Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Give Ishikawa and Burriss More Time

I wrote the below in El Lefty Malo's post on his thoughts for May. I discussed why we should stick with Ishikawa and Burriss instead of bringing up Guzman and Frandsen, as much as I like Franny and want him up here:

About Guzman, given that his defense has been a huge problem up to now plus the A's could just have him DH, I cannot imagine that his defense at 1B could be any good so quickly. If it was that easy to do, then why wasn't it done long ago?

His defensive weakness has been known for a long time, and his bat has been known as well. He had his first big season in 2007 and played 1B there for 5 games, mostly playing 2B, 3B, LF, and DH. Seems clear to me that the opinion so far is that his bat won't play at 1B. As nice as his numbers are in AAA so far, the MLE is .269/.286/.462/.748, which is better than Ishikawa right now but not really 1B-worthy. And Ishikawa's MLE in Fresno was .267/.313/.568/.881 in 2008 with more AB's.

About Ishikawa, I understand the concern, but he had a 8 game span at the end of April (4/19 to 5/1) where he hit .348/.407/.435/.842, so it is not like he's been totally lost the whole time he's been up here. And don't forget how many homers he hit in spring training.

Now, I'm not saying to leave him in there all year, but given how badly AT&T affects left-handed hitters, particularly their power, plus hitters in general, and the fact that he has only gotten 7 starts on the road, with 4 of them at notorious pitchers parks (Dodger and PetCo), he hasn't really gotten a lot of good chances (only 3 starts in regular ballparks) to show what he is capable of.

And as much as I would love to see Frandsen starting at 2B, the same applies with Burriss.

And it won't get much better this month, with another 6 games in LA and SD, plus 3 in Seattle, another pitcher's park.

Still, you wonder about flukiness of small samples. For example, Ishikawa's hit .270/.317/.378/.695 at home, which, not great but better than his overall numbers. But that double the other day was 1-2 feet away from a homer, and would probably have been a homer in another park. Changing the double to a homer, he would be hitting .270/.317/.432/.749 at home, which is much better, and doable with great defense (so far his UZR/150 is 22, meaning he's worth 2.2 wins on defense if he continues playing at this high a level of defense; that's excellent).

The reason his numbers look really bad is that he's hitting .120/.154/.120/.274 on the road. Given his minor league numbers, that's the outlier, not his numbers in AT&T. And in those 7 starts he has faced Shawn Hill, Jake Peavey, Chris Young, Chad Billingsley, Max Scherzer, Jon Garland, and Ryan Dempster. Except for Hill, that's a pretty tough group of starters to be up against, he wouldn't be the first hitter to do poorly against that group.

And it is not like we have an obvious replacement ready to take over right now. I think the first choice to bring up has to be Dallas McPherson once he is ready to play and get up to speed in AAA offensively. I think whenever he is ready, then Ishikawa has to start looking over his shoulder.

But since I view 2009 as more of a learning year where we learn what our players are capable of, I would give Ishikawa at least to the end of May, and I would lean strongly towards giving him until the end of the road trip that ends on June 11th in Arizona. By then he should have plenty of ABs to be evaluated on, another few road trips to show what he got outside of SF. That's when the small samples should start evening out, if its ever going to even out.

Many players have had a bad month of April, only to do well the rest of the season. The vast majority of those players are the vets who are given the benefit of the doubt because they are vets, as most prospects just get sent down and don't get the chance to do well (or not) for the rest of the season in the majors.

If Villalona was ready to come up, then I might feel differently, but Guzman, I suspect, will be Velez with power instead of speed at 1B and with the same glove, and thus McPherson is the best guy we got to put there but he's not even playing AAA yet, is he? So I would just given Ishikawa a lot of games and see what he can do. He did nicely last season, let's see if he can recover this season. If not, move on.

Burriss is a little different in that he has options still (Ishikawa has none), doesn't provide a skill lacking on the team (Ishikawa has power), and has a replacement in AAA who conceivably is as good as he is overall (Frandsen has better offense but worse defense; speaking of which, Burriss' UZR/150 is -3.7, so he has poor offense and defense this year, though must note he had great UZR/150 in 2008). However, he has been hitting lately, so I would be inclined to keep him around as long as Ishikawa, to the end of that road trip, before bringing up Frandsen. That should be enough time for him to figure things out too.

Early Season Small Sample Fluctuations

The issue with small samples can be illustrated by how quickly things can change early in the season. Rowand, as late as April 29 was hitting a very nice .283/.358/.450/.808 overall. In the space of 4 games and a 0-for-15 skein, he dropped to .228/.299/.367/.666. I didn't see many complaining about Rowand for much of April, but once he hit this bad patch, I see a bunch of people complaining about him. But if he duplicates what he hit in his first three games of the season, he'll be back up to .267/.316/.460/.776, which is good for a CF, particularly one hitting lower in the batting order, where you want more power.

That's why it's better to try to focus on how the hitter is doing relative to his past performance, in terms of walks, strikeouts, and walks to strikeouts. As we all learned from DIPS theory, hits is related more to luck regarding the opposing defense, so as long as he seems to be going OK in terms of those ratios, then his batting skill level appears to be OK and he'll be better once things even out.

So, in Rowand's case, he has a career .321 BABIP, but his BABIP is currently .267, showing that he's suffering from a ton of bad luck right now. Luckily, according to what I read from Extra Baggs, Rowand knows he's swinging well but just suffering from bad luck, so he's keeping things going the same. Meanwhile, he's right in range for his career, with 21.5% K% vs. 19.7% K% for his career, and is high in walks with 8.0% BB% vs. 5.8% BB% for his career (BB/PA). Which means he's doing well with a 41.2% BB/K ratio vs. 32.7% BB/K for his career.

With a career average BABIP, he would be hitting .268/.339/.414/.753 right now. Not great but certainly within expected fluctuations for his career stats, and in line with what he did last season. As others have noted before, people's complaints sometimes tell more about them than what they are complaining about.


  1. Burriss' recent hiting from the left side is encouraging.

    Contrary to some of the fandom's conventional thinking, he doesn't need to hit for power. A slap single is as good as a double for a base stealer (and 8th place hitter) like Burriss.

    Team does need more offense, though. I wouldn't be surprised to see some Fresno AAA promotions in the next two weeks.

  2. Yes, very encouraging.

    No, he does need to hit for some power. There are sometimes runners ahead of him when he's batting 8th. He can drive in some runs.

    But not if he has virtually no power such that his BA and SLG is about the same.

    Also, as most people know, a hitters OPS is indicative of how good an overall hitter - scoring and driving in - he is. If his BA and SLG is basically the same, then his OBP is often as high as, if not higher than, his SLG, meaning that unless he can get his OBP to .400, making his OPS in the high 700 range, he most probably will be in the 700 and below range.

    The average 2B in the NL is hitting .265/.341/.411/.751, so he's at best going to be 50 points less than the average 2B, could be 100 points less than the average 2B.

    So yes, Burriss needs to improve himself to hit for power.

    Besides, it is not like Burriss is weak in strength, Lansford noted that Burriss is kind of buff and strong, but just is not utilizing his strength properly when swinging the bat, particularly from the left side. If he's doing something wrong, where he could be much better if he fixed it, even if he's OK now, wouldn't it be better to improve him? I don't see why anyone would not want a player to improve himself when the improvement is there for the taking with instruction and practice.

  3. How about Cain? That's the Cain we knew when he first came up, one hit, lost of walks, lots of strikeouts. It is not always pretty, but walks aren't that bad if you aren't giving up any hits.

    Now he's 3-1 and he dropped his ERA below 3, to 2.61, and has 28 strikeouts in 38 IP (though 19 walks...). And the Giants head into D-ger territory with a record over .500.

  4. Burriss will get better. It takes guys a while to get their stroke down. Even my favorite player Adrian Gonzalez didn't become a homerun hitter until he had some time in the bigs.

    In the meantime, he is among the league leaders in steals, so he brings something to the table.

    Nice play today, hanging in there on the throw to first on the double play.

    Cain's a stud. He actually threw better after he was over 80 pitches.

  5. Burriss is very good defensively, so that will buy him time to figure out things offensively. And as Bochy noted, if the vets were hitting like they are suppose to, maybe the young guys wouldn't feel like they have to hit differently to score runs and just be themselves.

    Still, Burriss is at best a 8th place hitter the way he is right now. If he can add some power to his repertoire, that plus his ability to get on base and steal bases would make him a good #2 hitter, or even lead-off.

    Yeah, Cain is a throw-back to the pitchers who got stronger as the game went on. That's part of what enables him to have so many games where he allows only a few hits.



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