Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sabean Like Sanchez, Really He Does

One of the big debate among fans has been about how good Sanchez is and whether Sabean knows what he has in the lefty. There is good news for Sanchez fans like me from Hank Schulman, from his The Splash blog.

He reports that at the Comcast Lunch, I suppose just today, Sabean said that he can't imagine trading a bigger, stronger Jonathan Sanchez for a bat, adding further that Noah Lowry will have to wrest the fifth spot in the rotation from the incumbent Sanchez.

What happened is that Greg Papa asked about trading Sanchez for a corner infielder and Sabean, noting he saw Sanchez throw Tuesday in Arizona, said, "He's bigger and stronger. He's ready to pitch. I have a hard time thinking we could trade this player for value. Plus, he's the incumbent. Lowry is going to have to unseat him."

Vote of Confidence for Sabean and Bochy

Meanwhile, Neukom said at the lunch, "We think we have the best general manager and field manager in baseball,"adding they all decided it would be best to concentrate now on putting a good team on the field and worry about those messy contract issues in October.

Giants Thoughts

What this means is that Sabean doesn't think he will get equivalent value for Sanchez in trade. And I totally agree. If Sanchez can pitch for a whole season like he did - and dominantly so - in the first half of the 2008 season, he would put together a sub-4 ERA season, which would make him easily a #2 type starter. That is easily worth a middle-of-lineup hitter but he won't fetch anyone like that right now. On the other hand, I think he's capable of showing it in 2009.

However, an idea I've been luxuriating in has been this: what if we just kept Sanchez and create a truly monster rotation? Sanchez strikes out a LOT of batters, which as I have reported, is key to a successful playoff run in the post-season. With Lincecum, Cain and a #2 caliber Sanchez, we would have not only a young rotation but one with three pitchers who could arguably be the #1 or #2 starter for any team in the league, with Bumgarner and Alderson looking to join them in 2010 or 2011.

The only way that works is if the Giants position prospects continue to show the skills they showed in the minors and develop further.
  • That would mean Ishikawa at 1B, who as I showed in a recent post, isn't that platoon oriented, no more so than other young players who are top lefty firstbasemen. Plus he plays great defense there.
  • That would mean Villalona continues to develop and be capable of playing 1B or 3B in the future.
  • That would mean Frandsen and Noonan become the clear choices at 2B now and in the future, respectively.
  • That would mean Burriss continues to develop and can handle SS
  • That would mean Sandoval proves to be adept enough to field 3B adequately and continue to hit well.
  • That would mean Lewis continues to develop and can hit 20 HR as he thinks he can.
  • That would mean Schierholtz translate what he did in the minors to the majors.
  • That would mean Posey continues to amaze with his hitting.

Those are a lot of ifs, driven by the fact that the Giants don't have any truly plus hitters except potentially Posey and hopefully Villalona and Rafael Rodriquez. Still, the above is not totally out of the question either:

  • Ishikawa and Frandsen have had success hitting in the majors, as well as the minors, and just need to continue it.
  • Burriss, despite his defensive lapses, shows good hitting skills that should continue to develop.
  • Sandoval was actually above average defensively in his short stint at 3B in the majors last year, and both Baseball America and Deric McKamey thought that he could become adequate defensively at 3B with experience and practice, and reportedly he took thousands of grounders over the off-season to prepare for 3B. And he showed good hitting skills with his peripherals throughout most of his minor league career and just continued to show it in the majors, with the added plus of adding power to his mix in 2008.
  • Schierholtz hasn't had a disappointing season yet and has continued to hit over .300 when given the chance in the majors.
  • And Villalona, Noonan, and Posey did well in the minors in 2008 and showed enough that I think they will continue to do so in 2009.
So there is a lot of ifs, but there is a lot of positives to take as well. The question to me is, will the positives be enough to boost the offense enough to win a lot of games with the pitching we got?

I think so. Most of the projections I've seen places the Giants at around .500 for the season, or 81 wins. And personally, I think some of the projections are conservative, I think it is very possible that some of the players could beat their projections. I think that is a decent expectation to have for this season and not that hard a hurdle to jump over and do better without a lot of over-performances. I think if we can just get two out of the three (Sandoval, Ishikawa, and Frandsen) to meet their projections, the Giants can make 81 wins, and I think they can.

To get over 81 wins in 2009, it would take a few of the below:
  • Sanchez pitching like Cain or better with a mid-3-ish ERA
  • Johnson pitching like he did in 2007 and 2008
  • Zito pitching like he did with the A's, with an ERA below 4.00
  • Wilson moving to the upper echelon of closers with a low 3 (or better) ERA
  • Rowand hitting the way he was the first two months of 2008 for a whole season
  • Lewis being able to hit 20 HR while still hitting like he has hit in the majors so far
  • Renteria having another of his career peak seasons
  • Frandsen matching training buddy Dustin Pedroia's breakout season in 2008
These are not what I would call likely or probable occurences but wouldn't surprise me if they happen either. Well, except for the last one about Frandsen.

I like where the Giants are right now in terms of their development. I think Sabean has done a good job so far and is deserving of the vote of confidence Neukom gave him. It is also as I had suspected, that Neukom does like Sabean but couldn't be too open about his support early in his term as owner, though I think this is still kind of early as well, I would have waited until after spring training and passed it on as part of the opening day celebration.

Still, I wouldn't give Sabean an extension now. I think we need to see generally good progress by the Giants young players and prospects for him to get an extension. Big question marks that need to be answered positively, besides those above, include:
  • Posey showing he has what it takes to do well in the majors
  • Villalona showing he has progressed
  • Rodriguez showing he is worth the money given him
  • Bumgarner and Alderson continue to do well at a higher level
  • Some good performances among the other prospects, like Gillaspie, Kieschnick, Crawford, Adrianza, Fairley, Noonan, Culberson, Downs, Rohlinger, Jesus Guzman, Thomas Neal, Hector Sanchez, Julios Izturis, Henry Sosa, for examples
I think in particular Posey, Villalona, and Rodriguez. At least one of them and Sandoval must continue to show that he is a plus hitter, that there is a good hitter for the Giants in the future. Still, if the rotation continues to perform great, that could be enough for me to say yes to an extension as well.


  1. "We think we have the best general manager and field manager in baseball," Neukom said.

    Is there even one person, let alone a consensus in the Giants front office, who really thinks that?

    Even if you happen to like both Sabean and Bochy, which I suppose is not impossible, the idea that a MLB organization thinks both are the best in the majors at their positions is grotesquely, hilariously implausible.

    So it's just hyperventilated corporate-speak. This is a clue to Neukom. He wanted to stop having to swat away press questions that basically circled around if or when will one or both of those guys would be fired. So given the choice between uttering a clear, even if insincere, vote of confidence to shut up the inkstained wretches and uttering a Selig-like howler, he dove into Selig whole hog and came up (as anyone who pulls a Selig has to) smelling like an arrogant, negligent, and complacent liar.

    Agree on Sanchez and the team overall: 2010 might be pretty OK.

  2. I agree with this assessement. I know you've been a proponant of TI for some time and you past post on his splits was good insight. I hope the Giants try just as you've laid out and a few break out years could push us into the playoffs and with our pitching???? I don't agree with you on Franny... Heart can do more then stats and projections and he's the type of player where that creates synergy.

    Giant Escape

  3. Hilarie, I agree with you to a point. It is certainly hyperbolic corporate-speak, but he doesn't seem to be an insincere person, so he's not going to go out into public and say something like this without thinking that Sabean is arguably one of the better GM's around. He's also not going to say it if there any good chance that he is going to fire Sabean at the end of the season.

    Giant Escape, I've only been a proponent of not giving up on Ishikawa because I thought he had enough potential to play his prospect string out. People have mistaken my emphasis on him for thinking that I think he's a great prospect - he hasn't been for years now, since his great first season in San Jose.

    Still, a useful player is still a commodity with value, and he could save us from the merry-go-round of mediocre free agent 1B with a couple of serviceable seasons before Villalona makes the majors, and maybe even be a good enough trading chip when the time comes to bring Villalona up.

    I've also been rooting for him because there are so few Asian-descent players in the majors. Not that there should be more, just that I get a kick seeing people like me actually in baseball, maybe in the future there will be an Asian parent who will let his son play baseball and not force him to go to college (I refer here to my cousin who a Dodger scout once asked if he was going to continue, and when he said he couldn't, the scout said too bad; I would have cherished owning a playing card with him on it, we used to play baseball together at North Beach playground when we were growing up).

    And I do try to give insight, where I can, my whole point of blogging is to share whatever insight I find and present a more complete view of the Giants, a view I don't find anywhere else.

    I think we agree that Frandsen is a good player, full of heart. I'm certainly rooting for him big time, not only because of his San Jose roots, but also because the meaning it would bring to him because of his late older brother. It would make a great motion picture if Frandsen could become a star for the Giants.

    However, I don't think he can match what Pedroia is doing, who probably will be close to 20/20 each season, but I certainly think Frandsen could get into double digits in both HR and SB. I think Frandsen can be a very nice complementary player for any team, and I think he's going to win the 2B competition and be our starting 2B. Any winning team needs players like that to go along with their key players.

  4. I was hoping to see what Manny Burriss could do with an everyday job. He hit pretty well and his speed is top notch. His "D" is suspect but it's not going to get any better riding the pine.



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