Thursday, July 30, 2009

Giants Trade Alderson for Freddie Sanchez: Color Me Meh!

Giants did the near unimaginable by trading Tim Alderson to the Pirates for Freddie Sanchez. As I've been noting all over, I'm not happy about this, as I don't think that Sanchez is worth obtaining and especially not for someone as highly ranked as Alderson, as I noted in my post on Garko.

I'm shaken but not stirred by the trade. I'm looking at the bigger picture and the team is still in very good shape. Clearly, Sabean is being evaluated when the season ends, as Neukom has been saying, and he has to earn it with these moves.

However, I disagree with the thought that Alderson alone could have brought a middle of lineup bat. He's not that good. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a bit deluded by Giants fanaticism. He's been at best rated as a middle of rotation pitcher, at best, and many still thought that he's at best a reliever, which was a prevailing thought when he was first drafted.

Look at his stats. He's had a lot of troubles striking batters out, at all levels, which is a key sign that he's not going to be that great a pitcher in the majors. That's going to lead to a lot of hits being given up. Even with his low walk rate, which is excellent, his WHIP will be high in the minors, as the MLE is even higher.

The trade however, is a bust to me. Sanchez is worth Alderson if he were hitting like he was in April and May. But he has not hit well enough in 10 out his last 16 months. He's been good for about 2 good months of every year the past three seasons and he's already had them this season. If he can hit well while playing as a Giant, then he would be worth it, but I don't expect it. Maybe he will perk up playing for a contender, we'll see, but I doubt it.

Still, the Giants are still set up nicely for the future, which is the big picture. We'll have a rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Zito and the 5th starter, who will eventually be Bumgarner. The bullpen looks good with Wilson, Affeldt, Romo, Valdez, plus perhaps Henry Sosa, Waldis Joaquin, and others coming up. We'll have Posey catching, Sandoval at 3B, Garko also in the middle of the lineup, and Rowand, Schierholtz, and Ishikawa, and now Sanchez hitting in other parts of the lineup. We also have good upcoming prospects in Villalona, Crawford, Kieschnick, Neal, and others.

If you want to throw out the baby with the bath water, as many have wanted to for the past 3 years, so be it, but I've been happy for the most part with what Sabean has been doing the past few years. Many were against Sabean's two year extension the last time and I would say that many on the other hand have been happy with the Giants progress the past two seasons.

It will be interesting times the next two months. If Sanchez sinks like Hillenbrand did - and Sanchez has been hitting .250/.287/.363/.649 since June began, covering 38 games, plus has been injured and missing games - I think Sabean is sunk, and I'll regret that because I like how the team has been built for the most part. Still, a .649 OPS is better than we were getting from 2B until Uribe took over. And I suspect that the Giants is worried that Renteria will be either out or ineffective the rest of this season, and thus want Uribe to be ready to start at SS.

So those are the silver linings to this trade. I hate this trade, as I don't think Sanchez is going to be that good for us, especially at the money we are paying for him, and because I think we should be able to get more for Alderson in trade, and I wonder what we could have gotten for Alderson and Barnes. But I don't think it's the end of the world as some seem to feel.

Go Giants!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Giants Trade for Garko, Loses Barnes

As the saying goes, to get talent, you have to give up talent. Ryan Garko is a talented power-hitting 1B who can play the OF in a pinch, and probably could catch in a pinch as well, he played C when he first started professionally but obviously it was decided that he wasn't that good there. Scott Barnes was an 8th round revelation who was having a great season for us in San Jose.

Giants Thoughts

Garko's plus is his power and he's a right-handed bat, but his defense is pretty bad at 1B and probably bad in LF too. He isn't hitting much better than Ishikawa has been since May 10th, who has been much over .800 OPS since then. I see this as a bad trade, because Barnes is a good lefty dominating in Class A, and we didn't get much of an upgrade at 1B plus force a hitter who has been hitting well onto the bench. That's assuming the obvious, that Garko's playing 1B.

He's also putting in time in LF, and that's where the Giants could benefit, because we have so many lefties in the OF, and he could play 1B and LF, giving Ishikawa more time at 1B against LHP still. Garko could be in LF a lot with Rowand banged up and nobody taking LF by the horn.

He's also a tradeable chip that could be moved to another team for someone the Giants like more, combined with other prospects.

Overall, if this is it, it depends on how the Giants use him. If they platoon him with Ishikawa at 1B plus play him in LF against RHP, then I think that's valuable and an improvement over the offense we had before. If it cuts into Ishikawa's time, then it's a poor trade. If it is a springboard to another move that nets a better hitter (like maybe Garko in a package to the Nats for Willingham), then that could be good for us too.

But I'm underwhelmed for now.

ADDENDUM since for some reason I cannot comment:


I also realized that I should look at Barnes and Garko's stats more indepth. This tempers my feelings, though if Garko cuts into Ishikawa's time at 1B beyond a platoon, it's a bad deal.

Garko really mashes against LHP and does OK against RHP. If he plays 1B against LHP and LF when Lewis and Schierholtz don't match up well in Bochy's gut against the RHP, then he'll be well utilized on our team. He has plus home stats so he might decline some with us.

Scott Barnes is doing really well, but there are some caveats. First of all, it's only Advanced A and he wasn't that dominating, though good. Plus, he benefitted from the strikeout factor at home due to the poor hitting background there:

Home: 2.55 W/9, 9.99 K/9
Away: 3.45 W/9, 8.16 K/9

So he's not that dominating away, FIP of 4.22 and that's not even the MLE.

What that means is that while he is good in Advanced A, he wasn't so good that he still needs to develop more to make the majors. Don't mean that he won't just that this is a requirement and pitchers like that peter out in AA or AAA if they are not able to develop that extra pitch. And the Giants typically do not trade prospects unless they are on their Available list (as opposed to their Don't Trade list).

However, he had a slow start to the season and really turned it on in June and July, so perhaps he has already figured it out, but most likely not, as his FIP was still 3.07 in July. As contrast, Pucetas, Alderson, and Bumgarner easily outdid Barnes in San Jose, even his great July.

So getting an average major league hitter for him is good value, to me, since he may never develop enough to pitch in the majors.

The main problem I have with the deal is that it most probably cuts into Ishikawa's playing time, particularly against LHP, where we need to see if he can handle or not, though it won't be the worse thing to have them platoon together the next three years.

In addition, it costs us a tradeable chip that could be used to get a player we really need, like a better hitting 2B or consistent LF, though if Garko is tradeable, then that's not as much of a factor.

I am still underwhelmed, but not by as much as before now. And it still depends on how he is used and his impact on Ishikawa.

But with Jesus Guzman up, it could be that Garko is strictly a LF for now, plus occassional 1B. And Guzman had played 2B before (not well, but still) so he could be utilized there as well, so that is the mix we are facing in playing time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The 2009 Giants are 51-44: Rock D'Rox!

The Giants will fly into Colorado licking their wounds but proud of avoiding what would have been a horrendous sweep by slapping together 4 runs in the 8th and actually giving their starter (particularly Zito, who has not gotten much run support, despite contributing another good start) a break for once. It was a tough series heading in, and it turned out to be so: the Braves have a damn good rotation, kind of scary really. Thank goodness we are not in the East playing them more the rest of the season. And the good news is that they face the D-gers 7 times in the next 2 weeks (roughly).

Unfortunately, we face a tough rotation in Colorado as well, though arguably the bottom of their rotation. Hammel, De La Rosa, and Cook have the worse ERA's of the rotation but still they are pretty darn good overall, better than the Giants rotation overall, but with no one comparable to Lincecum and Cain, thus far.

Game 1: Matt Cain vs. Jason Hammel

Giants should win. Cain has about a 4 ERA in Colorado, but Hammel has a 7.62 ERA this season in Coors with 7 HR in 8 starts and 1 relief, .379 BAA, and 1.97 WHIP. He has one good start out of the eight. He has mostly been putrid and a batting ball pitcher in Coors this season. Meanwhile, Cain has had a number of good outings in Coors, including his May 7th start.

But this is Coors, so really, I have to put all the games as mostly coin flips, as it depends on what type of balls come out of the humidor. But with such a big differential, I have to give the Giants the edge here, though I wouldn't be surprised if we lose either.

Game 2: Jonathan Sanchez vs. Jorge De La Rosa

Two flakey pitchers with high 4 ERA's facing each other. But all is not as it seems. De La Rosa has been OK to very good in his last 4 starts and 6 of his last 8. Sanchez has not, but has a no-hitter and a nice outing last time. This is probably the best pitched game of the series for the pair of starters.

The caveat on De La Rosa is that while his last three home starts have been OK to very good (actually two very goods out of three), his overall ERA at home is 5.81 compared to his 3.88 ERA on the road. So the bad De La Rosa lurks somewhere within him, and his ERA at home for his career is 5.05.

However, Sanchez has a 7.06 ERA in Coors, though oddly, no homers in 21.2 IP. And in three starts in Colorado last year, he had two good starts and one bad one, and even in that one, he wasn't that bad, just unlucky with 9 hits in 5.0 IP (and 3 walks, which was bad). He appears to have been bad as a reliever there, but mostly good as a starter last year.

So, basically, yee ol' coin toss.

Game 3: Ryan Sadowski vs. Aaron Cook

Like most pitchers, Cook is not as good a pitcher at home as on the road, but he's not that bad either. Career 4.70 ERA at Coors, 4.58 ERA this year, so he's pretty consistent at home. However, he has had three consecutive bad starts at home, four out of five. He had some nice starts early on to balance things out, but in his last three starts: 5.82 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, 26 hits, 4 walks, 9 K's in 17.0 IP, only 1 HR. Also, against SF at home: 5.61 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 86 hits, 27 walks, only 22 K's in 67.1 IP and 13 games, 11 starts, 5 HR.

Sadowski, being a ground ball pitcher, could do well here, depending on how much the thin air in Colorado allows him to pinpoint control his pitches. Though, according to Sadowski, he hasn't really had good command yet, even though he did well in his first three starts. Perhaps he has been too jacked up from being up in the majors, plus the pressure of knowing that a poor start could put him back down and Pucetas comes up. Hopefully he would be getting over that a bit, but after his poor outing last time, he is probably feeling some pressure.

So if Sadowski can't get it together and the humidor is in a giving mood, this is probably the highest scoring game of the series, as it looks like the Giants got Cook's number at home (and at AT&T, really). Too much to account for, have to call it a toss-up, a flip of the coin.

Giants Thoughts

This series doesn't look at bad as I thought coming in blind. The Giants typically do poorly in series in Colorado. But with Cain in the mix, we have a good chance of winning the series, since the other two games could, probably should, yield a win. And there is even a glimmer of hope that we might sweep them and bring the road trip to a great conclusion, if achieved.

And the Giants bats should come alive, as it is Coors Field, but I must note that their bats were quiet this season in Coors, and while above average in Coors in 2008, not the mashing one might see in Coors. Plus, as we saw in Atlanta, the bats were not that alive then either.

Still, I have to wonder how much Sue Burns death hung a pall over the team during this trip. In addition, the Braves rotation was pretty good - all the starters were basically low 4 ERA or better - and we lucked out in missing Vazquez. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to them.

Still, Sandoval was pretty much shut down this trip so far. Some might say that it is because the league finally adjusted to him. But he was so dominant for such a long time - 6 weeks - that I find that odd. So, he will be a key to the Colorado series, if he can awaken his bat once more, we should have a good chance to do some good stuff here. The good news is that, unlike against the Pirates and the Braves, we get to face bad pitchers (relatively and at home), so perhaps Sandoval will not be as challenged as he has been thus far on this road trip.

Hopefully Rowand will heal his various bumps and bruises and return to the hitting fool he had been previously when we get to Colorado. He had been so cold so suddenly that I wonder if he was playing injured again. We need him to heat up again because Bowker and Downs have not been hitting much thus far, plus Sandoval wasn't hitting either, which puts a big hole between Winn and Molina, two of our hottest hitters.

Other good news from today's game was Schierholtz's 3 hits. With that, he has hits in 7 of his last 9 games where he had 2+ plate appearances, hitting .333/.351/.417/.768. He had been extremely cold before that and hit .167/.212/.200/.412 in 9 games, 8 starts. That probably caused the Giants to decide to bring up Bowker. His better hitting with Bowker's struggles will probably lead the Giants to drop Bowker back to the minors at the end of the month when Aurilia comes off the DL.

They say Bowker has shown something, but that's hard to see when he's hitting .179/.226/.286/.512 with pretty regular play. However, this shows how a few games can change a players batting line when he is just brought up. In the five games leading up to the decision to keep him up and DL Aurilia instead, he hit .267/.250/.467/.717, which is not that bad compared to what we had been getting out of LF and 1B. And he hit .255/.300/.408/.708 last season.

And Ishikawa has started to heat up at the right time with 3 hits today, coming into a homer haven like Coors. Hopefully he can blast some out there. Other than Sandoval, he has been the big homerun hitter since June started. He had 6 in that period while Sandoval has blasted 12 homers (doing my fantasy team a world of good). Molina had 3 in that period, Rowand 4, Schierholtz 3, and Uribe 4. Ishikawa is now 4th on the team overall in homers.

Not that he was ever that cold. After a couple of Oh-fers, he now has a 3 game hitting streak, 5 for 13. And before that he had a 10 game hitting streak, .351/.351/.568/.919, 2 HR in 37 AB. And before that, he hit in 8 of 10 games. The last time he had more than 2 straight Oh-Fer games while starting was in May 20-24. Since that time, in 34 games and 29 starts, he has had only 6 games where he had 2+ plate appearances but no hits. And in 27 games with 3+ plate appearances, only 5 games with no hits.

And since he was kicked in the butt by Bochy on May 9th, he has hit .308/.357/.497/.854, 7 HR in 143 AB, and pretty consistently hit that high since then, despite one benching due to Sandoval and one semi-benching due to Bowker being in the mix at 1B.

That is probably why the Giants passed on Adam LaRoche, he is not hitting as well as that right now, and the Pirates probably wanted someone the Giants wanted to keep (remember, they have a keeper list of their prospects; probably the Red Sox gave up players who were not on their keeper list, they lucked out that the Pirates were willing to accept those players, they were not that highly rated, they should have traded LaRoche late last season, during his usual hot streak at the end of the season, or during the off-season).

The Sky is Falling: Again for Your 2009 Giants

Amazing how calm (relatively) everyone is when the Giants are winning and how the sky is falling when they are losing. Same thing happened when the team lost all those close games in May. Chillax and enjoy the games.

Sure, the offense has sucked since the All-Star break. But no team is good all the time, let's see how it unfolds before we decide to storm the castle with pitchforks. It has only been 6 games.

The team is fine, the management is fine. I hope Neukom signs Sabean up for another two years plus an option. He rebuilt this team and the farm system, and yet no one seems to want to acknowledge it.

Well, I will: Sabean has done a great job and deserves to get a new contract now, based on the results thus far. Even if the team does collapse now and fall flat on their face, I really like the team he has put together in 2009, without panic and taking on judicious salaries and veterans during the offseason, particularly Johnson and Affeldt.

People like to carp on mistakes made in the past, but that's being too anal and living too much in the past: just look at what the Giants are today, and think about whether you are happy with the team and farm system, without consideration for any alledged mistakes made. I do, I like the team, I like what Sabean has done.

And I think 2010 should be even better. Lincecum and Cain would have another year under their belts. Sanchez should finally start to consistently doing everything he needs to do in order to keep the team in the game consistently. I think Zito should be fine in the #4 spot in 2010. And either Johnson returns and do well enough, or one of the guys in the minors among Martinez, Pucetas, Sadowski, Sosa, Snyder, will be taking the #5 spot.

Sure, we could use more offense. But we should have Posey catching and hitting in the middle with Sandoval. I think that will be a good combination, leading to more offense, plus we would have Schierholtz, Bowker, and Ishikawa being adequate, along with Rowand, and I think that will be an improvement over 2009 because Schierholtz should be able to do better than Winn in RF offensively plus hold his own defensively, Bowker should be better than the .660 OPS from LF this season, he was better than that last year while he struggled and had less experience, and Posey should be better than the low .700 OPS Molina has been delivering, and at minimum be no worse.

Some don't think much about the Giants, then rush to say that they would keep Lincecum, Cain, Sandoval. Well, Sabean was the one guiding the organization when we acquired all those players. Plus we have four other plus prospects rising through the system in Bumgarner, Posey, Alderson, and Villalona. And I really like the bullpen and Sanchez. All GMed by Sabean.

And he is doing it the right way. BP and THT research says teams do better in the playoffs with pitching and defense and a great closer. Sabean has built all that already.

Now it is a matter of adding on offensive pieces that will allow that combination of pitching and defense to win enough games to make the playoffs. He has found a good hitter in Sandoval and Posey looks to be good too. They could be a two-headed monster in the lineup for years to come. Then we don't need good hitters in the rest of the lineup, heck, based on what they have been doing this year, they don't even need average hitters in the rest of the lineup to be successful.

Go Giants!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Giants, Playoffs, Scoring, Pitching

I left a comment on Extra Baggs,that I felt encapsulated a lot of the thoughts that I have about winning in the playoffs with a subpar offense. I'm linking to Baggarly's blog here, as well as posting my comment here:

And, ultimately, it don't matter which of our hitters can hit for another team, it only matters whether they can score enough to win with our team. And thus far, they have.

And Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times have shown that teams that do well in the playoffs do so with premier pitching and defense. When they tried to analyze what offensive traits leads to an advantage in the playoffs, they found that even the top HR hitting teams, the teams that lead the league in scoring, gain no statistically significant advantage in the playoffs. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Why? None really explained why, they just studied the what, but I think I have the answer. Hitters can be shut down in short series. Even Barry Bonds failed to produce in the playoffs until 2002. That's why there is all the hoopla when a bench player suddenly becomes Babe Ruth during the playoffs, the incongruity of that is punctuated by the fact that hitters don't have a lot of control over how they do in a short series.

However, starting pitchers do have a lot of control, and so do closers, and both are aided greatly by defense. The Giants pitching staff this year has an ERA that is pretty close to the other leaders. However the Giants as a team lead by a lot in terms of runs allowed, because they have great team defense.

And pitchers, particularly the best pitchers, can consistently do well, pitchers like Lincecum and Cain and put up dominating starts 50, 60, 70% of the time. Randy Johnson was once that type of pitcher. The best closers can do that as well. That keeps you in games more often and gives your offense the chance to catch up and beat the other team.

The Giants as a team has allowed the other team to score 4 or less runs in 59 out of their 93 games played, a record of 46-13. That is about 2/3rds of their games played.

They have scored 4 or more runs in 47 games, with a record of 36-11. And the Giants have been .500 in games where they scored 2 and 3 runs . Their deficit in losses have been in games where they scored 0 or 1 runs, where they are 2-20. 22 games where they scored 0 or 1 runs, but their pitchers have been even better, keeping the opponents to 0 or 1 runs 24 games.

So the Giants have been 48-23 in games where they score at least 2 runs. So while they might be one of the lowest scoring teams in the NL, they still score at least 2 runs in 76% of their games, where they have been 48-23.

Giants Thoughts

I know I'm beating a dead horse a bit, but I liked how I explained it so I duplicated it here.

As I've shown with my study of PQS here, the best pitchers can be consistently dominating. The best pitchers, like Lincecum, or Randy Johnson before, can be dominating 70-80% of the time, pretty much almost guaranteeing that your team will be in the game almost every time they pitch. And the best of the best can avoid disaster starts in the remaining starts: disaster starts are the ones that make it impossible for a team to come back from. Minimizing it by being dominant, or at least not having a disaster start (that is, PQS of 2 or 3), puts your team in good position to win almost every game.

If you have two dominating starters, that just improved your chances of success in a short series multi-fold. Cain has taken a giant step this season, moving from his good 50% range to the upper 60% range of the best, joining Lincecum. Sanchez was very dominant when he was going good in 2008, and I have to believe that the no-hitter will help his confidence level going forward. He often cracked before when anything went wrong in his start, but I think the no-hitter will be the equivalent of the Scarecrow getting his diploma or the Cowardly Lion getting his medal for bravery in the Wizard of Oz: they and Sanchez always had it there within them, but sometimes it takes something to convince you that you got it all the time.

As I showed with the stats above on the Giants record when they score a certain amount of runs, clearly they do much better when there is at least some modicum of offense. We all know that they need a power hitter in the middle of their lineup to go with Sandoval, but I never realized that we are so close to a tipping point. One good power hitter added to our offense could tip us over.

And that makes a lot of sense based on what I've reported on this season. In June, the Giants team had a lot more homeruns hit. In addition to Sandoval suddenly becoming a 40+ HR type of guy, Ishikawa and Schierholtz were hitting a lot of homers too. Rowand contributed some too. But in July, particularly after the break, the homers have failed to come as often. And the Giants record has suffered with the power drop.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Batting Lineup Fun: 2009 Giants

Baseball Musing has a Lineup Analysis website based on the research of Cyril Morong, Ken Arneson, and Ryan Armbrust, that I use to study how the Giants lineup might produce given pre-season projections. The lineup has produced about what it was expected to do, somewhere in the low 4's.

I decided to input the stats from today for the lineup of roughly what we have been seeing the past two months:
  • Rowand
  • Winn
  • Sandoval
  • Molina
  • Schierholtz
  • Ishikawa
  • Renteria
  • Uribe
  • Pitcher/PH

Those are basically the hitters that would be in the lineup, and roughly lineup position. According the application, the above lineup would average 4.27 runs per game, and that is roughly what it has averaged the past two months; it has actually been higher because players like Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Rowand, Uribe were hitting much better during that stretch than their overall numbers today. That shows how important it is to look at both the players overall numbers and their numbers for the past month or two weeks even, to catch when a player is scuffling or doing much better.

The Lineup Analysis takes the OBP and SLG of each hitter and calculates the best lineup based on the stats.

Here is the best lineup according to the application:

  1. Rowand
  2. Sandoval
  3. Winn
  4. Uribe
  5. Schierholtz
  6. Molina
  7. Ishikawa
  8. Pitcher
  9. Renteria

This lineup would produce about 4.49 runs per game. Most of the top lineups were roughly the above, with one player or another swapped. A good number had Schierholtz and Ishikawa batting 3rd. Many also swapped Schierholtz and Ishikawa in the 5th and 7th position. The changes only cost the Giants maybe 0.05 to 0.1 runs per game, so changes don't really affect the overall number much. Mainly it was Rowand leading off, Sandoval 2nd, Winn 3rd, Uribe 4th, Molina 6th, Pitcher 8th, Renteria 9th.

So maybe Bochy knew a little something about lineup construction. Rowand was selected to be leadoff. Sandoval and Winn are swapped 2/3. Schierholtz and Ishikawa basically bats 5/6/7. It basically swaps Molina and Uribe. And hitting Molina 4th and Uribe 6th instead of the suggested reversed in this idealized lineup? It costs the Giants 0.01 runs per game. What is really costing the Giants runs is moving Renteria from 8th to 6th while dropping Uribe to 8th.

Downs Up, Sadowski too; Frandsen down and Aurilia DLed

Frandsen must have really pissed off management by mouthing off this spring. He's been sent down while Downs was brought up to start regularly at 2B. Bochy noted that Uribe is starting to slow down, so they are moving him back to the 2B/SS/3B role he had before while giving Downs a chance to start. But Downs is hitting basically what Frandsen is hitting, both in AAA and majors, and Frandsen is better defensively. Meanwhile, Uribe has actually been on a good hitting streak, .378/.439/.676/1.115 over the past 11 games.

Sadowski coming up was no surprise, but Aurilia getting DLed with a sore toe was. He reportedly was not happy about doing this, but if he does have a sore toe, he should welcome the chance to rest and let it heal. What they probably said was that they were going to release him if he didn't DL him. And there is the chance he might not come back to the majors and get released once he is healthy, if Bowker is hitting or Downs is hitting.

I suspect Aurilia's time with the Giants is drawing near. Many have had a problem with him, but he's been much better lately, after his early struggles which I attribute to dealing with his mother's failing health. He has been OK since then, but Bowker's hot hitting makes him a key prospect to check out because he's not only hitting for power but also getting on base. If he can translate that to the majors, he's the middle of lineup bat that would finally push Molina out of the cleanup spot.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The 2009 Giants are 50-41: Will Need to be Brave

After the disappointing series against the Pirates, the Giants play four games in Atlanta. The Giants will need to bust out to even break even this series, we are facing some good starters and the Braves have been hot over the past two weeks.

Game 1: Sanchez vs. Tommy Hanson

Hanson has been pretty good in the majors except for his first start and his latest start, though that one was in Colorado, so that is probably the problem. Otherwise, in 5 starts, he has given up, in consecutive starts, 2 runs, 0, 0, 0, and 1. He has been a bit wild, walking a lot of guys, but for the most part, he has not given up many hits, limiting that damage.

Sanchez had his no-hitter but other than that has not been terribly good this season, in fact, has been pretty terrible. If he can build on what he did in his last start, the no-hitter, then we have an even chance of winning, else we don't have much of a chance.

Game 2: Sadowski vs. Derek Lowe

Lowe is the Braves ace of the staff, even though his stats this season has been OK, not great. But that was because of some bad starts he had in mid-June, otherwise he has been the ace that the Braves needed when they signed him. We cannot expect The Big Sadowski to come out and shut down teams like he as, though that would be great if he can continue to beat expections borne of unimpressive minor league stats. We should be losing this game.

Game 3: Lincecum vs. Jair Jurrjens

Jurrjens has been outstanding this season, what a steal he was for Edgar Renteria (and they got Gorkys Hernandez too). It is going to be a battle for Lincecum, we have probably an even chance of winning. Still, the Kid keeps on pulling great starts out of his knit cap, so we have some hope here.

Game 4: Zito vs. Kenshin Kawakami

Kawakami has been pretty good this season, and particularly so over the past two months. He doesn't last that many innings though, so we would get to the bullpen quickly with him but the Braves bullpen is actually pretty good. Zito has been up and down all season long, so who knows who will show up in this start. However, he has usually been much better in the second half than the first, so there is hope that he will be equal to the job of matching Kawakami, or perhaps bettering.

Giants Thoughts

It does not look good for the Giants this series. It looks like it will be a battle just to split the series, let alone win it. That's why we needed to win the series against the Pirates. But spliting is not the end of the world, the Giants would still be 3-4 for the trip, not great but doable, except that we then face Colorado, where the Giants have usually had problems there.

But there are a lot of widely varying variables that could change things positively for the Giants. Sanchez, Sadowski, and Zito could prove to be able to continue their nice starts. Hanson could prove to be exposed in his last start, that it was not just all Coors. Lowe could revert to his bad starts a month ago. Kawakami could reverts to his early season struggles. We will see.

Go Giants!

Thank You Sue Burns, Largest Giants Shareholder: RIP

Sue Burns, the Giants largest shareholder (TV news report noted in the 40% range), passed away from late-stage lung cancer. She was only 58 and survived by two daughters and grandchildren, plus her mother, son-in-law, and brothers.

According to Baggarly, this was a kick in the gut to the Giants organization because of the quickness. Just on July 8th, she hosted a team party at her home and appeared well, but from what I heard on the radio, she got the diagnosis soon afterward and slipped away quickly. It as a bad coincidence that she received her diagnosis on July 10th, resulting in her missing the game that night, which happened to be the first Giants no-hitter in 33 years thrown by Jonathan Sanchez and thus first ever in AT&T Park. She held Sanchez's autographed game ball during her last days.

She was a devoted fan who wore orange all the time, apparently. It was she and her husband who were among the original investors who helped saved the Giants from moving in 1992. Her husband, Harmon Burns, was a vice president of the Franklin Templeton investment group in San Mateo, and he made his money there as that firm grew leaps and bounds (for those who are in the know, that's the Templeton of John Templeton fame who famously invested $10,000 at the depths of the Depression in low-priced stocks and who made a fortune when stocks rebounded). They bought up shares as many of the original founders sold out their shares until they were the largest shareholders (much like how Neukom built up his ownership). She inherited the full stake in the club when her husband passed away in November 2006.

Giants Thoughts

Just wanted to say Thank You to Sue and to give my deepest condolences to her family and friends. From what I gathered from the KNTV report and Baggarley's report, she was loved by all who passed through the Giants organization. She reportedly influenced the Giants to sign Bonds one more time in 2007 and he reportedly flew up to be with her one last time in the past week. Dusty Baker gave a quote and altered his flight in order to pass through SF and give a visit, though I don't recall if that was before or after she passed. But she treated everyone equally and she is being mourned by the Giants organization, top to bottom, from the management to the players to the ushers and security guards.

Just also wanted to say that all Giants fans, near and far, owe deep gratitude to the Burns family for their substantial help in keeping the Giants here. Without their financial support, the team first would have moved to Tampa Bay, and second, the ownership team could have been on shaky grounds again when other founders sold out if they did not buy up additional shares, and third, without a solid ownership team, the Giants might not have been able to get the loans necessary to finance the beautiful stadium they built in China Basin.

According to Larry Baer, in an interview on KNTV (plus reported on by Baggarley here and here), her two daughters will retain the ownership (Baggarly reports as between 30% and 40%)and nothing will change as her daughters and her son-in-law are big Giants fans too. So, in death, as in life, she keeps the Giants safe once more. May she rest in peace.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The 2009 Giants are 49-39: Robbing the Pirates

The Giants need to get off to a good start on this long road trip. Facing the Pirates could help greatly with that. The Giants have a losing record on the road this season but was one game above .500 in June and July on the road.

If they can win at least two games, that would be great because we then face the Braves and the D-Rox. And we don't play Colorado that well at their home, so it is important that they at least win the series against the Pirates, and hopefully at least split against the Braves, and end up one game above .500 before going to Colorado. Winning 2 or more from the Pirates would make it likely we at least break even before facing Colorado.

But it will be tough as the Giants have been 5-14 against the Pirates in the past few seasons at Pittsburgh. The Pirates have been just as bad as we have been and yet they have been beating us easily. Changing that around would do a lot towards continuing the good play in the season thus far.

Game 1: Tim Lincecum vs. Paul Maholm

Maholm is a good pitcher, but Lincecum is a great one. As long as Lincecum does not have any left over jitters from his poor All-Star outing or feel the need to overthrow because of that poor outing, the Giants should win this game. Still, Maholm has been much better at home than on the road, so it won't be a cakewalk and there is a strong chance we could lose. But with Lincecum on the mound, I like our chances.

Game 2: Barry Zito vs. Charlie Morton

Who? Morton, he of career 5.74 ERA in 20 starts and 4.29 ERA this season, was not that well regarded coming up as a prospect. He has not been that bad this season (though bad last season), but like Zito, don't strikeout that much but walks a little too many for the strikeouts he does get. He also gives up more hits than one would want. Not sure why he ended up being the #2 starter out of the All-Star break, but whatever, that at least gives the Giants an even chance of beating them as he faces Zito.

Zito only has had one start against the Pirates on the road and did OK in that start, 4 PQS start, but only 5 IP. He obviously had the best of worlds and worse of worlds in his last two starts. But he historically turns it up a notch in the second half. Here are his "half" season stats since he joined the Giants:

2007-Pre ASG: 4.90 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .251 BAA, 5.7 K/9, 1.3 K/BB
2007-PostASG: 4.11 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .235 BAA, 6.4 K/9, 2.1 K/BB
2008-Pre ASG: 5.62 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .299 BAA, 5.7 K/9, 1.0 K/BB
2008-PostASG: 4.59 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .232 BAA, 6.3 K/9, 1.4 K/BB
2009-Pre ASG: 5.01 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .258 BAA, 6.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB

As one can see he has done better by almost one full run, meaning he continued this performance, his ERA in the second half of 2009 would be close to 4.00, WHIP around 1.2 to 1.3, BAA around mid-.230, K/9 around mid-7, and K/BB in the low 2's. And before that good last start against Florida and bad last start against San Diego, Zito's stats were slightly better:

2009-Pre last 2: 4.82 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .255 BAA, 7.0 K/9, 1.7 K/BB

With Zito's elevated strikeout rate and better K/BB this season, he has been suffering from a bit of bad luck with his results thus far. If he can continue to throw well, he should be able to do much better in the second half of 2009 than he had for us previously.

Game 3: Matt Cain vs. Zach Duke

Bruce Bochy said in his pre-game show that Matt Cain threw OK and appears to be healthy. And he will need to be because he is facing Zach Duke, who has a 3.29 ERA this season and probably should been in the #2 in the rotation if not first. Dukes is also much better at home than on the road, so Cain will be battling that as well.

While Cain has been worse on the road, it is not much worse, 2.26 ERA at home, 2.53 ERA on the road. So the Giants have an even chance of beating the Pirates.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants look like they can win this series and probably should. But it will be tough with Zito vs. Morton and Cain vs. Duke. Still, the Giants look like they can pick off two games this series, as the Pirates have an offense as good (that is, bad) as the Giants (4.25 R/G vs. Giants 4.18 R/G) but a pitching staff that is not as good, not by a long shot.

And that will set us up for the Braves series, which would a tough 4 game series, but we would have Sanchez, Sadowski, Lincecum, and Zito starting against the Braves. That would leave Cain, Sanchez, Sadowski against the D-Rox, with the possibility of Randy Johnson replacing Sadowski in Colorado if he really only takes 3 weeks to get healthy, as he says he can. I think that would be a good setup for breaking even in Atlanta, and possibly winning in Colorado, if Sanchez is back to his good pitching performance mode.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Evaluating Zito Plus Wanting More

Yet another column comes out extolling the virtues of just dumping Zito's nearly $100M in contract value, in the belief that it would help out the rotation (I just got done praising him and he done gone and annoyed me again...). Let's examine that issue, but without all the emotional baggage that his contract brings.

First off, if you look through his game log, sure, there are a lot of games where he is not that good. He has not been that dominating this season, and had a large number of disaster starts. As my study of PQS shows, pitchers high ERA is often the result of a large number of disaster starts and even good pitchers need to minimize their disaster starts (check my labels for PQS for more explanation of this concept) to keep their ERA relatively low.

However, more importantly, you need to look at his gamelog for how many games where he gave up 3 runs or less as the starter, as those are the starts we have the most chance of winning. By that measure, he had 10 starts where he allowed 3 runs or less, so the team should have been 10-8 in his 18 starts. Not worth $18M, but it is still a pretty good record for the 4th starter of the rotation. That the Giants have gone 8-10 in his starts is not entirely his fault: the team is only averaging 3.26 runs scored per game in support of Zito.

The problem is that many people just look at Zito and his salary and then compare him with what top pitchers should be doing. We should not do that because that is not his role on our team, even at his career better seasons, he would not be more than our third or fourth starter, and if Sanchez can consistently pitch well, he could be our fifth starter.

Even when they compare him properly with other #4 starters, the point is not what other team's #4 starters can do, but what our starter options can do.

One complaint was that Zito was "nightmarish" against the 'Dres and Nationals, going 0-4 with a 5.75 ERA. But when you look at those starts, he had two horrible starts, April 10th, 4 runs in 4 IP, and his last, 9 runs in 4.1 IP; one so-so start on May 13th against the Nats, 4 runs in 6.1 IP; and two gems, April 22nd, 0 runs in 7.0 IP, and May 19th, 2 runs in 8.0 IP. I don't think it is Zito's fault that he got a no-decision on one and a loss in the other, of the two gems.

And it all goes to show my common complaint this season about people who are complaining about players: they don't say much while he is doing OK, but jump on the bandwagon when things go south. As late as June 10th, Zito still had a 4.09 ERA, and after his gem on June 7th, his ERA was a respectable 4.43. But he has one bad game and he is jumped upon for his 5.01 ERA, which now does not compare favorably with other #4 starters, but was really good comparatively just a month ago.

Which brings me back to the complaint about his record against the two worst teams, San Diego and Washington. Before that bad last start, he had two good games, one so-so, and one bad game, and he should have been 2-1, maybe 2-2. Really, the complaint is about the 'Dres because only one of the five starts were against Washington, and Zito gave up 4 runs in 6.1 IP, which is not nightmarish, as the Nats are actually an average offensive team.

So let's take a look at the starts, one by one:
  1. April 10th, 4 ER in 4.0 IP, Overall 9.00 ERA.
  2. April 22nd, 0 ER in 7.0 IP, Overall 3.27 ERA.
  3. May 19th, 2 ER in 8.0 IP, Overall 2.84 ERA.
  4. July 12th, 9 ER in 4.1 IP, Overall 5.79 ERA.
So yeah, there were two nightmarish starts but he was damn good in his two other starts. His bad ERA overall does not mean he was just beat up all over the place, you have to look at his individual starts to get a better sense of what is going on.

Looking at Zito's stats, he has mainly been in the 4 ERA range, and for #4 starter, that is pretty good. Other team's middle of rotation starters are normally in the 4 ERA range. And as nicely as Sadowski has done so far, I would not walk so far out on a limb and say that Sadowski can deliver that reliably year in year out, which would be the only reason I would be for pushing Zito out of the rotation.

Zito has been much improved overall this season. He is striking out a lot more batters and walking less batters as well. That is because he has been able to regain the effectiveness of the separation in speed between his fastball and his curveball by gaining a key 2-3 MPH on his fastball. Maybe he is not worth his contract, but for what he does as a pitcher, he fits in nicely with our rotation this season where he was, as the #4 starter. That is all that really matters, how he fits on our team.

This might be different next year, when Bumgarner and maybe Alderson will be ready for the majors, but for now, he is fine where he is and is a useful contributor to the team's success. And if he can continue his past pattern of pitching well in the second half, his overall ERA for 2009 will look very nice, and if he can continue it into 2010, then he could be tradeable as soon as mid-year 2010.

Wanting More

I was listening to KNBR while driving and someone was passionately dissing Giants management, saying that they don't want to win it all, that he didn't have any confidence that Giants management will keep the nucleus of the team together, so why not trade off some of their four Top 50 prospects and get Halladay now, to win it this year.

This was so wrong in so many ways that I had to respond.

First, Sabean was the one who kept the nucleus of this team, the one we have right now, together. He could have traded off any or many of them previously in order to help Bonds win the World Series once during his career. But he didn't, for the most part.

If they didn't want to win it all, they wouldn't have bothered to spend $6.1M on Posey last year, they could have gotten away with drafting someone else and paying at least half as much. They wouldn't have bothered to spend over $4M together to sign Villalona and Rodriguez. They wouldn't have bothered to go over slot to sign Lincecum. Or Bumgarner.

And trading away our Top 50 prospects today would kill our next few seasons, particularly if Posey was traded away. He's our future catcher. If he's traded, then Sandoval's our catcher, but now we have no 3B. In addition, playing catcher would definitely take away from his offense, both because he won't be playing as many games as he would at 3B, plus there is a physical toll as well. Our rotation is good now, but with Bumgarner and Alderson (plus Sanchez), it could be marvelous.

In addition, most of our high salary contracts will be gone by the time Lincecum is arbitration eligible and really pulling in the money. We will have a lot of budget to pay him. I expect a long term contract but even if not, we will still be signing him to less than market value out to 2013. And we have Cain signed to a cheap contract to 2011. Both things he didn't know but still he felt he knew much more how to better run the Giants.

Halladay is good but Bumgarner could be as good as he is for the next 6 seasons, plus Posey will be a middle of lineup hitter for us as well. But he would rather mortgage our future to try to win this year. I think that's idiotic, particularly since another team could get red hot (like Colorado did after Tracy took over) and pass us up like nothing. Then we would have mortgaged the future but don't even get the present.

Be patient, look like you've supported a winning team before, and enjoy the next 6-8 seasons as our young players rise and add to the mix. It looks like it's going to be good.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buster to Move to Fresno

Do you know the way to Fresno, CA? Buster Posey has been promoted to AAA Fresno, as announced on sfgiants.com and Henry Schulman's blog. Henry noted that Brian Sabean said last month that this was likely to happen. Posey will make his debut in AAA on Thursday in the Grizzlies return from their All-Star Break (Bowker was suppose to be in that game).

For San Jose, he hit .322/.421/.536/.957 with 13 HR in 289 AB (roughly 22 AB/HR or a 25+ HR season) with 60 runs and 57 RBI in 79 games. His ISO was an excellent 215 and his BABIP was .346: only time will tell if that is normal or high.

Walking 44 times and striking out 45 times, his contact rate was just a hair below the desired rate of 85% - he was at 84.4% - but his BB/K was an excellent 0.98 - the best hitters can get it over 1.00 while keeping their contact rate above 85% (that is, K-rate under 15%).

He clobbered LHP and did OK against RHP:

vs. LH: .446/.539/.819/1.358 with 8 HR in 83 AB (11 AB/HR)
vs. RH: .279/.381/.428/.809 with 5 HR in 208 AB (42 AB/HR)

He has also benefited from hitting at home, which is odd because San Jose is a pitchers park in the hitter's league that is the California League:

Home: .378/.483/.608/1.091 with 7 HR in 148 AB (21 AB/HR)
Away: .273/.369/.469/.838 with 6 HR in 143 AB (24 AB/HR)

Perhaps that bad patch he had in May was on the road, pulling down those stats:

APR: .366/.447/.646/1.093 with 5 HR in 82 AB and 11 walks and 13 K's
MAY: .245/.319/.382/.701 with 3 HR in 102 AB and 8 walks and 18 K's (elevated K-rate)
JUN: .385/.529/.631/1.160 with 3 HR in 65 AB and 18 walks and 8 K's
JUL: .357/.462/.571/1.033 with 2 HR in 42 AB and 8 walks and 6 K's

As one can see, he greatly improved his walk rate and kept his K-rate (contact rate) around where it is suppose to be if you are good (much like how Pablo Sandoval did while in the minors). Even the pitch to his head in late June did not slow him down much once he got back in June. I noticed that after a couple of oh-fers, he just started hitting again.

He spent most of his time in San Jose batting fourth, clean-up, and he did best there, obviously, since his overall numbers are so good. He did not bat well in the 3 hole however, his OPS there was .754, not close to as good as he has done overall.

Amazingly, he hit this well with a high ground ball rate of 52% and a low FB rate of 30%. His HR/FB rate is about double what it normally is for the majors in general, which is roughly 10%, though each batter has his own HR/FB rate. He could just be that good or it could just be a fluke to be aware of, but at 16%, that is usually the stratified region where sluggers reside, and Buster is a slight looking guy. It was his great hitting with fly balls and particularly line drives that made up for his greatly elevated ground ball rate that normally would kill a hitters overall batting line. I don't have the splits for this, but I would hazard a guess that he hit a lot of ground balls in May, when he scuffled for a bit. I would love to see his splits for ground balls, fly balls, and line drives by month.

Giants Thoughts

He is El Machino, grinding up Advanced A and jumping to AAA. By age, he was actually young for the league: the average hitter was 22.7 years old and the average pitcher was 23.0 years old. But he hit like he was many years older, because experience conveys a significant advantage relative to the league. For a comparison, look at what Sandoval did at age 21 repeating Advanced A last season, with roughly the same amount of AB:

Pablo: .359/.412/.597/1.009 with 12 HR in 301 AB (roughly 25 AB/HR), 23 BB, 39 K
Posey: .322/.421/.536/.957 with 13 HR in 289 AB (roughly 22 AB/HR ), 44 BB, 45 K

They were very similar, though Posey did walk much more and Pablo was one year younger than Posey, though he was also repeating the level.

Clearly, Buster is on the fast track to the majors now, jumping to AAA. Buster now has 80 games under his belt in the minors, plus another roughly 15-20 games in the final Hawaii Winter League, helping the Beach Boys win their first championship, plus, as reported, his being brought back to instructional league for direct tutoring on the nuances of catching professionally. He should get roughly another 50 games in the minors and whatever else he gets in the majors if he is called up in September. If there is a pennant race going on, I would bet on it.

Now, from what I have read, catchers need roughly 200-250 games played to be ready for the majors. He'll have 150 plus whatever he plays in the majors in September, plus I would expect that he would be put in the AFL this year if we are allowed to place a catcher, which should get him another 20-40 games, depending on how they use him (the HWL used him only once every three games, one reason why he got pulled). Weiters basically followed this path and thus the games he played in the minors this season put him into that experience range that experts think is needed to be ready for the majors. Posey would be short that experience at the start of next season, based on what I tallied above.

However, Weiters, at best, is considered a competent catcher ultimately. Posey has been rated as an above average receiver, with arm strength, receiving skills, and a quick release, plus he rates high on baseball acumen. Baseball America says that he profiles as a catcher in the mold of Joe Mauer, who is considered one of the best defensive catchers today, adding half a win to one win per season, according to Baseball Prospectus. He's also very athletic, which is not surprisingly since he once played all 9 positions in a game in college.

Thus, to me, it would seem that he should be able to make the jump to the majors next season, both offensively and defensively. He will probably struggle initially, but if we sign an experienced catcher who is good defensively, both as mentor and as backup in case Buster struggles too much, we should be covered at the catching position in 2010. Plus, Sandoval could catch a few games himself. In addition, should Posey struggle at catcher, he could at least be a utility player and give other position players a rest while getting to hit.

Experienced free agent catchers this off-season, with some defensive street-cred, includes Brad Ausmus (age - 41), Rod Barajas (34), Jason Kendall (36), Jose Molina (35), I-Rod (38), and maybe Gregg Zaun (39; club option). If the Giants want to make Bengie feel OK at some level with moving on, they could sign his brother, Jose Molina. And it won't be a pitty signing. According to the Fielding Bible, Jose Molina is a very good catcher.

Despite not being a full-time player like his brothers, according to the Adjusted Earned Runs Saved (AERS) stat that is being developed for catchers by the author of the Fielding Bible, Jose has saved about as many runs as his brothers over the past 3 and 6 years. In a 3 year period, Jose is 7th overall with 6 AERS, while Yadier is 8th with 5 AERS and Bengie is 12th with 4. In a 6 year period, Yadier is 8th with 9, Jose is 10th with 8, and Bengie is 15th with 4.

But remember, Yadier and Bengie are starting catchers. Jose, at best, has been Mike Mussina's and Andy Pettitte's personal catcher on the Yankees. However, for every pitcher Jose handled on the Yankees, the pitcher pitched better with Jose catching than any other catcher, according to the Fielding Bible research. According to the raw Earned Runs Saved data, Jose was better than Ivan Rodriguez, who is considered one of the best catchers of his generation.

Based on the last six years, the top five catchers by AERS are Jason Kendall, Paul Lo Duca, I-Rod, Chris Snyder, and Gregg Zaun; based on the last three, they are Kendall, Ronny Paulino, Brian McCann, I-Rod, and Brad Ausmus. Kendall, I-Rod, Ausmus, and perhaps Zaun will be free agents this off-season. But these are not adjusted for playing time and I would guess that had it been, Jose would have easily jumped into the top five for both lists, though probably not at the top, somewhere below that but definitely top five.

Great defense, should be cheap because he's not looking for starting money, Jose looks like he would be the best to sign. He did make $2M per year the past two years, so he won't be totally cheap. But that appears to be the going rate, with a King George bump-up because he can.

Zaun is making $2M himself, so perhaps that is the going rate for great defensive backup catchers, though he was actually the starter until Wieters was brought up; I have to assume he knew that was going to happen and signed accordingly. Ausmus is only making $1M with the D-gers as their backup, and signing him would give us inside information on how the D-gers work internally, as well as how Torre does things. He probably got much less both because he's much older and because Russell Martin should get the vast majority of the catching starts for the D-gers.

Kendall, who is still a starter and probably wouldn't sign with us because he's looking to start, got $5.0M based on the 2009 option vesting. Bengie Molina is getting $6M from us this year plus performance bonuses based on games started that should net him another $0.5M probably, plus his 2009 salary increases by 50% of performance bonuses earned in 2007-08, which probably adds another $0.5M. I-Rod, while a starter, only got $1.5M for 2009 plus up to $1.5M in performance bonuses based on PA and games played and he looks like he will earn all that for a total of $3.0M. He got a lesser contract because he basically signed near the end of spring training. I don't think we can sign any of these to partner with Posey.

To sum up, Jose Molina looks like the best choice for the money, skill, and age. Great defense, great handling of pitchers, and I assume he would be willing to teach Posey his tricks of the trade and that Posey will absorb everything like a sponge. We probably can sign him for a long-term contract (2-3 years) at $1.0-1.5M and thus pair him up with Posey. He won't have Posey's offense, but his defense would be so good that it would make up some for that loss in offense.

I think Ausmus would be a good second choice, but on a year by year basis since he's already 41, because he is strong defensively and would be able to give us good information regarding the D-gers operations, particularly since he is an aspiring manager, and would be viewing the entire D-gers operations like a manager. We could give him the carrot that the Giants have already hired a number of former catchers as managers - Decker, Skeels, Trebelhorn, Bochy - and would be open to him starting his managerial career in our minors.

And Zaun would be a close third choice, as he has already done the caddy/support act with the Orioles and is apparently OK with it. He's also younger than Ausmus and better offensively and defensively, and thus might have more to share with Posey as a tutor. And he hasn't been that far removed from being a full-time starter, only since a month or so ago, while Ausmus was last a full-time starter in 2006, though he did get into the majority of the games in 2007.

This helps cover us at the catching position no matter the scenario. Obviously, if Posey transitions smoothly, our backup would be just that plus provide tips much like Randy Johnson has been greatly influencing our starters, particularly Sanchez and Cain, though also Lincecum, as the Kid wants to learn how to strike out a lot while also lasting deep into games.

If Posey struggles but is OK enough to stay up, he and the backup can share the position, plus Sandoval can take some of the starts with Posey starting at 3B - one scenario I like for the future is that Posey can be the starting catcher and Sandoval the starting 3B, but when Posey needs a rest, he starts at 3B and Sandoval starts at C, thus giving him a bit of a rest but we don't lose his bat from the lineup either. Again, the backup would share his knowledge with Posey.

If Posey struggles so badly that he needs to be sent down to AAA, the backup catcher would be good enough to catch a significant number of games and the Giants would also start Sandoval a good number of games, more than a backup would normally get, though that would screw us up at 3B. Uribe has been pretty good starting part-time at 3B this season but perhaps this could be a way to give Frandsen some regular starts, putting him at 3B, assuming he is not already starting at 2B. In this scenario, Frandsen could be the uber-utility guy that some suggests is his role, a Chone Figgins type who gets a lot of starts around the field and thus playing a lot, but is not the full-time starter at a particular position.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Your 2009 Giants: All-Star Break Analysis

What a great first half! I was going to do a separate analysis but just realized that my previous post contains a lot of analysis that I could have done here. Still, I will see what else I can add to an understanding of this season thus far.

Best since 2003

I saw a table on the Giants cable TV station that I thought I would duplicate here, but extend to include all the years since AT&T/SBC/PBP opened:



2009 is the first half season over .500 since 2006, is the best start to a season since 2004, when they were 49-40, and is the best start to a season since the great 2003 first season with Felipe Alou as manager. Among seasonal starts, 2009 is the third best start in the 10 seasons in this park, just behind the 2002 season (a Zito win would have put it above) and much behind, of course, the 2003 season.

As one can see, the Giants have generally had a better second half than first half. Only 2006 and 2007 eneded up worse than the first half, and 2007 marginally so. If you average all the differences from 2000-2008 and assume that 2009 would improve by that average, then the Giants would finish this season 44-30 and a 93-69 record.

Love Them Home Cooking With A Big Slice of Panda

The success of this season has been built upon their dominance at home, where they were 31-15; they were only 18-24 on the road. Had they been even .500 on the road, they would only be 4.0 games behind the D-gers right now, instead of 7.0 games. This, unfortunately, is also a result of the D-gers being just about as hot as the Giants have been. Since June 6, when the Giants hit the low of being 9 games back, the Giants have gone 21-13 but only gained two games.

The Giants started out at .500 in April (10-10), nudged slightly over by one game in May (15-14), soared in June (17-10) instead of swooned, and is above .500 again in July (7-5). The surge coincides with a confluence of positive factors, but mostly, I believe, is the result of the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, suddenly finding his power stroke.

Since June 5th, when Sandoval hit his first homer of this streak, he has hit 12 HR in 35 games (roughly 55 HR seasonal pace), with 33 RBI (roughly 155 RBI seasonal pace) and hitting .377/.442/.738/1.181 in 130 AB and an amazing 16 walks, or roughly 11% of his plate appearances vs. 24 strikeouts, producing 43 runs. Prior to that, in 47 games, 45 starts, he only hit 3 HR (roughly 10 HR seasonal pace) with 22 RBI (roughly 80 RBI seasonal pace) and hitting .301/.340/.460/.801, with 8 walks, or roughly 4-5% of his PA vs. 24 strikeouts, producing 38 runs. His strikeout rate was actually better previously, but somehow he was able to make it work, going from producing roughly 0.8 runs per game to 1.2 runs per game, which covers most of the leap in team scoring from roughly 4.0 early in the season to the roughly 4.5 since June began.

Team Opponents Play

Looking at the Giants head to head records, their excellent season thus far was built upon 5 teams:

  • Going 6-3 vs. Arizona (38-51)
  • Going 3-0 vs. Atlanta (43-45)
  • Going 5-1 vs. Oakland (37-49)
  • Going 3-0 vs. Texas (48-39)
  • Going 4-2 vs. Washington (26-61)
Thus, the Giants beat up the teams that they are suppose to, in Arizona, Oakland, and Washington, but also better teams, like Atlanta and Texas. How many times have we seen the Giants not even do that, beating the teams that they should? And their interleague play was the best in years, as they went 9-6.

But it was not all flukey wins either. While they were able to stay around .500 (+/- 1 game) with most teams, they lost big to these teams:

  • Going 0-3 vs. the LA Angles (49-37)
  • Going 1-3 vs. the NY Mets (42-45)
  • Going 5-7 vs. the 'Dres (36-52)
Playing poorly against LA, join the club, but they lost big to the Mets, which has been a 5 games under .500 team otherwise, and particularly to the 'Dres, as San Diego delivered a beatdown to the Giants, as they have relatively been pushovers for the most part this season.

So nothing seems really out of place, they have simply been beating the teams that they are suppose to beat.

Team Offensive Stats

The Giants are currently average 4.18 runs scored per game. The average NL team is scoring 4.44 runs and there are now 3 teams with worse average: Cubs, Reds, and 'Dres. Houston is also tied at 4.18, which makes them tied for 11th in the NL. The other teams below the league average are the Braves at 4.24, Pirates at 4.25, Mets at 4.31, Nats at 4.38, and Cards at 4.43. As I had noted in my previous post, the Giants have averaged 4.5 runs per game since Bochy started kicking some butts on May 10th, so the Giants have been slightly above the NL average since May 10th.

They still have the third worse total in homers, with 63, but have hit 37 of them since June began. Despite having a number of young position players, the Giants are vet-centric, with the batting age of 29.3, which is among the highest among NL teams, 6th among the 16 teams. Unsurprisingly, they are last in walks and 12th in strikeouts. They are collectively hitting .262/.312/.393/.705, 5th in batting average, 15th in OBP (only 'Dres worse), 13th in SLG, 15th in OPS. Speed was suppose to be one element of the team, but they are 10th in stolen bases. Fred Lewis and Emmanuel Burriss flopping as badly as they did (and Velez secondarily) hurt this aspect of the offense greatly.

Team Pitching Stats

Obviously, pitching is what drives this team. The Giants lead the league by a significant margin, allowing only 3.68 runs per game, whereas the second place team, the D-gers are allowing 3.84 runs per game. Even they are pretty good, as the third place team, the Cubs, are allowing 4.10 runs per game, followed by the Cards at 4.12. The NL average is 4.54 runs per game.

The Giants also lead in ERA but the margin is not as great, which shows how good the defense has been for the Giants, not leading to many unearned runs. The team ERA is 3.51 and the closest teams are LA at 3.58, St. Louis at 3.76, Chicago at 3.84, and Atlanta at 3.88; these are the only teams under 4.00 or even close to 4.00, as the next team is Houston at 4.22. The NL average ERA is 4.24.

The Giants has a 1.29 WHIP, tied with the Cards for second behind the D-gers. In fourth place is the Braves at 1.34, the Cubs at 1.35, the D-Rox at 1.392, the D-backs at 1.393, and the Astros at 1.397, the 'Dres at 1.398, and the Brewers at 1.399. The NL average is 1.385

With Lincecum leading the way, plus Johnson and Sanchez, the Giants lead in strikeouts with 694. Second is the D-gers with 669, Marlins with 667, Cubs with 662, and Braves with 652. Unfortunately, and as expected, the Giants are only 7th in the league in walks. And I should note that some of these teams have 10 or more innings pitched than the Giants, such as the D-gers and Marlins.

The Giants is averaging a stout 8.0 K/9, which leads the NL. The Cubs are second with 7.7 K/9, the D-gers are third with 7.5 K/9, and the Braves are fourth with 7.4 K/9. NL average is 6.9 K/9. This makes up for their poor BB/9, at a high 3.6 BB/9, which is the league average.

And these result in a league best K/BB of 2.22, beating out the D-backs with 2.17, Cards with 2.14, and Marlins with 2.14, and Braves and D'Rox at 2.10. League average is 1.92 and ideally you want your starting pitchers over 2.0 and your relievers over 2.4.

As I like to note, the best way to maximize your chances in the playoffs and World Series - and really, any short series - is to have at least two aces in your rotation, more if you can swing that. Lincecum and Cain are our two aces, both are 10-2 and have ERAs of 2.33 and 2.38 respectively. As noted by Baggarly in his article today, they are the first pair of Giants pitchers to reach double-digit wins before the All-Star Game since John Burkett and Bill Swift did it in 1993. They were also the last Giants to reach the 20-win mark since.

Lincecum joked, when asked what his plans were for the All-Star Game, that he's "going to have Cain put a leash around my neck and keep me in my room. He missed last year's game after getting so dehydrated that he had to be hospitalized overnight. "Being the starter is going to make up completely for the fact I didn't make it last year. I'm just happy enough to be in the game, let alone be the starter."

Team Defensive Stats

Not really a lot of great stats, but the Giants show OK here, as expected given the runs allowed stats above. The Giants Defensive Efficiency Rating, or DER, is .701, which is third in the NL, but by a slim margin (this is basically the inverse of BABIP). The D-gers are first with a DER of .716, and Pirates are second with .702, but tied for fourth are three teams, the Cubs, Reds, and Brewers. The NL average DER is .692

With 47 errors, the Giants are alone in fifth in the NL, but in fielding percentage, they are tied with three other teams for fifth.

The Giants catching (and pitching) has been bad with stolen bases. The Giants have the third worse in SB given up, leading to a tied for 2nd worse caught stealing percentage.

Giants Thoughts

As noted above, the Giants have been great at home, poor on the road. That is because they are just better at home. Their ERA at home is only 3.17 while on the road it is 3.92, with a WHIP of 1.18 at home and 1.42 on the road, and much more walks given up, as the K/9 is 8.0 both at home and road, but K/BB is 2.91 at home and 1.74 on the road. Their BABIP is the same, though, home and road, at .288, which is pretty good, suggesting a regression to the mean in the second half, particularly for Cain at .276 and Johnson at .283, though it should be noted that Cain has had a .276 BABIP for his career, which suggest that he's looking like one of those pitchers capable of keeping their BABIP lower than the .290 or .300 mean that most pitchers regress to.

Meanwhile, the offense is likewise hampered. They are averaging 4.7 runs per game at home but only 3.6 runs per game on the road. They are hitting .274/.328/.420/.748 at home and .250/.294/.365/.659 on the road. And HR power is better too, they average only 43 AB/HR at home but 52 AB/HR on the road. That's roughly the difference between a 14 HR season and a 11-12 HR season, not huge but still better.

There were significant improvement in June/July vs. April/May. The offense's OPS went from .695 to .677 to .732 to .722 in July. Pitching likewise, with OPS dropping from .737 to .712 to .686 to .567 in July (helped greatly by Sanchez's no-hitter). Also, the ERA dropped by month too: from 3.90 to 3.75 to 3.22 to 2.94. K/BB rose too: from 1.93 in April to 2.01 to 2.38 to 3.36 in July (no-hitter).

The Giants are clearly on a upswing as they head into the All-Star break. Their hitting and pitching has been improving as the season progressed. They currently have the second best record in the NL, slightly ahead of the Cards and D-Rox and the Phillies, and the fifth best record in the MLB.

The only hitter seemingly hitting over his head would be Pablo Sandoval, but given that we don't know what he is capable of doing, this could be the real deal for him. Particularly significant is his HR surge since June began. While one can't expect so many HR from him the rest of the season (doubtful he can sustain a 50+ HR pace), he should be hitting for much more than earlier in the season. Uribe is also above but not significantly so.

If anything, a number of hitters are hitting below what they have been capable of before. Molina, Renteria, and Winn are all hitting much below what they had done before. While Winn look to be on the decline because of the sharp increase in strike out rate, both Molina and Renteria look like they might be suffering some bad luck of the bounced balls, as their strikeout rates is still good. And Burriss et al were all horrible at 2B, even a career Uribe would be a huge upgrade over what they did.

Meanwhile, the same goes for the pitching. Only Cain is pitching above what he was doing before, but Johnson, Zito, Sanchez all pitched below. After early jitters, Johnson has been good since his April 19th start, third start of season, as he compiled a 3.97 ERA, 2.4 K/BB, 7.5 K/9. Hopefully he can recover from his shoulder injury and return to that form and Sadowski can be a shadow of that in his starts in Johnson's stead. And as Sanchez showed in his no-hitter, he is capable of much much more than he did before the no-hitter. Him pitching to that potential would more than make up for Cain falling back to his career norms. Just named All-Star Starting Pitcher Tim Lincecum looks to just continue what he's been doing since mid-2007: dominating the majors.

Of course, the major worries heading into the second half are regarding the health of Matt Cain and Randy Johnson. Will Cain be OK after getting plunked by the batted ball? It seems like he will be, but only time will tell. In Johnson's case, you never know which injury might do him in. Luckily Sadowski has been an able replacement, but you never know when the league might catch up with him, given his lack of "stuff".

And the major question, really, is whether the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, can continue to create Panda-monium everywhere he goes. While other players have come and gone with their hot and cold streaks, the one constant for much of the time since early June is Sandoval and his hot hitting. If he cools off greatly, our momentum will cool off greatly. But if he continues to hit like he has, he will be the offensive leader who takes over the mantle from Barry Bonds for the Giants team, and be that great middle of lineup hitter we have been searching for since parting with Bonds.

I don't see how Bochy can hold off much longer from using Sandoval in the clean-up spot, not with his hot hitting and Molina's cool hitting. But then who bats third? One possibility would be to go with a lineup similar to late May, early June, but adjusted to the new realities: Rowand, Renteria, Winn, Sandoval, Ishikawa, Molina, LF (Bowker, Schierholtz, Lewis), Uribe.

For the pitching staff, things look to be settled for the most part, except for Johnson being out and hopefully returning soon enough. The rotation has been mentioned as Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Sadowski. I've seen some complain about Zito vs. Sanchez, but Zito at least has shown many good flashes of good pitching during the first half and he's known for his second half flourishes. Sanchez had been pretty bad until his no-hitter, so while I would like to think that this turned him around, we don't know that for certain.

Plus, as I've noted in research before, the 4th starter for the Giants in recently years had been getting more run support than the other spots in the rotation, though that hasn't worked for Zito or Sanchez thus far this season. Run Support stats:

Lincecum: 5.46 runs average support per 27 outs
Johnson: 4.02 runs average support per 27 outs
Matt Cain: 4.76 runs average support per 27 outs
Barry Zito: 3.26 runs average support per 27 outs
Sanchez: 3.17 runs average support per 27 outs
Sadowski: 6.92 runs average support per 27 outs (only 3 starts, but in Sanchez's spot)
5th Starter: 3.73 runs average support per 27 outs

I still think it is good to place Sanchez in the back of the rotation. Even if the matchups changes eventually, at least initially, Sanchez should be facing the other team's 4th best starter, and that will put him on an even footing, relatively. No use putting him up against other team's #2 starters.

As well as the rotation has done in the first half, I think the second half can be even better, as Cain and Zito typically have late season surges, Lincecum just keeps on keeping on, and Sanchez looks to regain what he had done in the first half of 2008, and from the looks of the no-hitter, he might even be better, as he didn't walk one batter. He's never done that in a start over 7 IP, though he did walk only 1 in his great 8 IP start on April 25, 2008, which showed the potential for his no-hitter happening, as he only gave up 4 hits in that game and he did have a 7 inning start on September 7, 2007 with 0 walks and 5 strikeouts.

And the bullpen has been superb and nothing is really over the top relative to their career except for Affeldt. But he had been on an upward trend the past couple of years, and I saw many articles saying that he had the stuff to be an economical closer-to-be if a team would jump on him and move him into the closer spot should their closer falters. However, the Giants beat other teams to the punch, signing him quickly, and I like having him set up for Wilson because, frankly, more of the critical runners on base situations happen in the 7th and 8th inning, where we use Affeldt often. He has been a key producer there.

Yet, he didn't really get to take off there in terms of bullpen value for us until Romo returned to the bullpen and continued pitching like he did last season. That allowed Bochy to use Affeldt earlier as needed, knowing that Romo can handle the 8th between Affeldt and Wilson. Particularly since Howry, who was suppose to take that role, was shaky early on. And Romo helped complete the bullpen that improved greatly once Justin Miller and Brandon Medders were added. Overall, our bullpen has been aces, and look to continue to be so in the second half.

The Giants, while in a good position for playoff action, leading for the wild card spot by 2 games over Colorado, a lot can happen in the second half. But their hold on it is stronger because of their great homestand that just finished, as they went 7-3, winning each series, and leading Florida and Milwaukee by 4 games, Houston and Chicago by 5 games, Atlanta by 6 games, and NY and Cincinnati by 6.5 games. Not an insurmountable lead, but a signicant one, except for Colorado, which has been on an absolute hot streak since Jim Tracy took over. D-Rox was 18-28 under Hurdle but has been 29-13 under Tracy.

As the second half starts, this will be a very important stretch for the Giants any way you measure it. they will play on the road 13 of the next 20 games, 24 of the next 37 games, and 43 games in 45 days. As I noted above, they have not been very good on the road, though better recently, 11-9 since June started.

The good news is that they will be facing a lot of poor to average teams during that stretch. Only Colorado, Philadelphia, LA will be tough games, representing 14 of the 37 games and 17 of 43. They play 6 games against Pittsburgh and 3 games against Arizona, for easier series. And they play 4 against Atlanta (in Atlanta), 3 against Houston (in Houston), 4 against NY (in NY), 6 against Cincinnati (3 in Cincy). Plus, for the tough series, the Giants play 10 of the 14 at home (though 4 tough ones in Colorado).

With 10 games against Colorado, how they play could end the wild card chase for one or the other team. With 3 games against LA, the Giants could pull themselves close to the NL title or fall too far away. Same with Houston, Atlanta, NY, and Cincinnati.

The great news is that the Giants are not only in the race for the playoffs, but is leading for the wild card slot, and look to stay hot in the second half of 2009, which would put them in good position to take the wild card spot, and perhaps even steal the NL West title from under the D-gers blue noses.

The D-gers have built their huge lead on the backs of the NL West and on being really good at winning in extra innings and in one-run games, both of which are flukey. Reduce both of those to average for LA and they would be tied with the Giants right now. However, they are in better shape than the Giants are for advancing in the playoffs, they are 33-23 against teams over .500 while the Giants are only 25-23.

Of course, if the young players should falter in the second half, then they could revert to playing .500 ball, which they have mainly played for the most part since 2008, when viewed on a monthly basis, and which they did in April and May when the young players who could falter were faltering, Ishikawa, Burriss, Sanchez, even Sandoval. That would still put the Giants at 86-76, which would still be a huge improvement over 2008 and put them on good grounds for looking to compete for the title in 2010.

Lastly, I would like to note that the Giants are exactly where they should be: their Pythagorian W/L is 49-39, their exact record. So their record is not flukey relative to what they had done in the first half. It remains to be seen if their performance in the first half was flukey itself, and thus their record was an over performance. Still, as I noted, not a lot of outliers in terms of performances, and if anything, a lot of areas where the team could improve, particularly Sanchez and Zito. I look forward to a great second half and I think that there is a good chance that they Giants can make the playoffs this year.

I don't expect any trade except for one where we give up a middling prospect to get a high-priced veteran who is an upgrade at 2B. We have too many good-enough prospects in the OF and at 1B to get a vet who would take ABs away from there. But as nicely as Uribe has played, we know what he is capable of, and thus getting an upgrade there would be nice, plus Frandsen hasn't done anything to earn more playing time yet. I can also see a trade shuffle with another team where we give up failed or faltering prospects like EME, Sadler, Lewis, and Frandsen up for another team's versions, just to mix it up and change things up, but mainly to pick up a high risk, high value prospect for some OK prospects on our end.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Using the "M" Word: Finally It's Our Time Now

I've taken Tim Kawakami to task over the years for a number of articles he has written and ideas espoused, but I think he's a smart guy and his recent column about this being a Magical season for the Giants was spot on.

Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter is "just the latest sign of Giants magic", Kawakami's headline noted:

Maybe this is just going to be one of those miracle, unexplainable, unfathomable seasons for the Giants.

What else is there to think after watching Jonathan Sanchez, of all people, throw the Giants' first no-hitter in 33 years?

I totally agree. I did not actively or consciously think that before reading Tim's great column, but I think that is correct, this has been a magical season for the Giants. Who could imagine that the Giants would be 49-39, with one of the best records in the NL West, NL, and majors? I thought that the Giants were capable of being better than .500, but not this good, and certainly not given all the problems they have faced this season.

Some of it makes sense - Cain finally being the great ace he had shown glimpses of, Sandoval being the real deal, Sandoval starting to hit for power, Rowand hitting like he can, Ishikawa finally showing what his minor stats showed - but some of it is inexplicable - like how are we 49-39 when Randy Johnson has a 4.81 ERA, Zito has a 5.01 ERA, and Sanchez has been lost this whole season until the no-hitter, when Molina is hitting so poorly overall, when Buriss, Downs, and Frandsen at 2B duplicated the horrible stats that Giants shortstops did last season, when Renteria had another poor hitting first half, when Fred Lewis suddenly reverted back to little league Freddie Lewis and couldn't hit to save his life, when Randy Winn has clearly started his career decline phase, striking out too many times from April to June and having his worse season since the beginning of his career, when Aurilia was MIA for a couple of months offensively, when Jesus Guzman couldn't save his MLB tryout? These are all items that a Giants fan could point to as problem or worry areas but inexplicably, we are 10 games above .500 and in the lead for the Wild Card spot.

Maybe it is magic, maybe it is a miracle, as Kawakami astutely wrote. It is also a lot of good hitting and pitching:
  • Sandoval has a hit in 8 of his last 9 games, hitting .382/.432/.824/1.256 with 4 HR in 34 AB, and since June 4th, has hit .376/.440/.737/1.177 with 12 HR and 35 RBI in 133 AB and 37 games.
  • Ishikawa just ended a 10 game hitting streak, where he batted .351/.351/.568/.919 with 2 HR in 37 AB, and since his May 10th "demotion" has hit .312/.368/.528/.896 with 7 HR and 20 RBI in 125 AB and 36 starts (41 games).
  • Winn has started hitting like his old self in late June and we can use that production the rest of the season: .339/.371/.458/.829 since June 27.
  • Molina since June 29th has hit .342/.317/.526/.843 with 8 RBI in 38 AB and 10 games - maybe his wife being pregnant has been weighing on his mind.
  • Rowand since May 16th has been hitting .321/.367/.515/.882 with 7 HR and 27 RBI in 196 AB and 48 starts (50 games), and from June 19th to July 11th, .291/.349/.481/.830 with 3 HR in 79 AB.
  • Renteria since June 23 has hit .322/.354/.407/.761 with 11 RBI in 59 AB and only 8 K's.
  • Uribe since he started starting regularly on May 23, has hit .308/.336/.515/.851, with 4 HR and 18 RBI in 130 AB, 35 starts (38 games).
  • Schierholtz, since he started starting regularly on June 11th, has hit .323/.363/.473/.836 with 3 HR and 13 RBI in 93 AB and 23 starts (30 games).
  • And, of course, all the great pitching! Particularly Cain, Lincecum, and the bullpen, plus now the no-hitter.
They have averaged 4.8 runs per game in July, 4.5 runs per game since Bochy started kicking some butts on May 10th. They have hit 47 HR in the 59 games since May 10th, a 129 HR season pace. Since the start of June, when Pablo and others (Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Rowand)started hitting more HR, they hit 37 HR in 39 games, or 154 HR season pace.

The pitching staff has been likewise great. Since May 10th, they have allowed 3.5 runs per game, with a 3.31 ERA and 7.9 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB with 1.24 WHIP. We have been 34-25 since then. Since June began, they have allowed 3.3 runs per games, with a 3.13 ERA and 8.0 K/9 and 2.6 K/BB with 1.16 WHIP, with a 24-15 record. That accounts for most of our record over .500. Though Johnson is out, if Sanchez is back to his early 2008 season form, our starting pitching should be improved, as that would be better than what Johnson was doing plus Sadowski looks like he can easily beat what Sanchez had done for us up to the no-hitter.

Not that any of this means that we will even make the playoffs, let alone win it all. But it has been a great season for those of us who enjoy such things, not so much for those clinging to the past or expecting the other shoe to fall next. I think it is better to enjoy the moment, however long it lasts.

And as Ray Ratto noted this weekend, the Giants just should say "screw it" and give renewal contracts to both Sabean and Bochy. Now.

Go Giants! Congrats on the great first half, keep up the good work! As Scott Ostler aptly noted, cautious optimism is the codeword for the Giants second half.

Giants Signature Song

In this vein, I would propose that the Giants use the song, "It's Our Time Now" by the Plain White T's as the their signature song in the 7th inning. Joan Ryan has written about this in her blog here and here about how the Giants need a signature song but the D-gers stole Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" as ironically Journey's Steve Perry is a huge Giants fan. She asked for fan's suggestions and this is what I suggested there and now bringing it to the attention of readers of my blog.

I think this song is the perfect song and band for the Giants signature song, at least for this season, if not for this generation of Giants, almost akin to the "You Gotta Like These Kids" slogan that defined the Will Clark era. If you listen to the song and the lyrics, it is very peppy, very up-beat, very appropriate to some of the feelings we have about our next generation Giants. Following are some lyrics, not all of them, but some I think are appropriate regarding the Giants:

"There will be no rules tonight...
Nothing's gonna stop us now...
Nervous hands and anxious smiles...
I can feel the butterflies...
This is right where we belong...
These are the times that we'll remember,
Breaking the city's sight together,
Finally, it's our time now!"

And the lead singer looks a little like the Kid, Timmy Lincecum (Lincecum is better looking, though), so the Giants could do something like copy the band's music video and have Lincecum lip sync the song and do a dance for the video. Or if he don't want to do that, perhaps the Giants could commission a special video with the band and Lincecum together doing something, or, even better, perhaps change some of the lyrics to make it Giants specific, just shell out some of that money they were thinking of spending on Manny. They could even have them come in after a game for a concert, extra for the fans.

Here are two YouTube vids of the band, for your viewing pleasure:
Video One shows lyrics
Video Two shows lyrics
Official Music Video inspired by "The Graduate" with its iconic ending

Buyer Beware: Matt Holliday

With the Giants offense still chugging along like the little engine that could, many fans have been crying for more offense, of course, not thinking of the consequences of that, which is the number of top prospects we would have to give up to get said stud hitter.

Matt Holliday has been one of the names thrown out, and I was listening to 860, the A's radio station, where they were extolling how good he was previously, and thus teams would ignore what he has done this season, and remember how good he was before joining the A's, how being in a good lineup would cure his ills, plus maybe returning to the NL.

Not Really

I am going to dispell that specious logic and hopefully discourage people from overpaying for Holliday now:

Career-road: .280/.351/.449/.800, with 48 HR in 1467 AB, 31 AB/HR
2009-road: .280/.374/.402/.776, with 4 HR in 164 AB, 41 AB/HR
2009-home: .262/.370/.426/.795, with 4 HR in 141 AB, 35 AB/HR

Those all look pretty similar, no? His numbers in 2009, whether road or home, look like they are within range of what he has produced during his career on the road. Here is his career home (and that includes that bit above in Oakland):

Career-home: .348/.417/.624/1.042, with 88 HR in 1494 AB, 17 AB/HR

Which only goes to show how strong the Coors Stadium effect is on hitters (and negatively so on pitchers). Holliday is a very average hitter who is probably going to earn $15-20M per season with the contract Boras will get him but should only be getting $10-12M per season.

Player Analysis Tip: Look to the Road

This is what I've been advocating here on my site (and everywhere I post) regarding the better way to evaluate hitters and pitchers. This is why I've been putting the kibosh on every talk I see about trading for the Rangers' Hank Blalock, because he's crap outside of their home stadium. Holliday, while not crap, is at best an average hitting corner outfielder outside of Coors Stadium, with his .800 OPS lifetime in the majors outside of Coors. To give you some perspective, Fred Lewis has hit approximately that the past two seasons in SF, which is a neutral stadium that favors flyball pitchers and disadvantages left-handed hitters (though oddly, Lewis, Pablo, and Ishikawa have been much better at home so far and Schierholtz slightly better at home; that would explain our great home record and poor road record).

The thing is, a players career stats over emphasizes their home stats relative to their road stats. It would be like taking a poll of 100 people, where over half of them are Americans, and saying that the survey results represents the feelings worldwide, when Americans represent maybe 5% of the world's population. Yet I have seen some sabers not get this and argue that it is real data and must be included.

Ideally, yes, for better analysis, you would include his home stats with his road stats, using a portion of his home numbers, so that his career numbers is not overweighted with his home stats. But that is complicated to do and not easily obtainable from looking at his career splits stats.

This is like the case of OPS vs. OBPxSLG. Ideally, OBPxSLG is the number you compare hitters with, but OPS, by simply adding OBP to SLG, is an easy way to visually obtain a comparable measure for comparison. That same concept, I believe, applies to using a players road stats to compare with other players, for a rough idea of their comparability. This works for both hitters stadiums like Coors, and severe pitchers stadiums like Dodger Stadium and Petco. Then one can see that Blalock and Holliday are not really as good a hitter as they appear via their career stats and Chan Ho Park and Jeff Weaver are not really as good a pitcher as they appear via their career stats.

And you can verify this by looking at the players home/road splits for every season. Some players are all over the place, but for the most part, a players road stats don't vary much from what they perform when they move to a more neutral home park. Just check out players who have moved a number of places, like Park and Weaver, and you will see that their road numbers are pretty consistent, and that when they play at a more neutral park, their home numbers will be consistent with their road numbers.

Giants Thoughts

Don't overpay for average players like Holliday who benefited from home parks that boosted their overall career stats greatly. Preferably, I would rather the Giants just play with the cards that they have and not look outside, unless it is one of those trades that Sabean prefers to do, which is to get a player they want with prospects that they don't think are worth keeping. It has worked for the most part over the years.

I think we have prospects we can give opportunities to for all our positions. At 1B, Ishikawa, Bowker, and Guzman are good ones to check out, and if McPherson can ever get off the DL. At 2B, we have Frandsen and Burriss, plus Downs. In the OF, Schierholtz, Bowker, and Lewis, in about that order, plus maybe EME.

The only position I would be OK with the Giants going outside to get a high priced vet for minimal prospects is 2B, if I'm forced to accept one, where, while I would love to give Frandsen a chance, I will understand trying to upgrade there. There is alway 2010 to give Frandsen another chance, it is not like he was the best hitter ever in AAA or the minors, just that he has performed at every level coming up, and that deserves the opportunity to try to do that at the major league level.

2B is the most obvious upgrade, Ishikawa has shown some at 1B, Schierholtz and Bowker some in the OF.

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