Monday, May 07, 2012

Huff Decision: Who Leaves the 25 Man Roster?

With Huff able to leave the DL today, the Giants now have to make a decision on when to bring him back to the team.  Most of the public talk so far centers on Huff returning today, but not that long ago, they were sure he was going to be going on a rehab assignment in order to get his bat back into shape since he's been out for 2 weeks (though I would note that while he has not been in game situations, he has been spotted taking batting practice with the team during his time on the DL).  What had interested me was:  who gets voted off the 25-man roster to make space for Huff?
Giants Thoughts

The guy who would normally be the obvious one to send back is Joaquin Arias, but he has hit well enough that the Giants might want to keep him around.  He is currently hitting .286/.310/.393/.703 plus some sparkling SS, which probably makes him the preferred RH starter at SS among Emmanuel Burriss, Ryan Theriot, and himself, in terms of defensive ability, when Bochy feels like resting Crawford for any reason against LHP.  And while that batting line is not that great, it is much better than either Burriss and Theriot so far.

Emmanuel Burriss continues to frustrate the Giants, showing good batting discipline, only 6 K's in 54 AB and with 4 BB, but his batting average is only .259 and his ISO is zero, nada, zilch, as in no extra base hits at all. Leading to his lousy .570 OPS so far, though with a subpar .292 BABIP, which is low given his speed, and yet probably about right because his career BABIP is .285, and his career LD% is a low 14.9% (20% is league average, if I recall right), and his GB% is very high 61.3%, which results in a low FB% of 23.9% (and even lower in 2012 at 19.6%).  Still, he's useful as a utility guy who can play almost every position on the field except for pitching.  

Meanwhile, Theriot has been hot and cold, but mostly cold too, at .208/.235/.229/.464 overall.  He was brought in to be a good RH bat off the bench, but so far he's not hitting either RHP or LHP particularly well, in fact, both are pretty close to each other (.499 OPS v. RHP; .488 OPS v. LHP).  He has not done a lot to have a strong hold on his roster spot either.

Another option might be Conor Gillaspie, who was called up when Sandoval was put on the DL for his hamate bone fracture and subsequent surgery.  While not a lot of ABs, he's only hitting .188/.188/.250/.438, though only 2 K's in 16 AB, but no walks and not that much power.  He also made a crucial error in yesterday's game that costed Cain the win.  One thing I have not seen mentioned is that Huff has played 3B in the majors before, albeit, perhaps on the same low defensive level as Bob Brenly (who once made, if I recall right, 3 errors in a game once, or was it 4?).  In addition, Arias could play 3B, though the scuttlebutt was that he did not show much defensively there in late spring, and thus lost any consideration for making the 25-man at that point.  And there is Theriot and Burriss as well, though I don't recall any mention of their prowess there.

Clearly Hector Sanchez is safe.  He has hit well enough to get good notice, and his handling of Zito (as his apparently personal catcher) has already earned him starts with Bumgarner recently as well, to give Posey time at 1B or resting.

Brett Pill is another possibility.  Not that he has actually done anything to deserve a send down, he has hit well and with power (.300/.382/.500/.882, ISO 200 in 30 AB with only 4 K's) and, more importantly, hasn't looked lost defensively.  But he has the unfortunately luck to be the only guy with an option left to use, and the Giants might use it, per some of the media.  But Bochy's comments on Huff returning noted that Huff would be starting in LF mostly while Belt/Pill would handle 1B, which would be hard to do if Pill is sent down, plus could send the wrong message.
Side tangent:  many #FreeBelters seem to take umbrage that Belt does not get to start against LHP, noting that he did well in the minors against LHP.  First off, he has barely had more than a year of minor league stats, and all saber observations I've seen would note that no hitter faces enough LHP pitching in a year to make a definitive statement about his ability to hit against them.  Still, even if that was true, that puts him in the same situation that Schierholtz has faced in the majors, namely that he has sucked so far against RHP, making his usefulness lessened since the majority of pitchers throw right-handed. 
Second of all, there is no indication that Brett Pill isn't a good prospect to do well in the majors.  He has hit well in the limited play he has received so far in the majors, something Belt cannot say.  He did very well in AAA in 2011.  The odds are greatly against him, but the experts have been wrong before.  My favorite example of this is Brandon Webb's ascent to ace of the D-backs rotation, as a non-heralded prospect (not one mention of him in his team's pre-season prospect report), while the much more highly touted Baby D-backs all failed to do any thing in the majors.  So why not give him opportunities against LHP in a platoon with Belt, who has not been really consistent with his hitting.  As Sabean noted in a recent interview with Scott Ostler, the Giants believe in Belt, they want him to be THAT guy for us in the lineup, but so far he has not earned more opportunities.  While he's learning, lets see what Pill can do too.
Back to the roster decision, that leaves Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz, neither of which is going anywhere.  Both have hit well enough to keep their spot on the roster, but just not well enough to get a starting spot.  Nate briefly earned it with his hot hitting, then just as quickly, turned cold (after that great Mets DH display of hitting he did), as he is wont to do, typically due to injury, though this time I don't recall anything happening.

Lastly, unlikely, but a relief pitcher could get sent down, at least for a little while, to put off the position player decision.  But that is doubtful, as there is only one day off over the next 

So who goes?  There is nobody really obvious right now to me.  If it were me, I would not send down Pill.  He's been doing well and is one of the few (only?) power bat off the bench.  Burriss seems the most obvious to go, but his speed and versatility is probably something the Giants greatly value, plus he still has good batting discipline in avoiding strikeouts and taking some walks.  That leaves Theriot as the one who would get released when Huff returns.

And that makes some sense, as it was Arias who was brought up when Huff was sent down, but the Giants also admitted that they were shorthanded in MI without two backups there as well, which then means that they keep Burriss, Arias, Theriot for now, and put Pill down to the minors, and call it a numbers game.

Shankbone commented that he thinks Schierholtz is the one who goes, in trade.  That is certainly a possibility, and we have seen Nate's name pop up in trade rumors when there is a roster crunch situation.  Like him, I would have mixed feelings about that as well, as I really like Nate and think he can be a good starter for us, if he could just find some consistency, instead of being a Jeckyll and Hyde.  

Push comes to shove, gun to my head, I don't think that happens.  The Giants have liked his skill set previously and continue to give him chance after chance to start and make the position his.  Perhaps this is their last straw, but without inside connections, don't know if this is true or not.  

Burriss is the One Who Goes?

I think Burriss is the one who has outlasted their patience.  He's still doing everything that they have tried working with him on, to improve his contact, and so far his numbers are horrible this season.  There is value to his speed and versatility, and that is probably what they will try to sell if they should release him, but I think Arias has made Burriss expendable.  

Remember, Arias was one of the last cuts, so the Giants like what he did and he has done OK so far in the majors for us.  Unlike Burriss.  I think I mentioned this in pre-season, that I think that Burriss is getting his last chance to show what he got to the Giants, and if there are no improvements, they will move on and release/trade him.  And so far, no real improvements, other than defense.  I think I noted that the Nationals could be interested in him for his speed and versatility, but also because  he's a local DC prospect who made the majors, which would be good publicity for them and him for a while.

Theriot also does not seem to be a candidate.   He was brought in clearly to be a good veteran RH bat off the bench, a need that still exists.  His career hitting vs. LHP is very good, and his only bad full season against LHP was 2010, giving encouragement that this current slump is just something that will work out in time.  

In addition, both Charlie Culberson and Nick Noonan has done well recently in AAA, and I have to think that either would be able to do what Burriss has done, except for the speed, and both have had experience playing both MI spots as well.  Plus Blanco seems the one to be the speed guy off the bench, he was wild on the basepaths during spring and Burriss, despite playing so much so far, has not stolen many bases, just 2, same as Schierholtz.

Gillaspie Goes

Ultimately, I think it is Conor Gillaspie who goes.  I think the Giants still want to give Burriss one more chance to show what he can do.  I think they will rotate in Arias, Burriss, and Theriot to start at 3B for them, plus maybe even give Pill a start there.  And remember, getting sent down is a 10 day deal, so the Giants could still pull back Gillaspie if this rotation don't work out well, as Pablo will be out for at least another 2 weeks even with that 10 days.  

It might be different if Gillaspie had started out hot, but he's hitting worse then Burriss and Theriot so far.  Still, I think the Giants think well of his bat and while his defense is probably something left to be desired still, guys who know how to use their bats are a bit of a premium on the Giants, so I think he will get his chances eventually, just not right now.

Plus, there is the Freddy Sanchez decision that probably eventually will crop up sometime in the next month, and who would go in that case?  Can't hold onto all those MI's.  They will need to decide on what to do about Burriss, if he is a keeper (which means Theriot or Arias goes) or if they have to move on. 

But even now, I'm not sure what will happen.  Any thoughts?

8 comments:

  1. Thought you had jury duty. You blogging from the courthouse?

    Hadn't thought near term like you put up, those are all valid. Maybe Schierholtz stays a bit more. The logjam is there long term though. Conor G down makes sense. Pill does not make sense, he has performed when asked. I didn't like a pinch hit of his where he got outfoxed by sliders, but let's not split hairs, he has a nice short swing and a good attitude.

    Theriot is a wild card. The one skill he brings that I really like is his scrappy I'm going to dig in and battle, foul off pitches mode. More of the Giants need to utilize, or more likely, acquire, that skill. Pretty green still. And that's what Huff brings to the lineup, if his head is in the game. He will battle as well.

    The run up the pitch count on the opposing pitcher: unheralded part is the ability to have a long AB through fouling off balls you can't put in play. I think its a valid criticism of Giant hitters that they don't do enough of that.

    Arias and Burriss seem like sort of the same player, with the ability to cover 2/ss/3. Burriss can switch hit, but no extra base power. Burriss is faster, maybe has more range. They are both OK not great fielders. Hard call. I like Manny, but as always I am frustrated with the absolute lack of any power. Don't know how long the Giants will have patience for him.

    One more thing about our players/rooting what not from your last post: I just can't root against home grown players who seem genuine and try. You have to whine or dog it on the field to land on my whipping boy list. Tejada and Rowand sure did, and Alfonso and Benitez, and Neifi Perez... But the clearing out of old vets is nearly complete. This is a young homegrown team. That is pretty awesome.

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    1. I had most of it written already, just finalized and sent out since I could take a longer lunch since I have early morning meeting on Mondays. So no, no blogging from courthouse. :^D

      I dodged the first big round of juror selection, I'm not one of the first 18, but I could tell from the comments of some of them that they are angling to get kicked out by one of the lawyers. So there will be further picks...

      Yeah, well, when your farm system is producing better and more, there will be logjams when you got a bunch of tweeners battling for spots.

      Yeah, I like Theriot's scrappiness too. I think he stays for that reason too. But I don't know what the team's thoughts are of his hitting so far.

      Yeah, running the pitch count is a nice skill, as Ishikawa showed the other day in his AB.

      So far, Arias seems to wow the announcers more than Burriss does on defense. Arias don't seem to have power either, but he's at least hitting so far, Burriss isn't. I admit I'm pretty frustrated with Burriss too.

      I don't really root against home grown players period, but yeah, I especially root for those who are genuine. For example, Romo and Brown really seem like genuine people in the interviews I've seen, so I've rooted extra for them. I rooted extra for Schierholtz because he went to Chabot College and I went there for a few summers to play ball (unfortunately, not enough players for games, but fortunately, lots of pitching machines, that was FUN! That really helped me appreciate how hard it is for prospects, plus, I even eventually could see the rotation of the ball as it came in to me, just like Rod Carew was talking about in interviews). And he seemed like a really nice guy too, and really, most of them, that is, the homegrowns, seem like really nice guys, so I've been rooting for all of them, for the most part.

      Being stupid usually is what gets players on my whipping boy list. Like Rowand thinking that mountain biking is an appropriate way to get into shape for the season. For $12M per season, I was expecting a whole at least 3 levels higher expenditure of energy and effort for our money. Or Frandsen sulking and bad-mouthing his way off the team.

      yes, a young homegrown team is pretty awesome!

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  2. With Mota gone they don't have to demote anyone right now. But in the old days they would beef up the bullpen prior to heading into Colorado.

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    1. Yes, didn't see that one coming! And if it sticks, 100 days pretty much kills the rest of the season for Mota, it would be mid-August before he could return, plus he probably would have to pitch in AAA to get into playing shape.

      really worked out for the Giants in terms of roster decision, but at some point the Giants will have to make the painful decision, so it is a good thought exercise to go through. And then there is the Franchez return as well.

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  3. According to sfgiants.com, Bochy is going with 11 pitchers for the foreseeable future: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120507&content_id=30654596&notebook_id=30664796&vkey=notebook_sf&c_id=sf&partnerId=rss_sf

    Among possible call-ups, in addition to the obvious - Dan Otero, who was up here at the start of the season - Heath Hembree, Shane Loux and Brett Bochy were noted.

    Hembree is a pretty obvious one to note, he has been doing well in AAA in his first action there, plus is our top rated reliever among prospects. If the Giants were trying to manipulate service time (and perhaps they are, though they have claimed in the past to not worry about that, and they didn't in Lincecum's and Posey's cases), they would wait until at least late May, if not early June to bring up Hembree (with the new CBA, the number of Super Two's go up, and thus happen later in the season as well).

    Loux is a bit of a surprise to me. Sure, his ERA is low, but he's 32 YO and yet not really striking out very many guys, though sporting an excellent 4.0 K/BB ratio. But again, he's very experienced working against not so experienced (or good) hitters.

    Bochy is only a surprise because he's still in AA. But he has a good 9.0 K/9 and great 6.0 K/BB ratio and is young for the league (24 YO vs. 24.5 YO hitters and compared to 25.0 YO pitchers). Almost the type of pitcher his Dad loves: high K/9, low BB/9, great K/BB ratio. Ideally, given his age and level, it would be nice to see him above 9.0 K/9, but that's more of a quibble right now, still excellent numbers, not all pitchers can be the top dog, but Young Bochy looks like he can be a very valuable setup reliever in the Giants pen at some point.

    And looking back a few years, perhaps I'm being too dismissive. Not a lot of pitchers with K/BB that high in AA Eastern League, starter or reliever, and among pitchers with high K/BB, 9.0 K/9 is actually pretty good.

    Still, I think that Hembree will get the call before Young Bochy, since he's the AAA closer and doing well, though his 7.5 K/9 is disappointing right now, though with a good 2.5 K/BB ratio.

    I would also add that the Giants say that they will play this lack of pitching day to day, which makes sense.

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    1. I would guess that they are hoping to do this short-handed long enough to bring up Freddy Sanchez, at which point they would push off two position players, one for Franchez, the other to add another pitcher. That would be roughly mid-to-late May.

      By then, I would guess that they hope to have a better read on Gillaspie, Burriss, Theriot, Arias, Pill, Belt, heck, Huff too, and then make the move. I think Blanco, Schierholtz, and Sanchez got holds on their bench spots right now.

      Given the stated plans, Belt/Pill is the 1B platoon, with Belt getting most of the ABs (the #FreeBelters note that infrequently play hurts prospects, hence Sabean/Bochy are evil, but Pill is doing pretty well despite even less infrequent play and very little public endorsement of his abilities by management) and Huff will get most LF starts. I assume Huff sits against any pitchers he has done poorly against, particularly any LHP starter who are tough on LHB, allowing Pill to start in LF sometimes. And Gillaspie will probably get most starts at 3B, but maybe with Arias vs. LHP.

      With Belt still having options, I think if he doesn't make enough improvements in hitting per the Giants desires, he will get sent down, which would cause an uproar. However, his numbers, albeit small sampling, has been very good since he got to start regularly after the Huffman went home, so I would lay very low odds of that happening, unless he falls into bad habits again.

      Pill, as noted, has done well, I think I would be in an uproar if he's sent down (though figuratively, I don't get too upset over bench player moves). I think he will continue to get starts vs. LHP if he continues to hit this well, while playing OK defense, which he has so far, by defensive metrics.

      I think Gillaspie continues to be the one who is most on the edge, after his second error. His defensive stats are too horrible to mention plus he's not even hitting. If he doesn't turn it around soon, the Giants might just send him back to get back a pitcher.

      I think he might be thinking too much getting to start, leading to errors on the field and hitting. He showed off a nice bat last season plus in AAA. Hopefully he calms down soon, but the way things are going, Bochy might have decided to move on already, given the talk of fielding a better defensive lineup instead of going for offense.

      Arias has been surprisingly bad with his defensive stats, as every time I'm listening to the games, he's made another sparkling play. If he weren't hitting so well, he probably would have already been sent back. He has actually been pretty bad defensively in prior seasons too.

      I have heard a lot of complaints that Theriot has been bad in the field, but his defensive stats have been good per the Fielding Bible DRS (baseball-reference.com: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/SFG/2012.shtml#standard_fielding::none). I was going to say that with how badly Theriot was defensively this season, Arias could have pushed Ryan to the bubble, but the metrics suggest otherwise.

      Burriss, however, has been bad offensively and defensively, and continues to be the one to bet on for removal from the 25-man roster when the Giants need to make a move.

      Lastly, as supportive as the Giants have been with Huff over his episode, I have to think that he's on the bubble right now too. Him playing in LF takes away ABs from Blanco, Pill, and Schierholtz. So if he doesn't come back swinging the bat well within 2-3 weeks, he could lose his starting LF job.

      And given prior behavior, I don't think he'll make a good bench player with us now, he might be willing if DFAed and that is his only chance, but given his reasoning for why he bolted, I have to think he would take off for home if he is DFAed, and I doubt any team would take him in trade, even if the Giants threw in money. He would semi-retire (he would not officially retire because then he wouldn't get his money) and spend time with his family.

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  4. Have to take some exception of your characterization of Brandon Webb as unheralded. He was the #5 prospect in the Diamondbacks system per BA in 2003, and top 5 is certainly very very good. BA's scouting report on him included pretty accurate reflection of his stuff: "Webb’s fastball tops out at 94-95 mph but is best at 92, where it really sinks. He also has a heavy slider. His two-seam fastball can be so dominant that he could rely on it almost exclusively." They noted he had been exceptional in AA, finishing top 5 in both strikeouts and ERA, and finished by saying "Webb has an outside chance to make the Diamondbacks roster in 2003....Whatever the case, he should be a major league mainstay in the near future."

    That's a pretty darned good scouting report. And of the four guys ahead of him, two of them have had over 10 year careers in the majors, including Lyle Overbay who's been a 10 year starter in the majors, and two were pitchers who couldn't stay healthy (including John Patterson who was actually pretty decent in the majors in the few short periods where he was reasonably healthy).

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    1. Thank you for your comment Roger, you have a lot of good information always.

      I didn't have the BA report back then. Yes, had I known he was their #5 prospect, I wouldn't have said that about him.

      The reason I wrote that was based on the MLB.com prospect report published pre-season that year. For me, I wanted to learn more about him, and I figured somebody that good would show up in pre-season reports. The MLB.com talked about the Baby D-backs, covering not only their Top 10 (-ish, I don't think they ranked players but just talked about a lot of different prospects) but a lot of their top prospects. Webb was not listed at all in that article.

      Hopefully you can understand now why I said what I said, but had I known that BA ranked him so high, I would have moderated my statement to be something like "unheralded in certain circles".

      thanks again, much appreciated, good info.

      Delete

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