Monday, August 31, 2009

Good Penny-Ante Signing

According to a number of news sources, the Giants have signed Brad Penny for the MLB minimum of $400K, which would roughly be $70K for the month of September/October.

He has a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts this season for Boston, and he was pretty bad in 4 starts for Boston in August, 8.31 ERA, and his ERA since the ASG is 7.82. Not pretty any way you look at it, based on what he did for Boston.

Bad Luck Season

However, it looks much better from a PQS perspective. Since the ASG, in 7 starts, he has 3 DOM starts and 2 DIS starts. That is pretty good in terms of DOM, horrible for DIS, but still shows signs that he is still a pretty good pitcher in certain circumstances. For the season overall, he had 5 DOM and 3 DIS in 17 starts, for an overall 8 DOM, 5 DIS in 24 starts. That DOM%/DIS% combo typically had a 4.70 ERA, which is not good for him but excellent for a 5th starter.

That disparity could be because of where he was. Getting out of the power AL East is good - he has a horrible ERA in Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto. That plus the DH contributed to his poor ERA overall this season. Plus he has had a great ERA in AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium, Coors, and Chase Field (unusually, he has a bad ERA in PetCo). He also has nice ERA in Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies park, where he would first pitch for us, and in LA where he would next pitch for us.

It also appears that he suffered a lot of bad luck on the road, as both his home and road ERA are horrible, but on the road in 60.2 IP, he has 49 K/18 BB, but 12 HR and 75 hits for a BABIP of .326 on the road. That is a 7.3 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 2.72 K/BB and bad luck of a BABIP over .300 and a 1.8 HR/9 that suggests that it is far beyond the 10% HR/FB ratio that pitchers regress to and which should drop in half over time. I am ignoring his Boston numbers because the odd ballpark dimensions sometimes either screw with the head of the pitcher or causes a pitcher to pitch differently than he had previously.

Looking Forward: 5th Starter Opponents

The Giants have already announced that they are not skipping the 5th starter's position because of Lincecum's 128 pitch outing in his last start. Assuming they don't skip any of Penny's spots, he is scheduled to pitch for us in Philadelphia (career 2.77 ERA in 2 starts), in LA (3.75 ERA in 66 starts), in SF vs. Cubs then against Arizona (3.88 ERA in 10 starts; career against Cubs 2.64 ERA, against D-backs 2.13 ERA).

With such a good history behind him, it looks positive for him doing well for us, particularly since he is only 31 yars old and should have a few more good years in him, plus the reasons detailed above. Of course, pitchers regress at all ages, so perhaps it was just Penny's time, as he wasn't that good last season either, but it should be noted that he missed half the season with some sort of injury: perhaps that injury was causing him problems last year, whereas this year, with a pretty good DOM% and DIS%, it suggests that this season has been not a regression of skills but a bad luck circumstance with regards to Boston, the AL, BABIP, and the HR ball on the road.

Looks like no matter which side this Penny lands when flipped, the Giants should win. If he is as bad as he was in Boston, then he would be no worse than what we were getting from Sadowski and Martinez and probably still an improvement if we can get some DOM performances mixed in. If he is as good as his career suggests, and as his PQS suggests he could be, then we could have a rotation full of ace pitchers across the board and should start to pull away from the pack by the time we next meet the D-Rox, heck, perhaps sooner, by the start our most important 9 game series of the season, playing 6 with the D-gers and 3 with the D-Rox.

Not Skipping 5th Starter Makes Sense

As noted above, the Giants announced that they are not skipping the 5th starter's spot in order to give Lincecum an extra day of rest, since he threw 128 pitches in his last start. Besides the fact that you don't want to skip over Penny without insulting him (and I just realized that he is now eligible for our playoff roster should we make it), it makes sense to do that. The way the rotation is lining up, we would have Lincecum, Zito, and Cain facing Colorado if we keep the 5th starter through the next two off-days. We should want to throw our best against the D-Rox, and we would if we don't skip the 5th starter for any of the upcoming off days.

Rotation Full of Aces

I hope Penny can revert to his former goodness, not only because that would be good for the Giants, but because it would be an example of what I've been preaching in my blog the past few years about how much of an advantage it can be when you have a pitching rotation full of aces.

When you have one like that, there won't be as many blowouts because there won't be as many DIS starts, which means the team will be in almost every game they play. Plus you won't get into too many bad losing streaks because a DOM start should be coming around the corner any day. And long winning streaks will be more the norm because of the gaunlet that each opposing team faces when they play us, there is no fun and easy starter in the series, each and every game will be a grind, wearing down the other team, game by game.

It also means that the team don't have to be an offensive powerhouse for us to win. And the team hasn't been this season, and even though we have had only 2-3 pitchers doing well at the same time during most of the season, we were able to be among the top teams in the NL for much of the season. Once we got Zito and Sanchez doing as well or even better than Lincecum and Cain, we have been winning more games, finally breaking .500 in August despite no particular hot hitter (We won in June because of Panda's HR hitting).

Adding Penny would eliminate our last weakness in the rotation, hopefully, and give us a chance each and every game we play in for the rest of the season, more often than not. As I will show in my PQS analysis for August, we had a superlative month with our pitching staff, outside of Martinez. With an effective Penny, plus hopefully Molina and Freddy Sanchez for the whole month of September, the Giants can at least win the Wild Card race, and perhaps contend for the title if the D-gers could have a losing month in September.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sweep, Sweep, Sweep D-Rox!

It was too much to hope for a sweep, as nice as it would have been, before the series, but with two games in hand, we have to go for the jugular, they have to step it up and finish the job. That would be a huge statement to the D-Rox and the league that the Giants are a team to be wary about when playing them.

And with Cain on the mound, that increases the odds for us, with a low 2 ERA for Cain, Hammel has a mid-4 ERA, but Hammel has actually been very good on the road, high 2 ERA, and he had a shutout the only time he pitched in AT&T. It will be a good test of the mettle of both Cain and Hammel, whether they can summon up enough to do well for their respective teams.

But with Kung Fu Panda healthy enough to slug two homers in the last two games - that was what was the big factor in our 17-10 month of June, him hitting homers - that has to give our team some confidence that we can pull out a victory tomorrow. His stature as THE man in our lineup has risen in this series, and if he can do it again tomorrow, I wish Bochy would just start batting him 4th, he would have proven his mettle to me, that the pressure of that lineup position wouldn't affect him.

Go Giants! Go for the Sweep!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Giants Put in Waiver Claims on Heilman and Hoffman

The Giants have been awarded claims on both Aaron Heilman (Cubs; ex-Met) and Trevor Hoffman (Brewers; ex-'Dres and Bochy buddy) according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Regarding Hoffman, the more interesting name, Buster Olney thinks that the Brewers will hold onto him, just because Melvin said "probably not" about compromising the club's bullpen this season. Probably not means more like "...unless we get a good offer..." to me.

Heilman isn't a done deal either, and according to the news, the Giants had not contacted the Cubs yet.

Giants Thoughts

I don't see the Giants negotiating for Heilman. 4.55 ERA with 31 walks in 57.1 IP, I only see this as a move just to keep him out of the hands of the teams ahead of them, plus if the Cubs decide to give him up for nothing, they could always use another experienced hand in the bullpen.

I would also note that he was either unlucky in Wrigley or just don't pitch well there, his ERA away this season was 3.60, 30 IP, 28 hits, 17 BB, 33 SO, not good but OK for a reliever. That is more in line with his career numbers - remember, a reliever's number bounce around much more easier because of the small sampling problem and thus he could even be a good acquisition if that road number represents his talent level better than his home numbers.

I can see the Giants negotiating to get Hoffman. He would probably be annointed co-closer with Wilson and any team would be better off with him in the bullpen, not just the Giants. The Giants could offer someone young and developed (AA and above) and it would be a better return than the two picks they would get for Hoffman as a free agent, perhaps a nice reliever. I think Bochy loving having him probably is a strong factor too.

Lastly, I note the trade of Scott Kazmir to the Angels for two prospects with a tinge of regret. Of course, the Angels have a higher claim on Kazmir, so the Giants couldn't have claimed him, but I can't believe that the Rays would have wanted much more for him than what they got from the Angels, so, to me, it looks like the Giants could have traded for Kazmir before the trade deadline for a package of Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes, as I think they are equivalent if not better than the package of Matt Sweeney and Alexander Torres. Kazmir, according to the report on MLB Trade Rumors, only has $23.5M left for the rest of this season plus the next two seasons. Can you imagine if we had a rotation of Lincecum, Kazmir, Cain, Zito, and Sanchez? Sick! Particularly after that 8 run bashing of Joe Martinez yesterday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Buster Posey Info

Baseball America runs a blog on prospects and it just published one on Buster Posey. Following are some choice quotes from the post, which was very positive:
  • An old baseball adage is that the hardest jump a player has to make in the minor leagues is the one from high Class A to Double-A. So what about when a player jumps straight from high Class to Triple-A? That hasn’t fazed Buster Posey, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft who’s been tearing up the Pacific Coast League in August and looks poised to take over as the Giants’ big league catcher next season.
  • "He’s got the whole package," Fresno manager Dan Rohn said. "He’s pretty disciplined at the plate. If he gets fooled once, he makes the adjustments. He’s made some nice adjustments to offspeed pitches at this time. He’s definitely got power to all fields. He’s a kid that’s going to just get better and better."
  • Posey has an outstanding feel for hitting for his age. His walk-to-strikeout ratio is nearly even for the season, as he’s walked 62 times while fanning 63 times through 110 games between his two stops. With 18 home runs so far, could top the 20 home run mark for the season, a higher total than he should probably be expected to hit in the majors. Still, his feel for the strike zone will aid his power at the next level, where he won’t have the most raw power but should be able to get into favorable counts and punish mistakes.
  • ... it’s not surprising that he’s faced a steep learning curve defensively since arriving in pro ball. The Giants initially sent him to Hawaii Winter Baseball last year, but he allowed eight passed balls in 10 games and went back to the team’s instructional league to work on his receiving. He allowed 10 more passed balls at San Jose and four in 28 games at Fresno. On the other hand, Posey has thrown out seven of 18 basestealers (38.9 percent) in Triple-A, and the team is confident in his ability to lead a pitching staff.
  • "He doesn’t get rattled that much," Rohn said. "He’s a pretty even-keeled kid. His knowledge of the game and his ability to remember hitters and pitches and situations are pretty phenomenal at this point."
  • A scout said recently that Posey looked big league ready right now,

This is great news, all around. He sounds ready to start for us next season. Baggarly had intimated that the Giants might not go with Posey as the starter in 2010, based on Sabean's recent comments about Posey not being called up in September and being allowed to join Team USA for the World Cup, but since he also works for Baseball America, maybe the news from the team has changed (I asked about this in the blog).

I hope so, Posey sounds ready to hit big time for us and won't he look great batting 3rd or 5th for us while Sandoval bats 4th? Maybe it's Schierholtz, Sandoval, Posey 3/4/5, Rowand and Ishikawa/Garko 6 and 7, Freddy Sanchez 2nd (if healthy...), then maybe Lewis or Velez in LF leading off, which leaves Renteria batting 8th.

That Was a Nice Comeback, Shows a Lot of Fortitude

Wow, yesterday's game was very interesting because it shows the mettle of the team and their state of mind. They clearly didn't let Monday's game get into their minds. They lost the lead, came back to tie it, then took the lead decisively, then held on to gain the victory. That's a pretty good gut check.

That bodes well for the future. For better or for worse, the team we have now is what we have next year, with a few big changes here and there, depending on who the Giants let go, sign as a free agent, or bring up to the majors. These little battles and big disappointments will make them more prepared in the future for such situations.

D-Back Series

The pain of Monday's loss and the series loss kept me away from commenting but even against the hapless D-backs, this series did not look like the slam dunk it should be. Obviously, Cain vs. Haren, it could go either way, but luckily it went our way. Ishikawa was our hero for this game, and according to the account of the game, Bochy acknowledged that Ishikawa is very comfortable hitting at home, so hopefully that will mean that we see more of him on the home stand against the RHP we face.

Today's game pits Sanchez against Doug Davis, probably their #2 starter currently, and he's been pretty good this season too, so it is going to be another tough game. Davis had a string of five good starts before his last start but even there he wasn't that bad (5.0 IP, 5 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts, but 5 ER) so it could have just been bad luck there.

In any case, he pitched very well earlier this season in AT&T (8 shutout innings) though not so well previously (5.22 ERA) but then again, we had a much better offense (Bonds and Company) previously. His ERA at AT&T post-Barry is very low, but he had only one start last year, 5.1 IP, 6 hits, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 2 ER, and it would have been worse had the bullpen not bailed him out last year.

Sanchez, of course, have been great since rejoining the rotation. Including the no-hitter, 8 starts, 49.2 IP, 27 hits, 22 walks, 60 strikeouts, 2.90 ERA; since no-hitter, 7 starts, 40.2 IP, 27 hits, 22 walks, 49 strikeouts, 3.54 ERA, .193/.307/.336/.642 with 5 HR. He pitched well lastyear agasnst them early at home when he was going good. So it looks like it could be a tough game for either side to score.

Out of our hitters, Frandsen loves hitting against Davis, but of course, he's not here. Same for Freddy Sanchez. Molina loves hitting against him, 4 HR in 44 AB, 1119 OPS. Winn has done nicely against him too, 2 HR in 44 AB, 848 OPS. Lewis (4 for 9). Plus Schierholtz, Rowand and Sandoval have been OK against him too. And Velez 2 for 3. Probably Winn, Rowand, Schierholtz in OF, Garko, Velez, Renteria, Uribe in the infield, with Molina catching. They could have Rohlinger start at 3B - he was called up after Freddy Sanchez was placed on the DL - since Uribe is no great shakes against Davis or LHP, but most probably not.

Tomorrw, Joe Martinez faces Yusmeiro Petit. The Giants have knocked him around previously (15 ER, 13.2 IP in 4 games, 2 starts). Looks like Martinez is up against the right guy, we should have a good chance of winning this game.

With yesterday's win, we just need to split to win the series. Right now, it looks like a split is all that we will get, but a sweep is probably what is necessary to get the sting of the weekend out of our wounds and to put us back into the race for the playoffs. While no game by itself is significant - as I had noted in a post over the weekend, losing the series would not be the end of the world - each game is playoff pressure packed because, being 4 games back, we cannot afford to fall behind any further and still hope to make the playoffs.

Ishikawa in 2009

A look at our hitting hero yesterday, for the 2009 season:
  • Ishikawa is hitting .262/.324/.410/.734 for the season, with 9 HR in 256 AB (29 AB/HR)
  • He is hitting .269/.322/.429/.750 as a starter, with 9 HR in 238 AB (27 AB/HR)
  • He has 35 RBI as a starter in 69 starts and 238 AB, which is not that bad, around 82 RBI in a 162 game season or 88 RBI in a 600 AB season. According to, he is right about average for RBI gained in RBI opportunities: 32 RBI vs. 32 RBI for the average MLB player in the same PA.
  • He has had 4 3-RBI games and 2 2-RBI games in those 69 starts, 9% of his starts he had multiple RBIs. For comparison, in 116 starts, Sandoval has had 8 2-RBI, 5 3-RBI, and 3 4-RBI games, 13% of his starts. Molina in 103 starts, has had 7 2-RBI, 4 3-RBI, and 3 4-RBI games, 14% of his starts.
  • He has batted mostly 6th and 7th this season and has had most of his success hitting in those positions. It appears possible that he puts extra pressure on himself batting higher, as he has hit better in the 7th and 8th positions.
  • Since May 9th kick in the butt, .287/.353/.468/.821 with 9 HR in 188 AB (21 AB/HR)
  • Still striking out too much: 47 K's in 188 AB with 17 BB and 2 HBP.
  • However, since his early hot streak, .254/.307/.400/.707 with 5 HR in 130 AB (26 AB/HR).
  • Since Garko joined the team, .216/.356/.405/.761 with 2 HR in 37 AB (19 AB/HR) but 7 walks vs. 10 strikeouts, improving his walk rate greatly, in 23 games, 7 starts. For the month before that, he hit .294/.310/.435/.746 with 3 HR in 85 AB (28 AB/HR) in 23 games, 22 starts.
  • Still he has hit roughly .800 or better whether starting or sitting: initial kick to May 27, .385/.478/.487/.965, 1 HR in 39 AB; from May 28 to June 16, sitting for Sandoval, .333/.429/.500/.929; starting again June 17 to July 26, .274/.294/.481/.775, 6 HR in 106 AB; Garko arrives, since July 27, .216/.356/.405/.761, 2 HR in 37 AB, he hasn't done as well hitting since but better at walking and power. Probably due to all his coming into games cold, he has hit better when starting.
  • His current hot streak is since August 10th, .208/.345/.500/.845 with 2 HR in 24 AB (12 AB/HR).
  • His current cold streak is since August 15th, .190/.227/.381/.608 with 1 HR in 21 AB.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Giants AFL Players Announced

Got the news from Baseball America. Here are the players, with one huge surprise:
  • Steve Edlefsen, RHP: been on the prospect radar since he started out nicely with the Giants.
  • Joe Martinez, RHP: gives him more experience with top level competition in preparation for next season since he missed all of this season, for the most part.
  • Daniel Runzler, LHP: the huge surprise. Never heard of him until today when I was reading Andy Baggerly's blog, but he has risen from Augusta to Norwich this season, 24 years old, 0.80 ERA overall, reliever with 17 saves, 56.0 IP, only 21 hits !!!, 24 walks, and 80 strikeouts. Not too shabby!
  • Buster Posey, C: needs no introduction. The recent announcement by Sabean that Posey would not be coming up in September, partly because he could be playing on Team USA overseas, implied to Baggerly that Posey is not ready to take over the starting job next season. If so, if the Giants want Molina back, he wants a two-year contract and hopes to get one. The article also notes that he also knows the Giants don't want to block Posey, but he doesn't believe the two choices are mutually exclusive, which implies that he would be ready to be Posey's backup buddy at some point during those two years, probably ideally he starts in 2010 while Posey spends a year in AAA, then if Posey is ready, he comes up in September and they split the games, then Posey starts in 2011 with Molina backing up plus getting regular starts if Posey needs to sit. That could work for me if the money is not too bad, but I expect him to want full price and that I don't want. Since the comment in the article linked about him auditioning for himself, he has a 4 game hitting streak, batting .294/.368/.412/.780 but only 1 RBI and 2 runs scored and 4 strikeouts in 17 AB.
  • Brandon Crawford, SS: he had a great start to his pro career, then he got sent to that hell-hole of a stadium, Dodd Stadium, to play for the Connecticut Defenders. He suffered there. This situation should give us a better idea of where he is developmentally, the hot hitter he was in San Jose, or the lousy hitter he was in Norwich.
  • Thomas Neal, OF: a mild surprise, though not too much since he hit very well there. He has hit .331/.422/.582/1.004 in San Jose this season, 20 HR in 428 AB, 80 RBI, but 91 strikeouts, though plus 55 walks. He outdid Kieschnick, who hit 23 HR in 471 AB, 101 RBI, but 118 strikeouts and 34 walks, .301/.351/.546/.897.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bochy Must Go

Before tonight, I could have gone either way with Bochy. But this one hurts too much. Bochy should be replaced after this season, unless he can somehow pull the World Series championship out of his cap, but I don't think that is going to happen.

After that fiasco on Saturday, where Miller and Valdez just kept on giving up runs (if either one could have kept it close, the Giants could have come back), it was clear to me that neither one of them has the guts to pitch in high pressure situations like this, where we are fighting for a playoff spot. Or rather should not be put in that situation any more and verify that they don't have the guts. Not against the Rockies, at least.

And that's OK, not everyone can do this job. But now we should know not to use them, so we don't put them in such situations.

Only Bochy did put them in this game, after the way the bullpen held off Colorado and the offense finally came through in the top of the inning. I can understand the move a little bit, because they were the last pitchers in the bullpen. And he had already stretched out Wilson, Romo, and Medders.

Here's where the good managers don't care how the players feel and go for the win. He has to know when to forget about making the player feel good about himself, and you go for the jugular. I think he should have gone to a starter and ask him to suck one up for the team.

Now, had he really thought ahead, he would have kept Joe Martinez around, just in case, and had, say, Cain run the bases for Garko instead. But he didn't.

So that left Cain and Sanchez on the bench other than Miller and Valdez. With Cain to pitch tomorrow, plus he is one of our aces, you don't want to lose him taking a start, so I would have gone with Sanchez, who is two days away from his next start.

It is not ideal, but I would have rather gone with him, particularly since he has relieved before and is 3 days after his last start, 2 days before his next. Then you could push him back one day and move up Martinez, or even call up Pucetas when you put Freddy Sanchez on the DL (as it appears he will be put there) and just push Sanchez out.

After all, what is more important, saving this game after the comeback the offense just did, or trying to beat a bad team like Arizona? I would have put Sanchez in and forget about Miller's or Valdez's feelings, instead of putting them in and hoping they don't screw it up again.

Anything is better than to bring out Miller or Valdez out there. Valdez I can forgive more, he is young and inexperienced, but Miller is older and more experienced, he is what he is, and if he couldn't do it Saturday, he wasn't going to do it today. So Bochy should have at least went with Valdez first instead of Miller. Another mistake.

And it's nothing against Miller. But if he is not capable, he is not capable. Not everyone has the fortitude to put up with that type of pressure in relief. He is still valuable, keeping things close in a losing situation on a regular basis, he is good in that situation. Just not in this situation.

But Bochy put him in there.

I was on the fence about him previously, as I liked the way he handled the pitching staff previously, as well as the position players - you can only go with what you got - but this series, this game, was just too much to take.

I know that I'm being emotional, but I just had to vent. But I don't think that I will change my mind in the morning, nor will I change my mind should we make the playoffs. This was our little microcosm of playoff pressure managing and I give him a big failure on that, a big fat F.

The pitching had delivered up to that point, and the hitters finally delivered a big lead. You can not lose the game like that, not after such a comeback by the offense. You cannot put your faith and hopes in a pitcher who melted under the pressure on Saturday. And if you are, you pick the one who didn't do as badly, which would have been Valdez. But most of all, you go for the jugular, you bring in one of your starters to finish the game, you bring in Sanchez.

Thank You 2009 Giants for Much Joy So Far

I write this not because I don't think the team won't go further this year, but as a way to cheer my team on to greater heights. I have greatly enjoyed this season and the way others are commenting, I felt the need to express my joy about this season. And there has been great joy.

I said at the beginning that while I would not predict that the Giants will make the playoffs, neither would I not be surprised if they do, they are capable of winning the division. And they have been playing well, it has not been a pipe dream, and if not for a Dodger fast start, the Giants not only would be competing for the wild card but also competing for the division title. They would have been either leading or near the lead in 4 of the other 5 divisions for much of this season, they have been that good.

The Team Has Been Good

The pitching has been that good, much better than expected by the pundits, plus Lincecum has continued his pace from last season. And that covers both the rotation and the bullpen, particularly the bullpen, which has been great up to now. There is also the wonder of Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter and Barry Zito's emergence to pitch as well has he had when he was with the A's. And, of course, the big factor in the rotation is Matt Cain's emergence as a league ace, making the All-Star game and being good enough to be in the conversation for the Cy Young.

But the offense has had their successes too. Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval, of course, is the biggest success, providing the big bat in the middle that we have been searching for. Unfortunately, he has been batting 3rd, where his bat's effectiveness in generating runs is lessened, but hopefully he should become our clean-up batter by next season. Nate Schierholtz has also shown that he should be ready to start for us next season at RF. Aaron Rowand has been pretty good much of the season, except when he is battling something physical. Travis Ishikawa has also shown flashes that he could be a starter, though eventually Ryan Garko was acquired. Still, Ishikawa has hit .286/.350/.451/.801 with 8 HR in 182 AB (22 AB/HR) since May 9th. Juan Uribe had been a nice surprise for much of the season

And we could have been better. Had Randy Winn hit like he hit during this career, we would be much better off offensively. Had Edgar Renteria not been battling bone spurs in his elbow, that position would have had a large improvement. As it was, he is still an improvement over what we got last season. Had Fred Lewis not lost his way mid-season, we could have been better, though that was what gave Schierholtz his big opportunity to show what he could do as a regular starter. Had Molina not taken a notch down in performance, our run performance would have been better since his effect is heightened by him batting 4th for the season when he is starting.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Yes, the Giants have created much joy this season with their great play overall and competitive play thoughout much of the season. The way some have been reacting, you would think that the Giants were expected to win the NL West or something. Not only were they not, the majority of people complaining about the Giants were not even thinking the Giants could play .500 this season, let alone be competitive for a playoff position. They are acting like they believed in the Giants from the get-go, instead of just joining the bandwagon in June (or after).

While some are down about losing to Colorado this weekend, at least we were in each and every game, even in the blowout, when the offense made up 5 runs of their deficit and forced D-Rox to bring in their closer, Street. We led in each game and could have won if we could hold them off from scoring, but in Coors that is always an iffy proposition.

So while I'm disappointed in the results, I still think that this series has been a good educational experience for the young players on the team, a good thing to experience the pressures of playoff baseball that should pay dividends down the line, I believe. I think that is what contributed to Lincecum's wild performance yesterday (5 walks and balls on like half his first 40-50 pitches before he calmed down), so I think he will be that much more reliable the next time he's in a similar situation, as he has done that all through his career, get amped in his first experience with something, then he's lights out otherwise. Pablo also learned a lesson, according to Baggarly's post, about how to hit in certain situations especially in a pennant situation. That is why I hope we can squeak into the playoffs, let our young players get that initial jitters out of their system, and be more prepared for the playoffs in future seasons by having that playoff experience.

But really, no matter the result today, we are already 5-5 on our long road trip, and while it would be nice to rack up a winning road trip, the goal for any road trip is to play .500 on the trip and they have. Obviously, it would be better to win today than lose, as then we would only be 2 games back instead of 4 games back. Still, the Giants do have 22 games at home and 15 road games after today's game (though it should be noted that Colorado has the same too) and the Giants have been much better at home than Colorado, it is on the road that they have a big edge over us.

Plus, we have still have 6 games at home against them. We should be able to make up 2 games there by going 4-2, leaving only 2 games to make up otherwise should we lose today. That is doable and not the end of our playoff hopes.


In addition, the Giants have a good chance today, as - in addition to Zito pitching well in Colorado previously plus has been on a hot streak, his usual second half peak performance - I didn't realize this until now, but Marquis, in his first and only start against SF in Colorado earlier this season, gave up 7 runs in 6 IP, and for this season has pitched worse at home in Colorado than on the road (though still well overall, in spite of the poor results against SF, he has been very good overall all season, home or road).

Plus, he has given up way more HR on the road than at home, so he should be reverting to mean at some point, particularly in a homer haven like his home park has been, he can't keep on being so lucky. Remember, the Giants has hit 7 HR thus far in the 3 games. And Molina blasted 2 HR off him in that start earlier this season at home against SF, and he nearly had 3, with a blast that he said he hit the hardest of the three, died in deep CF. Plus, Sandoval, Ishikawa, and Schierholtz had not yet figured out how to hit HRs more regularly at that point (May 7th game) too. And Rowand was still scuffling at that point but has hit 2 HR in the 3 games here so far, and 3 in his last 7 games. And Garko finally unleashed for 2 HR for us this series too, should he start instead of Ishikawa.

These guys possibly start today due to past success against Marquis: Fred Lewis (5 for 12, 917 OPS), Juan Uribe (4 for 13, 1 HR, .973 OPS) and Randy Winn (8 for 22, 2 HR, 1.073 OPS). I can see Rowand (1 for 17) sitting with Lewis, Winn, Schierholtz in the OF and Renteria sitting (.445 OPS in 13 AB) with Uribe at SS, Velez at 2B. Not sure exactly how Bochy will roll with 1B, but he's been going with Garko thus far, so that's the best bet there. And of course Sandoval will play 3B and probably Molina catching.

Don't Mess with The Kid

Lastly, and perhaps importantly, I think Colorado might have messed with the wrong player. According to a blog post and article by Baggarly, the D-Rox appears to have tried to mess with Lincecum using the stadium radar reading. While Jimenez's radar readings were similar between the TV and scoreboard, the TV had Lincecum at 93-94 MPH while the stadium scoreboard showed 88-91. Lincecum mentioned this after the game. Hopefully this will provide the impetus for the Giants to take it to Colorado today (and in future series) for trying to mess with their best player's mind.

And, in addition, Lincecum has not been one to take being dissed lightly, he's a very competitive guy, and has a chip on his shoulder since forever. I can see that being a rally cry internally for the team, like that Jim Croce song goes, "You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don't mess around with" Tim...

Yes, you don't fool around with The Kid, he's going to get you in the end if you mess with him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 66-55: Rocking D-Rox

When you take a road trip to Cincinati, it is what it is: you never really know what is going to happen, even when the Reds are scuffling, like they are this season. Oddly enough, in a park known for being a hitter's park, we got to see two great pitching duels after a blow-out type of game in the first game of the series. We were lucky to get out with a series win, and yet we were not that far away - one key hit - from sweeping the series. In this wondrous season that we have had, we have not had a lot of those.

Again people complain about the offense. And I understand it, sort of, because it IS not very good. But first, you have to give Arroyo and Harang credit: both are good pitchers capable of shutting down the opposing team, whether a 90 pound weakling like the Giants or teams with a good offense, like the Mets earlier in the season or the Phillies. Second, it's a rebuilding year, there is always something wrong with a rebuilding team, even if they happen to be good enough to be competing for a playoff spot. It's like Doogie Howser: he was advanced for his years in his brains but still developing regarding his social skills and such. The Giants are advanced in pitching but still developing regarding their offense. Rushing either is futile and counter-productive.

Lastly, people get too hung up and defensive about the offense, like it being bad reflects badly on them, seemingly, or others have a "size" problem with regards to offense, where if it is not good at any position, the offense is hopelessly flawed. I think part of that comes from people used to the great offenses of the 1960's and others newbies who only knew the great offenses with Barry Bonds in the middle. If there is one hitter who is not pulling his weight, then we must go out and trade for some mega-superstar hitter from Team X.

The point is not about having an offense that can pummel the other side into submission, the point is situating the offense and defense such that we can win more games than we lose. Surprisingly to me, this point is missed by so many people, they run around like chickens with their heads chopped off or the sky is falling, but the fact is the Giants are 66-55, only 2 games out of the wild card, 5.5 games off the division lead. Chill, act like you've been in a pennant race before.

Da Rockies

These upcoming games are the most important 10 game stretch for the Giants in years. With the Giants close to the Wild Card leader, D-Rox, they play 4 against them in Colorado, then play another 3 against D-Rox the following week at home. These games could put the Giants in control or too far back in the wild card race. Winning the series in Colorado would bring us back to even with them in the Wild Card race. This is the time for the players to show what they are made out of.

In the first series, the Giants will throw at them these starters: Sanchez, Martinez, Lincecum, and Zito. They will face Cook, De La Rosa, Jimenez, and Marquis. They are D-Rox's best starters, with us missing Hammel. That seems to be too much of a coincidence to not think that they planned this ahead of time. At least we got our best against their best, Lincecum vs. Jimenez. And, in fact, they all seem to be evenly matched, based on overall stats, Sanchez vs. Cook, Martinez vs. De La Rosa, Zito vs. Marquis.

And we have pitchers who can or have done well in Colorado. Martinez has allowed 53% ground balls, which is what you want in Colorado. Sanchez also gets a fair amount of ground balls too, about 40%, which gives him a career GB/FB ratio of about 1.0, which is not too bad for a power strikeout pitcher who relies less on secondary pitches that often fail to do their magic in the thin air of Colorado. Of course, Lincecum gets a lot of groundballs, about 45% for his career, which is good and about 10% more than flyballs, along with all his strikeouts.

Zito is a contradiction. Unfortunately, Zito is a flyball pitcher, with a GB/FB ratio safely under 1.0, meaning he gives up a lot more flyballs than groundballs, and that's bad news. The good news there is that a good number of them are usually infield flyballs, but the bad news then is that this was when he was an A's pitcher, this year is his first with the Giants where his infield flyballs is near the percentage when he was with the A's (12.2% this year; 13.6% for his career, lowest as A's was 13.3%, avearge almost 16%). However, he has pitched well in Colorado: 4 starts, 27.0 IP, 21 hits, 12 BB, 14 SO, 3.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, so who knows?

In the second series, the Giants will throw these starters: Lincecum, Zito, Cain. It should be the same matchups unless D-Rox skip Hammel so that Cook faces Cain: Lincecum vs. Jimenez, Zito vs. Marquis, Cain vs. Hammel. Cain vs. Hammel should give us an advantage in this series, so that is not too bad. And the Giants have rocked at home this season, for the most part.

If we can get series wins from each, 3-1 and 2-1, we would be one game ahead of them in the wild card race (though with Florida big streak until the two most recent games lost, they could be passing both of us up soon, plus Atlanta is making a move too). Even if we split the first series and win the one at home, that still leaves us only one game behind D-Rox, which is still pretty good.

Of course, I would prefer the Giants go on a 10 game winning streak and just put them all behind us in the rearview mirror. We haven't had one good winning streak this season, and yes, that is because the offense has been so inconsistent this season. Still, as I noted in one of my comments somewhere, the offense with Franchez batting 2nd is an improvement so far, even though his OBP, SLG, and OPS are nothing to smile about (but .304 BA is), with the team averaging 4.77 runs when he starts.

And, aye, that is the rub, he hasn't started every game the Giants have had since obtaining him, only 13 out of the 20 games. He won't get his option vested if he keeps on missing so many games. And we won't get into the playoffs. Hopefully the training staff can keep him going, at least for the games against Colorado and LA.

What's That in the Road, A Head?

Looking ahead, after this 10 game stretch, there is a 9 game stretch starting on September 11 where we play the D-gers 3 games at home, then 3 games at home against D-Rox (last games), then 3 games on the road against the D-gers. Depending on how the Giants do in this 10 game stretch, that stretch could be even more important to our pennant hopes as we are playing both of our main competitors for the division title and the wild card race.

The good news is that interspersed with all these important games, we play a good number of games against losing teams. In-between the two series with D-Rox, we get to start our homestand next week against the D-Backs. We then get a tough road trip against the Phillies and Brewers, though the Brewers have experienced a second half slide, but then we start a home stand against the 'Dres, before that possibly important 9 game stretch against LA, CO, LA. Then we end the season with 4 against the struggling Cubs, 3 against Arizona in the last series at home, then travel down to San Diego for 3 against the 'Dres.

We potentially have 19 games against teams who are either down or sliding down in the second half mixed in with all the games against LA and CO (out of 41 games remaining). And even if we should not be up to the task and fall further behind after all these important games, with 10 games that should be easier to win at the end of the season, the Giants might still be able to make a late charge (with Bowker, Guzman, Rohlinger, Matos, Pucetas, Espinelli, and others on the bench) and threaten the leaders. And, of course, if we should be in the lead, put some more distance between us and them.

Go Giants!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Giants Starters Pitch Value to August 20, 2009

I just ran across a great leaderboard on Fangraphs, covering Pitch Value. I might just start reporting on this monthly as it is fascinating to me. Though, of course, there is only two more months to report on...

For example, one would think that Lincecum's best pitch is his fastball, particularly since he could reach the high 90's. Nope. He uses the fastball to set up his changeup. He is only 5.6 runs above average with his fastball, but 31.2 runs above average with his changeup. Here's a shocker: there are a lot of middling pitchers who have generated more runs above average using fastballs, Piniero, Happ, Marquis, Correia (yes, that Correia). Still, it is one of the best in the NL.
  • Fastball: Cain is 3rd, Lincecum 20th, Zito 27th (out of 46 qualifying starters)
  • Slider: Zito is 7th, Lincecum 18th, Cain 32nd
  • Curveball: Zito is 4th, Lincecum 16th, Cain 37th
  • Changeup: Lincecum is 1st, Cain tied for 3rd, Zito 41st

To give some perspective:

  • Fastball: Cain is 3rd with 19.3; Wolf leads with 22.4, Kershaw 2nd 22.2, Piniero 4th 18.0. Lincecum with 5.6. (Correia 9.5)
  • Slider: Zito is 7th with 8.3; Dempster is first with 16.3, Wainwright 2nd with 10.5. Ubaldo is 6th with 8.5 and Maholm is 8th with 6.6.
  • Curveball: Zito is 4th with 11.3; Wainwright leads with 17.5. Javier Vasquez is 3rd with 12.5 and Billingsly is 5th with 8.9. Lincecum with 5.1.
  • Changeup: Lincecum is first with 31.2; next is Javier Vasquez at 10.4. Cain 9.6, tied for 3rd.

Of course, these are all influenced by how often you throw that certain pitch. The more you throw of the pitch, the more runs above average that you generate. Of more import is the rate per 100 pitches:

  • Fastball: Cain is 5th with 1.28 wins per 100 pitches, Lincecum 20th 0.39, Zito 29th -0.28, where Carpenter led with 2.13, Wolf 2nd 1.45, Kershaw 4th 1.4, Happ 6th 1.23. C0rreia has 0.81.
  • Slider: Zito is 6th with 2.06, Lincecum 11th 1.66, Cain 32nd -0.38, where Kenshin Kawakami led with 5.25, Billingsley 2nd 3.65, Dempster 3rd 2.28, Wainwright 5th 2.26, and Ubaldo 7th 1.95.
  • Curveball: Zito is 5th with 2.92, Lincecum 15th with 1.18, Cain 30th -0.97, where Livan led with 4.13, Harang 2nd with 3.3, Vasquez 4th 3.1, Pelfrey 6th 2.58.
  • Changeup: Lincecum is 3rd with 5.57, Cain 6th with 3.14, Zito 29th with -1.57, where Braden Looper led with 6.25, Kenshin Kawakami 2nd with 5.77, Josh Johnson 4th 3.77, Vasquez 5th 3.26, Oswalt 7th 2.74.

So that is how our starters have been doing it this season. Lincecum with his changeup, Cain with his fastball and changeup, Zito with his slider and curve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The 2009 Giants are 64-54: Seeing Reds

After a collective "whew!" from Giants fans, happy with a split with the Mets, looking back, we were one homer (by someone who did not hit a homer in a year!) away from being 3-1 in the series. Heard that on morning show on KNBR, Kuip noted it. And dang if he weren't right. And if we spread those 10 runs across the other games, and we could have swept.

Only, we can't do that. Just be happy we got the split and that we are now only 5.5 games back.

Against the Reds, I would probably normally say that we have a good chance to win except that this is the Reds park, one of the best hitter's park in the majors. So you never know when it will blow up in a pitcher's face.

Plus, while Lincecum should beat Homer Bailey, Zito will have a hard time since he's up against Arroyo, plus he's a flyball pitcher in a ballpark that gives up a lot of HRs (2 starts in career, 10+ ERA), and Matt Cain is up against Harang, who pitches very well at home. We could be just as easily 1-2 as we could be 2-1.

The only good thing is that maybe Giants fans won't complain so bitterly about the offense since they should generate some good offense here, while the Mets new home park is a strong pitcher's park, from what I've read and heard about the park.

All righties, but I expect Garko to get all the starts because it's a good park to get out of an offensive funk and, well, that is how Bochy has been playing it since the Giants traded for Garko and said that both players were in the Giants plans for the future. The only way that worked was if Garko either played LF or C when not platooning with Ishikawa at 1B, and neither has happened so far.

I also expect Schierholtz to sit. Rowand had a nice day, Velez continues to be hot, and Winn had a nice day. And he hasn't really hit that well while starting, hot for a while then cold as ice. So I'm OK with this as long as he's our RF from 2010 and beyond (assuming he can hit well enough to keep the position; I think he can).

Too bad Bochy didn't give the speech before the first game in NY, instead of just before the last game.

Word of Caution to G-fans

Watch Homer Bailey carefully. He's an example of what could happen with Bumgarner. Young, great in the minors, rose like a shot, projected for greatness. But for some reason, once up here, just couldn't put it together. Still hasn't. So while I think it is safe to talk about him in our rotation, just be aware that it can go horribly wrong sometimes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wheelie Down the Street: Zack Wheeler Signed to $3.3M contract

The Giants signed first round pick Zack Wheeler to a $3.3M contract just minutes before the 9 PM PDT/12 Mid EDT deadline. I got it straight from Extra Baggs. The writing was on the wall when the Cardinal's signed Miller to a $2.9M contract, that made that the floor for what Wheeler would get. Not sure what the consequence is, but Wheeler is signed for the 2010 season, so he won't play professionally until next season, but he'll be working out in Arizona until the minor league season ends, then would go to instructional league. He got $1.14M more than slot.

That completes all of the Giants top picks. They signed their first 17 draft picks this season (and 34 of 50, reported Haft). Wheeler is probably the second highest overslot signing the Giants have done in the draft. Posey, obviously, was the highest. Ishikawa is probably third, as he was signed for almost $1M but was drafted in the 21st round. Both Lincecum and Bumgarner got about $200K more than their slots.

Here are some stats on his high school career, courtesy of Chris Haft:
Wheeler posted a 9-0 record with a 0.54 ERA in 13 games for East Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., this season. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder struck out 151 and walked 20 in 77 2/3 innings. He allowed 31 hits as opponents batted .118 against him. Named 2009 Gatorade High School Player of the Year for Georgia, Wheeler
compiled a 95-36 record in four varsity seasons.
Giants Thoughts

All in all, I think it's better to get him signed than not. He sounds like he has a lot of talent and moxie (he knew Sabean was in the crowd, so he reared back and threw 97 MPH, if I remember right). And as tempting as it would be to wait until next season, you don't know exactly what type of talent you will be getting. In addition, 8 of the top 10 prospects were pitchers anyway, and the other two were catchers.

I just wish that he could have signed earlier and gotten in some playing time. But he got a $1M+ over slot, so it was clearly worth it for him. I only have problems with them waiting until the last minute and still only get roughly slot (like Wendell Fairley; should have figured that it was a sign that he is more talk and looks, than substance and action). If the market will bear it, the market rules, I believe in the invisible hand.

Henry Schulman reported that Dick Tidrow said about the same thing about Wheeler as he had said about Bumgarner, that he believes Wheeler will rise quickly through the minors (Tidrow and Sabean both said that Bumgarner would rise quickly and could make the majors in two seasons or so). Following that game plan, the Wheeler era would encompass 2013-2019. Our rotation of the near future:

Lincecum: Control to 2013
Cain: Signed to 2011
Sanchez: Control to 2012
Zito: Signed to 2013
Bumgarner: control 2011-2016
Wheeler: control 2013-2019

I think the Giants will be able to sign Cain to a nice big extension to at least 2013 if not 2014 when he'll turn 30. Lincecum I hope they can sign him to his early 30's, which would bring him out to 2014-2016 or so.

If those come to fruition, there will be a period around 2012-2014 where the Giants rotation could be ridiculously good, even better than it is now, when they are leading the majors in ERA by a little and leading the majors in runs allowed per game by a lot.

Go Giants!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Two Down: One Wheeler to Go

The Giants have announced that they have signed second rounder Tommy Joseph and fifth rounder Brandon Belt, both potential plus power hitters, which rounds out their early draftees with an interest in power: they had already signed Chris Dominguez long ago for basically slot.

Joseph, a high school catcher, received a $712,500 bonus, which is almost $60,000 over the slot for his position. Belt, a college firstbaseman, received a $200,000 bonus, which is almost $26,300 above slot. Both are roughly what their slot was assigned last year; basically, the Giants gave them the bonus without the 10% markdown that the Commissioner decreed for this draft.

Again, was it really worth waiting two months to accept probably what the Giants offered them in the first place? Belt in particular, two months of minor league salary is probably close to that; the value of the experience, probably invaluable to making the majors sooner. Just think of it this way: assuming that missing the two months only pushed back his making the majors by two months, then he just lost about $100K.

Of course, the rub is that most players past the Top 5-10 picks overall in any draft rarely make the majors. And if you never make the majors, you never make up the $100K.

But even at minor league salaries, which I think is pretty low, let's say it's about $1,000 per week, by missing 10 weeks of pay, that's $10K.

As an example, Dominguez has already played in rookie ball then has been at Salem Keizer getting significant ABs. He's hitting .246/.297/.483/.780 with 8 HR in 118 AB. His 36 strikeouts isn't good, but that's reflected in his low BA. Still, he's showing the power he's got and started getting instructions on how to improve himself plus it gives him something to think about before next season.

Wheeler Round the Corner

I have to think that Zach Wheeler will sign with the Giants on Monday sometime for somewhere in the $2.4-2.5M range, which is what the slot was last year. They probably figured that it didn't hurt Bumgarner to wait until the last minute - it didn't stop his progress through the minors - so they may as well wait until thelast minute to see if they can squeeze the Giants out of enough money to pay for the agent, that is, let the agent try to earn his money.

The Giants don't get squeezed though in the draft, so it was pretty useless for them to wait until the last minute to get last year's slot. With him I can understand, it could mean more than $250,000 to try, but if you look at the history of the Giants, they are not going to overpay for anyone. They did with Posey, but that is because he legitimately could have gone #1 easily, it was just that the Rays decided to go with Beckham instead.

Otherwise, the most anyone got is about $200K more than the slot, though Graham this year got a lot more but that is because he could have been drafted much higher based on his talent. Wheeler was drafted about where he should have been, in fact, the commentators I saw thought that Leake and Matzek were better than Wheeler, so he could have ended up further back in the draft (though realistically, he probably would not have fallen past the Braves at #7).

And as I noted in the comments, the Giants probably wouldn't mind getting the 7th to 10th pick next year in replacement for Wheeler not signing, there are a lot of good college pitchers touted for next year already and you never know when a hitter raise their game up and push into the Top 10.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Giants are 62-52: The Metropolitans Are Cold

The Mets have been on a 4-10 skid, 2-5 over last seven, and 2-5 in their last seven home games. So I hope to win 3 since they are only 30-25 at home for the season but in a bad slide right now.

We could be set up for it. Zito has been hot and he is up against Parnell, who has started only one game all season and has a horrible WHIP. Cain vs. Santana should be a great game, could go either way as Santana has alternated bad start with good start in last 4 starts, with him due to be bad this start if he continues that pattern. He has not been his dominating self for the past month or so and only 4 DOM starts in his last 10, though more lately, so he has been out of sorts this season so that gives me hope for this game, beyond that it's Cain pitching.

Then we got Sanchez vs. Pelfrey. I like our chances there, as Pelfrey has been hit hard for the past month. Then we got Martinez vs. Livan, which will be tough as Livan has seemed to always been tough on us, probably because he is good when he feels like it, the problem has been getting him to feel like it. Now that he's old, he's not always able to bring it - witness his 5.28 ERA - but I would never take Livan lightly when he faces the Giants.

Giants Thoughts

So, it is going to be tough to win 3 games against them. Still, during their losing streak, they have only averaged 4.2 runs per game while their pitching has been giving up 5.1 runs per game. Plus they are throwing a reliever at us who had not been pitching all that well when he was a reliever, and most pitchers do better relieving than starting. Also, even their better pitchers have been struggling of late.

Of course, the Giants offense has been misfiring lately too. It will help to get yesterday off, to help our walking wounded recover a little bit, particularly Freddy Sanchez, who has been great for us thus far, when he's actually in the game. We have Velez and Lewis as two pretty hot hitters, plus Sandoval doing his usual goodness. Molina has been hitting better of late and with Schierholtz back from the DL, he should be an improvement over what Winn had been contributing. Rowand had been banged up and rest will hopefully help ignite his bat again, he's been either hot or cold, but rarely in-between this season.

1B has been odd. Ishikawa has continued to hit with limited play - despite only getting 16 AB since Garko joined the team, he still has 1 HR more than Garko, who has had 40 AB - but he's been horrible on the road. Garko needs a HR so that he can stop pressing. He did better on the last road trip, so hopefully he can crank it up again. Perhaps they should have an odd platoon: Ishikawa starts at home, Garko on the road.

Overall, while I normally would say that 2-2 is the most probable result based on the overall view of things, given these other factors, that would tip the scale enough that I think that 3-1 is a strong possibility, though 2-2 is still the highest probability. I don't anticipate winning only one game or getting swept ourselves, but that possibility always exist.

Thus far this season, the Giants have won 20 series, lost 12 series, and tied 4 series. They have been swept 4 times, but some of those happened early in the season and they have worked their way back to sweep the other team 4 times. Unless they can make hay on this road trip, they will probably end up around .500 again for the month of August, which is what this team is capable of.

Since the begining of 2008, the Giants have been right at .500 or perhaps 1 game up or down in all the months except for two bad losing months last season and one great winning month in June 2009 when Sandoval went crazy and hit like 12 homers in the month. We will need someone to contribute like that to pull that off in August or September.

Though I do like our chances because Lincecum is Lincecum, Cain has been going good all season and usually get even better in August, Zito is usually very good in the second half and has been thus far, and Sanchez has been good since his no-hitter. If we had a hot 5th starter - RJ could have been great in there - we could have run off long winning streaks, I think.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stop Dissing the Giants!

Everyday I read it. Giants fans dissing the Giants offense, dissing the Giants farm system, dissing the Giants GM. It makes my heart ache that others can't see what I see.

What is Wrong with the Farm System?

I love the Giants farm system. I don't know why people can't see how good it is. We have the best pitching staff in the majors and only look to get better with Bumgarner joining in a year or two. We have Posey joining soon, plus other promising hitters.

It is so good that we can win enough games to be competing for a playoff spot. That's a result of the farm system yet I see people dissing the farm system regularly. This record is a result of our farm system, the team that we have now.

What is Wrong with the Giants Record?

I see people denigrating the Giants record as nothing special because they are not competing for the division title, but what they are missing is that the Giants record would either be in the lead or very close to the division lead in 4 of the 6 divisions in the majors.

They have just had the bad luck of being in the same division as the Dodgers, who has had the best record until the Yankees passed them up recently. Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, they have a very good record, good enough to lead most divisions, good enough to be in the chase for the wild card spot.

The team is good, even if the offense has been lacking. And that is all that really matters in the end, how good the team is. One in the Win column, more than other teams.

Why are People Forgetting We are Still Rebuilding?

People are also forgetting that the team is still rebuilding: of course there will be parts of the team lacking, it is in the middle of its rebuilding. As Neukom noted, next year is the year to expect the team to be competitive for the division title. This year is a bonus, a nice treat, but the team clearly still have areas that need fixing up on the offense.

This team, this farm system, was put together by Brian Sabean, our GM. It still needs some working on, but I like what we got now, love the pitching rotation. It is like what I've been saying for the past two years: if this is all that we can expect, then I would fire Sabean, but I like what he has done with the team thus far and I would like to see what he can do with it with another two years.

The next two years are crucial years. I expect the Giants to be competing for and making the playoffs with the players we have now and if we aren't there, I'm all for replacing Sabean at that point. But for now, I like what he has done with the club and hope the Giants give him an extension after this season.

Go Giants!

OT: Beat LA!

What a game! It all looked so bad then ended so well! Just like a squib hit looks like a line drive on the scoreboard, going 1-2 isn't the end of the world, heck, even if we were swept it would not have been end of the world, but this ending was a heck of a lot better.

It would have been a horrible loss - aided by 1B umpire, Gary Darling, who made two bonehead calls, changing a 3-1 Giants lead and win to a 2-2 extra innings game - but now, by holding off the D-gers and coming back to win 4-2 with Uribe's homer, it shows some of the fortitude of the Giants players that should pay off dividends later in the season. I think that the Giants can take some momentum from this win. Hopefully they can convert it into wins on the road against the Mets, the Reds, and D-Rox.

Giants Sign 6th Round Draft Pick; Still Many More to Go

It seemed like the draft picks were going to sign quickly this season, as many first round picks signed faster than I can recall in recent years, but after a fast beginning, it slowed down to the slow molasses that marks the period for signing draft picks. At least they put everyone out of their misery by making the deadline in mid-August instead of allowing it to drag out into the next draft, like before.

The Giants are usually pretty quick signers of their picks in their first 10 rounds, but it's been slow this season, relatively. Of course, that could be a function of the Giants taking higher round talents in later rounds and paying according to talent and not round, which leads to a huge overslot bonuses, and the MLB Commissioner office delaying approval of the contract until much later.

Baseball America just announced that the Giants signed Matt Graham, RHP, for $500,000, which is the 3rd highest bonus given in the 6th round thus far, and is over slot by $350,000 (slot recommendation is $500,000 max after the 5th round), which as I noted, is a no-no and thus approval was delayed.

Here is what BA noted about Graham:

A righthander from Oak Ridge HS in Spring, Texas, Graham flashes first-round talent but lacks consistency. At his best, he’ll pitch at 90-93 mph with his fastball and back it up with a power curveball. He had committed to North Carolina.
They also noted that the Giants had not signed three of its top five picks thus far:

  • Zack Wheeler, RHP (first round),
  • Tommy Joseph, catcher (second), and
  • Brandon Belt, first baseman (fifth)

Discussion of What Current Signings Suggest They Are Slotted to Sign For

Basically, Wheeler's #5 pick spot has pretty much been market valued at $2.42M, as the pick ahead and the pick behind got that much (long ago, I might add, and getting invaluable professional experience) plus the #3 pick got $2.5M. What is he asking for, the moon? This is disappointing because he seemed like he was eager to sign and start his pro career. Still, I would expect the Giants to sign him: he did not seem to be ego driven, plus was not represented by Boras, and it has to be hard to turn down around $2.5M and to go to college instead.

Tommy Joseph's bonus should be around $650,000. The pick behind him got $643,500 and 3 picks ahead that guy got $670,000, and he was from high school too. And there were a bunch of high schoolers behind that got basically $625,000. So the value is pretty set, how much is he asking for, $850-900,000? No way he can demand and expect to get $1,000,000, not even the late first rounders are getting that. Some wonder if Tim Alderson getting traded has affected him, but he did not seem to be that close to Alderson, and friend or not, it would be tough to pass up $650,000 and then go to college.

Then again, Lincecum passed up similar money because he wanted a million, though I would add that he was already in college and could expect to move up in the draft, assuming hard work and so forth would help him advance, while Joseph has no idea how he will fare in college, and if he is over his head, he would be lucky to ever get drafted again, let alone get a big bonus. Lincecum could reasonably expect to get a similar bonus, whereas Joseph could potentially be passing up on a lot of money if things don't go well for him in college. Still, there are players that cocky that they bet on themselves.

Chris Dominguez signed for $411,300, which is right in range with all the other picks in that general pick vicinity for the third round. And he is benefiting from signing earlier, he's been getting into games and he has already hit 7 HR in 109 AB (though poor BA and 35 strikeouts). He could be a fast mover and would easily make up the $100-200K extra he could have held out for by making the majors one year earlier due to his playing and doing well now.

Jason Stoffel signed for $254,700, which is right in range for all the other picks in that general pick vicinity for the fourth round. He has done OK in limited innings (8.0 IP) in rookie league, not striking out a lot, but walking nobody.

Brandon Belt is in the 5th round where picks around him got between $160,000 and $200,000. Since Graham signed for $500K, I can only assume that Belt wants more than that, at least $600,000. That is the high bonus in the 4th round right now, and there are none higher than $200,000 in the 5th round currently. There is a $750,000 bonus in the 6th round, which would be the max I would expect.

The Giants as usual have been pretty good in signing most of their draft picks. With the Graham signing, the Giants have now signed every pick from the 6th round to the 17th round. And have signed 30 of their 50 picks. Check out this website for the picks who have not signed. Check out this website for the bonuses for the first ten rounds.

They are a bit behind their usual pace with 3 of their top 5 unsigned, but I'm not too worried about those players signing, as I have not heard of any hard stands from any of the Giants draft picks. Still, they might not sign, for whatever reasons. I would expect Wheeler to sign almost no matter what, that is too much money to leave on the table.

Both Joseph and Belt could go either way. I think Belt is more likely now that Graham has signed and given a window on what Belt might be asking for. I don't see the Giants balking at that. Plus 1B is a position that is not taken yet, though Ishikawa and Garko probably has a hold on it for at least another year. But beyond that, Belt could be in line for that if he hits well enough and play good enough defense.

Joseph might not want to be in the same organization as Posey, as Buster would be blocking his way, realistically. Still, the rookie facilities are near home, which I think is a good consideration for a young player. Plus Posey looks to be so good offensively, that he probably will be like Biggio and move from catcher to 2B (or even SS, his former position) at some point in his career. And that is a lot of money to turn down, unless his family is rich enough already. I think he will eventually sign.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pitching On My Mind

I posted the following on McCovey Chronicles, thought it was worthy of repeating here, it was a response to a comment that the pitching staff is not fantastic, that it is overrated:

Cain actually just had two great games overall - he just suffered bad luck with the two homers in each game, which costed him. Otherwise, he pitched great, how often does he keep his walk total to 2 walks in 2 games? While striking out 12? Just some bad luck he's experiencing from the baseball gods.

Zito would have to regress a lot to post a 4.5 FIP: he's at 4.25 and he ends seasons with a great half regularly, which he's doing again. Fangraphs adjusted projections have him at 4.18 FIP at the end of the season. If he's his usual goodness in the second half, he should be able to get it down below 4.0 FIP.

Lincecum is Lincecum.

That gives us three great starters for the rest of the season; few teams can match that up top.

Sanchez has one so-so start and he's dumped to the wayside? He actually pitched a good game yesterday over what he could control: 5.0 IP, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 0 HR. That's a good start. Bad luck dictated that everything was bunched together and they scored 4 runs. Still, his ERA since his no-hitter is only 4.40, which many teams would love to have in the middle of their rotation; he's only our 4th starter.

Martinez et al at 5th starter is actually no worse than most other teams, including playoff contending teams. Having a semi-OK pitcher at 5th is actually hard to do for most teams. Most teams rotate somebody in that spot and hope for the best.

So no, the pitching staff is not overrated. It is fantastic. But sometimes the baseball gods giveth, sometimes they take away. They've been taking away lately, but they probably gave when we went 6-1 on that homestand. And there's still two more games.

And the way people say that we are wasting a special season: it's not wasted, it's been beautiful. Sure, the offense is lacking: the team is rebuilding. It's like complaining about the house when the builder hasn't put up the walls yet, or installed the plumbing. Of course the offense is lacking, the rebuilding isn't done yet.

Don't forget the defense has been pretty good too. How good? The Giants ERA is actually not that much better than the rest of the NL, it's been bunched up at the top. But when you examine all the teams' runs allowed averages, the Giants leap ahead of the competition. Our defense has been a huge part of the Giants leap to competitiveness and contention this season.

Why the woe over Cain not being a top 10 pitcher? He's pitching great. He's always been at the brink of being special like Lincecum. His problem has always been that he would just have those games where he is just bad, those disaster starts. Those starts is what costs pitcher's their nice shiny ERAs. If a pitcher can just avoid those meltdowns, they can have decent ERAs overall even if they are not extra dominating otherwise.

What Cain has done to leap up this season is avoid those disaster starts while also increasing the number of his dominating starts, which he has done by reducing his walks. Walks had always costed him before, but now he's eliminating that area of weakness in his game.

A good pitching staff is above average. A great one is up top the league in ERA. The Giants have been up top and has been great. It is not overrated, it is one of the best around.

And one of the best around helps the Giants stay competitive almost every game. It just does not help them win every game.

What people are missing is that pitchers are more consistently good than hitters are, game to game. They can keep their team close enough to win games. Even the best offenses go through dry spells, and even the best offenses cannot overcome when pitchers have a disaster start.

I've been trying to figure out the dichotomy of why people focus so much on offense but not as much on pitching. For example, hate to bring this up, but Giants fans almost always focus on Dusty taking the ball from Ortiz as where we lost the series. In my post-analysis, I think where we lost the series was games 2 and 3. In game 2, we came back from a 7 run deficit to take a 10-7 lead. We would have had a 2-0 lead in the series, winning that game. Instead, the bullpen gave up 4 more runs and we lost 11-10. In game 3, we lose 10-4, falling to 1-2 in the series. If either game were well-pitched, we would have won in 5 games.

Or think about the 60's Giants. We had one of the best offenses ever. In a decade dominated by pitching, so dominating that baseball made two rules to make up for that: lowering the mound and adding the DH in the AL. Did the Giants win many pennants then? Who did? The pitching-led Bums.

Good pitchers are regularly good, particularly the best pitchers, like Lincecum, and like how Cain has been this season. My studies of PQS shows how consistently good a great pitcher is, they have well-pitched games 70-80% of the time, the best up to 90% of their starts. Even the best hitters don't have much of any effect on any one game (and a series) most of the time. It really takes a team there but the starting pitcher is the lone gunman who can take over any game.

That's why there is often an unexpected World Series hero, who have a great hitting series and thus win the MVP award. Gene Tenace, Bucky Dent, many others who hit so well that they get the MVP award, not the superstar hitter who got the fame and money. Bonds was considered a choker in playoff games until the 2002 playoffs because he hit so badly in all the other ones.

Pitchers can take over any game they start, but hitters, even when they get 3-4 hits in a game, achieves nothing if the rest of the lineup don't do anything. Pitching is the key, pitching is our strength, pitching is going to lead us to the promise land over the 2010-2012 time frame (health permitting) supported by the offense. In business strategy lingo, pitching and defense are the core competencies for a baseball team, offense is the hygiene.

Why Be Confused?

I don't see why people are confused: the Giants are 61-51, only one game back of the wild card lead. So they must be doing something really extremely right: pitching and defense. They keep it so that the Giants don't have many games where they are behind by 3 runs, apparently.

Or would you rather be a team that can come back from a big deficit but have a losing record? Washington has an offense that can come back from big deficits, 6th best offense in NL. Cleveland too, averages 5.2 runs scored per game. Toronto averages 4.9 runs scored per game. I don't think any of us would trade places with them, they have been selling off their better players this season for prospects.

This is only confusing because we, as fans, are conditioned to understand big bopper type of teams, not great pitching and defense type of teams. It is as I posited before the season, that you don't need much of an offense to win enough games to compete for the playoffs when you have one of the best pitching and defenses around. And we do.

What is confusing and disorienting to me is that so many fans have a good team in front of them and they don't realize it. The Giants have one of the top records in the NL. Don't you think other teams are frustrated with their pitching? Some of them would love to have a Cain who can subdue the opposition, and he's our second best pitcher. Or a bullpen so good. Or a 4th pitcher like Sanchez who is capable of throwing a no-hitter. Even Zito the pitcher (not Zito the contract) is someone other teams would love to have on their staff as their third starter.

Learn to appreciate what we got - great pitching and defense - and stop worrying so much about the offense, as it is what it is. Just hope that it is enough.

Go Giants! Beat LA! Beat LA!

Prospect Evaluation: Buster Posey

A former college player is trying to make a name for himself as a swing analyst, and recently wrote an analysis of Buster Posey here that I thought everyone here would be interested in knowing about. He write the report under a pseudonym, though it is hard to tell from the editor's note whether they did or forgot and used his real name. Normally, one would put parentheses around the fake name in the editor's note.

He had some interesting comments that I thought I would share:

  • "Buster Posey is one of the safer bets in the minors to live up to his lofty prospect rating. He certainly has the talent and athleticism to emerge as an average or better big league hitter, but that isn’t to say that Posey’s swing is already maximized. As good as he is right now, he still has room to improve the efficiency of his swing."

    "Posey’s bat is very close to being big-league ready. He blends bat speed, swing quickness, leverage, and very good plate discipline into one package."

  • "Posey doesn’t have a large, power-hitter’s frame, but he’s an excellent athlete and his abilities show in his natural and smooth stroke. He keeps his upper body tall and doesn’t hunch over, giving him the ability to reach any pitch in the strike zone. His upper body loading pattern is very similar to that of Matt Holliday. "

  • "Posey is able to get his hands inside the ball well, showing that he can fight off tough, inside pitches and maintain a high line drive rate. He keeps his hands back well, which gives him time to see the ball just about as long as possible. Posey gets the bat into the hitting zone very quickly and is not long to the ball. He also keeps the barrel in the zone for a long time."

  • "He loads back with his hands instead of his shoulders -- counter rotating is a common mistake with many hitters who start in an open stance-- and gets to a good launch position on time. There are no forced movements and he is not mechanical. Rarely do you see Posey late, as he has both the bat speed and swing quickness needed to catch up to hard fastballs. Posey sees the ball well and has good plate discipline."

  • "Posey can handle a good fastball right now. What may give him trouble moving forward is good off-speed pitches down and away. Given that his natural stroke is to right center, if Posey could maintain his rear hip load better, he would give himself a better chance to drive those pitches rather than fight them off."

  • Final Thoughts: "All in all, Posey is a very polished hitter who has an ideal plan at the plate and very well could be the starting catcher for the Giants in 2010. Posey should be a perennial threat to post a .290-300 batting average and rack up his share of doubles. He also has the potential to produce a very strong on-base percentage and garner plenty of walks. He’s not Matt Wieters big, but Posey is strong and has the leverage and bat speed to hit 17-20 home runs a season, with a possible bump up to 25 home runs depending on how he fills out and develops his strength."
Giants Thoughts

Great information on one of the Giants top prospects (many name Bumgarner as the top, but some name Posey). His final thought is pretty good for Posey, that's basically what we have been hoping that Buster develops into: .300 hitter with patience and good power for a catcher. Plus, the great defense he is suppose to provide. He thinks that Posey can take over in 2010, and not a moment too soon, too, as Molina's performance has gone down greatly this season.

As I half seriously suggested in another post, perhaps Posey can be brought up and be our backup catcher and bat off the bench this season, perhaps soon enough to be able to name him to the playoff roster, should we be lucky enough to get in. Nothing against Whiteside, but I think we need a good hitter off the bench more than a backup catcher during the playoffs, particularly since Sandoval should be able to back up that position if necessary and Garko might be able to do that in a pinch as well.

The author also kindly answered a number (OK, long list :^) of questions I threw his way. Here are some of his answers:

  • His weaknesses are a minor hindrance. He is very polished and should do well enough from day 1 in the Majors. But that isn't to say he's close to realizing his full potential. In terms of a prospect, he's very advanced. But in terms of being what he could be, he's a bit behind. Not much though.

    Yes, alot of hitters do have problems with offspeed down and away. But the true greats figure out at least how to handle those pitches and do some form of damage with them. Posey doesn't have a massive hole there or anything and has a good enough swing to foul them off.
  • I think he could step in and be a league average hitter right now. Part of my projection ties in the improvements he needs to (and hopefully) make, and experience gained from playing at that level. He's good enough to get away with his inefficiencies and be a successful player. He doesn't have any red flags. But again, he needs just a tiny bit of refinement to reach his potential.

It looks like Posey is ready as a hitter to come up, so the main question is whether his defense is good enough. That's where it would pay off to sign up a catcher who is strong defensively to mentor him in the majors, like Greg Zaun, Brad Ausmus, or Jose Molina, all of whom I mentioned previously as possible off-season acquisitions as a defensive vet buddy for Posey in 2010.

I think this evaluation shows that Posey will be the starting catcher for the Giants in 2010. He's already in AAA, he is starting to hit there, after being handled for a while. The question is whether his defense will hold up, but if you pair him with a good defensive backup, he could get most of the playing time and the Giants could bring in the backup as a defensive improvement move at the end of games, if necessary, plus he could mentor Posey during the season (though I would assume Bochy could do that too).

And given his readiness, I don't see why he won't get called up this season, perhaps sooner than later to be a good bat off the bench, since Sandoval would do as a backup, as backup catchers are not needed that much during the playoffs.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Breaking Good News: White Sox Claims Alex Rios

There was unnecessary worry by some Giants fans that Sabean was the GM who claimed Alex Rios off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays: as I had posited, it wasn't him, it was the White Sox who claimed him and his $60M remaining on his big contract that he signed with the Blue Jays in April 2008. The Blue Jays just announced that they released Rios to the White Sox just before game time today.

Ironically, Ricciardi went from dreams of landing Lincecum or Cain for Rios in the 2007 off-season to releasing Rios for no compensation a little less than two years later, other than getting out from under the financially crushing contract that he mistakenly gave Rios. Now the White Sox are stuck with it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Beat LA! Beat da Bums!

Woo Hoo! I'm up to 10 followers! I'm in double digits! ;^)

But seriously, back to topic, it's time for the Giants to take it to the D-gers, who they face next. They need to step it up this series. And they are looking good, with Sanchez, Martinez, and Lincecum pitching against Kuroda, Wolf, and Billingsley, respectively.

We have a good chance of winning with Sanchez and Lincecum, and most probably will lose with Martinez, though Wolf has had two poorer starts in his last two starts. Still, Kuroda and Billingsley are no push-overs (though Kuroda has a 5.34 ERA in his last 6 games, 5 starts, and Billingsley has a 6.14 ERA in his last 6 starts), it's going to be a tough series any way you look at it. At least the Giants have been able to bring it up a notch against the tougher above .500 teams

It's nice to dream that if we sweep, we'd be only 2.5 games back, but it is going to take somebody (Sandoval? Garko?) going crazy on the D'gers and blasting a few out of the park against them for the Giants to pull off a sweep. But with our good pitchers looking to do well again, I think a 2 out of 3 is realistic, though still will be hard to achieve.

Nobody on the team is really that hot, except for Velez, who I've covered in another post (he should come down any day now, really; but he's up to a 15 game hit streak now), and Freddy Sanchez, who has been delivering thus far, making the trade look smart. It appears that he is finally healthy and doing what he can do, and that his poor play was more related to his injury, though he might also be benefiting from not having to worry about whether the team is going to trade him or not, and knowing the Giants already are counting on him for 2010, and, most importantly of all, he's in a pennant race finally.

Garko has been doing well too since his early jitters joining the Giants. He'll need to continue that.

Rowand has perked up a little too since July 26th, hopefully he can get keep it, that will help our offense greatly.

Molina has perked it up since then too, and hopefully he too can continue, since he's our clean-up hitter.

Luckily, since his no-hitter, Sanchez has been pretty good, 3.80 ERA, .668 OPS against, 28K/11BB, great ratio, 23.2 IP, 16 hits, 4 HR, so he's actually been a little unlucky there. Plus, he has pitched better at home than on the road, and has 3 DOM starts in his last 4 (3 in the other one).

And Lincecum has been Lincecum, almost every game is a well pitched game.

And Martinez was pretty good after his rough early start, when he said that he was a bit amped up and nervous. Still, it's too early to say what he would do in his next start. He was great in Connecticut last season, but he's hardly pitched this season and just came off the line drive off his head early in the season. The good thing was that he threw a shutout in his last start in the minors before coming up.

Those all contibuted to their nice 6-1 homestand and 2-1 short roadtrip, before losing 2 of 3 to the Reds. The team could have been looking ahead to the D-gers series, it's possible, but the Reds had been on a horrific losing streak, so they were due to revert to mean and win a few games too.

In any case, this series will probably be a sign of what we can expect the rest of the way this season. I think whatever the result, there will be carry-forward momentum, either positive or negative. I think the Giants have shown this season that they have the internal fortitude to battle it out, but the question they will have to answer in this series is whether they have enough talent to do it against the clearly best team in the NL.

I think Lincecum has been a good leader and no matter what happens in the first two games, he will deliver in the third, he tends to rise to the occassion, once he's been through that occassion before. I think it will help the team relax more knowing that no matter what they do, they have Lincecum backing them up in game 3.

Go Giants!

Friday, August 07, 2009

To Rent, or To Renteria, That is the Question

Clearly, the signing of Edgar Renteria has not worked out for the Giants. $19M for 2 years for .254/.311/.318/.629 with poor defense. Many have been fuming about the deal and rightfully so for what we have gotten.

Context is Everything

The facts are these, however:
  • Renteria came off a season where he hit .270/.317/.382/.699 at Detroit, but hit .296/.343/.469/.812 in the second half of the season. He had hit .332/.390/.470/.860 the season before in Atlanta, .293/.361/.436/.797 the season before that, and he hit .336/.387/.477/.864 on the road in 2007, .287/.363/.460/.823 the season before that. These all suggest he just had a bad first half of 2008 and would hit somewhere in the mid to high 700 OPS, perhaps higher if he got things going. He would be 33 for the 2009 season.
  • Orlando Cabrera was the option that most note as an example of who the Giants should have signed instead. He signed for $4M in the middle of spring training. His two previous seasons he hit .282/.335/.404/.738, .301/.345/.397/.742, and .281/.334/.371/.705 in 2006, 2007 and 2008. And his career numbers right now is .275/.323/.398/.721. That's the reason he was paid so much less, he isn't the hitter that Renteria has been, either career or in the recent prior two seasons. Plus he is a year older than Renteria.
  • Rafael Furcal was another option. He signed before Renteria for 3 years at $30M plus team option year. His career numbers are about what Renteria has had and he's only 31 for this season. However, he had been bothered by injuries in 2007 and 2008. And he hit pretty poorly in 2007 when he played most of the season, though he hit great in limited but extended play (36 games, 143 AB) in 2008.
Now that is all offensive numbers. Defensively, UZR has Renteria as been slightly below average, about 2 runs below average. Cabrera has been all over the place, having some great defensive years and being very slightly above average, but the vast majority of his seasons have been barely above average, or about 2 runs above average. That is about 4 runs better than Renteria, but Cabrera has been about 10 runs worse than average offensively that if Renteria batted like he could in recent years, he would be better than Cabrera overall, defense included, by the difference of their salaries, based on what Fangraphs calculated for runs over replacement. Both Renteria and Cabrera appear to be equal deals in terms of what their prior performances suggest they would provide to their teams.

Furcal, however, was pretty bad on defense, about 10 runs below average. And his offense has been about as good as Renteria's. So he was clearly a worse deal than Renteria's, less runs overall while getting more dollars and more years.

So Renteria's deal, viewed in the line of pre-season facts, at least was equal to the deal that Cabrera got, and appeared better than what Furcal got. It wasn't a steal, but based on past performances, it appeared fair at least. One of Fangraph's writers thought so, writing "For San Francisco, this isn't a bad deal..."

Reality, However, Can be a Bitch

However, it has not worked out as it appeared it might before the season began. Furcal's having his best fielding season ever, even for his younger years, but having one of his worse hitting years. Still, with good defense, Fangraphs have him generating $8.7M of value thus far, so he looks like he will earn his salary, based on Fangraphs methodology. Cabrera is having his worse defensive year ever, but his offense is one of his better ones. He has earned $3.2M according to Fangraphs, and look to earn his salary as well.

Not so good for the Giants, not by a long shot. Renteria has had a bad year both offensively and defensively - apparently he has an elbow spur, which is similar to what Dave Roberts had his first season with the Giants, and which he needed an operation on - and is actually costing money, so he has been a total loss. It is his worse season ever, but $9.5M is $2M less than the average of what Renteria had earned since 2002, $3M less than his prior three seasons, and is $500K less than what he had earned the prior five seasons. He looked like a good bet to earn what he'll be paid, even given some decline, over the next two seasons, but he is a bust signing.

However, clearly, that bone spur on Renteria's elbow greatly affects him. It affected Roberts so much that he could barely hit with it, but was back to normal once it was operated on and he returned to the lineup later in the season (his first one). I'm not sure why the Giants just don't operate on Renteria, which would shut him down for the season, as they have Uribe in reserve, and while he's not as good as Renteria in recent years, he should be better than Renteria this year.

Heck, between Uribe and Frandsen, the Giants should be able to cobble together enough offense and defense to match the suckiness that has been Renteria's season. I would never wish an injury on anyone, but Renteria sitting on the DL now wouldn't be the worse thing in the world right now for the Giants. Renteria's "Hot" streak is .273/.351/.364/.715 since July 26th, but his cold streak is .193/.256/.229/.484 since July 4th (I had explained my Hot/Cold streak in a prior post: basically, the players hottest and coldest streak I could find for him currently, where both are relative to each other, i.e. both could be good, both could be bad, but one is hotter than the other).

Uribe apparently has hamstring problems right now, which would make Frandsen the starter at SS (but could cost Aurilia, who just got off the DL, with Bowker going down, DFAed), based on who we have in the minors right now. Frandsen's MLEs and his career hitting in the majors suggest that he should easily beat Renteria's .254/.311/.318/.629 abomination this season and the puny 2 homers Edgar has hit so far, easily. That Frandsen would provide some average defense as well would be a bonus.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Why the Giants Need to Fix Up Their Minor League Parks

I ran across an interesting article from the LiveScience website on how we learn more from success than failure. Some scientists studied monkeys and monitored neurons in the monkey's prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia - two areas of the brain thought to be involved in learning. "What surprised the researchers was that these neurons actually became more 'finely tuned' after a correct response than after an incorrect response, meaning that the neurons were able to better distinguish between the two different associations that the monkey was learning."

The researcher noted, "The neurons in these areas improve their tuning, they learn better when the animal had a recent success, versus when the animal had a failure. When the animal had a failure, there was virtually no change in neural processing, the neurons didn't improve at all." In other words, "after a success the monkeys were more likely to get an answer correct on the next trial, indicating a link between the improved neuron activity and the animal's behavior."

This seems to contradict the results of previous studies that suggest that we do learn from mistakes. But the researcher notes that "there's lots of different type of learning, and when you say learning from mistakes, the question is what is the nature of the mistake. In our study, the situation was a reward versus no reward, success versus the absense of success ... but there's some cases where mistakes can actually lead to very bad consequences, like a loss of money, or loss of scholoarship. When the failure actually leads to a negative consequence rather than just the absence of a positive, that might engage learning mechanisms that rely on feedback from that negative consequence, so maybe it's a different situation."

Giants Thoughts

I think both types of failures is at play with minor leaguers. On an AB by AB basis, the players are mostly in a reward versus no reward situation. There is subtle career pressures, but over a whole season, each AB is mostly a reward versus no reward situation.

But over a whole season, then that's when the failures lead to very bad negative consequences: no promotion to the next level, drop in prospect status. The Giants, having pitcher's parks up and down the system, is making it easier for their pitchers to learn but harder for their position prospects.

Here are the park factors for the Giants minor league affiliate parks (from 2009 Baseball Prospectus; 1000 is neutral):

Team - 2006 - 2007 - 2008
Fresno - 970 - 971 - 984
Conn. - 884 - 878 - 888
San Jose - 879 - 873 - 874
Augusta - 958 - 970 - 968
Salem-K - 1000 - 1021 - 1047

Clearly, the Giants have two particularly pitching-oriented parks in AA Connecticut and Advanced A San Jose, and that is a double punch into the gut for our hitting prospects, while boosting our pitching prospects.

This ties in with what I've been saying about Dodd Stadium, in which our AA team plays in, that playing there hurts our hitting prospects who play there. What this research suggests is that our hitting prospects are not learning as much as they can when they are playing in our farm system because of all the pitcher's parks, and particularly in San Jose and then Connecticut.

As I've noted in previous posts, Jonathan Mayo did a study of minor league parks and found that the strikeout rate was the highest in the minors at San Jose, and it was noted by John Bowker in the article that the background makes it hard for hitters to see the ball. That affects our young hitting prospects as well.

With one park or the other, perhaps it wouldn't have as strong an effect on our young hitters, but combining the two together, since most prospects have to go through San Jose and Connecticut, creates a learning deficit for our hitters that makes it that much harder for them to advance higher in the system. And those are critical levels for development and advancement.

Fortunately, Connecticut is moving to Richmond for 2010, which has been a neutral park for prior teams playing there, so that should improve things for the Giants farm system going forward. But the rumor is that the new owners of Richmond want to affiliate with a local MLB team, such as the Washington Nationals, and that would force the Giants to find a new team/park again for AA.

In any case, the Giants have a system full of pitcher's parks, and in two cases, extreme pitcher's parks where the hitters clearly have a mountain to climb over, rather than a pitcher's mound. Learning, as this study sugggests, can only be attained when one experiences successful, but if it's a pitcher's park, the hitters are learning less than prospects playing in a park that is better suited for hitters because they are struggling upstream with less probability of success when hitting in a pitcher's park. Which is basically what I've been saying for a number of years about Dodd Stadium, and now I should probably beat the drum regarding San Jose Municipal Stadium too, now that Dodd is soon to be seen in our rear view mirror.


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