Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Report: Molina signs with Giants for $4.5M

Breaking news, here is the link, which I found on McCovey Chronicles. Quite a scoop for CBS-KPIX!

Giants Thoughts

Obviously, this means Buster Posey will be in AAA for most of the season, at least the early part, and Molina/Whiteside will be our backstops for the first half of 2010. Posey could then come up mid-season and Molina would be either sharing the starting position with him, or traded away with Posey taking over (probably not traded though, just noting the possibility).

This is exciting news, as I like Molina, but the caveat is that his OPS dipped a lot last season. Hopefully that is because he became a father for the first time and was missing a lot of sleep because he was kept busy taking care of the baby. If he can return to his former level of performance, plus provide a nice bat in the 6th spot (I think it'll be Huff 4th, DeRosa 5th, and Molina 6th), oh what the heck:

1) Rowand
2) Sanchez
3) Sandoval
4) Huff
5) DeRosa
6) Molina
7) Renteria
8) Schierholtz

They might swap Renteria and Schierholtz since Renteria is the vet and would be better able to handle batting 8th more than a prospect. Heck, if Renteria is healthy, he could bat 6th and Molina 7th or 8th.

This probably also means that the Giants are done signing hitters. Despite what people say about the Giants management, they have tried to give their young hitters a chance to prove themselves, and with this move, only RF is unspoken for, with Schierholtz the expected winner but battling with Bowker, who should give him a good run for the money, particularly if he can continue to get on base like he did in AAA.

However, that does not preclude picking up some hitters via a minor league contract. One hitter in particular I would hope the Giants kick the tires on is Eric Byrnes, who was recently let go by the D-backs, despite the $11M that they still owe him for 2010. He would be a much better backup than Andre Torres: while also playing all the OF positions and a RHH, Byrnes is a much better hitter, hits for more power, steals bases much better than Torres (much higher success rate in majors, 85%, than Torres compiled in minors, 75%), the only thing Torres is better is defense and at least Byrnes have been a good defensive outfielder when healthy.

And that is the key, whether he is healthy. But he should be willing to take a minor league contract so that the Giants don't have to clear a spot for him on the 40-man roster because he's getting $11M from the D-backs anyway. Plus, the Giants are his childhood team, it would be a dream come true for him to make the team.

And if healthy, he should be able to give Torres a run for the money in spring training for a backup position, which he acknowledged in a recent interview in the Chronicle is what he is now given the past two years, a backup. And if he made the Giants, he would be able to provide both power, speed, and defense off the bench, and across the OF, as he could play all three positions.

In addition, he could push Rowand in 2010. If healthy, he could take over starting in CF for long stretches if Rowand gets into one of his deep slumps again, like he did in 2008 and 2009. At minimum, Bochy could give Rowand the rest he said he wanted to give him more of in 2010 by starting Byrnes in CF.

And Torres, despite the fanboy love he has engendered with a subset of Giants fans, is not going to repeat his 2009 performance. He struck out like he was a power hitter and his BABIP was unsustainable even for the best hitters in MLB history, let alone a backup journeyman like Torres. Byrnes, if healthy, would be a better backup, by heads and shoulders over Torres.

But, if you haven't guessed yet, Byrnes has to prove to be healthy.


  1. hey obsessive...just wanted to say good stuff on your blog. Always appreciate your insight man. keep it up.

    I like this signing a lot too. Molina's given us a consistent average of 15 homeruns a season. And he'll remain decent offensively despite being a year older. Our pitchers have good rapport with him.

    As much as fans dislike how he clogs the basepaths, I'm a fan. Him coming back says a lot about his desire to play here, given that he turned down more money to play in NY for a one year contract.

    Hoping we give byrnes a shot too.

  2. Isn't anyone else concerned how old we have gotten? The ages of the lineup are:
    Rowand 32
    Sanchez 32
    Sandoval 23
    Huff 33
    DeRosa 35
    Molina 35
    Renteria 35
    Schierholtz 26

    And don't you think the Giants are going to sign Eric Byrnes, 33, and he will probably beat out Nate Schierholtz. I feel like this is the Dusty Baker/Barry Bonds era all over again.

  3. Thanks Anon. Molina clogging the paths lower in the order is acceptable given his power, but it is unacceptable at cleanup.

    Still, it was not like we were going into each season expecting to compete for the division title, so I felt "so what if it is not perfect, the more we lose, the better the draft pick we get." I was OK with that tradeoff. And, it was not like we had a legitimate cleanup hitter until Sandoval starting pounding the homers in June either.

    And it turns out that there are incentives on the deal so that Molina could earn another $1.5M, so there is the strong chance that he might earn more than he would have made in NY, at least for 2010and perhaps for 2011. It is still unclear what NY might have offered him, but right now it looks like only a one year at $5.5M plus vesting option, that could have resulted in a contract for 2011.

    For basically the same money, why not stay with the team that you were with last year, it was not like he wanted to leave, he just wanted more money and more years.

    And he probably figures with an improving economy, he could still get a contract worth as much as the vesting option, and perhaps more if there is a team looking for a starting catcher, and usually there is someone.

  4. Thanks for the comment Dave. You gave me the impetus to create a Table of Contents for my business plan series which explains a lot of concepts that I tout here, but now realize that perhaps new readers are not aware of.

    Here is the URL: http://obsessivegiantscompulsive.blogspot.com/2009/09/hey-neukom-my-giants-business-plan-toc.html

    Now, regarding your question, please read the entries on Good Enough Offense and Great Defense. Also read this post regarding success in the playoffs: http://obsessivegiantscompulsive.blogspot.com/2007/08/how-to-win-in-playoffs-according-to-bp.html

    When you build a team like I suggest in my business plan - and the Giants have been following some elements of that for years now - the lineup don't really matter other than it has to be at least good enough offensively to win with your team's overall defense(meaning pitching and fielding; see my Great Team Defense post for why). Basically, the better your pitching, the worse your offense can be and still win 90 games in a season. With one of the best defense (pitching and fielding) in the majors? You can have one of the worse offenses and still win. See last year for a good example of that.

  5. The point is to win with our young pitching staff. Obviously, it would be better to do that with young hitters too, but you cannot rebuild an entire roster from the draft and international free agents(unlike what Boof and others thinks), there is not that much clearly obvious talent in the baseball draft to do that.

    Thus, this is a classic economics problem: limited resources forcing you to make choices in your operations. If you draft mainly hitters, then where are you going to get the pitchers? Free agency. If you draft a balance between the two, you will still need to sign free agents to fill up the lineup and the pitching staff. If you draft mainly pitchers, again, must go free agency to get hitters.

    Since this is the Giants basic strategy, drafting pitchers, they have to sign hitters and they are going to be on the older side.

    As I showed in the Great Defense post, when you have good pitching, you need portionally less offense to win 90 games. When you have poor pitching, you need portionally more offense. Thus the economically efficient way to built a team is to focus on pitching, and buy hitters to fill out your lineup, because the draft is a crapshoot unless you focus on one particular talent. I explain this more in Good Enough Offense.

    Age don't matter as long as we get the offense we need. With the pitching we got, we can pick up average type hitters like Sanchez, DeRosa, Rowand, Huff, Molina, Renteria, and should they fail, we have OK enough prospects to fill certain positions, and those we don't, we have them on the bench, like Uribe and Ishikawa this year, and Uribe and Schierholtz last year.

    Look at how badly the offense did last year and still we won games. And that was with a lot of failures in the lineup in terms of production (2B, SS, C, CF, RF, 1B), that is what pushed the Giants to get all these vets, the young guys were not producing.

    But they realize the need to give their young players a chance, and that is why I don't think Byrnes would be the starter immediately if we sign him.

    Here are examples. They made space for both Niekro at 1B and Ellison in CF a couple of years ago. They saved 3B for Frandsen the year he blew out his Achilles. They kept Lewis in the lineup even when Roberts came back and he was the starter last year until he pissed off management somehow. They saved space for Sandoval and Ishikawa last year. With Schierholtz and Bowker around, I have to think that they will keep RF open for the two to battle for it, but would keep Byrnes around in case either falters, or Rowand, or DeRosa.

    He already said that he's OK with backup, so the Giants should sign him and tell him he is competing for a backup. Seeing how they handled Frandsen last year, they would be hesitant to give the starting job to Byrnes anyway, but could go to him mid-season if the young guys aren't doing it and he proved to be healthy.

  6. This is not the Bonds era anymore. That team was built to try to win around him, but as you can see in major league history, you cannot win around one great player, even one as great as Barry.

    As I've been writing since the Giants said good-bye to Bonds and a newspaper writer wondered what the Giants identity would be: the pitching staff is our main focus going forward, plain and simple. In fact, the writer questioned the Giants lack of planning for the future, when again, it was clear then, it is clear now: pitching. (see this URL for a discussion of that by me: http://obsessivegiantscompulsive.blogspot.com/2007/12/giants-plan.html)

    That has been clear with their focus on pitching in the draft. That has been clear with how they have kept all the good pitchers and not trade them away. That is clear with how our team is built.

    You can't put spare pieces around even a Bonds and win, that much was proven.

    But with the team's focus on pitching throughout all its operations, not only do they have a great pitching staff, they also have some good pitching coming up in the minors as well, with Bumgarner and Wheeler as the stars, but a lot of good pitchers who could contribute in the back of the rotation and in relief if they fail there.

    As I note in my plan, there are great economies of scale by focusing on pitching, whereas that is not true for hitters: if a position player fails, he is done and at best a utility guy, which is not that valuable on a team, but if a starting pitcher fails, the talent that got him that far is still there, he might be able to contribute as a reliever (and very well, see Jeremey Affeldt), or, in the best case, as a closer (see Joe Nathan for a great example of that, and now Brian Wilson).

    Focusing on pitchers has enabled the Giants to field a pitching staff that is almost all home-grown and highly productive enough that they could win a lot of games even the worse offense around. They just now need to build an offense.

    As a contrast, look at how the Brewers have done by focusing more on hitters and less on pitchers. They had Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, Casey McGeHee, Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, and Cory Hart, plus Yovani Gallardo and Trevor Hoffman in 2009. They couldn't break .500. This despite being one of the best scoring teams in the NL with 4.85 RS/game (3rd in NL). It was just that their pitching staff sucked overall (2nd worse ERA in NL).

    They are almost the exact opposite of us, a mirror, in terms of rank in the NL:

    Offense: MIL 3rd; SF 13th
    Defense: MIL 15th; SF 1st

    Shows how little margin there is, SF's defense beat out MIL's offense, and SF's offense beat out MIL's defense, in terms of rankings but not by much.

    Let's try the exact opposite of SF:

    Offense: PHI was 1st at 5.06 RS
    Defense: PIT was 13th at 4.77 RA

    That theoretic team's winning perceptage is .525, or 85 wins. That is roughly the Giants Pythagorean for 2009, which was 86wins.

    As I've been saying, the Giants look to be good for the next decade or so, with the rotation we got, plus Bumgarner coming up soon and Wheeler coming up in a few years, and I think that the pitcher the Giants will trade away to get a bundle of top prospects is Jonathan Sanchez, next off-season, and that will help fuel our excellence into the mid and late 2010's.

  7. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/im-with-popo-molina-returns-to-the-giants



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