Thursday, September 10, 2009

From the Mouths of Mediots, Case Number 680

Just earlier today, like a moth to a flame, I turn to listen to sports talk on the radio. Literally the first thing I heard is this:

"It's not Larry [Baer]'s fault the Giants don't have a thirdbaseman or a firstbaseman who can hit 40 HR."

Teams without a thirdbaseman or a firstbaseman who can hit 40 HR:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Florida Marlins
  • Houston Astros
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Minnesota Twins
  • New York Mets
  • Oakland Athletics
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Washington Nationals

So that means that 23 out the 30 teams in the majors are falling down on the job in putting together their offense because they don't have a thirdbaseman or a firstbaseman who can hit 40 HR. At least according to this radio show host.

May Have to Eat His Words Soon

The funny thing is that since Pablo Sandoval started figuring out how to hit homers in the majors in June, he has hit 18 HR in 360 AB and 84 games. That is a 35 HR pace. Pretty close to the ideal noted on the airwaves.

However, he hasn't hit any in 30 AB this month as he has battled leg problems, and his batting line shows that at .233/.361/.333/.694 (WOW, he has 6 walks and only 4 strikeouts!). Assuming he can be healthy over a full year and play at the pace he was at in June, July, and August, then over a 162 game season, Kung Fu Panda would hit 40 or 41 HR in a season.

So the Giants may already have a 40 HR 1B/3B in Pablo Sandoval and therefore, based on what this host said, Sabean has done his job there.

Sigh... why do I keep on turning the radio there? Well, besides the fact that it's always on KNBR during the baseball season and I have to cycle through there to change from FM1 to FM2 on my presets on my car.

Why does the evening host have to cater to the angry Giants fan crowd? Despite all the anger over the past few seasons, the Giants have been rebuilding very nicely. So wouldn't that mean that they were wrong to be so angry? That they were being impatient with the rebuild (and rebuilds normally take many years to pull off correctly and some teams are stuck in rebuild purgatory for decades) and was missing the changing of the guard?

I mean, given this vitriol aimed at Sabean, had the Braves fans been just as angry and actually had Bobby Cox fired as GM, he would never have had the chance to build the 17 year dynasty he had there, because the team was so lousy during the six years he was their GM. They were even worse than the Giants, much worse, Tampa Bay Devil Rays bad.

And no GM is perfect. They make a lot of mistakes along the way, some of them big (don't you think Billy Beane wishes he got more for Tim Hudson? Or how about Andre Ethier?). You have to take a look at the big picture and see where the team is headed.

And the big picture is that the Giants are headed for a nice run in the next few years. Obviously, our pitching should be great again. Particularly if we can sign Penny to a one year deal and pick up another good end-game reliever like Affeldt. Though Waldis Joaquin and Dan Runzler might fill that need.

Ande the offense should be improved as well. Sandoval should be a full-fledged star by next season, as I noted above, he should be hitting somewhere between 30-40 HR if he can continue the pace he was going at after he figured out how to hit major league pitching for homers and when he was healthy. I think Buster Posey should be either up at the start or my mid-season, and should be figuring out things by the end of the season. That's two offensive cogs right there.

Rowand, for all the complaints about him and for all the ups and downs of his hitting, he is still hitting better than the average CF. And Nate Schierholtz has shown enough in his time in the minors and in brief stretches in the majors that I think he'll be able to duplicate what Randy Winn was giving us: average offense with superlative defense in RF. You don't need every hitter to be great, you need complementary bats like Winn when he was going good, Rowand, and Schierholtz, as I believe he should be as good as Winn eventually.

Freddy Sanchez should be a big improvement over what we got from 2B this season: our 2B collectively hit .241/.292/.350/.641 this season. His career numbers are .299/.335/.419/.754, and he was good enough to win the batting title one season and has hit around .300 every season except for one while playing regularly.

Renteria has hit well enough since he said he was feeling better - .264/.331/.397/.728 with 3 HR in 121 AB - that I think that he will be fine next season assuming that he is healthy for a full season. Still, as badly as he has done, his .255/.313/.335/.648 is still a huge improvement over the .228/.295/.281/.576 we got last season.

I also think that Ishikawa and Garko can be a nice platoon tandem at 1B in 2010, once Garko gets used to the NL. Both hit pretty well against their opposite throwing pitchers, and Ishikawa's great defense will be out there most of the time since there are more RHP.

That leaves LF as the main area of question. We could go out and sign a high-priced free agent like Jason Bay, or some lower cost options like Rocco Baldelli, Rick Ankiel, or Xavier Nady. I think they will sign a free agent like Ankiel, as Bay would be expensive and longer-term, and we need to keep budget space open so that we can sign Lincecum and Cain to long-term extensions. That would leave Bowker to battle Schierholtz for RF, with the loser being the 4th OF. And the Giants will probably trade Lewis away.


  1. The problem with this optimism is that it is unwarranted. Its clear to the average fan that the Giants don't care about modern stats, like OPS. The Giants are as bad as the Royals at walking, and this is a "veteran team". All the guys you mention are below league average, including Sanchez, when you take walks into account.

    This is not one year of bringing in poor hitters, it is the clear and ever-present talent of Sabean to look for guys he can sign for "less than market". It wasn't such a bad idea in the steroids era, for a period of 10 years, players aged much less slowly than normal, making his strategy work. Today, however, on base percentage is a metric Sabean should be paying attention to, and is not. That is why Sabean needs to go, ASAP.

  2. I wholeheartedly disagree. You can't get blood from a stone. And that stone is the lack of quality prospects when you devote the vast majority of your top picks towards picking up pitchers.

    The Giants clearly understand OBP, they talk enough about it in the media. Heck, having Bonds around drove that point home, I'm sure.

    The problem is that players who are good doing that in the draft are the best hitting prospects and you can't pick up those players if you are busy picking up the best pitching prospects.

    Once you get past the first 5-10 picks overall, every guy you pick up is basically a crapshoot. They will be missing one skill or another, and it is useless to know how to take a walk if you cannot hit the ball, as Bocock clearly demonstrated in his time in the majors with us.

    I think the success of the team this year shows the efficacy of a pitching focused draft and organization. Look at the 2004 Giants. They averaged 5.2 runs per game, second in the league in scoring average, but because their pitching was not that good (4.8 runs allowed per game), they could not win the division, they probably wouldn't even win the 2009 division with 91 wins.

    That is a major point that I made in my "Hey Neukom" series where I presented my business plan for creating a baseball team that would be successful in the long run. The worse your pitching is, the better your hitting has to be in order to be a winning team. That comes right out of the Pythagorean W/L formula.

    However, when you have great pitching, you can generate a winning record capable of winning a division even if you have one of the worst offenses in the league. I showed that in my piece on that:

  3. The offense is what it is. It was bad last year and you are not going to change it around quickly in one year.

    Renteria, as poorly as he has played, is still an improvement over the offense we got last season. If healthy, he should take another jump up in 2010. Sanchez will be an upgrade over 2B in 2009's composite. Sandoval should be improved as he was relatively ordinary his first two months and doing poorly now in September, and if he can put together a full season in 2010, that would be an improvement there. Schierholtz should be an improvement over Winn's very poor play this season. And Molina has done so poorly at C that Posey should be equal to that in 2010, if not better by mid-season.

    Given their past behavior, I expect them to sign a power hitting OF to play LF, and let Lewis, Bowker, and Schierholtz battle for RF. I expect Schierholtz to win, but Bowker might win it like Burriss did this season at 2B over Frandsen.

    Incremental improvement is all you can expect until Posey joins the team and establishes himself in the majors. That is why I prefer to have him start for us in 2010 and figure out things at the major league level. The sooner that comes, the sooner the plus hitter that Posey can be will come.

    I think 2010 will be much like 2009, staying around .500 for a while before the young hitters figure things out and start hitting in May and June. The difference is that with Posey in the lineup, we will have two plus hitters in Sandoval and Posey, and that was enough to generate wins in June and afterward.

    As I've been saying since last season, the Giants are very close and yet people cry for Sabean's head when he is the person who put this team together. He should be given another two years to see what he can do with what he has created, to earn his next two years.



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