Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Holidays: Catching up

Happy Holidays to everyone!

I've been busy (which is good for me, but not for a blog) so I wanted to point out some good posts for those looking for good Giants stuff to read:
Giants Thoughts

The prospect list, I think DrB has a great description of it.  2-8 can be in a different order depending on what values the ranker assigns to certain factors, between talent, potential, performance, and the intangibles.  I mentioned there that I think Joseph and Hembree are above Panik solely for potential, but Panik is probably close to being a regular in the majors, and I think that is where some disagreement over the rankings is probably occurring.  I don't see why Ehire Adrianza is above Hector Sanchez.  While I love BA, I find that they tend to underestimate prospects who knows how to avoid the strikeout, like when they whiffed totally on Pablo Sandoval.  But it is a nice Top 10.

Just remember the old rubric about Top 10 prospect lists, out of any farm system, only around 2 will ever become regulars in the majors, 2 be significant bench/relievers, and that extends far beyond the Top 10, often.  Top 10 lists are not infallible, neither is BA.  But I will say that when I used BA's Top 10 list a few years back to guide my keeper league draft, more often than not, I was directed to good prospects.

From Crabbers kind sharing of the discussion, here are my thoughts.  I am not really too surprised by the Villalona 40 man rostering.  A guy who sues a team to get them to take him back usually is not a guy willing to rest on his laurels (or $2.2M).  That to me meant that he did his best to stay in baseball shape while he was not in professional baseball.  That's not ideal, but it also means that he has a lot of time (like a prisoner) to work on getting into shape while he's "locked up", that is locked out of major league baseball in the U.S.  I would also think such an experience will either toughen up the guy or he would just take his money and go cry in his drink at his"chair/table" at his favorite bar.  The lawsuit, to me, suggested that he got toughened up.

Of course, just my speculation, take it or leave it.  But remember, he was a Top 40 prospect in ALL of baseball before he got shut down.  Unless he ate himself out of baseball, like Jerome did, that talent is still there.  He's still young, I think 22, plenty of time for him to still figure things out, though obviously the 8 ball is against him in terms of experience.  But that talent and potential has got to be still there if he's in any semblance of a good shape.  We will see.

I disagree about Belt.  You give him a shot and see where he was at.  Letting him get shown up at the major league level will do nothing for his development, confidence or ego.  If he's like Heyward, then that's a nice problem to have, but it is not like when Pedroia was doing horribly, Pedroia was just having bad BABIP problems, he was actually taking walks and avoiding strikeouts.  Belt was clearly being shown up by major league pitching.  Don't take a scout or someone seeing him swing the bat, the numbers shouted that out clearly.

Lastly, Barry Bonds.  If you want to convict him of not speaking clearly or rambling, then you may as well convict me too, and millions of other people.  Grand Juries are intimidating, I would have been terribly nervous, talk about other things as well as the question at hand.  

I'm still not convinced beyond a doubt that Bonds did anything illegally on his own.  Ted Robinson thinks that there is no way Bonds would take anything, that he is careful, but I disagree, people let their guard down when it comes to their buddies.  What do you know about what people put in the food you eat when you go to a potluck?  You trust them not to screw you by putting hashish or any other illegal substances in there that might affect you.   

Maybe Bonds put a lot of trust in his buddy.  Maybe his buddy, being poor because Bonds is a skinflint, saw a way to make money by using his connection to sell steroids to those not as gifted as his buddy, suggesting that he was helping Barry do it.  Nobody is going to talk to Bonds to verify that this was so.  Maybe he didn't want to testify because it would make him look like the biggest traitor in the world, selling out his buddy (or worse, poisoning him with illegals drugs) to make money.

I don't doubt that Bonds probably took.  I just have a doubt that he knew about it.

Plus, according to research by Boskage House, steroids might not even have any positive effects on performance, so all this could be much ado about nothing.


  1. I was remiss for not noting DrB's take on Barry Bonds, that was pretty good too:

  2. As always, thanks for the shout out, OGC.

    Angel V is now a huge wildcard in the Giants system. He will be extremely hard to rank in a top prospects list. There is such a huge gap between his ceiling and floor at this point. Now that he is on the 40 man roster, the Giants have 3 options on him so he has 3 minor league seasons to get it figured out by which time he will be what, 25 yo?

    If Bonds' alleged usage of PED's was a civil court issue, then I'd have to say the preponderance of evidence is he used, probably knowingly. If you are talking about a criminal case, though, you need to make your case beyond reasonable doubt. I'm sure I am biased, but to me there is reasonable doubt.

    The outrageous thing about all this is Bonds was never, ever even formally accused of using PED's. He was accused of lying to investigators and to a Grand Jury and he wasn't even convicted of those charges. He was convicted of obstructing justice because he rambled in non-sequitors in front of the Grand Jury.

    Now, THAT ought to scare the bleep out of all of us!

  3. Re: "according to research by Boskage House, steroids might not even have any positive effects on performance". Steroids allow one's muscles to heal faster. In a sport that lasts 6 months, with 162 contests, that can have a huge effect all by itself.

  4. Marco,

    First of all, I challenge you to produce convincing evidence in the form of a double blinded, controlled trial that Steroids actually aid in healing muscle damage. Secondly, if that is all they do, since when are medications that speed recovery from illness or injury considered PED's. If that's the case, you'd have to eliminate a lot of surgeries, physical therapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and yes, medications that are used routinely.

  5. I'll just add that I really think Joe Panik should be the #2 ranked prospect and should be in a tier by himself above Tommy Joseph, who is himself a pretty darn interesting prospect but is probably a lot farther out than Panik. So, that would be #3-8 who I would say could be picked almost at random.

  6. OGC - Here's a tiny crib from BA on Villalona from the 2009 list where he was #3 after MadBum/Posey (down from his #1 in 2008):

    Strengths: Villalona's batting practice was a daily fireworks display and he often carried it over to games. He has the ability to hit quality fastballs and hanging breaking balls a long, long way. He has soft hands, a strong, accurate arm and surprising agility for a player his size. He lost almost 40 pounds from spring training to the end of the season and coaches praised his dedication to getting in baseball shape.

    The weight thing has been an issue from the get-go, as it always seems to be with foreign born young players who have big frames. We'll just have to see. Fla-Giant at MCC posted a pic (or it was his thread) of AV, and he looked to be in pretty good shape, not that that has anything to do with catching up to quality pitching, but its a great first step forward.

    The Giants didn't have any choice, imagine if a team snagged him, that could have been a disaster of epic proportions. We need more players who put on batting practice displays (and carry it through to games of course)

    I agree with you about Adrianza and Sanchez. Baseball America seems to be a great base to start from in forming opinions, they generally are conservative and more scouting oriented that stats obsessed, with the exception of K's. Haven't seen you write much about Frankie Peggs - what's your opinion on him? There are some interesting threads at MCC with the ranking prospects. He's up right now with Adrianza, I think he's a much better prospect but I don't feel like diving into any of that particular argument.

  7. Martin, you made a comment that in general I agree with, but not entirely sure what your application of it was. that is that BA sometimes underestimates players with great contact skills (although, parenthetically I think that's a lesson they've been learning lately, as have I). I believe that's true, but you seem to have been directing that comment at Hector Sanchez, of whom it's not really all that true, while not applying it to Joseph Panik of whom it's definitely true. sanchez' K rate has gone up and down, but it's never been on an extreme positive side of the ledger, and this year's performance at SJ where it was above 20% was trending towards the negative side. Overall he's at about 15-16% k rate which is quite average. For his minor league career his K/BB is 137/88.

    Panik on the other hand showed extremely positive contact rates this year, in a league he was actually slightly young for, with an 8% K rate to go with a 9% bb rate. That's why I have him #2 in the system, I think those K rates at his age are extremely predictive of success.

    Sandoval they totally dropped the ball on at BA, but I think it was the position switch combined with the terrible year in the Sally that caused them to miss him. At that point he'd shown no secondary average in power or OBP and had moved down the defensive scale from C to 3B to 1B. They should, as you suggest, have paid more attention to his age and contact skills and they would have held onto him.

  8. Thank you for correcting me Roger.

    Honestly, I forgot to check on Hector's numbers this year but was remembering his prior seasons. I did rush this post through and neglected to check that aspect.

    And I am very positive on Panik, like you, because of how well he handled the bat. I have not thought through how I would rank the prospects yet, but I can see Panik being second on many lists due to his performance (particularly in the AFL) and closeness to the majors (you and DrB are in total agreement on Panik, I believe).

  9. DrB, I agree that that is outrageous, and it is scary. Basically an IRS agent's vendetta against Bonds pushed this all the way through (ironic, huh, tax agents started this $75M boondoggle.

    Marco, thanks for your comment. I see your point, but per DrB's comment (and my reference to Boskage House), most of the steriod's "effect" on the human body are not scientifically verified (due to the laws on human testing).

    Also, I would suggest reading the SillyBall article on Boskage House as well. I was going to post here at some point, my take on it, but basically, if you examine's baseball's offensive burst, it was a burst and not a gradual transition, as one would expect when a new product spreads through a population.

    The burst, however, suggests that something changed for everyone at a specific time, which is not what steroids effect should be, which should be gradual, as the usage spread through the MLB. And I would doubt greatly any assertion that the majority of all the baseball players who started abusing the drug all started at once.

    Hence why Boskage House asserts that it was the MLB monkeying with the ball's composition, not steroids, that was the reason for the offensive growth.

  10. Now Marco, per DrB, there are a lot of things which helps the human body heals faster. And while an illegal drug in terms of criminal activity, there were no rules against the use of steriods in the MLB itself, from what I recall.

    Frankly, I've written this before, but I'll repeat here, I think amphetamine has been a bigger influencer on MLB records than steroids, it clearly helps players play at their peak level performance later in the season, when otherwise they would have been tired and not as alert.

    And that basically happened starting after WW II because the US Government distributed greenies like it was candy to the military.

    I would also speculate that the war put more men into good physical shape (as well as teach them how to be in shape).

    Both these two influences probably lead to the offensive surge that happened in the 1950's and 1960's, I would speculate.

    Lastly, if baseball was mainly about brute strength, then I might be more upset about the use of steroids. But baseball is about timing and control, of a bat and a ball. I don't believe that brute strength helps with that in any way.

    That is how one of the skinniest players ever, Hank Aaron, could blast homeruns at a prodigious pace when he was young, he leveraged his strong wrists and strong eye-hand coordination to blast homeruns. Steroids would not help a hitter do that, from what I understand about the effects of steroids (and again, there is a lot of speculation on the effects because there is no way to test effects scientifically).

    And I would think that overgrown muscles would hinder a pitcher.

    And as I noted, there was no gradual rising of the offensive tide, which would be a signature of the gradual growing use of steroids, assuming steroids did everything it is alleged to do. The offensive record suggests that whatever caused the increase was essentially overnight, over a one to two year period. Steroids should have had an effect over a longer stretch of time, as waves of players start using. Given the health and legality issues, no way that people using would suddenly all start within a 1-2 year period.

    So I would speculate that these players may have poisoned their bodies for nothing more than the placebo effect.

    But I frankly haven't read Boskage House in a while to see what the latest research is, I'm basing a lot on what I've read before. (Oh, FYI, Boskage House is written by the analyst who wrote the bible for the A's to follow, Eric Walker, who also wrote the famous sabermetric book, The Sinister Firstbaseman.)

  11. Shankbone, thanks for sharing that about Villalona. At his young age (and I'm no doctor), I would think that it's like riding a bicycle, yeah, he won't get it all back just like that, but as long as he is in moderately good baseball shape right now, I think spring training plus an extended spring training/instructional league will get him into shape relatively quickly. While a pitching machine is no substitute for live pitching, I assume he was hitting off a machine and perhaps some live pitching (from locals) while he was awaiting the slow turns of the wheels of justice, so he should not be starting from zero either, I would think.

    I know, my speculation. But it just seemed to make sense to protect him, all that potential should still be there, just with a layer of rust. If Salomon Torres can come back from years away from the game, I think he was teaching, and be successful, and heck, how about that pitcher for the Cards who changed into a homerun hitting outfielder? As long as Angel was keeping busy while he was away and applying himself, seems like a 40 man spot is a small price to pay to see if that immense potential was still there (Top 40 for all of baseball, remember, even though he was only 18).

  12. Rick Ankiel? I met him when I was on a guys trip to St. Louis. Very nice guy. It was the year after he melted down pitching to the backstop. He almost broke our hearts but now its just a fond little hickup.

    I totally agree, top 40 in baseball, even 3 years ago, you have to protect. He was the best power prospect we've had in decades, and he might still be although now we have Joseph, Dominquez and Ricky O. But power hitting is just too much of a rarity these days, we have to give him every chance. At this point its like finding a $50 bill in a suit you haven't worn for a while. House money.

  13. Yup OGC,

    If Steroids were the reason for the offensive spike in the 90's and early 2000's, then how did Hank Aaron, who was not a big man by any means and probably never lifted a weight in his life manage to hit 755 HR's, or Willie Mays, who was also not a particulary large man and who probably never lifted a weight in his life hit 660?

    Another thing that the steroid zealots like to harp on is sudden spikes in production by the likes of Bonds, Lenny Dykstra and the dude from Baltimore. Well, then how do they explain Roger Maris' single tremendous season? Was he taking steroids too? Willie Mays spiked up to 52 HR's in 1965 and then started a rapid decline. Was he juicing too? Aaron kept up a steady HR pace into his 40's. Was it steroids that helped him keep it going a lot longer than most players?

    Another pet peeve. They vilify Bonds, McGwire and Sosa, yet they had to face roided up pitchers like Clemens and Eric Gagne. Aaron and Mays probably had to face an occasional pitcher who could hump it up over 90 MPH, but not virtually ever pitcher they faced like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.

  14. re: Bonds - exactly. He never was even accused, never tested positive, nothing. And you know the prosecution would have trotted that out if they could even come close to proving it. And I'm no expert on law, but giving a vague and rambling answer to a question (that was rephrased, and answered, in the same testimony) that had NO effect on preventing an indictment - it really is a stretch to call that obstructing justice. Don't you have to show that justice was actually obstructed? Apparently not, but, in any case it was a vendetta that (the media, somewhat ironically) helped cause the Feds to be forced to be in over their heads.

    And, of course, steroids have been around for decades. As Dr B says re: Clemens, et al, it would be more likely that a player from the 70s would have broken the home run record if it made such a night-and-day difference. I very much agree with OGC's suggestion that it all may have been a placebo effect. Marginal, in any case. Probably LESS than greenies, if anything.

    In other news, I don't get whether the Giants had to put Villanova on the 40-man roster? I'd assume not, that his clock stopped. So they must think he's got immediate potential. who knows? The guy sure had a lot of time to think about the prospect of not playing pro ball. That's a hell of a motivator.

  15. marc,

    I think the Rule 5 draft rules affected Villanova this off-season (he signed when he turned 16 in 2006), I think if he was not on the suspended list (or inactive or whatever) he might have had to go on the 40 man last off-season, since Culberson signed in 2007 and was subject to it this off-season.

    But I await one of the rules gurus to correct me if I am wrong.

    The way I see it, there are two types of ballplayers, ones who are in it mostly for the money, and those who just love the game. I think Albert Belle is the best example of a guy who was in it just for the money, and Willie Mays for the love of just playing. Of course, there is a continuum, but I think players lean one way or the other.

    So this was a huge test for Villalona, the way I see it. He's sitting around, waiting for the prosecutor to decide what to do with him. Meanwhile, he's in limbo. What to do?

    So I see it as a test of what he really wants. He has enough money (even after the payoff and agent fees) to probably just retire the rest of his life in his hometown and be the hotshot guy, El Hombre. So he could have just sat and did nothing, ate his way out of baseball.

    Instead, he worked to stay in baseball shape (relatively, I assume), and when the Giants dragged their feet, he sued them for $5M to get their attention, get them to deal with him.

    And remember, the odds are long that he ever make the majors. While the money he gets as a minor leaguer is a pittance, it is still good money from where he came from, but not, in my opinion, good enough to make such a big push to get back to that life.

    Of course, it could be just ego. He might feel owed something, or just have a big enough ego to think he can just will things.

    But presumably the Giants have given him a physical before taking him back, and if he's huge now, they could just leave him off the 40-man and nobody would touch him. Even if there is an ego, it takes more than just ego to deal with the ennui of waiting for trial that never came, the inertial to just sit around waiting, it tested whether he really wants to still take that chance to be a major leaguer, is his love big enough, strong enough, to get his big butt moving and get into shape.

    Again, just my speculation, but I think all his actions so far gives me encouragement that he can come back and get back close to where he was before, and who knows, maybe even better if he actually burned off the baby fat that he had.

    As DrB noted, he is a very intriguing wildcard, if he's back, that makes our farm system looking good again, with Brown, Panik, and Villalona up top, and interesting potentials in Joseph, Crick, Susac, Osich, Oropesa, Dominguez.

  16. Oh, DrB, what helped Aaron beat Mays is that the Braves brought in their fences in the mid-late 60's, if you map his power surge in his late 30's, you would find that it began basically the year the fences were moved in.

    And if it wasn't more transparent, the Braves moved their fences back out once Aaron had achieved his goal and moved on from the Braves.

    Had the Giants done likewise in the late 60's, Mays probably would have reached Ruth first.

    So when I see the people moaning about the ethicalness of using illegals drugs to achieve baseball immortality, and then point to Hank Aaron, I have to laugh a lot, because the Braves cheated to get Aaron the record.

    And when I see the people complaining that Maris should still be holding the record, I can't help but think about all the anecdotal evidence that there was a lot of greenies going around, and have to wonder if a career non-homerun hitter like Maris didn't get some speed to help him survive the pressure that got so bad for him that his hair was falling out from the stress. For all we know, he took speed to help him get through that final month, which would have helped him beat Babe Ruth's record.

    All I can say is that there are a lot of people throwing stones as if their own glass house are immune. If everyone today is suspect for steroids, and a lot of the moralizing media who are now going the other direction of the pendulum, as if they were not culpable for not investigating more closely when it was pretty clear that McGwire was using something, then everyone of the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's were suspect for using amphetamines.

    I think a lot of the media is being two-faced about the whole thing. They missed it totally and to try to get that egg off their face, they are now acting like they are moral beacons to guide everyone, by taking on the players on the Hall of Fame ballot who are suspected users. I think Bonds will be THE interesting case because it is pretty much acknowledged that he was a Hall of Famer even before he was suspected of being a juicer (and I'm saying this because this is their stance on Bonds), so will they vote for him still or don't vote as a protest against him.

    The funny thing I find is that a lot of them are very transparent and don't even realize it. One I saw the other day said something about how Bonds is getting what he deserve because of the way he treated the media. How that has anything to do with the court system or justice, I don't know, but apparently his disdain for reporters is a crime that deserves legal punishment of some sort.

    I realize that they are human, but I thought they are suppose to at least try to be objective when they write.

  17. Great point about Fulton County fences and helping Aaron with the record. Mays anywhere but the Stick would have crushed that record. The AL bandboxes helped Ruth immensely, most of all Yankee stadium. And another great point about Aaron/Mays/Ruth not having to face roided up guys tossing 95. We're biased as Giants fans, but Willie Mays is the best all-around ballplayer to ever play and its not even close once you take defense and baserunning into account.

    This conversation is just getting started - all year long there will be ink spilled (well virtual ink at least) about Bonds and the HOF. Because Barry was definitely HOF before any of the PED stuff, he'll be the most interesting case of the era, as well as being the best player of the era. It'll be close, and I think he has a good chance of getting in actually. I really don't understand Verducci and Costas' stance, they both have keen appreciations of baseball history and just turn a blind irrational eye when it comes to Bonds.

    Quick tangent: do steroids effect vision? If they can help with the hand eye coordination I can see that being a pretty big advantage.

    Bonds continued dominance into his late 30s has more to do with being an incredible athlete and incredible student of the game than the creme and the clear to me. Ted Williams, Aaron and Bonds all enjoyed late career surge in stats. I think Aaron's is pretty convincingly tied to park factors, but Williams and Bonds were simply 2 of the greatest hitters to play the game. If Williams numbers weren't cut short by WW2/Korea he might have easily challenged Ruth as well. Bonds and Williams share a whole lot of similar traits, especially with regard to the media.

  18. OGC, thanks for the (assumed) info about Villanova - makes sense to me, so at least he's worth keeping as opposed to letting him go elsewhere. Tea leaves, kinda, but that's all we have.

    Bonds, it's funny - and how do they know he wasn't juicing in 1993? Oh, because he was a bigger guy. Geez.

    This is what I saw as a fan: Bonds started having elbow problems and knee problems, his speed was going fast. For a year or two, pitchers were getting him out low and outside. He adjusted, and developed the most incredible strike zone judgement (and pitch recognition, partly the same thing) of any player I've ever seen.

    The end. Otherwise he could've been Dave Kingman. People don't understand that "can hit the ball a long way" doesn't count for anything unless you have quite a number of other skills. I can't fathom how winning a batting title connects to steroids, for one.

    I laughed at the "treating the media" comment - indeed. And not only the justice system, what does it actually have to do with baseball?

  19. Shankbone, I've read research that said that Mays did not get hurt by Candlestick because his home/road HR splits were similar. I have to check home/road for NL during his career, to see if that held for league, that was not correct analysis, I agree with you and the anecdotal observations that Candlestick hurt Mays.

    Yes, Mays has to be considered the best all-around position player to ever play, but I call Ruth the best overall baseball player because of his accomplishments as both a pitcher and hitter. Not fair, I know - someone once told me that Mays could have pitched - since most players don't get opportunity to do both, but I prefer to give credit for what was accomplished.

    I just don't see Bonds getting in on the first vote. Many voters are probably like Verducci and Costas, moralizing on this, when they were just as culpable as the rest of the media for overlooking the strong rumors and innuendo that permeated baseball for years, decades, before the stuff hit the fan.

    I also find a subsegment who sees this as a chance to stick it to Bonds for his years of insufferable attitude and general dicky behaviors. I'm sure they will claim to be objective about this, but you can just tell by reading an article that they write that they will stick it to him.

    What I would love to see, given all the leaks that have happened in all spaces of human life now, is the actual votes for Bonds Hall of Fame class, to openly name all the writers who voted for Bonds and who didn't vote for Bonds.

    Though given the general interest in the topic, a large segment of the writers will have a column explaining why he will not vote for Bonds in his first vote.

    If being a good human being is a strong criteria for making the Hall of Fame on the first round, I think many would have ended up not getting in on their first try.

  20. Since I'm referring to them, here are the links:

    I think Eric Walker makes very strong case that it is a juiced ball that caused the explosion in offense, not juiced men. His analysis is what convinced me that PEDs play, at best, a very small part of the offensive explosion, and most likely had no effect at all.

    Here is what he wrote about vision:

    PEDs can affect, if anything, musculature, which in baseball translates to power. They do not, and cannot, do anything to improve hand-eye coordination, vision, ball judgement, timing, or any of the factors that go into hitting except actual power, the bat speed that determines the ball velocity and thus its travel distance.

    Examinations of the actual records of major-league baseball for over a century, with an especial focus on the last 25 or so years, those now being attributed to a "steroids era", show clearly and conclusively--by a number of independent analyses by a number of independent analysts each using a different methodology--that there simply is not any power boost needing explaining: PEDs are an "answer" lacking a pertinent question.

  21. Shankbone, I wrote about late career surges before, one of my earliest posts in my internet "career". The three of them and Darrell Evans (another former Giant) had late career power surges. Aaron, I've discovered lately, was helped by his park, to an unknown degree, though if I sat down and calculated, I can give an estimate (by looking at home run rates pre and post fence change).

    I agree that Williams is probably the greatest hitter ever in the history of baseball. I have speculated that his late career surge was because of his entry into the military. If you'll recall, he was called the Splendid Splinter early in his career. He ended up joining the Marines, and you know how elite that military force that is. I have to think that one of the benefits for Williams is that the Marines got him into the best physical shape of his life and taught him how to stay strong in that way. From pictures, he looked doughy when he was older, but I have to think that his military service played a role in his late career surge.

    I agree that Williams would have challenged Ruth. I calculated how many homers he could have produced, based on his rates going into and out of military service, plus expected playing time (reduced because of his injuries) and I had him around 720 homers (in my mind, 721 is the number that comes to mind; but I know it was higher). Of course, who knows what other injury he might have had had he been playing, so he probably would have ended up just short.

    But if we play this game, then it should be noted that had Ruth started as an OF instead of a very good pitcher, he probably would have more homers than that Japanese player, Oh.

    And yes, Williams was just as hated by writers of his era as Bonds was in his. Amazing how the years wore down the walls in that relationship until he was revered in the press. I wonder if that will ever happen for Bonds in, say, 20-30 years.

  22. Thanks for the comment, Marc.

    Yeah, I know, tea leaves, but basically everything is tea leaves right now with Villalona. But one can try to make some logical conclusions out of the tea leaves we got.

    Yeah, that strike zone judgement was super amazing. That's the thing I don't get with a lot of the sportswriters who think he benefited from juicing. They should know how hard it is to have such a great strikezone. If juicing was that powerful, then shouldn't there have been a bunch of mini-me Bonds-lites running through baseball, because that hand-eye coordination is the golden ticket to a baseball career, in my opinion, just look, again, at how Aaron or even Teddyball were great home run hitters without the great physique.

    Steroids clearly only helps one thing: muscle building. As you aptly noted, he didn't turn into Dave Kingman, a one-dimensional home run hitting but nothing else hitter.

    If anything, Bonds is an example of what happens when a hitter focuses really well at only swinging at pitches that he can do a lot of damage with, which is what Ted Williams taught in his book, that each batter have areas in the zone where he can do a lot of damage.

    I imagine Pablo could outdo Bonds if he could just do that.

    And we saw what Andres Torres could do when drugs helped him focus on things.

  23. OGC - Eric Walker posts as Owlcroft on MCC right? I read that juiced baseballs article, very interesting stuff.

    So no vision improvement. I guess its an old wives tale. It made a lot more sense to have something like that than extra bulk as an advantage.

    Hey! Now you can breath a sigh of relief, the Royals have welcomed back Yuniesky Betancourt to the fold. (That is a joke OGC, no need to respond that Sabean didn't have interest - you know he was checking out the back of his baseball card looking at his great batting averages...)

    I love arguments over Ruth/Williams/Mantle/JoeD. That is an excellent point about Ruth's pitching, and in so many ways there is no doubt he's the greatest. But if you wanted to build a ballplayer from scratch, you'd start with Mays or Mantle, and go from there. Fast, five tools guys.

    And one last thing about Barry - that guy is fastidious. He watched his dad break down his career with alcohol, just like Mantle, he knew exactly what was being put into his body, and that is another argument onto itself.

  24. OCG - enjoyed your fangraphs points. Especially the one about what the Giants should do about Posey's injury. Option A: Wring hands, sign a bad free agent. Option B: Expect your best player back, proceed.

    Also enjoyed the Huff comments. You are being pretty conservative with those projections, which is a good idea. I was leaning more towards career averages.

    I like these OF moves. The more I think about the baserunning aspect of this, the more comfortable I am with not getting Beltran. We have no idea what his camp really asked for. I think there is an aspect of having to overpay guys to go hit at PacBell.

  25. FYI, very good article on Barry Bonds by Biz of Baseball:

  26. Thanks Shankbone, I try to do my best.

    Yeah, I try to be conservative because I know that there are people who disagree with my take on things. I used to use my estimates for what I thought a player would do for us in the next season, but found myself arguing over and defending the methodology instead of discussing what the offense might look like.

    So I switched to using the major projections freely available out there, plus ones I buy via books (Bill James, Ron Shandler), so that I can just say, based on the leading projections, the Giants lineup look like it can do X.

    I still would prefer my estimates. I think my more intimate knowledge of the players, circumstances, and such, would lead to a better estimate than a rote, machine-driven process. But I don't have time for that nor time to defend my methodology, so I don't bother.

    Plus, given that I find a lot of the projections conservative, that gives me more confidence that what I say will come true, as I have a buffer then.

    But as 2011 showed, there is not enough buffer when you lose your top 4 hitters and only replace one of them.

    Yeah, nothing against Beltran, but I like Schierholtz better in RF and if Beltran played LF, then what happens to Melky and/or Pagan?

    One angle that played in my head a while back was the thought that Melky was insurance in case they can't sign Beltran. Because they could always trade him to another team, there is nothing preventing that, should they sign Beltran.

    As much as I like Melky, he's no Beltran with the bat. And I would think that Melky should fetch something OK on the trade market, more than we could have gotten, in terms of prospects, had we kept Sanchez and tried to trade him for prospects, as he's too much of a question mark, I think.

    So I think about that sometimes.

    Well, just as soon as it seems like more people are acknowledging that while AT&T has a pitcher's reputation, that has not been supported by park factors for a long time, AT&T was a drastic pitcher's park again in 2011, according to Bill James methodology.

    So maybe Beltran got a taste of that and wants more to play there, you are right.

    And that's fine with me, I want players who want to win championships. If the player is looking to make a few more millions rather than take a chance with the Giants and win a championship with our great pitching staff, then he probably won't help us out much when crunch time comes, frankly.

    That has actually been one of my hopes, that older free agents with something in their tank will accept a lower contract with the Giants in their last contract to get the chance to win it all. Maybe that will happen if the Giants can win it all again in 2012 and the Giants had signed Lincecum and Cain to long-term contracts. Maybe they, like many dumb Giants fans, think the Giants lucked out in 2010, instead of realizing that the glorious pitching made it all possible.

  27. It would be nice to change the Giants rep from "the last place vets go when they burn out" to a Bill Walsh/Niners "come win a title with us". I think the former is pretty unfair, the Rowand/Roberts signings were the high water on that front for the most part except for the shortstops. Unfortunately the Bay Area's liberal reputation might play a pretty strong 2 in the 1-2 punch of bad hitters park, baseball players tend to the conservative side. What makes that not be a factor? $ signs. No way Pujols would bring his talents to the bay though, I think he's very happy in Orange county, and I bet it was a pretty big consideration.

    In a funny twist, I bet the Cards do get Beltran. We'll see how much. As low as 8MM was thrown out, I'll be pretty shocked if its that low. One thing that just came out (Jon Heyman tweet) is that Beltran would only accept a trade to the Phils or the Gints. Now that should be taken with a grain of salt, its Heyman. But I always thought that might be true. Too late to cry about it, but I don't think there is any way the Mets trade him to the Phils. What am I getting at? Yeah, I wish Sabean drew them down to the deadline and extracted a lesser prospect. Spilled milk though, you have to move on, we had our shot.

    I lean towards the Giants wouldn't have given up Wheeler if they thought he was going to be another Cain/Madbum. But I do think he'll be a good pitcher. just how good we don't know yet. DrB and Bacci are pretty convinced of his talents.

  28. Thanks for your comments, Shankbone.

    DrB's opinion, I take highly. Bacci, not so much. He's been a Sabean Naysayer for a long time, and despite the competitiveness of the team the past few years, still one.

    Yeah, it will take a while to get to that "come be winners with us" level of status, I just thought that if it was that obvious to me, it would be obvious to people in baseball. But it appears I have given them too much credit.

    Or I'm just too early on that happening yet.

    You talk about the liberalness of the Bay Area, but have you forgotten about the Giants God Squad? So that could happen again.

    Thanks for the info on Beltran. Yeah, I see the Cards trying to get Beltran after they lost Pujols, as that would allow them to move Berkman to 1B, where he should be now (and to your point about Holliday at DrB, perhaps the Cards planned on that already), plus replace a large portion of Pujols offense without losing any talent.

    As I noted somewhere (here? DrB?), I wonder if the Giants might still pursue Beltran at the right price/years. They could always trade Melky. Also, didn't touch on it in that comment, but I have to admit that they could push Nate to the bench, though the Giants would position it as a competition between Nate and Melky and Pagan for playing time. I hope not, I like Nate, but that is a possibility.

    For Heyman, it is a double edge sword. You always have to think hard on how his tweet might benefit a Boras client. But it is not like he is not without connections, so the tweet could be valid. So I would note that Beltran is no longer a Boras client and I don't see what the benefit of the tweet is for getting Beltran signed, as it suggests that he is very picky about where he goes. It benefits the Giants because, assuming this is true, it legitimizes the Giants as a destination place to go if you want to win it all (which we were just talking about; funny how that works :^).

    I don't care much for second guessing what ifs, if that was an error, then hopefully they learn from it and move on.

    But I still like the trade. I have no idea whether Wheeler will ever be on par with Madbum or Lincecum (I thought he was that good once), but just looking realistically at how he was doing at the time of the trade, he looked sure to repeat San Jose (2012) and if he moved one level at a time (AA-2013, AAA-2014) he makes the majors for good in 2015, 4 seasons after the trade. And if he's unable to control his pitches well enough to not walk Advanced A hitters, how long would it take him to figure out how to do that against major league hitters?

    It was a calculated risk for a very good hitter so I was and still am OK with that. I also take to heart that Sabean and gang has not made a mistake of that magnitude with a prospect (as noted before, I don't consider Liriano a mistake to trade) before.

    At that point, in any case, the Mets had the leverage: they had an asset that the Giants really needed. Don't matter that Beltran would only accept a trade to Phillies or Giants, the Mets could hold onto him.

    And frankly, there was a steep drop from Wheeler/Brown to anyone else in the farm system, well, except Joseph, but the Giants would not want to trade him either (and neither do us). After these top three, the Giants would have to bundle a whole bunch of question marks. Maybe that might have worked but if you and I can see that these question marks mostly likely never make the majors, I am pretty sure the Mete did too.

    Once you get to that point, then you hold out for a Wheeler/Brown. Sure, Mets risk losing Beltran for nothing. But the Giants risk losing a chance to get into the World Series. What is more urgent?

  29. Final thoughts on Wheeler, don't think I encapsulated them well above.

    Sure, I think he has a good chance to be a good pitcher. But at the time of the trade, not until 2015 at the earliest.

    Now that he did well for the Mets (in a pitchers league), people are crying more into their beer and garlic fries over him, but he really was not doing well for us in Advanced A, where most of our top finesse pitchers breezed through easily before topping out in AA and AAA.

    So the question for me became: do we try to win it this season or hope that he beat the odds (even 6th picks are not that likely to be a good player in the majors) and be a good player in 2015 and beyond?

    I think that was the allusion Sabean was making about how trading Wheeler means that the Giants will have to work hard now on replacing him, he was viewing a long view, not a quick one.

    The funny thing is that a lot of the Sabean Naysayers have been complaining for years about how Sabean wouldn't trade prospects for that big player who could help the team, but once he did what they had been clamoring for, then they attack him for trading away such a good pitcher.

    I think this trade will end up reminiscent of the the Alderson trade, personally, not quite so lopsided, but thereabouts.

    However, whereas I didn't see Alderson ever making the majors, I think Wheeler will, but will be in the mode of other great Giants pitching prospects like Remlinger and Grant, good pitchers but not great.

    Another thing to remember about the trade is that the Giants basically got back the money they had paid in bonus to Wheeler because the Mets took care of most of the rest of Beltran's salary (or was it all?). So the Giants did gain financially from having Wheeler, getting money and a good player.

  30. I say you always have to go for it. They were in first place. We're just cleaning up after the party went south, with a nice fat hangover. The problem with our minor leagues is there isn't enough depth yet. I think that is coming, it does take longer than a lot of naysayers think. Its not a quick process. Everything can go right (such as hitting on Timmy/MadBum/Posey for example), but things can go way wrong as well (Lowry/Williams/Ainsworth).

    It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall to see who pushed for the Giants to invest the money, take the draft seriously, and change direction. I don't think there is one driving force necessarily, but the change of philosophy came about, and got implemented. Looking at the old BA summaries, Baggs talks freely about that in 07-08. The departure of a very vocal champion of the whole minor leagues in Neukom does worry me a bit, as budgets are being bandied about. Its just weird, 130MM is one of the best budgets in baseball, and they somehow sound cheap about it. I think this is a PR disaster for the Giants. I'd approach it as "we're comfortable with our talent coming from within, we'll look to add a couple pieces, we have to lock up our own players before we think about any other moves" - no budget talk, and no rainy day talk.

    Speaking in public is not Sabean's strong suit. He's brutally honest, in his own way, and I really enjoy that. But it has a lot of rough edges. He really wants to be running the baseball team away from all scrutiny when it comes down to it. I think that's why I enjoy his pressers so much - he does his best to lay out something real without giving anything away.

    I'm glad we didn't give up Brown. We'll have to see, I do trust them with the B throwaway guys we burned through in the other trades, but Wheeler looks to be legit. Good point about him taking longer to develop.

    With Beltran, I am 99% sure that ship has sailed. Don Carlos seems to be a guy who needs a lot of respect given, and Sabean going public like that seems pretty final to me. After looking closely at the baserunning projections, I think I've stumbled upon the G's logic in this whole thing. You throw in the fact they want their guys locked up like you said about making the priority, and its not happening. Circle the wagons, they might let a RH OF bat squeeze in, but this is what's coming in spring training.

    That and some minor league contract spring training invites to pitchers - I threw this up on Drb's at you - but Schulman tweeted they've put the invite out on the wire. Looking for the next Vogelsong, come on down. I hope you're right about Zito recovering from the accident. I consistently forget about that. I have my doubts, but if Barry Zito wants to be the reclamation project himself, that would be fine as well.

  31. Well, we got most of Beltran's contract paid, and yes, that could be viewed as paying for Wheeler's bonus. I support the trade. And I agree, Sabean went for it and shouldn't get monday morning qb'd. Wheeler had the weird finger issue, and then didn't show any control, like you said. Time will tell. Sabean did let it drop they viewed him as a possible reliever in the show, which was interesting, one of those throwaway lines you're not sure - did he just say that? What did that mean?

    They also talked about its their job to get more pitching. And here is the real advantage - not only the G's scouting and development, but that's where they need to find a strategy that works with free agency. Harder to do than with position players though. The reclamation seems to be the cheapest best way to go. You don't want to go get another Zito, for sure. But a couple of "prove it" deals would be good. And yes, I'll throw my Paul Maholm pipedream up - if he's frustrated with the offers, he comes to SF, gets good numbers from that, he can improve his stock. Just like hitters look to the bandboxes. Hell, Aaron Harang, a very ordinary pitcher, did it in SD, moving onto the Doyers. hopefully we can slap him around, I prefer facing him to Kuroda for sure.

    Trader Billy just dropped Gio G off with the Nationals. I predict a Fielder signing within the week for them as well. They might as well at this point. I think he got a better return than for Cahill.

  32. OGC - the freakout has begun. I'm surfing around looking at opinions here and there... went to crazy crabbers and found your Williams/Belt comments, here's the part that stood out:

    I think the Giants have shown that overall, they understand Belt better than anyone else. As much as Giants fans seem to think they discovered him first, most of them either didn't notice that he was drafted (and I was one of those) or didn't think much of him, particularly because he didn't do that great in college. The Giants did and worked with him to get him to where he dominated most of 2010.

    If you said THAT to me a couple months ago we wouldn't have argued back and forth as much. Nice job.



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