Monday, November 09, 2009

Winn Loses But Giants Win; Plus Elias Rankings and Free Agency

According to a blog by Andy Baggarly, the Giants have informed Randy Winn that his services would no longer be needed by the Giants.

Giants Thoughts

First off, thank you to Randy Winn for his many years of service to the Giants. Good luck in your future endeavors and hopefully you can make the playoffs with another team, though, of course, should you face the Giants in the playoffs, I hope you don't do so well.

Andy opined that this move might be because the Giants management is worried that Bochy would play Winn regularly instead of letting the younger players play. There is some validity in this statement. Winn started 22 games out of 28 games in August and 18 games out of 31 games in September/October, while hitting around .600 OPS over two months. To Bochy's credit, at least the percentage fell from 79% to 58%, but that type of hitting usually warrants a benching, not playing over half the games.

But he was kind of forced to use Winn. In August, Velez hit .273/.307/.405/.712 in 121 AB and Schierholtz hit .208/.255/.417/.671 in 48 AB, while Winn hit .247/.304/.301/.605 in 93 AB. Lewis did hit well in limited (34) at-bats, but that was probably mainly against RHP and probably small samples as his stats then tanked the rest of the season.

In September/October, Velez hit .239/.294/.413/.707 in 92 AB, Bowker hit .222/.276/.444/.720 in 27 AB, Schierholtz hit .222/.273/.293/.565 in 41 AB, and Lewis, balancing off his hot August with a very poor end to his season. Winn didn't do much better, .230/.329/.262/.591 in 61 AB, but he at least is a veteran with a strong track history. With the days in the season dwindling, usually betting on the veteran is a good bet.

However, his track record in the 2009 season was pretty poor. His OPS was at or below the 700 OPS range in 5 of the 6 months, he only had one month similar to his usual production in May. More importantly, he was striking out much more than he usually did, even in his poor 2006 season, and such a negative turn in his contact ability spoke to his probable physical decline and inability to make contact with pitches he once hit with authority.

The one good thing that Winn at least was able to do was to get on base a lot. Despite a lower OPS than his career, his OBP was at least presentable, unlike the other OF starter options, at the end of the season. So it was not like Bochy was totally off base with his decision to start Winn.

Personally, I would have just given the starting job to Bowker at the start of September, in recognition of his great season in 2009, much like how Sandoval and Ishikawa got to start a lot of games at the end of 2008 season. That would have also given us a look towards 2010 plus allowed him to chillax a little and show what he could do.

But when you are trying to win in the last month of the season, you don't go starting young prospects with that extra pressure on, it is hard enough to show what you can do earlier in the season when the pressure is not that high, but playoff pressure is an additional negative factor on a young prospect's performance. Though sometimes you are forced to do that.

In any case, this is a good move. Right now, LF and RF are open positions, with Fred Lewis, Eugenio Velez, Nate Schierholtz, and John Bowker competing for the two spots, with Andres Torres a dark horse candidate and Jose Guzman an unlikely possibility but still could be in the mix. If the Giants want to ensure another steady bat in the lineup, LF is one possibility to fill with a player, like free agent Chone Figgins.

However, Sabean's comments thus far suggest that they are content with going forward with their current roster of players, avoiding any early free agent signing. That is the way he likes to operate, but waiting to see how the free agent market shakes out and perhaps provide us with a nice cheaper alternative. Perhaps after the non-tendered arbitration candidates in December is one way he might go or waiting until Jan/Feb for the vets still looking for a job and perhaps ready to give the Giants a nice deal.

Plus, the Giants pick is not protected, so he most probably won't be going after any of the Type A free agent because of this and the size of the contract in terms of years and dollars that the top hitters will want.

Unfortunately, Chone Figgins is a Type A free agent (list just released today, check here at bizofbaseball for their account) so there goes my best idea of who the Giants might pursue among the free agents.

The good news for Giants fans is that Bob Howry, Randy Johnson, and Randy Winn are Type B free agents, so if some team were to sign them before the deadline for offering arbitration, they would earn us a first round supplemental pick. However, odds are that probably only Howry would beat that deadline, as the other two will probably be after thoughts, given how poorly they performed. Also, Bengie Molina is a Type A free agent, so there is some possibility that a contending team needing a good starting catcher might sign him (like the Brewers), though a rising team might want him too (like the Rays). But it is no sure bet that the Giants will get both a first round pick and a supplemental sandwich pick for Molina.

Plus, the free agents catchers I was hoping the Giants might target as the veteran backup who will backup Posey this season, either all season or keeping the starting job warm until Posey is brought up won't cost us any compensation: Ausmus, Zaun, and Jose Molina would not cost us anything in terms of draft picks (Zaun should also have an option that the Rays might pick up).


  1. Boch should have eased out Winn for Lewis. This much is obvious, given the much higher weighted on base average for Lewis in what we can agree was a pretty crappy season overall for him.

    Free agent to sign: Nick Johnson. Not much else out there, as I don't think the Giants are willing to part with the dollars to bring in the only other impact player, Holliday.

  2. I vote for signing Mike Cameron to play center/right. Maybe we could dump Rowand for Bradley, play him in right and have Cameron in center. Fangraphs shows Cameron's 2009 value to be higher than Jason Bay's. His UZR is through the roof. He shows no signs of his skills deteriorating. A one year deal with a mutual option would be fine in my eye. Even if we kept Rowand.

  3. "However, Sabean's comments thus far suggest that they are content with going forward with their current roster of players, avoiding any early free agent signing. That is the way he likes to operate, but waiting to see how the free agent market shakes out and perhaps provide us with a nice cheaper alternative."

    Uhhh.......Renteria, Tucker??

  4. Thanks for catching my grammatical goof. What I meant to say was that "That, i.e. early free agent signing, is the way he likes to operate..." Yes, we are all aware that Sabean signs many players early, like Affeldt last year too, right off the bat.

    Matt, I saw the Cameron article too. I understand the pluses, but to get another guy who strikes out a lot, albeit, also get on base nicely, plus has good power that we need, and plays the defense we need for our pitching. I went back and forth on him.

    Plus, getting him probably requires Rowand moving to LF, not a bad thing for the Giants, but I wonder how that would affect him mentally. Still, that probably makes him better defensively relative to the league, though worse offensively, but Cameron would counter that by being better offensively in CF, and he's been hurt by his home park generally in his career.

    OK, I can go for him, as long as his contract is not that bad, plus he's only a Type B free agent.

    dregarx, Lewis might have had the higher OBP (and you don't need to add the weighted term, there is no weighting with an individual OBP, and while a career OBP is weighted by each season's plate appearances, that is how the stat is always presented so no need to point that out; all this does is make it appear that you don't really understand the term but is really trying very hard to appear to know what you are talking about), but really, you would rely on a hitter who hit .205/.250/.313/.563 in 83 AB in June and July, and struck out 22 times in those 83 AB. And some might point out his August, but then he had a horrible September, showing that August was just a lot of luck involved.

    Meanwhile, it was widely acknowledged that Lewis's defense was worse in 2009 than it was previously, and he was not known for pretty defense before. So the pitchers would be frustrated that his defense is bad, and has to hope that his offense picks up at some point?

    He also did some public grumbling, which means that he probably complained loudly internally before doing that. And he has not had the type of career yet that he can go out and complain publicly, and that probably got him deeper in the doghouse. As manager, you cannot reward such public complaiging by then playing him.

  5. Also, Nick Johnson? Are you serious?

    In 7 seasons where he could have put in a full season, he has never played in more than 147 games in a season, has been over 130 games played in only 3 of them, missed the entire 2007 season, and has missed roughly 549 games out of the last 8 seasons, out of 1,296 games he could have appeared in. And that's counting all the games he pinched hit in and didn't start in.

    The only way I can see signing him is if he signs a contract that is very tied to plate appearances, and he does make good money until he passes 550 PA, a figure he has reached only 2 times in his career. At 550 PA, he should have played in at least 132 games, missing only 30 games.

    Not great, plus obtaining him costs us a promising player in Ishikawa and Garko, because there is no way we can hold on to both on the bench, and I'm not even sure yet that we can hold both in a platoon during the regular season, unless the Giants go with one less reliever again.

    There is usually 5 bench players. Backup catcher is one. Looks like there will be two OF, with Rowand, Schierholtz, Lewis, Bowker, Torres, plus probably Velez (or he should be gone), that is four spots gone. Add Frandsen as the MI utility guy, and that's five right there.

    So it could come down to a decision between keeping Velez or keeping one of Ishikawa or Garko, unless Bowker totally sucks in spring training and is moved down to AAA again.

  6. Oops, make that "Nick Johnson does NOT make good money until he passes 550 PA..."

  7. Nick Johnson is a good alternative but only at the right price because of his injury history. Perhaps an incentive-based contract would work.

    N. Johnson would need a right-handed complement to help keep him injury free. But we already have a right-handed 1B who murders lefties: Ryan Garko.

    A Johnson-Garko platoon is a significant upgrade over Ishikawa-Garko.

  8. "Lewis might have had the higher OBP (and you don't need to add the weighted term, there is no weighting with an individual OBP, and while a career OBP is weighted by each season's plate appearances, that is how the stat is always presented so no need to point that out; all this does is make it appear that you don't really understand the term but is really trying very hard to appear to know what you are talking about)"

    You better get your own facts straight before you impugn my own knowledge. I wasn't talking about on-base percentage(OBP), I was talking : about weighted on-base average (wOBA). These are two different things, and the difference is important, because wOBA includes slugging in its formula, while OBP only takes into account the rate of getting on base.

    In looking at the two players' wOBA, I looked at the season numbers. Yes, I would have taken a player with a season wOBA of .327 over a player with a season wOBA of .302.

    What you're doing, with your monthly splits, is breaking up the season statistics into even small increments, which due to the law of averages makes them more inaccurate. Increase the sample size to get a better read on things, don't decrease it!

    So he had a slow start. I would have given him a break and put him back in there after a week or so. Bochy relegated him to the bench for the rest of the season. It was only after 2-3 months of this that he started grumbling. I would've too, seeing as Bochy was rewarding Winn and Velez for subpar performance.

    If Bochy had treated his outfield with any brains and played Lewis instead of Winn more often, Fred wouldn't have started complaining, so there the dilemma of "rewarding public complaigning" never would have occurred.

  9. Yes, I am serious about looking at Nick Johnson. Otherwise I wouldn't have posted a comment supporting the idea of his acquisition.

    I didn't specify cost, and a PA-incentive contract was the kind of thing I was thinking.

    Not keeping Velez would be no big loss.

  10. @dregarx,

    Agree about Velez. He's valuable as a utility player (ditto Uribe), but he's not starter material.

    I'm amazed at how quickly our fellow fans fall in love with utility players like Velez, Frandsen, Uribe, and Torres. Seriously, a line-up with these players would make SF the laughingstock of MLB.

    Nick Johnson and Ivan Rodriguez are starting to look like better alternatives than J. Dye, J. Bay, and B. Molina.

  11. Sorry if you are offended dregarx, but this is my blog, and if you are going to use terms that I don't recognize, you are going to get my comment.

    And really, I actually recognize wOBA - I don't use or believe in it yet and hence why I don't use it here - but I've not seen anybody who use it call it "weighted on-base average", all the people who use it appears to know that you refer to it as wOBA. If you can explain it coherently in a short succinct paragraph, I might apologize.

    And since you are getting on me about looking at monthly splits, I can do the same to you about looking at Fred's short career results thus far. At the time you want to just hand him the reins and give him the benefit of the doubt, he had barely one season's worth of experience hitting in the majors. Many players have had luck driven short success who collapsed once the league figured them out.

    In addition, since we are talking about splits, how about his extreme LHP/RHP splits. You people just look at the players wOBA or whatever without realizing that if didn't play a full season yet, he most probably was being sat against LHP while getting disproportionately more PA against RHP. And a quick check shows this to be true: he has 838 PA against RHP and only 210 against LHP, almost 4:1 ratio, when normally hitters would have a 3:1 ratio. That's roughly 70 AB of additional subpar hitting that would reduce his hitting line. Where would his wOBA be with that reduction?

    He also had an extreme Home/Road split, which means that he really should not be playing on the road (much like Ishikawa), and at best is a platoon player, not a regular. If you want to be a regular, you have to be able to hit both at home as well as the road. At 26, Ishikawa still might learn something, at 29, Lewis most probably won't.

    If anyone deserves the break, it would be Randy Winn. He has performed roughly at an 790 OPS rate for the past 10 years. So he's having a rough few months in the middle of the season, give him a break.

    But at least his poor hitting didn't affect his fielding, he still fielded great, whereas Fred's defense, which wasn't good to begin with (which wOBA does not incorporate), is way worse.

    I don't know why Fred is so loved by some. He was never really THAT good in the minors and slightly below average in the majors. His potential was as an average MLB hitter at best, and his defense is helped by his speed, else, he's pretty much horrible looking out there.

    Plus, people excuse him his poor baseball sense by saying that he focused on football, but in interviews he has made a point of saying he doesn't know where that story comes from because baseball is his first love and he's been playing since he was little. Which to me means that if he hasn't learned it by his early 20's, he's never going to figure that out.

  12. I guess my point is: If anyone is serious about Nick Johnson as someone to pursue and acquire, you would have to discuss the elephant in his room: his extreme propensity to be not available for games.

    To throw his name out there without discussing that particular point suggests that you either 1) don't know that he's injured often, and hence you are attracted to his great hitting line, or 2) don't care that he's injured often.

    Sure, Nick Johnson is a much better hitter than Ishikawa. Ishikawa is much more likely to be available to play for you when you need him.

    Pass, I mean, why throw away a prospect with some potential like Ishikawa (and that's what would happen, you can't get much for him in trade, if anything, but he'll be picked up immediately by someone once he's free) on the hope that Johnson might not be too injured this year and can play a significant number of games.

    I agree that losing Velez is not a big loss, but my point is that there is not much space on the roster for the people we got now, somebody will be dropped.

  13. I like the Pudge selection but I don't think he would want to hold the spot for anyone, he would want a commitment that he would be the starter all year, and I would not want to give that assurance, I want to bring up Posey as soon as he is ready, and if that is Day One of the 2010 season, so be it.

    That's why I think we would have to talk to people like Zaun, Ausmus, and Jose Molina.

  14. Sabean threw away prospects Barnes & Alderson for nothing, so why stop there?

  15. Naw, s'cool you don't have to worry about it. I'll just stick to the stats we both know about it.

    In Lewis's career line, he's a league-average hitter. That's a guy you play every day if he's replacing hitters who are below average. Even his final line for the season, which was the worst of his career, was better than that of any other outfielder on our team.

    Interesting info with the platoon splits. If you supported platooning Fred by playing him every day there was a RHP out there, I'm with you. But Bochy sat him for those games too.

    OK, play him only against RHP if you like, but get him on the field. Heck, give Winn a break and after his break put both of them on the corners. Cycle in Schierholtz against RHP and play Schierholtz against all LHP. That would have been acceptable.

    But jeez, Bochy was starting Velez (?!?!?) regularly, and sitting Lewis on the bench entirely! Don't you agree that at least those two moves in particular hurt the team in '09?

  16. I'm totally in your boat on trying not to throw away prospects with potential (see my 'Semi-Rebuild' fanpost on McC). I am leery of pretty much all of the free agents out there; I really don't want to block Ishikawa, Lewis, Schierholtz, and Bowker. I want to see what they've got. The only two I would consider (this is in the field) are Holliday and Johnson.

    Nick Johnson is about the only player on the market whose bat represents a big enough improvement to make up for the cost of blocking the homegrown player we have there. I like Ishikawa and all, and if it's possible to keep him and Garko on the roster after signing Johnson, I'd do it.

    And the flip side is if Johnson misses some games, then Ishikawa will step right in and we won't be throwing him away. So I think it's the best of both worlds in that when Johnson is in, that's a substantial improvement, and when he's out, we're not giving up on Ishikawa.

    If they don't get him, I won't be too miffed. But I really don't want to sign any of these other guys, especially Bay and Figgins, whose contracts may even impede the resigning of Lincecum and Cain due to length.



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