sabathia, Lincecum, and Cain. People talk about improving the offense, but when you have a rotation like that, good from top to bottom, that is the same as having a good offensive player who can contribute every game, as some give as a reason why they are better than a starting pitcher.

I have to disagree. A hitter can take over a game and win it on his own, but those games are not that frequent, it takes a team to score runs regularly and consistently. However, a pitcher, when he is on can take over a game and win that game for you - and the best can be on for nearly three-quarters of their starts. I don't think even the best hitters can win more than one or two handful of games of games in any season by themselves, let alone the 20 or so games the best pitchers can take over and dominate.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

This is Howry Do It, Baby!

Thought I would go over my thoughts on Bob Howry. At $2.75M plus easy to achieve incentives that should boost him up to Affeldt's $4M per season amount, assuming he returns to his former goodness, that is not a bad deal. We give him a chance to redeem himself (and return to his first organization) and he could give us great value as a reliever if 2008 was a blip on a sterling career so far.

Let's start with his career. 7 seasons of 3.59 ERA or less (out of 10 full seasons), 4 seasons with 3.32 ERA or less out of the last 5 seasons. Career ERA of 3.68, FIP of 3.95. 2008 is an aberration compared to his career, but at age 35 for next season, it could be the start of the end of his career.

So let's look at 2008. 5.35 ERA is the worse full season of his career by far. His previous worse was 4.69, and third worse was 4.19 (which is not that bad either). What appears to be clearly a problem was that he gave up 13 homers in the season, the worse ever in a full season, as 11 was his worse before (in 2001), and he gave up 90 hits in 70.2 IP, only his second season in his career where he gave up more hits than IP during the season.

The home runs were clearly a outlier. His HR/FB% was 11.7% in 2008, when most pitchers regress to around 10%. From 2002 to 2008, his HR/FB% was 8.5%. Had he had only 10%, he would have given up only 11 homers, but if he dropped it to his career numbers, it would have been only 9 homers, which is right in range with what he had given up in his career previously. This would drop his ERA down below 5, at minimum (reducing ER by 1 for each homer; could have been runners of his on base too, which would reduce even more). It also increased his OPS giving up by 124 points, most of the points that was over his career average.

BABIP is clearly an outlier. .354 BABIP is higher than the mean .300 most pitchers regress to, and higher than his career .291 BABIP. The highest he had before was .319 BABIP in 2001 (clear by now that 2001 was his other worse season). That is 16 more hits than he would have given up had he only had a .300 BABIP in 2008. That probably represents the rest of the increase in OPS seen in 2008 versus his career. Reduction of both to career average should result in improvement he should see in 2009, as long as he's not losing his skills.

Looking at his skills, one would not see anything among the things he can control to suggest that 2008 was a season of decline. While his K/9 did drop again, at 7.51 it is very close to his career number of 7.75, just a random variation up and down. However, he was able to reduce his BB/9 to 1.66 and it has been under 2.10 for the past 4 seasons, which is excellent, good pitchers are able to get it under 3.0 but only elite pitchers can get it to the 2.0 level. That combined to improve his K/BB to 4.54 in 2008, versus career of 2.73 and previous high of 4.18 in 2006, where you want relievers to have at least a 2.4 ratio. He also had a down year in LOB%, which was only 70.3% in 2008, versus his 74.9% for his career, leading to more runs scoring on him.

His batted balls stats are also not indicative of decline. His GB/FB ratio was about the same, 0.74 versus 0.77 for 2002-2008 period (Fangraphs only has data for Howry back to 2002). He actually reduced his LD%, usually a good sign for reduced BABIP, with 17.9% in 2008 vs. 19.8% for the period, and could be a sign of development, as he had a LD% of 18.0 in 2006 (vs. 19.7% in 2007). His GB% was 34.9%, right in line with career 35.0%. The only negative was that his FB% rose to 47.2% after a 47.9% in 2007, versus 45.2% for the 2002-2008 period.

Looking at ball and strikes was also positive. For the 2002-2008 period, he threw strikes 64.1% of the time but for 2008, he threw strikes 65.5% of the time. That is certainly is not a sign of decline.

Looking at pitch type, one big difference between 2008 and previous years was that he threw less fast balls and part of the reason for that was a reduction in the speed of his fastball. He threw a fastball only 74.8% of the time (86.2%, 82.8%, and 82.6% in three previous seasons) and at only 91.2 MPH (92.3, 92.8, and 92.8 in three previous seasons). He threw a lot more sliders though, 23.1% of the time vs. 10-15% roughly previous three season, but that speed also fell too, to 83.3 MPH vs. 84.4, 84.2, and 86.4 previously. Changeup percentage wasn't that significant relative to 3 previous seasons but again velocity was down, 83.0 MPH vs. 84.2, 85.1, and 84.5.

It is not a great sign that his velocity fell, but since it fell across all his pitches and he was able to throw for more strikes, and kept his peripherals up or improved, that is the more important point.

Based on all this, he does appear to be slipping, as his velocity fell significantly, but he was able to adjust and kept his peripherals all within career norms or better, which is the more pertinent piece of information regarding his 2009 season with us. Particularly since he'll be pitching at AT&T half of his games, which should help with reducing the number of homers he gives up, particularly against left-handed hitters. With only one year committed, and the strong likelihood that 2009 should be more like his career than 2008, he was a good addition with little risk involved but a potentially large reward if he can return to his career norm of 3.68 ERA or the stretch of 2004-2007 where his ERA was 2.74, 2.47, 3.17, and 3.32.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Giants Flurry of Signing: Renteria Next

Sabean moves fast again: According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Giants will announce the signing of Edgar Renteria to a two year, $18.5M contract later today.  That's very close to the rumored two-year, $18M contract that the Giants supposedly agreed to last week.

That's after signing Bob Howry to a $2.75M contract with incentives yesterday.  The incentives are these:  additional $500,000 based on games, getting $100,000 each for 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 appearances. He can earn $1 million based on games finished: $100,000 for 45, $200,000 for 50, $300,000 for 55 and $400,000 for 60.

Howry is happy to be back where he started. The Giants feel that the bullpen is now settled (quotes from AP account):
  • Sabean:  “I’m sure it’s a comfort to Boch,” Sabean said. “This was a big part of the puzzle and showed how much these guys respected our interest and took the punch to sign with us. The sooner the better that the organization has an idea of what’s going on and the players are more comfortable.”

    “The big thing with Bobby is, been there and done it,” Sabean said. “You can’t walk away from the experience. You can’t walk away from the fact that he’s done it. … No question he’s going to return to form and be a valuable cog.”

    Now, Sabean will turn his attention to a “small group of position players we have a chance on,” he said.
  • Bochy:  “Along with Jeremy, it makes us a terrific bullpen and a bullpen we’re going to have all the confidence of the world in,” Bochy said. “It’s going to help to have that kind of experience down there at the end of the ballgame.”
They are confident that Howry will be his old, reliable self on the mound in 2009 (and of course they are, else why give him a contract :^).   And believe that both Affeldt and Howry could help close games as well.

Rumor Mill

There is also some  juicy rumors floating:
  • Pat Burrell:  According to a MLB report, Pat Burrell is being courted by the Giants (also Mariners and Angels) and the reporter thinks the Giants have an edge because he grew up in the Bay Area and Aaron Rowand is his good friend, from their Phillies days.
  • Jorge Cantu:  Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (as reported by MLB) claims that the Marlins had discussions with the Giants about sending 3B Jorge Cantu to the Giants for Jonathan Sanchez.  
  • CC Sabathia:  The New York Daily News (as reported by MLB) reported that the Giants are prepared to jump in as the third team to officially present an offer to Sabathia.  Citing Major League sources, the Giants are contemplating an offer of more than the Brewers five years, $100M offer and the Yankees six years, $140M offer, as they hope for a hometown discount.


If the Giants get Burrell, I assume he would be playing 1B as the Giants appeared to have plans for Fred Lewis and he played well too, plus another OF would push Schierholtz to the bench or AAA again. I assume the change in Sabean's thought process towards Sandoval, recently saying he's 3B, not 1B as originally envisioned, represents the market reality that while there were interesting 1B free agents or trade prospects out there, there was not really any good 3B opportunities out there.

Which brings us to the Cantu rumor. I have to assume this was something that the Marlins thought up and proposed, then leaked to let the league know that he's in play. Easier than calling up all 29 other teams and kicking the tires, plus puts you in a better position in negotiations because the other team is coming to you, not the other way around. I think they leaked their own offer because Cantu is too little to get back for Sanchez. He could be a top line pitcher if he ever figures out how to be consistent and last year he did figure it out for a while before tiring out mid-season, but then he returned and did well in spots too, so I think he's ready for the spotlight. We need to keep him if the offers are so puny.

Besides, if we sign Burrell, I think that ends any interest of the Giants in Cantu, as they want to give Sandoval his chance somewhere, and 3B would be his spot if Burrell is playing 1B.

Sabathia, as I noted in a previous post, would obviously give us a monster rotation the likes of which the majors probably have not seen since the Orioles in the early 70's with Palmer, Dobson, Cuellar, and McNally. Since Pat Dobson was one of Sabean's top advisor until his untimely and early passing, that could be driving Sabean's thinking there.

Obviously, signing Sabathia would help the team immensely but I wonder how that would affect signing Lincecum long-term. The precedence of Dustin Pedroia, the reigning MVP, recently signing a long-term contract that extends into his free agent years at a discount gives me hope that Lincecum, the reigning Cy Young winner, would sign a similar contract with us before the 2009 season starts. Also, people think Zito is untradeable, but by his final years, the average pitcher could be making $18-20M on the open market (unless the economy is hit harder than it was in the 2000 period), so if the Giants pony up, say, half his salary, a contending team would probably be willing to take a flier on him.

I think trading for Cantu would violate the philosophy that Sabean has been operating under since last off-season of not taking a step backward talent-wise, and thus he wouldn't do it. Sanchez can be a top-line pitcher whereas Cantu is less than a year removed from being a lowly failed prospect released by his former team, the Rays, who at that time could still use useful players, if only to be able to trade them away, but they apparently had no takers. He could revert back to that player after his nice 2008 season.

Burrell would be a huge upgrade for us offensively if we got him for 1B, both positionally and in the lineup. He would be our clean-up hitter and Renteria would probably be our leadoff hitter, though Burriss would be better leading off with Renteria batting 2nd (since Burriss has no power but more speed than Renteria now). But I think this is a more likely scenario:

Renteria SS
Winn RF
Lewis LF
Burrell 1B
Sandoval 3B
Rowand CF
Molina C
Burriss 2B
Pitcher

That would be a pretty strong lineup, and if Lewis is delayed for any reason in his recovery, then Winn would move to LF and Schierholtz would get to start in RF. He would be on the bench otherwise, with Velez and Holm.

The other two bench spots is harder to figure out. Frandsen is probably out of options, and makes the most sense of these to take a bench spot because he can play 2B, 3B, and SS in a pinch, but I don't think he will automatically get a spot, he will need to earn that spot in spring training and in small samples, you never know what might happen. Ishikawa could have one because he should be out of options too and he would be the defensive replacement for Burrell (Burrell was often taken out for defensive purposes by the Phillies) plus be power off the bench, though Schierholtz should also be another power lefty bat. Bowker could also take a spot, but since he still have options, he probably will be placed in AAA and given more time to develop. There is also the possibility the Giants sign Aurilia to be their utility infielder, which could push Frandsen out of the picture.

The starting rotation could be monster:

CC Sabathia
Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Jonathan Sanchez
Barry Zito

This rotation most probably will have a collective ERA under 4 and if first three pitch like normal and Sanchez pitch like he's capable, it could be significantly under 4, and if Zito's late season improvement is no mirage (like it was from the 2007 season), we could be talking mid-3 ERA.

And the bullpen is shaping up nicely, particularly if Howry returns to form and Romo is the real thing:

Brian Wilson (closer)
Bob Howry
Jeremy Affeldt
Sergio Romo
Kenichi Yabu

Plus two of Hinshaw (most likely), Sadler, Taschner (could be traded to clear space on 40 man), Matos, Pichardo. And if Valdez can not only return healthy for a full season but pitch like he did last season, we could have a pretty monster bullpen too.

But that is a lot of "ifs". Clearly the potential is there, if we can acquire Burrell AND Sabathia, and hence why the Giants are pursuing those avenues. I don't think Sabathia will come here, I think the Angels will swoop in at the last minute and grab him with a contract between the Giants and Yankees offers, because Sabathia is building a new home in the LA area and would naturally want to be able to go home after home games. But supposedly the Angels are focused on Teixeira right now, and it could be an either-or situation, perhaps they can't get both players. The D-gers should also be pursuing him because of their rotation losses, but there has been no peep of their interest, and if they join, there could be a bidding war with them winning, as the Angels do not want to get in a bidding war and the Yankees probably needs Sabathia as badly as the D-gers.

Still, assuming we get Renteria and then "only" add Burrell, that would be a pretty nice offense to go with our newly nice bullpen and our great starting rotation. Even without Sabathia, that would be a contending team, particularly if players play up to their normal level of play.

I would still prefer to use 2009 as a rebuilding year to learn more about our position prospects, but the Giants clearly have other ideas and appear to want to be not only competitive in 2009 but contenders if they are pursuing all these high-priced free agents. I don't care that much for Burrell since he's a strong defensive liability nor Renteria because of his age, but Renteria's deal is not something to cry about, as he would improve us, and hopefully neither is Burrell's. Obviously, if they fail in their other pursuits, with only Renteria in place, then 2009 will be more of a competitive year than a contending year, unless a lot of players bust out and play well, particularly Sandoval, Rowand, and Lewis, in that order.

I think the bad economic news is also helping push players to accept deals sooner than later (except for top players), because teams might suddenly decide that renewals of season tickets are not moving fast enough and thus take offers off the table. Why quibble and negotiate when the contract is within range of what they are looking for? That could push players in the middle like Burrell (and Renteria) to get deals done sooner, as there are not that many teams with the available budget space to afford a $10M or so per season player and the list could shrink with the bad economic news piling up. And hence why the Giants are probably pursuing these players more than the name guys there (Teixeira and Furcal).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Sandoval, Burriss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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