Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sabean and Bochy get contracts extended thru 2013

As reported (Baggarly, Shea, Haft), the Giants extended Sabean's and Bochy's contracts in lock-step again.  Their contracts were due to expire in 2012, but got extended to 2013 plus there is a team option year for 2014, like there was for their prior contract, which was picked up for the 2012 season last year by Neukom.  Basically, the Giants upper management had to wait for Baer to be annointed "person of control" by the MLB, before he could finalize negotiations with Sabean and Bochy, else this deal might have been finished earlier.

In the press conference that announced the deal, they made a number of comments about the Giants future course (Baggarly, Shea, Haft):
  • The plan is to earmark most of their money for their pitching staff, then use the remainder to improve the offense.  People rag on the offense, but as I'll show soon, a large part of that decline was the loss of Posey, but people conveniently forget about abnormal, unlikely to repeat events like that.  "There won't be any big splash.  Our pitching is our gold standard.  We have to make sure we take care of that commodity first," said Sabean.
  • Evans noted in the meeting that he has just started talking with Lincecum's and Cain's agents, exchanging ideas and some numbers, mostly talking broadly, so they are not very far into the process yet (due to "so many other things").
  • They also have a large number of arbitration-eligible players:  Ryan Vogelsong, Ramon Ramirez, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Nate Schierholtz, Pablo Sandoval.
  • Once they take care of the pitching, then they will see how much money is left in the payroll and see which free agents will fit in that.  But they don't anticipate a household name, per se, no sticker shock type of play.
  • The payroll has been bumped up to $130M (I believe it was around $125M last season, plus there is always the mythical rainy day fund).
  • What they are looking for is better balance and flexibility.  Depth is important and thus flexibility with the roster is important.  (ogc note:  rumors are that the Giants are kicking the tires on Jerry Hairston, Jr., who can play MI as well as COF.  I view him as the successor to the role envisioned for Mark DeRosa, though I'm not sure how good he is defensively; DeRosa was great defensively and good offensively).
  • Appears that re-signing Carlos Beltran is a longshot.  He was asked and agreed that an AL club (with the ability to DH regularly) could probably offer Beltran a longer-term contract than the Giants were comfortable with offering to a player with bad knees in his mid-30's.  Still, Sabean noted, "He is a consideration but term will be an issue with anybody we pursue, whether it's him or anybody else.  We have a game plan with what we consider a reasonable length."  (ogc note:  I would note here that they were comfortable with giving Franchez a 3-year contract, which, fortunately for us, he turned down for a two-year, and he's been even more injured prone than Beltran.  People need to remember that as business-people, you don't want to negotiate publicly nor give away your hand.  The Giants might be willing to give 3 years, but you don't give that away, particulalry in public, it is better if you play poor, act like it is possible that you will pass on signing, show some reticience in re-signing, as negotiations will always be one where each side has to give on something. You can't make a fair offer publicly and not have it bite you in the ass later in private negotiations).
  • Baggarly:  "Sabean made it clear that the extensions will not be his focus when he arrives at the winter meetings in Dallas on Sunday. He is looking to improve the offense via trade or free agency, with the outfield being the area most in need."
  • About SS, Sabean was impressed with the strides Brandon Crawford made in the AFL.  He could possibly be annointed the starter, though it was noted that they could carry his questionable bat if the offense improves elsewhere, and it was noted that he did what was asked to do in AFL, getting high marks regarding the strides he has made (ogc:  everyone has a questionable bat, that is why in the NL the 8th place hitter don't hit for much, so he has a low bar to make.  Plus the pitching makes the bar lower.  I think the offense is good enough as is to handle his bat, particularly because he was actually pretty good at avoiding strikeouts last season, so I think it is just a matter of adjustments and experience before he starts hitting.  May as well start in 2012 as the starter).
  • About Belt, Sabean praised his work in the Dominican Winter League, noting Belt's adjustments and his willingness to go there, accept their challenge (he was not intending to go to Winter League, Giants asked him to, partly to make up for development he missed in 2011 because of injury and sitting on the bench).  Moises Alou (GM of the team Belt played on) gave positive reports on Belt.   They noted that he was playable in the OF, though they realize that 1B is his best position. 
  • About Ross, he is still up in the air, Sabean noted, "not sure" when asked about him.  (ogc:  that is consistent with before, Sabean noted that Ross could come back to the team later, if available.)
  • Sabean, according to  Baggarly, left the general impression that he might not make another move to help the offense.  Sabean:  “I think we have developed enough choices including our young players in the mix and our arbitration eligible players as far as the price point that’s suitable.  I think we’ve created enough food for thought and flexibility... Health is always an issue. We hope the guys who were banged up last year come back to form and do their part and pull their weight.”  (ogc:  I agree that another move is not necessary to help the offense, it should be good enough to win right now, but obviously any additional buffer to risk mitigate another hitter failing to perform would be great.)
And that is roughly it for the press conference, though there were a few other items that came up (read the accounts for that).  

Giants Thoughts

This is what I thought should happen, though I am sure that there are legions of Giants fans crying into their garlic fries right now.  I am very happy right now that Sabean and Bochy got extended another season plus a team option for another season. 

Sabean deserves to continue being the GM, both for putting together the team that we have today and for guiding the team well in the rebuilding phase during the losing.  Bochy, as I noted in prior research, is a unique manager, capable of bringing up his team by anywhere from 6 to 10 wins, every other season, that is a WAR of about 3-4 a season, which some sabers price at $4M (and higher) per win, or $12-l6M per season.  That's a bargain, as I assume Bochy probably don't make anywhere near that per season.

I was disappointed by Haft's dig at both Sabean and Bochy when he noted that others have done more than either over their tenure than they have.  First, sure, there are those who have done more, but that ignores the cycles that Baer talked about in the press conference when praising the two of them.  You have to accept that there will be times when a team is losing and rebuilding.  It also ignores that Bochy was handicapped by the Padres poor payroll problems that regularly rolled around and decimate the good team he had, then was hurt by the Giants rebuilding period at the tail end of the Barry Bonds era, where the teams weren't good enough to win yet.  Every team has a life-cycle of rebuild/compete/repeat that has to play out, nobody is going to be a winner all the time, that is rarely done in the majors, if ever.

Second, and more importantly, Sabean has the team set to win throughout the 2010's and be the team of the decade that I've been predicting for the past 3 years.  The pitching is all pretty set up, they only have to lock up Lincecum and Cain right now to set the team up nicely to do well over the next 4-5 years or so.  The middle of the lineup looks to be great with Sandoval, Posey, and Belt, and the top of the lineup will hopefully be great with Brown and Panik up top in a year or two. 

And with our great pitching and defense (just got the latest THT annual and it has the Giants team defensive runs saved figures there for the past few years and they have been one of the best defensive teams in the majors), what a lot of people don't realize is that it creates a low run environment in almost every game the Giants play in, thus making even a poor offense a good enough offense to win a lot of games with.  But people are stuck in the mindset that you can't win with a poor offense and thus think that Sabean is lame for not doing more.

He is doing what he should be doing, securing our future dominance by getting Lincecum and Cain signed longer term.  The whole team structure for winning falls apart without Lincecum and Cain up top (and with Bumgarner).  I have no doubt that we can get Cain signed to a 5 year contract that might even have a slight home discount.  I expect Lincecum to want fair value (i.e. no discount) but given the talk about liking shorter deals, I would be OK with a two year deal with an option year, then focus on getting him signed to a longer term deal next off-season.

There has been no mention about Bumgarner, but given the animosity that probably was engendered when the Giants summarily renewed his contract at their price for the 2011 season, I would hope the Giants look into making Bumgarner happy, it don't have to be a contract to buy out the rest of his pre-free agent years, though I would like something like that, but I think they should show him a little love in the contract negotiations this off-season.  And I've mentioned Posey and Sandoval getting signed up long-term as well.

All in all, a well deserved extension for both Sabean and Bochy.  Bochy in particular for bringing up the team and making it competitive for the playoffs, when by Pythagorean, by all rights they should have been scuffling around .500 during the 2011 season.  But Sabean too, deserves credit for trying to keep the team together in 2011 for another run, but when things got bad, made the big move to trade for Beltran, plus jettisoned both Tejada and Rowand, when they proved to be detrimental to winning.  Plus, by keeping the pitching staff together, that enabled the team to survive poor hitting and numerous injuries, and still be competitive enough for .500, by Pythagorean, when most teams losing a key player like Posey for the season would be sunk the moment he went down.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Money Paves the Way to San Jose

Sorry, no links, but the news is that Selig is suddenly moving forward with the A's desire to move to San Jose, and will meet with the Giants about this.

I guess the other news is that San Jose has sold an option to Wolff to purchase the parcel of land that they are hoping to build the stadium on. Sold for $50,000, the city spent something over $25M to buy those pieces but has agreed to sell it to Wolff for just under $7M. Hope that is contingent on a stadium deal, else he just made a lot of money off the backs of San Jose citizens.

The catch there is that the city has not finished buying all the parcels of land, that is why they are selling him those parcels, in hopes that he can finish up that process, as the city is tapped dry apparently by the fiscal crisis that has hit most state and local governments since the Great Recession.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 Giants 40-Man Moves Ahead of Rule 5

Hank Schulman scooped everyone with his report on Villalona, the 40-man changes, and Pablo Sandoval's lasix eye surgery.  Andy Baggarly had an extensive blog on the whole matter.

The News:  Added to the Giants 40-man roster were 1B Angel Villalona, outfielders Tyler Graham and Roger Kieschnick, infielder Charlie Culberson, and pitchers Dan Otero and Hector Correa, whom the Giants got as part of a series of trades that sent now-retired Jack Taschner to the Phillies.

However, the Giants were at 36 at that time, so they had to DFA Waldis Joaquin again and Darren Ford.   If they are not traded in 10 days, any team may pick them up, but the Giants are interested in picking them both back up afterward. Last time they DFAed Joaquin, he was claimed but the White Sox, he refused and became a free agent, upon which he resigned with the Giants.

The surprising news was that Villalona was added.  It was speculated that perhaps this was related to getting Angel's visa reinstated so that he can return to the U.S.  There are other logical reasons I could think of.  One is that this was part of the legal settlement of the $5M lawsuit that Villalona filed against the Giants.  I have to think that a 40-man player is paid a lot more than a minor leaguer.  Another is that perhaps the Giants would just like to move forward on this, and by putting him on the 40-man, there is now a timeclock on when he can be jettisoned from the organization without there being really hard feelings.  For example, if he were not put on the 40-man but was just released after he becomes a 6 year minor leaguer, he could decide that the Giants didn't give him enough of a chance and decide to sue again.  Lastly, I believe that Rule 5 also has drafting of lower level prospects ( never understood that), and since his highest level is single-A, perhaps he could have been grabbed for someone's AA team.

Hopefully, and more likely, is that Villalona is still a viable prospect.  The reports are that his swing is still good, that he has good bat speed.  The original reports noted that he had slimmed down.  I would have liked to have heard more about that, because he was a Big Boi, and slimming is not much when you are that big to begin with.  But he sounds very serious about doing something in baseball, so with all that free time I was hoping that maybe he did something like Sandoval and really slimmed down.  Maybe Sandoval can introduce him to his trainers during spring training and get him on the program.

I saw some worries out there about there being so many 1B now in the Giants system.   I would note that he's always wanted to play 3B, was rated a plus prospect at defense at 3B when he first was signed, and continued to take fielding practice at 3B even while he was playing 1B. He was only playing first because the Giants wanted him to focus more on his offense than his defense. So I think 3B is viable for him going forward, if not already part of his legal settlement.

Among other news, Panda got his eyes Lasiked. He was having problems with his contacts -remember, he hit 2009 without good eye sight - and this procedure would allow him good vision without the equipment, as I recall goggles being involved too. He reported that it went fine, or maybe it was his brother who tweeted that, do not recall. So, in other words, he was hampered by his vision again in 2011 but should be able to see the ball clearly all the time in 2012. It was also noted that his shoulder was healed too, and should not hamper him in 2012 either. Hopefully, look out baseball world!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vogelsong's Song: Will He Sing or the Fat Lady?

A couple of the reasons I used to hit just about every Giants blog way back when are that 1) I like to find solutions to questions, and 2) it's a waste if I find something interesting, good or bad, and don't share it with other Giants fans (that's probably why I've made a career in research).  Back then, the idiot quotient was still relatively low and I didn't have to go through 999 columns of dreck before I get to some interesting and serious Giants discussion, where interesting questions get asked and I would answer.  That's why I used to come in second in polls on MCC when asked who was the most informative poster there (I always came in second to Steve Shelby, which is no shame, he's really good).  So I kind of miss that, but I don't miss getting totally aggravated by all the nonsense I see out there.

Long time reader Allfrank just recently made my day by asking me a question on my blog (Thanks! BTW) about Vogelsong's chances of repeating in 2012.  Or more specifically, he noted that his performance was great then seemed to come back to Earth after the All-Star game, and is worried about whether he can repeat or if the league has caught up with him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bill James Handbook: 2011 Giants Defensive Leaders and Laggards

Just got the 2012 Bill James Handbook, which has a TON of 2011 statistics that you can't get anywhere else, or hardly anywhere else.

The first thing I wanted to get into was the Fielding Bible stats in the front of the book, using their Plus/Minus system which they then translate into Runs Saved.  And generally, 10 runs saved is the equivalent of one extra win.

OK, going with my train of thought, to show the power that the Giants have with their great pitching staff, I plugged in the NL average RA (4.16) in 2011 and that is actually true, when I add 10 runs to the RS, that is pretty close to 1 extra win, 1.014 wins to be exact.  I think plugged in the Giants RA (3.57) and that works out to 16% more effectiveness in winning, 1.181 wins.  Or looking at it another way, the Giants only has to score 8.457 more runs in order to win one game, where the average NL team has to score roughly 10 runs.  In contrast, Houston had the worse pitching staff in the NL, and each additional 10 runs they score only gets them 0.861 wins, meaning they have to score 11.6 runs in order to win one additional game.

And one thing that is neglected to be said when it is noted that it results in one extra win, and that has always bothered me, is that this is a zero-sum game, so adding one win from 81 to 82 in a season, is actually a 2 game bump in games above .500, pushing you from 81-81 to 82-80, as it also takes away a loss.  Thus, adding 5 wins via player acquisitions pushes a team from 81-81 to 86-76.

Now onto the data.

Monday, November 07, 2011

It's Begun: Giants Trade Dirty for Melky Cabrera

Just read the news, oh boy:  Hank Schulman blogged that the KC writer tweeted that Jonathan Sanchez has been traded for CF Melky Cabrera.  He was able to confirm it.  There is also an article on Yahoo on it as well, which reported that Ryan Verdugo was also included in the trade.

Giants Thoughts

Not too surprising because Sabean in recent interviews noted that the Giants might have to trade a starting pitcher.  That leaves the rotation at Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito, with Eric Surkamp as the first guy up in case of need.  I also didn't think that Zito would end up in the bullpen as some had suggested, no way that would happen.  His greatest value is as a starter, particularly if he can return to his 2009-10 form, which was pretty good.

This also made sense because Sanchez was the most obvious to trade, in terms of value in return as well as lack of future value, because of his agent, Scott Boras.  Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner look like keepers, if at all possible, while Vogelsong and Zito would not yield much in trade, if anything in Zito's case.

This is a great trade assuming the Melky continues hitting the way he did in 2011, a breakout offensive season for him.  He plays CF, his OBP is decent enough for leadoff, and he has some speed judging by his SB, he just needs to hone his skill down to achieve a higher success stealing rate, which the Giants appear capable of doing, they were able to improve Randy Winn's  percentage in his time here.

His agent is NOT Scott Boras, so we might even be able to sign him long-term, and his hitting is good enough to move to the corners if necessary.  As much as I love Nate Schierholtz and believe in Brandon Belt, they both still need to prove themselves.  As do Melky as well, for that matter.  And his defense could be below average in CF while above average on the corners, according to Baseball-Reference.com, so that fits with him holding CF until Gary Brown is ready.

Another nice thing about him is that 2012 will be his 27 YO season, so he is headed into his prime years, potentially with us, if we end up signing him to a longer term contract, maybe an extension into his first or second year of free agency, which would still leave him at around 30 for his first big free agent contract, two good seasons won't necessarily get him that kind of big money.

Verdugo I think is thrown in because of the injuries that Sanchez had in 2011 that reduced his value a bit, as that leaves a question mark on his 2012 season.  Also, Sanchez is 29 next season, so he is a bit older then Melky, so that also justifies giving up another player.  I can live with that.  Verdugo struck out a lot but also walked a lot, and was a bit old for AA.  And the Giants have been very good in deciding which pitchers to give up in trades so far.

I like this trade a lot.  Clears up the CF situation, he's a pretty good player in exchange for a pretty good pitcher, he's a good hitter, and can play all OF positions, which gives Bochy a lot of flexibility in setting the lineup, depending on who is hitting and who is not (or injured).  Don't really see any need to sign any other OF now, OF appears to be set at Belt/Torres, Cabrera, Schierholtz, unless, of course, they somehow sign Carlos Beltran.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

On Your Mark: 2011 Free Agent Season

With the World Series over, after a inspiring Cards win, showing you should never give up (or an agonizing Rangers loss, coming within a strike, twice, of winning it all), free agency has officially begun in earnest.  The Giants started things out by signing Javier Lopez to a two year, $8.5M contract and picking up Jeremy Affeldt's $5M option (nice DrB discussion and commenting here, including moi).

The Chronicle's John Shea wrote an article on "SF Giants Need to Sign Carlos Beltran".  While I love getting offense, I don't see that the Giants NEED to sign Beltran.  What they need to do this off-season is get Lincecum and Cain signed to long-term deals, buying out their free agent years.  Next level of priority is signing Posey and Sandoval to long-term deals.  And it would be nice to sign Madison Bumgarner to a long-term contract as well.

But if Giants ownership do open up their pursestrings and sign Beltran (which would be ironic since apparently that is part of the reason why Neukom was forced out, his eagerness to spend the windfall money that came out of the World Championship), I would have to think that the Giants become the presumptive team to beat for the 2012 season, assuming that Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez return to the lineup doing what we think they can do for us.

But even if we do not, with our great pitching, returning such good hitters to our lineup will do wonders for our offense, particularly paired up with a slugging Sandoval.  We can win with that.  Any nice hitting by Aubrey Huff would then be the whip cream on top (hate those cheeries...).  We can still win with our offense as is as long as our pitcher is as good as it has been, though, like 2011, it would not be a sure thing (but few things are in life).

Of course, we still need a CF and SS.  I think Brandon Crawford is ready enough for us to go with him as the starter at SS.  His defense, while not UZR friendly (he was only 8.2 UZR/150; most fans think he's at least worth 2 wins or 20 UZR/150), is still pretty good, and batting 8th, he doesn't have to hit for much to be valuable to the Giants in the lineup.  His nice run in September, and now in AFL, suggests that he can get a good streak going sometimes; now he has to do it over a full season.  Because of the tight payroll, and particularly if the Giants do sign Beltran, I think it is a no-brainer to start Crawford at SS, first, because he should be good enough to start, and almost just as important, he's majorly cheap to pay.  Wouldn't mind getting Rollins, but not at the 5 years he wants or the big money he wants (more than Renteria got from us).

For CF, while not ideal, I think either Coco Crisp or David DeJesus would be OK for us atop our lineup.  Crisp is the more classic leadoff hitter except that he can't get on base, DeJesus has a great OBP but not enough speed to steal bases with, though enough to play CF in prior seasons.  1 season, 2 tops, no more than
$5M per, particularly Crisp who is injured so often.

Ideally, if Beltran could still play CF, that would be best for us, at least in 2012.  Unfortunately, his defense was pretty bad there the last two seasons he played there.  However, he was even worse in RF in 2011, so given his great offensive performance is worth even more in CF while he provides "better" (relative to RF) defense in CF, maybe he can play CF for us, with Nate Schierholtz perhaps helping him in the RF alley.

Then we would not need to sign a CF free agent, let Andres Torres and Brandon Belt fight it out for LF.  Whoever wins can be the leadoff hitter, as Belt actually ran well in the minors and typically gets on base a lot too.  His power would be a little wasted there, but that is where we need him in 2012 should he win LF.  Also, I would probably put Belt in AAA should Torres win, better to give him regular starts than sit on the bench, at least in early 2012.

Sabean also hinted at an upgrade at backup C for 2012, with the thought that Posey probably will not be able to play a full season at catcher due to his recovery, so he might sign a vet there.  I lobbied for Jose Molina previously because he's an excellent defensive catcher who knows how to handle pitchers really well (Fielding Bible II metric had him best during study period) but he's not much of a hitter.  Not sure who else is available, not really something to worry about either, though I would lobby for Stewart to keep the backup job, his batting discipline is actually pretty good, he could be one of those late developing catchers who figures out how to hit in his 30's (I think he was 29 last season).

I was also hoping that the Giants could somehow fit Mark DeRosa on the bench and sign him.  He can play so many positions (and well defensively) and he should finally be healthy in 2012.  He hit well for us at the end too.  But he wants to be back near home so if anyone on the east coast and particularly south offers him a job, he will probably take it.

Even if we don't get him, we probably only have two spots open for MI on the bench (backup catcher, probably Brett Pill, and backup OF, Torres if Belt wins).  The Giants probably have to have a reliable vet as backup SS, so Mike Fontenot probably got one position, unless the Giants can pick off a better SS for cheap in January.  That leaves only one spot and we have two players who we will lose if they don't win a spot, Emmanuel Burriss and Conor Gillaspie.  I think Burris has the best chance of winning that spot, since Gillaspie can't really play defense at any position (he's probably going to get traded to an AL team or released) and Burriss can play SS and can play 2B really well.  But if we lose both it won't be a huge loss either, if the Giants can pick up a nice backup SS free agent who got left without a spot on another team.

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