Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fix the Mistake: Let Frandsen Start the Rest of 2009

First off, let me say that I think that Burriss is a legit prospect who probably will eventually do better in the majors than Frandsen. He plays great defense at 2B plus is good controlling his bat and not striking out too many times, plus getting walks now and again at an OK pace.

His main two problems is that 1) he can't hit for average right now, with a horrible BABIP, and 2) even when he does hit, he can't hit for any power, which is necessary for any MLB hitter who hopes to have a long career. These are two critical skills that he has not mastered well enough in the majors thus far.

Frandsen vs. Burriss

Frandsen lost the spring training competition but basically he was on the rise while Burriss on the decline by the time spring training ended. Burriss looked good beating up on the lesser pitchers who were pitching more often earlier in spring training, but as the spring progressed and the better pitchers pitched more and longer into games, they were figuring him out.

Still, I can see why the Giants decided to go with Burriss, though I still didn't agree with it. Frandsen only just recovered last fall and we had no idea whether he was fully healed (though it should be noted that he outplayed Burriss in the Arizona Fall League and though he lost to Burriss, he also batted well too, just not as good) and how he would physically stand up to play during the season. Plus Burriss had a nice end to the 2008 season, giving some indication that perhaps he can handle the job full-time.

Well, Frandsen, after his slow start, probably caused by the disappointment of ending up in AAA when he thought he would at least be a utility guy at the major league level, turned it up and is currently hitting .330/.378/.477/.855 in the minors, which is a MLE of .283/.321/.389/.710, which is not great but looks great in comparison with Burriss's current batting line of .242/.298/.273/.570. Plus, Burriss is striking out a heck of a lot more than Frandsen is. And Frandsen's defense has drawn raves in his short stints up in the majors.

The key thing about Frandsen vs. Burriss is that Burriss has not really hit well at any level in professional baseball. His hitting abilities are still a big question mark, other than we know he can avoid the strikeout on a regular basis better than most hitters. Meanwhile, Frandsen has hit at every single level in the minors, and over 3 years in AAA, he has hit .321/.383/.459/.842 overall with only 52 strikeouts in 532 AB and 9 HR, which is probably 9 more than Burriss would hit. He also had 29 walks and 24 HBP, which total more than his strikeouts.

Fix the Mistake: Call Up Frandsen and Send Down Burriss

Burriss is clearly struggling with the bat. Sure, he plays great defense, based on the sparkling plays he has done, but according to UZR, he's actually below average, trading off dependability and competitence for flashy, shining defensive plays. So he's hurting the team both offensively and defensively.

Frandsen is not looking like he's going to be that good a major leaguer, but he has shown glimpses that he could make the adjustment. We won't know whether he can or can't until we put him in the majors and give him a position to hold for a long period without fear of losing it with a short run of poor play.

One player I've seen him compared to is Dustin Pedroia, and Pedroia also did not do that great in the minors, particularly in the upper minors, but when he made the majors, he made the final adjustments needed to continue to develop and keep up his level of production at the major league level. That is what Frandsen has done his entire minor league career, so we don't know that he won't continue to develop if given a shot in the majors.

The one and only time he was given such a shot was in the last two months of 2007. From August 1st to the end of the season, Frandsen played in 43 games, started 34 of them, and hit .295/.347/.439/.786, with 4 HR in 132 AB, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts, 4 HBP. He delivered.

Burriss, on the other hand, has not delivered very often or for very long.

  • From May 25 to June 18, 2008, he hit .414/.528/.517/1.045 in 29 AB
  • From August 16 to September 8th, 2008, he hit .371/.463/.443/.906 in 70 AB
  • From April 29 to May 14, 2009, he hit .393/.460/.429/.889 in 56 AB
  • From May 23 to June 4, 2009, he hit .378/.395/.459/.854 in 37 AB

Clearly, when Burriss is on, he can be one heck of an offensive player, and that coupled with his speed would clearly amp up any offense. However, despite all the above nice stretches of hitting, he has been so cold otherwise that his career MLB batting line is only .265/.331/.304/.634, which is an OK OBP, but horrible SLG and OPS.

He needs to hit for more power, and whatever Lansford is doing with his batting stance to generate more power out of his apparently power arms is not working this far, in fact, it has regressed this season, to 31 ISO from 46 ISO last season. The average 2B in the NL this season has an ISO of 130, so he is almost 100 percentage points lower.

Therefore, the Giants need to admit that they made a mistake giving Burriss the starting job this season. They should have done that when Ishikawa was brought up by sending Burriss down and keeping Frandsen starting at 2B but didn't. They can still do it at any time.

Another option for the Giants is to shop Uribe around to another contender, though I doubt they will do that. They could trade him for a prospect, which is a pretty good return for signing Uribe to a minor league deal, and bring up Frandsen to take over that spot. Fransdsen's utility position was taken by Uribe, but the one silver lining of Frandsen going down and playing in AAA is that he has shown the Giants that he can handle the SS position defensively, and thus he could steal ABs at 2B, SS, 3B, and even LF, and play pretty much full-time, much like how Feliz got so many AB early in his career.

If he can hit over .700 OPS and play decent defense at SS, he could even replace Renteria after Renteria's contract is up. Or even give the Giants thoughts of trading Renteria to a contender if Edgar should heat up his hitting in the second half like he did last season. It does not take much offense to be average, the average NL SS is hitting .263/.322/.382/.704 currently and Frandsen's MLE is right around there. Meanwhile, Burriss is not even hitting replacement level for SS, let alone 2B.

Send Burriss down and, more importantly, bring Frandsen up. That alone could boost up the offense greatly, as he could hit 2nd until Renteria starts hitting again and be OK there. And the defense should not take that big a hit, in fact, it could be even improved with Frandsen there, as Burriss is appearing to be bringing his poor offense with him to his defensive position more often than not, given his negative UZR this season.

Then tell Frandsen that the job is his until after the September call-ups. That would give him a good 2 months to get settled in the job and see what he can do with it on a regular basis. It couldn't be much worse than what Burriss had been giving us during this season.


  1. What weight should the club give his 2 for 28 for this most recent callup?

    And I'm missing something, how is Frandsen's cherrypicked 2007 performance more representative than what you could do with Burriss' August and September 2008? Apart from demonstrating that Frandsen's got more power (a fact I think we already know).

    Frandsen is no Pedroia. Pedroia was "not hitting" in the minors when he was 20 or 21, not 25 or 26 and his "not hitting" consisted of one stint at Pawtucket when he was 21. Otherwise, his minor league stats were fairly respectable, which is why he was quickly promoted to MLB at 22 and ROY at 23. It's apples and oranges.

  2. I would think we'd be better off dumping Aurilia and promoting Frandsen. He is much better offensively and defensively. I agree with the idea of moving Uribe, especially if the G's start falling back to earth and down in the standings.

  3. I call being called up for a series and being sent back down being jerked around and getting additional pressure put on top.

    I don't see where you get those ages, but if you want comparables, here is what I see:

    Frandsen at age 23 hit a collective .336/.399/.464/.863 among A to AA. At age 22 (2006), Pedroia hit .307/.386/.427/.813 in AAA. Frandsen benefited from lower levels, but did hit higher overall.

    I noted Frandsen's and Burriss's streaks in the majors, to show that there is some skill on both their parts to hit in the majors.

    However, Frandsen has also shown that ability in the minors whereas Burriss has not shown much if any ability in the upper levels. He should have been up here, not Burriss. Burriss got rewarded for a nice streak in late 2008 but had not done anything in the upper minors, whereas Frandsen has done both.

    I'm OK with DFAing Aurilia, but Burriss really needs to go down to AAA and work on his hitting.

  4. That's what I get for quickly writing before heading off to lunch.

    About Burriss and Frandsen's streaks, I did cherry pick Burriss's hot streaks, mainly to show when and how long he was good as a hitter, and basically he was not so good a hitter in-between all those times and as good as he was in short spurts, he was not good overall when he was given basically the first three months of this season.

    OK, you don't like me highlighting Burriss's good streaks, here's the starkness of how poorly Burriss is hitting: in 202 AB, 61 games this season, Burriss is hitting .238/.292/.267/.560. I don't see in what baseball league except for t-ball where a player spends almost half a season hitting that and still deserves to be still starting.

    All I'm basically saying is that Burriss got his chance, he blew his chance, it's Frandsen's turn to get his chance, he deserves his chance based on how well he hit in the minors, and for his "gamerness", plus he showed something in the one and only time he got extended playing time.

    Plus, it was a mistake to start Burriss this season, it should have been Frandsen, who has actually done something worthy in the minors to deserve to be given a starting job in the majors. Burriss has not done enough at any level of the minors to deserve the chance he got, he had his short burst of goodness at the end of last season in the majors plus spring training.

    And as any long-time Giants fan knows, spring training stats usually means squat in the regular season, Randy Elliott being the symbol for those with longer memories.

    And I like Burriss, he was able to avoid strikeouts very well plus has blinding speed, but first, you need to figure out how to get on base, and he's not doing that, and second, you need to figure out how to hit with some power, and he's not doing that either.

    He has been a hole in our lineup. Funnily enough, I went into my lineup calculator to see how much he's been hurting our lineup and ZIPS' projection is pretty much on the mark, but still high: .307 OBP vs. .292 and .294 SLG vs. .267. But most had him much higher.

    CHONE's is well respected and based on those stats, Burriss is costing us 0.11 runs per game, or roughly 7 runs thus far, costing us 0.7 wins relative to how he was expected to do.

    More pertinently, compared to the average 2B, it's 0.17 runs, or basically -1.0 wins relative to the average 2B thus far. Over a full season, he costs us nearly 3 wins offensively. And UZR has him negative there too.

  5. I'm still puzzled. Frandsen's a potential Pedroia because he was putting up similar numbers in A-AA while Pedroia was doing so while one year younger at AAA? These are important years too, there's a significant difference between 22 and 23.) Like I said, it's apples and oranges and I'm not even checking to see if Frandsen's numbers were in some high A bandbox. It's a huge reach, surely you get this. There is just no benefit to mentioning Pedroia's name in this discussion.

    And if you're worried about jerking guys around, I hardly think a demotion of Burriss will have a positive affect. Even so, you should have mentioned Frandsen's flop in your "he's tearing it up in 2009" (my words) section. At his age, Frandsen has got to be ready on demand. Any "gamer" (and I cannot believe that this word has made its way into this discussion) should be.

    Matt M had it right. The correct answer is to dump Aurilia.

  6. to quote the great Jesse Jackson on SNL "the question is moot. Burriss sent to AAA.

  7. I guess you are not up on the California League. The Cal League is a hitters league, but the stadium San Jose plays in is a pitcher's park relatively and significantly: 874 according to last BP annual, where 1000 is neutral. Huge problems with the backdrop there leads to a preponderance of strikeouts.

    And I've written a lot about the problems of analyzing any hitter's stats in AA Connecticut, you can search my archives for any reference to Dodd Stadium.

    And as I noted originally, Frandsen was in AAA that season too, and hit .351/.378/.543/.921 there, albeit in limited AB, but he still had a good season overall. According to Minor League Baseball Splits' MLE calculator, his MLE OPS was within 40 points of Pedroia. I would take a Pedroia minus 40 OPS points, that's still good at 2B.

    But I agree, I should not have brought up Pedroia's name, my main point was that there are prospects who were not that impressive stats wise in the minors, and at a similar age to Frandsen, who made the adjustments as they rose up to the majors.

    I would also point out that Pedroia struggled his first time in the majors plus, in his first full year, after one month as the starter, he was batting .182/.308/.236/.544.

    So, to make myself clear, I was never saying that he will be a Pedroia based on his stats - that is what you stated it, you made that connection - but rather that other players have nice but not great stats in the minors (and at a similar age), but had shown the ability to improve at each level he played at. Frandsen has done that and deserves the chance to show whether he can do it (or not as the case may be) at the major league level. I have no idea whether he will be a Pedroia or a bust, but his stats in the minors suggest a Pedroia-lite hitter and someone like that would be valuable in our lineup, and more importantly, worlds better than what Burriss is producing right now.

    I don't see what your problem with Frandsen is, in any case. It is not like Burriss is hitting that well after nearly half a major league season. He is clearly lost and in a downward spiral. And if we don't go with Burriss, then the next logical choice is Frandsen.

    And Burriss, as I have shown, hasn't really done much of anything to deserve to continue to take up a major league roster space, he's never done it in the minors, he's never done it in the majors, he needs to go down and figure things out. I think he can, but is suffering right now because they basically jumped him from A-ball to the majors last year, he should really still be in AA or maybe AAA this season.

    All I am saying is give Frandsen the same chance to play that Burriss got, and not worry about his spot on the team.

    And you keep harping on his poor stats so far, but there is the small sample size issue, as well as the added pressure of "here, you have three games (maybe) to impress us enough to keep you here". Even Willie Mays suffered from that pressure, he was, like, 0 for 20 until he got his first hit as a rookie and as I noted, Pedroia also had problems adjusting initially too.

    Giving a players 3 games to show what he can do just adds to that pressure.

    And a gamer is not perfect, he's not going to get a hit every time he is under pressure, it is a general overall characteristic. Bonds I would call one of the best under pressure that I have seen, but even he had poor series during the playoffs, and people got on him about that until 2002 when he busted out.

    But like the Pedroia reference, yeah, I probably shouldn't have brought it up.

    Basically, Burriss sucks right now, Frandsen deserves the chance to show what he can do with the starting position. Moreover, he should have been the one to start the season in the majors, he actually has done something in the upper minors.

    If you want to go by MLB performance, Frandsen in 2007 hit .269/.331/.379/.710 in 264 AB whereas Burriss last year hit .283/.357/.329/.686 in 240 AB. I would take either one right now over Burriss's sad .238/.292/.267/.560 that he's hitting now in 202 AB.

  8. I'm always excited to see a player I haven't seen before. I don't know if Matt Downs projects to be a quality MLBer, but he'll get a few starts to see what he can do.

    I know the Giants are being loyal to Aurilia for all he did for the club, but come on. He's wasting valuable at-bats everytime he gets in the game. Bowker could take his spot easily.

  9. Ah, the good ol' days of SNL! You got that right, the point is moot:

    Burriss sent down, and as Baggarly astutely noted in his blog (http://blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs/2009/06/16/tuesdays-giants-lineup-plus-a-big-move/#comments), Matt Downs called up in his place, because Frandsen was unavailable. In addition, Steve Holm was DFAed to make room for Downs on the 40 man.

    Wow, I thought the Giants liked Holm, but clearly they like Whiteside more as the backup catcher.

    Double wow, this really makes the Giants management look stupid right now and they will be excoriated by the multitude of fans who just need any reason to blast management.

    Really, one 3 game series later and "OMG! Burriss sure sucks!" They should have made this decision before they send down Frandsen, if Frandsen really is the person they want, as Chris Haft implies with his report (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090616&content_id=5356698&vkey=news_sf&fext=.jsp&c_id=sf&partnerId=rss_sf).

    Good luck to Downs, I wonder what the Giants will do when Frandsen is available to come up, will they send Downs back even if he is hitting well? I doubt it. So this is Downs's big chance to stick in the majors. He's always had the bat, the main question is whether he can field well enough.

    Baseball America rated him #24 this season. Sabean is quoted that Downs is like Shane Spencer, "wherever you put him, he just hits." But he is not mentioned in Minor League Analyst, and was never mentioned in prior editions of either, so he's not really much of a prospect, so don't have high hopes for him.

    According to Minor League Splits, defensively, he has been mostly slightly below average, but very near average. He brings up double digit HR power, barely, and profiles as a utility player, capable of playing 2B, 3B, and the corner OF positions. He is 25 years old.

    I have to think that they are auditioning him for Aurilia's position. Aurilia hasn't hit for much all season, though since May 15, he has hit .306/.359/.444/.803 in 17 games, 7 starts, 36 AB. Still, while hitting that well during a generally good period for the Giants, the team was only 3-4 with him starting.

    And, there is always the off chance that he just catches fire and sparks the team, I assume that was part of the calculus that led them to decide to call him up. And that would force Frandsen to stay again in Fresno.

  10. Bowker is a lefty, just like Ishikawa, plus we have Schierholtz on the bench too, making our bench very left-handed and susceptible to LOOGYs. Plus, his defense at first base was not so good and he hasn't played much there this season, so he couldn't have gotten any better; Guzman has been getting the ABs there.

  11. Aurilia is a righty and has been hitting since mid-May, around .800 OPS, his bad numbers now reflects just how bad his April was.

    But if Downs do light it up and grabs the bull by the horn, I would be OK with DFAing Aurilia and bringing up Frandsen to take the super-utility position. We could have Downs play 3B and Sandoval 1B, if need be, against LHP, Ishikawa at 1B vs. RHP.



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