Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 Giants Non-Roster Invitees: 22 this season

This was blogged on by Henry Schulman last week, been meaning to get to it. Here is the list of names he reported on:
  • Denny Bautista (RHP; was in majors before, I assume signed minor league contract))
  • Santiago Casilla (RHP; former A's reliever, signed to minor league contract recently)
  • Rafael Cova (RHP)
  • Steven Edlefsen (RHP; BA rated him as best slider in 2008 annual)
  • Eric Hacker (RHP)
  • Osiris Matos (RHP; we dropped him from 40-man so apparently nobody claimed him and returned to us)
  • Tony Pena Jr. (RHP; was in majors before, I assume signed minor league contract)
  • Felix Romero (RHP)
  • Dan Turpen (RHP)
  • Craig Whitaker (RHP; top pick, been working his way up long time)
  • Craig Clark (LHP)
  • Clayton Tanner (LHP; local kid, been doing well, rising up, good luck!)
  • Steve Holm (C; was dropped from 40-man last season when Whiteside brought up)
  • Jonny Monell (C)
  • Hector Sanchez (C; one of our better prospects)
  • Jackson Williams (C; one of our sandwich draft picks, good/great skills, bad bat so far)
  • Ehire Adrianza (SS; reported as major league ready SS skills, needs to develop hitting, still young)
  • Brandon Crawford (SS; noted as SS of the future by Giants brass this off-season)
  • Nick Noonan (2B/SS; hype has died down but this past season was first year he showed hitting discipline that scouts raved about when drafted, I'm very encouraged by his good improvement late in the season, but he needs to continue showing that)
  • Wendell Fairley (CF; has been up and down as a prospect, but it's a good sign that they are bringing him up to spring training this year)
  • Roger Kieschnick (RF; had very good first full pro season, still strikes out too much but shows all the skills he was advertised to have, very encouraging first year)
  • Thomas Neal (LF, not RF as Schulman noted; breakout season, nice recovery from injury from a couple of years back, could be in majors soon if he continues hitting like that but in AA, remniscent of Pablo's rise)
Giants Thoughts

I totally and vehemently disagree with Henry Schulman's assertion that the Giants need to "develop three or four Pablo Sandovals and stick them on the field at the same time." It would obviously help, and I, of course, wouldn't mind that as that would give us one of the great teams in the history of the majors, but that is not critical to the team's success over the next few seasons. Perhaps this is why fans are so upset over the lineup, because reporters lead them to think that having so many great hitters (and Sandoval is a great hitter) in the lineup is a requirement to be successful every season in making the playoffs.

Heck, we didn't even have three or four Sandovals the year we went to the World Series (Bonds and Kent only, nobody else even broke 800 OPS).

Here is how special Sandoval was in 2009: only 6 hitters in the NL had a OPS as high as Sandoval's .943, only 4 hitters in the AL, for a total of 10 hitters in the majors, out of roughly 400 hitters. There are not that many players like Sandoval in the majors. So, no, we don't need to develop three or four Pablo Sandovals, that would be setting the bar waaay too high.

As I noted in my business plan series (linked to the side), when you have a great pitching staff, the offense does not have to be that good to win 90 games. With our defense (pitching and fielding) last season, we only needed to score 4.30 runs per game to reach 90 wins. That would have placed us comfortably 11th in the NL in 2009 (average runs scored was 4.43), behind the Washington Nationals which was 10th with 4.38 runs scored. With an average offense, we would have won 92 games.

Using Bill James projections plus our projected lineup, the Giants should score over 4.5 runs per game. To win 92 games averaging 4.5 runs scored, our defense would need a runs allowed average of 3.83, just slightly above last year's 3.77.

But James's projections tend to be on the high side, from what I recall. CHONE won for "best" projection for their 2008 projections, if I remember right. Using CHONE's projections, the Giants should score over 4.4 runs per game. If they did that, the Giants defense would have to allow 3.73 runs per game, or slightly better than last year's figure.

And I think that it is safe to assume something similar to last year's. Lincecum should be about the same. Any regression by Cain and/or Zito should be offset by Sanchez pitching well for a season (4.24 ERA overall but 5.54 ERA as starter before no-hitter and 3.46 ERA starting from no-hitter, and even without the no-hitter, he had a 3.83 ERA afterward, plus maturation and confidence and development for 2010, when he'll be 27 YO) and improvements in the #5 starter, whether Bumgarner or whoever, as our other starters (other then the four we have for 2010) had a 4.62 ERA collectively in 2009. Defensively, we take a big hit with Huff at 1B, but DeRosa and Sanchez are pretty good in the OF and 2B, respectively, which should balance things there. Plus Renteria's arm should be better with the surgery and Sandoval should be better with one more season of experience.

But I do agree vociferously with most of the rest of Schulman's post. "The Giants have taken the first step with some good position-playing drafts." I also agree with the Giants front office assertion that Baseball America was ill-informed when it criticized their system before, particularly in 2007 and 2008 when Sandoval was doing well but BA didn't think enough of him to put him in the Giants Top 30 prospects list.

I also whole heartedly agree that "Fans need some patience." Fans have not been patient. This is a long term process, and worrying that this might be the only year we can capitalize on Lincecum et al is fatalistic and shows lack of confidence, which I suppose is only fitting because these fans show no confidence in Sabean despite the great job he has done with the pitching staff. I, for one, am glad the Giants are taking the long view with regards to their strategy and not signing a Holliday (who I think is being overpaid in any case).

As I've been preaching the past few years, the Giants have been re-building and re-builds are never pretty nor cleanly done. It is never done with just home-grown players, there will always be free agents signed to fill in the gaps that the farm system could not fill. It will not be perfect, there will be mistakes, but you have to look at the big picture and see what team is coming out of the process.

What is coming out is a team dominated by a great pitching rotation, supported by a great bullpen, and has a developing offense, with Sandoval now in there (we have at least 5 more seasons of him) and Posey in the wings, plus a lot of good prospects percolating upward or already trying to make a name for themselves (Schierholtz, Bowker, Ishikawa, Burriss, Frandsen).

People are worried that the Giants won't be able to re-sign their young pitchers beyond our arbitration control because of the large contracts already committed (Zito and Rowand) but here I am putting my trust into Neukom's statement that he will get the money should we ever need it for a player. People have been assuming that applies only to free agents but I would have to think that it would apply to our own players as well, and Lincecum and Cain will be the first recipients of that largess, I believe.

Lastly, I would clarify one statement Schulman noted, that developing position players have not been the Giants forte. That's true if you are looking at the total number of position players developed. But that's not the whole story.

The whole story is that the Giants have been focusing their first round picks mainly on pitchers for the most part since Sabean took over as GM, and particularly after Dick Tidrow took over as head of player personnel. Those picks have the greatest likelihood of becoming a major league player, and even then, when you are winning, those picks become a good starting player around 10% of the time, which is pretty low odds. And they just get lower and lower, already around 1% by only the 4th round.

Picks like Posey (5th) and Wheeler (6th) become good players around 45% of the time, but by the 10th pick (Lincecum and Bumgarner) it has fallen to around 20% success rate for finding good starting players, and by the 21-30th picks, the ones that the playoff teams get, it is around 10%, as noted above.

That is a pretty low success rate, so while it is correct to say that developing position players have not been the Giants forte, there is a huge mitigating factor in that they had not been trying to be successful in developing position players, really, until 2008 when they drafted Buster Posey, Conor Gillaspie, Roger Kieschnick, and Brandon Crawford.

And, if Sandoval continues to hit like he did in 2009, what would you rather have: one Pablo Sandoval or a handful of Mark Teahen's, Bobby Crosby's, Dan Johnson's, Mike Jacob's? I would rather get a great player once in a while who you can't pick up easily via free agency, than a bunch of OK starters who you can pick up easily via free agency.

And Sabean has picked up great players over the years. Kent in 1997. Schmidt in 2001. Cain in 2002. Sandoval in 2003. Lincecum in 2006. And it is looking like Bumgarner in 2007 and Posey in 2008. Plus if Sanchez and Wilson continue doing well, I would add them to the list as well.

Oh, and I totally agree with Schulman that "they will be fun to watch."

8 comments:

  1. Predicting pitching is dangerous business, but I expect it to be about the same as well. I figure Sanchez and Zito (yes Zito) will both be better, and as you point out, the 5th spot will definitely be better.

    Also, remember that as the clock ticks on Lincecum and Cain, so does it on Rowand and Zito. I don't think Rowand is as frightening as people make him out to be, and, being optimistic, if Zito is actually getting a handle on the crafty lefty thing, if nothing else that give other clubs a very different look in a series. I think this bodes well for Sanchez.

    Anyway, excepting pitching, if a team develops one good position player every year, the team can have success forever. So this year, Posey or Nate or both.

    And I have my doubts about the Dodgers and Rockies' ability to win 92.

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  2. Yes, there are always the caveats regarding pitching, but otherwise why bother discussing the future if we are going to be fatalistic about them, right?

    Yeah, I don't see either repeating to win that many games either. LA benefited greatly from Pierre's and Hudson's spurts where they hit like Manny - I wouldn't bet on that happening again. Plus they lost Randy Wolf, a big contributor in 2009, with no one realistically replacing him unless Padilla can somehow resurrect his career. Colletti likes to recycle Giants, and the latest are Justin Miller and Russ Ortiz, while dumping Estes and Schmidt. And I guess that Jamey Carroll is their new 2B? Oh, plus Blake DeWitt, who was not that good in his prior time there. Both Hudson and Belliard went free agent, though both are still unsigned. I can't imagine Hudson coming back, they sat him a lot in September, replacing him with Belliard, couldn't have made him happy.

    COL lost Jason Marquis, which to me is a big hit, despite Jeff Francis coming back (I mean, really, out injured for a whole year and he's expected to match what Marquis did?), Marquis was remarkably effective for them, not sure why they decided to let him go, but good riddance. They also lost Garrett Atkins, who while he wasn't that good last season, has a good performance history and they won't have that as a fall-back position should Stewart falter. And it wasn't like he was particularly great in 2009 either, .228 BA but lots of walks boosted his OBP to OK .322, but 138 K's does not bode well for ever having a high BA (and thus his OBP will probably be low too). And Jason Giambi, he's a reserve PH now, Helton is still around.

    Rowand has not been everything the Giants hyped him to be, nor has he been worth the $12M that we pay him every year, and his performances have been hot and cold, which makes things worse as well. And all that, understandably, rankles a lot of people.

    But we didn't have any viable CF in our system (can you imagine if Lewis was starting in CF?) and he has been about average, which makes him worth in the ballpark of what we have been paying him, so it's not like the Edgardo Alfonzo deal where he wasn't anywhere near average.

    And Zito, pitching like he did in 2009 was all I was really hoping for out of him with this contract, someone solid who eats a lot of innings plus has a good ERA: 26th in the NL, giving us 3 of the top 26 in ERA, 4 of the top 35. If you allocated pitchers to NL teams by ERA, he would rank as a team's #2 starter.

    Not quite earning his contract, but realistically, that was all I was really hoping for over much of his contract. If he can continue pitching this way to the end of his contract (big if, I know), then he could actually be worth much of what we paid him.

    But I understand that the size of both contracts bothers people. The point, though, is that this is the reality, you can moan about how it hamstrung us financially, but if they were at least contributing to our success - Zito was, Rowand less so but was adequate - then at least the money wasn't totally gone to waste, like it was with Alfonzo and Benitez. And, people forgot, Nen too, his was the first big contract that sucked us dry, his contract crippled us from 2003 until his contract mercifully ended. At least Zito and Rowand are contributing something.

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  3. I realize that I didn't finish a thought in my post - was that while Lincecum and Cain are increasing in price, Zito and Rowand are also coming closer to coming off the books.

    You raise the name of Russ Ortiz, which underscores Rowand's value as you say - Rowand has been healthy and good enough to hold his position, which is more than can be said of quite a few free agent signings. And I agree completely about Zito - I think that was his purpose. Lincecum couldn't have been predicted, and while I kind of pshaw at the "veteran" thing, having a media focus in the rotation takes a lot of pressure off of young pitchers. In a perverse way, people moaning about Zito has probably helped everyone else.

    I too am getting tired of the Sabean bashing - there's a point where one wonders if people are really fans of the club or not. Here we have a plausible playoff team, and a pitching staff that is really as good as it looks, and all this happened much sooner than I personally expected.

    If the team's biggest issue is "when does our potential all-star catcher arrive?", there really aren't any issues.

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  4. I agree with most of what is said here--and in general I tend to agree with the obsessiveGaintCompulsive philosophy: pitching, defence and speed. But three possible problems:


    1. It's a bit of a dangerous game to holding the opposition to 3.7 runs a game. Some have suggested our glove work is going to suffer this year; additionally, with pitching staffs you always have to expect a coupl of injuries.

    2. In general I agree with your philosophy of patience. But there's a catch. We currently have the best pitching staff in the majors and perhaps the best staff in San Francisco history (certainly the best since 1964). This kind of pitching won't last forever--and in fact the window of opportunity will start to close after next year when we have to get rid of Cain of The Freak.

    3. I actually feel as optimistic as I've ever felt--and I've been following the Giants since 1972. If they win 92 games, they have a good shot to make the playoffs; if they make the playoffs they will be a team no one will find any joy in playing. We have three potential aces and Zito makes a hellevua number four pitcher, especially if he keeps regaining his old stuff.

    4. My one disappointment is the lack of team speed--as well as the way we keep overlooking Lewis, who still had fairly good numbers last year for leadoff type, despite the fact he was recovering from foot surgery. Historically, the great pitching teams have relied on speed, no? And it makes since. If you're going to play a lot of 3-2 ballgames, you need to be able to manufacture runs from time to time.

    I'd love to hear your responses to all this.

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  5. I'm not sure why we have to get rid of Cain or Lincecum - any pitcher who isn't controlled is going to cost that kind of money. And, as I said, every day Zito and Rowand (and Renteria) are one day closer to the end of their contracts.

    I do agree about the speed, though - it's an old truism that those inside baseball skills grow in importance on a low-scoring team. I'm a bit confused as to why the team didn't err towards speed with Lewis, as you say, and Velez. I don't know if there's something more than "didn't want to bat leadoff" and "won't hit more than .280" to the Lewis story, but I've always liked him. Bochy seems to have issues with discontented players (see Frandsen as well) - I think there's a better solution than simply banishing them.

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  6. Barton, I agree that it's a dangerous game, but it's the game we have to play: we are built on it.

    I don't think defense will suffer that greatly, other than normal vet decline. The main area would be Huff at 1B, but all the other positions should be holding their own or could be even better, particularly since Lewis, Rowand, and Renteria were all considered to have down years defensively in 2009, and DeRosa has been very good defensively in the OF, Renteria had a problem with his elbow that hopefully is fixed, and Rowand, well, I hope he don't decline.

    About injuries, I think that having Bumgarner around helps with that, for I think he can pitch well in the majors, though admittedly not as well as Lincecum or Cain.

    As Marc noted, we are not necessarily getting rid of Cain or The Kid (as I prefer to call him). I think the Giants know what they got, and will make sure to sign them longer term.

    I think that the Giants are trying to move the offensive needle as fast as they can given the availability of free agents and talent via trades. A GM who trades Matt Williams so quickly is not going to wait to pull the trigger if he can better the team now and get good value back.

    Hey, I've been following since 1971! I was one of the few in my school (being in San Leandro, most were A's fans).

    Yeah, I'm also as optimistic as I've ever felt too. I don't think the Giants have had a staff this good since maybe the early McGraw years. Zito at his old good performance level is great to have as your 4th best pitcher. And Bumgarner as #5 is even better. Our rotation is a gauntlet that other teams will fear, no matter who is pitching the first game of the series.

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  7. About team speed, that was what Sabean was trying to do over the years, whether it be the failed Marcus Sanders experiment, getting Velez, the other speedsters in the minors, Burriss, and Lewis, even Rajai Davis (who should regress to mean in 2010, no way he's as good as 2009). He has been talking about how baseball was moving to pitching, defense, and speed for a number of years now.

    But yeah, the team speed component is very lacking right now. Unfortunately, that is not something you can control, necessarily, since the prospects have not developed as hoped.

    And yeah, I've been talking about the Giants moving to a model like the D-gers in the 60's: pitching, defense, and speed (they had Maury Wills).

    But this team is constructed much more on power, particularly HR power, than it is on speed. We have four hitters who can hit 20+ homers in DeRosa, Huff, Molina, and, of course, Sandoval, and Rowand can get near 20, high teens usually, plus Renteria and Sanchez can get low 10's. Hopefully, Schierhholtz or Bowker can deliver high teens homers in RF as well, but we'll see, plus Ishikawa hopefully will get enough AB to deliver around 10 HR off the bench and Uribe might as well. The 2010 Giants are built on the long-ball more than speed.

    But that is part of rebuilding. There will be needs that cannot be rectified that off-season and is saved for the next year to address.

    I was thinking that maybe the Giants could sign Chone Figgins to play LF but then he was a Type A, so I knew that wasn't going to happen.

    So, ideally, we build a speedier offense, but that's going to have to happen over time. And Sabean, as I noted, has been trying to do this with the team, our minors have had a number of significant speedburners over the past 5-7 years. None of them has really gelled yet, though.

    And, as I noted in my business plan links, the BP study found that playoff success is not statistically tied to any offensive measure, even SB.

    And oddly enough, the only one to show some significant is stolen base attempts, not successful stolen bases. That shows that stealing is not key to playoff success, but team speed enough that gets the team to attempt to steal is contributory to the team.

    Baseball Prospectus, if I recall correctly, theorized that this is because you don't do a lot of attempts unless you have team speed. And team speed shows up in taking extra bases on base hits and getting to balls that others can't when fielding.

    So while it would be nice to have team speed, the main thing is to have an offense that can score enough to match up with the pitching. And I think with the additions that the Giants have done, plus the prospects we have as backups at many positions, will help ensure that it does score enough.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lastly, Lewis. I'm conflicted on him. I have liked him as he rose up the minors and the times he has been up in the majors. However, I don't view him as a starter anymore, though hopefully he can be our 4th OF this year, I think that is why they have held onto him.

    Here's why. One of the linchpins on his development has been that "oh, he's not that advanced, but that's OK, he was into football and didn't really focus on baseball." But then once he reaches the majors, he goes, "I don't know where that story comes from, I've been playing baseball forever, it's my first love, I only got into football in high school."

    So, if it wasn't football that held him back, my only conclusion is that despite playing baseball and loving it all his life, he has progressed as far as he can go in terms of understanding the game and he doesn't have the smarts to move it up to another level.

    Add to that, he's already 29 years old, passing his physical peak. And most studies say physical peak is reached ages 27-29. Thus my conclusion is that any gains after that comes from experience and smarts, but I think Lewis has hit his plateau in that regard.

    I like his ability to get on base, but his speed-ability went down in 2009: triples in 2008 became doubles in 2009, and homers became outs, plus he didn't steal as many or as often, nor was as successful. His power-speed rating in baseball-reference.com fell from 12.6 in 2008 to 5.3 in 2009. Good players are in the mid-high teens, the best above 20.

    Then, there was his collapse in June 2009: he hit only .167/.186/.262/.448. In a stronger lineup, maybe we can ignore something like that, but we can't have that coming from any starter or the offense would bog down, particularly up top where he was leading off.

    Then he redeems himself with a strong August before belly-flopping to a .091/.200/.136/.336 in September/October in 22 AB (25 PA). And in PH situations like that, he probably costed us at least 2-3 games that maybe we could have won instead of him making an out.

    So he's declined in one of his key areas of production, and he got a lot of chances in 2009, he's 29, no longer a pup, he has periods where he's not even batting, that's about as bad as a pitcher when your OPS is .448 or worse.

    So I have no problem with Lewis' usage. If this were 2008 again, I might think differently, but he was totally up and down in 2009. If he were only 24-25, I might think differently, but he's 29, he should know better by now.

    Yes, he was recovering from surgery, but that was for removing very painful bunions off his feet that should have been hindering him previously, but now they are gone, so one would think that would basically even out, but he regressed in 2009.

    The problem is not banishing them, the problem is that they are told what they need to do to get out of the doghouse and neither one was able to perform, whether off the bench for Lewis, or Frandsen in the minors or limited chances in the majors.

    I think one or both will make the team as a backup. I think Velez will be DFAed because he can't play CF and Lewis can, and we have plenty who can play 2B. I think someone will pick up Velez and he'll do OK as a backup somewhere, butchering plays even as his speed dazzles.

    Frandsen should get the other MI utility spot because he has no options and Rohlinger has at least one more.

    Lewis should get the other OF utility spot because he could still have a future as a starter for the Giants, depending on how Schierholtz and then Bowker handles starting in RF, while Torres is clearly just a backup OF.

    Of course, I hope that Schierholtz does well, and Lewis therefore sits on the bench and sulks or whatever. He had his chance, it's now Schierholtz's turn.

    ReplyDelete

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