Monday, November 29, 2010

Uribe Signing with D-gers: 3 years, $21M pending physical

The bad news is that the D-gers signed Juan Uribe to a reported/tweeted 3 year, $21M contract (see details at ExtraBaggs).  It is pending him passing the physical, so unless there is some bad news there, he should be bleeding D-ger blue next season.  I can't wish well to anyone who is a D-ger, though Juan is certainly a strong test case.  I don't blame him for going though, that's a lot of money and who knows whether he'll get another chance at such a contract.  He "only" made $4.25M with the Giants the past two seasons. That's 21 million different ways of happy. 

Still, this is probably up there with Johnny Damon going from the Red Sox to the Yankees, though worse because of the long history of the Uribe name in Giants history (Jose Uribe will always be THE Uribe for the Giants, unlike what AJ Pierzitski thought, that SF stole that from Chicago, what a historian he is; ironically, Jose is truly the player to be named later, as his name was Jose Gonzalez when we got him in trade for Jack Clark, the only player to have any eventual significance for us from the trade, but he decided to go with his mother's maiden name because there were so many Jose Gonzalezs already in pro baseball.  So it is only befitting because Jose Uribe is so unique, a one of a kind guy).

Giants Thoughts

The good news it that the Giants did not match the offer.  That's just too much for him for what the Giants need.  Juan's OK as a shortstop, but 2 years at $6M per at best, as reward for the 2010 season.  The extra year is just too rich for my blood and then you top it off by going to $7M.  No thank you, but thanks for a great 2010 season.  And I think D-ger fans will start "Boo"-ribaying him at some point because right-handed hitters do poorer HR-wise in D-ger Stadium, it is just harder for them to hit homers there (while easier for lefties). 

I think the Giants offense will be fine without Uribe in 2010.  The "Someone new everyday" offense will continue to function fine, in fact, it should even be better because 1) Bumgarner pitches full season (meaning even less offense needed to win), 2) Posey plays full season, 3) Ross here all season (meaning less Rowand), 4) Torres starts full season (meaning less Rowand), 5) Sandoval should return to Panda-mojo status, and 6) we already signed Huff back.  Torres, Franchez, Huff, Posey, Ross, Sandoval, plus OF and SS is a pretty good top of lineup, better if Burrell comes back as starting LF and hit as well, outstanding if Sandoval can reach 2010 levels of production.

And the pitching, which was basically MLB best (I think we ended up 2nd by barest of margins), should duplicate its 2010 season (or better).  Cain and Sanchez had great seasons, but any downside for them are balanced by Lincecum looking so dominant with his new slider and having Bumgarner instead of Wellemeyer for half a season;  Zito has pitched about the same the past two seasons, probably do about as well again. 

Plus, the bullpen should be even better, the Giants spent the first half of the season trying to find relievers who could deliver and only Casilla delivered outside of regulars Wilson and Romo, plus Affeldt was struggling.  Then Moto did OK, then Ray, and lastly Lopez and Ramirez were acquired, before Affeldt finally returned to 2009 goodness, and now the bullpen looks stellar with Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, and presumably Ray (former closer getting over surgery; could finally be healthy in 2011) and Ramirez (some speculate that one or the other might be non-tendered but I don't see that happening).

For SS, I've seen many names mentioned as possibilities, either signing or trading for, most noted in Baggerly:  Derek Jeter, Orlando Hudson, Miguel Tejada, Cesar Izturiz, JJ Hardy, Jason Barlett, others I've seen include Marco Scutaro and Jose Reyes.  Not that I think Crawford will ever be that great a shortstop, but I would rather not get anyone with big money attached, particularly in trade, because that would probably require the Giants giving up some talent, particularly pitching talent. 

The Giants are nicely loaded in pitching but it takes only one or two injuries or poor performances, particularly after pitching more innings than ever before in 2010 by going deep into the playoffs, to make the Giants scramble to replace pieces.  A trade of significant prospects would steal our depth, which is shallow right now (only Runzler is a possible backup starter for 2011 season right now) and would only get worse.  If we can get away with lesser prospects, though, I would be OK with that.

Therefore, I would prefer to sign a free agent SS (and some might be non-tendered, like Hardy and Barlett, and become free agents) on the low side, who can play good defense (like Barlett or Izturiz).  Hardy would be OK since he's like Uribe providing power from SS.  Luckily, in the lineup I described above, we don't need to get offense from the SS position as he would probably bat 8th and for most 8th place hitters, any offense is a plus, just not expected. 

And that is particularly so if Sandoval delivers as I expect him to, meaning a return to 2009 levels, and force his way up to the middle of the lineup (probably 5th), or if Belt delivers as I expect him to eventually, meaning something along the lines of Sandoval's 2008 or, dare we dream, 2009, which I think he's capable of, and which would push him also into consideration for middle of lineup duties.  Our lineup can be monster if Sandoval and Belt hits as I expect along with Huff and Posey in the middle, plus Torres up top.

Side Note:  Posey Awarded Again

Also today, Buster Posey was named to the 52nd Annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team, after being named NL Rookie of the Year two weeks ago (which I forgot to note with a post).  He beat out Atlanta's Jason Heyward easily for the ROY award, gaining 20 first place votes to only 9 for Heyward, despite "only" playing for about 4 months of the season.  Buster was "humbled" by the recognition, befitting his modest and humble manner.  Makes you want to just give him a big hug and say "you big lug!"

He was on every ballot (each voters only gets to vote 1-2-3) except for one, who left him off because he did not play the full season (the guy actually voted for Gaby Sanchez for 1st; he even shafted Jason Heyward too).  Even if he weren't a Giants rookie, I don't see how one could do that, that's like saying quantity matters more than quality.  Luckily, that was just his personal code of conduct, the rules are actually quite vague about what to consider when awarding ROY.

Posey joins a list of Giants greats and very goods:  Willie Mays (1951), Orlando Cepeda (1958), Willie McCovey (1959), Juan Marichial (1962), John "the Count" Montefusco (1975), and Gary Mathews (1976).  He also became the first catcher to win a ROY award and a World Series championship in the same season. 

I loved this column by Gary Peterson of the Mercury (his column has been a welcome addition in the past year, I like his writing and this thoughts), here is an excerpt: 
Now, with the advantage of hindsight voters didn't have, it seems a no-brainer. Start with this: Posey became just the fifth National League Rookie of the Year to help his team win the World Series. And by help we mean:

Leading the Giants in hits in the first-round win over Atlanta; tying for second on the team with three RBIs in the NLCS dethroning of Philadelphia; batting .300 with a homer in the World Series; blocking balls in the dirt; throwing out would-be base stealers; acting as a reassuring, mature-beyond-his-years presence for Giants pitchers.

Unprecedented contributions from a rookie? You could make that argument. Fernando Valenzuela won three postseason games (one in the World Series) for the Dodgers in 1981. Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter and Chuck Knoblauch were in the thick of championship postseasons for the Red Sox, Yankees and Twins in 2007, 1996 and 1991.

But none of the above consistently batted third or cleanup. None was so intimately involved with every pitch of every game. Posey played every inning of the postseason. If you don't believe us, ask backup catcher Eli Whiteside. The only time he made it off the bench was for the end-of-series pig pile at the pitcher's mound.

There's a reason there are only nine catchers among the 128 players who have been honored as Rookie of the Year since 1947. Catching is tough stuff. To ask a young player to catch at an elite level for a championship team is just begging for trouble.

It got the Giants a shiny gold trophy.
I couldn't agree more.  Congrats to Buster Posey for his awards, clearly there will be many more in future seasons.  Amazing what leadership he's already providing, he said this at the SF Giants 2010 World Series Championship Celebration Parade and he repeated it when he spoke on winning the ROY:  “Let’s try to do it again next year.”  We Giants fans are truly blessed to have him on our team, leading our team. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving for 2010 Giants World Championship!

Lots to be thankful this year for Giants fans everyone with the Giants first World Championship in the City by the Bay!

Decade of 2010's Will be Known as Giants Decade

First of the 2010's to be sure, our core of young players look pretty good - Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Wilson, Romo, Posey, Sandoval, and hopefully soon Belt, Wheeler, Brown, maybe Runzler, Jones, Rosin, Neal, Surkamp, Stoffel, Culberson, Gillaspie, Crawford, Kieschnick, Noonan, Peguero, Joseph, Dominguez, Casilla, RafRod as well - and if Neukom can come through and bring in the dough necessary to keep the core around for a while (Hello A's:  we want a Coliseum full of dough backed up into AT&T for moving to San Jose).

Because with pitching like our's, if one fails you got the others to back him up.  That's something other teams can't do.  If their ace loses to our ace (and look at Lincecum's record with the Giants, he has beaten a lot more than he has lost to), then they are screwed if their #2 is not that good.  Even if they have a good #2, then they are up against Cain, who, while not as good as Lincecum in PQS DOM, took a step up to elite status in the past two seasons.  Then most teams falter at #3 and we have Sanchez, who while not consistently on a game by game basis, overall delivers more often than not in the DOM department.  And then even if they beat Sanchez, nobody's #4 is as good as Bumgarner.

Then during the regular season we'll have Zito contributing and he'll be great in the middle of the rotation, because as much as he's maligned by the Giants fanbase, he's a good pitcher, just not as good as his contract, but he helped us transition from the Bonds era to the F' Yeah era.  I'm very thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your 2011 Giants: Huff Re-signs for 2 years, $22M, plus option

Well, it looks like Huff's children are covered now.  :^)

I got this one totally wrong.  Or at least, it was more than I thought the Giants had to pay and more than I would have paid given that we had Brandon Belt in the wings.  But according to reports (Baggarly), the Giants matched an offer made by another team (that perhaps knew that the Giants had to match and thus made an offer that they figured the Giants would match).

What Huff got (Baggarly, Schulman, Haft) is a reported 2 years for $22M with a club option for a third year.  He gets $10M per year plus $2M buyout, or the team would pick up another $10M contract for third year.

I have seen Brian Murphy of KNBR's morning team tweet that it basically replaces Renteria's contract.  I proffered that if you include last year's $3M for him (a great bargain to be sure), it translates to a $23M contract for 3 years with a fourth year team option with $2M buyout, which is approximately what the Giants were going to pay Adam LaRoche (they offered 3 years at $21M) but that he turned down, thinking that they were going to negotiate further.  Sidenote:  I wonder if LaRoche would have accepted had he known that it was a take it or leave it deal?  Given that he signed soon with Arizona for much less money, it suggested that he had no other real interest on the part of other teams but thought he (or at least his agent thought) could play the Giants for more money, but got burned in the end.

Sabean also noted in the press conference that the Giants might not be able to keep all their arbitration eligible players now because the Giants spent so much money on Huff.  He noted the need to shuffle around money to be able to afford Huff (which is what he did in 2003 when he signed Michael Tucker to a contract early in order to lose a draft pick and not have to pay $1.5M in bonus).  He also noted that Uribe is seeing a lot of interest because he is being viewed as a viable option at 3B as well as SS.  Perhaps relatedly, he mentioned that he had spoken with the agent for a free agent SS.  Sabean also affirmed that Cody Ross will be kept and will be starting in 2011.

Giants Thoughts

To be clear, I am not comfortable with deals with mid-30's players for many years or a lot of money, particularly ones coming off a bad season, but I can see why the Giants might do that with the players they have signed and can see how they might rationalize that.  So don't kill the messenger.

That's why I thought the Giants deal for Huff was great last off-season, it was low cost, low risk, high reward and boy did he pay off big time. 

This new contract was a fair contract, in line with what players of his performance level is getting, given the economic climate and all that.  I really thought that he wouldn't get an offer this high given his age, his 2009 season, and his eccentric behavior and personality.  And there is some risk given these factors.

However, if he can perform closer to his 2008 and 2010 seasons and not close to his 2009 season, this contract is fair for both sides.  And I think that there is good odds that he can do this again, despite his age, and why 2010 was not as fluky as it might appear.

First, 2010 was the first season that Huff acknowledged Father Time and got into a fitness program to get into shape for the coming season.  He apparently took it very seriously and got himself into great shape, according to a former coach who was interviewed about Huff in the pre-season.  Hopefully this pays future dividends by convincing Rowand to step up from the lame mountain bike fitness program he got into last off-season and do something more serious.

Second, as I noted in a post about Huff last off-season, it was 2009 that was the fluky season, not 2008.  His batting ratios (K%, K/BB, BB%) were all within the boundaries of his career norms but it was his BABIP that was horribly bad.  In fact, his season with Baltimore, while bad for his career, wasn't horribly out of line for an off year, it was when he went to Detroit, where the park penalizes LH hitters a bit while Baltimore's Camden helps LH hitters.  In addition, by then, he was very unhappy with the team, said some nasty burn the bridge comments about the town/fans on the radio, which probably scared some teams off of him, causing him to fall to the Giants, and that probably contributed to his down season.  He should be still pretty happy in 2011 vs. 2009.

Third, his batting line for 2010 are not that out of line with his career either.  He has had OPS in this range 4 times before, albeit 3 times was in his mid-20's when he was in much better shape.  Still, he had a similarly good season in 2008, so two of his three last seasons have been very good (.912 and .891 OPS) and one was very bad (.694 OPS).  He has had ISO's this large 4 times before as well.  BABIP of .303 in 2010 vs. .293 for his career.

His Ratio Batting was in line with his career as well.  HR% of 3.9% vs. 3.8% for his career.  XBH% was right near his career average (9.9% vs. 9.5%).  Good K% of 13.6% as usual (13.2% career).  He did have his best year ever in BB% with 12.4% (10.0% prior high) so that was up there and probably drop.  LD% of 20% vs. 19% career.  HR/FB of 11.5% vs. career 10.2%, and he has been over 10.5% five times before.

So I'm OK with the deal, I think for marketing purposes, they had to sign him, as well as baseball reasons, as there were really no better alternatives for replacing his 2010's numbers other than getting him, because the alternatives would have costed just as much or more, and he has intangibles that the team saw in 2010 and values.  I can live with the big contract, more than with other signings, as he is actually coming off a good year and getting a fair contract (though slightly overpriced rather than discounted as I had hoped).

What Happens Next

Now, I wonder how this move dominoes.  First off, re-signing Uribe is probably unlikely right now.  He would need to sign a similar contract to before in order for the Giants to sign him and he's not going to do that or get that type of offers.  He should be getting numbers similar to Sanchez and DeRosa's 2 years for $12M.  I think the Giants will offer him arbitration and pick up a draft pick that way should he sign away, and if not, they get him for one year at probably a fair salary for just 2011.  But I don't see how he would accept arbitration, there should be better long-term offers on the table.

Second, this allows the Giants to give Belt more time to spend in the minors and hone his skills, something they were unable to do with Pablo in 2008-9 (not that he needed that, but perhaps he could have gotten on a better fitness plan in the meanwhile).  He could then do the Posey plan and come up mid-season, which would then push Huff to LF.

Thirdly, speaking of the outfield, the Giants are not really that set out there.  Torres appears to be a lock but he'll be 33 next season.  He's only one year younger than Huff!  So age could start to creep in, though I recall reading that players with his body type and skills tend to last longer and older.  Ross is slated to be the starter, but he's in similar straits as Huff was, he had fine seasons previously, but had a down year in 2010, much like Huff did in 2009.  Ross will be 30 in 2011.  Perhaps the Marlins losing got to him, but maybe it was time for his body to fail him.  So there is some question marks on him too.

The other potential starters are iffy too.  DeRosa was the starting LF at the start of 2010 but at this point, I think the Giants are hoping he can be the emergency starter at a number of positions, much like Uribe was in 2008 and 2009.  He can play 2B and 3B, as well as LF and RF, at high defensive value, probably could do it at 1B, and started out as a SS as a pro, so he could take a game or three there to rest the starter.  Schierholtz has had chances, and probably will be given a chance again in 2011, but I just don't see it happening, as much as I've been rooting for him to.  And Rowand I've written off as a bench player unless as I noted above, he takes his fitness seriously and earn CF back to start 2011 (with Ross in LF and Torres in RF).

Should there be too many performance failures in the OF in 2011, I can see the Giants moving Huff to LF and bringing up Belt at the first moment he appears ready to come up.  I think if 2010 was 2008, Belt would have been brought up much like Sandoval and Ishikawa was in 2008, and would have had a strong shot at winning the starting spot the next season, like them too.  I think he still has a shot, but he's going to have to prove that he belongs, rather than look pretty good, to win the 1B starting job.

Fourth, since Uribe is probably gone now for monetary reasons, the Giants are probably kicking the tires with free agent shortstops who are very good defensively but bad offensively in order to get a cheap starter for 2011.  Players like Adam Everett or Cesar Izturis (his brother is in the Giants minors).  They might also look into players they have been rumored to like, such as JJ Hardy (rumors is that he'll be non-tendered) and Jack Wilson (best bud with Franchez, but would have to be traded by Mariners).  Baggarly also mentioned that players such as Jose Reyes of Mets and Rollins of Phillies might be traded away, though I cannot imagine getting either without giving up a good prospect like Belt or Wheeler. 

Lastly, I think that this means that Burrell will eventually sign with the Giants.  Sabean noted that he would talk with Burrell after he settles some other business first.  That means that he hasn't been ruled out despite Huff signing and the current log-jam of OFs.  I think them being such good buddies, I don't see how Burrell would make it hard for the Giants to sign him as he would like to play with Huff once more. 

And he's already made it easy.  Despite starting most of the 2010 season for the Giants, he already said late in the season that he's willing to come back to the Giants in 2011 as a bench player.  That means he is saying he is willing to sign for low money just to play for the team, the Giants just need to ask.  And right now, the Giants could use low-cost players who could pay off big, like Huff and Burrell did in 2010.  Given the uncertainty in the OF, having Burrell around as backup, much like in 2010, he could step in should there be an injury or lack of performance, and it would be low risk since he won't be signing for much, if he is really a bench player.

Overall, as a fan, I'm happy about the move.  I am not happy about the price but accept it as a price of keeping him around and improving our chances of repeating in 2011.  Hopefully he can repeat similar hitting in 2011 and 2012.  If he can, the Giants have a great chance of making it into the playoffs again, then see where our pitching leads us next time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

40 Man Changes: 3 Spots Left

The Giants just announced a few 40 man roster moves in anticipation of the Rule 5 Draft that will happen soon, here are the changes:
  • RHP Jose Casilla was added.
  • RHP Steve Edlefsen was added.
  • LHP Clayton Tanner was added.
  • 1B Brett Pill was outrighted to Triple-A Fresno
  • RHP Waldis Joaquin was placed on release waivers.
That left the team with 37 players on the 40 man roster, leaving space for 3 players. Given that the Giants are clearly pursuing Huff and Uribe, if they should achieve what they hope for, that would leave only one spot left, meaning that they would only be able to add Burrell or Renteria but not both, without needing to clear a spot on the roster if they want both players.

This last spot could also be for someone they hope to snag in the Rule 5 draft themselves.  They have been relatively active in that arena in recent seasons, though no one has stuck so far.  Some have looked good enough that other teams then snagged them, but the only one who appears to have some MLB hope is the pitcher the Giants drafted then returned, only for San Diego to pick him up and keep him on their roster, I think in 2009.  And still, the hope is not that great.

Still, this is very much like the amateur draft after the first couple of rounds.  Not very many of the players drafted via this process ever make the majors and stick, let alone be a regular starter.  But successful pickups like Johan Santana and Josh Hamilton (pick someone whose first name starts with a J?) means that teams will continue to participate and hope they find the right guy ready to take the big leap.  Kind of like the regular amateur draft.

When I find out who might be drafted away from us via the Rule 5 Draft, I'll post it.  If you know it, please post the link in the comments.

Here is what the linked article above mentioned on each player, I'll add comments:
  • Casilla, the younger brother of Giants reliever Santiago Casilla, finished 4-1 with a 1.16 ERA and 14 saves in 46 appearances. The 21-year-old made the South Atlantic League's midseason All-Star team.  
    • OGC:  from what I've read, he's even better than his older brother.  He did extremely well, despite being much younger than most players in the league.  He could be being groomed in case the Giants might have to let go of Wilson, depending on how much money he wants beyond arbitration.
  • Edlefsen, 25, was 7-2 with a 2.38 ERA and six saves in 49 relief appearances in his second season at Triple-A Fresno and was named a Pacific Coast League midseason All-Star.  
    • OGC:  If I recall right, he was named by BA as having the best slider in the system for a number of years now.  He hasn't risen as fast as I was hoping given his early hype when he turned pro, but he did very well in AAA in 2010.  Unfortunately for him, the Giants are currently full up on relievers, he'll probably be among the first choices the Giants consider if anyone is injured or need to be replaced due to poor performance in 2011 and probably will get a chance in 2012, I think a number of relievers are eligible for free agency then or arbitration.  
  • Tanner, 22, went 9-9 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Richmond in 2010. The graduate of De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., made the Eastern League midseason All-Star team and finished ninth in the league in ERA. 
    •  OGC:  I have been rooting for Tanner but he's the crafty lefty type of pitchers and those types of pitchers need to prove themselves at every level.  He'll have to prove himself in 2011 in AAA, then eventually the majors.  But he's done pretty well at each level and he's still prospect young, so there is plenty of hope.  But with the low K-rate, the odds will be long.  And we saw how Pucetas flamed out in AAA.  But I always have a soft spot for prospects with local ties.  Go Clayton!
  • Joaquin, 23, appeared in four games with the Giants this season, allowing six runs (five earned) in 4 2/3 innings. He spent most of the year with Triple-A Fresno and posted a 1-2 mark with a 4.93 ERA in 23 games, including five starts. He underwent lower back surgery on Nov. 10.  
    • OGC:  I was pretty shocked to see him being dropped until I saw the lower back surgery mentioned.  They took a calculated risk, dropping him off the 40-man to open up a spot, hoping nobody will want to take him while he's recovering from major surgery, and then they can tuck him back into the farm system while he recovers. He's still young and got a lot of speed and stuff, so there's still a chance. 
  • Pill, 26, batted .275 (143-for-520) with 34 doubles, 16 home runs and 84 RBIs at Fresno. 
    • OGC:  Some people were really clamoring for him after his good AA season in 2009, but they failed to account for the fact that he did it at age 25.  It was a nice season but Ishikawa had a much better season than Pill did in AA, it wasn't even close and he did it at a younger age, and yet did not get the hype I saw with Pill among fans.  I don't know if it was because Ishikawa started out with a lot of hope/hype due to his high bonus but then was a disappointment, then did finally broke out of it, while Pill wasn't on anyone's radar and suddenly had one good season, but I don't understand the difference in interest, particularly since Ishikawa has shown a lot more power, particularly HR power, and their fielding is probably equal.  It appears I was correct, Pill had a nondescript 2010 and was dropped.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Thoughts on Your 2011 Giants

I posted this on ELM's post regarding that Uggla trade, and it basically regards how I think the Giants will do in the 2011 season:

This is the flawed thinking [i.e. Giants barely got into playoffs in 2010] I've been seeing in discussions about the Giants. ajax covers changes that should make 2011 better [full year of FSanchez, Posey, Ross and even Torres]; I would also add two other big changes: Bumgarner full year, no Wellemeyer; and Kung Fu Panda's return.

The end of season is the result of the whole season's mix of talents but extrapolating that to 2011 is incorrect because of all these changes. The team was not static last season, as all the pundits have been saying when discussing the Giants 2010 season. The team at the end of the season is much different from the one we will have in 2011.

What some don't realize is that the Giants played at a roughly 100 win-rate since Posey took over the starting catching duties, and even elevated it in Sept/Oct/Nov to roughly 110 win-rate. If they do that over a season, they will win running away.

Of course, they probably will not play at that rate. The pitching can't possibly be that good over a whole season, can they? But even at a low 90 win rate, the Giants should be contending for a playoff position again.

Here is how I see why things will continue into 2011 from that ending to a playoff contending level. While pitchers probably won't be that great, Lincecum with his new slider will still be there, and should put in another Cy Young level season. Cain took another step in 2010 and I don't see him stepping back in 2011. Sanchez took a giant leap in 2010 and I don't expect him to go back either. And Bumgarner is like Posey's doppelganger: very young, yet very mature and very confident and talented. We'll have a full season of that.

Meanwhile, the bullpen will be greatly improved because we will have Lopez, Ramirez, Casilla, and Ray for a whole season. Plus, Affledt should not have as bad a season, he came around at the end when we needed him. And Romo will have another season under his belt and not be as inconsistent.

Our lineup, though, is probably where fans get off the bandwagon. Poor offense, blah, blah, blah. As I've been writing for years now, when you have a great defense (pitching, fielding) you can get into playoff contention with a crappy offense, even one as crappy as 2008 and 2009. For example, with last year's defense (3.6 RA), the 2008/9 offense would have legitimately won 88 games. And remember, 2011's defense should be better with 1) less Timmy hiccups, 2) more MadBum, less Wellemeyer, 3) better bullpen, 4) better fielding overall (Torres in CF, Ross in RF, Belt 1B).

And yes, I'm going there: I think Belt will be the starting 1B for most if not all of the 2011 season. His hitting in the minors and AFL, plus Sabean comments that they will move him up if he forces his way up, leads me to think that he will force his way up in spring training. He has shown the talent to do it, he seems to have the mentality to handle it, plus I have a bad feeling about Huff coming back, he might be gone. Even if Huff is here, he could move to LF and Belt 1B. I think a season like Pablo's 2009 is not out of the question for Belt.

That leads me to offense. We might lose Huff's great hitting at the end, but that was countered by how poorly Uribe hit at the end [Throw in Renteria too]. If we get them back great, but it won't be like replacing the two of their end of season production should be as hard, particularly if Belt comes up and hits like I think he can. Burrell was very good, but I think Ross can put up similar power numbers while providing much better defense [better than what Guillen did at the end of the season too]. Torres was actually pretty bad in September, either horrible or on the DL. He should be able to hit basically what he did in 2009-10 in a full season as a starter in 2011. Franchez should hit about the same while playing full season. Posey should hit about the same while playing a full season [remember, he "only" hit .283/.340/.472/.812 in the second half].

All that is about the same offense, and with that we still won a lot of games down the stretch. But, as I noted, the pitching definitely won't be at that high a level for a whole season (else, it'll be like we went back to the dead-ball era). I think the other big factor in the offense being good enough for us to win the division again is Pablo.

I think Pablo's 2010 season is misunderstood. First, yes, it was not like his 2009 season. But despite all his problems, his OPS was around that of the average 3B in the NL in 2010. So it wasn't like he fell into the abyss. Second, it wasn't like he stunk the whole season, despite what a lot of people have been writing. He was Panda in April. Then the divorce papers hit and he was crap until the All-Star Break, then he hit like the Panda again. Until he had to fly down to Venezuela to sign the papers, and then he had another downturn. Once he recovered from that, he was Panda again, until he nearly lost his mom in the San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire. Then he was Panda again, in the last two weeks of the season. Then he froze in the limelight of the playoffs and World Series.

So, was he bad? Yes, but not all the time, and except for the divorce papers being served (which we have no timeline for), his ups and downs in the 2010 season matches up with key emotionally charged events happening in his life, things that get regular people very depressed or upset, and they don't do their job so well [and tend to eat a lot].

He should be back to his Kung Fu Panda-ness in 2011, assuming he doesn't have other bad personal events happening during the season. His talent never went away in 2010, it clearly came up for air when his personal life wasn't spinning out of control. People carp on his weight, but many people eat and get fat when they are depressed and angry. And even at that, his UZR wasn't that bad in 2010, in fact, if I recall right, it was better than his 2009.

So he'll be back in 2011. He might not lose all the weight the Giants want, but his bat will be there and that will put him back in the lineup, the Giants don't really have a choice. They had their tough love speech to get his butt moving on working to lose weight, but if he's hitting like he did in 2009, there is no way they are sending him down to the minors. [At worse] He'll be like Miguel Cabrera, play 3B in short-term before shifting to 1B because of his size.  [But if he works at losing his weight - and his willingness to spend the offseason in San Diego, away from home in Venezuela and his baby girl, suggests that he will work diligently at it - he could be our 3B for the rest of the decade.]

And if his bat is back, that is something that will mitigate any drop in the pitching relative to the end of 2010. And the Giants should win the NL West division easily if he is back and everyone else performs around where they are expected to.

Additional Giants Thoughts

As I've been saying, the 2010's will be known as the Giant's decade.  They will make frequent runs at the championship, and should win more with the pitching that they have led by Buster Posey.  Young players like him, Sandoval, Belt, and Brown (Killer B's offense?) will make our offense better than what they were in the 2000's, the Oughts.

Will they do it again in 2011?  I don't think one can ever predict a World Series championship.  You need things to go your way to do that (like Burrell and Ross, then Brooks Conrad).

However, you can't win it if you don't make it into the playoffs.  The Giants have a team that should be competing for the NL West title again in 2011, if not win it, so I'm hopeful for 2011.  Like 2010, it will depend on young players (Belt, Sandoval, Posey, Bumgarner) to perform well, and you can't always rely on that from young players.  But I think that they will, as Nike advocates, just do it.

It is good timing too.  The D-gers, who looked like they might have a perennial pennant winner just a couple of years ago (and thus is a cautionary tale for our Giants today), have some key underperforming players (Loney, Martin; but really, based on what they did in the minors, they overperformed in their first MLB season then fell back to their talent level) and a pending D-vorce that should derail their ability to compete (see what happened to the 'Dres when their owner Moore got a divorce) once that is settled.

The D-backs are back-tracking and cutting salary (ironically dropping Adam LaRoche, who passed on a 3 year, $21M contract with the Giants, losing a lot of guaranteed money and potentially a World Series ring).  And the rumor is that they are shopping Justin Upton.  You don't do that if you are planning on trying to win the division title, that is the behavior of a team re-trenching and re-building.  They have a nice group of young pitchers, much like the 'Dres did in 2010, which to me is good news because while they pitched well in 2010, their minor league stats suggest that they are no where near the ace status that most of the Giants starters are at.  And you need that to compete consistently in the regular season, let alone playoffs.

Speaking of the 'Dres, with the rumors of A-Gon being a-gone during the off-season, I don't see how they are going to compete in 2011 if they trade him.  That might set them up for 2012, but, again, only Latos look ace worthy, the other pitchers will get exposed at some point or another.  And they don't really have many top prospects (overall) that look to boost them up soon.

That leaves the D-Rox.  Jimenez is not going to have another half season like 2010, but he will be very good. And Tulowitski will have a healthy season in 2011 (won't he?  He seems to get injured all the time, but appears to alternate, making 2011 a non-injury year).  Car-Gon looks to be the real deal (thanks for that idiotic trade, A's!), and unlike the other teams, they have a couple of nice young pitchers in Jimenez and Chacin.  Thus I see them as the Giant main competitor for the NL West title.

But the Giants have more pitchers and of greater quality, and the D-Rox's offense doesn't look that great beyond Tulo and Car-Gon.  And, after all, they only won 83 games last season, and it wasn't like they played great when Tulo was in the lineup or that poorly when he wasn't (around .500, so it was not like they fell off the cliff, and they had chances down the stretch).

So the Giants look pretty good for repeating in winning the NL West division title.  Not only do they look like they could be even better in 2011, but all the other teams look vulnerable and/or weak.

And once you get into the playoffs, our pitching will get a chance to dominate again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letter to the Mailbox: What Happened?

Long time reader, Allfrank noted in the comments that I'm no longer listed at MCC and asked me what happened.  As is my wont, my comment was too long and I didn't feel like chopping it up this time, so I'm posting it.  And, of course, adding to it.  :^)

Sad is as Sad Does

If I'm no longer listed at MCC, then that is probably over the dustup I had with them when I had the temerity to suggest that people who wanted Brian Sabean fired did not deserve to enjoy the success we had up to that point (that was after the NLCS) unless they come out with a mea culpa.

A number of people came out to blast me, including Grant, calling me "pretty sad".  What's sad is that people don't feel some responsibility for encouraging the firing of Sabean, of being the villagers with the pitchforks and fire, demanding satisfaction.  It is one thing to complain about his moves, which is what Grant did, another to encourage the firing of another human being, which I don't recall Grant doing but he sure reacted like he did.

So if they removed my link, that's OK, that's on them, I would never retaliate in kind.  Actually, I was afraid of being banned and having my account shut down, given the severity of the reaction, so just removing my link is actually a relief.  I do enjoy posting there.  Of course, I haven't checked in for a while, so who knows now about my account.  :^D

Responsibility

But if they are able to enjoy all that crap about firing Brian Sabean all these years when what he was doing was putting together the elements that led to our World Series championship, I don't see why I can not take a moment to voice my annoyance at all the people who openly advocated for his firing.  They had a problem with my timing, but when is the right time, all I would get is "Pollyanna" crap if I argued otherwise before and my argument would not have any legs to stand on until the Giants did really well, which they did to get into the World Series.

And not that I believe that we as fans have that sort of power to get someone fired:  but, particularly with a change in leadership from Magowan to Neukom, you can't really know what Neukom might do.  He might read all that crap and decided that it would be better to have a clean slate and fire everyone.  Before him, Magowan, if he's the egotist that some people paint him as (I doubt to that extent, but it's not like I know him either), might have reached the point where firing Sabean and gang might be the move to divert attention from him.  We don't know, owners have done weird things in the past (took over as manager, create a promotion that started a riot in the park, heck, almost anything Charlie O. Finley did as the owner of the A's).  I doubt that any of our crap gets our owner to fire someone, but then again, you never know.

And we do know some Giants people read these stuff.  Krukow mentioned reading comments at one site (I think it was Baggarly) and I would bet someone is assigned to judge the mood of the fans by reporting on general trends and stuff.  At least I would if I were the boss, it just makes sense to monitor the mood of the fans, particularly in the age of customer relationship management.  With a half billion dollar investment asset, you should be monitoring all avenues of discussion regarding your team.  You may have a great plan for fixing the team, but if the fans aren't coming out in the meanwhile, you can't pay your mortgage.

S.O.S.:  Save Our Sabean

As you know, Allfrank, I've been supportive of Sabean through all these years.  I waved my flag clearly and proudly particularly at MCC because I think that any Giants fan wanting to be near a lot of other Giants fans have to go there today (Baggarly and ELM too, and I think DrB will be one too).  I believe he had a plan and I explained the plan as best as I could, and I know that made me a pariah there, but as an analyst, when you "know" you are right, you have to go all in.  People don't pay you good money for touchie-feelie answers, they want something definitive.

And having a bit of the OCD, I can't do definitive unless I feel I had all my ducks in line.  I felt that I did and eventually captured much of that in my Giants business plan, so I was willing to put myself on the line, put myself out there, and support Sabean.  Because I felt that he had a plan that worked towards building a team that would not only get us to the playoffs, but to the World Series championship that we've all been waiting and hoping for all these years.

And I know that some people appreciated it.  I used to see comments out at MCC asking if I had something positive to say about a situation or just in general, because there was a lot of negativity there, negativity that eventually reduced my involvement there, because otherwise I would just spend my days and nights there stating my disagreement.  And a few people thanked me here.

Thankless Job But I Can't Help It, That's Me

And, to be absolutely and positively clear, I don't do this for thanks or recognition, though like anyone else, I appreciate it.  It is a bit of the OCD that drives me:  I can't stand not knowing where my Giants stand.  I'll support them when they are down, I'll cheer them when they are up, I just want to understand, the best that I can, where the Giants can be expected by the end of the season, and I set my hopes accordingly.  That gives me calm, relief.  If I expect them to be .500 then I would have a whole different perspective on how they are doing than if I expected them to be competing for the playoffs.

And I didn't want to be that blind fan that just doesn't see it, I hated that and didn't want that for myself.  First it was fans in the 70's who thought that the Giants were going to be OK, and even though I just started following baseball, and with no one really to guide me - my Dad was an immigrant who was not into professional sports - I was able to figure out that, no, they weren't.  But that was OK, they were my team, and I told my fellow Giants fans (few in the East Bay) that they were mediocre.

Then it was the fans in the 2000's, the woe-is-me band of blindly un-optimistic fans who inhabited the USENET (I remember Grant from there, but he wasn't one of them) and wore their pessimism as a badge of honor.  I analyzed the 2003 team and said that we were going to have a good season, and decided to post it there to see what others had to say about my analysis, and many of them ripped it to shreds, said no way the Giants are any good, look at the players they got, it'll never work!  They were the opposite end of the spectrum.

Not in it For Links
So if they removed my link, that's OK with me.  I've never asked anyone to reciprocate my linking them.   I've never gone to another website and ask if they would post my link there.  If I wanted "thousands of readers" I could have had that early on by taking the offer to write for another blog who had that audience already. That's not important to me.

That's why I avoid mentioning my blog when I post because I hate those who trumpet, "Hey, you know, good topic, I just happened to have released my take on the subject and I have a totally different take" or worse B.S., like I've seen someone actually go on-line under their Internet name and point out their article, which was written under their real name, and wrote "Hey, this is a pretty good article, you should go check it out."  Now that's pretty sad!  I only mention my blog when it relates to the research I already did and I didn't want to post another 10,000 word essay when I already had something on my blog.  But I try to avoid it as much as I can.  I chose to walk a different path, to the beat of a different drummer.

Responsibility to Show the Correct Light:  Fiat Lux!

I won't cater to those who want to throw bricks at people, just because they don't understand or care to understand.  It's really easy to criticize or make fun of someone if you take the easy route and focus on one thing or another.  Everybody will fail in one aspect or another.  If I am going to throw a brick, it will be after I've gone over the overall situation and made the assessment that this person must go.

We may just be nerds sitting in our mom's basement typing out this stuff but if I'm going to publicly advocate for the firing of someone, I think that there is a higher level of moral and ethical responsibility for whatever crap you throw out there onto the internet.  There must be some level of ethical behavior regarding that, it is one thing to say that someone is making a stupid move, another to say that he deserves to be fired. 

They are human too, you just need to have enough empathy as a human being and wonder how you would feel if someone said that about you publicly.  If I deserve to be fired, sure, I'm man enough to handle it, I've never avoided hearing the worse about myself, but I would want the criticism to be fair, educated, and logical.  I would want some insight into what I'm doing wrong, so that I can better myself.  Still, there must be some level of empathy for your fellow human beings when you post stuff like that, and some level of responsibility for what you put out there. 

And not that I think I "know it all".  I know I know a lot, but that's because I read a lot of news about the Giants and OCD enough to do that, I know not everyone is like me, so I wanted to share that knowledge with others who desire to know more about the Giants and baseball but are not so OCD.  Who like me want to have a realistic view of their team, the now World Champion San Francisco Giants (it'll never get old).  Who don't want to be lazy and take the easy way out and get the pitchforks out to slay the monster (in their mind) because they don't have the empathy to realize that you are attacking another human being publicly.  I wouldn't do that unless I have all my ducks in a row.  And so I try to read and learn all that I can, so that I can cogently write on my favorite subject: the San Francisco Giants.

So I try to illuminate my readers. And I want to be illuminated as well as to illuminate. Fiat Lux!

Ants

I know people think I'm weird but I'll share an insight into my mind and behavior.

I learned to admire ants when I was young.  The social structure, the collective working for one common goal, the sacrifice for the greater good, hard work, all for one and one for all.  (Don't care so much for them now that I'm a home owner :^)

When I'm writing, I feel I'm just one worker ant helping the Giants fan colony survive another winter, another season.  Do you want to be a lemming oblivious to the cliff you are led off of by others or do you want to be a realist and know where you stand, whether solid ground or quicksand?  I have chosen the latter path.

Why I Write

So if my link is gone, it's gone.  C'est la vie!  I didn't ask for it to be put there, and, no doubt, I was happy when it was put there; hey, I'm human.  And so there is some sadness, but I'll live.

But I don't write just so people can link to me, even the biggest and best Giants website.  And I don't write to agree with what everyone else is saying.  And I don't write to avoid the unplesant message, though I would try to lessen the pain of the message if possible (but if anyone rankles me, I'm going to give as good as I get). 

I write because I have an itch that I need to scratch.  I write because I want to know, to the best of my abilties, how well the Giants are doing and what they can be expected to do.  I write because I know something, something others don't.  I write because I want to share that something.  I write because I feel a kinship with my fellow Giants brethren and baseball fans in general. 

I hope that my sharing of my thoughts, knowledge, and analysis helps another Giants fan enjoy the Giants more and baseball more.  If anyone has, then I've succeeded.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sabean-Bochy Post-Season Press Conference

CSN was kind enough to broadcast it on their website today.  I caught most of it (Thank you CSN!).  Baggarly has a nice rundown of the main points at his blog.
  • Wow, tough love indeed, threatening Pablo with the minors if he don't get into shape.  They also noted that he could be on the bench since he can handle 3B, 1B, and C.  I still think that he'll be the starting 3B in 2011, but then again, Jerome Williams never figured out how to keep his weight off and never had success in the majors again.  Lost in all this is that Pablo in the second half of 2010 hit better than the average 3B, so his hitting is still there in some ways.  And as I've been noting everyone, personal travails (divorce, child custody, mother near-death) coincide with all his slumps in the 2010 season.  I believe he can still hit like he did in 2009, if he can avoid the huge personal problems that would make anybody's work performance be less than usual.  And he would not be the first person to eat a lot while depressed or hurting.  Still, it would be better for him to get his eatting habits in check, and I think that he will.  Lots of fat guys in baseball history have hit well and played defense well enough to play, the question is his longevity in the game, I think.
  • Clearly Sabean couldn't commit to signing Huff, who knows if someone goes crazy and offer him a boatload of cash.  But I don't see anyone doing that.  I think the Thong thing will just turn off some GMs.  Others will see his 2009 season and wonder if 2010 was an aberration (though they might also see 2008 and wonder if 2009 is the aberration).  But if Baltimore was only willing to offer him 2 years at $16M three years ago, and in the current economic malaise we are in, I don't really see any team offering him more than 2 years at $6-7M per.  And that is something the Giants can match or get close enough (I think the Giants offer him 2 years at $12M like DeRosa and Sanchez) that Huff will sign for us.  We just have to wait the process out.
  • Uribe is a bigger question to me.  While his OPS wasn't that great in 2010, he did hit a lot of homers while providing flexibility backup at three positions.  I don't really see the Giants wanting to go more than $6M for one season, particularly with Emmanuel Burris, Brandon Crawford, and Charlie Culberson potentially ready by 2012.  There could be teams willing to finally sign him for a multi-year contract for more money to be their starting SS.
  • Renteria, not really covered here but in a prior blog post, might be a possible signing.  It sounds like he's willing to come back and be a backup player, and the Giants will explore that, Sabean said, because the free agent crop is not that great.  And who knows, maybe he's finally healthy and can play a full season if they don't find anyone else.  He could be the Huff signing for 2011.
  • The Giants are discussing Burrell, but Burrell in an interview late in the season said that he would be willing to come back to the Giants in 2011 and be a bench player.  Of course, that was his role when he joined the Giants in 2010 and he eventually became the starter.
  • Potential bench given these possibilities:  Whiteside, Ishikawa, DeRosa, Renteria, Burrell, Schierholtz.  That assumes, then, that Rowand is starting in CF with Ross in LF and Torres in RF (probably, given Torres speed).  However, that would mean holding 14 position players on the team during the season.  The Giants could consider that since all the starters could go deep in games, resulting in less use of the bullpen and thus less need for another arm.
  • It was noted that should the Giants look for free agents, left-handers would be a priority (Carl Crawford was alluded to by a reporter).  Right now, only lefty starters are Huff (assuming he signs), Sandoval (assuming he wins war with weight and bat), and Torres.  Looks like Ishikawa and Schierholtz are not being considered for a starting position.  Baggarly also noted that therefore Jason Werth would not be pursued.
  • Sabean noted something which he is known for "in a perfect world, I'd make changes that would allow for a more athletic lineup."  But he don't expect to find any.
  • While not committing to offering arbitration to all eight arbitration eligible players, they are interested in bringing all of them back:  J. Sanchez (maybe long-term contract finally?), Torres, Ramirez, Casilla, Ross, Lopez, Fontenot (he's probably not back if Renteria is back), and Ray.  Given this preference, the Giants forecast that their budget will be over $100M for the first time, and that does not include what they might pay to sign Huff and/or Uribe.
  • Sounds like the Giants will have most of their pitching back for 2011, mostly because they are already signed or are pre-arb:  Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner (probable order, Bochy likes R/L/R/L), Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Ramirez, Casilla.  Mota was not mentioned among the free agents the Giants are pursuing.  I'm also not sure where Ray would fit in unless they go with a 12 man pitching staff, but then that brings into question what their bench will be.
  • From what I recall, someone mentioned asked about moving Zito or Rowand, and Sabean supported Zito, noting how valuable he was during the season by eatting up innings, but didn't go that far with Rowand.  There was a twitter rumor that the Phillies would be willing to take Rowand off the Giants hands if they paid most of his salary.  With two seasons left, the Giants might be willing to do that since they will have Burrell, DeRosa, and Schierholtz as backup OF and the bench is full.  This could be similar to the Livan situation where they paid off most of his salary, only for two seasons and about three times the total money.  But unless we get a nice prospect in return, I don't see the upside of that is.  Rowand could be on the bench instead while Burrell starts, I think there are a lot of mix and matching that Bochy can and will do if he could chose between Torres, Ross, Rowand, Burrell, Schierholtz and DeRosa.  Rowand is useful when he is hot, but if he's cold, then others can get starts.  I would bet that this is why Burrell offered to come back on the bench, he knew he could not necessarily come back if he were paid like a starter, because then what do the Giants do with Rowand, and he really wanted to return to the team (particularly if Huff returns).
There was also a Sabean interview on KNBR late in the afternoon, and he mentioned some of the prospects.  He noted that Brandon Belt is a possibility for coming up sometime in 2011, as he has done very well this season.  He also mentioned Zach Wheeler for the future, throwing out that they are not sure if he is a starter or reliever, which was shocking to me.  Normally don't pay that much bonus for a reliever but that's conventional wisdom, I suppose. 

He also mentioned what was announced the other day, that Dan Runzler will be converted to starting pitcher for 2011.  As El Lefty Malo has been noting at his website for a while, the Giants don't have any pitcher ready to take over if the worse case scenario happens and we lose one of our great starters.  Runzler could be one of the top ones to be promoted if he can successfully convert to starting.  I think another reason they are doing this is because he hasn't been able to stop walking guys, and sometimes teams would move the guy into starting to give him more practice in game conditions to improve on that. 

The Machine Unmasked and Exposed

I'll end with a big scoop that Brian Sabean gave on-air:  the Machine that Brian Wilson refers to (in various on-line videos of an interview to a leather fetish wearing man walking in the background) is the Giants left-fielder.  That presumably means Pat Burrell, because it certainly wasn't Mark DeRosa, Andres Torres, or Cody Ross (though I suppose Aubrey Huff could have that body type) and he was the starting left-fielder when the season ended.  I'm not going to link to the video, but it is all over, on Twitter, on YouTube, probably other places too.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 2010 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS: After the Bliss

It is all still sinking in.  The glory of it.  The joy of it!

While the game was going, I was anxiously nervous, but not worried, as I've been for a while now.  I had gotten used to the magic that the Giants would somehow win 2 of 3, and that the losses along the way were just part of the process, just as the wins were too.  So the losses did not bother me much, we still had the rest of the series or had already won that series.  And like that tired marathon racer, the Giants fell across the line and won the race to the NL West title.

So as Lincecum dueled with Lee, like a good novel, like a good thriller movie, I was anxious as the drama built up, pitch by pitch, inning by inning, until the 7th inning began.  First, of course, for this season, this playoffs, Cody Ross singles to get on firstbase.  Second, Uribe singles for runners on firstbase and secondbase, first time in the game that either team had a runner in scoring position.

Huff's Beautifully Placed Bunt

Then Huff, oh my gosh, Huff Daddy Rally Thong, our big hitter and RBI during the season, surprises the WORLD by dropping the most beautiful bunt, he almost got a hit with that, if not for a great play by Lee, but the more important thing is he did the job, he got the runners to second and third.  It wasn't surprising to hear that it was his first sacrifice bunt in the season, but not only that, it was his first sacrifice bunt in his MLB CAREER EVER!  You give the best bunters in the game today 10 good pitches to make as good a bunt and they probably couldn't do it 10 times, it was not that easy to do.

The more surprising thing is, and I heard this on KNBR radio, in early September (recall person saying Sept. 1), Bochy pulls Huff aside, said that he's not sure he'll ever call for it, but since Huff might be batting down in the order against a LHP, might give him the call to do it.  In an interview after the clinching game, Huff said that even if Bochy didn't order the bunt, he would have done it anyway.  And that bunt was masterfully done.

That epitomizes the Aubrey Huff that Giants fans have fallen in love with this season.  They said that he's pretty bad on defense, and he works his thong off so that he wasn't half bad.  The way Burrell was coming out for Schierholtz for most of the season, that was suppose to be the plan for Huff and Ishikawa, only Huff played defense well enough that Bochy did not do that in every game played.  I do not doubt that he worked hard to be able to drop that bunt.

Connection with 1962 World Series

I doubt I was the only one thinking of this, but when he dropped that bunt, I immediately thought of how Felipe Alou failed to bunt in a similar situation in 1962's World Series, and how that taught him a lesson in being prepared for anything, of knowing the fundamentals.  Felipe has talked of this moment often and the story was reported again for this World Series.  I'm sure Huff knows the story as well, and maybe that gave him added motivation to learn to bunt well.  Still, I think he would have done the work anyway (just like he would have bunted anyway), he's just that type of player.

Anyway, when Huff was successful at the bunt, I immediately thought of the connection with 1962 and how it was like we went back in time to redo the moment and this time the batter was successful bunting instead of failing, and it seemed like something was going to happen.

Burrell would have made the story great, I thought, took out because he wasn't hitting and especially because he was striking out all the time.  Unfortunately, he could not deliver, though he battled Lee for so many pitches  that I thought he was going to get to lee, he struck out - again.  Then Edgar Renteria strode to the plate...

Renteria 3-Run Blast:  It is Gaaawwwn!

I'll never forget Dave Flemming's classic call on that homer.  The emotion in his voice makes me weepy now, hearing it again.  I was screaming my head off, fist pumping, giving off random yells for the next few minutes.  I couldn't believe it, the Giants led 3-0, and we only needed 9 more outs.

Renteria had apparently jokingly told other players (such as Torres) that he was going to hit one out before the game, so he proved prophetic nonetheless.  He said that Burrell's AB was critical because it allowed him to see a bunch of Lee's pitches and he decided to focus on Lee's cutter to swing at.  His swing was a thing of beauty, and the ball just looked so good coming off the bat too.  And he got enough of it that it went over the fence.

Timmy made me nervous with his 7th, but he calmed down (he admitted he was a bit amped by the homer), and shut the Rangers down the rest of the way in the 7th and 8th.  At only 106 pitches, he probably would normally be given the chance to close it down.  As some said, he earned that honor, but this is why I've been so supportive of Bochy during the playoffs, he played it to win, and to do that, you go all in with your closer, who is fresh and pretty much shut down lately.  People forget, too, that Lincecum is only human, and he and the other starters are going far beyond the IP he had done previously.  Some of them were running on fumes.

Pandamonium

Wilson, as he has in the latter part of the season, shut down the Rangers in order, none of the drama people are used to in his prior incarnation.  Somewhere, in the latter part of the season, it just clicked for him.  Wish I knew when the Beard started up, but he suddenly just started becoming The Machine, getting outs without a lot of the drama that giving up runners generates.  Nen-like, even.

I was shopping with my wife and daughter (she's going on a Girl Scout backpacking outing and need equipment), so I brought my portable radio so that I could listen while shopping, but it failed me in the Target store, missing the drama (luckily) but held in suspense, because Timmy had just gave up the homer and was in the process of walking Kinsler.

But as fate would have it, the next store was Costco, and as we stroke into the store, the game was being played on one of their big screen TVs, and the bottom of the 9th was starting, so I stayed and watched to the clinching strikeout of Nelson Cruz.  I gave out a yelp, among the people who were suddenly my friends, and hugged my daughter, who stayed and watched with me while my wife was away.

It was so great getting to see that joyous celebration and not just listen to it.  I wish Fox would have followed it live, it was neat that they repeated the scene, over and over again, from seemingly each of the cameras they had operating at the game, but after a while, I just really wanted to see the live celebration, but then they cut to a commercial and reality returned and I had to go shopping.

Giants Random Thoughts

I have been reveling in the joy that I'm experiencing now that my Giants are World Series Champions.  I've been reading articles and watching videos, and my reaction to the win was actually pretty understated.  I was so pumped by Renteria's homer, I was screaming and yelling for a while, but as the game wound down, the win seemed anti-climatic somehow.  But I would now be reading or watching, and something would hit me randomly, and I would get all weepy with joy.  I expect this to last a while.

This was a team effort.  That was clear by the new hero every night, and yet certain names would continually pop up:  Torres, Sanchez, Huff, Posey, Burrell, Ross, Uribe, and now Renteria.   And, of course, the pitching staff epitomizes the team concept, each pitcher can only take care of what they can, then let another pitcher try to do the same, and win.  Having a Tim Lincecum is great (Cliff Lee), but how much better is it having Matt Cain (Colby Lewis), and then there is Jonathan Sanchez (CJ Wilson), and then the coup de grace, we also have Madison Bumgarner (no answer).  Then you have the bullpen, because no starter finishes all their games now, Cainer had 4 and people are amazed.  And THEN you have BWills, Fear the Beard, The Machine, and he shut down the opposition.

This team reminded me of the 1990 Reds, a team that didn't have any superstars, had a lot of players who had career years that you couldn't expect to do ever again.  Of course, we do have Timmy, 2-time Cy Young winner, but he had a down season (for him) in 2010.  This thought came to me during the end of the season, and it still seems like it is something that still fits, now that they won.

Off-Season:  Sign 'em Up!

Now comes the hard work of figuring out who stays and who goes, plus who wants to go.  Huff is probably the number one priority and I just don't see him not signing with the Giants.  He "only" got a 2-year, $16M contract in his last big contract, and he was three years younger.  I don't see how he doesn't sign a 2-year, $12M contract like Franchez and DeRosa did.

Number two is Cody Ross, and the Giants control him for one more year of arbitration, so it should be easy to get him on board.  I don't see him going to arb, the Giants are usually fair, and he is like Cinderella, with the pumpkin ride and dancing with royalty now, he will want to be here.  He made around $4.5M in the 2010 season and reports had him at $6M for arb in 2011.  But with his down year in 2010, I think somewhere in the $5M range is probably what he gets.  The team needs power and he can provide it, I see him being like the Jeff Kent acquisition, not that he's as good, but he has shown power before and should be able to deliver it for us in RF in 2011.

Number three is Pat Burrell.  He has already said that he's willing to come back as a bench player in 2011.  I don't see him changing his mind, though the Giants might have other plans for him eventually and start him again.  And if he's willing to be a bench player, that means he's only looking for $1-2M in salary.  He should be a slamdunk.

However, I'm not sure how this works in the outfield.  It actually works best if Burrell is on the bench, as the Giants will have Torres, Ross, Rowand, and Schierholtz battling for the starting spots.  Nate could be odd man out or maybe in a platoon with Rowand, perhaps.  Then there is 1B and if the Giants go with Ishikawa at 1B, then Huff would be in the OF for sure.  Lots of decisions to be made.

Shortstop is another area.  Renteria is certainly not getting his option picked up.  He might be good as a utility MI for $1-2M, but I doubt he would want to do that, he has his money, he has his business ventures, he'll probably want to retire up on top, and move on to the businesses he wants to do.  Uribe is probably going to be offered more by another team than the Giants are willing (able?) to pay.

The Giants could go with Brandon Crawford, as his D has gotten rave reviews, while his O hasn't, as a lineup with Torres, Sanchez, Huff, Posey, Ross, Burrell, Sandoval, SS is actually pretty good, particularly if Sandoval started hitting like Pandoval again.  That would save money as well as give a prospect a chance to start.  There is also Emmanuel Burriss as well, though most had him pegged as a 2B in the majors.

The pitching rotation, as I noted in a prior post, is set for years.  The bullpen is pretty much set for 2011, with the only probable change being Mota being let go as a free agent, as the Giants still have Chris Ray from the Molina trade and still control his contract, I think he's up for arb.

It was also announced that Dan Runzler will be tried at starting pitcher for 2011, so he's out of the bullpen now and will be the emergency starter in training in 2011, as the Giants traded away Pucetas and Martinez and don't really have anyone high in the system who might be able to step in, just in case of injury.

Re-Peat?  Three-Peat?  Quad-Peat?

So most of the Giants keys to the playoffs should be back next season, and there are a lot of situations that suggest improvement.  The Giants were winning at over a 2 of 3 pace after Posey took over, for half a season and into the playoffs.  He'll be starting all season in 2011. Sandoval should be back to normal now that his personal travails are over.  We'll have Torres for a full season too.  Probably Burrell too.  Bumgarner definitely, and a newly mature Jonathan Sanchez will be dealing for more of the season than he was in 2010, when he seemed up and down until September and DeRosa gave him that tip.  Lopez and Ramirez all season, plus Affeldt look like his old self by the end of the season, if he can approach his 2009 form, that would be a great addition.  I think Ray can be helpful in the setup situation as well.  And, of course, Cody Ross all season.  There is no reason right now to think that 2011 couldn't be a similar season.

Now that the Giants got their first World Series championship, now I want more.  I think we have the base core of players who can lead us to multiple trip to the big show during the 2010's, as I've been writing here for a while.  With our pitching, we should be able to seal the deal at least another time or maybe two.  The A's and their fans have been flaunting their championships for many years now, and we need three more to catch up, four to pass.  Of course, most of them happened 40 years ago and the last one 20 years ago, so they are like the Raiders, living on former glories.  Maybe they'll have better luck in San Jose.  In any case, I think we can come closer but that's a tall order to catch up and to pass.  Nonetheless:  Go Giants!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 2010 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!!!

Woo hoo!

Edgar Renteria MVP for his superlative work:  he has earned his $18.5M!  Maybe he'll be willing to come back for less ($1-2M) and be back-up MI, but I doubt it.  But then he could start in playoffs again after resting most of the season.

Q for Posey about a week ago:  "This can't happen every year, can it?"  Buster Posey:  "Why Not?"

Why not indeed!  As Timmy would say, "F' Yeah!"

ADDENDUM:  I added this video as I thought it was appropriate when the playoffs started, and it really seems appropriate now.  Again, I'll note the singer's passing resemblance for Tim Lincecum.

Your 2010 Giants are 3-1 in World Series: No Leeway for Rangers Please

Bumgarner-Posey:  What is a battery for the Giants for the next six seasons?

And to think some Giants fans howled about how the Giants should have brought both of them up earlier, or even to start the season, but by keeping them in the minors, it not only allowed them to figure out how to improve themselves, it allows the Giants to control them for the next six seasons instead of the next five.  Together, they have put the Giants at the brink of finally winning a World Series in San Francisco.

Wow, what a game for Bumgarner!  He did it with a curveball that he was working on in spring training.  He did it with a 94 MPH fastball that was AWOL in spring training (many had written him off as an elite prospect, dropping him down in the prospect ranks).  He shut out a potent Rangers offense, particularly at home, who were only shut out at home once during the regular season, on August 28th, by A's Dallas Braden.  And he only turned 21 recently, he is the second-youngest pitcher in World Series history with at least eight shutout innings and the fourth youngest to win a World Series game, and the FIRST rookie in World Series history to throw eight shutout innings (got that from Baggarly's report on the game).  Fifth youngest pitcher to ever start a World Series game and the youngest since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, and he had 22 first-pitch strikes in 28 batters.  Also, according to this MLB article:
"Bumgarner's eight scoreless innings made him the youngest rookie pitcher (21 years old, 91 days) in World Series history to make a scoreless start of six innings or more, and overall, he is only the seventh rookie to make a start of that kind -- the first since Les Straker pitched six scoreless innings in Game 3 of the 1987 World Series for the Minnesota Twins at the age of 28."
Moreover, he struck out VLAD THE IMPALER Guerrero, the guy the Rangers wanted in their lineup so much against the Giants that they stuck him out in RF in game 1 to get his offense in there, three times, and the only other time in his career that Vlad struck out three times vs. a left-handed starting pitcher in regular season was against Al Leiter on June 16, 1998, in other words, not even once in a blue moon, once every dozen years!  Keith Law tweeted that he loved seeing MadBum throw breaking ball for strikes, noting that left-handers who can do that will work for a long, long time in the MLB.

In post-game interview, he noted that he used his changeup a lot more than he usually does.  I think that is a sign of Posey trying to change up Bumgarner's repertoire in order to counter Molina's knowledge of Bumgarner.  And thus he probably has been doing that this whole series.  So far, so good.

And Posey, man, what a home run!  I knew it was a deep fly, but it didn't seem like it would go out, but it just kept going and going and going, and then before you knew it, it was out of here, almost dead centerfield, thanks to one of his "patented backspin shots" (quote from Baggarly's column).  He became the youngest catcher to hit a homer in the World Series since Johnny Bench in 1970.  While the game was pretty much in hand by that point, that was still an important run, 4-0 is a pretty sizable lead, 3-0 is only two bloop hits or walks away from the tying run coming up to the plate.

Baggarly reported that Bumgarner-Posey became the first all-rookie battery to start a World Series game since Spec Shea and Yogi Berra for the Yankees in the 1947 World Series.  "With the young pitching this team has and Buster behind the plate, this team has a chance to do something special for quite some time," said Huff.

And what about the Huff Papi?  He and his red thong went red-ass on a pitch from Hunter and he hit it deep in the heart of Texas, where the red-necks roam, for a 2-0 lead that proved enough for Bumgarner and the Giants to win with.  The red thong is now 30-14, a .682 winning percentage, which over a whole season would result in 110 wins.  He finally hit his first post-season homer (and thus also first World Series homer; great timing!) and he did it in the park/city that he roamed when he was a kid growing up in Texas and idolizing Nolan Ryan (he went to games at the old and new parks).  And he got all of that pitch, it was a no-doubter.

Got to give Renteria some love for his play during the playoffs and especially during the World Series, he's even gotten an article too.  From the way he's been playing, it is like he's found the Fountain of Youth somewhere;  Krukow said that it was from the adrenaline of playing in the playoffs, that has given Renteria a boost.  If the Giants do seal the deal and win the World Series, to me, Renteria would have earned his entire $18.5M with his play and veteran leadership during these playoffs, including his hitting in the World Series and his simple tip to Cody Ross about what he was doing wrong at the plate, which is a reason for Ross's hot hitting during the playoffs (had his 10 playoff game hitting streak ended yesterday; I think 11 is the record, from what I recall from the TV broadcast of the game).

Also have to mention Andres Torres 3-hit game as well, which led to two runs:  one he scored on Huff's homer, the other when he drove in Renteria.  He has finally either recovered from his surgery and/or nerves from playing in his first MLB playoffs, and in any case, has been an offensive catalyst up top the lineup.  He, along with Franchez, Huff, Ross, and Renteria have been providing enough offense to get the Giants to the precipice of their first World Series championship.


Lastly, the Giants are only the third team in MLB history to pitch 4 shutouts in one postseason, including one other historic Giants team and one influenced by current Giants:  Christy Mathewson-led 1905 NY Giants and the 1998 Yankees, which had key players scouted and drafted/signed by Brian Sabean when he worked for the Yankees.

I'll end with a quote of Brian Sabean (captured aptly by Andy Baggarly, who ended with this), when asked for perspective on Bumgarner's performance:  "Can't.  I have a lump in my throat. I can't even talk, that was so amazing."  Amen to that, amen to that.

Game 5:  Lee vs. Lincecum

I've covered this for Game 1:  two great pitchers, mano-a-mano.  Neither pitched particularly that well in that start, though at least Lincecum calmed down enough to pitch effectively enough.  This game should be the game everyone expected in Game 1, a tight pitchers' duel.  Lee should be good because he don't usually have two lousy games in a row.  

Lincecum for much the same reason, but also because he's usually suffered from nerves whenever the game was important for some reason, like first game of season, etc., though he was great for his first start of the playoffs, but there was not a lot of pressure for that, 0-0 for first game.  This being his second World Series start, I expect his mind to be more locked down, though nerves might still creep in the early innings, as it is still, after all, the World Series.  But he should also be pitching much better too, and may the best man win.  

Giants Thoughts

I'm thinking that Bochy will keep the same lineup, except that he has said that Burrell would start in LF in Game 5, so Schierholtz would be out.  

I was so impressed that Bochy went with both Schierholtz and Ishikawa to start Game 4.  Gutsy call on two reserves who haven't started in ages.  Though they did not do anything offensively, Ishikawa looked good around 1B and Schierholtz being in RF meant that Ross was in LF, and he got to a lot of balls that Burrell either wouldn't or would have had trouble with or getting to.  

That was the right call yesterday.  Hunter had not pitched well all through the playoffs.  He didn't last past the 5th in any game.  Offense should happen with or without Schierholtz and Ishikawa, giving the Giants the advantage since we had Bumgarner going for us.  However, if the defense gives anything to the Rangers, they might be able to create runs and negate that advantage.  So Bochy relied on his starting pitchers and fielding defense to keep the Ranger's scoring down, while the Giants offense takes care of Hunter enough to win the game.

The Giants only need to win one of the next three games to win the World Series;  the Rangers must win them all to win the World Series.  The Giants haven't lost three in a row since late August, and by the same team since early August (D-gers).  Only 6 teams out of 44 have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series, the last one being the KC Royals in 1985.  So the odds look pretty good for the Giants (though, still, roughly 15% of teams have come back from 3-1 deficit).

However, as Cain noted, "But there's 27 outs, and that's a lot of baseball left."  That's a theme repeated over and over again by any of the Giants interviewed before or after each game, about how they take nothing for granted, sure, they are in great position, but the Rangers are a good team (else they wouldn't be here too) and they approach each game as if the other team was ahead, and not the other way around.  I am gratified and heartened to hear them talk this way, as you never know until you seal the deal and win the four games you need.  They are taking nothing for granted, something Bumgarner noted in an interview, because you never know if you will ever be in this position again.

According to reports, Bochy has not discussed changing his pitching plans regarding Sanchez in Game 7 yet, despite Righetti's concerns over Sanchez's reduced velocity.  And pooh-poohed the thought of bringing in Zito for an injured Sanchez, noting that Jonathan isn't injured or receiving any treatment.  And any injury replacement would have to be approved by the league officials.  

2010's:  The Decade of the Giants
"With the young pitching this team has and Buster behind the plate, this team has a chance to do something special for quite some time," said Huff.  
I've been saying this for a couple of years now:  this will be the decade known for the Giants.  I was sure of that then, I'm surer of it now.  I've said this because I think that they will be in the playoffs nearly every season and making a number of World Series with the core that they have.  I thought it would be pushing it to say that they would make it this season, so they are ahead of the schedule that I had envisioned, but, you know, I'm OK with that.  :^)  

Look at who we have control over and to when, all at minimum because the Giants could always sign them to extensions for more years:
  • Lincecum:  2013
  • Cain:  2012
  • Sanchez:  2013
  • Bumgarner:  2016
  • Wilson:  2013
  • Posey:  2016
  • Sandoval:  2014
With pitching like that - and more playoff experienced too - the Giants should be dominating great MLB hitters and lineups for years to come.  I have no doubt that the Giants will eventually sign Lincecum and Cain to contracts that extend into at least to 2015, Wilson probably, Sanchez maybe too if they got enough money:  Rowand's $12M off books in 2013, Zito's $20M off in 2014, Renteria's $10M off in 2011, DeRosa and Franchez $6M in 2012, Huff probably re-signed to $6M for 2011 and 2012, Burrell says he's willing to come back as bench player in 2011, maybe re-sign Uribe too, or go with young SS, Brandon Crawford, whose bat is suspect, but his defense is suppose to be pretty good. Heck, I would be OK signing Renteria to $1M to be MI-utility off the bench, but he would probably pass on that, he was already thinking of retirement and going into business.

Before the season, one thought was that the Giants would ideally acquire Carl Crawford as a free agent this off-season to become our lead-off hitter and offensive sparkplug.  I haven't gone through the numbers, but while it would be great to have him as our starting LF, I'm worried that the big contract he would demand and get might make it hard to keep our core together in the mid-2010's unless there is a plan for the Giants to acquire additional investments.  Plus, the emergence of Andres Torres make that need less acute.

As I noted above, the Giants have been 30-14 with the red thong, a .681 pace that would result in a 110 win season if continued.  While that seems like a lot to hope for in 2011 and would be a pace that maybe one team in any decade could achieve, that winning percentage was actually a SLOWING of the Giants pace of winning during the Posey era.  From the time Molina was traded on July 1st and Posey took his first start as the Giants starting catcher, the team has gone 52-23 (and that includes them losing his first game as starting catcher), a .693 winning percentage, which over a full season would result in a 112 win season.  

While I would never predict such a win total for any particular season, it would not surprise me if they did it at some point in the 2010's nor that they did it multiple times.  We will have both Bumgarner and Posey for a full season going forward, plus both should be able to push up their production over time as they mature and develop and become more experienced.  Jonathan Sanchez too should be even more consistent.  Lincecum too, I think he'll revert back to his Cy Young winning form of the past two seasons going forward.  And I truly believe that Sandoval will revert to his 2009 form once his personal problems become less onerous (divorce, child custody, mother's near-death).

Of course, injuries could put a huge hamper on this.  That's why the Giants need to keep all the pitchers, because if one goes down, you will have the three plus Zito and then you bring up someone or hire a rental.  Having three great starters is still a great situation to be in, hence why you don't go trading them away.  

Giants Gauntlet

It will be the Giants Gauntlet of Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner for the next few years.  Zito would be the weak link, but he could be the #2 starter for any number of teams, who would be happy to have him.  Just like there are lineups where there is no rest for the pitcher, our rotation will provide no rest for opposing hitters, no obvious weakness where the other team could hope to bash against.  Oh, you avoided twice-Cy Young winner Lincecum, oops, you get to face Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner.  You miss Cain?  BAM, see how you like Sanchez, Bumgarner, Lincecum.  And the way Bumgarner is growing and developing, teams might soon be happy that they missed him and got Lincecum, Zito, Cain.

Showing how rare this is, the Giants playoff rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner is the first since the 1986 Red Sox.  And we should have them for years together.  And they should only get better as a group.

This is the rotation I've been talking about for years now, people would ask me when the Giants should trade a pitcher and while I'm not against trading any of our starters, just on the principle that there ARE offers that you can't refuse, I don't expect to trade any of them because I doubt any team would give me what I would want in return for them.  People have been undervaluing Cain and Sanchez for years, but hopefully this glorious gallop towards the World Series championship over the past two months has shown the value of keeping both of them on our team, and how any of the players contemplated as equal value for them (Alex Rios, Prince Fielder, Jorge Cantu, Cory Hart) were not really.

With a pitching rotation like this, the offense does not have to do much in order for the team to win the 90-95 games necessary to win the NL West division each season.  People don't realize how powerful an advantage it is to have pitchers like this on your staff.  Huge advantage.  That is why you don't want to trade any of them, while it might be tempting to do so to boost your offense, by trading, you just made your pitching that much worse, so all you are hoping to do is break even in the trade, and if the player you trade for declines (see Prince Fielder in 2010 after many wanted to trade Cain for him in 2009), then your team declines along with him.

I don't see any being traded unless we couldn't afford them (Neukom:  work on that!!!  Or maybe the A's can help with that in exchange for South Bay rights) or if they don't want to sign extensions with us at a fair salary.  I don't see the latter happening, the players all seem to love playing for the Giants.  

But should that happen, hopefully Sabean will trade him before his last contract year and get us some great prospects, meanwhile, hopefully we will be able to bring up Zach Wheeler, or maybe Eric Surkamp, and any of the nice pitchers we picked up in the 2011 draft who look interesting at the moment.  

With the team looking good as perennial pennant contenders, we'll be having lousy first round draft picks for a long time, so the only way to pick up good prospects would be trading a young stud pitcher under some control to a team needing that one great starter.  I use the Haren example of what the Giants should shoot for, that was a great package of quality and quantity.  That would be the catalyst for continuing being successful in the second half of the 2010's, plus a key free agent signing here and there.

Which brings me back to Carl Crawford.  It is rare when you can sign such a great player at a young age.  He'll only be 29 next season.  He would be an improvement over Torres at leadoff because he can steal so many bases, and would allow us to field lineup of Crawford, Franchez, Torres, Huff, Posey (or Posey, Huff vs. LHP), Ross, Sandoval, plus SS (which would probably allow us to start Brandon Crawford at SS).  If Neukom can make the money work so that we still can keep our starting pitchers into the mid-2010's, then I would be happy with that.  

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