Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 Giants are 21-23: Braving the Braves

Sorry for the lateness, but forgot over the Memorial Day weekend, spending time con mi familia ...

First Game:  Sanchez vs. Javier Vazquez

It turned out the exact opposite as one would think before the start:  it as Vazquel who was hit hard while Sanchez pitched well.  Thus, an expected loss became a great victory, as the offense came alive once it got home (a neutral park) from two pitcher's parks, amazing how that happens, no?

Second Game:  Lincecum vs. Kris Medlen

Medlen just came up last week and had his MLB debut.  He was pretty wild, give up 5 runs in 3 IP, throwing two wild pitches, hitting a batter, and walking 5.  And, of course, facing our ace, The Kid (who apparently prefers the nickname Seabiscuit, which he noted in a recent interview).   And we are playing at home.  We better win, particularly since Medlen hasn't been that great a prospect, I've never heard his name before, so he's definitely not a top 100 prospect.

Third Game:  Johnson vs. Kenshin Kawakami

Both of them have been on and off this season, though more off then on.  Kawakami, in fact, has been struggling in his debut in the MLB, after previously pitching in the Japanese league.  But he had a great start against a good offensive team, Toronto, in his last start, pitching 8 innings, giving up only 3 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7.   Apparently, he's starting to figure things out.

Johnson, then is the wild card.  If he can pitch like he did in his last start and when he is going good for us, then we should have a good chance to win this game, and potentially sweep the series.   If he pitches poorly, as he has often for us, we most probably will lose the game, Kawakami has actually pitched OK in his past four starts, 2.63 ERA for those games,  3.94 for those three other games before the shutout.

Giants Thoughts

A number of hitters have been hitting well the past couple of weeks.  As noted in the other post today, Ishikawa has been hitting better, even before yesterday's wonderful outburst.   But other hitters have been doing well do, it was just the team wasn't seeing the results because it wasn't happening when RISP.  Over the past week, Rowand is hitting .379/.379/.655/1.034 leading off, Randy Winn been hitt .414/.433/.552/.985, and Fred Lewis .190/.320/.476/.796, plus Uribe has contributed .300/.273/.400/.673 and Burriss .250/.318/.250/.568 (which is his main contribution, getting on base).   Unfortunately, Sandoval, Renteria, Frandsen, Guzman, Aurilia, and Molina have not done well at all in that stretch.   

Molina, in particular, has been horrible, going 2 for 30 in that week stretch, which contrasted greatly with his very hot streak prior to that, when in a 12 game stretch, he hit .319/.360/.596/.956 (yes, he took a couple of walks and a HBP), with 4 HR in 47 AB.  That's really the baseball gods evening things out, as even while he's slumping, he only struck out 4 times in 30 AB, so his BABIP is a horrid .077, which is beyond bad luck.  

Sabean, last Friday, said that the offense has been so disappointing that he will have to entertain thoughts of trading for pending free agents to improve it.   He mentioned specifically Ishikawa and Burriss as disappointments, who now will have to share time with Guzman and Frandsen, respectively, to hopefully prod them on to improved offense, similar to what happened during spring training.  

However, those are not necessarily the positions he will be shopping for, as he noted during the off-season, he's willing to acquire for other positions and adjusting as necessary.  For example, I would note that he could trade for a 3B and push Sandoval to 1B;  Bochy noted that Uribe could play 3B with Sandoval at 1B, going forward, giving how Ishikawa was struggling mightily.

I wish Frandsen was hitting better, but perhaps he's pressing in hopes of impressing.  As noted before, I think he really should have started the year starting at 2B while Burriss learned more in the minors.  He has shown a lot more offense than Burriss ever has in the minors, though I think with more development, Burriss can be much better than Frandsen at 2B, both offensively and defensively.   If Frandsen starts hitting, he could also press Ishikawa as the Giants could decide to put him at 3B (he's been much better defensively as SS than the Giants thought he would be, good even) and move Sandoval to 1B, it depends on how Burriss does and if Ishikawa can continue to hit or not.  And if he hits well enough, the Giants could even entertain thoughts of trading Renteria after the season and start Frandsen at SS, as the reports I've seen suggest that he's been more than adequate defensively playing SS.

I hope that this public announcement is just to kick the players in the butt to get them going.  It has already worked on Ishikawa.  Hopefully, it will get the offense going, though it don't help that some as very hot while others are very cold, and they basically hold importantly spots in the lineup, particularly Molina at cleanup.  

I would not like to see a trade except for ones where we give up a minor prospect to take salary off other teams, and boost our offense greatly.   That appears to be the tactic Sabean will be using if he does trade, he said that we're not going to trade our top prospects.  He did mention Cain, according to Andy Baggarly, but noted that it would have to be for an equal talent offensively and for the same number of years controlled by the Giants (or better I presume).But that is always true for any of our players, really.  

Hank Schulman, on the other hand, noted that a high-level soure says that Cain is not being seriously offered, contradicting Baggarly's reporting.    However, apparently, according to Schulman's source, the Giants are talking to the Nats about Nick Johnson.  Sorry, just say NO!, he's an injury waiting for the day it's going to happen, he's never had one full season in the majors because he's had so many injuries, and he's now in his 30's, you do the math.  

Schulman also noted that the Giants are not interested in Holliday (good!) "given his struggles away from Coors Field in the past, his struggles overall since last summer, and his agent being Scott Boras."  

That is an interesting last note.  I wonder how much of a factor he is for the Giants when drafting.  It would have been curious if Weiters had fallen to them, would they have selected him or Bumgarner.  I was hoping we could get Weiters, but Bumgarner has been better than great, so no complaints there for me.   That could be a factor this year, Grant Green and Donovan Tate are two position players who probably will fall to us in the #6 pick spot, who are represented by Boras.

In any case, I would be sorely disappointed by any trades, particularly if we give up a good (or potentially good) pitcher.  We are not yet at the point where we can go off trading pitching.  Once Bumgarner and Alderson starts wowing in AAA, then I think we can more safely think about that.  Otherwise, pitchers are always fragile, you never know when their careers will go off the rails.   

And I would prefer giving our young guys chances to show what they got.  One option that I would be OK with is trading Randy Winn and minor prospects for a power hitting corner infielder or 2B.  That would open up RF for Nate Schierholtz, while either pushing Burriss to the minors or Ishikawa to the bench, while Sandoval and the CI plays the corner infield spots.    I would still prefer not to do this, but understand if management wants to take advantage of our position and pitching, and try to play for the wild-card spot.  

However, even there, I would rather wait for Dallas McPherson to get into playing shape and condition, and be brought up to take ABs at the corners.  He has a lot of potential and I would like to give him the oppportunity to reach it, if Ishikawa should falter along the way.  That could happen in July, by then we should see how Ishikawa is responding to this long-term.

As tantalizing it is that we are close to the wild-card spot and losing all these close games, I would rather the Giants stick to the plan and focus on development and being competitive this year, then start picking up some veteran help next season in hopes of contending.  We could lose valuable development time in the majors for some of our prospects by trading for a vet who takes more time away.  Still, I don't think that would be a big error, just a choice of how to approach the team.


  1. I watched all of the games where Frandsen played shortstop. He looked terrific. Very smooth, as though he'd been playing it all of his life. Keeper.

    Unless Sabean can pull a megacoup of a trade, Cain should stay. The cooments by other teams fans on MLBTraderumors.com were absolutely sickening. These people know nothing about pitching. Some were commenting that Cain is "declining" because he's throwing 93-95 instead of 97-98 when he came up. They obviously never heard that pitching is an art, and that taking off speed helps a pitcher command his ptiches. Morons.

  2. Agreed that playing for the wildcard spot is a mistake. As Steve Goldman points out on baseball prospectus, the Giants offense has the potentially not only to be bad, but historically bad. One guy here or there is not going to make a difference.

    I'm all for trying to cement Sandoval as a starter at 3B with a lot of ABs. Same with Burriss. I fear that Ishikawa is not going to work, but I'd prefer to keep on giving him AB's over, say, Aurilia.

  3. I like BP but they have been biased when it comes to the Giants. It's almost like the Giants did something personal to someone there.

    They throw out contradictory advice (one writer says the Giants are dumb for dumping a draft pick because they picked Matt Cain with such a pick, another writer says that teams are dumb for selecting high school starters, which Matt Cain was) and just always seem to have it in for the Giants and Sabean, the way I've read their essays on the team.

    So lets dissect this. The team is averaging 3.96 runs per game and he's saying that the Giants could be historically bad. I don't see how, when they averaged 3.95 runs per game last year, then that would be historically bad too (assuming he's right), but I never saw any quote like that.

    Now that is 86% of the league average. The New York Mets of 1962 was considered one of the worse team's ever, lets see what they did. They scored only 3.83 runs per game, or 85% of the league average. Houston was even worse, 3.65 runs per game or 81%.

    Or to get really historic, the Cleveland Spiders in 1899 only averaged 3.44 runs per game, which was only 66% of the league average.

    To beat that, assuming the average stays at 4.63 runs per game, the Giants would have to score only 3.01 runs per game (65%), which would mean that in the next 116 games, the Giants would have to average 2.64 runs per game. (FYI, Houston only averaged 3.06 runs per game in 1964, the Mets 3.02 in 1965, both roughly 75%)

    That is what the Giants have to do in order to be historically bad, at least relative to the Cleveland Spiders. There might be a worse team offensively, but I would bet that the Spiders are plenty close.

    The Giants are bad, but 2.64 runs per game? I don't see that happening. That statement is all hyperbole, hence my point up above, are they biased?

  4. Well Goldman is an avowed Yankee fan and that could affect the analysis. (I think Sheehan is really the one who has it in for the Giants.) If you read the piece, he's talking EqA, not runs scored. And I, for one, would distinguish between eras like the dead ball and higher mound and the present.

    I guess it depends what he means by historic. If he meant "of the modern era".... we're a lot closer to not hyperbole than hyperbole. If you mean ever, well, yeah.

    And, by the way, for those not as in tune with the comparison as OGC and me, with the 1962 Mets comparison we're comparing SF to (a) an expansion club, which was (b) playing in an era with a higher mound. So, as OGC says, it was one of the worst teams ever. (The Colt 45's also being an expansion club in that era.)

    So, one could argue that for an ongoing franchise with a well-stocked farm system, we're putting up some pretty darn bad numbers.

    But all in all, I agree that the lineup would have to regress to be, for example, post-1969 record-setting bad. (And Goldman admits this in his piece.)

    But, and I hate to say this, it may be closer to non-hyperbole than I'm comfortable admitting. Let's just hope it doesn't drive poor or impulsive decision making.

  5. That is the reason I used the league average as the base for determining how low the team was compared to the era, else I would have focused solely on RS. Thus, it don't matter if it was the deadball era, the 60's, or even post-1993, when it appears that the ball has been altered to boost HR and thus run production (according to Eric Walker, of High Boskage House website, and the one who taught the A's what they initially learned about advanced sabermetrics).

    So, I didn't read the article, but historic, to me, is historic, it don't matter whether it was an expansion team or another era or whatever qualifier you want to put on it. And I chose them because I knew they would be easy to research.

    Since you pointed that out, I'll look at other recent years. Last year the Padres had RS/G of 3.93, worse than what the Giants are scoring right now. In 2004, Arizona scored only 3.80 runs per game, only 82% of the league average. In 2003, LA scored only 3.54 runs per game, or 77%. Now, those are historic, relatively, and the Giants are nowhere close as bad as the 2003 D-gers.

    Going back 20 years, there are numerous teams who are about where the Giants are today, in terms of either runs scored or RS per league average. So they are not a once in a lifetime, historic bad offense, they are the regular bad offense, the one team each season that just has problems scoring runs on a regular basis.

    Now, is that something to be proud of? Of course not. But to call the Giants a historically bad offensive team is to either use hyperbole or to ignore years of data that is easily accessible via www.baseball-reference.com, and easily calculable.

    Plus, that is the price you pay when you are playing a large number of unproven rookies in the starting lineup, in fact, half the starting lineup are young unproven players. You note that the other teams were expansion teams. Well, I wonder how many teams in history has 3 basically rookies starting for them, plus another who is having just just second full season as a starter. Even expansion teams don't always go there, they take the vets that they drafted off the other teams and start them (of course, that's because they don't really have any farm system to speak of).

    The fact of the matter is that we are in the middle of rebuilding. Something is going to suck while you are rebuilding, that's why you are rebuilding. And a team is rarely rebuilt in a few years, it usually takes a good number of years. That's why there are numerous teams that don't score that well over the years, they are probably rebuilding and just plain suck. That's the price of rebuilding.

    And I just checked and you know what? Seattle is having a historic type of poor offense. They are averaging only 3.75 runs per game, only 75% of the league average. And they have the DH! And still score less than the Giants. And the A's were just as historic as the Giants, if not more so in 2008, with 84%, and yet neither team was probably not pointed out by BP as historically bad scoring teams.

    And why aren't BP or any of the media picking on the Oakland A's? They, I would think, are performing historically bad given what they were expected to do so well before the season started, getting Holliday and signing Giambi and Cabrera, plus Garciaparra.

  6. A couple of quick points.

    First, it does matter when you're comparing SF to an expansion club. Because in the case of an expansion club, there is an easily accessible explanation for the differential. In SF's case, I'm judging that if we get to the end with these numbers, the answer will be, um, it was intentional? (I by the way wouldn't have too much of a problem with that - see the last sentence of my last comment.)

    Second, just in the abstract, how does using runs scored in comparison to the league average control for park effects? Put another way, wouldn't we expect SD to usually underperform using this metric?

    Third, Goldman actually holds up that D-backs club as the "modern" comparison that the Giants would have to slump to exceed. Which was his original point.

    Let's not hung up on historic. And part of the fault is mine, Goldman calls them a potentially bad hitting club (measured by EqA), not a potentially bad scoring club. Let's actually focus on the point I originally made - which is one more guy, at the margins, isn't going to turn this offense into a gangbuster club. Your cite of the 2003 Dodgers is a good example. Dead last in NL OPS+ (which in my mind means that they truly were worst in the NL) yet they finished 2nd in the West.

    And I have no idea whether BP is ripping on the A's or Seattle. Honestly, I'm not sure BP would even be addressing the Giants offense but for the fact that the Giants pitching makes the subject more interesting.



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