Friday, June 11, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 32-27: Need to Kick Some A's

While the ending of the road trip was totally disappointing, losing a 4 run lead, then coming back to lead again by two before losing the game as the bullpen totally blew it, the Giants still came out of the road trip with a 4-3 record, which is what you want to see on the road, .500 or above, while you try to win 2 of 3 at home.  That works out to roughly 94-95 wins in a season. Now they come home for a short homestand with three against the A's and three against the Orioles.

After the beatdown they got in Oakland last month, getting swept, the Giants should be looking to return the favor now that the games will be in San Francisco.   They appear to be catching the A's at the right time.  The sweep of the Giants started the A's 7-1 streak, but then they followed up with a 3-7 streak to give back much of that.  Meanwhile, the Giants offense is starting to come back, as well as Lincecum and Zito, and the A's face our top 3 starters.

Game 1:  Gio Gonzalez vs. Lincecum

MLB info:
Athletics: Gonzalez tossed a career-high 117 pitches Sunday, in a 5-4 win over the Twins in Oakland. He finished seven innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out four. He has now thrown a quality start in seven of his past nine outings. Gonzalez turned in the finest effort of his career the last time he faced the Giants on May 22. He tossed eight shutout innings and retired the final 20 batters he faced, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out five, but didn't get a chance to close out the game, as manager Bob Geren elected to go with closer Andrew Bailey in the ninth.
Giants: After going 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA in a span of three outings, Lincecum improved considerably last Sunday at Pittsburgh, where he worked seven innings and allowed three runs and six hits while walking two and striking out six. Lincecum, who allowed 10 home runs last year, already has yielded five. He didn't face Oakland in this year's previous Interleague series and is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in four career starts against the A's.
Lincecum is back but Gio had the Giants number big time last time and has been on a streak of well pitched games.  Should be an even match, could go either way but I have to lean towards Lincecum on this one.

Game 2:  Ben Sheets vs. Zito

MLB info:
Athletics: Sheets took his second straight loss on Monday, 4-2 to the Angels. Sheets delivered his eighth quality start in 13 outings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits over six innings. He didn't walk a batter for the first time all year and struck out five. Sheets has made two career starts at AT&T Park, going 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA. Righties are batting .293 against him, while lefties are hitting .245.
Sheets has been coming around, in terms of peripherals, after a poor start, while Zito started great, was ordinary for most of May, but looking better again in June if you blame his bad game in Cincinnati on the tough ballpark, as his peripherals was OK, just bad luck with balls falling in.  Both have been good and bad in recent games, so it is a coin toss which one will show up for this game.

Should be a tough game, but I would have to lean towards Sheets, who had his one great start against the Giants this season, and has generally had better peripherals than Zito in their latest starts.  But Zito's one big plus is that he's been a much better pitcher in SF than on the road over last season and this season, plus he seems to be so that is why I think the game should be close.

Game 3:  Vince Mazzaro vs. Cain

MLB info:
Athletics: The 23-year-old righty picked up his second consecutive win on Wednesday, in a 10-1 win over the Angels. Mazzaro allowed an earned run on five hits over five innings, while striking out three. Manager Bob Geren gave Mazzaro the start after Brett Anderson returned to the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his left arm. Righties are batting .405 against Mazzaro this season, while lefties are hitting .242. In two career starts against the Giants, Mazzaro is 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA.
Mazzaro has been mostly down this season before having a nice outing in his last start, only the second of the season and the first was over a month before.  In addition, the Giants have beat on him in his career.  Meanwhile, Cain has been as hot as any Giants pitcher in franchise history and has dominated the A's in the past, including his start last month where he lost 1-0 on an unearned run.  Giants should win this game.

Giants Thoughts

The A's always play the Giants tough, no matter what each team's overall circumstances have been.  This season is no different.  The Giants ideally want to return the value and sweep the A's in this series, but that's going to be tough, having to face both Gonzalez and Sheets.  But winning the series definitely seems doable, despite going against two of the A's better starters that they have available now in Gonzalez and Sheets.

The starting pitchers seem to be in a good and/or improving spot and the offense has been boosted by the additions of Buster Posey (Sabean said that Posey is up to stay now) and Pat Burrell, giving the lineup a break from the miseries of Bengie Molina (who apparently had been suffering from a foul tip injury that required a cortisone shot last week) and Aaron Rowand (who is running out of excuses as Bochy took him out of a couple of games, which worked as he came back and homered yesterday;  looks like he needs periodic rest to hit well).

And that is the thing for the A's this season, they actually have a number of good starters but Brett Anderson, who they shelled out a LOT of money in the pre-season, tying up his pre-free agency years, has been on and off the DL and, surpirse, Duchscherer is on the DL again.  And Cahill, who has been among their best, missed  almost a month of starts already but is back now.

BP Bias Against Giants

Still, that is one thing I don't get.  The Giants are basically following Baseball Prospectus's blue print for winning the playoffs - high K/9 staff, good closer, defense, they even have some team speed - but BP called for Sabean's head in their recent annual (I've been meaning to write on this, hope this don't start a run on the annual by Giants fans), thus ensuring that the Giants will never, ever hire them to do any consulting (though I'm guessing that is why they feel able to call for his head, because the Giants probably has brushed them off previously, perhaps brusquely, and they have nothing to lose).

Meanwhile, the A's continue to go for pitchers who are effective in keeping their ERA low but not via the strikeout - Giants lead the majors right now with 7.9 K/9 while A's are below the league average at 6.9 K/9 in 20th place, and even their closer Andrew Bailey is a finesse pitcher, with a 5.6 K/9.  Wilson is 8th in WXRL, BP's metric to measure closer coolness, and Bailey is not even in the top 30, meaning that there are non-closers who are better than he has been.  And the Giants are #1 in team defensive efficiency, though the A's are pretty good too, 6th.  The Giants are all set up, according to BP's study in their book, Baseball Between the Numbers, to maximize their chances in the playoffs.  Perhaps BP doesn't read (or worse, don't believe) their own book.

I have found this irrationality with BP before as well, regarding the Giants and have written on it before.  One in particular that sticks in my mind is that their draft analysis tells them that the Giants made a mistake in drafting Matt Cain with their first round pick (because he's a high school player, and because he's a pitcher) and yet when they criticized the Giants for punting draft picks they praised their pick of Matt Cain with their first round pick previously.  Perhaps they forgot about Arturo McDowell, Tony Torcato, Nate Bump, Kurt Ainsworth, Jerome Williams, Boof Bonser, Todd Linden, Brad Hennessey, and David Aardsma.

Draft is a Crapshoot, Even in the First Round

I am going to repeat this until everyone gets it.  As I showed in my draft analysis, the draft is a crapshoot, even when you are picking in the first round.  The odds of finding a good player when you are drafting in the last third of the first round, because that is the range where teams competitive for a division title drafts in, is roughly 1 in 9 or 10.  I think this list shows the validity of that statement.  Even if you are picking in the 6-10 range, the odds are around 1 in 4:  much better, but still not the sure thing that so many people think the draft is.

I know some will blame Sabean for the poor results, but look on's draft information, here is the Giants #1 picks, just change the selection to any other team who has been playing regularly in the playoffs and you will see this is true.

Look at the Yankees, for example.   Over the same time period, since 1997, for picks in the 21-30 range, they have selected:  Tyrell Godwin, Andy Brown, David Walling, David Parrish, John-Ford Griffin, Eric Duncan, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, Gerrit Cole.

Or the D-gers, since 1997, picks 21-30:  Glenn Davis, Bubba Crosby, Ben Diggins, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, Blake DeWitt, Avery Morris, Chris Withrow.  As much as people have been in love with Loney, look at his stats at 1B the last three seasons:  looks almost as bad as the firstbasemen the Giants have had, don't it?   If I didn't know better, it would look like JT Snow left the Giants, changed his name to JA Loney, and joined the D-gers.

And for those who complain that the Giants don't play their young players, Blake DeWitt is an example of what happens when you play young players before they are ready for the majors: they don't hit that well.  At least with the vets you have the possibility that he might hit well again because he did that in the recent past.

With a young player, there is the illusion of hope that he might hit well, for the average fan.  But when you look at his minor league stats, and understand that it needs to be adjusted downward due to the level of competition (think of adult you playing basketball against Urkel when he was 12th), it is not so surprisingly.  Giants position prospects have been more like DeWitt than they have like Kemp.  And as one can see, so has most of LA's prospects too.  It is just very hard to find a good player via the draft, even more so when you are winning and competing for the playoffs.

I'm sure there are people out there who are saying "I told you so" regarding Buster Posey.  But the fact is that his MLE for April was not that great, around low 700 OPS.  He would have had a slow start with the Giants where he was in terms of preparation and readiness to hit major league pitching.  He would have struggled and then might have started pressing and changing things.

Instead he stayed in the minors to figure things out without the pressure of being "The Man" in the lineup.  He didn't start heating up until May, took a pause in the middle of the month, then got  hot again, at which time the Giants brought him up to face a pitcher he whupped in the minors earlier this season.  That gave him confidence at the start and sometimes you just need that early on to keep you doing things the way you can, instead of over analyzing yourself, as many prospects seem to do when they first encounter failure at the major league level.

The Art of Failure

It is like what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his article on choking and the art of failure.  This is a perfect description of what happens to people in stressful situations and why closers are a breed apart from others.  Instead of using the muscle memory that they honed in endless practice to become as good as they are to reach that point, they start thinking about their physical movement, and at that point they have lost the battle because when that happens, the body goes from autopilot to the skill level you had when you were first learning.

It is what has plagued Giants position prospects, I'm sure, over the years.  I know for certain that Travis Ishikawa has suffered from this.  You can read between the lines when he is discussing how he learned to hit better once he put his faith in God and stopped thinking about success and failure:  just see ball, hit ball.  I think he has made good progress on this because he has been a good bat from off the bench this season, so I hope they keep him to platoon with Posey next season.

I believe that is the difference between AAAA players and major leaguers as well, the pressure just gets to the AAAA and they can't make that leap.  If there was a psychological test that the Giants could give to prospects that they are considering for the draft that could separate out those who has that "no problem" attitude, that could help our development efforts as it would reduce the number of them who stall out as they rise up the system.  I don't know if that is possible, but if the Giants could figure out such a test, I think that would be an investment that can be leveraged multi-fold and return exponential returns if that gets you, say, one more good prospect per draft.

I am also just as certain that this is what affected Zito while he was pitching poorly in the early years of his contract.  He was thinking about his mechanics instead of just pitching, which is clear from the articles on his revival this season, as he made the point that this season he stopped worrying about the expectations that others had for him and started pitching for fun:  get ball, pitch ball.


  1. Hey OGC,

    I agree with you that the success rate for first round draft picks tails off sharply after the top 5 and even more sharply after the top 10-15. I do think it's possible for a team with a solid drafting philosophy and great scouting to improve those odds enough to make a difference, so I guess I disagree that its a total crapshoot.

    Gobrocks wrote an interesting shadow draft over on I basically agree with what he did. If you are drafting at the end of the first round, it makes some sense to load up on high ceiling guys for the first 5-6 rounds and be willing to spend above slot for the later round picks. Then, you hope that 1 or 2 from each draft become impact players.

    Over on my blog, I made a crack about Gary Brown reminding me a lot of Dan Gladden. Although we all hope for a lot more than Dan Gladden from our first round picks, getting a Dan Gladden at pick #24 would be pretty darn good compared to the average #24 over the years.

  2. Totally agree with you DrB. That was my hope for this draft, that since Sabean intimated that they would be spending, I though that maybe the Giants would do more of those overslot signings like the other teams (NYY, BOS, LAA) had been doing in previous years. They obviously didn't. You get enough of the high ceiling lottery tickets, one of them will hit sooner than later.

    Yes, I recall your crack. Yes, getting a Dan Gladden would still be pretty darn good at #24, any pick really, as you need guys like him to fill up the lineup and complement your big hitters like Sandoval and Posey.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Wellemeyer officially DLed, Joe Martinez called up, presumably he will start if he is not used in relief between now and Tuesday.

    Else Bumgarner might get the call as his suspension for arguing with an umpire, charging the ump (held back by teammates), then chucking the ball to CF, would be over by then (not sure what the point of the suspension is if he doesn't miss a start).

    Also, Buster Posey batting 3rd in exclusive right-handed lineup, probably the first of the season as it was hard to do until we got Burrell. Sandoval batting 7th, probably because LHP have been giving him fits (while he's a switch hitter, he is a natural lefty).

  4. I hope that when OCG said Ishi could platoon with Posey NEXT season, he didn't mean that P should continue playing 1b regularly--except to give him a respite from catching now and again, and yet to have his bat in the lineup.

  5. Yes, campanari, ogc sez that Posey is suppose to be our starting catcher next season, but on the days he rest from catcher and bats at 1B, those days Ishikawa sits, essentially a platoon if they play Posey at 1B when there is a starting LHP.

  6. A couple more thoughts on the draft:

    By choosing Scott Boras as his agent, Gary Brown has already signalled that he does not want to settle for slot money, let alone below-slot. This suggests that he's the guy the Giants really thought was the best pick for this spot rather than a signability pick. This says something about Brown or the Giants, I'm not sure which.

    Opening day on a new round of international signings is coming up on July 2. The Giants are rumored to be in on a couple of the higher priced prospects. If they did hold back a tad in the draft to keep $$$ available for signing international players, I'm on board. Of course, I would advocate for a larger draft budget while staying just as active in the international market, but that's stretching realism just a bit.

  7. Yes, that was something that struck me when he was drafted but I didn't touch on, thanks for bringing it up DrB.

    Scott Boras as his agent pretty much guarantees no signing until the last day, and he's probably angling for a lot more money than he's slotted for. Since the Giants went over slot for Wheeler, which was unexpected, that means that overslot does not scare them off, so that is a good point DrB.

    And to his point, that implies that Brown was who they were targeting.

    From this draft, that makes a lot of sense. They drafted a number of CFers in this draft - Brown, Parker, Jones, Lofton, in first 9 rounds plus Austin Southall who is a prep who fell to the 19th round probably due to signability concens - and that is the one area where the Giants don't really have a clear heir apparent coming up the system, though Francisco Peguero and Darren Ford got a lot of notice in spring training but have disappointed so far in the minors, and Wendell Fairley was suppose to be a bit of a prospect there too, though now he's playing LF, so they might be preparing him for a utility OF role.

    Good point also about the Giants maybe saving money for international free agents. Even if there are players who fall due to signability reasons, if the Giants don't think that they are worthy enough to pay that much money to, then I would prefer that they pass on them too. Just because you pay them $2-4M in later rounds does not mean that they are going to pan out as a good starter.

    And as I noted in other posts, there are a couple of top international free agents that the Giants are reportedly pursuing, and if they can get one or two of them signed, that would, in my mind, take the place of them trying to sign signability picks with later picks.

    Again, just because they fell due to signability concerns does not necessarily mean that they are sure thing prospects in the Giants minds, at least. Southall appears to be one of those, so at least they did draft one of those (I assume he is one because in the MLB draft tracker, even though he's picked in the 19th round, he actually has a description in the tracker:

    "Comments: Southall didn't face the best competition this spring, so it made it a little difficult to evaluate him. He did hold his own at the East Coast Showcase last summer, a sign that he can rise to the level of better players. He has a strong arm from the outfield and has worked hard to get his body into better shape.

    At the plate, he has some raw power to the pull side. It might take him a while to get there, but he has the chance to be a decent big-leaguer some day."

    Two international players the Giants are reportedly pursuing are Luis Heredia, a Mexican RHP (reported guess of $2M to sign him) and Eskarlin Vasquez, Dominican RF with a strong arm, good power ($2M+ to sign). I also recall that there was a Cuban pitcher who recently defected that they could be pursuing as well. Good to see some pitchers in the mix, we'll eventually need them and at 16 YO, it should take them a while to reach us. Seeds that hopefully will grow to a good player in 6-8 years.

  8. I believe the GIants did sign a Cuban P, Reiner Roibal, or something like that. I hadn't heard they were in on another one, but there are boatoads of Cuban players defecting lately so I haven't really been able to keep track.



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