Friday, March 06, 2009

Roberts Out And 11 Man Bullpen

As reported on all the Giants news outlets, Dave Roberts was let go. Chris Haft had a nice blog post on Roberts's intangibles, which I still believe is valuable (though not $6.5M valuable, but that is a sunk cost already) and hopefully he'll come join the Giants as a coach, particularly baserunning instructor for the minors, in the future. Just look at what he has done with Randy Winn in the two years he's been here (Winn credited him recently), horrible SB%, and in two years he has the best SB% in his career, at the elite level. Everything looks amicable between Roberts and the Giants, just disappointing, so I'm hoping he does return to the organization as a coach eventually.

I think the writing was on the wall, though, the moment I saw the media note that Roberts was having knee problems. Injuries have basically knocked Roberts out of the Giants plans at the start of the past two seasons. He's been as advertised when healthy, but he hasn't been healthy, unfortunately for significant periods of his time with the Giants.

The Giants also recently floated the thought that they might go with 11 pitchers instead of 12, before Roberts was let go. If both are followed through with, that opens up two spots on the bench and takes away one bullpen spot.

Bullpen and Bench Swap

It is curious that they suddenly said they might go with 11 pitchers instead of 12. Of course, once the team needs 12 pitchers again, that guy who earned his way onto the starting day roster will probably be dropped back down to AAA at that point. In any case, this implies that one of the position prospects is opening their eyes more than expected.

Obviously, Velez is doing that right now, pushing out Roberts. And perhaps the talk about 11 was originally about keeping Velez until they learned more about Robert's knee and that came to the fore as a reason to get a spot. So that bears watching.

Bullpen Watch

But assuming they are sincere and separate about both statements, that makes the bullpen a bigger situation to watch. With only 6 relievers, and 3, probably 4 (Taschner), spots already spoken for (it would have been 5 if Romo was healthy and producing, I believe), that leaves two spots for Romo, Hinshaw, Sadler, Matos, Miller, Medders, Valdez, Perdomo to pursue, with Yabu and Pichardo (who could stand a year in AAA anyway) the first to miss the chair when the music stopped, which makes sense as that's a lot of competition for very few spots, one less with the move to 11 (assuming it sticks now). And Valdez only today threw his first inning, who knows how his health will turn out.

Odd thing to me is that Perdomo has been doing pretty well so far, so I would think the Giants would want to keep more relievers than less, in order to keep him. Though really, Hinshaw, Matos, and Sadler probably could use a year in AAA in 2009. Miller I saw as an upgrade on Yabu, so maybe start the season with Miller and Perdomo on the roster, both Romo and Valdez on DL or rehab, and the rest in AAA.

Then as Miller and/or Perdomo show what they can do for the Giants in the majors, Romo and Valdez, when ready, can either come up if Miller or Perdomo are failing, or Romo could still go to AAA to cool his heels (Romo could use some time there also) and Valdez would have to be waived, so I would think that if Valdez is healthy and all the relievers are doing OK, they would move to a 12 man pitching staff at that point.

In any case, Perdomo has done very well up to now, so he looks to make the roster if he can continue to do well. And if Valdez is doing well, and can stay healthy, he would also earn a spot as well, he is out of options. That could push Romo to AAA, even if he's healthy and doing well. He'll get the "Schierholtz" speech of the past two years: you should be up here but with the roster we have, you have to be in AAA. Miller looks like he's not going to make the roster unless somebody is injured or recovering from an injury, and once they are back, he'll be in AAA.

Bench Watch

The other big question then is the bench, which moves from 5 to 6. Holm, Aurilia, Uribe, Schierholtz have been pretty set and now Roberts is out, making it two spots open now instead of just the one for Roberts spot. Velez looks like he's headed for a utility role on the bench, and would probably be the first go-to guy for 2B, with Uribe covering SS, and Uribe and Aurilia covering the corner infield. Schierholtz looks to soak up most available OF starts and substitutions, with Velez as backup as really necessary. So who is opening eyes?

The position player's name that has been popping up in recent games that I've been noticing is Jesus Guzman, the former A's (and others) prospect who we signed away from the A's during the off-season. He set some records in the Venezuelan Winter League (both he and Sandoval bashed there this winter) or simply compiled big numbers there, as the case may be. He's a power hitter and plays both 1B and 3B, and he's powered out a couple of homers already. If he continues to hit well, the Giants might just decide to bring him up for at least a while and platoon with Ishikawa and Sandoval, grabbing starts at 1B and 3B, before they need to bring up the 12th pitcher.

Another name that I've seen mentioned has been John Bowker. Sabean noted him as a possibility in the outfield. But based on spring training stats, he hasn't done much of anything to warrant opening a spot for him right now. Plus, he's another left-handed power bat off the bench, which duplicates Schierholtz, who is going to get most of the ABs anyhow, and there is Ishikawa, Aurilia, Uribe, and Sandoval who can play 1B. So I believe it is him who has piqued the Giants interest.

In addition, while I haven't seen either of their names in the news, their batting lines suggest both are looking to take hold of 2B: Burriss and Frandsen. Burriss is hitting .476/.500/.571/1.071 with no strikeouts in 21 AB (but also no walks and only 2 extra-base hits, doubles, in 10 hits) and Frandsen is hitting .412/.500/.647/1.147 with no strikeouts in 17 AB (and only one walk, but with a double and HR out of 7 hits).

As nicely as Burriss is hitting, it also illustrates the reasons why the Giants would want him to go to AAA this season and work on things. First and foremost, his lack of power. I suppose Lansford's suggestions have not made it into his head yet. 20% XBH% and 95 ISO is not what you want to see, you want to see at least 30% if not 35% XBH% and ISO at least 150. Small samples, but Frandsen is showing why he should win the 2B position, 29% XBH and 235 ISO (not going to keep it that high, but illustrates his power potential differential over Burriss).

Still, if Burriss continues to hit this well, just not the way the Giants want, the Giants would probably feel like they need to start the season with him on the opening day roster on the bench, to reward his nice spring, then send him back down once they need the 12th pitcher in the bullpen.

5 comments:

  1. More Hardball wants to know who has the hottest fans in baseball. We'vl be running a set of posts over the past month or so featuring images of each teams' hotties, with a voting poll to crown a champion. We've crowned champs of the AL East (BoSox), Central (ChiSox), West (Angels), and AL Wild Card (A's) already, and we're now moving on to the National League. The Phillies won the NL East, the Cubbies took the NL Central, and now it's time to move out to the NL West. Sticking true to Major League Baseball's roots, there will be an eight team playoff system where the winners of each division square off with the addition of a wild card team to determine who wins the pennant and represents each league in the World Series of Hotness.

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    Give it a plug if you like it, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have not had a chance to see them play this spring but why could not Torres with his.364 OBP, .450 SLG around a .392wOBA (if I did the math correctly) be the one surprising instead of Velez?

    Nice run down Martin thanks for doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. First, I see an error in my Bowker section, I DON'T believe it is him who has piqued the Giants interest.

    I think most would agree that the move on Roberts is linked to Velez starting to take practice in the outfield. So I would phrase your comment more to why not Torres over Burriss or Guzman, who were some of the players I listed in addition to Velez.

    There are a number of reasons why not Torres. First and foremost, he is a career journeyman, so any nice spring has to be take with a huge amount of salt. Career numbers normally don't lie, particularly for 31 year old journeyman (or somewhere in that age range). Second, his main benefit is playing in the OF and speed. Schierholtz getting playing time, particularly batting, should be the Giants priority in 2009. Hopefully when the DH comes in, he plays in the field and either Rowand or Winn get to rest at DH. But basically any time the Giants look to start someone else or bring in someone else, Schierholtz should be the first choice everytime. Meaning Torres mainly would be a pinch-runner most of the time, plus some pinch-hits, but defense is his forte, not offense, good spring or not.

    In addition, Burriss would have similar speed if he's the guy on the bench. Plus he's important to the future of the Giants while Torres is not. You have to reward Burriss with at least a 25-man spot if he has a good spring, should Frandsen get the starting nod at 2B. Then you can drop him when the bullpen needs another arm, and that would be legit while rewarding good play in spring with starting out in the majors.

    And that spot is still in flux, the Giants never definitively said they would go with an 11 man pitching staff rather than a 12, they just said they are thinking of it. So there is a lot of spring to go before that is decided, but in the meanwhile, we can have the fun of trying to figure out who the Giants were thinking of maybe bringing up to the majors, albeit briefly until another reliever is needed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Spam, what can you do about it? I'll leave this one on, this time, since at least it's baseball related...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Spamers have no self-respect---and no life.

    ReplyDelete

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