Thursday, July 01, 2010

My reaction to Pending Molina Trade After Sleep

I rushed to get the original post regarding Molina trade out last night.  Baggarly had the more extensive account of the trade with additional posts here and here, but the Merc's RSS feed has been slow to update on my iGoogle reader, while the Chron's is pretty fast.

And I should note here that the trade is still pending, and thus not official, because the MLB has to approve the deal given that Texas is in bankruptcy court.  But that appears to be a formality because it appears that the Rangers might be taking on money due to Molina's larger contract, but since it appears that the Giants are sending money (though unclear if they are covering his bonus payments for games played or not).  Hopefully that will get us a better class of prospect in the player to be named later.

Thank You Bengie

First, I neglected to thank Bengie Molina for his long and productive service to the Giants.  People might not appreciate that he dealt with batting clean-up when he's not a clean-up hitter, but that's a tough job to do, not everybody takes to it when you don't have the classic skills to fill that position.  On top of that, he's the catcher too, dealing with handling the staff as well.

I'm glad that they sent him to a contender plus a team that is doing much better than the Giants.  The Rangers makes so much sense, as I've been following their catcher situation because both Salty then Ramirez got their chances to start after their original catcher fizzled out in some way (don't recall injury or performance related), and neither has been productive there.  A trade made sense for them to get a catcher who can contribute offensively, they are so far ahead as it is, a productive catcher like Molina would keep them there considering how little production they had gotten so far from their catchers.

Roster Moves Depends

Second, I guess I didn't make it clear, but if the Giants keep Ray in the majors but decide to keep 13 position players, then that means that a position player like Bowker, Rohlinger, or Downs is coming up while a reliever needs to go down.  They could also decide to send down Ray to the minors since he has an option left and bring up a position player.  They could also decide to keep Ray and go with only 12 position players since they have so many players fighting for playing time as it is and the bullpen is kind of shot after all these short starts and particularly in Colorado, where pitchers tend to have bad and short starts regularly.

Since shoring up the bullpen appears to be an area that the Giants wanted to boost up, based on recent speculations by the Giants beat writers, one would think that Ray is kept up in the majors.  He is a former closer for the Orioles, pretty good at it until TJS, but hasn't been back to his old form since.

Thoughts On Ray

Last season, his peripherals looked normal but he gave up a ton of hits.  This season his strikeouts are way low but so is his hits given up, as his line drive percentage is seriously down, but he's also has been a bit lucky because his BABIP and HR/FB are very low.   However, that offsets the bad luck of last season when both were very high.

Some players recover quickly from TJS (like Brian Wilson and Waldis Joaquin) and look as good as ever while others (don't recall example but know there is some) never recover what they did before.   Ray looks like he still has the skills in there, but just needs to figure it out.  Righetti and the Giants might be the final piece of the puzzle, we will see.  Also, frankly, hard to tell what's up with relievers, they don't pitch enough innings to generate a big enough sample to determine if something has changed or not.

Still, he is a former closer and the Giants have been needing a better bridge to Wilson as the set-up men have been disappointing this season.   Ray should be able to handle that job better and if he can return to some semblance of his prior form - you can see some of the pieces working together since he came back - that would be a huge boon to our bullpen.

Giants All In on Posey

Third, I'm glad the Giants made the deal but not because Molina is gone, as I considered him a safety net.  None of us know how Posey will turn out.  If he's like Weiters, our season is probably sunk if Posey is batting in more important batting positions in the lineup.  However, it would be OK if the other hitters can hit like they  have shown that they can this season, the main problem has been consistency.  Only Huff has been consistently good all season, though Renteria has been good when healthy and in the lineup.

Because of that, I expect the Renteria to be the main beneficiary of the trade opening up ABs, for now.  If he should cool down at some point, then it will become mix and match again for Bochy, which is all he can do when faced with hitters that slump so badly.  Hopefully he can keep it up.

In any case, this means that the Giants are going All In on Posey now.  He's the starting catcher, no question about it now.  Given the Giants relatively cautious nature in handling their prospects, this suggests that they believe that the recent bad patch is the result of short term bad luck and that the balls will start falling back in at some point.  Even during this bad stretch here, he is not striking out more than what good players do, which is 15% of his AB's, meaning that his contact rate is good, just that his BABIP has been bad.

Posey's Hitting in 2010

His hitting is neither as good as his start or as bad as his recent bad stretch.  His BABIP during his bad stretch is .171, almost half what the average major leaguer hits, which is .300.  Each batter has their own talent level of BABIP.  His BABIP in the minors was high, but when translated to their MLE, it was about average, .293 for his career.  However, his career numbers is dominated his San Jose numbers.  And one of Shandler's rules is to look only at AA and AAA MLE production for truer clues to a player's possible MLB production. Looking strictly at his AAA numbers, his MLE BABIP is .328.  So the answer probably lies in between those two numbers, as he has not even put in a year's worth of AAA AB's.

Thus, his .318 overall BABIP right now suggests that his bad stretch here was just the rebalancing ying-yang with his hot start to bring his BABIP more in line with his skill level.  So his current batting line of .289/.314/.381/.695 appears to be his talent level right now.   He's a good hitter, but when it comes to taking walks and hitting for power, he has been struggling at that, despite his success in the minors in doing both well.  That should change as he acclimates himself to being in the majors.

Still, that's better than Molina right now, though as I noted before, I think he's more banged up than anyone has let on, which probably has sapped his power, which is where he shines better than Posey.  Posey's overall batting line is good enough for the Giants going forward, as that is about what Molina has been delivering during his career with us (a bit lower, but close enough).

And this opens up opportunities to use Renteria and left-handed hitters like Schierholtz and Ishikawa (Sabean stated the need for more lefties in this article here) more in the starting lineup.  Or if they decide to bring Bowker up.

Posey vs. Weiters

As I have pointed out here and on other blogs, Weiters is a stark reminder of what we might get with Posey.  Both were well regarded hitters in the minors.  The fear was that if you bring up Posey, what if he struggles like Weiters has?  But now that we have some sample data, it appears that he should do better than Weiters (though that is not hard to do right now).  This is a good example of how what I've been saying, even top draft picks fail at the major league level and the Orioles $6M investment isn't looking so good right now.

While they both have OPS in the 600's right now, I think Posey is on a better footing to do well going forward.  Weiters, while walking, has been striking out a heck of a lot more, about 22% of his AB's.  Meanwhile Posey, albeit in less AB's, has been striking out 12% of his AB's.

Being able to keep your strikeouts below 15% shows skill in handling the bat.  Once Posey gets more comfortable, he should be able to start taking more walks (he's probably a bit anxious right now) and hitting for power (took Pablo about 4 months in the majors to figure that one out).  Weiters hasn't figure that out yet and is striking out all over the place right now.  And he is even worse this season than last, hard to tell if that is the league figuring him out or if he has been pressing.

But a near .700 OPS is not what we envisioned for Posey, so he's not a success now either, just closer, I believe, than Weiters.  I think an OPS near .800 is the minimum of what we are looking for in Posey.  A lot of that will be driven by a high batting average and plenty of walks leading to a high OBP.  I would also expect to see some extra-base hit power, though not necessarily HR power.   If he can deliver that to us after the All-Star break, that would help propel us to a playoff spot.  If he continues to struggle overall, with a sub-700 OPS, we will need to rely on others to deliver offense.


  1. Good posts. I think it's sad Bengie had to go out this way, but the writing was on the wall. The Giants had brought up Posey, and Molina really didn't have a future with this team beyond this season. Furthermore, Molina wasn't providing any of the power he brought last year, so it was kind of tough justifying playing time for him because he struggled offensively, defensively and was a clog on the basepaths. Nonetheless, Molina gave some solid years as a Giant, and I wonder how his reputation would have fared had he been surrounded with better hitters in his tenure.

    As for Posey, it's on him now, but I'm happy it has come. Yes, there is going to be a growing period, but I think this is needed. Posey needs to learn to catch. The Giants gave him that 6.25 million signing bonus to catch. Well, I'm glad the Giants are starting sooner rather than later. I think at the end of the year, the Giants will be happy they gave Posey the full-time job at this point.

    Side note: I know you're not a fan of Wieters, but Wieters makes up his sub-par offense value with great defensive value. Beyond the Box Score ranked him the second best catcher defensively behind only Yadier Molina. Hence, Wieters still brings value to the table.

    Furthermore, this Wieters example should be a sign to all those fans jumping off the Sandoval wagon. Wieters is having a similarly struggling year, but Orioles fans I believe are still confident he can be an offensive threat in the future. The same patience should be given with Sandoval. He's going through a slump, but like Wieters, he's young (only 24), so there's still potential there. Sandoval isn't done by any stretch of the imagination.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kevin. Very good points made. Yeah, the time is right on a number of different dimensions. And the Giants had to do it at some point.

    And I suppose that it fits in with him catching around 100 games this season too, now that I'm thinking about it. There are 85 games left, he's probably play 68 of those games, assuming the Sanchez/Whiteside combo continues. He has started 2 games as C in the majors so far this season, and 33 games in Fresno, for a projected total of 103 games as catcher this season, which is what the Giants thought was his limit (of course, if we reach the playoffs, that would add more).

    Not that I'm not a fan of Weiters, more that he's a cautionary note for those Giants fans who want Posey in because he was hitting the cover off the ball in the minors. But excellent point about his defense, thanks, I did not realize that, I had been assuming that his defense wasn't that good since I did not hear about his defense at all when he was selected (I was hoping he would fall to us in that draft, as most teams ahead of us was looking for other things, but then the Orioles screwed that up :^). So I like him, I would certainly love to have him and his long-term potential on our team, but I just wanted to make the point that bringing up Posey is not all milk and honey offensively, just look at Weiters.

    Yes, shame on those jumping off Panda's wagon. I don't understand the booing, it is not like he's been doing this very long, he was GREAT last season, he's just having a bad stretch now, he has been up and down since early May but people don't see that, it hasn't been all bad the whole time.

  3. Fantastic analysis of the Giants' situation. Bravo.



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