Sunday, December 23, 2012

Giants Latest to Pick up Rosario: Last?

As reported a few days ago by the Chronicle and, the Giants picked up Sandy Rosario via waivers, after a successive of waiver claims - plus a trade in the middle by the A's and subsequent loss back to Boston, but not before shipping Graham Godfrey over the Red Sox for nothing - left Rosario with five team changes in this off-season alone.  He has not done much in the majors, in fact, stunk, but had great minor league stats.  Will the Giants be his final team of this off-season?

ogc thoughts

I think so, at least for much of spring training, as I have to think that he is out of options and must either make the team or be put throught waivers again.  I view this as another one of the Giants reclamation projects akin to their pickup of Santiago Casilla, not that he'll necessarily be as good (and who knows, he could be better, look at his minor league record).  A hard thrower who has had a ton of control problems in recent years in the majors, showing a major case of jitters perhaps, as he has had a very good career of controlling his walks in the minors.  But not only that, but he couldn't strike out many in the majors either.  Still, very limited usage in the majors, so who knows what he might do if given some time to calm down and pitch.

He had a bit of a breakout season in 2012 in AAA, 1.04 ERA in 25 appearances with 16 saves, 26.0 IP with only 20 hits and 2 walks, striking out 24 for a 0.7 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, and 12.0 K/BB ratio, showing the excellent control he has had most of his career, in fact, a career high by almost double in K/BB ratio.  That is Romo territory at the major league level.

Nice pickup, overall.  He's a strikeout machine in the minors, exhibit a lot of control, really, most of his career, his major problem has been giving up too many hits, in spite of all the strikeouts.  He would be really good if he can do three things with the Giants:  one, avoid the hits, the BABIP on him has been incredible in the minors, but that could just be very very bad BABIP luck because as a reliever, he doesn't get a lot of IP, two, bring his strikeout ability to the majors, where it has been sorely missing, and three, control the walks, and he does have those last two on his minor league resume, he just needs to bring that consistently to the majors.  And the Giants have had a pretty good record in the Sabean era with pickups, except for the dark years of rebuilding and losing.

But he will be 27 YO for the next season, so he does not have much more time to figure things out.  Hopefully the Giants pitching doctors, particularly Dick Tidrow, will find the cure for what ails Sandy.

He takes a spot on the 40 man roster, leaving the Giants at 38.

In addition, the Giants added Cole Gillespie, signing him to a minor league contract, which is just going to confuse me even more as we still have Conor Gillaspie in our farm system.  I have occasionally caught myself confusing the two of them for each other when reading about prospects.  :^)

Conor is most probably gone by opening day as I believe he is finally out of options and will have to be put through waivers once the Giants decide that he is not going to make the 25 man roster.  He has mainly played 3B, so he will need to show some versatility in spring that he can play other positions, else he's probably better off with an American League team that can DH him regularly.

I can see Minnesota being into him, they took Buscher off our hands a while back and gave him a lot of playing time despite hitting that was not that good at 3B (wasn't really good even for SS), though I don't know what their 3B situation is right now.  But like I noted, DH is probably a good spot for him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Your 2013 Giants: Casilla Signed for 3 Years, $15M

Avoiding arbitration, the Giants signed du jour closer Santiago Casilla to a 3 years, $15M contract, which has a vesting option for the fourth year, which is currently a team option with $1M buyout (Baggarly, Schulman, Pavlovic, Haft).  It is still pending a physical, but those are generally a legal formality.

This sews up his last arbitration year plus two free agent years and controls a third year as well.   This also covers returning the last important piece of the bullpen, as now Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, are signed and Kontos and Mijares are controlled, leaving a spot open for competition, as Mota is not expected back (nor was he that important either).  Also, Shane Loux was resigned recently as well.

ogc thoughts

Another dotted i and crossed t.  The bullpen is now pretty set (not that it wasn't before, as the Giants did tender a contract) with only one spot open.   With Hembree, Otero, Hacker, Loux, Machi, and Runzler still around, I assume the Giants are keeping that last position open for competition, as they usually do when they have a number of prospects on the cusp of reaching the majors.  That is why I think they most likely will keep LF open as well.  Of course, if a great option for either becomes available for a great low price pre-spring training, things could change, but for now, competition appears likely.

I like the deal, even though it covers ages 32 to 34 and could include 35.   Relievers are generally reliable into their mid-30's.  The concern is that Casilla has had injury problems in the past and includes his blister problem in 2012, when he was pushed to 73 appearances, a giant leap in usage over his previous years of around 50 games and 50 IP, but his usage was more Roogy in that he only pitched 63.1 IP.  

Casilla has been an integral part of the Giants bullpen since he joined the Giants.  He turned his career around when he came up with a devastating spike curve that complemented his mid-90's fastball, something the A's apparently was not aware of when they let him go (one would think that he could not have added such a great pitch so quickly once the Giants signed him, but I'm not sure of the timing of this addition).  That led to his 2.22 ERA in three seasons with the Giants and two World Champion rings.

I think the Giants are going to go with a closer du jour usage pattern during 2013 in order to save Romo's arm, which has always been iffy because of his slider.  That fits with Casilla's problems with his blister when he became full-time closer last season.  Spread the duty around - including Affeldt and Lopez - so that if one part goes down, there are the others to keep it going.  Could be the first successful bullpen by committee over a full season if they can pull it off.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Your 2010 Decade Giants: Choices


In baseball, there are a multitude of choices being made every season and off-season, choices as to how the team will proceed into the future.  From reading, I get the sense that there is a portion of the Giants fanbase who view the 2012 off-season much like the 2010 off-season:  full of mistakes and treading water.   I disagree.

Giants 2012 Offseason and  2010 Offseason

The Giants, while having a rabid fanbase that's been setting attendance records regularly at our gorgeous park, is still limited in what they can spend on player payroll.   They cannot keep up with the Jones (or Guggleheim's or Steinbrenner's).  So while it might have been nice to add a Josh Hamilton or other high priced player to the payroll, there is the opportunity cost involved with such a move, which is that there is less money for the Giants to sign up our young players into the future.

That was not understood in off-season's past, it was not understood this off-season.  Getting a Hamilton or similarly salaried player would have meant that the Giants payroll would have went much above where they were targeting, which means lowering spending in future seasons to balance things out (because ultimately it is still a business and need to make money).

That would impact the Giants ability to sign up Lincecum, Posey, or Sandoval, further into the future, forcing them to let go of some their core homegrown players at some point, and would affect their ability to sign up Pence long-term as well.  It also puts the team at risk too, for if Hamilton goes off the wagon or be like most 31 YO players, start declining in production at a great rate, and we'll be out the money and still have to replace his production (think of it as having 2 to 3 Benitez type contracts on the roster).

It was not the Giants choices, ultimately, that decided their fate in the 2011 season, in any case, it was the silly, unthoughtful, unethical, uncalled for choice by a Marlin's borderline roster player, who knew he didn't have a good chance of scoring on that flyball, but decided that his best choice was to become a human missile and heat seek Buster Posey and blast him to kingdom come.  That he was surprised that a human being would crumple from such an impact, was the biggest surprise, what did he think was the worse case scenario?  A hangnail?  I have no doubt that had Posey been around, we would have made the playoffs and there would have been no reason for fans to think that status quo was bad for the 2011 season and therefore bad for the 2013 season.

I think the two offseasons cannot simply be dismissed as status quo.   Not when you have a number of young players who can and should improve in the following seasons.  Not when the lineups are set up to be good enough to win over 90 games with the pitching and fielding that we have, leading to great defense.  For that is the goal, to win at least 90 games, which historically gets you into the playoffs and should win you a division title, and if that is status quo, then give me status quo.  And as good as the chemistry is and was, it was the performances that won them the title.

KC and the Giants, and how Choices Connect Them

A recent column by a Yahoo columnist surmised that the Royals were trying to be like the Giants, and find winners who will create a clubhouse full of harmony and camaraderie, which leads gold and riches and championships.  Ignoring, of course, that it was pitching, pitching, and more pitching that won the championship for the Giants.

That got me thinking about the Royals choices.  I realized that the Royals could have been in the Giants shoes (or at least close to the same fit), had they had made different choices.

In 2006, the Royals had the first pick of the draft.  FIRST PICK.  Can pick anybody and nobody could stop them.  They selected Luke Hochevar.  He has barely been a back of rotation starter in the majors.  They obviously was sold a bill of goods by Scott Boras there.  There were numerous better picks just immediately afterward.  Longoria.  Kershaow.  Of course, Big Time Jimmy Tim.  Max Scherzer.  Ian Kennedy.  Even Brandon Morrow or Joba Chamberlain would have been much better picks.

Imagine how different things would have been had they chosen Lincecum.  Who knows who the Giants would have selected instead.  Most had them picking up Daniel Bard, ironically, who is making a name for himself as a reliever, when most teams were worried enough about Lincecum that he would just be a reliever.  I had been hoping for Kyle Drybeck because I didn't think anyone better would make it to us, but then one mock draft had Lincecum falling to us, and lo and behold, we got him.

In 2007, the Royals had the second pick of the draft.  Moustakas has not been bad but he hasn't been good either.  Matt Weiters went a few picks later (maybe the Hochevar signing didn't impress them enough).  Of course, our Madison Bumgarner.  Jason Heyward, but he don't count because the Braves already had him in their hip pocket because he played all the teams, telling them that he's going to college, where his college professor parents want him to be.  Meanwhile, the Braves scout who has been a buddy of the family for 5-6 years win the kudos of the front office organization for that coup.

And in the second round, there was also Jordan Zimmerman and the player to be renamed later, Giancarlo "Mike" Stanton (I guess he hated being mistaken for that relief pitcher who once was a Giant), though by that point, picks are more like lottery tickets than picks make with great foresight, so can't really blame KC for missing out on them, but at the same time, they were available.

The Giants were pretty much out of luck if they did not have Bumgarner around to select, among the players similarly available to them.

In 2008, they had the third pick and selected Eric Hosmer.  There is still hope out for him, and who knows what he could do, but so far, not so much.  Of course, the Giants picked Buster Posey a couple of picks later.  Brett Lawrie, Ike Davis, and Wade Miley were other good picks later who look to have good careers, plus Aaron Crow and Gordon Beckham, both of whom have had up and downs, Crow is a reliever (though good) and Beckham after a great start, has appeared to have lost it.

The Giants in that draft was associated most with Justin Smoak, that I can recall.  Many Giants fans were so enamored with him that they were angry about Posey being selected and openly said that Sabean made a mistake.  Clearly, history has shown that Posey indeed was the correct choice.

Alternative Universe Scenario

All in all, life could have been much different for KC and SF.  By 2010, the Royals could have had Lincecum, Bumgarner and Posey on their major league club.  In 2011, Posey, Gordon, and Butler would have been a nice trio hitting in the middle of the lineup, plus Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, and Eric Hosmer.   That would have been a pretty stout offense with Posey in the clean-up spot.    Meanwhile, with a rotation of Lincecum, Greinke, Bumgarner, Chen, Paulino, they would have been pretty good, assuming that with this configuration, the cheapskate ownership would have ponied up to sign Greinke longer term at that point.

Of course, that is assuming KC would have gotten the same out of them as the Giants did.  Remember, Bumgarner was struggling to figure things out when Tidrow stepped in and helped correct his mechanics.  And Lincecum, who knows if KC might have tried to muck with his mechanics and try to change him.  Or believed the hype and made him a reliever.   Crow was a starter and they made him a reliever and he was the #9 draft pick overall (I wonder if he regrets not signing with the Nationals in 2008?).  I can't imagine Posey being any different, however.

For SF, things would probably be the exact opposite, almost.  Without the trio of Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, the Giants of 2010 to 2012 would probably be best known for putting "Cained" into the lexicon, as Matt continued to lose despite pitching well, and perhaps would have left already via free agency or trade, another "if only" figure in the SF Giants history, up there with Jack Clark.   The team would have been struggling because the prospects they probably would have ended up with instead would not have collective produce what any of these three produced individually.  And Sabean would have been rightfully fired during this period.

Luck, Schmuck

That is why many Giants fans still view the Giants and Sabean as lucky.  Other teams could have and should have drafted them before Sabean did.  Therefore, Sabean was lucky and is so terrible that he should have been fired years ago.

These people seem to never follow the logic of their assumptions out in full, to my view.  If having a player fall to you is luck, then the Yankees were lucky that Jeter fell to them when Sabean (yes, our GM in his former job) jumped on him when the opportunity to draft him came up.  Heck, the Angels were lucky that Trout fell to them late in the first round, as 20 other teams passed on him (and a couple of teams twice!).  In fact, you can then make the case that any team in history who selected after the first overall pick was lucky, because that first overall pick could have chosen that particular player instead and your GM would not have been so lucky to get him.  That is what the logical extension of that assumption made by people thinking that Sabean was lucky.

The funny thing, as the KC example showed, it was not just Sabean who was "lucky".   The Royal's GM could have been as "lucky" as I covered above.   In fact, the Ray's, Oriole's, and Pirate's GMs could have been as lucky too, as they also picked in front of the Giants in those three key pivotal drafts.  Yet, none of them were "lucky", it was Sabean who was "lucky" (though the Rays obviously love Longoria still).

There is luck, and there is preparation enabling you to jump on it when the opportunity and the fates decides.   Nine teams passed on Lincecum and Bumgarner, obviously thinking that their pick was the better pick.  Posey was considered strongly for the first pick, but none of the teams between the Rays and Giants considered him, according to the sources passing notes under the table to expert draft analysts, they had their minds made up.

The Giants could have gone with the status quo.  Oh, Lincecum's body won't hold up, and that wacky mechanics!  Oy!  Bumgarner was viewed to go later in the round due to his cross-body throwing that indicates future injury problems.  And Heyward, who looks like McCovey hitting, was a natural or any one of the hitters who were available then and deemed worthy of a 10th pick.  What!?!  Another pitcher?  Posey?  No, we need a HITTER like Smoak, Posey was only expected to be a gold glove catcher who hit OK, for a catcher, not OK for any position on the field.  He'll never reach 20 homers in a season, even at his peak, he was only expected to reach the mid-teens in terms of potential.

The fact of the matter is that after all the hemming and hawing, and all the rationalizations against him, it was Sabean who OKed the selection of all of these players.  Tidrow, Barr and the scouts did make great contributions in finding these players, but really, that's true of any organization, the manager does not do everything.  It is the manager who finds the talented people, hire them, and put them into position to make himself look good, ultimately.  It is the sum of the decisions he makes along the way, whether he actually made them himself or determined that his lieutenants were good enough to make the calls themselves, that adds up to what the end product is.

The end product is two World Championships in three seasons.  He was so "lucky" that his Giants were the first NL team to do that since the 1975-76 Reds won them in two consecutive seasons and only three NL teams have done that since the Giants moved to SF:  the Dodgers also won two in three, in 1963 and 1965.  Including AL teams, that adds five more teams in the 54 years since the Giants move to SF:  Yankees 1961-62, Oakland 1972-74 (three in a row), Yankees 1977-78, Blue Jays 1992-93, Yankees 1996-2000 (four in five).

So were all those teams lucky too?  If so, why are we bothering to even follow baseball, since championships are determined by mostly luck?

I prefer to give credit to the people who make the decisions.  The GM who selected the players.  The manager who put them in place to succeed.  The hitters who decided to swing at the pitch and got the big hit, the pitchers who decided to throw the strike that got the outs, the fielders who made the great play to get the out.  In the moment, real time.

No DIPS random luck to muck up the analysis, sure, there is luck in everything if you really want to push it, but I prefer to honor the good work made by the people who make the decisions, the ones who when given the opportunity, made the best of their chances, of their choices.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Your 2013 Giants: Torres Returns Home for $2M, One Year

Reports on Torres returning:  Schulman was first, Pavlovic, Haft.  One year contract for $2M.  Snippet from Schulman:
Instead, manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday, Blanco and the switch-hitting Torres will compete for playing time in left field. Bochy said it will not necessarily be a left-right platoon, even though Torres hit much better against left-handers for the Mets in 2012.
The Giants looked into more seasoned right-handed-hitting outfielders such as Cody Ross, Reed Johnson and Scott Hairston, but they either were not willing to take a part-timer's salary or not what the Giants wanted defensively.
Torres, who turns 35 next month, is attractive because he can play all three outfield positions, including center if Pagan needs a day off or gets hurt.
Giants executive Bobby Evans said the team is not necessarily done shopping, as Sabean wants to keep looking for ways to improve the club and add depth. That includes the bullpen, which could gain former A's and Cubs right-hander Chad Gaudin, whom the Giants signed to a minor-league contract with a spring-training invitation. Gaudin turns 30 in March. He can start or relieve and could fill the Guillermo Mota swingman role.
Another interesting datapoint is that the Giants payroll is projected to reach $145M for the 2013 season, about $15M more than last season, as the team pushed to keep the team mostly together. 

Plus a good quote from Baer about the Giants strategy:

"Our strategy is just different, developing guys and bringing them through the system and sprinkling in free agents and trades when it makes sense," Giants President Larry Baer said Thursday. "We've done free agents before, but we're trying to do more of a homegrown thing."
Baer, when asked about another major acquisition this winter, said, "Anything is possible," but made it clear the Giants would not do so in reaction to the Dodgers.

"You can't let what any other team does alter your strategy. That would be a mistake," Baer said. "If we're going to look at the Dodgers spending all this money and say we're going to be free-agent-centric, we don't think that would be smart."
Andres was his usual bubbly self:
"I cannot stop laughing," Torres said, articulating his joy. "It's such a great feeling."
"I just want to be there," he said. "[Manager Bruce] Bochy knows that I'm going to be ready to play. They know what I'm about."

Torres, who became a free agent when the Mets declined to tender him a contract on Nov. 30, drew interest from a handful of teams.

"No disrespect to them, but I told my agents that I wanted to play for the Giants," said Torres, whose deal is worth a reported $2 million. "My heart was there. The Giants were the team that gave me an opportunity."
Pavlovic has a nice quote from Evans and thoughts on Belt:
President of baseball operations Bobby Evans said at the winter meetings that the Giants were hopeful to give some younger players a long look, so this could also open the door for the likes of Francisco Peguero or Roger Kieschnick to contribute at some point. We’re talking about a player that’s going to hit seventh or eighth in the lineup, so the Giants can afford to mix and match a little. I do also suspect that — despite what they’re saying now — the Giants will give Brandon Belt some time in left field next spring. If he turns into a consistent hitter, they’ll need to find a way to keep him in there on days when Buster Posey needs to play first base.
ogc thoughts
Welcome back, Mr. Torres!  At $2M and one year, he could make a good platoon with Blanco, as he hit well vs. LHP in 2012, though currently that is not the scenario the Giants are looking at.  Instead, as they have in seasons past, they have made an effort to leave at least one spot open for some of the young prospects to compete for playing time.  With much of the lineup looking set, LF look to be that position in 2013, though apparently the Giants have not shut the door quite yet on finding a Huff-like deal, like the one we got him on in January 2010 (my speculation on this, given how high payroll is already). 

As I have been suspecting in posts previously, Peguero and Kieschnick will get a chance to compete for playing time in the Giants outfield, at minimum as one of the bench players.  Given the grooming of Noonan for utility duty, I would not be surprised to see him playing LF during the spring, Arias too, as many people will be battling for probably 2-4 bench spots. 

And if there is no clear starter in LF, that would open up four spots for competition, 2-3 utility OF or perhaps a third utility MI.  I am assuming that Theriot will be resigned - he must be looking for a better team for starting playing time, else why hasn't he signed yet given his interest in returning and the Giants interest in signing him, but if he don't got a spot yet, have to think he'll be baaack, with the other two MIs being Arias and Noonan, should the Giants go there, as Blanco and Torres could share LF, Peguero or Kieschnick could be the third utility OF or since Belt can and should be playing some LF, they could go with Noonan instead.

For Belt will clearly be in the mix as well.  Posey being used at 1B in conjunction with giving Hanchez a good number of starts to develop him (as well as rest Posey), would obviously push Belt out of the starting lineup if he didn't play LF during those games.  Belt had a nice season, which is amazing given his struggles with avoiding the strikeout and with hitting homers, so I'm really looking forward to him putting together the lessons from the 2012 season with his latent power, and give us an even nicer season in 2013.  That would go a long way towards a repeat Division title.  And so I don't see Belt sitting down as much in 2013 as he did in 2012, and that means starting him in LF when Posey moves to 1B, instead of resting, when Hanchez starts at C. 

I assume Hanchez will again be the personal catcher with Zito again, plus take on Lincecum as well.  I was thinking about how much media questioning Posey had to put up with about him having to catch those pitchers in the playoffs, when I realized that perhaps Bochy was playing mind games with Buster.   He could have more forcefully let the media know in no uncertain terms how much he backs up his catcher, but maybe he did that in private so that the media questioning would put a fire under Posey to perform even better than he had before.  And looking at the World Series, if so, good plan.

Anyway, very happy that Torres is back, he's a good egg and hard worker, a good Giants.  Hope he finds again some of what he found in 2010, that would really give our team a boost that might put our offense over the edge and really kick butts regularly in 2013.  Even platooning with Blanco might do that, both are good at their respective platoon positions.  And both are excellent on defense, so I wonder if Pagan might find himself sitting sometimes late in the season, ostenibly for extra rest for the playoff contention, but also because Torres plays stellar defense in CF.

Friday, December 07, 2012

2013 Rule 5 Draft: Giants Add 1, Lose 1

The Rule 5 Draft was held the other day, BA has a nice list of all the players taken at their website.

The Giants lost one player in the AAA Phase, Round 2, RHP Cameron Lamb.  Here is what BA said about him:
Aussie has yet to pitch in full-season ball, but coming off solid season in Northwest Lge
But in the AAA Phase, Round 1, the Giants selected RHP Scott Shuman from the Rays. Here is what BA had to say about him:
Pitches at 93-95 mph with power slider. Tough look for RHB (36 SO% at Double-A)
ogc thoughts

Not sure why the Astros took Lamb.  He's 23 YO and hasn't even pitched for a full-season team yet.  And in the Short Season Northwest League, he was hardly dominating with 6.5 K/9, though nice control, with only 2.4 BB/9.  Good luck to him.

Shuman look very interesting.  His 2011-2012 seasons was not anything to look at, his K/9 was great 14-15 K/9 but his BB/9 was horrid, 10-12 BB/9.  He is 24 (25 next year March) and just pitched in AA.  As BA noted, mid-90 power with power slider and is a bit of a Roogy. But, ugh, that walk rate!

This pick, I think, shows the influence of John Barr.  Since we got him, the Giants started to take more fliers on prospects who once was a big talent but for whatever reasons, lost a bit of their shine and fell a bit or a lot.  Shuman was ranked the Rays #24 prospect after his 2010 season.

His 2010 season was what was so interesting.  Age 22 so old for A-ball, but he had a 3.01 ERA, 13.9 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9, high but doable when you strikeout nearly 3 times as many.   And he only gave up 50 hits in 71.2 IP, plus only 5 HR (a trait he kept on his way up the ladder, low HR/9).

That reminded me of another 22 YO (though LHP so that is special) with mid-90 velocity who did well in A-ball:  Jonathan Sanchez.  He was a starter but in 125.2 IP, had 8.7 H/9, 0.6 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 11.9 K/9. It was the K/9 that was very interesting.  Walks could be worked on, Matt Cain used to be a wild thrower with us in the minors, it is amazing to see him control his pitches so well now compared to then.

Not that he'll necessarily be like Dirty, but he showed some potential in A-ball before getting lost the past two seasons.  Hopefully Tidrow, our pitching doctor, will prescribe something good for him and get him back on the prospect path.  And if not, no big loss, we only paid $50K to get him, and if the other team takes him back, we get $25K back, so at worse it costs us $25K to take a look at him and kick his tires.  Tidrow loves power arms like this, who knows what might happen?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Risk Mitigation: Giants Style

There is a good quote of Bobby Evans by Chris Haft on
 "The work's never done. There are too many ways to try to find ways to protect your team over a long season." -- Evans
ogc thoughts

That has been one of the things I've been harping on the past few years about Sabean and the Giants, about how they practice risk mitigation.  In Sabean's interviews, you would hear the terms "flexibility" or "versatility" but Evans' quote comes closest to what I've been saying, about finding "ways to protect your team over a long season."  That is risk mitigation.

The signings of Uribe and DeRosa and, heck, back to the trade for Winn, represents the first strong signs of doing that, during that period.  After all the issues with Alfonzo, Durham, Benitez, the Giants have focused more of their free agent signings on the lower tiers on risk mitigation, that is, the flexibility to not have a season go to pot from a starter going down.

Of course, there is really nothing you can do if one of your star hitters like Posey or Sandoval, go down.  But for the rest of the team, if you have a good infield utility player and one good outfield utility player, your team can stay afloat in the pennant race should somebody either go down or just is not performing on the field, like most teams run into with prospects.

DeRosa was the ultimate version of that, but I'll start with Winn first since he was one of those first flexible players.  He was and is a tweener, not really good enough defensively in CF but not really good enough offensively on the corners, but basically an average player no matter which OF position you put him at.  So, depending on who is hitting and who is not hitting or not available, Winn was able to play all three OF positions adequately to good, as well as hit adequately.  Roberts was a little like that too, only he was never healthy long enough to do that job for us.

DeRosa was never healthy enough, but he was the ultimate in utility when we got him.  He was really a platoon hitter, killed LHP, but did OK vs. RHP, good enough to play almost regularly, nearly 150 games per season.  However, he was great defensively at many positions, 2B, 3B, LF, RF, and could play SS in a pinch (started out as a pro there) and could play 1B probably OK as well.  He would have been great for us if he had only gone to the expert to get his wrist fixed instead of being lazy and going to the local doctor, who screwed it up.

Last season, Theriot and Arias helped keep things on an even keel while Franchez was out and Sandoval was DLed, while Blanco did likewise in the OF, doing OK enough while starting.  On the previous World Champion team, Uribe and Torres did it for the Giants, even Renteria too, though he was originally hired to be the starting SS but was just injured all the time.

They did the same in the bullpen too.  Many Giants fans groaned over the signing of both Lopez and Affedlt to large (for bullpen) contracts prior to the 2012 season.  But they proved to be good backup once Wilson came up lame.  I didn't see any of these Naysayers apologizing when Affeldt flew through the 2012 playoffs with 10.1 IP, giving only 5 hits and 3 walks, striking out 10 and allowing zero runs.  Lopez wasn't used as much, but he was helpful too, 3.0 IP, giving up 0 hits and 2 walks, striking out 4 and allowing no runs too.  Given that he only pitched in the two key series against Cincinnati and St. Louis (wasn't used in World Series), where a run could have tipped the series to the other side, that was critical pitching.  He helped win two of the games in the Reds series, and three of the games in the St. Louis series.

And both served as closers during the regular season as well.  In fact, who didn't serve?  Six different players recorded saves in 2012:  Casilla (25), Romo (14), Lopez (7), Affeldt (3), even Hensley (3), plus Wilson (1).    Pitchers were swapping in and out, pitching setup, pitching closer.  Also the middle relievers got to pitch setup as well.

And who is the ace of the rotation?  The season started out with Lincecum taking the pole position.  Cain got the home opener.  Bumgarner ended up opening the second half of the season after the All-Star game.   Cain got the first game of the NLDS.  Bumgarner got the first game of the NLCS.  And Zito got the World Series first start.  And while Vogelsong didn't get one of these ace first starts, he pitched like the ace of the playoffs, coming in and shutting down the opposition when the Giants were at the brink of losing.  He had only a 1.09 ERA in 4 starts, 24.2 IP, with 16 hits and 10 walks, striking out 21 and allowing only 3 runs.

And don't forget, Vogelsong was the guy who came up in 2011 and not only held the fort in Zito's absence, but proved to be ace-like in performance.  They also had Petit in 2012 and Hacker in 2010 and 2011 did well for us in AAA.  He just resigned with us, at age 30.  The Giants add these guys to hang around in the minors, just in case they were needed.

Blanco, Arias, Loux, Machi, Petit and Vogelsong started the season off in AAA, waiting for the call to the major leagues, insurance players that the Giants stashed in AAA, just in case a starter goes down.  That is risk mitigation.  And where would we have been if we did not have Theriot, who hit very well after returning from the DL, around .340 OBP, in the two spot, until Scutaro came over, capable of playing 2B and SS, and manning 3B until Sandoval returned, then took over the starting 2B spot and never let go.

Risk mitigation, as the Giants and Sabean has done it, is by having versatile utility players who were comfortable serving many different roles on the team, as the need arose.  Need a starting 2B?  Bam!  Theriot slotted in, and did well there until Scutaro was acquired and held the job.  Need a starting 3B?  Bam!  Arias started there, then Scutaro later.  Need a closer?  Bam!  Casilla, then closer by committee (Romo, Lopez, Affeldt), then Romo in the playoffs.  The Giants have been playing the risk mitigation game well over the past four seasons.

2013 Giants Risk Mitigation

Bringing back the whole team, also, the same players look to fill the risk mitigation roles.  Blanco looks like the LF right now, but should a Huff-like deal open up in LF just before spring training starts, don't be surprised if the Giants jump on a nice RH bat to platoon with Blanco or even start in LF.  And Torres is currently on the market.  Francisco Peguero also looks like he could fill the Blanco role in 2013, he plays all three OF positions, looks like he can hit anywhere (like Pablo), has great speed and defense, and even has a RH bat.

The scuttlebutt is that Ryan Theriot is interested in returning and the Giants are interested in him returning as well.  Meanwhile, we still have Joaquin Arias sitting around, ready to fill in, and Nick Noonan has been prepared the last few years for such a role, having started at both 2B and SS in his climb up the farm system.  He also played some 3B as well and probably could handle 1B in a pinch if necessary.

Of course, the bullpen is pretty set, with Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, Kontos, and Mijares.  We have the same closer by committee set up for 2013, as the Giants are said to be looking to manage Romo's arm to survive the season and be ready for the playoffs.  The key here was the signing of Affeldt to another contract.

The Giants generally likes to let one position be open for competition, so that 7th spot could be where the compete is in 2013, though rumors has it that they were in on Grilli until he chose to return to the Pirates for two years, since nobody would go three years on him.  He has had a Vogelsong-like resurrection, though he was never as buried or unused as Vogie.  Still, if they were looking hard at Grilli, they might still pick up someone along the way and make Mijares' position the competition spot.  Heath Hembree looks like he will be competing for a spot in the bullpen, and as our future closer du jour, if he should make the team, he could be seeing duty from the middle to set-up to closing, depending on how well he does.

And AAA will be full of potential starter replacements.  Hacker has signed to return.  In addition, Eric Surkamp should be healthy and starting in AAA.  In addition, both Chris Heston and Mike Kickham look like they earned a promotion to AAA with their great pitching in AA in 2012.  So there is a whole rotation full of starters who could get the call.  And I'm not even sure whether Petit might return, he was good last season too.  And don't forget, they could also come up as relievers too.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Giants Sign Scutaro to 3 years, $20M

The  report I can find on this right now is Pavlovic's blog post and Baggarly's blurb which reports on a Ken Rosenthal tweet..  Not too much details, a reported three years for $20M for the Giants to keep Marco Scutaro.  Also, Baggarly tweeted that the Cards never went to three years for Scutaro, but apparently was offering 2 years in the $8M per range, which led the Giants to move to guarantee the third year, giving Scutaro an extra $4M for that third year over the Cards.

ogc thoughts

Mission Accomplished:  Giants wanted to sign Affledt, Pagan, and Scutaro, and they just did.  All the deals reflect the higher salaries being paid this off-season, which is most likely related to the $15-20M boost in revenues that they get from ESPN starting next season with their shiny new contract.

Yet still, the contracts were all relatively reasonable.  Affeldt got $6M per year, and given that League had already gotten $7M per year from LA, that was a fair price.  Pagan got $10M per year, which was the upper range of what I was hoping for (I was thinking $8-9M per, Randy Winn range, if I remember right), but many people were predicting 3 years at $10M, so 4 years at that rate is not outrageous.  And he doesn't even need to duplicate his 2012 season each season to pay off on the deal.  Plus, Victorino's deal for 3 years at $39M ($13M per) make the Giants deal look great, though I would note that one thing most people neglect to mention is that Victorino has many more years of good offensive production than Pagan, and that is the difference there (for Upton, it was his age and potential improvement).  And Scutaro, I thought, should get around the $6M per year that he got in his previous contract that he signed, given inflation and two more years on him, and he probably got $6M/$7M/$7M, which is close enough for me.  As Evans joked at one point, if he can survive that slide by Holliday and still play great baseball, he's going to be fine.

I see some people upset that Gregor Blanco is now the starting LF.  These are the people who are never satisfied unless every starter on the team is some sort of star player capable of great deeds.  Most lineups have a Blanco (actually, they have worse) somewhere in their lineup, and a Crawford, if not more.  These people never look at reality, at the actual teams making up the league and seeing what it takes to build an above average lineup.  And you don't need above average players at every position to do that, you need some really good players in the top half of the lineup - like Pagan, Sandoval, Posey, Pence, even Scutaro and Belt - because most teams cannot afford to have a better lineup than that, and if they do have it better, typically that means that they scrimped on their starting or relief pitching, and then the Giants got them where they want them.

Things left to do are few.  The Giants are interested in bringing back Theriot and I loved having him around too, he is a great backup in case either MI needs a rest or, god forbid, out for some reason.  Those complaining about Blanco don't realize that the Giants is looking for a right-handed complement to Blanco in the OF - ahem, Andres Torres is a free agent - and Nady wasn't so bad last season either.  Plus Peguerao was pretty interesting last season, great defense and speed, could be a Hanchez redux.  They are probably going to look into former starters on the fringe for AAA, just in case, though they did sign Hacker the other day and Heston, Kickham, and Surkamp should be in AAA as well (where's Petit?).  They are probably going to give some vet a minor league invite to compete for the bullpen, though if they prove good to form, they are hoping that Hembree steps up and take that last spot.  And, of course, Brian Wilson is still out there, hopefully he understands why the Giants did what they did and re-join us, this is the best place for someone special like him.  Otherwise, things are looking good for a defense of their championship in the 2013 season.

Go Giants!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Giant Sign Pagan: 4 years, $40M

Reports from Baggarly, Pavlovic, and Shea.  As usual, won't be official until the physical is done, but that is generally a formality.

Baggarly claims CSNBA first call on reporting the year-by-year breakdown (Shea nor Pavlovic did not acknowledge this though):  four years, $5M bonus, $7M in 2013, $9M in 2014, $9M in 2015, and $10M in 2016.  Apparently his lack of prior full-season experience scared off some teams, leaving just the rumored Phillies and Giants making offers to Angel Pagan, and when the Phillies would not commit to a fifth year, he accepted the Giants offer (no word on any salary difference between the two teams, but the Sporting News stated that they gave the Giants a small discount).

Reportedly, there were a number of factors in this decision.  Part of the factors influencing the Giants decision to go to four years (it had been thought that the Giants would only go three years) was that CF Gary Brown was no longer considered on the fast track to reach the majors.  Another part was the Giants preference to keep the cohesion and chemistry that led the Giants to set history with winning six playoff elimination games to reach the World Series, then sweeping to win the Championship.  The Giants also wanted a full-time starting OF, as Blanco is viewed as a platoon type player.

Pavlovic warned that the "timing of this is a bit of a surprise, so we'll see if anything else comes down the pipe later tonight."

Next up:  signing Marco Scutaro.

ogc thoughts

He said he loved playing for the Giants and he ended up staying (perhaps for a little less), despite his wife warning on Twitter that this would be a business decision, so don't hate on them.  This is a good price for Pagan, one year more than I was hoping for, but this keeps a key contributor in Pagan around for 2013 and I think it allows the Giants to let Blanco, Kieschnick, and Peguero (and perhaps Brown despite the concern above) battle for an OF spot.

I would not be surprised if the Giants also sign a right-handed LF like Hairston or even Cody Ross, to compete and most probably end in a platoon with Blanco in LF.   Reportedly, the Giants are interested in Hairston, but so are a lot of other teams.  He only got $1.1M last season, but I can see him getting more than that and for multiple years given how well he has hit the past two seasons, particularly for power.  The Giants also might pay more just to get him away from an NL West team, as he has killed the team in the past, though it should be noted that he has not hit well in AT&T in his career.

He has also played CF OK defensively, so he could see some time there and in LF where he has played well defensively there.  He probably is the ideal guy to platoon with Blanco, as Ross would probably still want more money as well as more playing time.  But he grew up in Arizona, so he might not want to join the Giants - if the offers were basically even - given that he probably grew up a D-backs fan.

And the funny thing is that Pagan was viewed as the one harder to sign and yet he ended up signing first between him and Scutaro.  Most whispers have said that Scutaro is expected to end up with the Giants, whereas Pagan was reportedly pursued by many teams.

I have to think that Pagan and/or his agent knew that Sabean do not like waiting so long with uncertainty in their lineup, given how quickly this deal went down after Sabean on Friday stating how the two sides were still far apart.  He appeared to know that if he wanted to stay with the Giants, they would need to wrap it up by the Winter Meetings.  Given how quickly he signed after Sabean reported on Friday that while the Giants felt good about their negotiations with Pagan and Scutaro, they were not close and thus the Giants had made backup plans to move forward without either of them, I have to think that got Pagan to move faster to sign.   He didn't want his deal with the Giants suddenly disappearing, like LaRoche found in 2010 when his 3 year, $21M deal that he thought he was negotiating with the Giants was taken off the table once they signed Huff.

That is how one should negotiate:  be aware of everything that you want to get out of your negotiations and be sure to move quickly when you could lose a deal that you are satisfied with.  After all this, I think it is clear that Pagan did truly value playing on the Giants, as he stated frequently during the 2012 season, it was not B.S., like it was with, say, David Bell, who told Giants fans not to worry about opting out of his contract and then took a reportedly lesser contract to sign with the Phillies.  He did appear to leverage out one more year out of the Giants but that's free agency for you, with supply and demand driving the process.

Good Deal, Could be Great

I'm happy with the deal, it was a fair annual salary, and while I worry a little about the four year, I think that he'll be a fair deal over the life of the contract, as he averaged 3.4 WAR over the past three seasons and the going rate for free agents per WAR is roughly $4.5-5.0M, so the Giants are paying him at a 2.0 WAR production rate, if you are into such calculations (I'm still uneasy with such analysis, because of the uncertainty regarding defensive value metrics, but wanted to cover this angle for another perspective on the deal).

I feel pretty confident that he will produce somewhere around the .281/.334/.415/.749 batting line he has produced over the past three seasons.  That is a .317 BABIP, which he has easily beaten in three of the past four seasons.  He has also averaged 33 SB per season and a 81% SB success rate is very good, hopefully he can teach Brown a thing or two in spring training, and pass some tips to Blanco as well.

As much as people might complain about that batting line, that was actually great for a leadoff hitter in the NL in 2012:  the average batting line was .257/.319/.382/.700.  And the Giants, with roughly that batting line for 2012 (.263/.335/.424/.758) was second in the NL in OPS and clearly much higher in OPS.  They were also 5th in OBP (out of 16 teams, so in the top third).   And our hitters drove in the leadoff guy a lot, as the Giants led the NL with 120 runs from that position, and second was Arizona with 108, third Brewers with 104.

He's also OK for NL CF, where the average was .264/.332/.408/.741.  The Giants overall had a .277/.333/.423/.756 from CF, which was good for 6th in the NL in OPS and 8th in OBP, smack in the middle.  While I like looking at positional comparisons like this, I think the more important point is how well that hitter fits into your team's batting order.  And at leadoff, Pagan was great in 2012 and if he just continues his average from the prior three seasons (which was hurt by his poor season in 2011, which he feels was a fluke because he was out of shape) he should be great for us at leadoff as long as he hits at least that much, which is a lower threshold than what he hit in 2012 or 2010.

Defensively, he wasn't that great in CF, according to DRS he was a -6 for the season.  That was better than 2011 but much worse than 2010 when he was very positive.  His UZR was basically average for 2012, though, but still a sharp drop over his 2010 season while a huge improvement over his 2011.  If he just can be average defensively or just under, he'll be fine hitting what he has hit over the past three seasons.  If he can return to the defensive goodness he was before 2011, he would be a great bargain in production.  If he returns to how badly he defended in 2011, when he was admittedly out of shape, then his hitting would not cover his poor defense at all.

Overall, he's a good deal even for what he produced on average between 2010 and 2012.  Those three seasons were pretty good for a leadoff hitter, balanced by relatively poor defense.  If his 2010 and 2012 seasons is the range that he can produce going forward, that's a pretty good deal for the Giants.  If he can return to his great defense prior to 2011, that's a pretty good deal for the Giants.  As long as he's not extremely bad defensively for the Giants, he's a pretty good deal for the Giants, even if he ends up having to move to LF to make space for Brown in CF, where he has played GREAT defense there previously, RF too.

Pence and Posey

Speaking of RF, I should note that in previous Sabean interview last week, when he was asked if the Giants had discussed a long-term deal with Hunter Pence this off-season, he said "not necessarily."  I guess that they want to see more out of him in 2013 before committing to him long-term.  Or perhaps they are waiting to see how the budget looks after signing other players.

However, Sabean did say that the Giants have been talking about a long-term deal with Buster Posey and are "open to the idea."  Which is great news heading into their first arbitration session with Posey, who is a Super-Two eligible.  After recent big long-term deals with Wright and Longoria, that should set a precedence for Posey's signing.  Maybe something like $6M for 2013, $8M for 2014, $12M for 2015, $15M for 2016, and something in the $15-20M range for his free agent years, that's $41M to cover his arbitration years, then let's say, $16/$17/$18, for a 7 year contract for $92M.  Add an $8M buyout for an 8th season, or $20M salary, and that gives him a 7 year contract for $100M.

Last notes:  Lincecum is reportedly working with the trainers on a fitness plan for this off-season that will be the happy medium between his too much lost in the last off-season and his too much gained in the prior off-season.  Also, the Giants are open to signing Casilla to a multi-year extension.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Hall of Shame: Marvin Miller and Barry Bonds

I just had to get this out there.  As a big cosmic intersecting synchronicity, Marvin Miller, the famed, long-time union leader for the MLBPA passed away, just days away from Hall of Fame announcement of who got in this year, with Barry Bonds being one of the big steroid question marks on the ballot, along with Clemens and Sosa as well.

ogc thoughts

Marvin Miller Should Have Been in the Hall of Fame While Alive

It just makes a big joke of the Baseball Hall of Fame that Marvin Miller is not in there.  Whether you like the results that he brought into the game or not, he was a huge figure in the middle of the breakthrough years for the players association where they broke out from the yoke of slavery to the MLB, then turned it all around with arbitration and free agency.  That is everlasting fame that the Hall of Fame should not and cannot deny.  Shame on the Hall of Fame for not putting him in while he was alive, he lived to 95 for gosh's sake and he battle liver cancer the past few years as well, so it wasn't like people didn't know it wasn't coming, if not just for the age, but the disease.  That he died without getting in - in fact, he was bitter about this and said in recent years that he would turn down the honor if it were to finally be given to him - is a blot on anyone who had a hand in keeping him out.

Barry Bonds Should Be Voted In First Ballot

Bonds could be the next embarrassment for the Hall and the baseball writers.  McGwire has already gone through the gauntlet and survived enough to stay on the ballot.  But he really was more like Dave Kingman than he was an Hall of Famer, in my mind, so he was not a real test of the fervor of the writers about steroids, as even without that stain, given the boost in homers in that era, he should have been borderline anyway.

Two things make Bonds a different case.   First and most of all, he already had a no-doubt Hall of Fame career when he was suspected to start taking steroids.  Whether he willingly took the drug or was tricked into it by his friend/trainer, I don't think we'll ever know the full story, but either way it looks pretty sure that he took the stuff.  However, most agree that he already had Hall of Fame career stats when he reportedly started taking.  So a non-vote for him represents punishment by those writers for him taking the drug, in spite of his achievements prior to using.

Second of all, it is still not all that publicly clear what taking steroids does for a baseball player.  Many claims are being made by writers and fans.  Plus, baseball is a different sport, where finesse and form is more important than physical strength, though strength helps if you already have the skills.

But the evidence, as gathered by famed sabermetrician Eric Walker, of The Sinister Firstbaseman fame and the A's internal Bible fame, suggests that it was a juiced ball, not juiced humans, that powered the Homer era of 1993-2008, and on top of that, his research shows that steroids does not do anything to help improve performance in baseball.  Assuming this is true - I have not had the time to exhaustively read all the citations, but I have read through the website -  I will quote one of his ending statements:
There seems little point in "punishment" for an effect-less "crime".
To me, it seems like the writers want to do this to absolve themselves of the fact that they did NOTHING all those years to investigate when it was so obviously happening.  And I'm throwing into this their shame for letting amphetamines stay in the game for over 50 years when it was happening all over the clubhouse, in fact, Krukow said in his morning KNBR show today that the team's trainer was OPENLY HANDING THEM OUT when he came up to the majors in the mid-70's.  In any case, in my mind, steroids does not help a player hit better, muscle power is not how homers are hit, for if it were, skinny Hank Aaron (when he started) would have never gotten the career record.

The Hall of Shame

The Hall of Fame is not supposed to be used as a form of punishment.  But that is what happened to Marvin Miller, making him bitter about it in his last days.  It could and probably will happen to Barry Bonds, as well as Clemens, who is also clearly a Hall of Famer (Sosa, I can go either way, but he was also caught corking too, I would note, and he was another one-note freak like Dave Kingman;  I would have to look at his career with more detail).

Which is all the shame because the writers do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt that steroids helped players.  If they would just, you know, maybe be a journalist, research the topic, starting with Walker's great website, they might realize that there was a lot of hand waving and sermonizing (and demonizing) happening with regards to steroids.

What if Bonds usage was more akin to placebo using than performance enhancing?  For if they think that they got egg on their face for not facing the steroid era head-on, from the moment that stuff was found in McGwire's locker for all to see (really, not one enterprising reporter thought to follow-up and investigate that one?  Gary Hart would sure would have had a different career in that case), imagine how bad it will look if they held out Bonds on high moral grounds that proved to be quicksand?  If all Walker presents is true, then Bonds is guilty of taking snake oil medicine or leeches, neither of which helps a player avoid a strikeout (which he did to great extremes) or hit a baseball well.

I have placed these Walker links in various places in the cyberspace, particularly websites that is known to draw a lot of readers, like The Hardball Times and Fangraphs.  I would frankly be very surprised if at least one reporter has not see the links before, not that I'm that full of ego, but I cannot imagine that the journalism profession has degenerated down so much that they do not even read baseball websites like these.  And I don't think that it is a coincidence that after years of me putting my performance box on the side, showing the team's record when a certain number of runs are scored or given up, I have started seeing this type of stat noted in the press as well.  Reporters do read websites.

So why isn't the press showing the other side of this issue?  Why not expose the demagoguery around this topic?  Maybe Walker got it wrong, but why not at least tackle the issue since people are making so many decisions and judgments based on possibly false "facts"?  And if he is correct, then it would be a huge scoop on their fellow sports writers, that person would gain a lot of fame for exposing the Emperor's New Clothes regarding steroids and bringing it to the public.  Yet nothing so far.

Amphetamines Was the True Difference Maker

To me, if anything, amphetamines was a bigger blot on baseball records than steroids.  It allowed players to play at their standard level of play, instead of being too tired to perform at that level.  That greatly affected all career records set in the last 60 years or so, since World War II brought that drug into common usage.  It is like caffeine (a legalized form of stimulant, I would add, so nobody is clean in my mind if you drink coffee or any cola drink), only better.  Where is the outrage for that?  Particularly since a number of players were exposed to have used the drug as far back as the 1960's, when Jim Bouton's book, Ball Four, came out and talked about the Yankee's drug use.

And sportswriters must have known about it.  Again, Bouton's book exposed it and yet no enterprising journalist thought to investigate this illegal drug use (perhaps because many of them were using themselves).   And reporters probably took them too when they were in the field reporting on World War II, someone somewhere must have known that usage would have gotten into baseball as well, tie the links.

Pete Rose Should Be In Too

And, in any case, the Hall of Fame does not exist to punish people, it is to honor the accomplishments that a person has made that made baseball what it is today.  That is why I think Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose should belong in the Hall too, especially Mr. Hustle, he may have gambled but the proof is only when he was a manager, and I also can't imagine that he would ever bet against himself or his team if he had done it as a player (and there appears evidence that Shoeless Joe was just a witless participant, particularly given that he hit .375/.394/.563/.956 in that series that he supposedly "threw").

Nobody drives themselves relentlessly, particularly without much pure baseball talent - Rose was a mostly modestly skilled player - and then throw a game.  He didn't achieve greatness throwing games, I think that would be impossible to do, a guy like him don't do that on a part-time basis, either you believe or you don't, and he believed in himself and pushed himself to greatness.  You can't do that part-time.

And even if he could, he's still the LEADER IN HITS ALL-TIME.  How do you keep that out of the Hall, even if he did do the unthinkable and bet against himself like a psycho, he still had more hits than anybody else in baseball history.  It is not a real Hall of Fame if the hit leader is not in there.  Instead, it is a Hall of Shame for all and any participants in the decision to keep Marvin Miller out, Pete Rose out, and, most probably, Barry Bonds out.  If ethics were so important, then they should retroactively throw out all the racists and other person with vices that is not palatable now, that is how the Olympics does it when they re-award competitions.  It would be hypocrisy not to.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Your 2013 Giants: Five Added to 40-Man Roster

Sorry, but things have been busy, here is the latest news on the Giants 40-man roster additions, as reported by  Five players have been added to the 40-man roster, after a lot of space was cleared out within a week of the glorious 2012 season that was the San Francisco Giants second World Championship in three years, including the release of RHP reliever Hensley and the sending of Burriss to AAA.  Even with the addition of these five players, there is still five more open spots in the 40-man roster, indicating that the Giants are hoping to add a number of free agents to the roster during the off-season.

  • RHP Jake Dunning:  24 YO Dunning is a reliever, a little old for the EL in 2012 season at 23, but not that old either.  His 4.10 ERA was not that special, but he had a 2.41 K/BB ratio, which is good, and a low 2.9 BB/9, but not really that great for AA if he hopes to make the majors at some point.  He should get promoted to AAA but needs to do more if he wants to make the majors.
  • LHP Edwin Escobar:  20 YO Escobar started 22 games and had a nice 2.96 ERA in the Sally League.  He had a stellar 3.81 K/BB ratio, with a superb 2.2 BB/9, but his 8.4 K/9, while good for the league, is not all that special if he wants to make the majors, though it should be noted that most of the hitters had 2 more years of experience over him and thus as he catches up in age to the competition, he should see improvement.  And at 20, he's got a lot of time to develop as he rises through the minors.
  • RHP Chris Heston:  24 YO Heston is one of those prospects who will need to prove it at every level he rises to.  And he certainly did in AA, 2.24 ERA in 25 starts, 3.38 K/BB ratio, good 2.4 BB/9 and OK 8.2 K/9, and stellar 0.1 HR/9, as his over 50% GB% rate over his career:  60% in Rookie in 2009, 57% in Augusta in 2010, 58% in San Jose in 2011, and 53% in Richmond in 2012.  The large dip in AA in 2012 suggests that he's started to lose his advantage over the hitters already, so 2013 will be a big test for him when he gets to tackle AAA and see if he can adjust to the higher level of competition.
  • MI Nick Noonan:  23 YO Noonan has been my pet favorite for a number of years now.  After his stellar second half in San Jose a few years back, where he showed a lot of batting skills, being able to reduce his strikeout rate a lot while also getting more walks than strikeouts for about half the season, I hew to the Baseball Forecaster truism that once a hitter shows a skill, he owns it, then it becomes a matter of showing that skill again consistently.  He has not done it for a couple of years after that, but he showed marked improvement in 2012, though part of that appears due to a high BABIP that is similar to what he put up when he first turned pro, but not even close compared to his numbers the past three seasons.  
  • OF Juan Perez:  26 YO Perez was too old to be a valid prospect in AA in 2012, but he showed some improvement in his batting discipline, cutting down on his strikeouts in 2012 vs. 2011 and before, and his contact rate, while not quite there yet (that is >= 85%) was very close at 82.4%, and I think that is the main reason he got added.  His batting line was a nice .302/.341/.441/.782, but as you can see, he don't get many walks, so he will need to hit and well if he hopes to stick in the majors.  Improving his contact rate a bit more would help him get there, that plus his power to go with good enough speed that helps him steal bases (but his technique is sadly lacking, as his CS is very high).

These players were added in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft process, which will be conducted on December 6th at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.

ogc thoughts

Obviously, with so many spots still open on the 40 man roster, the Giants appear to be hoping to add Scutaro and Pagan, though the latter appears to be slipping away, both because of years and salary, and because the Giants already have Gregor Blanco as a viable CF candidate.  The Giants are clearly intending for Gary Brown to be their future CF, and a long term contract with Pagan could mean that he could be pushed to LF at some point once Brown is ready.   Brown should start 2013 in AAA and could be ready to come up sometime in the 2013-14 seasons time frame.  And at the money he appears to be rumored to be getting, the only way he can produce such value is if he played CF.

Meanwhile, as DrB elaborated nicely on at his blog and which I've touched on in my comments here and there,  Blanco gives the Giants a lot of flexibility in terms of whatever moves they make regarding the outfield for the 2013 season.  Him plus that both Kieschnick and Peguero appear to be ready to compete for either a starting OF spot, or more likely, a utility OF spot, and perhaps two spots if Blanco is starting CF and the Giants sign a LF who can replace Pagan's hitting.  Thus, Pagan is nice to have but not as much of a necessity as re-signing Scutaro.

Though Scutaro is also not as necessary to get either if the Giants can retain Ryan Theriot.  I assume Theriot is hoping to land a starting spot somewhere but if not, the Giants will welcome him back to the bench as MI utility.  But if nobody was offering last off-season, I don't really see anyone doing that this off-season either.  Though even he is not necessary, as Joaquin Arias looks like he is a good utility MI, and Nick Noonan looks like he has been groomed to take on a utility MI role, like Burriss was, by getting a lot of starts in the minors at 2B and SS.

If the 25 man roster were to be selected today, here is the ones I would think would be chosen:

  • Starters:  Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito
  • Relievers:  Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, Kontos, Mijares, and Runzler/Otero
  • Starting Position:  Posey, Belt, Arias, Sandoval, Crawford, Kieschnick, Blanco, Pence
  • Bench:  Sanchez, Arias, Gillaspie, Pill, Peguero

I think the relievers are pretty set but that some vets will be invited to compete for the final reliever spot with Runzler and Otero who are most likely to contend from the 40 man.  Machi will be in the mix as well, and I think that this is probably Heath Hembree's to lose, though I would not count out Brett Bochy either, as a dark horse candidate.  I would put Jacob Dunnington in the mix as well.

The Giants clearly need upgrades at 2B and LF/CF (since Blanco could play either) and will likely sign a vet to start at both positions.  The bench also needs upgrades over Gillaspie (as we need another utility MI) and Pill.  Peguero, after his nice showing last September, look ready to take a spot as a 4th OF, though another year of seasoning in AAA would not hurt either, so expect veteran OF's to be invited to camp, probably including a $1-3M veteran free agent at some point.

However, I would note from past observations that the Giants like to keep a spot open for prospects who appear like they might be ready to compete for a starting spot, so I expect LF to be kept open, with Blanco either starting in CF or, if a vet CF is signed, be the lead competitor for the LF starting spot, in competition with Kieschnick, Peguero, and probably at least one vet OF (Nady?).

Overall, the Giants look in pretty good shape for a good run at defending their title in 2013.  I'm very happy with where they are right now, though I would have preferred that Scutaro been signed by now, as every day he is not signed, is a sign that other teams are showing him enough interest to lure him away.   I think Arias is doable starting at 2B for us for the first half, with possible upgrade mid-season from Noonan or another mid-season trade for an MI.  I would love to have Theriot here again as main utility MI and starting 2B placeholder until mid-season if necessary.  I am fine with Blanco in CF and leading off, he's had an above average OBP for much of career and that is the most important thing to look for out of leadoff, plus he has great defensive skills and great speed as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Your 2013 Giants: Affeldt Signs 3 Years, $18M

As reported by the media for a while now, Jeremy Affeldt has re-signed with the Giants.  As reported  by Chris Haft (and in other sources as well), it was for 3 years, $18M.  Presumably, it is for $6M per year, but given that last year he got $5M and the Giants budget is already being stretched for 2013, it could be for $5M, $6M, $7M, which Sabean has done before for some contracts.  There was no mention of a signing bonus, nor boosts in contract value for awards that might be won, the details on this contract has been particularly sparse relative to before.

He said he did it for his family, to get financial security.  That refers more to the length of the contract, than the size, as he's already pulled in a lot of money in prior contracts.  He is a West Coast guy, having grown in the Northwest region (Washington), citing that as one of his factors as well.  He also is happy to be returning to his "Giants Family," which is what Pence was talking about in all his sermonizing.  And his actual family gets to continue to live and grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area, it sounds like, which I think is up there in his thinking as well.

ogc thoughts

I think this move had to be done and done first among the Giants free agents.  The Giants bullpen was a great asset last year, but that was in spite of the fact that we lost Brian Wilson for the season and potentially (probably, if we are being realistic, the Beard has been saying you can bet on it that he'll be there opening day) early 2013 too.  Casilla's issues also put a damper on things too, he looked like he would be the new closer after his 2011 season, but his blister (and probable mental issues) took him out of the job and pushed Bochy to go with the committee method until Romo took control by late season.

In addition, as we all know, pitchers are just more fragile in general.  And Romo, as we also all know, has not been a horse before, he has had elbow issues before.  And I was getting worried about him near the end of the season because his quotes were laced with comments about pitching until his arm falls off and how he'll answer the call no matter what.  That was similar to what Wilson was saying in 2010 and 2011, and we subsequently learned that his body was already starting to give out in 2010.

Given any team's need for a shutdown bullpen and Romo's history of questionable health, plus if Affeldt and Romo were gone, that means that we need to rely on Casilla solely as our closer, with only Lopez, Kontos, and Mijares as our set-up men in that case, the Giants had no real choice but to sign Affeldt to the contract terms that Affeldt wanted, which was 3 years (which, to be fair, is what relievers of his ilk has been getting, like League).  We need the redundancy as well as just for the overall quality of the bullpen.  He's a proven reliever, to get someone similar - and I mean similarly accomplished, not a reliever who did well in 2012 - would have cost us the same money.

I don't understand why Giants fans didn't get that last year or this year.  Especially after how 2012 unfolded, I could at least see their argument from last off-season (though I would still pick up his option), but after Wilson went down and Casilla proved not to be the long-term answer, and particularly after how well Affeldt did in the playoffs, I just don't see how anyone cannot see why we had to sign Affeldt.

I think the question boils down to this:  do you want to win another championship or do you want to save money?  I want another championship.

And it is not like the Giants don't have money to spend on him.  A lot of contracts are going off the books.  And while raises take up a lot of that, there is still money to get everything done, that is why Sabean was able to say at the time of Pence's trade that they were planning on signing both he and Melky to long-term deals.  Given the baseball rationale for needing Affeldt, I don't see why the budget could not also handle Affeldt.

Next up is Scutaro, according to media reports.  They are reporting that the Giants are optimistic (Chron), but if Scutaro were close, I would think the Giants would have waited to get him done before announcing Affeldt's deal.  According to the Haft account, Sabean characterized negotiations as "ongoing and upbeat" regarding Scutaro and Pagan.

Unfortunately, I think that this means that Scutaro is listening hard to other offers for the best offer, whereas Affeldt had an idea of what he wanted, and Sabean was willing to meet it.  Jeremy noted (good comment on Sabean's methodology, which I had guessed at before, good to see pointed out here by player):
Once the Giants proved willing to give Affeldt a three-year package, as they demonstrated shortly after the World Series ended, the bargaining essentially ended. 
"The Giants are aggressive," Affeldt said. "They don't sit there and try to lowball and figure out where to get to, if they have an idea of where [your salary] should be. I don't think Sabean messes around a whole lot." 
Affeldt indicated that he could have listened seriously to proposals from other teams. But, as he stated, he didn't have a reason to leave, especially since he and his family like the city, the Bay Area and the ballclub.
Nothing wrong with Scutaro kicking the tires with other teams - it is his right - but it just dampens my hopes of getting him re-signed.

Alternatives to Scutaro

Not that I think that he is totally critical to the Giants success in 2013.  He was certainly the catalyst for our offense in the second half after he joined the team, but expecting him to hit .362/.385/.473/.859 again is not a reasonable expectation.   Much more reasonable was his batting line from the past four seasons playing mostly full-time:  .290/.354/.404/.758.  Theriot hit this after he returned to action after his DL got him healthy and when he got replaced: .287/.345/.345/.679.  Which is basically his career line:  .281/.341/.350/..691.  And both are roughly equal in defensive ability at 2B and SS.  While he is not as good a hitter as Scutaro, is Scutaro worth $5, 6, or 7M more than Theriot?

On top of that, the Giants have two MI who could be pushing for the starting spot starting in spring training 2013.  Nick Noonan had a nice but not breakout season in AAA, but a vast improvement on his 2011 season in AA Richmond.  His batting line was not impressive - .296/.347/.416/.763 - but it is that bad either considering he was only 23 YO for the season and the average age there was 26.7 years for pitchers, meaning they had roughly 3-4 more years of experience over him.  The good news for him is that his contract rate was a nice 83% (85% is what good hitters do, but again, note the age disadvantage for him) and his BB/K ratio was an OK 0.48 (usually want at least 0.50).  If he can further develop in 2013, he could be ready for the majors by mid-season.

Of course, the main person on the radar for 2B is Joe Panik.  He has had a down year both in the Cal League, a hitter's league, as well as the AFL, so far.  Still, he hit a nice .297/.368/.402/.770 for San Jose, and more importantly only had 54 K's in 535 AB (roughly 90% contact rate, great) and had the excellent ratio of 58 BB/54 K, 1.07 BB/K ratio, as only the best hitters can get their BB/K ratio above 1.00, and he has done it two seasons in a row.

If he can maintain that in the majors, he'll be an elite hitter.  In the majors, hitters who can maintain a BB/K ratio of over 1.00 are more likely to hit .300 than not (51% of hitters with BB/K from 1.00 to 1.50 had over .300 BA, only 9% of them had less than .250).  Guys with contact rates of 90%+ averaged .290 in 2011 season.  So far, so good.

He should be in AA for the 2013 season, maybe AAA for 2014, assuming he continues to climb.  With some good hitting, he could be in the majors by mid-season 2014, age 23, or by 2015 season at age 24.  That's still pretty young age to be making the majors.

Between Theriot and the young prospects, the Giants should be covered adequately at 2B for the next couple of years (assuming the Giants are able to re-sign Theriot.

Alternatives to Pagan

Pagan is even easier to replace.  Blanco, while not as good offensively, should be as good or better defensively in CF.  Meanwhile, Pagan had a very nice 2012, but his three year record as a starting OF is .281/.334/.415/.749, which is nice but not $13.8M nice.  Blanco's stats, again like above with Theriot, might not be as good, but is Pagan worth $10M+ more than Blanco?  Blanco's stats in 2012 was very close to his MLB stats:  .244/.333/.344/.676 vs. .253/.349/.331/.680.  At leadoff, the most important factor there is the hitter's OBP, and both of their OBP are virtually the same.

Meanwhile, we can go in a number of different directions for LF.  First off is internally from our own roster.  As much as I like Brandon Belt at 1B, I assume that Posey and Sanchez will be sharing the catcher's duties again and likely push Belt off 1B starts anywhere from 30 to 50 games.  If he is hitting as well as he did last season, the Giants would play him in LF for that many games.  If he's playing in LF that much, maybe it would be better for him to start in LF instead.  In which case, the Giants could look for a free agent 1B, perhaps just a platoon hitting 1B, instead of a LF or CF.

There are other options in the Giants farm system as well.  Had he not gotten injured last season, Roger Kieschnick probably would have gotten a chance to play in the Giants OF last season, after hitting .295/.361/.581/.942 up to his season-ending injury.   Particularly with Schierholtz not doing that well before the Pence trade, and after Melky got suspended.  And he started most of the 2012 season in LF.  He strikes out way, way too much and likely would be even harder to get going in the majors than Belt, but he brings a lot of HR power, plus walks a lot as well.

Another potential option is Francisco Peguero.  While he only hit .272/.297/.394/.691 in AAA, he started the season injured and took a while to get into baseball shape, it appears.  From June on, he hit .308/.327/.411/.738, which better shows his hit tool, and he was only 24 YO in AAA.  Also showing that he might have been struggling all season with leg problems, he only had 1 SB attempt all season in AAA, but in the majors, in his September call-up, where he basically was Huff's pinch-runner, he stole 3 bases with no CS.

None of these options are necessarily better than Pagan, but at $10M or more in extra cost, is he going to produce that much more value?  That is at least debatable.  In addition, there is a multitude of players the Giants can sign to play LF (if Blanco plays CF), starting with their former LF, Melky Cabrera, who should be cheap and the Giants, according to rumors, are open to him returning (I'm OK either way, it is what it is, though I would prefer to move on).  Other names include Scott Hairston (Giants killer previously), Jonny Gomes (grew up in Bay Area, I believe he's a Giants fan), Reed Johnson (Sabean loves flexibility and he plays all three OF positions).  Also, MLBTR has mentioned that the Giants kicked the tires on Torii Hunter (who just signed for 2 years, $26M with Tigers) and Shane Victorino (Flying Hawaiian; love that nickname).

Victorino might be a nice addition at a lower price point given his poor 2012 season, but still strong SB skill. He did not strike out that much, it was in line with prior seasons, plus his walk rate was still within his career range, he might have just had a bad season at age 31.  Previously, as a full-time starter for 6 seasons, he hit .282/.348/.443/.791, and averaged around 32 SB in the past 6 seasons.  And he has been the equal of Pagan and Blanco in defense in CF, and great on the corners.  I think if we can get him for one season at half the money that Pagan is asking for, I would rather have Victorino for a season than Pagan for 2-3 seasons.  He would be a nice bridge to get us to Brown starting in 2014, assuming he does well in Fresno in 2013.

Then, there is 1B (if Belt plays LF) free agents.  I've always like Kila Ka'aihue bat, maybe we can give him a chance to figure it out in the majors.  Carlos Pena has been an OK defensive 1B himself, and provides a lot of HR power and walks.  He probably don't want to split time at 1B though.  Kevin Youkilis would be an intriguing choice, he provides HR power and walks as well, and has never really played a full season and been very part time in recent years, and plays great defense there, plus can play 3B occasionally too.

There are a lot of options other than Pagan.

Your 2012 Giants: Posey Wins MVP, EPIC!

Buster Posey wins the NL MVP award in a landslide (Chron, Merc, CSN).  He had already won the Comeback Player of the Year award, as well as the Silver Slugger award, the prestigious Hank Aaron Award (for offensive excellence), and the Willie Mac Award.  And he won the 2010 Rookie of the Year award already, plus has two World Series rings.  His mantle is getting full.  Pretty good for a player with only one full season under his belt.

He received 27 of the 32 first place votes for a total of 422 points.  Braun was second with 285 points and 3 first place votes.  McCuthchen, who was the favorite at the All-Star break, had 245 points but no first place votes.  And Yadier Molina, who was considered a serious contender to Posey for this award, had 241 points and 2 first place votes (remaining two votes).

CSN has a nice listing of stats on this.  Posey is the 14th time a Giants player won the award (first awarded in 1931, so if one per year - not sure if there were skips - that 72 total awards, Giants won almost 20% of them) and 10th SF Giants MVP. He is one of eight Giants players to win it, joining Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Kevin Mitchel, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Carl Hubbell, and Larry Doyle.  He is the first catcher to win it since Johnny Bench in 1972 and no Giants catcher has ever won it.  He is the first Giants prospect to win the MVP award for the Giants since Willie Mac joined the team in 1959.

The Giants also won the trifecta, with a Giant winning the All-Star, World Series, and seasonal MVPs (Melky, Pablo, and Buster).  As noted previously, he won the batting title becoming the first NL catcher to win a batting crown since Ernie Lombardi in 1942.

Good quote by Pavlovic, capturing Posey and why he won the MVP:
“Ultimately it’s just a bad decision, and that’s all I’m really going to say about that,” a defiant Buster Posey said hours after Melky Cabrera’s suspension. “We have to approach the rest of the year with a chip on our shoulders.”
Remember, when Melky was suspended, we were tied with the Dodgers for the NL West lead, and was behind by one game at the end of that day.  The Giants ended up winning by eight full games over the D-gers, who added A-Gon and Beckett in a huge trade soon afterward, a move that most thought would turbo boost them to the title, but instead, it was the Giants turbo boosting to their second NL West title in three seasons and second World Championship.

Alex also added that Posey joined Bench and Munson as the only catchers in MLB history to win the Rookie of the Year Award and World Series title, along with the MVP Award.  Another Epic moment to this most Epic of seasons.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

2012 Giants: September/October PQS and Final PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of September 2012, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here (unfortunately, they removed the article; this link gets you at least to the PQS definition, read down to middle for details; I recommend buying their older books via their website to read up on this methodology and concept). I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this). Regular readers can skip to the next section.

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

Friday, November 02, 2012

My Latest Comment on Success in the Playoffs

I commented on in a comment at another site, and I thought I would share it here, as it encapsulates a lot of thoughts and ideas that I've been squirreling away and represents my latest thoughts about winning championships.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your San Francisco Giants: Team of the 2010 Decade

I was going to post this on a popular Giants community but then I realized that it would fall on deaf ears anyway and they would just attack with unkind words once more.

I'm Sad

Yes, sad to say, but even with the Giants SECOND World Championship in THREE years, I'm sad.  I know I'm odd.  I know I walk to the beat of a different drum.  I care whether my brothers are happy or not. And I consider my fellow Giants fans to all be my brothers (and sisters too, just don't want to repeat this every time).

And there are still clearly Giants fans who either are:  deluded, just can't enjoy themselves, or just can't let things go.  And I understand that last one, as I can't let it go either.

Grant (among others) railed into me a couple of years ago because I had the temerity to say that fans should thank Brian Sabean, or they don't deserve to enjoy that the Giants were in the World Series again (this was before the series started).  Afterward, he told me that I should be happy I was right - THIS TIME - and intimated that it would be different in the future.  After the Giants 2 of 3 mini-dynasty here, who's right now?

Team of the 2010 Decade

Part of being an analyst is finding something to either rally people together or to stick bamboo shoots under the nails of others.  I had already been feeling disenchanted with the Naysayers for a while when in the late 2000's decade, I thought of this term - Team of the 2010 Decade - as both an indication of what I thought the team could do if things went as they appeared to be going and a way to give the Naysayers something to feel uncomfortable with.

Honestly, I like to protect people.  I tried to protect my friends in the 70's when they thought that the Giants were going to have a good season, like they did before, and I told him point-blank:  no, they were going to be mediocre.  Not the worse, but not the best either.  I didn't want them thinking things were good when they were not.  I also tried to protect fellow fans today through the wonders of social media, that, hey, sure we've been going through a tough patch here in the mid-2000's, during Bonds' last years with us, but the pot at the end of the rainbow is coming near.  But I was a pariah for daring to be openly happy when Sabean got another two year extension.  And the future did look good to me, and I didn't want my fellow fans to lose hope and get their dauber down, because I felt that hope was around the corner, and soon.

We had Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and there was Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval, plus Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were rising up the farm pretty fast, and Jonathan Sanchez could be pretty good when he's not screwing himself up.  And the latest studies back then said that pitching and fielding, with a good closer and bullpen were the keys to going deep into the playoffs (and nothing new has come out since), and winning it all, wining that elusive World Championship that we all had been pining for.  Plus, my research showed that a good defensive team could win even with a poor (not the worse but poor) offense.  Then, any lineup with Sandoval and Posey in the middle could never be that bad, you just need to find some average hitters to surround them with, and the offense would be good enough.

It all made pretty good sense to me.  I knew that there was a good chance that I could have egg on my face for saying that the Giants were going to finally win a World Series with this core group, but I thought that the potential was there.  Analysts need to tread near the edge sometimes.

Faster to First Than Anybody Else

I'll admit that I never dreamed that it would happen so fast, in fact, the first year of the 2010 Decade.  And I never dreamed that it would happen twice in three seasons (and who knows what would have happened last season, with a healthy Posey and a still consistently great Lincecum, along with a hot Beltran).  Given the vagaries of the playoff system - see the Phillies in 2011 - I felt good that they would win one eventually because they had great pitching, but when was not clear both because other teams had good pitching too plus while a team can win with a poor offense, that don't mean that they'll win every time.  Still, it was clear to me that they should win one eventually, so I wasn't totally surprised by 2010's championship.

And now it is looking pretty good that the Giants will be the Team of the 2010 Decade.  They certainly have put their stamp all over it with two out of three years already.  And the core keeps on improving and improving.

That's because player development continued apace.  Just when I thought that Posey might be the last significant position player to be produced, Brandon Belt emerged from obscurity to be our version of Trout for the Angels - not as great, but just as impactful, for a Giants team that now had poor draft position.  Getting any starter from the draft is hard, but to get one who looks like he'll be a star player for years to come, from as far back as the 5th round is nearly impossible.  Then Brandon Crawford showed off great potential in the majors after being rushed up, and his defense is such that we can afford to carry him even if his offense is not great, and yet he has shown the ability to be a good hitter to boot.

Give It Up to our Scouts

Furthermore, the team kept on picking up key pieces through cheap free agents and seemingly minor trades. Andres Torres.  Juan Uribe.  Freddy Sanchez.  Aubrey Huff.  Pat Burrell.  Mike Fontenot.  Ramon Ramirez.  Javier Lopez.  Jose Guillen.  Cody Ross.  Santiago Casilla.  Chris Stewart.  Ryan Vogelsong.  Melky Cabrera.  Angel Pagan.  Gregor Blanco.  Joaquin Arias.  George Kontos.  Clay Hensley.  Marco Scutaro.  Jose Mijares.  Some were out of the total blue, like Torres and Vogelsong.  Others, like Casilla, Stewart, Blanco, and Arias, you look at their past record and wonder how the heck we got them, as they had good peripherals, some even good OBP, and yet they were desperate for a job somewhere, anywhere.

Our Giants scouts appear to have a long memory now, remembering players who were once good.  Like Crawford, who had a bad junior year but was expected to be a first rounder before his junior season.  Or Arias, who was a key player in the A-Rod trade with the Yankees, with Texas choosing him over Cano.  Over and over again, whether in the draft or signing minor league free agents, it seemed like our scouts saw something that nobody else saw, and pounced.  THAT is what Moneyball is really about, about seeing something that your competitors can't see and acting on your beliefs before the price got sky high.

The Future Looks Bright, I Gotta Wear Orange and Black Shades

Now the team is beyond what I could ever dream about.  Posey, according to the experts, was going to be a great defensive catcher but only a good, not great hitter, meanwhile Weiters was considered the much better hitter and for power, and the lesser on defense.  They couldn't be more reversed of the experts opinion.   And Posey is the likely MVP of the 2012 season, having already been voted that by two different organizations and likely to win the traditional MVP award given by The Sporting News.  And this was his first full season.  He's the offense's equivalent of Tim Lincecum, in terms of performance.

We still have Pandoval, but with Belt and likely Hunter Pence, long term, we have a great core for the middle of our lineup, for at least 3 if not more seasons:  Sandoval, Posey, Pence, Belt.  I can see Belt moving to bat 2nd once he can hit regularly and not strike out so much, as he has a high OBP, good speed, ability to steal bases, plus can hit for good power to boot.  That is a great middle of lineup.

Up top, we have Pagan, I believe, as I think he'll sign with us for a fair contract, and then when Gary Brown is ready, we'll have the best leadoff guy we have had probably since Brett Butler manned CF for us.

Meanwhile, both Blanco and Crawford look like they can be good hitters for us at some point.  Blanco is very good at getting on base already in his career, and he can loft the ball often enough to get extra-base power going for us.  Crawford definitely will develop some power, and looks like he can eventually learn to hit as well, and be both a great glove and a good bat at SS for us.  And both project, with the above hitters around, to be our bottom of lineup guys.  They can be real strengths for us there, giving us depth in our lineup, with no easy outs, much like the Cards this season.

And whether or not the Giants re-sign Scutaro - my bet is that they do - they should be able to retain Theriot, who was good for us when healthy during the season, bridging us from Freddy to Marco.  And I'm hopefuly that Nick Noonan will be able to provide some good performances here and there in the near future for us at 2B.  Plus, Joe Panik still is looking good for rising up to the majors and taking the starting 2B job in a couple of years or so.

So the offense looks really good, and look really likely to be good for at least three if not more seasons.  On top of that, Posey I'm still hoping can be a great defensive catcher, Belt, Crawford, Sandoval, and Blanco are already great fielders, so I expect another good defensive year from the Giants in 2013.  If anything, it should be better, as Crawford was really lost for a while in early 2012 and I think Posey's ankle recovery made him less able to do certain catcher tasks

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

That has been my mantra for many years now.  And the Giants got pitching.  I totally believe that 2012 was just a hiccup that Lincecum had and he'll be fine going forward.  Plus Cain and Bumgarner will be our steady Eddie's in the rotation.  And Vogelsong, I think, will surprise with his longevity as a good pitcher, despite his advanced age, as he knows how to pitch, and when his velocity goes down, he'll still be able to sling a good start.  And Barry Zito, contract aside, is great for us as our #5 starter, and when he is on, he's as good as any of our other starters.  And they are all capable of throwing a DOM start regularly during the season and during the playoffs, and DOM starts are how, as my research showed, (one and two) a team can rush through the playoffs and win the World Series championship.

So our starting pitching looks good, barring injury, for at least a couple of years (and I think we can resign Lincecum to a contract similar to Cain, but bigger in terms of dollars per year) plus good prospects coming up.  They have young guys available near-term, like Eric Surkamp, Chris Heston, and Michael Kickham performing well in the upper minors, plus Yusmeiro Petit possibly around as well.  Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, and Martin Agosta, are more far off, but they look like they have good potential for reaching up here and doing well, as their strikeout ability is good.  And the four of them have potential to be top of the rotation type starters, from what I've read about their potential.  True, many prospects die on the vine, but with four potential top of rotation starters, have to think at least one will at least be a good enough starter for the Giants.

The bullpen looks good as well, even if Brian Wilson don't come back (hard to tell with guys with their second TJS).  Obviously, Sergio Romo, Lopez, Casilla, Mijares, and Kontos is a pretty good core there.  Plus, I think that they will be able to resign Jeremy Affeldt to a contract for another couple of seasons.  And I think Runzler will finally be healthy enough to take a spot in the bullpen, though that would make it four lefties in the bullpen in 2013.

In the farm system, I think that Heath Hembree and Brett Bochy will be ready to contribute real soon, as soon as there is an opening.  And I still like Dan Otero for contributions at some point, Jacob Dunnington too.  Plus, Clay Hensley was good for us until he got injured, which blew up his ERA, which was in the 2's until that happened.  But there is not enough space in the bullpen, so there could be a trade, or they might let Affeldt go, but there is a lot of bullpen talent and not enough space for all of these guys.  And starters could always move to the bullpen and do well, as Lincecum so deliciously showed us in these playoffs, and as Eckersley showed long ago.

Dynasty, Dynasty, Dynasty

Based on the above, I don't see why, barring a huge catastrophe of some sort, the Giants can't continue to be competitive for the World Series championship every season.  They won't necessarily win every season, but with their core players all in their 20's, they should be more World Series games (and championships) in their future, creating a dynasty not seen in the NL since the Big Red Machine of the 70's or in the majors since the Yankees of the late 1990's (which had a core of Jeter, Posoda, Pettitte, and Rivera, all of whom were acquired by the Yankees under their then scouting director, Brian Sabean).  The Giants should be the Team of the Decade, Team of the 2010's.


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