Friday, January 16, 2009

Former and Not-Former Giants News

As Bud Costello used to say in his comedy routine, "I love baseball." I often read through the transactions in the newspaper and recently saw a bunch of former Giants signing with other teams or otherwise listed in the transaction pages, so I thought I would run through them:

  • Justin Leone and Todd Linden signed with the Yankees, who made a sweep of other teams flotsom, signing other players like Angel Berroa, Jason Johnson, and Sergio Metre to minor league contracts.
  • Dan Ortmeier signed with the Rockies on a minor league contract (Scott Podsednik - I guess he replaces stat/skill doppelganger Willy Taveras? - and Glendon Rusch were also signed). Good luck to him, but it was clear he wasn't get much of a chance going forward, we have so many better 1B options now that rank ahead of him, he really blew his chance in 2008. I guess he is hoping that the Holliday trade opened an opportunity for him in the outfield, as Helton will be around for a bit while longer.
  • Guillermo Rodriguez signed with the Orioles.
  • David Aardsma was designated for assignment by the Red Sox.

I also noticed on the Biz of Baseball website that Jack Taschner is actually arbitration eligible not because he had passed 3 years of service, which I had originally thought, but because he is classified as a Super Two. I always thought that was related to how good a player had done in his second year, but I was wrong: "Super Two, or a player that has at least 2 years of service, but less than 3, has accumulated at least 86 days of service in the previous year, and ranked in the top 17% of all 2-year players in service time." Taschner had 2.146 years of service, just behind Melky Cabrera and Russell Martin, and the "leader" was Brian Bannister (who had a terrible second season) with 2.158.

New Blog: Inside the Giants Clubhouse by Joan Ryan

Lastly, I thought I would give a shout-out to a nice new Giants run blog run by Joan Ryan, who used to be with the Examiner/Chronicle and covered sports once upon a time, but now is a media consultant with the Giants. In her latest entry, there were some interesting news from a "Chalk Talk" that the Giants held for season ticket holders last week:

  • Fred Lewis has blossomed and is comfortable being himself in the public eye now, and starting to show confidence and leadership. He recently spoke "with both Jonathan Sanchez and Alex Hinshaw in Arizona, where they were working out together, saying that he and the team needed them to have big years, that he expected them to have big years because the team couldn't win if they didn't." Among his 2009 season goals: .315 average, 20 homers, and 20 triples.
  • Bochy said the rotation right now is Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito, and either Sanchez or Lowry. I heard on KNBR in an interview that he did this to break up the lefties.
  • Bochy said he expects the "break-out'' minor-leaguers to be Baumgartner, Alderson, Noonan and Posey. "They're all on the fast track,'' he said. "Brian (Sabean) isn't afraid to bring young guys up quickly.''
  • Bochy said he and batting coach Carney Lansford would be focusing on improving the team's abysmal on-base percentage. "It's an area we're going to stress this spring, to be a little more patient at the plate. If you have a good on-base percentage, you're going to create more opportunities.'' But he also cautioned one questioner about criticizing strikeouts too harshly. "Strikeouts are not as bad as you think,'' Bochy said. "It gets the pitcher's pitch count up. You're working the pitcher.''

Giants Thoughts

About Lewis, that is very encouraging about his "transformation" (as he would probably term it). He clearly feels he belongs and now has some lofty goals he wants to meet, that's good that he put it out there, it'll put pressure on him to achieve and succeed. If he took this long to show his personality, that suggests a cautiousness that would imply that he wouldn't speak to Sanchez and Hinshaw unless he felt comfortable enough to do that. Which is a bit bold, as Sanchez has been in the majors longer than Lewis, if memory serves.

In addition, from the Bochy interview on KNBR, he noted that he was seeing Lewis as the #5 hitter in the lineup, resulting in a lineup of Winn, Renteria, Sandoval, Molina, Lewis, Rowand, Ishikawa, and the second base winner, assuming no further changes. A recent news note (don't recall where I read it) said that the Giants are on the fringes of Joe Crede, which to me means that they kicked the tires, let them know that the Giants are interested in a one year deal with certain parameters and conditions (related to his health), get back to us if you become interested.

With only 30 days to spring training, that interest could be growing stronger every day, so Ishikawa has got to be praying that another team signs Crede soon. Bochy sounded very positive about Ishikawa, so there is that, and while he is probably not what people are looking for at 1B, I think he will be an above average #7 hitter; the average #7 hitter hit .259/.326/.406/.732 in 2008. People focus too much on whether a player is above average for a position, but one key consideration people forget about is lineup construction, about how the players you have, in total, compare with the average NL lineup. Of course, as long as we have Molina batting 4th, our lineup will not compare favorably unless most of our other hitters are above.

About Bochy on break-outs, all I can say is, Wow! I felt that Bumgarner and perhaps Alderson could make the majors this season with a great start in AA and need at the majors for relief (or god forbid, starts), but it is good to see that the Giants think they can make it up quickly as well.

I suspected as much with Bumgarner because Sanchez dominated at Class A and soon rose to the majors to join relief. Earl Weaver liked to bring pitchers up as relievers to let them acclimate to major league life, and ease them in, even the starters, so I've always wondered if the late Pat Dobson had influenced Sabean's or the Giant's thinking in this regard.

In particular, Noonan didn't really do that well in A-ball, so he was a surprise. I mean, he did well there for an 18 year old, but he struck out a lot and walked very little, suggesting he will take a while longer to move up, and certainly not that he would move up fast. I guess this means that the Giants like his bat enough that his lack of plate discipline performance is related more to him battling pitchers 3-4 years old than him than him not being a good hitter without a plan at the plate.

About Posey, I was very surprised to see his name listed too, as that would imply that the Giants is viewing as a possible scenario a trade of Molina, as it would make no sense to bring Posey up except to bring him up as the starting pitcher. Still, that speaks to the confidence the Giants are showing in Posey's abilities, suggesting that he is probably going to end up at AA for 2009 and believe that he is close enough that he could make the big show with a really good showing in the first half of 2009.

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