Friday, March 30, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Late Spring Rosterbation

Lots of interesting news on the roster composition (Baggerly, Schulman, Pavlovic, and Schulman on Fontenot).

First big news is that the Giants are planning to carry 12 pitchers, not 11, even though Vogelsong will be on the DL and his turn in the rotation will be skipped.  The worry is that Zito might have a short start and thus tax the bullpen early.  This change in plans is good news for a pitcher looking for an opportunity to show off what he's got.  The media list Dan Otero, Steve Edlefson, and Jean Machi as the possibles, and I agree with their thinking that Dan Otero is the guy they bring up.

I've liked Otero for a while now.  His K/BB ratios are out of this world.  I'm not sure why he's been slowly brought up the farm system, though looking at his seasonal stats, it looks like he probably got injured in late 2009 and missed a good portion of 2010, and thus why they have been slow since, to give him time to recover and get back to 100%.  His stats remind me of Sergio Romo.

Of course, the other eleven pitchers are Lincecum, Bumgarner, Cain, Zito as the starters, in that order, and Wilson, Casilla, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Mota, and Hensley in the bullpen.  I have liked the pickup of Hensley, but with Zito's struggles, I think I like it even more.

Not that I don't think Zito will eventually prove useful enough that we keep him around, but with Mota and Hensley around, another pitcher could be crappy (remember, Bumgarner didn't do that well in early 2011 either and the bullpen was used a lot with Madison doing poorly and Zito struggling, most probably due to internal injuries from his car accident, before he DLed).  I think Zito will be fine as our 4th or 5th starter, in any case, as people forget that the vast majority of teams do not have that great a 4th or 5th starter.  Let Surkamp mature and develop a little more in AAA, that's where he would have been if he wasn't the emergency starter last year and brought up.

The next big news is that Bochy backed off from committing to Whiteside or Stewart as the only backup, they could carry three, but they could also carry one and perhaps neither of those two, which would imply that Hector Sanchez as the only backup scenario is being discussed by Bochy and Sabean.  Not too shocking given how well Sanchez has been hitting all spring.

I view this more as a dry hump where Bochy teases the fan base with this possibility, as a reward to Sanchez for how well he has done in the spring, but I expect him to say something to the effect that "it was a very hard decision to make, a tough one, but we really think a lot of Sanchez's potential and think it is best for him to start in AAA and get regular playing time."  And I agree with that.

We still don't know what we got with Hector.  Most prospect analyst books say that he's more of a future backup catcher type.  But look at the hitting he has done as well as the raves he got as a catcher from pitchers last season.  Given Posey's uncertainty long-term at C (I still see him moving to 3B or possibly 2B eventually - I originally had him going to 2B, but Panik looks good there plus I saw a comment that Posey might not have the ability to handle 2B, particularly after his injury.  Of course, if he moves to 3B, Sandoval would move to 1B, and that works in terms of how good either is with the bat, Posey is just an ordinary hitter at 1B, very good at 3B), I think the Giants have to see if they can get Sanchez to develop into a starting catcher, because as nicely as Tommy Joseph has done so far and as nicely as Andrew Susac looks in being good offensively and defensively, you never know when they will hit the wall developmentally, even Hector too.  It is not like Hector is only anybody's Top 100 prospects in baseball list.  We have to continue to develop Hector as a starting catcher.  And that happens fastest with him in AAA in 2012, at least to start.

Besides, I think Stewart is more than adequate as backup.  The main call for him to start at catcher, at least initially, is when Posey gets moved to 1B for a start, pushing Huff either out or to LF (where then Schierholtz is out).  That works best with a LH starter going, and last season Stewart hit .295/.392/.409/.801 against LHP and he is 278/.371/.407/.778 lifetime.  Plus, he was rated by the Fielding Bible to be among the leaders in the majors in preventing runs with his defense, that despite it being a counting stat (meaning the more you play, the more you can produce) and he only played roughly a third of the innings that the leaders played as starters.  He could be perfect in a platoon with a LH-hitting catcher and late innings replacement.

For the rest of the roster, right now the starting lineup looks like this:  Posey C, Huff 1B, Burriss 2B, Sandoval 3B, Crawford SS, Cabrera LF, Pagan CF, and Schierholtz RF.  The Giants have been clearly telegraphing that Belt most probably will end up starting at 1B in AAA, particularly with that talk recently with Meulens saying that Belt has holes that he needs to fix up.

Fans will be upset with that but people forget that spring training is often an experimental practice ground for some of the pitchers.  They are not pitching to Belt solely to get him out, they will be trying out different pitches and different patterns.  But once the real season begins, if he still has the holes the Giants think he has, he will be exposed AGAIN like last season.

I see some are drinking Belt's Kool-Aid, but I'll point it out again:  none of the prospect hounds or Giants fans thought much of Belt when he was drafted, but the Giants were the ones who 1) saw the potential, 2) helped him recraft his mechanics, and 3) gave him the opportunity to fly up the minors to the majors, so if anyone understands how good Belt is and where he's going wrong, it is the Giants.

I think we can all agree that Belt has great potential for great things in baseball.  Why not make sure that he is ready and not have him yo-yo up and down?  People also forget that great prospects do not always become great players.  Hello Andy Marte, Sean Burroughs, etc.  People also forget that Belt clearly has some hole(s) because he struck out at a 30% rate in AAA and the majors.

And, furthermore, yes, he might hit well in the majors now, and be a good player, but if he can cut down the strikeouts to how he was doing it in AA, he could be a major star, hitting for average, walking a lot, striking out a little, hitting a lot of homers, plus great defense to boot.  Moreover, once you dump Huff (as many Belt believers think), you don't have that option anymore, we are pretty much stuck with Belt at 1B, no matter how poorly he is hitting.  We need the risk mitigation that sending Sanchez and Belt to the minors provide, and that is something that fans do not understand yet, but that I've been harping on for a number of years now.

What if Sanchez and Belt were brought up and they fail.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, they're so good they can't, right?  But good prospects fail all the time, Matt Weiters came up and hit nowhere close to what people thought he would hit.  After two so-so seasons, he finally started hitting consistently last season, his third one.

What if the Giants do as the fans ask and they play and play but at the end of May, they are still not over the Mendoza Line?   Can someone say "the offense probably stinks"?  Because Huff would be gone in most fans' scenario, traded away for a thong.

Or what if Posey is struggling as well, or worse, injured again?  Keeping only Sanchez most probably means we lost Stewart to waivers, who not only is good defensively but good hitting against LHP?  A team out there will want him to be at least a platoon/backup catcher.  So we probably have Whiteside as our starter and Jackson Williams as our backup catcher, as they send Sanchez down to AAA to figure out his bat.  Do we really need another Bocock moment?

With both in the minors, we get to see whether:  1) Huff's Pilates work helped out or not and he's hitting or not, 2) Posey holds up to the workload or not, 3) Stewart holds up as backup catcher seeing more playing time, 4) Cabrera, Pagan, and Schierholtz produces as our starting OF.  Then if any of those fail, hopefully Sanchez and Belt is doing what we hope they can be doing in the minors and be brought up in May sometime, or maybe Peguero might breakout and start in the OF.  Risk mitigation, options provide that.

I think Huff will be fine in 2012, closer to his career batting line than 2011's.  I've looked at the teams he's been on, plus been observing his interviews, and he is not a leader.  Nothing wrong with that, but while he makes airs about that, he's not.  If anything, he's the class clown, and you don't need to go far to see that, with his whole Rally Thong routine.  And people might not recall, but Huff was hitting OK, but nothing good, until Pat Burrell joined the team and started hitting great, at which point, Huff started hitting great.  Pat Burrell is a leader, an instigator, but Aubrey is not (and again, nothing wrong with that).

And I noticed that on teams where he's the offensive leader, he's usually struggling, having a lower half seasonal batting line for his career, but when he's surrounded by hitters, he relaxes and is able to hit well.  No shame in that.  A lot of hitters struggle when they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  Ishikawa couldn't hit for anything in 2009 until he "put himself in God's hands" and stopped thinking about it.  He hit close to .800 OPS the rest of the way (I still think he can be a good 1B for a team somewhere; he's with the Brewers, last I heard).  How many times have we heard a batter say that his breakthrough in getting out of a slump was to stop thinking and just follow that ol' rule:  see ball, hit ball?

This season, with Sandoval and Posey back, plus Cabrera and Pagan up top, Huff should not feel as much pressure.  Particularly Sandoval, he could have had 30+ homers last season had he played the full season and most hitters suffered a loss of power during the season after having hamate bone surgery, so what if he was held back and does even better in 2012?  DrB noted 40 homer potential for Pablo and my analysis agreed.

And I think the offense not only will be much improved, but will be up there with the 2010 team.  Pagan looks good as the replacement for the 2010 Torres, but even if not, Gregor Blanco looks like he could be the second coming of Torres.  He could step in for Pagan, should he fail to get going.

And even if Pagan is playing well, Blanco will probably get his chances, like Torres did.  Unfortunately, Schierholtz's style of playing appears to invite danger and injuries.  I've seen players like that through baseball history, Pistol Pete Reiser was like that for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was good when he played, but he was injured so, so much.  I would put Aaron Rowand in that category, he would be hitting well for us, grooving the balls, then he would get injured, one way or another, and there goes the season.  So I see Nate going down, again, at some point in the season.  Still, if he's healthy, I think that he could have a breakout year, when he is on, he's white hot.

I think Crawford will surprise with his hitting.  He impressed me greatly last season, being able to avoid strikeouts by getting his bat on the ball and putting it into play.  I felt that with adjustments, the balls he hit would turn to base hits and that started happening late in the 2011 season, then he continued it in the AFL and then Spring Training.  I would bet on him and Blanco as the likely nice surprises of 2012 out of the hitters.

Burriss I'm still not sold on.  I've seen too many prospects do well in spring, only to disappoint in the regular season.  But this is his do-or-die season so at least we get to try him out as starter for a while, and see whether he finally broke out or if he's a AAAA player.  And no matter what he does, there is also the possibility that the Washington Nat's might be willing to give us an OK prospect for him in trade, as he's a local D.C. product and they might be looking for a 2B, as they are not sold on Desmond, from what I've read.

I think Cabrera will do enough to justify the trade.  He probably won't duplicate 2011's stats, but I wouldn't be surprised if he does, because players sometimes breakout at his age, as their cumulative experience finally adds up for them and/or they finally grow up and prepare properly for the baseball season.  Even if he produces what he did in 2009 (which is roughly what he produced from 2009-2011), that is good enough for our offense to win a lot of games with our pitching, if everyone one else hits as projected.

I don't know about Pagan.  That is why I'm glad we have Blanco and Belt/Huff in case he fails.  Risk mitigation is a wonderful thing.

Posey, nobody knows.  So far, so good, everything as progressed very well, looks great.  I cross my fingers and hope for the best.  That's partly why I want Sanchez in the minors.  I want him getting ready to be the starter for us, in case of any issues with Posey's return to baseball.   We don't know if Posey has to play 1B all season in 2012, or even sit out the season.   Risk mitigation.  Plus, keeping Stewart, if Posey for any reason cannot catch, a platoon of Stewart and Sanchez should be a good enough imitation of Posey that our lineup will bend but not break, particularly if Sandoval and Cabrar are hitting..

That leaves the bench.  Obviously, one backup catcher and I don't see how there can be two, we need all the spots for versatility.  I think Brett Pill got one spot, he has been OK playing all the corner positions and would be the power bat off our bench.  I think with the uncertainty about Franchez and Burriss, plus they just waived  Fontenot, they are clearly keeping Theriot, likely for the reasons Schulman noted, that the team needs right-handed hitters.  And Gregor Blanco has done so well, plus all the columnists think that he's in for sure (the waiving of Fontenot also fills the Giants need for a 40-man spot for Gregor Blanco), and that's four bench spots.

I don't see how the Giants can go with only one backup middle infielder, so I would guess that Joaquin Arias has impressed the coaching staff enough to win the last bench spot.  He has impressed with his defense and has been a good hitter in the minors.  But this could be how they keep Hector Sanchez up as well.  That would also explain Bochy's hesitation to note Stewart or Whiteside as the backup catcher..

Now, if the Giants keep Arias, this would be a stretch and depends on the arcane rules of 40 man rostering, but if Pill has any options left, he could go to AAA, with Blanco and Burriss, in that order, covering the corner OF positions, and that could open things up for bringing Hector Sanchez as a backup catcher.  Again, I prefer him starting in AAA, but this is still a possibility, if Pill has any options left.


  1. Alright OGC, getting close to showtime!

    Watched the taped Rangers game this morning. Belt looked great. Aggressive on the basepaths, getting hits off of a world series starter, a lefty to boot! Huff had a nice double, but he also struck out 2-3 times. Ah, small samples, the smallest of samples.

    You are giving the cautious view on Belt. I appreciate that. I have to say though I'm at a loss here. Belt has done everything this organization has asked of him, and done it well. So I do not understand the logic of trotting out Muelens to beat reporters to critique his swing. How in the world is this a good way to treat your best hitting prospect? This really bothers me, and its sent me over to the other side on this one. Sure its spring training, but Belt has handily outperformed Huff.

    I've got my Hector Sanchez views bruised and battered on the big bad interwebs. My point with him is he will get close to 60 starts behind the plate in addition to major league coaching and pinch hitting. He has not reached the 2000 AB mark yet, he has one year of VWL and 1300 odd ABs in the minors. So yes, he could use another full year. But he'll only start maybe 80 games at Fresno, he's a catcher. I don't see a lot of difference, and I see a real need for his bat, especially with the type of games the giants will play where one key hit late in the game will win it.

    So Ol Bochy will make my wishes 0-2 most likely, and Belt and Sanchez will be the cavalry. I think its a bad plan. What would I do? Huff to left, sub in Nate after the 6th inning AB, play Sanchez every third day. Are there going to not be enough ABs? Not sure, but I actually think Bochy gets a lot out of his roster, and is good at mixing and matching, keeping guys fresh. (Tad vet friendly for sure, but that isn't always a bad thing).

    Much is made of Burriss/what not. That will work itself out. I have my doubts about his ability to hit, but lets give it a whirl. The Riot is there, and Arias or some other guy.

    Zito's velocity has not been above 82 MPH. Pretty big problem if you ask me. Having to take an extra pitcher right away is a big fat indication of the baseball side of the Giants faith in Zito.

    So we have the declaration from above: play our $. I hope like hell they have short leashes. I agree with you on Huff, and I hope he gets a fair shake. Fans need to go watch their 2010 dvds and sit on their hands for a few weeks. Zito, I'm not so sure about deserving a fair shake.

    Sorry, I'm just down about everything. Between the rumor of Rowand getting cut being a big reason behind the Bow Tie ouster, the insistence on Zito, the bashing of Belt in public when he's bucked up like a good prove out rookie, AND the Matt Cain situation, I am seeing a lot of disfunction with Los Gigantes and I don't like it.

    1. I don't see my position as cautious regarding Belt. Read my diatribe on DrB (all hell, I know I saw it on there, I posted it, but now it's gone, DrB must have deleted it, don't know how else it could be gone, I saw it posted).

      it was beautiful. I analyzed Belt's springs, 2010-11. Roughly same contact rate both years. Only difference was that his BABIP was mid-400 in 2011 vs. 320-ish in 2010. If you ratchet both spring's down to .300 BABIP, then you get a .785 OPS spring for Belt both seasons, not really warranting a starting position at 1B. And he's certainly not maintaining a .400 BABIP in the majors either.

      My thesis is this: if he's really hitting better this spring vs. last spring, we should see it in his peripherals. His contact rate is basically the same for the two springs, walk rate too, walk/strikeout ratio as well. If he's really beating up on pitchers better this spring, he should be striking out much less while walking more. He's doing neither.

      My argument, which I also just deposited on Crazy Crabbers on the Flem post, is that I want the Superstar Belt playing for the Giants 2013-2018, not the merely OK version of Belt that we've been seeing in the majors. If you just want to improve the team in 2012, yeah, he'll probably do that. But you're not going to get the Superstar Belt we saw in AA in 2010 either, he's not going to fix that in the majors, he's not necessarily going to see any need to fix that if he's doing OK enough to stay in the majors, he'll be another Dave Kingman type, who was much like Belt, tall, lanky power hitter with speed and some inkling that he can hit for average too, but he didn't fix his holes, he just started swinging, either hit or miss, screw everything else.

      And I showed that as well, I looked at Belt's stats once he got back from his DL: .231/.296/.469/.765, not much better than Huff, and basically the same when using OBPxSLG. That's not worthy of playing 1B, I want Belt to be 1.000+ OPS, not 7-800 OPS. He's not going to be that Superstar Belt unless he fixes that hole.

      And he's not going to fix the holes in his swing facing it in the majors, but he might fix it if he's in the minors working with coaches on it everyday. At least give him some time so that the Giants can assess whether he can change that or not. Given how he willingly changed everything between 2009 and 2010, I'm hopeful that he can make the change and give us greatness.

      And I think you agree with me there, at least in concept, to strive for greatness, not mediocrity.

    2. I should finish my thought: so I don't view it as cautiousness, I view it as wanting greatness and not settling.

    3. OGC,

      I didn't delete your diatribe on Belt. Sorry that happened. I have no idea what might have happened to it.

    4. Actually, I think it's on there. There are several posts that still have active comments going. Maybe you forgot which one you posted it under?

    5. Sorry if I mistakenly blamed you. I forgot that I sometimes start typing and reply to the wrong one. But it was not after the one I had posted before, so I jumped to conclusions.

      I will look for it.

    6. Not the best choice of words, cautious. I do agree with you that it is important to strive for greatness, and not to settle. I am not sure I agree that what Belt needs is time in AAA to fix his swing as the Giants are currently saying. I can see them changing their tune in 4 days just as easily as I can see them sending him down for the first 2 months of the year.

      I am going to state something you might disagree with here. I view this Muelens/Beat writer jobby with Belt as: 20% about Belt's technique, 30% about protecting from Belt's possibly getting to Super 2 status and 50% CYA for the Giants to have a story ready for fan outrage when they send him down. You slipped right on past my assertion that this is a lousy way to treat your best hitting prospect in the press, critiquing his swing after he's answered the bell and done everything asked of him. Finally, the Giants have told him to be much more aggressive and he has responded to that, which may or may not affect the spring training stats you were citing.

      While some people are calling for Huff to get out of the way, that was not what I was stating at all. I'm fine with the Giants giving him rope, and I would expect them to hook him earlier than they did last year if he doesn't perform. They stated that is their intention.

      The Giants have a gigantic PR problem. Part of this is the fault of social media and anxious fans. But they do not do a good job setting expectations. I really have a problem with their public statements on Brandon Belt.

    7. I agree that the Giants do not do a great job of setting expectations.

      I don't really know what the issue is with Muelens/Belt. Another way to look at this is that Belt might be chafing under the bit, as he may think as you do, that he's done everything they said and maybe he's started to tune out Muelens, so the Giants went public with this last bit of tuning. But what you say might be true too.

      Though I would note that he's probably, IMO, got too much time already in the majors (his DL time counted) to fiddle with Super 2 status, especially with the latest CBA making it easier to become Super 2. They would probably have to hold him out until after the trading deadline to try to do that, if I am eyeballing his time in the majors right.

      Mostly, I find that the Giants are typically tight-lipped about their prospects, giving bits and pieces of info out. When they come out and actually are negative about a prospect, that, thinking about that, seems to mean that there is something happening behind the scenes that we're not aware of, like with Frandsen or Burriss. Maybe you can use your connections to find out what that might be, if anything.

      Sorry, should have made it clear that you did not call for Huff to go, but when I get going, I start including arguments I've seen before.

    8. And as Moyer has shown, pitchers can do OK enough without velocity.

      Moyer is an outlier. Zito has pitched well over stretches, but he doesn't have the location command that Jamie has, and that's critical without velocity.

      It's possible he'll perform like, or better, than a typical #5, but he seems to be regressing and the fans are going to be merciless.

      It's going to get ugly.

    9. Don't have any connections with the field operations, just the jackass ownership group.

      I am most likely on tilt about the Cain side of things more than the Belt stuff. The Giants are tight lipped and maybe they get a little bit sideways with the beat guys at times. It is definitely not their strong suit though, they like to be seed spitting dye in the wool baseball guys.

      It is frustrating to me because the Giants drafted Belt, they have developed him and this back/forth in the press is sort of like nails on a chalk board at this point. It's like nobody has taken a step back and looked for an overall strategy, they're just going to take it a day at a time. I guess sometimes baseball is like that though.

      Still, as of this very moment, nobody can confidently predict what the Giants are going to do with Belt. Which brings me back to my point: if you are going to trot out Muelens and take the trouble to outline that, go through with the plan, send him down the same day. Make it definitive. Instead, its speculative, and fans are furious. And I count myself among them at this point.

    10. EL, as far as I'm concerned about Moyer vs. Zito, results is what counts. Moyer has location, Zito has his curve.

      But I agree that it could get even uglier, but given his performance as a Giants, while not excellent, he has provided some decent value, just not his contract value.

      Shankbone, OK, thanks anyway.

      Yeah, they definitely are more old-timer baseball guys, plus are extra secretive, for the most part, I think. The whole keeping it under his kimono saying.

      Now that we know that Belt was kept, I hope he really has turned the corner, but so far, not looking good, sooo many strikeouts. I wonder know if the fans' clamor caused them to give him this chance.

      I think the plan was to have him hit from the get-go. :^)

      I don't see how you can plan this with a strategy, other than if he looks ready to go, you give him a shot, see what's not working still so that he can work on it when he's back down. Obviously, no team wants to bring up a player only to send him back down again. And it could be frustrating to the team if he's doing everything right in the minors, but when he's in the majors, he freezes like a deer in headlights. You can't plan for that either, nor is there a real remedy for that either, other than playing him regularly.

      Their plan to bat him 7th is a workable compromise for 2012. The performance level for a 7th hitter is way below that of a 1B-man. Even with all the strikeouts he had last season, he was hitting around the level of a 7th place hitter for the most part. Plus, there should be less pressure on him there, which apparently was a problem last season.

      The fans may be furious, but the most important person, to me, in this case, is Belt himself. They made it public so that the fans can know that this is what the Giants are trying to fix with Belt, to make Belt more cognizant of that fix. Why say that then send him down? That would just discourage him more.

      But you can't baby him either. So this was the compromise, apparently.

      Whether that is the proper way to handle Belt, I don't know. I do know from having children that sometimes they hear you and do what you tell them to and other times they will totally frustrate you and not do it at all. Sometimes I wonder if others knew what my kids were doing, would they continue. Belt could have reached that point with the Giants. Maybe it is Belt that fans should be furious with, because he's still not changing.

  2. One more thing: you have dismissed Zito as a fifth starter being fine, because a fifth starter isn't that important. Here's the thing though: the Giants are so deep Timmy battles the other teams Ace, MadBum takes on their #2, Cain takes on their 3! Vogelsong hopefully is ready to go on the 15th, a solid #4. Isn't it just a great advantage to have a better than average 5th starter? Wouldn't that be an undervalued area to take advantage of if every team has the mindset "its just our 5th starter"?

    I'll give Zito 5 starts before I start in. But I'm starting in harsh.

    1. Sure, it would be nice to have a better pitcher. I don't see one on the Giants roster. Maybe, just maybe, they are better, but if you jettison Zito and that pitcher fails you, then you are screwed, because we then go to the next best.

      Risk mitigation.

      And look, if you examine the past 3 years of stellar Giants pitching, you will find something unusual: they had good overall records having 4 starters going well, in spite of our poorly that 5th starter (composed of a number of pitchers) doing pretty poorly overall. I mean, as bad as Zito was doing in his first season with us.

      I don't have high expectations from Zito. He's a capable pitcher when healthy. Something in the 4-range (and that is a huge range) is something I hope to get out of him for 2012 and frankly, that is a mountain compared to the molehills that any other team trots out there in their #5 starting position, except for maybe the Phillies, but they have Blanton, so they conceivably could be worse too.

      I also suspect you don't know how bad #5 starters are generally. Look at each team, rank by ERA, see how bad their #5 starter is and you'll quickly see what I mean. Someone did a study like that on The Hardball Times 5-6 years ago and it was startling how bad teams' #5 starter was, heck, even #4 starters, that is why I'm fine with Zito there as well.

      Heck, push come to shove, I'm fine with him as a #3 too, if he's pitching like 2009-2010, though I'm more than happy fine and dandy about having Cain there. He's going to kick booty there.

    2. I don't know how bad #5 starters are? OK.

    3. I totally disagree with the notion that Zito is OK as a 5th starter. It's been obvious for awhile now that he no longer belongs in a ML rotation. You can cite all the stats you want on relative 5th starters, but everyone can see with their own 2 eyes that Zito is done. The contract is the issue. I was encouraged last year when the Giants released Rowand & Tejada that Zito would be next in the off season. The Giants would be much better served by admitting the obvious and cashiering Zito. It's not a matter if someone may be able to do better or not, but rather we know that Zito is not going to get better either in the short run or the long run. Why not try someone, anyone, who might develop into something. There is no upside to sticking with Zito. There could possibly be an upside in going with someone else.

    4. By your definition, Boof - "obvious for a while" - that implies at least for a couple or more years right now.

      Moving contract value aside and looking only at value as a pitcher, Zito had low 4 ERAs in 2009 and 2010, and most seasons ANY team would be happy to dump their #5 starter and MOST teams would be happy to dump their #4 starter and some teams would be happy to dump their #3 starter, and replace them with Zito. I've see enough team stats to know this is true.

      Too many people, and apparently you are one of them, are blinded by the contract value that he signed for. Too many people misunderstand the notion of "sunk value".

      The contract should not be the issue. The issue is whether the Giants are better as a team with Zito or if they can replace him with a better player at minimal cost.

      There is no pitcher in the Giants system who is guaranteed to pitch a full season and deliver a 4-ish ERA. Surkamp, maybe and probably, but there is no real way to know except to get rid of Zito and find out. But if you are wrong, you just shot yourself in the foot, making your team weaker, probably made your competitor (I think an NL West team would jump on him, particularly SD, for the MLB minimum, but I see LA getting him) better.

      Sure, we could get Paul Malholm, Shankbone's fave player to replace Zito, for $5M, I think was his thinking. He has had exactly 2 seasons out of 6 where his ERA was around the 4 that Zito had in 2009 and 2010. Those two seasons, his BABIP was low, around .290. His career BABIP is .314, meaning that he's actually been pretty bad at preventing hits, and if you remove those .290's, his BABIP has been roughly .330 (3 of 4 seasons). Add to that he strikes out less than 6 K/9 and his K/BB are below the 2 that you want.

      And I know that Zito has numbers below that too, but we are already stuck with him, we don't have to pay him another $5M or whatever to get him on our team, he's paid for already.

      That's not worth paying $5M to find out if he can repeat something he's only done twice in 6 seasons.

      And here's the crazy thing, we all know that PNC Park is a hitter's park, so we might think that he's better on the road: 3.80 ERA at home, 5.03 ERA on the road. His numbers will look very ugly if he can't figure out how to pitch well outside of PNC.

    5. (cont.)
      People seem to be blinded by not understanding the consequences if they are wrong. "Belt should be starting. Zito should be gone." There are consequences that cascade from that decision that are irreversible, this is not a fantasy baseball team, this is reality, and there are consequences

      Just as there are consequences to keeping Zito and he sinks. Excluding his injury year in 2011, he's had decent ERAs for us in 3 of 4 seasons. Yes, not what we paid for, but while people keep on saying sunk cost, they keep on bringing up his contract, which by definition of sunk cost, you are not suppose to consider at all in making your decisions going forward.

      He was injured last season, but did very well in 2009 and 2010. WAR only valued him as roughly an average pitcher during those seasons (should be higher because his low BABIP is a talent not acknowledged) so the question should be this regarding replacing Zito: can we find a better pitcher. Malholm at best is equal to him. Then why spend $5M to get maybe the same pitcher. If I'm going to spend money to replace Zito, the pitcher better be better than Zito.

      That goes for prospects too. If we had a Bumgarner, Cain, or Lincecum ready to take a spot, that's a good reason to push Zito out, they clearly looked better than he could do. Surkamp, not so much, at least right now. With a great AAA season, like his AA, I think 2013 could be the season to see that maybe happen.

      Making the team better at similar cost should be the issue. Is it worth, say, $5M for a similar pitcher? I don't think so. Is it worth $10M for a better pitcher? Well, how much better? Is the team configured to already win 95 games with Zito? Then spending the $10M to get to 97 wins seems more vanity than necessity. Is the team configured to win in the high 80's? That's the gray zone, it might be worth $10M to get those 2 extra wins.

      However, at $10M, in today's market, is a 2.0 WAR player. Zito, even undervalued by the WAR methodology, was roughly a 2.0 WAR player. So a pitcher who is 2 wins better is actually paid at a $20M free agent rate. So basically, we're talking getting CC or Cliff Lee or maybe Oswalt, type of pitcher. If the team can afford that, should I would be willing.

    6. (ooops, first, I meant "I would be willing", take out the should)

      So now, we are getting into beliefs. Neither Shankbone or Boof believes that Zito is an average player, it appears. His WAR was 1.5-2.0 (basically average) in 3 of his 4 healthy seasons with us. As long as he is healthy, I believe that he should do something similar again.

      Well, his velocity is down in the spring.

      This is not something anybody knew before spring training, not even the Giants trainers.

      And as Moyer has shown, pitchers can do OK enough without velocity.

      I want more than two fans' belief that Zito is done, period. He wasn't done before, which eliminates Boof's position, even 1.5-2.0 WAR is plenty valuable, $8-10M worth per season.

      Maholm averaged roughly 1.6 WAR, but as I showed, that was mostly earned in PNC Park, he was pretty bad for his career on the road. That, I don't believe, is worth even $1M, let alone $5M, to take the risk that he cannot figure out how to pitch well outside of his home park.

      Zito is more of a known quality. Aggravating, sure, frustrating as well, but if you follow sunk costs strictly, you only look at his expected performance. The bar is very low for a #5 starter, and his stats, as bad as they are for us (because of the contract) are stellar for a #5 starter. They are still stellar for a #4 starter. Many teams have to deal with their #4 starter going in and out of the rotation, swapping in players left and right for both 4 and 5. There is value, as well, in relying on Zito every 5 starts to pitch OK for us, and us not having to dig into the farm system and throwing the babes to the MLB wolves, like we did in prior seasons with Joe Martinez and that other guy who got some short fame, where his nickname came from that move, the Big Lebowski (what was his name...?).

      Just pretend he is just Z, our #4/5 starter, who is OK and not expected to do well, but to be out there every 5 starts and do OK most of the time, but will aggravate with a bad start every couple of starts, but then shine in a series of starts.

    7. I have one thing more to say about Zito at the moment: If you had a 46MM investment that was sinking fast, wouldn't you bird dog it? Trainer? Personal chef? Demand extra time? Put some radar guns on him early on? If I was in charge, I sure would.

      The fact they are shocked, shocked! by this dramatic turn of events and are scrambling for alternatives doesn't cut it for me. This is a professional baseball team. They should demand much more, and have a lot more due diligence going on.

      I agree with you, you have to be very careful with the consequences if you're wrong with cutting a veteran loose. But its not like this is a surprise, what is going on right now. There is always the chance that Zito can turn it around, but its getting less likely every appearance, and without that velocity it's a huge road to row because he doesn't have good enough accuracy.

      My guy, a very typical 5th starter in every sense of the world, Paul Maholm is 29 years old. He has neither the historical success of Zito nor the upside of a miraculous comeback. But he is 4 years younger, and he bucks up to 88-89 on his fastball, pitches to contact (as a 5th starter should!). I know very well that it was a stretch and you can't have that much money invested. If I was in charge (and that would have to be the ownership side as well because Zito is clearly a OWNERSHIP REQUEST) I would have dfa'd Zito the day after the season and signed up someone of Maholm's peripherals to a 5MM contract immediately. Alas, I'm not in charge of anything.

    8. I'm sorry, but removing Zito from the rotation does not make the Giants weaker. It'smakes them better. Everyone knows it and can see it including the Giants. You really think that Zito was "injured" last year. Come on....wake up & smell the coffee. Then, this year, the Giants want him to change his delivery to try and get more velocity so that he can be more than batting practice fodder. Now, they are backtracking on that and sending him to work on his delivery and work on his "confidence." Don't be surprised if Zito gets "injured" again this year and manages to miss large portions of this season too. Do you honestly believe that Zito can deliver a low-4 ERA still? You are kidding yourself if you do. Like I said, the Giants know this, but it is a PR disaster for them and swallowing another contract at this point is extemely distasteful to ownership.

      Keep in mind that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. That is what it is like running Zito out there every 5th start and expecting success.

    9. Shankbone, in your view, Zito is dropping fast. In my view, we don't really know what we got with Zito right now. I am hoping that the Giants scouting staff is experienced enough to tell whether Zito is capable of being usable in a MLB rotation. As you have said, we will see.

      I would rather save the $5M. As I noted, if we got 4 starters going good or better, the composite "5th starter" was bad the past three seasons and the Giants still did well in winning. I would rather let Zito prove that he can't do it anymore in real circumstances, not AZ where his curveballs are really hampered, and if he's not doing it by mid-to-end of May, we probably could sent him down to AAA - nobody is going to pick up his contract - to work on whatever, while we bring up Surkamp or Petit or whoever. I think we will be fine there, even with them. That's why I would do.

    10. Boof, it is funny that you bring up insanity. Because people like you have been wanting to dump Zito and his contract since season 1, and yet while he didn't come close to delivering on his contract, he delivered three average seasons worth roughly $20-25M on the marketplace, for no extra cost.

      You still believe that you are right even though he did well in 2009 and 2010. How's that for insanity?

      And you and others still forget that Zito was in a horrific car accident right at the start of the season. Perhaps thankfully you have never been in such an accident, but I had a military guy sideswipe my beautiful first car I ever bought and he had the training in such extreme situations to try to make me think I was to blame until I finally got my bearings and realized what he was doing. The cop bought it, saying that it was unclear what happened, probably due to the guy who came in after me, didn't see the accident, but said that he saw a car waiting in the right lane and therefore it must have been a red light for me, meanwhile there was a truck driver waiting at a red light in the opposite direction of the guy who hit me.

      I was extremely shaken up and luckily did not sustain any injury, but know that somehow my long legs survived bouncing against the dash in my small sports car. Luckily, I didn't have to test my body in extreme situations afterward, but Zito was pitching on his regular turn right after his.

      I simply do not see how his 2011 season was not colored by the physical damage that his body sustained in the crash. I don't think medicine is good enough yet to detect everything that happened to his body in that crash. Given how his body gave out twice last season, after being healthy all his career is an indication of that.

      You claim that the DL was fake, but then why didn't they fake it in 2008 then? He was really bad that season, even worse, heck, he was good when he came off the DL in 2011, then was bad, why even bother to bring him back if they were faking it?

    11. Please don't ascribe things to me that I have not said. I never said that Zito should have been dumped since year 1 (although I will say right now that I did not agree with the signing in the first place). I never said that he has not had serviceable years either. What I did say is that is is clearly obvious to anyone who has watched him pitch from about the last quarter of 2010 and forward (includingt he Giants) that Zito is done as a ML pitcher. The fact that he delivered so-so performances for a few seasons is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is whether or not he can be a serviceable pitcher right now. The answer to that question is a most resounding no.

      Now it's a car accident that's the problem? Didn't you actually watch what he did on the mound last year? Are you really arguing that a guy who was never on the DL his entire career spent the majority of last season on the DL for a sprained ankle or a hamstring issue or whaterer the story was? Please, I'm not buying it and you shouldn't be either.

    12. I don't think the DL was fake for Zito last year. The slow boat recovery might have been. The DL for Johnny Sanchez seemed very fake to me. The injuries sustained later in the year weren't fake either. Its hard to say one way or the other. Sanchez attitude about rehab might have sped his departure up. And Zito's attitude about everything from the 2010 playoff non-rostering to the creative benching last year might have kept him around.

      Surkamp was impressive in camp before the arm injury. Between him, Burres and Petit, something will be filled in, and you are right, we don't know what we have. But we do have a pretty narrow window here, and I would have bird dogged him more aggressively if I was running things.

    13. Let me just clarify what I was trying to communicate about the DL stints. I don't doubt that there was soem type of injury initally, whether it was cnvenient or not. What is clear is that the Giants did not want Zito coming off the DL, since the injuries that he had typically would've not have required as much DL time as he logged. You can read between the lines what the Giants intentions were pretty easily.

    14. Sorry Boof, when I get on a roll, I recall things others have said.

      That said, Zito pitched pretty well initially in each stint, then went bad when whatever injury he had came into play. He had a good start on April 3rd before his injury kicked in. He had 3 good starts from June 28th, before his second injury happened: 3 starts, 21.0 IP, 13 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts, 1.29 ERA. That's pretty good in my book, if he's as bad as people ascribe him to be, then how did he fool three major league teams so well? I mean he averaged 7 IP per start.

      I see Shankbone's point. I think the cautiousness in the second DL was probably related to how fast he relapsed after coming back the first time. Perhaps they realized that they didn't know how badly he was injured from the car accident. Obviously, I don't know.

  3. Great point on #5 starters. Most don't realize that that position is comprised largely of guys who shouldn't be in the majors. It's rare a #5 gets 20+ starts in a season; most end up getting DFA'd or sent down to AAA. Zito will be above average as a #5 starter. Make fun of the contract all you want but that's a sunk cost. If Timmy/Bum/Cain/Vogey are healthy I'm not worried about the SP at all.

    Second, thanks for framing the risk mitigation discussion. Sooo many whiny Giant fans simply refuse to understand this. Huff sucks!! Cut him now, eat the $11MM! Belt is ready! What they don't understand is that if you bench Huff and his $11MM contract, you likely lose him for the season. Same deal with Pagan, if you bench him to begin the season (say, in favor of Blanco), you lose him for the season. Risk mitigation. But the whiners will ALWAYS complain about two things: 1) the owners are "cheap" and 2) the FO jimmy jacks young players. Neither contention is true, but the snivelers will never change their rants.

    As to Hector (aka "Chez3") -- if the Giants feel he's not ready defensively, then I've got to believe he's not ready defensively. I doubt either he or Belt will still be in Fresno by June. Risk mitigation.

  4. I agree with OGC about Belt. We need this kid to become a superstar for a myriad of reasons. His development into a 1000 OPS slugger would create a dangerous 3-4-5. It would make it easy to release Huff if he underperforms this year, next year. Also we woudn't have to go and look for another hitter and focus on surrounding our dangerous 3-4-5.
    I have two main concerns: 2nd base and the rotation with all the variables that can go wrong. Our vaunted pitching could crumble this year. Lincecum has to steady or reverse his career arc. Cain might be distracted. This is the only team he has loved. Toying with his emotions could be dangerous or push him to Verlander heights :) If not worried about the back end of the rotation because I believe that we can sign a guy off the street with the pitching coach and divison stadiums.
    However I don't pretend to know more than you three! I am here only to learn about the SF Giants. I just fear this could be a year some of our prospects get rushed a little to the bigs because of injuries and underperformance, especially in the middle of the diamond (SS & 2B). Our, in our wildest dreams, the SF Giants claim another WS Championship. I think we have the offense this year (it can't get worse,can it?). Just need that top 3 defense to do it again.

  5. marc here (still can't get it to work) -

    I can see both sides of the argument. I don't think straight jettisoning Huff is very smart, and, re: Posey/Sanchez, I don't believe in potential worthy starting catchers being backups.

    However, part of "risk mitigation" is minimizing your risk from day one onwards. I will concede that Bochy is very good at juggling lineups. But, I have to wonder if Tejada/Rowand had not played at all last year how much run production would have benefited. Insert Fontenot/Belt and surely the team would have scored more runs. Hindsight, sure, but you call in the cavalry when things look they are about to tank. I would rather the cavalry be there now than when X number of games are in the book.

    Not sure about Zito. He sure has seemed bad. Maybe he's a crafty lefty and plays 10 more years, but pre-assuming needing a stronger bullpen is a bit left-handed, isn't it? I am of the opinion that he'll be a lot better than the blogosphere seems to assume, but again, I fear 3 months of 5-inning starts with an ERA of 5.50 before anything changes if my opinion is really off.

    The team looks good, though. Outside of the Franchez setback leaving us with Burris, things seem to be working out better than expected.

    1. Tejada actually hit pretty well when he was playing 3B in place of Sandoval, saved us there for a while.

      And the unfortunate thing about risk mitigation is often there is not enough money to cover your ass everywhere. I think they believed that Fontenot would be enough, but then Franchez was out of the season, making the needs more acute in the middle. But yeah, it would have been nice to have more backup there.

      Yeah, things are going pretty well overall, can't expect everything to be perfect, I'm OK with Franchez being the bad part and happy that Posey and Wilson are looking pretty healthy.

  6. Tejada hit pretty well? I thought he was at the very bottom of MLB hitters at one point.

    I don't think Moyer is any kind of comparative - maybe Zito develops that kind of pitching (as in pitching) ability, but is he really in that class - Trevor Hoffman comes to mind too. And if he does, or doesn't, he's not going to develop that skill overnight.

    I think a word of caution is in order, too - yes, I understand on paper about salary (though I scoff at the Giants not having enough money, and, if he's a sunk cost, it's not a good argument anyway) - but the point being that owing to the offense/pitching makeup of the team, the "bar" for competitive pitching is considerably higher than it would be for a more offensively capable team. I.e. a Bartolo Colon was an asset for the Yankees last year, he would not be for the Giants, simply because the Yankees will score 900 runs and a warm body does the job. The Giants don't have that kind of flexibility or room for error.

    1. I was referring to the period just before his DL, when Sandoval came back and he didn't really have a place to start, but he played 2B, 3B, and SS, and batted .288/.325/.452/.777 during that period. Unfortunately, his injury cost him his batting stroke and he never regained it.

      Moyer has a career 4.24 ERA, which is basically what Zito did in 2009-2010. And he has good years and bad years and basically bounced around that career mean, up and down. Zito has been skilled at keeping his BABIP very low relative to the mean "every" pitcher regresses to. I expect that skill to be there, somewhere in there.

      I don't understand his try at changing his mechanics so drastically this spring, unless he didn't want the other teams to scout him beforehand. He survives at surprising the other teams, so maybe that's it.

      The bar I'm comparing to are the Giants teams of 2009-2011. Each season, we have had a bad composite pitcher as the 5th starter and we have done well in spite of that. If Zito is around the low 4 ERA level that is about a run better than what the team got from the #5 starter in those seasons, meaning that the Giants are improved in the #5 starting position relative to 2009-2010, when the Giants won overall. He is an improvement at that level of performance. Even if he were as bad as 2008, that is about what we got from the #5 starter before. And anticipating an improved offense with Posey back, we should be back in the running again for the NL West title.

    2. But I re-read my comment and you are right, I was wrong, he wasn't that good a 3B replacement, but he was pretty good when Sandoval came back and he was forced to hit in order to see regular playing time at the three positions.

  7. Ok, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that didn't, in fact, ever see Pete Reiser :)

    1. Good guess! :^)

      Really loved reading baseball books when I was younger, Pete always stuck in my mind, how good he was and yet how reckless he was as a ballplayer. I guess you can't separate that, as that is probably what contributed to his success when healthy, but it made me appreciate stars like Barry Bonds who understood how important he was to the team and took care of himself and denigrate stars like Jeff Kent who either didn't understand, or worse, didn't care what the fans thought. He could have costed us big time with his "truck washing accident".

  8. responding to Shankbone way up above (marc here again) re: Zito and "birddogging" him...

    you know, yeah - just as a for instance, I'm always fascinated by Mick Marshall's pitching school. I'm not suggesting that in particular, but you'd think for $46M the Giants would be casting spells, reanimating Christy Mathewson to give Zito tips, using Michael Jackson's hyperbolic chamber, make Zito live in a monastery, turn him into a perfect gaming character and letting some 12-years-olds loose on him....

    I know, sunk costs blah blah blah, but as OGC points out, there is an opportunity cost here, and I'm always bewildered at how ballclubs don't blink at a $130M payroll yet the wildest they'll go is bringing in Tom House. A bit off-topic re: Zito, but if I were a GM I'd have fortune tellers, tea-leaf readers, inspectors of auras and Tim McCarver before ever signing a Prince Fielder to zillions. I don't think they bother, but compared to $15M for a Zito-replacement you'd think they'd get a little creative.

    Zito will of course win the Cy Young. And Brandon Crawford will win the MVP. It'd really be fun if there's a happy surprise like that this season.

    1. Actually, Zito brought in House. According to the article I read on this (Chron?), Zito has been working with House for a long time now (college?).

      But yeah, given how much a team is spending on the player payroll, you would think that they would not mind spending one-hundredth of that in like, say, hiring more instructors, more scouts, paying the prospects more salary so that they can afford to spend time in the off-season getting better as a player instead of spending it, say, working for a car dealership and maybe getting into trouble.

      Like, how much would it cost to hire Jack Clark, for example, to roam the minor leagues and teach hitting as well as share his thoughts on being a Giants outfielder, the long history of that, the honor of that? I've heard him talk about that in interviewS before, it is not isolated, he has a strong sense of the history of the Giants, and strong feelings on how prospects should get behind that and honor that.

      And in the case of Zito, I think that allowing him to try this funky new delivery in spring was their way of being creative with Zito, as clearly all their other instructions have not really made much of a dent, I would say.

      I still think that if he can keep that arm slot philosophy going into the regular season, he will have a nice surprise this season.

      I think the happy surprise for Zito is that he betters 2009-2010 and gets his ERA into the 3's and for Crawford, hitting in the high 200's for batting average. Zito and Cy Young, at this moment, is alternative universe material for our particular universe.



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