Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Opening Day 25-man Roster

Ultimately, the fans' fury and worry was for naught, as the Giants went with youth over vets.  Bochy announced the roster live on CSN Bay Area at 11:30AM PDT (it was available on-line!).  Here is the 25-man roster (CSN, MercuryChronicle):

Eli Whiteside was optioned (amazingly, he still had one!) to Fresno, so if we need an experienced catcher, we can pull one up as necessary.  Chris Stewart, unfortunately, had to be let go and Bochy said that his fate would be announced in around an hour (he has been traded to the Yankees for a reliever, George Kontos, who was the top RH reliever not ranked in BA's Top 30, if that counts for anything.  2.62 ERA in 89.1 IP in AAA last season).  They must really really like Sanchez's bat a lot to do this.

Otero won the battle for the right to hold the spot warm for Ryan Vogelsong while Vogie is DLing until the 5th spot opens up on April 15th.  As I noted before, great stats, should not be the last time we see him, could be first RH call-up if any problems; Runzler is probably first LH.

Bochy said that Belt would be playing 1B most of the time, but then noted that Pill would get the starts against LHP.  Later, he also noted that Posey would see time at 1B when it is decided that he needs rest but can play 1B, and Bochy said that it would be against LHP.  Of course, that pushed Huff to LF and Schierholtz out of the starting lineup, which was one of the scenarios I laid out before spring training.  One thing I did not see was Gregor Blanco winning a spot, and so convincingly, even if a starter went down, Bochy would probably go to him before Schierholtz.

He would not commit to a starter at 2B, stating his mix and match process.  I think that has to do with a number of factors.  One is that Burriss suddenly got cold.  Another is that Theriot heated up.  Most of all, I think, it was noted at some point (can't recall if Bochy said it or I hear/saw it somewhere else) that Freddy Sanchez was suddenly looking better and doing more, so the Giants are more hopeful now that he'll be back sooner than later.  That could explain the Giants comment about Burriss being a super-utility guy for them.

Giants Thoughts

Wow, the Giants goes with youth, particularly Belt, Sanchez, and Pill, in that order.  The only really old vets on the roster is now Huff, Theriot, and Mota, plus Franchez, Affeldt, Lopez, Vogelsong, and Zito are on the bubble.  Sabean Naysayers all around now must scurry around to look for something else to complain about (and I'm sure they will find something soon enough; the one they are holding onto is that they understand position prospects way better than the Giants and are vindicated by the Giants placing Belt and Sanchez on the roster; they probably are the same people who said "who?" when Belt was drafted and "why?" when Sanchez was brought up to the majors last season.  Many still think 2010 was a fluke!).

Sad for Stewart and Schierholtz.  I really liked Stewart and was hoping they would hold onto him, but they must believe that his bat will never develop enough PLUS that Eli Whiteside will be good enough.  Plus, I guess, perhaps more to the point, most analysts see Sanchez as a backup catcher anyway, so if his bat is ready, may as well put him in as long as his defense is OK (and Bochy said that his defense is "fine", and that he would have no problem pairing him with any starter).  If he turns out to be a starter, that's a bonus situation that would be nice to have, giving the Giants more options for the future.  Bochy can also see using Sanchez in key hitting situations in the 8th and 9th as a PH, where Pablo would then become the backup emergency catcher if Posey should need to move off catcher later in the game (though not 6th or 7th).

I wish Stewart all the best unless the Giants happen to be facing the Yankees in the World Series.  He was nice enough to say kind things about Sanchez plus thank the Giants, after it was announced that he was going elsewhere.  Class guy.  The Yankees like strong defensive backup catchers, having held onto Bengie's brother Jose for many years, he was probably the best defensive catcher among the three brothers.

I hope Nate is holding up OK, this has to be a disappointment, but as I noted pre-season, if Belt hits well enough, he could force out Nate.  I'm still worried about that hole in Belt's swing, but I assume the Giants would not start him now if they didn't think that he was either close enough or maybe finally put it all together enough to convince the brass to go with him.  And with the White Shark around (Blanco's nickname), he's probably buried even further down the bench in terms of starting, as Bochy was talking about situations where Blanco could leadoff with Pagan hitting 6th.

Unfortunately, Nate's old bugaboo - injuries - haunted him again, as he was recovering from a variety of aches and pains this spring, and he's never been able to play with his injuries, as he's right on the edge there in terms of start-ability, and needs to be at 100%.  He probably will still see a lot of play, though, coming into RF late in the game after Huff has his 3rd AB of the game.  That could suggest that Bochy might place Huff 3rd in the lineup so that his 3rd AB comes a little sooner than if he batted 5th or 6th.

Giants Lineup?

However, the lineup on April 2nd probably gives a hint of what Bochy will do when the core starters are playing:  Pagan, Cabrera, Sandoval, Posey, Huff, Belt, Theriot/Burriss, Crawford.  I can see Crawford and the 2B could switch at some point, I really think he's ready to break out offensively this season.  I bet they are batting Belt 7th to take the pressure off him, plus there, the level of performance necessary to be average is much less than hitting in the middle.  Plus, it sounds like he won't take many starts against LHP, with Bochy promising time for Pill and Posey at 1B versus LHP.  And as noted, it sounds like Bochy will throw in Blanco as the leadoff guy sometimes.

When Franchez is ready to come back, I am not absolutely sure who will get sent down or released.  Since Pill (I believe) still has options left, I have to think he's the one to go, since Sanchez is also a power right-handed bat off the bench.   But Burriss is also on his last legs as a prospect, if he reverts back to the old Burriss instead of the one that won a position, they could decide to release him, even though the Giants are light in middle infield players.  Perhaps the hint that one option is that he could be a super-utility player is the best hint of his future, though (Giants was asked about starting 2B, I think yesterday, and it was noted that Burriss could be start or he could be the super-utility, that they are still working on what).  I would assume Freddy would return to his #2 spot in the lineup, pushing Cabrera into a middle-lineup spot or 6th.

Taking the 5th

Though most reports I see all Zito the 5th starter, and he is by 2011's standards, I think it is better to have him pitch 4th and Vogelsong 5th.  Puts more pressure on the big money guy, plus let Vogelsong lurk in the back there and take teams, maybe not by surprise, as he may have last season, but just like a lineup that is good top to bottom puts more stress on the starter, I think a rotation good 1 to 5 puts similar pressure on the opposing team as well.  When they hear they are facing the other team's 5th starter, I have to think that some suffer some mental letdown, thinking that things won't be as bad as against Lincecum and Cain, or Bumgarner for that matter.

But as I showed in my analysis during the off-season, Ryan was pretty good start to end, except for that brief period in August, which was right around when he surpassed his top IP total for the past few years, and probably hit that deadarm period that Krukow is always talking about.  But he recovered eventually and continued to do well that last month or so of starts.  I'm pretty confident that while his great start in 2011 won't be duplicated in 2012, due to a very low BABIP, he should be able to keep up a pretty good ERA for a #5 starter, low and close to 4 at minimum, and I wouldn't be surprised if he is in the mid-to-high 3's.

Zito Burrito

Zito, it appears, is becoming a religion, where there are believers and mostly non-believers, who wrapped themselves in a cloth of stoic indifference, but their position is sunk when it comes to costs and contracts.  I consider myself agnostic, though I'm sure Shankbone would call me a believer.  But as much as people like to denigrate what Zito has done in his career, particularly during his Giants career, he has been a good pitcher before and been about average for us, when healthy, and as much as people say it isn't about the contract, well, it is for them.

The essence of sunk costs is 1) ignoring money already invested in the asset, which most people get, and 2) seeing what is the incremental cost for replacing that asset, which most people do not get.  It is easy to see that one should stop drilling for oil if all you get are cappers, and should go drill elsewhere, not so easy when comparing players.  Is getting a similar pitcher worth paying $5M for?  $1M?  Again, it comes down to belief on what Zito can do.

As I noted before, he pitched well for a number of starts in 2011 before his performance plummeted and soon he was on the DL.  I went on Fangraphs and discovered that they post Pitch/FX stats there, and, for example, his great three start sequence after his first DL, he basically averaged 84 MPH in those starts.  I also found another stretch where he averaged around 84 MPH, in late 2007, and he had a 3.84 ERA in 14 games (13 starts).  So while it is not ideal if he's throwing at least 87 MPH, it is not the end of the world either.  He's not good either, but neither are the examples I see offered up as better alternatives for what I consider to be a lot more money.

For example, one commenter noted that he was not against Zito from the start (though against the contract), but even then, he must have been against Zito after the 2008 season, when he was really bad, and yet he was pretty much average in 2009-2010, which was worth roughly $8-10M on the open market, so to get a better performance, one would need to pay a free agent $12-15M per year to have a chance of having a better performance.  Would it have been worth that much money to get improvement over Zito in those seasons?  (Forget about the fact that the money, which wasn't available anyway, would have better used trying to buy more offense)

I have compared him to Moyer and I saw one response somewhere that said that's apple and oranges, Moyer has pin-point control.  And that's true.

What I was trying to go with is that Moyer can pitch effectively even though he does not have a blazing fastball.  If anyone has noticed, Zito has never had a blazing fastball (and I know everyone noticed :^).  He has gotten by, and very well at times, with his curveball/fastball combo, in that order, because with that repertoire, he is one of the few pitchers in major league history who can maintain a BABIP much lower than the median .300 that all pitchers regress to the mean to, according to DIPS principles.  That is something Moyer can't say - OK, a little, .286 vs. .295 MLB mean during this career.  But Zito has a .271 BABIP vs. .298 MLB mean in his career.  And no matter how much he has been denigrated in his career, his curveball is considered one of the best in the majors.

I'm not too surprised that Zito could not get the new pitching motion to work.  As I've noted before, Malcolm Gladwell discussed this phenomenon in his great article on choking, where he explained how people has two different systems internally that kicks in, one during learning, one after practice.  When stressed, people sometimes revert back to their learning system, which makes them looks like a beginner.  In this case, Zito was still in learning mode all spring and couldn't get it to work well enough where batters adjusted and he couldn't adjust back.

Hopefully House's lesson about arm slots sticks though.  One article I've read long ago noted that while Zito's arm slot is the same for his fastball and curve, he has to use another slot to get his slider over.  That author theorized that is why Zito's career took a downturn (he added the slider after his Cy Young year), because now batters could see when he was throwing another type of pitch.  That makes a lot of sense to me, so I hope Zito focuses more on using his fastball/curveball combo more and include his slider less, or at least try to get the slider to be closer in arm slot.

I think that wraps up my thoughts on Zito for this season.  I understand that we don't know what we got with Zito in 2012, and therefore some would rather have a known quantity there in the #5 spot.  As I've been trying to explain, the fifth starter has been horrible for us for 3 years now, and we still ended up with a Top 3 RA in the majors.

So if Zito sucks, I'm OK with Surkamp taking over at some point, and I like that the Giants picked up Hensley as he could fill in adequately as a 5th starter for us (he has a bad career ERA starting, but no worse than any other team in the 5th spot, nor any worse than what the Giants got out of the 5th worse composite pitcher in 2009-2011).  I've also like Yusmeiro Petit from afar, he was a highly ranked prospect once upon a time, and he had a nice spring for us.  No need to play any million$ for a potentially similar (but also potentially worse) #5 starter.

It's like my other pet peeve that has bothered me for years:  all the huff and puff over the 25th spot on the roster.  I still see Naysayer's rage on about some insignificant guy on the bench, while nice, should not be the main problem on any team except for the best.  And the Giants have not been the best, not even close for the lineup.

Complaining About the Giants Offense

Speaking of offense, I've been taking offense by a lot of what I've been seeing out there about the 2011 offense.  Of course, it stunk, anyone can see that.  But the complainers complained that the Giants did "nothing" to improve the offense in 2011.

I'm wondering what magic peace bong they have been smoking from.  The Giants signed two of their best hitters of 2010 to the team for 2011, Huff and Pat Burrell.  Who else could the Giants have signed for better potential offense at two positions for $11M cost in 2011  I've not seen one who can come up with a valid alternative at 1B and LF.

Many believe that Belt should have been that replacement at 1B, but they just revealed their naivety in baseball matters by suggesting that:  if Belt failed, then who were they going to start in place of him if Huff was not around?  You can't count your eggs before they hatch, as teams found out with position prospects like Andy Marte, Jordan Schafer, Sean Burroughs, Andy LaRoche, and even Josh Barfield and Kevin Kouzmanoff.  Heck, even Matt Wieters was disappointing for two seasons as a hitter until last season.

Nobody knows how well a prospect will do, not even the experts, not even MLB baseball teams, so I don't understand why fans seem to think that they are better at it then the experts are.  That is why I preach the risk mitigation mantra, you cannot eliminate all risk, but you can try to mitigate as much as you can.  These fans' Giants team would have been horribly exposed (and probably with a below .500 record), had the team assumed that Belt would produce from the get-go or even eventually.

And, for those thinking Sandoval could have played 1B in place of Belt, some of these fans didn't think Sandoval was any good either for 2011, so they wouldn't have slotted him over there, plus Pablo was out for a long stretch of time as well, and we had nobody at 3B, in any case.  Even with all that, even in this case of replacing 1B, there was nobody the Giants could have signed for $11M who could have replaced Burrell's performance in LF.  It is like saying that a young Barry Bonds would have helped this offense, heck, even an old one:b but that Bonds was not available for 2011, nor was their mythical "improvement" that the Giants could have done, if only the team had listened to these fans and improved the offense.

They also ignore that both Torres and Posey did not perform as expected.  Of course, nobody could have foreseen Posey going down in a heap due to a misguided unethical unrepentant unrunner (did you see him run to home?), but did they really expect the Giants to sign someone (and for additional money) to sit on the bench, capable of doing what Torres did in 2010, just in case Torres regressed?

These people do not think beyond their sound bites that sounds like it could be true, but not when you go beyond the surface and dig into the consequences of that decision, and face the reality of what the Giants actually faced, not their magical hand-waving accusations that the Giants didn't do anything to help the offense.  There is no logical way the Giants could have mitigated the risk of Torres regressing, they had to go with what they got and hope for the best.

The Giants did do something, they kept the players who contributed to their winning 2010 season.  If there were better alternatives, the naysayers should point them out, but not one has that I've seen.  And all of them ignore the fact that had Posey been able to play the rest of the season, the Giants most probably would have made the playoffs, as I showed in a prior post, Posey should have produced enough wins over his replacements that the Giants would have made the playoffs last season had they played as well/poorly as they did, except with Posey as catcher.  The offense was good enough except that the team could not recover enough from a disastrous loss of one of their best hitters on their team, Buster Posey.  Most teams do not come close the playoffs if they lost their Buster Posey, let alone stay competitive.

Offense Good Enough in 2012

The offense in 2012 is fine, as is, and better now that Belt appears to be figuring things out.  But even with Schierholtz in the lineup, the lineup was projected to produce around 4.20-4.25 runs per game.  With Belt, it looks like it would add 0.10-0.15 runs per game.  I know people hate the concept of just enough offense, I love offense too, but there are consequences to pursuing more offense, that will hurt the team down the line (trading top prospects, or spending money on big hitters which means we can't afford to keep our young players like Posey, Bumgarner, or Belt down the line).  I would rather the team focus on using and keeping as much homegrown talents as they can, and pay them the money, instead of signing a big shot from outside, while keeping the team as competitive as possible today, in a wide range of scenarios (i.e. with risk mitigation reducing the odds of a non-playoff season)..

At 4.20 RS/gm (lineup with Nate) with pitching/fielding like last season (3.57 RA/gm), the Giants should win 92 games, or roughly 90-95 games with ups and downs.  At 4.30, that add 1.5 wins.  At 4.35, that adds nearly another win.  For upper limits, at Bill James 4.48 RS/gm, that's 96.5 wins, plus more again with Belt.  So, as is, the team looks like it should win 90 games at minimum, with an upper of 100 wins with a performing Belt (I assume Schierholtz/Blanco would take over RF if Belt fails).

That does not account for possible upside of Sandoval playing a full season and improving on his 2011, Cabrera matching his 2011 instead of his 2009 (which projections are around), Crawford hitting better (good bet), Huff hitting better (I would lay even odds on that), and now the possibility that Sanchez has a breakout offensive year and push Belt to LF (low odds but now a possibility, I think).

But those are balanced by the likelihood that some players will have a poor year - injuries, decline - to counter that.  Particularly in the pitching staff, they have been incredible good and healthy the past three seasons, can we dare hope for a fourth?  I think so, but pitchers are fragile in general, so nobody really knows.

I like the Giants chances, not just for this season, but for this decade, particularly with Cain signed on now.  The young players are blossoming and the younger players continue to do well.  Plus we have a number of young prospects who look ready to slot into the future:  Gary Brown, Joe Panik, Heath Hembree, and now I would throw in Dan Otero too.  Plus Hector Sanchez, Tommy Joseph, and Andrew Susac.  And I would throw in Josh Osich as a dark horse there too, lots of good tools, if he is healthy.


  1. As to second base, let me return to an idea I suggested in reply to Dr.B. on his blog. When Freddy S comes back, it's likely that Burris or Theriot will go--who else could the team cut?--and once gone, be gone for good. The Giants therefore need to give both of them very close scrutiny. To play both is prudent. So is their preferring to keep both for the moment, for a hard look at them, even in preference to Arias, who I suspect is better than either but who poses no immediate use-him-or-lose-him situation for the Giants.

    1. Thanks for your comment, campanari, that makes a whole lot of sense.

      I don't know if Arias is better than either. A lot of baseball involves making professional judgements on the, for lack of a better term, the MLB-ility of a player: can he play in the majors? It is still an art, not a science (no matter how much hype Beane gets), so there will be mistakes, much to the consternation of many fans who rail at mistakes. I think it is important to keep in mind the context of the situation as the team faced, to get a clearer idea of whether the team actually made a mistake, or gave it a good try and it just didn't work. Like the Hillenbrand trade, I think the team gave it a good try and it just didn't work, he was a professional hitter and if he just hit his career numbers, not even the good numbers he had that season, the Giants would have been much more productive from 1B and maybe make a playoff push.

      I view Arias as next in line to get a shot, with Burriss currently first in line. Theriot is the vet and unless he really stinks, I don't see how he will be the one who goes when Freddy comes back, especially with Freddy's history. I see Burriss as getting his last chance to show what he can do, either as starter or super-utility.

      I get the impression that Arias is better defensively, so that is his strength vs. Burriss. But he appears to have hit his ceiling in AAA, his batting line there is not very good, though his peripherals (contact rate, BB/K) are good. And Burriss, as bad as his ISO is, has a better OPS than Arias in AAA, and Arias has nearly 1800 AB's in AAA, I think the rule that I hear Sabean spout is that hitters need 1000 ABs to figure things out. Arias has almost double that.

      And if you go by the true metric - OBPxSLG, not OPS - Burriss is over 50% better than Arias in AAA, 0.182 vs. .110 - so I would say that Burriss appears to be the better hitter, based on AAA performances. Of course, small samples, but Arias conversely has done better than Burriss in the majors. So by that measure, he has been better than Burriss offensively and defensively, but you can't dismiss all his poor AAA stats up to now, though. And Burriss actually has a strong tool that Arias either don't have or don't know how to use, the ability to steal bases. Arias is good, but Burriss is better.

    2. Ooops, to finish that thought, I was referring to SB ability in that last sentence.

  2. Great write-up ogc,

    First time I comment

    Regarding who would be cut if Franchez is healthy enough to play should be Pill, in my opinion. Out of Burris, i don't see any back-up for Panda at third base and with Franchez plaing we still need a replacement for him in case of .... so Theriot seems a keeper to me. That's why I think Arias, as good as he played during spring training, was cut as he show that he wasn't able to handle 3rd base properly.


    1. Thanks for sharing GIP.

      Very good points, and to back you up, most teams would be leery of having only one middle infielder backup. But they are doing it right now, so there is that.

      Per campanari above, I do see Burriss on trial here and at some point the Giants will pull the ripcord and bring up Arias.

      And I agree that The Riot is a keeper. And I didn't see Arias 3B play, so thanks for sharing that, maybe they send him down to play more 3B and learn how to field that better? Though Gillaspie should be the starter there.

  3. Nice column with some cool humor - thanks OGC. Especially liked the Zito religion part. He definitely is becoming a cult figure.

    You hit the nail on the head about the offense in 2010 - you can't plan on Posey or Franchez, not overall, while shit does happen, can you realistically project the injuries roster-wide. And obviously, you don't run out and get an A+ catcher. That would be a real waste of resources.

    I feel good, now that's it's said and done for the moment, looking at the roster. Some smart choices - Blanco and HSanchez. I would expect, hope, that the Giants are keeping a close eye on Posey, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's limited like a young pitcher as to innings behind the plate. So while I liked Stewart's defense, Sanchez is a much better option as a semi-fulltime catcher.

    Knock-on-wood, if Franchez does not come back, I'd expect Theriot to be the 2B, with Burris as the utility guy. Not sure under other scenarios, but it would be nice if Burris actually hits. With luck, yes, it's a 25th man question, and a good problem to have - or irrelevant.

    Zito, or Zito-replacements, are fine. Assuming Bochy makes the right decisions, you're correct, the worst it could be is not that bad. And I dunno - you touch on a point as to rotation order, and I remember reading something about Carlton in 1972, and the point was made that teams on both sides of the ball play differently depending in the starter. I know, SABR-heresy, but I think Zito #4 and Vogelsong #5 allows both to sneak in some better starts. Plus going from the #3 to Zito will be a big contrast to the opposing team. I'm bullish on Zito being better than expected.

    You mention people ignoring "upgrades", I was struck by a column somewhere that noted that the Giants could well have a 100% homegrown starting 8 in 2013 or 2014. With some squinting, it's possible right now. You add in the pitching staff, and while I'm no great historian, it seems Sabean has accomplished something almost unprecedented in modern MLB. Bad farm system? Well, that's because they're all in the big leagues. I realize they won't all pan out, but, the corollary to Belt-expectations is that some will. It's impressive when you look at the roster.

    1. Thank you anon, and thanks for sharing.

      Nothing wrong with discussing 25th man decisions. Acting like the Giants are going into a flaming heap of dung because of that decionis is. I've seen so many people call Sabean and/or the Giants stupid for 25th man decisions: "He's so bad, that just proves Sabean is an idiot!" or something like that.

      I feel good too about the roster, as well as nervous. Of course, I want Belt and Sanchez to do well, but I worry that they won't. I'm beginning to see that Stewart's great defense is a bonus in the backup catcher's position, but he was also a pretty good hitter vs. LHP and catcher's offense develops late.

      Given we are not absolutely sure Posey is the catcher even in 2013, I thought Stewart would be a nice interim starter until Joseph or Susac are hopefully ready by 2014-5, because of his stellar defense, developing bat, relative youth. All the reports on Sanchez is that he's a backup catcher potentially, don't see many saying he'll be a starter. So I'm hoping you and others are right about Sanchez, but worry if he's not up for it.

      Burriss did hit before, in his first season. Looking at his BABIP, the major difference between his first good season and the others are that he had an above .300 BABIP his first season, much below in his others.

      I wonder if that has to do with his injury problem with his foot in the other years. I remember that it happened two years in a row, frustating him, 2008-2009. Of course, I can't explain 2011 though, other than possible SSS issues. He did have .323 in AAA that season. And in all his other seasons, however good or poorly he did in the minors, he did similarly in the majors when he played there as well, except for 2011. So maybe.

      Definitely, this year will be his big test, at least as a Giants player.

    2. I totally agree about the homegrown/youth aspect. First the Naysayers complain about the old players. Then they complain about the old players and the lack of position players. Now the old players are mostly gone, so they are left to complain about the positoin players.

      As you note, it is not inconceivable that the Giants could have a large percentage of their roster 1-25, homegrown and young (though not quite all under 30, as I think Wilson reaching that soon). I saw that blog post too, in 2011, but I think squinters saw that even before that, and my reaction to that article was more, "so what? that's old news".

      It is an unprecedented accomplishment, made even more impressive by the fact that the team only lost for 4 straight seasons. The Braves took 6 losing seasons (and at truly horrifying rates, they were losing the way many Giants fans thought the Giants would lose, near 100 losses per season often) while the Tampa Bay Rays took a decade of such losing, and still are filling in with old free agent signings (like Burrell :^).

      I've not made a thorough search, but in the act of researching, I go through a lot of teams through the years, plus from my own general knowledge of teams from every day following of baseball, and I'm absolutely sure that such a team is a rarity. I've had people argue with me that the Giants don't have a homegrown team, back a few years ago, so I pointed out that the Braves had a lot of non-homegrown players during that stretch of greatness, and challenged them to find me a team that was mostly homegrown, and so far nobody has come up with one (other than the Giants potentially doing it in a few years).

      Absolutely, I see all the experts complain about the Giants farm system and knocking it, but they should at least point out that had their prospects not move up so fast - like Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, Belt, Sandoval - the system would have looked a lot better over the past few years.

      I think the ones who do a better job of explaining the farm system are the ones that not only look at prospects, but also look at the top young players and which team has more of them. The Giants should look pretty good in that regard now.

      And good point about Zito being a strong contrast to Cain. And yet, a complementary one, as both Cain and Zito are both talented at keeping balls in play from becoming hits, as both have very low career BABIPs. That will certainly lead to some frustration on the part of the other team, when they face Vogelsong.

  4. I thought that these two articles are nice contrasts. In this one, Pavlovic recently noted the youth of the 2012 team:

    In this one, a Yahoo yahoo writer, Passan, pees all over Sabean in this post-World Series article:

    Shows how much Passan understands about the draft.

    Draft picks that far back are lottery tickets, even first round picks, as I've been preaching about, based on my draft study. They more often end up not being very good (roughly 90% of the time), which is what any fan expects out of a first round pick. Sure, there are useful journeyman type players picked there, but that is not the image one carries when you hear "First Round Draft Pick". Sabean basically traded that pick to the Royals in order to sign Michael Tucker, who contributed 1.4 WAR to a 91 win team (worth $7.0M on today's markets, FYI).

    Sure, I would have preferred signing Vlad, but still, this tactic of signing Tucker basically allowed the Giants to use the draft bonus money to pick up Tucker, a useful player.

    Meanwhile, the Royals drafted Matt Campbell, who never spent a day in the majors. Out of the next 10 picks, including #29 Campbell, who the Giants could have conceivably selected, 6 of the 10 made the majors, but only 2 of the 10 had career WAR higher than the 1.4 WAR that Tucker had in 2004. Those two are the only ones in the majors still, and it appears the others are either stuck in the minors or retired. And 1 of the 2 is close enough (2.7 WAR) that if he compiles enough bad seasons (2011 was pretty bad, JP Howell), he could end up under Tucker.

  5. OGC You are on fire my man. Glad to see somebody fired up for the season.

    That Passan article throws a common argument used against Sabean. Give credit to the underlings running around doing the actual work - be it Tidrow, Barr or even Bobby Evans. Bobby Evans by the way is on fire these days - there are some nice posts by sfgiantsgirl on mcc as well as on baycityball by the other chris, they did a big shin-dig for the San Jose Giants. Bobby Evans looks like a clean cut Pat Burrell without the leer. From what I've heard he brings a lot more PR skillz to the table than Mr. Sabes. He did a great job with the Cain negotiation.

    In that fangraphs dustup about the Giants getting ranked poorly, one poster pointed out that Quinn and the new ownership group cut scouting 75% following the strike year. Very publicly the scouting came back around 2006ish. With 75% of your budget hacked, what do you do to help your odds? You specialize in what you know best. The Giants did quite well in picking up arms, and flailed around pretty bad chasing low ceiling college bats. That to me is the easiest scenario to believe for not developing position players for so many years, couple picking late due to contending, and Sabean just didn't have the resources and therefore neither the interest to dig deep for players.

    Everything points towards cheap ownership on the minor league front. Sabean was quite adept at trading for proven pieces until he hit a wall. And slipped badly OGC, that part did happen. But the real miracle for me is how quickly they rebounded, while not doing a classic burn. It wasn't an option with the RDF Crew worried about filling the park. So we have to burn off a bit more bad contract.

    You're not winning the Tucker argument with me though comparing Matt Campbell. And the big mistake was thinking it was a good strategy so they did it x3 in 2005 and didn't pick til 134. I understand the concept, but it was a total disaster.

    Campanari's 2B scenario works great, saw it here and DrB's. If Freddy isn't good to go I can see that being the big trade. The two guys I think might be available that have Sabey Sabes style to me are Dan Murphy of the Mets and Gordon Beckham of the White Sox. They won't be cheap, but depending on what's happening, might be available. Beckham is young, he'd have to be continuing to sink this year (3 years straight regressive stats already). Murphy can flat out hit but can't field a lick. Sabean and Alderson seem to be picking up the phone a lot. We'll see.

    Psyched for the season, and psyched the Giants have come out guns blazing with their youth movement.

    1. I'm always fired up for the season. :^)

      Missed the Fangraphs dustup on that one. Wow, really? That would explain the wasteland of the 90's. Talk about short-sighted. Any business cutting their research and development is just shooting themselves, like Russian Roulette, only all the chambers are filled. Shame on the owners, they should know how important R&D is to any firm, but particularly to a baseball team.

      So that could explain the focus on pitching, Sabean couldn't really do much, as you note, between that and bad picks, so they focused on arms. I recall the expansion in 2006, but was never aware that was so impressive given the 75% bloodletting.

      Though I would note that there seemed to be a big change in the draft quality after Tidrow came on.

      Still, I think re-building via pitching first makes a lot of sense, even if you are not forced to by budget cutting. Pitchers are basically one big cup of talent base, not quite interchangeable, but they can do each other's job if necessary and as each new talent is added, the worse is pushed out, so that the cream rises to the top.

      I wrote about this long ago, with my old handle, Biased Giants Fanatic, for the place I used to write for, discussing Sabean/Giants strategy. It should be in my business plan too. But the basic gist is that a pitching prospect who makes the majors could conceivably fill one of 12 spots on the roster, depending on need and ability, whereas a position prospect can usually fill, at most, 2-3 spots on the starting roster on one on the bench. That provides a lot of flexibility where the cream rises to the top, as you can keep on adding talent while sloughing off the lower talents. Whereas, if say, you were blessed to find 3 starting 1B (like Texas did with Teixeira, Hafner, and A-Gon), you don't really have too many options (well, DH for AL teams), and are forced to trade, which introduces additional risk into your player development: properly assessing the true value of the player you traded away and properly assessing the true value of the player you get in return.

      Though generally teams know the talent they are trading away (or lack thereof; see THT Annual 2012 for great study on BA top prospects, traded vs. kept), just Giants history shows that sometimes you traded away the farm (Gaylord Perry for Sudden Sam McDowell has to be the most egregious, though the Cepeda deal - before my time as fan - probably ranks up there too, and up course, George Foster for who, was it that guy on I Dream of Jennie, Fran Healey? :^)

      Thanks for pointing this out Shankbone, really makes me angrier about the ownership situation, and now juxtaposed against both L.A. teams carpet moneybaggers owners who can buy up a Pujols and not blink, I really want some billionaire coming in and shaking things up, lead and tell the minority owners, put up more money or get out.

      Well, hard to trade for proven pieces when the prospects started actually being good, like Ainsworth, Williams, Foppert, Cain. It seems to really be true, what I read somewhere, where the baseball execs don't really know the other team's prospects that well, so they rely on Baseball America a lot to guide their trade talks, at least in the past. So they took Grilli, Vogelsong, and others the Giants were willing to give up, but when they started asking for Ainsworth, Williams, Foppert, and Cain, Sabean had no way to trade for veteran pieces anymore.

      Yes, real miracle. As far as I can tell, Sabean is the only GM to generate a turnaround in his first year as GM, changing a loser into a winner for the next 8 seasons. And from what I can tell, going through 4 years of losing probably ranks up there with quick re-buildings as well.

    2. Regarding punting draft picks, I am aware of Ray Durham and Michael Tucker as situations where they signed them a day or two before the deadline, which were clear punts. I don't recall 2005, were they all just days ahead of the deadline?

      As I noted to that guy on Only Baseball Matters, you probably can't do it more than two years before it starts to materially hurt your operations. If they did that in 2005, that's 3 years.

      Hey, I would rather keep the picks too, but as a calculated risk, I understand that this is a valid tactic to do too, under certain circumstances (like years where the scouts don't think the level of talent is that deep).

      Again, I put the blame for those moves solely at the feet of the minority owners, purveyors of the RDF: if you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, get out. That's why I loved Neukom, he bought out a lot of the minority owners who wanted to sell out and/or didn't want to pay in more, building up his share of the team over time. I worry that there is nobody like that now, though Charles Johnson appears to be stepping up. Nothing against him, but he's in his late 70's already, unless he has children just as fired up about the Giants (and maybe he does, don't know; but the Burns appear to not; say, what does your sources say about Johnson, never heard anything about him yet via media), I don't know who could be that owner/leader I've been seeking since the Vlad flap, and thought I had found in Neukom.

      Though I suppose that Sabean could have tried to plan better to not need so many key players as free agents. But it wasn't like he didn't try to replace Nen all those prior years, none would stick. And Vizquel and Alou were good signs. And I think Matheny would have been good if he didn't have his injury. Plus, how would Sabean know that A.J. would be such an ass? I thought we were covered at C for a number of years. It was a perfect storm of needs for better players, requiring A-signings.

      DrB likes Beckham, or did last season, he was advocating for a trade to get him (don't recall who he was willing to give up). I liked him too, and still would be willing to give him a chance, as long as the White Sox asking price is not too large.

      Looking at his stats, it looks like he maybe went HR crazy, swinging at pitches he has no business swinging at, striking out a lot more than he did his first season. See, that is what I worried about Belt, I don't want to see him become that type of hitter, and he struck out even more than Beckham did in their first season in MLB.

      Though I still have a soft spot for Andy LaRoche, he was the centerpiece of my first big trade in a fantasy keeper league, traded Vernon Wells for LaRoche, Willingham, plus other prospects. Though it could have been better, I actually was working on a deal to trade Wells plus others to get Pujols, but the LA deal came through first and the St. Louis GM was dragging his feet, unresponsive to my messages. He got back to me soon after we announced the deal, saying he would have been willing...

      I don't think you can go bad defense at 2B, it is too key a defensive position, you need to at least be passable or hit like Kent (who was also passable), neither of which Murphy does.

      Hey, the Giants jumped Hanchez from SJ to the majors last season, so maybe Panik by mid-season? I'm surprised he got placed in SJ and not Richmond, he did so well in the AFL, which to my memory is a AA level league. Maybe they want him close to observe closely for a while to assess? Or they are starting not to like Richmond's park either?

    3. You missed the fangraphs dustup? There were several - the Matt Cain/Dave Cameron mess, and then them ranking the Giants OPs #27 in baseball. In the first I decided - oh wait, you saw that because you said nice length - never mind. I have finally had enough of Dave Cameron's dissing Matt Cain and not backing anything up with any stats argument. His writing on the Giants pitchers is extremely weak. The #27 dustup was fun as well. I did my usual "give the guy a second chance" argument, but there was some interesting debate in the comments.

    4. Yeah, I saw the whole Cameron/Cain dustup, I guess I'm referring to the Giants #27 dustup.

      I'll have to look for that.

  6. Well gentlemen all I have to add is SI picked us to make it to the WS and lose to the Angels. So somebody believes in us. We have to best rotation, especially if we make the playoffs.

    1. Isn't there some sort of SI jinx? Or maybe they found a copy from 2002?

      Yes, I thought it was nice to get some love from somebody in the media. Unfortunately, great rotation does not equal World Series, but like you, I love our chances if we make the playoffs.

      Has the ESPN projections come out yet? I recall last year (or was it year before) where there was only one guy who picked the Giants to get to the World Series (can't recall if he had us winning it).

  7. Funny how the media can shape the fan experience, especially those reading only one account. That's why I don't rely on only one account, that's what I learned from the whole Barry Bonds dissing Babe Ruth dustup when a writer gave the typical negative account of the quote, leaving out the context that Bonds was clearly kidding around and his "backoff!" statement after the 2002 World Series, that many interpreted negatively when it was just a father trying to protect his son from being trampled by the reporters up front.

    While one writer notes, "Sandoval won't complain", another writes, "Sandoval isn't exactly begging to get some more practice behind the plate." Both exactly true and both quoted the same interview Pablo gave, basically the same words too, but I got a totally different vibe from each because of how they started off their articles.

    Don't feel like posting just to give the opening lineup, so comments it is:

    Pagan CF
    Cabrera RF
    Sandoval 3B
    Posey C
    Huff LF
    Belt 1B
    Theriot 2B
    Crawford SS
    Lincecum SP

    Also, Crawford batting 8th not 7th, as Bochy just said yesterday, but, again, the media give different impressions.

    One noted the discrepancy in the statement ("guess not"), generating a negative perception towards Bochy for his reader base, while another explains that Bochy did that because Crawford had not hit for a while, and Bochy wanted to ease him back in, and hopes to bat him 7th soon, which makes Bochy looks much more reasonable.

    It is that either-or, black-white interpretation of statements that always bother me, as a pet peeve, life is complicated and things never go as planned, but at least you can have a plan of what you would ideally like to do, generally. Life is very gray.

  8. "Zito tosses 4-hitter as Giants avoid 0-4 start"

    one can only smile.

  9. OGC - nothing from you after Zito goes and throws down the best performance he's ever had in the French Vanilla? Really?

    1. I was going to comment on DrB's to your comment, but been busy with work and business travel.

      I was going to comment today, but slipped and fell on my driveway during lunch. I'm OK, my chin and teeth got in the way. :^) Dr says I'm OK, no broken bones but no MMA fighting for a while and my lovely smile got a bit more lovely. Dr says I should take it easy this weekend, so I will.

      What I had written right after that lovely game was that - for all pitchers involved - it was only one game, at parks where pitches don't always go where they are suppose to. And in Zito's case, it's like the boy who cried wolf: he's pretty much done this before in his Giants career, thought obviously a shutout is a first, so that is good, but with the low number of strikeouts, his starts will continue to be at the mercy of the baseball gods, I think.

      Of course, if he can continue something like this into June, then I'll probably get a little more excited.

      I still think something in the low 4's is doable and probably, but I will admit that my hope for a ERA in the 3's has increased a smidge. But it's only one game, albeit something he hasn't done in almost 10 years, so that's something. And the no walks helped. But the 4 K's is unimpressive, if he had, like, 9 K's vs. 0 walks, then maybe I would have been more impressed.

    2. Feel better and happy zito day. We'll see how it rolls. iPhone interface is annoying and keeps me brief: we have a good team, just need to find out what is working this year.

  10. Man I'm not one to worry after one game or a couple of starts, but if we dont pitch then we dont win! I dont want Timmy to lose "it" but I'm glad he didnt take the 5yr/$100 million deal. He's scaring me, making me thing we maybe should wait on MadBum too! Some pitchers are great when they're young and just fade for whatever reason.(D. Willis) Or they have long careers, but aren't as dominate as when they first arrived. (K. Wood) Now they has never really been a guy like ths before so who knows how he'll age, but I imagine he's the pillar of all this. So if he falls I don't think we could EVER replace him in time to win with this crew and thus the cycle begins all over again. And I LOVE THIS TEAM! Panda & Posey has a nice ring to it. Staff to rival the braves of the 90's. Sign me up for tha ride! But witout Maddux???? No 14 straight divisons.



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