Friday, January 30, 2009

Travis Ishikawa and the Curious Case of the Platoon Label

Whenever I see any assessment of Ishikawa as a prospect, I usually see him listed as a future platoon candidate. I've accepted this assessment because he does strike out a lot and have had his troubles just hitting, let alone hitting lefties. However, now that he's at the major league level, the risks of making a bad assessment rises because before he could have just been one of a million failed prospects, but now he could be our starting 1B.

So I looked at his career splits over the past 4 seasons in the minors and they aren't that lopsided:

vs. LHP: .256/.341/.435/.776, .323 BABIP, 27.7% K%, 10.9% BB%
vs. RHP: .269/.356/.512/.868, .325 BABIP, 28.3% K%, 11.1% BB%

In fact, looking at his peripherals, his BABIP, K%, BB%, and BB/K are all basically identical, suggesting that the main difference between him against LHP and him against RHP is that he hits for much less power. And vs. LHP, he has more GB%, less LD%, so perhaps someone can work with him on that, plus give him a lot of BP against that LHP we have on staff for that ever since Barry got him.

The worse thing is his drop in power:

His XBH% is 47% vs. RHP, 38% vs. LHP.
His ISO is 243 vs. RHP, 179 vs. LHP
His HR/AB is 18.8 vs. RHP, 29.7 AB/HR vs. LHP

Still, he is slotted to hit 7th and the average 7th place hitter hit .259/.326/.406/.732, which is not that high a threshold for him to be MLB-average for us.

The funny thing is that everyone is saying that Ishikawa should be platooned, but Pablo Sandoval actually has a worse platoon split:

vs. LHP: .267/.320/.371/.691
vs. RHP: .324/.360/.490/.850

A Possible Estimation

Acknowledging that results vs. LHP tends to jump around a lot, one way to see how he might do in 2009 is to take his MLE vs. RHP in 2008 plus his MLB 2008 vs. RHP, and subtract from it the difference between his career MLE RHP and LHP to get a rough idea of what he might bat in 2009:

vs. RHP-08: .279/.326/.514/.840, 0.305 BABIP, 21.2% K%, 67% BB%, 20 HR in 401 AB
vs. LHP-MLE: .267/.310/.415/.725, 0.302 BABIP

And according to minors career, vs. LHP he has very similar peripherals.

With there being roughly 3 AB vs. RHP for every 1 AB vs. LHP, his overall batting line would skew more towards his RHP line, which is not that shabby for us, that would be roughly 800 OPS. I would love to get 800 OPS at 1B for us, we haven't seen that for years now.

Not sure how to factor HR, but with that many against RHP, even if he only hit 3 in 130-150 AB against LHP, that's a 23 HR season. When's the last time we could say that about a 1B on the Giants?

Comparison with Other LHH 1B in Majors

Not that I think he is anywhere near on par with any of the below hitters, but perhaps he can aspire to getting close to there, as there are some pretty ragged RHP/LHP splits at 1B in 2008, but they are just THAT good against RHP:

Ryan Howard:
vs. RHP: .268/.366/.601/.966
vs. LHP: .224/.294/.451/.746

Justin Morneau:
vs. RHP: .310/.401/.527/.928
vs. LHP: 284/.324/.453/.778

Carlos Pena:
vs. RHP: .280/.418/.576/.994
vs. LHP: .190/.302/.352/.654

Adam LaRoche:
vs. RHP: .282/.357/.513/.870
vs. LHP: .241/.298/.467/.765

Adrian Gonzalez:
vs. RHP: .320/.405/.585/.991
vs. LHP: .213/.287/.387/.675

Prince Fielder:
vs. RHP: .295/.401/.554/.955
vs. LHP: .239/.313/.420/.733

Career:

Ryan Howard:
vs. RHP: .304/.412/.652/1.065
vs. LHP: .231/.314/.471/.786

Justin Morneau:
vs. RHP: .294/.370/.529/.899
vs. LHP: 257/.301/.438/.739

Carlos Pena:
vs. RHP: .262/.374/.520/.894
vs. LHP: .226/.310/.442/.752

Adam LaRoche:
vs. RHP: .277/.345/.503/.848
vs. LHP: .254/.319/.448/.767

Adrian Gonzalez:
vs. RHP: .297/.366/.523/.888
vs. LHP: .248/.308/.427/.734

Prince Fielder:
vs. RHP: .292/.387/.565/.953
vs. LHP: .250/.330/.463/.793

Again, not that he will consistently do the above during his career, but as Ron Shandler says, once you show that skill, you own it forever, and he showed a pretty good skill against RHP in 2008. However, the key is to be able to duplicate that over and over again, meaning you somehow unlock how to bring out your skills regularly. Given how close his LHP hitting has been in recent years in the minors, on an overall basis, I would just give him the 1B job to see what he can do, whether he can put it all together finally.

2009 Season (and Beyond?)

As much as I would like to see a winning season, I still think it is more important to figure out what we got with the prospects we got. The 2009 MLB season should be about figuring out what Fred Lewis, Pablo Sandoval, Jonathan Sanchez, Sergio Romo, Alex Hinshaw, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz, and Kevin Frandsen can do, heck throw Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain on the list too, they have something to prove too.

While it would be interesting to see if Phelps has any value, so that perhaps we can trade him, he's already over 30 years old, anything he shows will most probably start getting worse one year soon, whereas Ishikawa is still only 25 years old for 2009, which is still young for a player, and which Giants fans seem to forget, given how long he's been around as a top prospect. He still hasn't even reached his prime peak years yet.

Given the above analysis, I would just give Ishikawa the whole season (as long as he isn't hitting worse than 1B did for us in 2008: .248/.313/.371/.684) to see if he can progress again in 2009 as he did in 2008. If he can hit near to his MLE for 2008 in 2009, that would be very valuable for us, as 1B has scuffled for years now on the Giants and was not even on par for an average SS, let alone 1B.

If he is able to do that, that would set us up at 1B for a few more years and not have to feel like we need to rush Villalona up to the majors and just give him a year at a level at a time, instead of rushing him up like the D-backs did with Justin Upton. Still, if Villalona is able to rise one level a season, he would reach the majors in 2012 at the ripe old age of 21.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Baseball America's Giants Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America changed up their schedule and instead of doing the Giants last, like they usually do, they released it today here, with some commentary. The Top Ten:
  1. Madison Bumgarner
  2. Buster Posey
  3. Angel Villalona
  4. Tim Alderson
  5. Nick Noonan
  6. Ehire Adrianza
  7. Conor Gillaspie
  8. Rafael Rodriguez
  9. Scott Barnes
  10. Sergio Romo
Other things he noted:
  • After the 162-game experiment ran its course, the Giants identified a few players—Fred Lewis, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Brian Wilson—who could be part of their next contender.
  • There's hope deeper in the system and the Giants might not be down for long. First-year scouting director John Barr redirected the club's former pitching-heavy philosophy and took college bats with his top four draft picks. None made a bigger statement than catcher Buster Posey, Baseball America's College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes Award winner, who signed at the Aug. 15 deadline for $6.2 million.
  • Most of the system's top talent is at least a year or two away, however...
  • Magowan approached his role from a fan's perspective, often making impetuous moves such as the Zito contract. Neukom, the former chief legal mind at Microsoft, plans to take a measured, analytical approach while prioritizing player development and a "Giants Way" of competing both on and off the field.
  • Neukom said he expects San Francisco to be competitive in 2009 and contend the following season, all while bringing his "Microsoft meritocracy" to the front office. Even if the Giants show improvement, Neukom could decide he wants a baseball architect with a more modern perspective than Sabean, who isn't known to squint at a laptop screen.
Giants Thoughts

The most interesting thing about Andy Baggarly's list is that Ehire Adrianza was ranked 6th in the farm. That's pretty good for limited play in rookie ball and not that much of a bonus given him (I didn't hear about his signing, so I assume it wasn't for a large amount). He had some nice stats - .275/.367/.391/.758, and very importantly, only 7 K in 69 AB plus 9 BB.

That is excellent plate discipline, both avoiding strikeouts and getting more walks than strikeouts. And he must be plenty fast because his groundball rate is high (49%), line drive rate is very low (13%), and fly ball rate low too (37%). In addition, he had 5 doubles in those 69 AB (that's around 40 doubles with 560 AB) and I believe he was 18 year old for the 2008 season, so he still has some growing to do, physical maturity. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he is 6' 1", 155 pounds.

Also of note is that Henry Sosa did not make the list. He did have a pretty horrible 2008 season so I can see that happening, though other prospect lists did include him. I think he should have still made the list given how well he did the year before.

Another interesting thing was Scott Barnes making 9th. He was just dominating in his short pro career so that would explain that, but his skills are not considered that plus, from most reports I've seen, so I wonder what BA saw that made them think that he can continue to do well as he rises.

Lastly, it was nice to see Sergio Romo get recognized in the list. He gets on because he's a reliever who didn't play in the majors all season, and thus don't have the innings to be ineligible. He's had a nice couple of seasons, so good for him making the list, can't take that away from him.

I had the same Top 4 on my list, but placed Rodriguez and Ishikawa higher (I only gave a Big 6). I think most people acknowledge that Noonan is the best of the next tier, followed by Gillaspie, but don't know what to do with Rodriguez. But basically you don't give the guy $2.5M unless you think he's a Top 5 type prospect, so I gave that to them.

I think Ishikawa will hit 15-20 homers and keep 1B cheaply and competently warm with a platoon buddy until Villalona makes the big show.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Will Clark is Returning to the Giants

And I've been waiting my whole freakin' life for this to happen! :^)

As reported by the Mercury's intrepid Andy Baggarly, here and here, the Giants have scheduled a media conference call for tomorrow, January 28th, with Will Clark, who is expected to hold a special assistant position, much like JT Snow currently does. Will the Thrill will serve as instructor in spring training, as well as perhaps also doing front-office work and broadcasting. He had been in a similar position with the Arizona Diamondbacks where his former agent was serving as club president until he resigned to lead a group that is seeking to acquire the San Diego Padres. Bill Neukom will be on the conference call as well.

Giants Thoughts

It's about time!!! Nuschler should have been back with us ages ago, but perhaps it was a matter of pride (for either side) that it took Peter Magowan's retirement for this to happen. Hopefully this will last a long while, he really should be one of those celebrated because he helped the team finally get out from the malaise that enveloped the team from 1972 to 1985. He helped lead us, charging, out from the Dark Ages and into the light of his incandescent talents.

I was glad when the Giants didn't resign him because his health seemed to preclude the contract working out so well. However, Robby Thompson contract was even worse, and if I could chose in hindsight, I would have rather they signed him and not Thompson. But that's water under the bridge now.

I think it's interesting that they bring him in now, because we have a plethora of left-handed power hitters who could use some of that ol' Nuschler death stare and black eye paint at the plate: Fred Lewis, John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, even Pablo Sandoval. One of the greatest hitters in San Francisco Giants history, he had that smooth swing that you just had to watch. That he could man up and hit homers on his first professional AB and his first MLB AB (was it also first pitch?), well, that is something special and hopefully he can impart some of that to our young hitters. As well, he was always a clutch hitter, delivering the big hit, time and again.

Now we just need to hire Jack "The Ripper" Clark to cover the the Dark Ages; I hated when he was the batting coach for the D-gers. He could also teach our hitters a thing or two about hitting in the clutch as well.

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Pitching Rotation

According to accounts, such as Hank Schulman, the pitching rotation will be Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and the #5 starter, Sanchez or Lowry.

As others have noted, such as McCovey Chronicles and Bay City Ball, that is a pretty good rotation order. As Bochy has noted in recent interviews, like on KNBR, he likes this rotation because it splits up the lefties. As Chris/Xanthan notes in Bay City Ball, having Zito in #4 spot is pretty good. I think he should be past the point where he's insulted by his spot in the rotation and be focused more on pitching well no matter where he is in the rotation.

Obviously, it's do or die for him and the contract and he's already got two strikes against him. I think this is the season he finally delivers what we have been hoping to get from him with this contract. As I noted in previous posts, he struck out more in 3 games sequences in 2008 than he has since his early years. He's also working out like a demon this off-season with Wilson and I think Wilson's hang-loose attitude could rub off on Zito and help him not over-think so much when he pitches in 2009, which I think hurt him as the contract weighed on him.

As I noted here on Bay Bridge Baseball, I think that the Giants should start Sanchez no matter what and just keep Lowry in the bullpen as long relief/spot starter. I don't think that there is any way his arm is ready for a full MLB season and let's him get acclimated to MLB again while being backup should any starter goes down or is ineffective, particularly Randy Johnson since he's going to be 45 years old.

Meanwhile, Sanchez is on the brink of a breakout season where he could warrant a premier middle-lineup hitter in exchange next off-season if he puts it all together. It would be a total waste to put him back in the bullpen in face of that, particularly since if we put Lowry in the rotation and he puts in another nice season, he's still not going to net us a middle-lineup hitter in trade.

Either way, an OK Sanchez or Lowry should mop up against other teams' #5 starters, they should end up doing very well for themselves in the win column. Most team's #5 are lucky if their ERA are in the 5's, and whoever wins should be good for ERA under 5.

I believe that the competition between Sanchez and Lowry is mainly manufactured to 1) give Sanchez compeitition so that he doesn't mail it in during spring training and 2) give Lowry further incentive to do well and prove that he's back in spring training so that he doesn't mentally give up had there not been any spot available for him to win, plus to show respect for what he had done previously as a starters for us. I believe that Sanchez should win the "competition", thus allowing Lowry to sit in the bullpen and work his way back to the rotation.

Also, given the extreme youth (Cain and Lincecum) and age (Johnson) in the rotation, it might make sense for the Giants to go with a 6 man rotation after the All Star break, or starting in August, where most makeup games for rained out games are scheduled, with the 6th man's spot skipped where there is actually a free day that week. And if Sanchez does prove to be inconsistent again in the first half of 2009, then we could switch him to the bullpen and start Lowry, assuming Lowry was successful in the first half, and hopefully build value for trading Lowry in the off-season since he's still cheap for 2010 assuming he can start OK. Or make him and Lowry alternate being the 6th rotation skip.

I think being in the #3 spot will help Cain in that the opposing starter will be that much less talented and he will finally put together a winning season in the 12-15 win range, and perhaps even have an outside shot at winning 20. Given how well he has pitched plus improvement, his ERA should be in the 3.5 ERA range and most middle rotation guys have an ERA in the 4.5 range, yielding a Pythagorean of roughly 20 wins. Not likely, but I think he finally ends up with more wins than losses in 2009.

Lincecum, barring any setback, god forbid, should do alright for himself again being the ace of the staff, though not 18-5 good, maybe more like 15-10 good. Being at the top of the rotation instead of #3 will mean he face better pitchers generally, but if he can continue to keep his ERA under 3.00, as he has since the end of May 2007, it won't matter much who we face, he'll be winning games with him starting.

Johnson I think will be in the worse position out of the starters. He had a competitive enough ERA in 2008 for a #2 starter (a THT study had ace starters under 4.00 ERA, #2 starters in the low 4's or better, #3 starters in mid-4's, #4 starters in high-4's, and #5 starters in 5's and 6's), but assuming some decline due to his age, that means that he's probably going to be seeing a losing record overall assuming that other team's #2 continue doing well. That works for the Giants brass because Johnson is a rental and the main point with him is not to have a winning record in particular but to reach 300 wins, take some pressure off the young starters, particularly Cain, Zito, and Sanchez, and impart some sage mentoring to Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez. And should he succumb physically to age finally, Lowry should be there to take over the rest of the season, which gives Lowry some early rest to build up strength and get used to things again. The only way his contract don't work is if he injures himself early and don't pitch much if at all for us.

Overall, I think we have a strong rotation that will pitch well for us and be one of the top rotations in 2009 in the NL. I think the offense will be improved enough for that to translate into more wins and get us to .500 or nearly so. While the offense will still be below average as most fans still complain about, that is not the point, for as long as the rotation and bullpen are above average, that should be enough for us to win our share of games and be competitive in the poor NL West division.

And a Gung Hay Fat Choy to everyone! Go Giants!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Real Problem with the Yankees

I will eventually finish my detailed post about the problems with the Yankees receiving so much money, but a recent article in the Chronicle by Bruce Jenkins made me post this. Basically he makes the old tired argument that baseball doesn't need to stop the Yankees, look at how much they spent and yet it was the Rays in the World Series, then discusses the World Series since 2001. He notes, "Teams fail because of their own stupidity and ill-advised transactions, not because they're short on cash."

What he and others are missing is that this has nothing to do with competitiveness or success in the World Series, per se, but the long-term competitiveness and success of teams. Using simple economics, it's clear: when you have a team with resources up to 5 times more than other teams, they can overbid for the players they want, which raises the costs for similar players on the other teams.

Yankee Tax

That's what I would call the "Yankee Tax" on the rest of the MLB. I don't know exactly what that tax percentage is, but because the Yankees can pay more for their players, that raises the price for all other teams. And if the other teams are paying more for their top players, that means that they have less to pay other players and eventually be unable to keep a talent they would have otherwise been able to afford. That reduces the talent level for all other teams in terms of what they could have acquired had there not been a Yankee team bidding up the costs of players. That weakens other teams and make it easier for the Yankees to both make the playoffs and to get deeper into the playoffs as the talent level is lowered for other teams.

That the Yankees cannot win the World Series year in, year out, is due more to the playoff structure requiring two rounds of playoffs before reaching the World Series. The Yankees from 2001 to 2008 had the best record in the AL 4 times in 8 seasons, were 2nd in one, 3rd twice, and 4th once, out of 14 teams and was within 4 games of leading another 2 times. They would have been in the World Series 4 times had we still had the winner takes all that existed during the Yankees heyday from the Babe to the Mick. Because of the playoff system, even when they have the best team, the difference is so marginal that it is almost basically a coin flip whether they make it past the first round and two coin flips whether they make it to the World Series.

Counting from 1993, when their latest success streak begun, the Yankees have had the best record in the AL 7 times in 16 seasons, were 2nd in 3 seasons, 3rd in 4 seasons, 4th once and 5th once, out of 14 teams (12 teams in 1993) and was within 4 games of leading another 3 times. That would have been 7 times in the World Series in the last 16 seasons. They ended up getting in 6 times during that period. So random luck worked out during that period in allowing them to be in the World Series as many times as they would have had the playoffs not been created.

That is a pretty long streak of dominance, similar to what they did long along, just tempered for the times.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Great Giants Reporter Blog; Bay Bridge Baseball

Kudos to El Lefty Malo for turning me on to Bay Bridge Baseball, published by Jeff Fletcher, formerly of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (best wishes for finding your next job!). His site covers both A's as well as Giants, but, of course, I link above only to the Giants side.

He had a great post here, where he interviewed Bobby Evans and it is chock full of questions and information that I would have asked (which, frankly, has been lacking in most interviews or Q&A with Giants execs that I had seen before). Of course, it helped that the questions came from his readers who left the question on one of his posts, but still, very good information at this link. I'll copy what I think is good information to pass on:
  • Some people have been agitating for the Giants to sign Hudson, but Evans says it is not going to happen, that they have three options they like, Frandsen, Burriss, and Velez. "We worked hard to develop those players, and we want to give them a chance."
  • About Pablo and hitting homers: "I think Pablo is very much aware of the kind of player he'll be, at least this year. We all know he has power potential, but his biggest tool is going to be the bat and not so much the power. The homers will come for him, but that won't be a focus." That's good, most players turn into bad hitters trying to swing for homers, look at McGwire, he was good at USC and first year with A's then basically became a Dave Kingman-type of all or nothing hitter.
  • About Pablo and 3B: "I think we're confident enough in him at third to have him as the leading candidate to play third for us. We'll evaluate him along with other options in spring training. We're confident enough at this point we haven't gone out and brought in anyone else to play third. Truth be known, we spent a lot of '08 focusing on him behind the plate, but his best position is still a great debate. What we do know is his bat fits in the lineup somewhere." He also noted that it would be nice if he is 3B, as that is a nice fit for the Giants. I'm sure we all totally agree with all this. :^)
  • Confidence in Ishikawa: "I think the highest level of confidence is that we have in him is defensively he'll be above major league average at first. The offense, at a major league level, is going to be an ongoing evaluation. He's shown us things in his development and progress that give us reason to believe he'll be a very capable offensive addition in bottom end of our lineup paying first base. Ultimately his progression offensively has gotten back on track. We're optimistic that he'll carry his load well over there."
  • Question whether there is any prospect better than Burriss at SS, like Brandon Crawford: "When you say 'better than' it's a hard question to answer. We like Brandon Crawford at short. We like Ehire Adrianza. We like Charlie Culberson at short, although he may profile at second as well. And Noonan can play short, but we like him more at second. But those are all solid."
  • About Nate Schierholtz in RF in 2010: "I think we'll find out a lot more about Nate Schierholtz in '09 in whatever role he has on this club. One of the goals of '09 is to know as much as we can about Nate so that we make the right decision going into 2010. How confident are we? We are as confident as we need to be right now, but we have whole year to evaluate." (NOTE: Schierholtz is out of options this year, and Bobby confirmed to me that means he will be on the team in some capacity, barring something unforeseen.) If the Giants give him enough chances, I think they will be confident enough to start him in 2010. At minimum, this hopefully means they are not entertaining any thought of signing Winn to an extension.
  • About where Bumgarner will be assigned: "He's got a chance to start in San Jose, but he also could make the Double A club. It's awful cold in Connecticut in April, so he might be better to start in San Jose and move later on... He'll be in minor league camp (in spring), but he'll have his time to visit with Randy Johnson and some big league players."
  • About Sanchez maybe relieving in 2009: "Back and forth between bullpen and starting is not necessarily in his best interest. At times it's been in the best interest of the organization's needs at the given time. That could happen again in '09, but no question it would benefit him to stay in one role and progress in that... His best shot to help the club is as a starter, but that's always a point of discussion with how things look this spring." That's bad news to me, with the silver lining that he saves his arm while Lowry builds up his value in order to be traded, allowing Sanchez to start for 3-4 months at the end of the season after Lowry is traded to a contender.
  • About Matt Downs going up and down: "Matt Downs is a very capable offensive player as well as defensively he can play a number of different places. Basically he was in a position where he played himself out of the Cal League and we wanted to advance him, but as the roster became jammed at Triple A, it made more sense for us to send him back to the Cal League where he could finish the season and complete what was a good year, as opposed to creating a spot at Double A where the roster was already full."
  • About EME: "Eddy is going to be in minor league camp with hope of making the Triple A club. Certainly last year he progressed with the bat, but didn't show the power he's shown in the past. Hopefully that will come back this spring and another year removed from having been injured, he'll hopefully play a role on the Triple A club this summer." Good to hear he has a chance for AAA, that would be best for evaluating him properly. He did show power last year, however, because, as I've documented, Dodd Stadium saps a hitter's power numbers, and his road numbers, while not as strong as previous seasons, does show a fair amount of power (roughly 35 AB/HR or about 15-20 HR season).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Aaron Rowand Defense 2007-2008

I have seen a lot of complaints about Rowand's defense since joining the Giants. So when I ran across a link to Tangotiger's The Scouting Report, By the Fans, For the Fans, I decided to check what the fans said about Rowand's defense in 2007 and 2008.

Rowand was pretty close to what he was before, with basically the same agreement level:

Rowand - 2007 - 2008
Overall - 60 - 62
Instincts - 63 - 70
FirstStep - 65 - 64
Speed - 63 - 59
Hands - 74 - 76
Release - 54 - 55
Strength - 37 - 50
Accuracy - 41 - 36
Ballots - 34 - 50

Where the league average is fixed at 50, with one standard deviation equal to 20 points. Thus, a player with a trait value of 70 is in the top 16% of the league.

His agreement level was 0.68 in 2007 and 0.67 in 2008, pretty much the same. There appears to be some degree of disagreement relative to other players, most other players were in the 0.70-0.80 range, and thus his relatively low agreement level is a bit smaller than other Giants players rated.

He was rated above average in most categories. In fact, the only category he was rated below average in both years was Accuracy, which was one of the major complaints I had read that fans had a problem with Rowand's defense. He was also rated below average in Strength in 2007, as well, and while he surprisingly was rated average for 2008, this was also a problem I had read about, that fans were disgruntled with.

According to Fangraph's Fielding calculations, Rowand was very bad on offense in 2008, with a UZR of -12.0 and UZR/150 of -11.1, that is roughly one extra loss per season because of his defense. That combined with his poor hitting resulted in his Value Wins to be basically 1 win for a total of $3.7M value for 2008.

However, it should be noted that for his prior four seasons, he averaged delivering $14.2M of value (much above his 5 year, $60M contract) and that in 3 out of those 4 years, he delivered value equal to or above his annual $12M salary. Based on those odds, Rowand was a good bet to make at the time, it was just that the bet didn't work in 2008. Hopefully, it will work going forward.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Baseball Prospectus's Giants Top 11 Prospects

BP nicely provides their Top 11 list on-line here. The list:

  1. Madison Bumgarner (Five Star prospect)
  2. Buster Posey (Five Star prospect)
  3. Angel Villalona (Five Star prospect)
  4. Tim Alderson (Four Star prospect)
  5. Rafael Rodriguez (Three Star prospect)
  6. Conor Gillaspie (Three Star prospect)
  7. Nick Noonan (Three Star prospect)
  8. Travis Ishikawa (Three Star prospect)
  9. Henry Sosa (Three Star prospect)
  10. Sergio Romo (Three Star prospect)
  11. Roger Kieschnick (Two Star prospect)

Just missed were Ehire Adrianza SS, Wendell Fairley OF, and Joseph Martinez RHP.

Kevin Goldstein notes:

Bumgarner is an obvious number one, but Posey isn't all that far behind him.
Some might flip-flop Villalona and Alderson at three and four, but I can't see
either player ranked lower that those two slots. Where Rodriguez slots in is
really a matter of your evaluation philosophy, but after that, it's anything
goes for the remaining six—Adrianza was the only player close enough to almost
make the list.

Additional comments on other prospects in the comment section:
  • Ehire Adrianza: "Absolutely outstanding defensive prospect, but there are tons of questions about his bat."
  • Wendell Fairley: "The jury is still out on Fairley. He's toolsy as all get out, but a long way from being a baseball player."
  • Scott Barnes: "I'm perfectly fine with somebody calling him a sleeper. It's not a huge surprise that he ripped through some low levels because of his polish, but the stuff is hardly pedestrian. He's solid across the board with an average-to-plus fastball and decent secondary stuff and he knows what he's doing out there. He could exceed expectations."
  • Pablo Sandoval: "I really think 1B is his only option, to the point that he might fit a bit better on a AL team. I do think he can hit enough to be an every day first baseman, certainly at least on this team.".

Giants Thoughts

That was my Top 5 but I had Ishikawa 6th while he had Gillaspie 6th and Ishikawa 8th. I basically agree with what he wrote, based on what I've read about the prospects and their career data, as available.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hamel Signs $20.5M contract for three years: Implication for Lincecum

A while back I ventured a guestimate of around $28-32M for Lincecum for four years (plus option year for his last year of Giants control). Yesterday, Cole Hamels of the Phillies, a pitcher very similar to Lincecum, signed a three year contract worth $20.5M, as reported in the Hot Stove blog. The split: $4.35M in 2009, $6.65M in 2010, and $9.5M in 2011. That buys out the first three years of salary arbitration, then he'll be arbitration-eligible for one more season before becoming a free agent.

Lincecum, based on the recent info from the Taschner news that being Super Two was time based and that Lincecum should be in the high 2's, should have 4 arbitration years after this season pre-arb contract this season (which should be pretty good given he won the Cy Young award). So he should be in Hamel's shoes after this season.

I think my estimate is OK though probably low. Adding a fourth year at around $11-13M would place Hamels contract in the $31-33M range. Since he won the Cy Young and has done better than Hamels, Lincecum should get probably at least 10-20% more, putting the final total around $35-40M.

Since Lincecum's agent indicated a willingness to discuss a contract at the end of the 2008 season, hopefully this means that a contract similar to Hamels can be worked out with Lincecum.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Former and Not-Former Giants News

As Bud Costello used to say in his comedy routine, "I love baseball." I often read through the transactions in the newspaper and recently saw a bunch of former Giants signing with other teams or otherwise listed in the transaction pages, so I thought I would run through them:

  • Justin Leone and Todd Linden signed with the Yankees, who made a sweep of other teams flotsom, signing other players like Angel Berroa, Jason Johnson, and Sergio Metre to minor league contracts.
  • Dan Ortmeier signed with the Rockies on a minor league contract (Scott Podsednik - I guess he replaces stat/skill doppelganger Willy Taveras? - and Glendon Rusch were also signed). Good luck to him, but it was clear he wasn't get much of a chance going forward, we have so many better 1B options now that rank ahead of him, he really blew his chance in 2008. I guess he is hoping that the Holliday trade opened an opportunity for him in the outfield, as Helton will be around for a bit while longer.
  • Guillermo Rodriguez signed with the Orioles.
  • David Aardsma was designated for assignment by the Red Sox.

I also noticed on the Biz of Baseball website that Jack Taschner is actually arbitration eligible not because he had passed 3 years of service, which I had originally thought, but because he is classified as a Super Two. I always thought that was related to how good a player had done in his second year, but I was wrong: "Super Two, or a player that has at least 2 years of service, but less than 3, has accumulated at least 86 days of service in the previous year, and ranked in the top 17% of all 2-year players in service time." Taschner had 2.146 years of service, just behind Melky Cabrera and Russell Martin, and the "leader" was Brian Bannister (who had a terrible second season) with 2.158.

New Blog: Inside the Giants Clubhouse by Joan Ryan

Lastly, I thought I would give a shout-out to a nice new Giants run blog run by Joan Ryan, who used to be with the Examiner/Chronicle and covered sports once upon a time, but now is a media consultant with the Giants. In her latest entry, there were some interesting news from a "Chalk Talk" that the Giants held for season ticket holders last week:

  • Fred Lewis has blossomed and is comfortable being himself in the public eye now, and starting to show confidence and leadership. He recently spoke "with both Jonathan Sanchez and Alex Hinshaw in Arizona, where they were working out together, saying that he and the team needed them to have big years, that he expected them to have big years because the team couldn't win if they didn't." Among his 2009 season goals: .315 average, 20 homers, and 20 triples.
  • Bochy said the rotation right now is Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito, and either Sanchez or Lowry. I heard on KNBR in an interview that he did this to break up the lefties.
  • Bochy said he expects the "break-out'' minor-leaguers to be Baumgartner, Alderson, Noonan and Posey. "They're all on the fast track,'' he said. "Brian (Sabean) isn't afraid to bring young guys up quickly.''
  • Bochy said he and batting coach Carney Lansford would be focusing on improving the team's abysmal on-base percentage. "It's an area we're going to stress this spring, to be a little more patient at the plate. If you have a good on-base percentage, you're going to create more opportunities.'' But he also cautioned one questioner about criticizing strikeouts too harshly. "Strikeouts are not as bad as you think,'' Bochy said. "It gets the pitcher's pitch count up. You're working the pitcher.''

Giants Thoughts

About Lewis, that is very encouraging about his "transformation" (as he would probably term it). He clearly feels he belongs and now has some lofty goals he wants to meet, that's good that he put it out there, it'll put pressure on him to achieve and succeed. If he took this long to show his personality, that suggests a cautiousness that would imply that he wouldn't speak to Sanchez and Hinshaw unless he felt comfortable enough to do that. Which is a bit bold, as Sanchez has been in the majors longer than Lewis, if memory serves.

In addition, from the Bochy interview on KNBR, he noted that he was seeing Lewis as the #5 hitter in the lineup, resulting in a lineup of Winn, Renteria, Sandoval, Molina, Lewis, Rowand, Ishikawa, and the second base winner, assuming no further changes. A recent news note (don't recall where I read it) said that the Giants are on the fringes of Joe Crede, which to me means that they kicked the tires, let them know that the Giants are interested in a one year deal with certain parameters and conditions (related to his health), get back to us if you become interested.

With only 30 days to spring training, that interest could be growing stronger every day, so Ishikawa has got to be praying that another team signs Crede soon. Bochy sounded very positive about Ishikawa, so there is that, and while he is probably not what people are looking for at 1B, I think he will be an above average #7 hitter; the average #7 hitter hit .259/.326/.406/.732 in 2008. People focus too much on whether a player is above average for a position, but one key consideration people forget about is lineup construction, about how the players you have, in total, compare with the average NL lineup. Of course, as long as we have Molina batting 4th, our lineup will not compare favorably unless most of our other hitters are above.

About Bochy on break-outs, all I can say is, Wow! I felt that Bumgarner and perhaps Alderson could make the majors this season with a great start in AA and need at the majors for relief (or god forbid, starts), but it is good to see that the Giants think they can make it up quickly as well.

I suspected as much with Bumgarner because Sanchez dominated at Class A and soon rose to the majors to join relief. Earl Weaver liked to bring pitchers up as relievers to let them acclimate to major league life, and ease them in, even the starters, so I've always wondered if the late Pat Dobson had influenced Sabean's or the Giant's thinking in this regard.

In particular, Noonan didn't really do that well in A-ball, so he was a surprise. I mean, he did well there for an 18 year old, but he struck out a lot and walked very little, suggesting he will take a while longer to move up, and certainly not that he would move up fast. I guess this means that the Giants like his bat enough that his lack of plate discipline performance is related more to him battling pitchers 3-4 years old than him than him not being a good hitter without a plan at the plate.

About Posey, I was very surprised to see his name listed too, as that would imply that the Giants is viewing as a possible scenario a trade of Molina, as it would make no sense to bring Posey up except to bring him up as the starting pitcher. Still, that speaks to the confidence the Giants are showing in Posey's abilities, suggesting that he is probably going to end up at AA for 2009 and believe that he is close enough that he could make the big show with a really good showing in the first half of 2009.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rebuilding: Truth and Consequences - Braves

I am restarting a series that died after one post about a year ago, because I keep getting the same questions asked again, and I want to be able to point them to this series on rebuilding and move on. The first in the series covered the Brewers (linked here) and my thoughts on why the Giants and Sabean are on the right track, or at minimum, should not be changed right now.

Braves Are the Holy Grail

People like to point to the Braves as the epitome of how to rebuild a team. And there is a lot to like, as I think they have done a great job of extending their period of goodness for as long as they have. But most people forget that there were hard times that lead to the great times, and the Braves are a perfect example of this.

Pre-Historic Braves

People forget about the bad times, they just remember the good times and therefore all must have been good. That's the fallacy. At the start of the 1991 season, here is what the scenario for Braves fans, which is not unlike what the Giants fans are facing today, and in many ways worse:
  • The team has had 6 straight losing seasons. In fact, 4 of those 6 they were sixth in the division, and in the other 2 they were fifth, plus they were the worse in the majors once, second worse twice, third worse one, fifth worse once, and sixth worse once. The remedy for this? The GM appointed himself manager and promoted his top assistant to take over as GM. The Giants have gone through 4 straight losing seasons, with two 10th worse, one fifth and one sixth.
  • In 1990, they had two superior offensive players, who were both also young, David Justice and Ron Gant, and rest of the lineup were average or much worse, with a superstar who was not aging well and another vet who was hitting well. Their pitching staff was full of young but mostly unimpressive pitchers that season. Smoltz and Glavine were on the rotation but their ERA+ was basically average, and with low K-rates (6.6 K/9 and 5.4 K/9) and low and poor K/BB (1.9 and 1.7) plus a high WHIP of 1.44 for Glavine, the future was not exactly rosy for either of them based on those peripherals, though they did have nice 1989 seasons to give hope. Their best pitcher was a 33 year old Charlie Leibrandt. Steve Avery had a 5.64 ERA, Pete Smith 4.79 ERA, Derek Lilliquist 6.28, out of starters who got at least 10 starts. In the relief corps, most were above 4.50 ERA except for Tony Castillo (4.23) and Kent Mercker (3.17). Their team ERA was 4.58 and despite some good offensive players, they averaged only 4.2 runs per game, resulting in a 65-97 record, the worse record in the majors.
  • Thus, heading into 1991, the Braves had two plus young players in Justice and Gant, and a bunch of average and/or unproven players on their team. That is much like the Giants heading into 2009, Lincecum and Cain are the plus young players, the rest look around average and/or unproven.
  • So how did they improve in 1991 to a 94-68 record? Well, both David Justice and Ron Gant experienced a drop in OPS+, as did Greg Olson (C) so it was other players who delivered improvement. They signed a 30 year old 1B, Sid Bream, who was an improvement over Dale Murphy, who lost his spot when David Justice moved to RF. Jeff Treadway (2B) improved greatly in his 28 year season. They improved greatly by signing Terry Pendleton to play 3B, and that appears to be the key improvement in the lineup. On the pitching staff, Steve Avery and Glavine had a breakout year and a number of young pitchers came through in the bullpen as well.

And that was about it as far as young (under 30) players go, except for the addition of Greg Maddux in 1993 as a free agent and Fred McGriff in 1993 in a trade (where they did not give up one top prospect to the woeful Padres), until 1994 when Javy Lopez and Ryan Klesko joined the starting lineup, but the really good addition was in 1995 when Chipper Jones joined the lineup. Thus it was 4 years from the time they started getting good again when they added someone significant to their lineup (Chipper) and 9 years from the time they started losing big-time.

In comparison, the Giants have "only" gone through 4 losing seasons and were not the worse team in the majors in any of them, unlike the Braves, and look to break above .500 in 2009. They have good young players in Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, Lewis, Sandoval, already on the major league roster, and like the Braves when they were emerging from losing, two of them plus players (Lincecum and Cain) the rest looking at least average, plus a mixture of free agents and promising prospects.

However, we have a number of potentially good players coming up soon. Posey, Bumgarner, Alderson, and Villalona are probably between 1-3 seasons (2010-2012) away from joining the major league team, and they are potentially plus players.

Apples with Apples: Braves After Fourth Losing Season

However, that was their 6th season of losing. After their fourth losing season, the Braves were 54-106. They had just selected Steve Avery with the 3rd pick overall but, ultimately, no other significant player but noteworthy players Turk Wendell and Mark Wohlers. But more on that later.

What did they do to improve in 1989 (which turned out to be their 5th losing season)? They oftained Jody Davis, who was a huge decline from Ozzie Virgil. They had brought up Ron Gant in 1988 to play 2B, but he regressed greatly in 1989, so much that he lost his starting position to Jeff Treadway. Jeff Blauser came up to replace Ken Oberkfell and did above average but really just OK. Andres Thomas regressed at SS. They traded Dion James, an average but young OF, for Oddibe McDowell, a good, young but a little older OF. Terry Blocker was replaced by a declining Dale Murphy in CF before they made the trade for McDowell, inserting a below average Tommy Gregg into RF. On the pitching staff, Glavine made improvements, as well as Smoltz, plus they added Derek Lilliquist to the mix and Marty Clary, who pitched well in about half a season.

So there was no small, let alone bigger, free agent acquisition to bolster the team for 1989, they were hoping that the young guys would improve.

  • Their best hitter in 1989 was the 33 year old Lonnie Smith, who only got into less than 50 games in each of the previous two seasons, but then had a career season of 168 OPS+, where his high OPS+ anytime he played 130+ games in a season was 130 OPS+.
  • Their second best hitter was mid-season acquisition Oddibe McDowell, 136 OPS+
  • Their third best hitter, and this is telling, was Jeff Blauser with 108 OPS+.
  • Everyone else were under 100, some very under: C Jody Davis (40 OPS+), SS Andres Thomas (53 OPS+), Dale Murphy (89 OPS+), Tommy Gregg (77 OPS+).
  • They not much better the year before in 1988: many were between 90 and 110, Gant 112, Thomas 76, and Blocker 51.
  • Despite all that sucking, they acquired no hitter between 1988 and 1989.
  • Their pitching was better but not all that good in 1988 too, but they didn't acquire any free agent pitchers either. Good thing too, as they drafted Chipper Jones with the first pick overall in 1990.
  • They improved from 54-106 to 63-97

Thus, at the similar point of their evolution into a franchise that many today want to emulate, their lineup was in no better shape with young prospects than we are (they had Gant, Gerald Perry, Jeff Treadway, added Jeff Blauser, and eventually added Oddibe McDowell, but remember he was not there at the start of the season, which is about where we are today with the Giants) and they had some promising young pitchers in Pete Smith, Tom Glavine, Zane Smith, who had ERA+ of 99, 85, and 80, respectively, not good but not bad either, plus a bunch of young pitchers with ERA over 5, including John Smoltz, which compared to what we have today, without benefit of hindsight, the Giants are way ahead with Matt Cain established and Tim Lincecum a superstar in the budding, plus Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, and Hinshaw.

I believe the 2008 Giants have a better roster than the 1988 Braves going into the season following their fourth losing season in a row. Their lineup is not as good as the Braves, but have a number of average level hitters in the lineup plus a couple of question marks that should balance out with other clear advantages:

OPS+

Pos ATL SF (2008)

C 93 98 (Molina)

1B 109 99 (Ishikawa)

2B 112 81 (Burriss)

3B 95 118 (Sandoval)

SS 76 84 (Renteria)

LF 100 105 (Lewis)

CF 51 94 (Rowand)

RF 106 105 (Winn)

Obviously, Sandoval's and Ishikawa's OPS+ are questionable for 2009, but Renteria's prior OPS+ was 104 in 2006 and 125 in 2007, plus Rowand is a huge improvement over the Braves CF, which should balance with the deficits at 1B and 2B, so overall the Giants lineup is similar to the Braves lineup at the same time in their rebuilding.

Overall, the Braves situation is very similar to where the Giants are right now, both offensively and pitching wise, and, while Braves fans might have been calling for Bobby Cox's head at that time, it took two more seasons for them to see that he had the team in the right direction and start their amazing playoff run. The key was to see the long-term progress happening.

And I am not saying that Sabean is as good as Cox, but what I've been saying is that the team is progressing well enough that we should give him more time (i.e. the previous two year extension) to see if he can turn things around, because a change now would probably throw us into another rebuild, which could mean more losing years (see Pirates for example).

I think we have been rewarded thus far with the 2008 season, so far so good, but like Neukom said he would do, the time to make the decision on Sabean being extended beyond 2009 should occur after the 2009 season, unless the Giants happen to really do very well in 2009, in which case, it can be moved up.

Braves Drafts 1986-2007

Let's go over their draft results, from 1986 as that is the first draft year after Bobby Cox took over the Braves, plus I'll throw in Baseball America's top 10 prospects for recent years prospects who have not made the majors yet, to give a flavor for how recent drafts have went, though it must be cautioned that prospects do fail, so while I will discuss their draft to 2007, I will only analyze to 2004's draft. I will cover players who got extensive play in the majors (or top prospects) then assess who were good:

1986: Kent Mercker #1 (5th overall), Steve Finley #11, Tim Salmon #18, Ben McDonald #27; Finley and Salmon were good, Mercker average but Finley, Salmon and McDonald didn't sign with them, so Mercker was their only OK pick in the draft (0 out of 59 picks among the various drafts still in effect at that time).

1987: Derek Lilliquest #1 (6th), Brian Hunter #8, Mike Stanton #13; Lilliquist fizzled after a nice start, couldn't even make it relieving, which Mike Stanton has been able to, and Brian Hunter was a below average hitter (0 out of 50 picks, there is only one draft now).

1988: Steve Avery #1 (3rd), Turk Wendell #5, Mark Wohlers #8; Avery was a good pitcher for much of his pre-free agent years, but after a nice three years, was average for the most part, and the other two were just OK. I would not have included Avery as good in my draft study but since he actually was good for a number of years for the Braves, I will count him (1 out of 69; not one of the extra 19 ever made the majors FYI).

1989: Tyler Houston #1 (2nd), Ryan Klesko #5, Todd Greene #27; Klesko was the star of this draft, and the other two didn't even last more than a few seasons at best, with around mid-1,000 ABs (1 out of 62).

1990: Chipper Jones #1 (1st), Tony Graffanino #10; Chipper is the clear star of this draft, and Graffanino, while useful, is not that good, which is what people want in a draft (1 out of 67).

1991: Mike Kelly #1 (2nd), Jason Schmidt 8th; Schmidt is the star of this draft, Kelly didn't even make it to arbitration (1 out of 62).

1992: Mark Hendrickson #13, Jose Cruz Jr. #15; neither was that good, and neither signed with the Braves, while their first round pick was Jamie Arnold with 21st pick (0 out of 50).

1993: Kevin Millwood #11, Jermaine Dye #17, John Rocker #18; Millwood and Dye were good selections, Rocker not so much but I mention him because he's known, while their first round pick was Andre King with 24th pick, never even saw the majors (2 out of 56).

1994: Wes Helms #10, Mark Hendrickson #32; neither was that good and Hendrickson shunned the Braves again, while their first round pick was Jacob Shumate with 27th pick, never saw majors (0 out of 58).

1995: nobody of note drafted, their first round pick was Chad Hutchinson with 26th pick, just had a cup of coffee (0 out of 56).

1996: Jason Marquis #1s, Eric Munson #2, Mark DeRosa #7, Marcus Giles #53; they were all just OK, but nobody to build around, and A.J. Zapp their first round pick, 27th overall, never saw the majors (0 out of 61).

1997: Horacio Ramirez #5; but he was not that good, with Troy Cameron their first round pick, 29th overall, who never played in the majors (0 out of 69).

1998: Mark Belisle #2, Ryan Langerhans #3, Dallas McPherson #44; did not sign McPherson but none of them were any good, and there was no first round pick (0 out of 49).

1999: nobody of note drafted, and there was no first round pick (0 out of 49).

2000: Adam Wainwright #1 (29th), Kelly Johnson #1s, Zach Miner #4, Delwyn Young #13, Adam LaRoche #29, Tony Gwynn Jr. #33; they did not sign Young or Gwynn, but Wainwright and Johnson are on their way to being good, so I'll count the two as it will get murkier now as prospects will have less experience and have to make judgement calls (2 out of 55).

2001: Macay McBride #1 (24th), Kyle Davies #4, Delwyn Young #29; they did not sign Young again, and none of these players appear to be doing well, plus Josh Burrus was another first round pick, 29th overall, who didn't make the majors (0 out of 53).

2002: Jeff Francoeur #1 (23rd), Dan Meyer #1s, Brian McCann #2, Chuck James #20; only McCann has been good, Francoeur has fizzled since a nice start, same with James, and Meyer is only mentioned because he was traded to get Hudson, who has been good (1 out of 52).

2003: Jarrod Saltalamacchi #1s, Jo-Jo Reyes #2, Brandon Jones #24; while Salty looks to be good, he's not yet, and while they used him to get Teixeira, they ended up with Casey Kotchman at 1B, and Brandon Jones was #4 BA prospect for 2008, and there was no first round pick (0 out of 53).

2004: nobody of note drafted and there was no first round pick (0 out of 49).

2005: Joey Devine #1 (27th), Yunel Escobar #2, Jordan Schafer #3, Tommy Hanson #22, Tyler Flowers #33; only Escobar so far, but the other three looks like they will be good (Jordon Schafer #1 BA prospect for 2008, #3 for 2009; Tommy Hanson #9 BA prospect for 2008, #1 for 2009; Tyler Flowers #12 for 2008; Joey Devine #17 for 2008), but prospects do fizzle sometime so I'll count them as two (2 out of 52).

2006: Cody Johnson #1, Cory Rasmus #1s, Jeff Locke #2, Kris Medlen #10, Cole Rohrbough #22; nobody of note thus far, though Cole Rohrbough was #7 BA prospect for 2008, #6 for 2009, Locke was #8 and #7, Cody Johnson was #11 in 2008, and Medlen was #24 and #9, with Cody Johnson rated as best power hitter in Braves system. I will count them as one (1 out of 54).

2007: Jason Heyward #1 (14th), Freddie Freeman #2; Jason Heyward was #2 BA prospect for 2008 and 2009, rated best hitter for average and strike-zone discipline, and Freddie Freeman was #19 and #5, so I will count them as one (1 out of 52)

Overall, counting from 1986 to 2004, where most of the prospects have graduated to the majors or not (and thus I didn't have to make a judgement call, as I did above for 2005-2007), here are the stats for the Braves:

  • 9 good players out of 1,079 players drafted, or 0.8% success rate
  • 4 good players out of 546 players drafted in the last ten years, 1995 to 2004, or 0.7% success rate
  • 3 good players out of 16 first round draftees, or 19%
  • 2 good players out of 7 first round draftees, 1-15th overall picks, or 29%
  • 2 good players out of 5 first round draftees, Top 5 overall picks, or 40% (which is roughly what my study found)
  • 1 good player out of 10 first round draft picks, 21-30th overall picks, or 10% (which is roughly want my study found), since they started winning. This is what I've talking about, at this rate it would take the Braves 20 years of winning to find the same number of good players in the first round, as they did in 5 years of losing. How's that for speeding up rebuilding?
  • 6 good players out of 1,063 non-first round players, or 0.6%, vs. 10% for late first round vs. 40% for Top 5 picks. I think that shows how much more likely you are to find someone in the first round than later rounds, particularly at the top.
  • Dividing between winning and losing, from 1986 to 1991, they found 4 out of 369 picks, or 1.1% success rate, and from 1992 to 2004, they found 5 out of 710 picks, or 0.7% success rate. Thus the success rate fell 35% from when they were losing compared to when they were winning.
The Braves, based on their performance with first round picks, were not that much more successful than what I had found in my study of the draft, they were right in the ballpark, almost spot on. As one can see from the vast numbers of non-good prospects (under 1% success rate), you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that good player. And the odds improve greatly with a Top 5 overall pick, roughly 40+ times more likely.

Fly and Be Free: Ochoa Leaves the Team, Giants SS Depth Poor Anyhow

Hank Schulman notes in his blog that Ivan Ochoa, listed as a spring-training invitee, was taken off the list. He was recently dropped off the 40 man roster, fixing a problem that some noticed (see El Lefty Malo's 40-Manny Roster Mystery Solved).

Schulman notes that Ochoa "exercised his right to refuse an outright assignment when he was taken off the 40-man roster and became a free agent."

Giants Thoughts

Not a big loss, his offense has always been a question mark and we probably will have two of Burriss, Frandsen, Velez taking the infield utility roles, who could play SS on an as-needed level. Ochoa was only going to see MLB action when we didn't have Renteria, I don't blame him for taking off now that Renteria is here, he's pretty blocked now, as he'll probably be too old by the time Renteria's contract is over to get a chance in the majors, unless, that is, he suddenly hits like a monster in AAA. But while he has improved while with the Giants, he doesn't appear to be there yet.

Meanwhile, that gives Bocock the starting role at SS in AAA. His only good offensive stats - and remember, that's only relative to his career - was his brief "outburst" in A-ball to start 2007, batting .292/.354/.379/.733; he has been horrible since. But I was very encouraged by the fact that he took a lot of walks when he was up in the majors, and now looking at his minor league stats, he has always garnered a lot of walks that boost his meager batting average in terms of on-base percentage (though only to so-so levels, not acceptable levels).

However, with strikeout rates that rival the biggest sluggers (the only explaination for that combo of walks and K's is that he just takes a lot of pitches because his bat is not fast enough to turn on most fastballs, but because there are a lot of pitchers with poor command skills in the minors, he still takes a lot of balls, garnering walks), he is not making the majors again without making some sort of breakthrough in hitting.

In addition, Jake Wald, another non-roster spring training invitee, has been playing SS and played most of his games in AAA in 2008 at SS, and thus could challenge Bocock for the starting spot in AAA, pushing Bocock to AA. That might not be the worse thing because a non-power hitter like Bocock would not be affected as much by Dodd Stadium as someone with more power, and he skipped over AA, which he should have been playing at in 2008, not at AAA or the majors. Maybe he can go there and get his bearings again offensively.

And AA might be open, as Sharlon Schoop, who played at Advanced A San Jose in 2008, didn't hit that well there, and at only 21, might repeat San Jose in 2009. He was a hot-shot prospect after signing, but appears to be another in the line of no-hit, good glove prospect. And it is not like he's being pushed by Class A Augusta's Charlie Culberson, who did not hit that well there. Culberson is probably going to repeat A-ball.

The question, then, is where do the Giants place Brandon Crawford, their fourth round draft pick, and Ehire Adrianza, their suddenly hot SS prospect who they thought enough of to put him in AAA, albeit briefly, in 2009. Crawford saw play in their rookie league, then one game at Salem-Keizer. I would expect him to be placed with Class A Augusta, the lowest full-season team and take a lot of time away from Culberson, who could even be dropped to Short-Season Salem Keizer and get instructional league training to start the season.

Adrianza should logically be placed with Salem-Keizer. He is only 19 for 2009 and hasn't even played a full-season anywhere in our farm system, though he did play a good number of games in the Dominican league in 2007. But given that the Giants saw enough in him to move him up to AAA for a couple of games, then he could end up anywhere in the system, depending on what the Giants see of him in spring training. Of course, most probably he will start off low at Salem-Keizer, but it will be interesting (and very encouraging) if he does see play up higher instead.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top 15 Giants Prospects - Baseball Intellect

Baseball Intellect's Alex Eisenberg has filled the void of analyzing prospect mechanics since Carlos Gomez hung up his Bullpen Mechanics and took a scouting job with a major league team and he has done it well. Recently, he published his Giants Top 15 prospects, 1-5 here and 6-15 here.

Giants Top 15 Prospects
  1. Madison Bumgarner. Body type is strong, durable, athletic and projectable. His player grade is A- and his fastball was rated 65 now and 70 in future (on scout's 20-80 scale), curveball 45/55, change-up 35/45, Control 50/55, Command 50/60, and Pitchability 45/55. His fastball is electric and he can spot it where he wants. He shows plus-plus velocity at times and he's able to hide the ball well, making it hard for hitters to see it coming out of his hand. "Bottom line... Bumgarner has a chance to be special, especially if he can continue to hone his secondary offerings. Best case outcome - No. 1 starter; More likely outcome - No. 2 starter"
  2. Buster Posey. Body type is athletic, especially for a catcher, but also a heavier lower half; he has room to fill out his frame. His player grade is B+ with his Contact rated 45/55 (now/future), Power 40/50, Discipline 45/55, Speed 40/40, Defense 55/60, Arm 55/55, Instincts 50/60. He "possesses good footwork around the plate and projects to be an at least average defensive catcher with the potential to become plus." "While the power ouput is still in question, Posey should be able to hit 35+ doubles along with around 15-20 homeruns on a regular basis. When you combine this with a solid batting average and the willingness/ability to take a walk, Posey looks like a pretty good offensive player... Posey could move quickly." "Best Case Outcome - Top 5 catcher, potential all-star; More Likely Outcome - Top 12 catcher... he's a very good offensive catcher, but there are still questions for exactly how much power he'll hit for."
  3. Tim Alderson. Body type is tall, but coordinated and athletic. His player grade is B+ with his Fastball rated 50/55 (now/future), Curveball 50/60, Change-Up 40/45, Control 50/60, Command 45/55, Pitchability 50/60. "Overall, he's deceptive, hard to pick up, stays closed. This deceptiveness makes his fastball seem much more explosive. ... his stuff isn't overpowering but it plays up because of his command, intellect, and mechanics. Best Case Outcome - No. 2 starter; More Likely Outcome - Strong No. 3 starter."
  4. Pablo Sandoval. Not qualified to call a prospect, but include because he's interesting player. Body type is short, but heavy, with little projection. His player grade is B/B+ with his Contact rated 55/55 (now/future), Power 50/50, Discipline 40/45, Speed 40/40, Defense 50/50, Arm 60/60, Instincts 45/50. He really likes Sandoval's swing, leading to a "very nice combination of contact/batting average and power Sandoval's drawbacks is his plate discipline. He's a high contact hitter, but also doesn't walk much and needs to be a little more selective... he does show an ability, however, to adjust to off-speed pitches. ... Best Case Outcome - The potential is there to be a top-5 catcher, but he becomes an average player at first base and a top-12 player at third base. If he were slated to play catcher, I would move his grade to B+; More Likely Outcome - Top-10 catcher, slightly below average first baseman, or average thirdbaseman.
  5. Angel Villalona. Body type is big kid, needs to watch his weight, but he's only 17; however, is he that projectable? His player grade is B and his Contact is rated 40/50 (now/future), Power 50/60-65, Discipline 35/45, Speed 40/35, Defense 50/50, Arm 55/55, Instincts 35/45. He was extremely young for his level, so his ordinary numbers aren't too big a deal. Show strong power already but he's still very raw in the aspects of baseball where experience really helps, like his plate discipline, low walks, high strikeouts. His raw power rates as plus to plus-plus, and he shows terrific bat speed, a mechanically sound swing, and the ability to make hard contact. Already physically mature, he is not your typical ultra-talented, projectable athlete displaying his natural ability at a young age; he's already limited to first base. "Best Case Outcome - Middle of the line-up bat; Most Likely Outcome - Average to slightly above average everyday first baseman."
  6. Henry Sosa. Body type is lanky, smallish build. Player grade is B/B- with his Fastball rated 55/60 (now/future), Curveball 45/55, Change-Up 35-40/45, Control 40/45, Command 45/55, Pitchability 45/50. Boasts perhaps the second best arm in the entire system, but the biggest question was his control, which he made strides to improve, though another issue is his ability to get deep into games. "Best Case Outcome - No. 3 starter; Most Likely Outcome - Set-up man."
  7. Conor Gillaspie. Player grade is B- with his Contact rated 45/55 (now/future), Power 40/45-50, Discipline 50/55, Speed 45/45, Defense 40/50, Arm 50/50, Instincts 55/60. Has the potential to hit for a high batting average and already possesses strong plate discipline, but his power is still a question mark and he's below average defensively at third, though that should improve as he gets more experience there given his athleticism and work ethic, as his arm is solid enough. His value would increase if he were moved to second base, and he thinks he can handle the change; however, the Giants have Noonan slotted for 2B. "Best Case Outcome - Average everyday third baseman or above average second baseman; More Likely Outcome - Really good utility player... think about the way Mark DeRosa has been utilized over the course of his career.
  8. Nick Noonan. Body type is athletic and projectable. Player grade is B- and his Contact is rated 40/55 (now/future), Power 40/50, Discipline 35/45, Speed 50/50, Defense 55/55, Arm 45/45, Instincts 50/55. Similar to Gillaspie but more upside in power, younger, and better defense; however, he has very little plate discipline, getting him the lower ranking. Feels he could end up with 15-20 homer power eventually with adjustments. Should be above average defensive player eventually, and could step in at shortstop if necessary. Excellent base runner, with 47 stolen bases in 54 attempts during his career. "Best Case Outcome - Above average everyday second baseman. More Likely Outcome - Average everyday second baseman... his worse case outcome is utility player role"
  9. Kevin Pucetas. Body type is big and lacking projection. Player grade is B- and his Fastball is rated 50/50 (now/future), Curveball 45/50, Slider 40/45, Change-Up 55/55, Control 50/55, Command 45/50, Pitchability 55/55. "Pucetas is a four-pitch pitcher and doesn't have spectacular stuff, but it's good enough to eventually get out major leaguers. ... His best pitch is his change-up, which shows good tumbling action and an excellent differentiation between the speed of his fastball... Best Case Outcome - No. 4 starter; More Likely Outcome - Quality middle reliever"
  10. Roger Kieschnick. Body type is big, strong, and athletic. Potential 5-tool player, but he's a low contact hitter. "Best Case Outcome - Average right fielder... he's got the tools, but he's a major long shot to hone them all; More Likely Outcome - Fourth outfielder... he's good enough at other things to provide some value to a major league team"
  11. Scott Barnes. Most impressive was how dominant he was in his first professional season, despite inconsistent and somewhat stiff mechanics from his draft video. We'll get an idea of whether his performance was for real or just small samples in 2009. Player grade C+
  12. Ehire Adrianza. "Here is a sleeper candidate for you...Adrianza is a shortstop with a very strong glove and an athletic, projectable build. The power isn't there yet, but he's shown excellent plate discipline in his young career, displaying both the ability to take a walk and make contact. He has a very short swing, but it's going to make hitting for power, as well as hitting the ball with true authority very difficult. ... He's a long way off, but good defense at shorstop combined with good plate discipline is a solid building block for a player to start from. Grade C
  13. Aaron King. "King's mechanics are somewhat unorthodox and there are issues to iron out. ... Problems aside, there is a lot to like: King is young, projectable, athletic, left handed, seems to have an understanding of getting the body going and throwing with intent, and sports a low 90's, sinking fastball with the potential to add more velocity. He's risky, but he's worth taking a shot on. Grade - C
  14. Wendell Fairley. "Fairley was mostly a disappointment last season. He showed little pop--just an .076 ISO-power and a .314 BABIP--and he hit the ball on the ground far too often. Fairley does have good tools...he's fast, athletic, has good bat speed,but his tools never really showed up in the actual games. He has to adjust his swing plane/path to have more lift after contact. One positive was he walked quite a bit, so it was somewhat of a mystery as to why he didn't use his speed more. Something to take away from last season: the final month of the season, Fairley walked in 16% of his plate appearances, while striking out in just 12% of his PAs. We'll see if he can carry that success over to next year. Grade - C"
  15. Brandown Crawford. This he offered only to subscribers, so I'll include the whole thing. "Crawford looks like an intriguing player. He's a shortstop with some pop and patience. But there are some major red flags. I'm not sure of the exact number, but I don't think the success rate of players with significantly more strikeouts than walks is good, especially when that player has no other plus skill. Crawford struggles to make contact mainly because he struggled to center the ball last year as well as failing to recognize off-speed stuff. He would often get too far out in front. His swing is also a little armsy as he doesn't use his lower as efficiently as he could. Defensively, he lost a little bit of range a year ago, but he has good hands and fields what he gets to. He's not a bad guy to take a chance on because it could be he just had a off year in 2008, but I would say his chance at success is small unless he shows an improved ability to make contact. Grade - C"

I also asked him about Ishikawa, who missed the cut for this because he had too many AB by Alex's standards (100 AB): "I think he's a useful player. Good power, good patience, will strike out, won't hit for a high average...apparently he's good defensively though I haven't seen his defense...I think he's ultimately a platoon guy because he does have a pretty big lefty/righty split (and that is exactly how the Giants used him last year)...his bat isn't good enough to play first base everyday. If I were to rate him, he would be the team's No. 9 prospect and a B- prospect."

Not too bad, gives some hope for the future, though that future looks like a platoon, as most analysis has tagged him as that. But there is some value in that, and perhaps he can be a key trading chip later, or even figure out how to hit LHP.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Information on Prospects: Posey, Sandoval, Bumgarner

Got some news on a number of prospects.

BA Jim Callis High On Giants

Jim Callis of Baseball America listed his Top 10 NL prospects for 2009 and both Bumgarner and Posey are on the list, in fact, was in the Top 4:
  • Madison Bumgarner was 2nd behind Pedro Alvarez: "Showed much more polish than expected in first full season, led minors with 1.46 ERA."
  • Buster Posey was 4th behind Colby Rasmus: "Has the tools to become the NL's version of Joe Mauer." Wow, that would be great! Mauer has been a great catcher, both defensively and offensively, with lack of HR power his only negative point.

BA Info on Venezuela League

The prospect notebook, which covers just a few prospects, includes information on two of the Giants prospects, Jesus Guzman (3B/2B) and Pablo Sandoval (C/1B/3B):

  • Jesus Guzman is a recent free agent signing. He was with the A's minor league team in 2008 and did great, plus the A's wanted to re-sign him, but apparently they were unwilling to invite him to the big league camp this spring training, whereas the Giants offered that. It notes that "Guzman is a legitimate prospect who has pulverized pitchers in Venzuela." You have to take the stats with a grain of salt because the run environment rose from an average of 4.3 runs per game in 2007 to 5.3 runs per game in 2008, a huge improvement. Still, he batted .349/.435/.616, ranking second in OPS, fifth in OBP, and third in slugging, plus led the league in extra-base hits, runs scored, hits, and ranked third in home runs. He also recorded 67 RBIs, breaking the previous league record of 65 RBIs set in 1973-74. They note that he "is still a work in progess. With Midland, Guzman made nine errors in 49 games at third base and eight errors in 31 games at second. But the bat? He's making believers out of those who see him." They quote one scout: "That kid, out of nowhere, has made himself into a major league hitter. I don't think he's going to go play right now - he's still in the learning process. But he's got maturity at the plate and more patience than he used to have... now he just looks awesome."
  • Pablo Sandoval was the only player with a higher OPS than Guzman in Venezuela. Sandoval hit .396/.449/677, mostly at 1B with a few games at third. Sandoval led the league in batting average and slugging, was fourth in OBP and tied for fourth with 12 homers. He noted that "Sandoval offers a hard-to-find combination of a player who is difficult to strike out but who also comes with a serious power stroke from both sides of the plate. While many power hitters have longer swings, Sandoval's short stroke and ability to hit all types of pitches allow him to hit for average, and his strength gives him the power to hit the ball out of the park to all fields."

Pablo Lights Up the Clubhouse

Joan Ryan, formerly with the Examiner/Chronicle, has been writing in a blog while also serving as media consultant to the team. Since right around Christmas, she has been writing in the blog, Inside the Giants Clubhouse. I always enjoyed her writing at the SF papers and was bummed that she had left sports reporting to write on more general matters, and so I am excited by her return to reporting on the Giants with much improved access to the clubhouse now that she's an employee rather than a reporter.

Just the other day, she wrote on Pablo Sandoval in her blog. It was wide-ranging, covering his life history and circumstances, and included information about him on the Giants:

Sandoval, as you know, lit up the clubhouse as soon as he arrived. He is one of
those people who make you smile just to look at them. He carried himself like a
veteran on the field - particularly, of course, at the plate -- but in the
clubhouse and even during pregame warm-ups, he was like a kid who sneaked in
through a hole in the fence and can't believe no one has tossed him out yet.
Everyone loves him. A few weeks after Sandoval's arrival, Zito already was
calling him his favorite player.

Amazingly, he lived a middle-class life much like any American, but just loved sports and pursued his dream hard like any of us would have had we any baseball talent. He grew up idolizing Omar Vizquel, playing shortstop. According to Bochy, he was playing 3B when the Giants signed him (so he has had more experience at the hot corner than just playing for us briefly).

Lucky for him, he had an older brother who was already a professional ballplayer, else his parents might not have let him sign with the Giants at 16, as they stressed education rather than sports. His two other older brothers are in other professions, one a police officer, the other a criminal attorney.

He was basically raised by his grandmother, as both his parents were busying working, his father in management and his mother running a company that sells electronics. He has a wife and one-year-old daughter, Yoleadny Carolina.

Non-Roster Invites to Big League Spring Training Camp

Buster Posey was among the non-roster invitees to the big league spring training camp. The team considers the highly touted catcher to be on the "fast track" and feel that he could learn from exposure to our roving catching instructor Brian Harper, Major League bullpen catcher Bill Hayes, and manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher. The aforementioned Jesus Guzman is also among them, as noted above as the reason he joined the Giants. Kevin Pucetas, the most spectacular pitcher of the year in 2007, will also be participating in his first Major League camp. He has a three year professional record of 32-7 with a 2.35 ERA. Two other familiar faces are Scott McClain and Ivan Ochoa.

Other invitees (first six with major league experience) are:
  • Francis Beltran, RHP
  • Brandon Medders, RHP
  • Justin Miller, RHP
  • Eli Whiteside, C
  • Josh Phelps, 1B/OF
  • Andres Torres, OF
  • Todd Jennings, C (fourth camp)
  • Jake Wald, IF (third camp)
  • Jackson Williams, C (second camp in row)
  • Ronnie Ray, RHP (first camp)
  • Matt Downs, 2B/3B (first camp)
Miller was a pretty good reliever in recent years, so he could bolster the bullpen in 2009. Phelps has been a big hitter in the minors and looking for a chance. He could platoon with Ishikawa or Bowker at 1B in 2009. Matt Downs has risen fast up the farm system and has bit of HR power. He is a fanboy favorite; I like him too, just not as much, though I am hopeful.

Annual Rant on Hall of Fame Voting: 2009

Rickey Henderson, unsurprisingly, was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot; Jim Rice was voted into the Hall of Fame in his last year of eligibility, else he would have been in limbo for years until the Veterans' Committee can (not) vote for him (the Veteran's Committee hasn't voted in anyone in years, probably decades; the players are worse the writers, it seems, holding a tougher standard).

Why Wasn't Rickey Unanimous?

Heck, why wasn't Willie Mays unanimous? Or Hank Aaron? Or George Herman "Babe" Ruth! That has been my problem with the Hall of Fame voting, when players who are obviously Hall of Famers does not get all the votes available. How could any of those players be in doubt? At least, without any need for brain surgery or a new brain. How could these three players not be unanimous?

Likewise, why not Rickey? 28 voters did not vote for Rickey, one of the one name players in the history of the game: Mays, Aaron, Ruth, Ty, Ted, DiMaggio, Mantle, Seaver, Ryan, Koufax, Gibson, etc (just quickly off the top of my head; I'm sure there are many more). How can you not vote for the guy who scored more runs than anyone in history? On top of that, he revolutionized the leadoff spot, adding an element of power that most did not have, plus also broke the career stolen base record as well, and held the career record for walks until Bonds took the crown. How many players today can retire with the top spot in one key offensive category, let alone three like Rickey? And still 28 voters were not impressed with that.

Now, if it was that some of them thought that nobody deserves to go in unanimously, then I guess I would grudgingly give them that, though I still think that is a silly reason not to vote him into the Hall of Fame in his first year. Come on people: he had the top spot in three key offensive categories and look to hold the remaining two of them for as long as Ty Cobb held his record, if not longer.

There was one writer who admitted that he made a mistake and would change his vote if he could now. At least he admits his mistake, but still, even a blind man could see this one, as the saying goes. Why didn't he see this when he voted? How can you not see this?

What Has Rice Done in Last 14 Years?

On the flip side, Jim Rice got in after 14 years of being kept out. He's happy just to be in now, and I have no problem with him in (I could go either way with him, much like the voters), but as he himself noted, he hasn't done anything in the last 14 years, so why now and not earlier? I guess I answered my question there, since I'm on the fence with him too. However, I would have voted for him all 15 years. Because, while I think he's a Hall of Famer, it would not have been an outrage for me without him in there either and hence my ambivalence.

The True Outrage

Meanwhile, someone who I think should have been in years ago fell short again: Bert Blyleven. He was usually described as having one of the best curve balls ever and won a lot of games despite pitching for pretty lousy teams, and had a long career that he probably could have milked to get to 300 if he had wanted to, but didn't. He has a winning percentage of .534 for his career when the teams he played for combined probably isn't even .500. Yet, still not close to making the Hall, though he is close enough to think about it, as he has 62.7% of the vote and need 75% to get in; but that is still 67 votes short. In addition, his 15 years should be up soon, I think in 2012.

Remedy

I've been trying to think of some sort of remedy, but anything I could think of would just drive the ones who would have voted incorrectly to vote correctly and not have their vote rescinded, as I would hope. The best I could think of so far would be to give writers three strikes, so that they can get two out of their system before they are forced to vote the way they think others think, and you get a strike when a player gets a high percentage, which could be 90% or even 95% (though Rickey technically had 94.8%, and thus would not qualify, so perhaps 90% is better), on their first vote (though I doubt any player has ever or will ever get over 90% many years after their first year of eligibility).

The only way this works is if the writers are not informed of their two strikes, but rather had to keep track of it themselves if they care enough. Then when the third strike happens, since they were not aware of where they were, they get kicked out and have their vote taken away. However, once the first writer gets the heave-ho, the rest of the voters will probably start deligently counting their misses and there would be no more strikeouts and players would start getting 100% of the votes.

If you have a better idea, then I am all ears.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Graphical Player 2009: MINERS for Hitters

Graphical Player is an annual put out by John Burnson, who heads up Heater magazine; I've been buying GP regularly since it first came out. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying the statistics for players and Amazon sells it for about 30% off the cover price. The only minus is that he has been changing it slightly each year, so the continuity is not always there, but since I like seeing different ways of understanding how a player is doing grahpically, it's all good for me, but I know that some might prefer more continuity.

I will be taking stuff from this book and putting up posts on items relating to the Giants. Obviously, this is the first one.

MINERS for Hitters

This is a section of the book that covers MINERS for Hitters. MINER shows a projection of a player's "true talent," using monthly OPS for the full career of the hitters chosen from vets with eight or more seasons in the MLB (starts on page 5). The "true talent" line is not just a rolling average, they write, it incorporated OPS over the past three seasons, including minor league stats adjusted for MLE, and adds a component of regression to the MLB mean, where the size of regression is inversely related to the amount of playing time. They also note: "The lesson that you should draw from these graphs is to take the long view."

Devoted to Fantasy players, the book noted that Edgar Renteria is a buying opportunity for players who undershot their true talent. That applies, I presume, to real life as well. Below, I will discuss what the graph shows for a number of vet hitters plus include some info from their profile section (I'll cover the non-vet hitters in another post) and my thoughts.

Bengie Molina

The first Giant vet covered is Bengie Molina. I've seen a number of fans say over the years that he's hitting over his head, but according to the MINER system, he has basically been hitting what his talent for a number of years now, even back to when he was with the Angels. He's been very consistent in that way, based on his graph of actual OPS versus "true talent" OPS.

From text taken from the player profile portion of the book, the analyst does note that Molina's "advancing age should start to show" and that "his excellent defense and veteran presence must be some comfort to his young starters." However, his OPS projection shows a slight drop in 2009 before steady and steep declines. Based on this system, keeping him on beyond 2009 at the same salary appears to be a losing proposition, as they expect 2009 to be the best of the years to come. Of course, that's true for most projection systems that take age into account, as most players start their final decline once they reach Bengie's age range.

Some people think he should be traded now, but I think that unless we get two prospects close to the value of the draft picks we could get for him if he goes free agent, we should hold onto him until mid-season, at which point we should have a better idea how good Posey is and how close he is to reaching the majors. We should also get a better idea of how good a hitter Sandoval really is as well, because even if Posey isn't ready for 2010, if Sandoval does turn out to be a pretty good hitter - and the signs point to yes because of his ability to avoid strikeouts and get the bat on the ball - then he could keep the catching position steady until Posey is ready.

But if neither if ready, which is still a significant possibility, then we need Molina around as a backup plan for 2010 and trading him would make him very unlikely for us to sign him as a free agent after the 2009 season.

Edgar Renteria

According to MINER, Renteria's true OPS lies closer to 800 than it is to 700, another indication that his deal is a good one, as an 800 OPS at SS is much above average. And this 800 OPS level of "true talent" has been so since 2003 season. The analyst noted, "With his fine K%, we expect somewhat of a bounceback in terms of BA and OBP."

That is basically what I've been saying, that his K% in 2008 was very much like it was during his career, which is a good rate for hitters, a good sign he will continue to hit well in 2009, particularly after hitting .812 OPS after the All-Star break. And even if he hit .699 OPS like he did in 2008, that would still be a huge improvement over what we got in 2008 at SS. Still, given his batting peripherals, he looks like he should be able to reach his true talent OPS level in 2009, which would be another jump in level of improvement over what the SF shortstops did in 2008, as they really did very poorly, that was one of the biggest holes in the lineup.

According to my analysis of lineups, with Renteria, the lineup should be improved from the 4.0 runs per game averaged in 2008 to 4.1-4.2 runs per game with Renteria (and others), based on the most conservative projections for 2009. That should basically put us at .500 for 2009 given our pitching. CHONE projections, which were recently shown by The Book's website author to be the best of the projection systems for 2008, has the Giants at 4.19 RS, 4.05 RA (assuming 0.13 unearned runs average) or an 83-84 win season.

Aaron Rowand

According to MINER, Rowand's true OPS lies closer to 800 than his performance in 2008. Rowand has exhibited 800-ish talent since the start of the 2004 season. The analyst noted that "Rowand's intense style of play might have led to his weak finish in 2008. Of course, his apparent lack of comfort at home, and generally hitting in the #5 spot didn't help either." They forecast that he'll be closer to what he hit in 2008, and still rates him as 2 white gloves, where 3 white gloves is best and 3 black gloves are worst. (Molina has 3 white gloves, Renteria 2 black gloves, FYI).

Clearly, from his last three seasons stats, he hits best when he is patient and not striking out so much. It appears that Rowand will hit 6th or lower in 2009, as Lewis, Molina and Sandoval appear to be the guys slotted to hit in the middle, with Molina batting cleanup again, in 2009. Hopefully, now that he should be over his first season jitters, plus perhaps any lingering injury is healed properly, and the team not as dependent on his hitting, he can hit like he did early in 2008, around 900 OPS, for most of the season. The key is him avoiding the strikeout.

Randy Winn

Winn's talent has been steadily around 800 OPS since the 2002 season, and he has rarely been below his true talent level during his career; but we all know how steady a performer he has been. While a decline is forecasted for 2009, it is a very slight drop, and most probably related to his age. The analyst noted that "Winn continues to hit for average, play a brilliant right field," but warns that "it may be too much to expect for him to keep that up at his age - the forecast says the floor is about to drop," as beyond 2009, the forecast has him dropping greatly in OPS.

What I see is that his K% stayed consistently good all season long in 2008, and his H% was over .300 much of the season, in fact, peaking by season's end. Rated for three white gloves, he should still hit well enough in 2009, his last year on his current contract. The Giants should not entertain Winn's agent's offer to negotiate an extension.

With Schierholtz in the wings and all their talk about how he's ready, the Giants will probably give the starting outfield extra rest early in the 2009 season plus sit injured players when needed in order to give Schierholtz enough opportunities to show what he can do. While it made sense to sit down other prospects relatively quickly when they had slow/poor starts, I think they will give Schierholtz more rope because he's one of the few top prospects to spend a lot of time in AAA, giving the team more assurance that he's more of a real thing, or at least don't need more AAA seasoning.

Assuming Schierholtz does as well as I expect him to do - he appears to be duplicating his pattern during his rise up the system, hit .300 with no power initially to gain his bearings before hitting for power - Winn could then be dealt mid-season to open up RF for Schierholtz or, if not enought talent is not offered, the Giants could try to get the draft picks for him and give RF to Schierholtz in 2010.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Giants Over .500 in 2009

While I don't agree that my posts have been all about "me" recently (and I don't see how a discussion about a disagreement in viewpoint could be considered all about me), I am tired (finally) of repeating myself to people new to my work. Instead of hashing it all out in a comment, when I have time, I will try to post my answer in a complete post so that I don't have to repeat myself again.

So I will move on with this short post about a simulation of the Giants using The Hardball Times projections for 2009.

Giants Over .500 in 2009

At the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog, they did a 100 trial simulation of the 2009 season using the rosters as of today and the projection from The Hardball Times. They found that the Giants ended up with an average 83.5 wins, 78.5 losses season. They won the division 21% of the time and the wildcard 8.5% of the time. That's about a 30% chance of making the playoffs in 2009.

I've been saying for a while that the Giants have a good chance of being at .500 and over, and this simulation provides some credence for this position. I don't see how they have Colorado at 88.1 wins when they gave up Holliday and I was not particularly impressed with the package of players they got back plus they haven't acquired anyone significant during the off-season, but still, they were over .500 on average in those 100 simulation seasons. I guess having Tulowitski for a full season is a big improvement, but the loss of Holliday should have had some large negative effect, one would think, unless the system thinks the subtraction of Taveras was a huge plus.

Still, something else to chew on when thinking about the Giants in 2009.

Go Giants!

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