Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: We have Bad News and Even Badder News With a Dash of Good News

As reported across most Giants media outlets (SF Giants, CSN, Chronicle, and commented on by Ratto plus there is a Baggarly reaction on the CSN link), Melky Cabrera was suspended immediately for illegal usage of testosterone, covering the remaining 45 games in the season plus 5 games into the playoffs, should the Giants make it that far. 
ogc Thoughts

The Ratto commentary noted that Baggarly had reported on the Twitter rumor that Cabrera did not pass the drug test a few weeks ago (listening to the video, it was on July 27th that Andy Baggarly reported on it), which Andy had to apologize very publicly then, but now looks like he was just following the smoke.

I note this because now I have to think that this rumor/possibility might be the reason why the Giants finally pulled the trigger and/or pursued hotly the trade for Hunter Pence, on the possibility that Melky could be gone for the rest of the season. 

Now we still have a pretty good lineup still, with Pence around, whereas had we lost Melky and didn't get Pence, things would look pretty bleak right now for the Giants (speaking of lineups, our great lineup lasted all of one game, yesterday, Pagan, Scutaro, Cabrera, Posey, Sandoval, Pence, Belt, Crawford).  Not that this is not a huge stomach blow at the wrong time (I wish this could have come right after the game against the Nats, as we face the Padres next), but it could easily been worse had Sabean not acted.

This would also explain why it was so publicly announced that both the Giants and Melky's agents had agreed to table any extension talks to after the season.  Why take the chance of signing him to a big contract now with the possibility that he could be suspended soon? 

According to the Baggarly reaction video, whlie the Giants would not have been notified about this, Melky and his agents must have known about this the whole time.  They are notified once the test is positive, which Baggarly pegged for around the All-Star break, and then there is the appeal process where they test the second (B) sample. 

Most probably when the Giants heard the Baggarly news, they went directly to Melky's agents.  Presumably they were told the truth at that point, because Melky's agents should be sharp enough to know that there is no chance the Giants wouuld even consider re-signing Melky in the off-season if they lied to the team in response to this.  Lying to Baggarly would not have any repercussions, lying to Giants officials would.

So the aforementioned bad news I was referring to is the suspension and loss of Cabrera, and the badder news, in my view (and media too), is that Cabrera, in his comment in response to this, clearly admitted his guilt in doing this.  That could explain the hot potato pattern of teams dumping him season after season since 2009.  Not that he was using, exactly, but that there was something about him that convinced teams that getting rid of him was better than keeping him, even the Royals who had found money with him last season, took a chance on Sanchez despite his poor recovery from his injury last season. 

The dash of good news with this horrific implosion at the worse part of the season, while we are fighting neck to neck with the hated LA Dodgers, is that Cabrera is now a radioactive free agent and unlikely to draw much interest as a free agent for the 2013 season.  I'm still willing to re-sign Cabrera to a contract for the 2013 season, we simply have to meet whatever another team offers him.  I can't see LAD putting in a big bid now for him, no way that the new owners would want the stink of a PED cheater on their shiny new toy.  Nor should any playoff contending team.  But as I noted before, all it takes is one desperate team.

Whereas before I had no idea whether the Giants might be able to re-sign Cabrera but thought they had a good chance, now I don't see how they don't resign him, unless there is something about him that they don't even want to stay associated with him.  Hopefully he learns his lesson and moves on, staying clean.  I think he can still be a useful player, maybe sign him to a $3-4M deal with PA bonuses if he plays significant number of games during the 2013 season.  The Giants might also just wash their hands of this and pursue Pagan instead, now that his value is looking to be at the bottom of his value range, hard to tell at this point.


Now what?

First off, this pretty much means that Gregor Blanco is the starting LF for the time being.  However, his batting line for the month of August is as close to .000 as any hitter with some ABs could be without being a .000.  He's batting 7th today, but with the way Crawford has been hitting, I would rather see him 7th and Blanco 8th.

Unless Blanco can find his mojo with regular starts over the next week, I expect that Sabean would push to bring in a better OF.  The recent acquisition of Xavier Nady, which again might have been related, is a possibility.  He has 2 HRs and a double, but otherwise his batting line sucks, .665 OPS overall and in AAA.  Justin Christian is a possibility but I don't think that Sabean or the Giants view him as a starter. 

Of course, there must be some valuable LF-capable players available for an August waiver deal trade, though it would have to be a soon-to-be free agent who would not cost the Giants a great prospect.  And there was talk by the Giants about bringing up Gary Brown in the September Call-ups, maybe this accelerates things and they give him a shot (though I don't really expect this, just covering all the bases).  There are a number of ways for the Giants and Sabean to go.  Too bad Kieschnick fell to his injury-prone ways, if he had continued to do well enough, the Giants might have brought him up now and give him a chance.

Still, as I've been ruminating, even without Melky, our lineup looks pretty good.  Pagan leading off is adequate, maybe slightly above average.  Scutaro and Theriot are good in the 2-spot.  Then Panda, Posey, Pence in the 3-4-5 is great.  Throw in a Brandon Belt who is hitting well in 6th, and that's great, and Crawford in the 8th spot is good now, and the way he's hitting, he'll be fine batting 7th too.  Blanco, however, is not so good, he needs to get better and fast or Nady is coming up soon, if not already to take Cabrera's spot.  It is not as awesomely great as having Cabrera in there, but this is still a pretty good lineup, one that I think is capable with our pitching staff to win a lot of games. 

However, for today's game, we'll be lucky to stay close.  This game will show off some of the team's character and whether they can come back from bad setbacks like today.  Yesterday's game did show character, coming back from the shellacking they got on Monday, 12-2, and in the season so far, being outscored something like 38-15 up to yesterday.   Lincecum has been unsteady today, but I don't blame him for this, the news just came out about an hour before game-time.

Go Giants!


  1. Been wanting to cover the Brandons but obviously this news superceded their story.

    Belt has been on a hot streak, and while there is a lot of BABIP luck involved, he is also making GREAT contact. After peaking at 84.4% contact rate (85% is considered good) on June 18th, Belt went into an extended tailspin, falling to 51.5% on August 2nd. Since then, though, he has had only 1 strikeout in 33 AB, which is a great 97% contact rate, and which is the contact rate he has over his past 10 games as well.

    It is almost like Scutaro, who has a similar contact rate, gave him a tip and he finally figure it out. Or maybe the additional of Pence took the pressure off of Belt's mind. Or who knows.

    In any case, he's been hitting great and making good contact as well. And that covers his last 15 games as well, high of 85.4% (vs. high of 82.2% on June 23rd). Not quite high for 20 game contact rate, currently at 77.0% vs. high of 80.3% on July 1st. Same for 30 games too, 73.0% vs. 76.2% on July 1st.

    Crawford followed Belt's journey as well, reaching highs for contact rate in late June before going on an extended downturn. He reached a low about a week ago, though, unlike Belt, and still working his way back up.

    However, he didn't fall as far as Belt, reaching low of 69% a week ago, and now up to 78% for his 10 game contact rate. He is roughly that for 15, 20, and 30 games as well. 78% is not good, though, but Crawford reached a high of 94% in 10 games earlier, 93% for 15 games, 92% for 20 games, and 88% for 30 games.

    He has a nice 8 game hitting streak (including today's game) and hopefully can coninue his good recent results.

    1. Also from Pav twit: Sabean on Belt/Crawford hot streaks: “They’ve got a lot to be proud of. They’re talented kids … We think (their) time is now.”

  2. Interesting take. My gut reaction is they will want nothing to do with the PED tint. What was a fascinating negotiation on current player value and a bit of a unique situation is down the drain.

    we do not know when the Gints made, or if they actually did make the 3/27MM offer. You would have to think if it was recent Melky's agents did him a disservice. Hard to know exactly what the club knew, but I think its a good bet after the Baggs rumor got floated, they did due diligence.

    On a personal level, I was getting to like Melky quite a lot, and he let us down huge. Big gut punch. I agree with you though, we should be able to weather the storm, it just got harder is all. The pitching and defense has been the issue all year, not the offense. Still, not a very good day in Gints fandome. Boo to you Melky, you cheated, you let down your fans, and you cost yourself a gigantic amount of moneys... How much earned by the PEDs, that will be discussed a lot.

    I just see the Gints moving on, quickly.

    1. I was wondering about that, but they are embracing Mota back easily and he's a two-timer, and I believe Manny already had one strike when Neukom was the lead owner and discussion on whether to sign him or not.

      I'm beginning to think the "offer" was an assumption (educated guess) on the part of the media, and hence the tabling of the extension discussion that was the lead bit of news. Yeah, I totally believe they did due diligence - heck, asked the agent directly as I speculated above - leading to the mutual agreement to discuss after the season.

      I like him a lot too, and he did let us down big time. But given all the public love he got here with his Melkmen and Melkmaids, and t-shirts, I have to think that he and his reps would be stupid to go anywhere else right now fighting for top money.

      They should sink some roots here, just work directly and only with Giants to negotiate something the Giants think is fair (i.e. accept their punishment for this huge mistake) and rehabilitate his image here, where he has some love, rather than go elsewhere and most probably face a hostile portion of that fanbase that will yell "cheat" at him. And probably accept whatever contract stipulations the Giants suggest for monitoring his sobriety.

    2. From Alex Pav twitter, just now: Sabean on previously reported contract talks with Melky and his agent: "It was a conceptual conversation. It never really went anywhere."

      Good points about PED users. Also there is the Elizer Alfonso and we forget about Hensley getting suspended in 2005. But these guys are not nearly as high profile as the starting LF. I guess I would be a bit surprised, but I wouldn't say no way either.

    3. Yeah, I figured as much. Because, conceptually, Melky's agents should be asking for a lot more than the Giants should be comfortable giving right away. Thanks for the news!

      Yeah, I agree about the high profile situation is different. That's why I'm not absolutely sure right now. But Manny would have been the starting LF, so that is similar.

      And I would be suprised if they didn't sign him, but wouldn't say that them passing isn't possible either (if I got all those negatives right :^).

  3. shit.

    well, explains Xavier Nady. Explains Pence. Explains 27 first basemen, with explicit mention of Panda. There was an outfielder about to go missing.

    I do completely agree the Giants have depth. Wouldn't be at all surprised to start seeing Belt/Posey playing some left field. If so - maybe not so bad. A win lost?

    Sucks. Melky was a great story. I have a feeling Shankbone is right - we'll never see him again.

    1. reminder about language, but, eh, this occasion probably deserves this.

      I think Belt/Posey in LF is more if we have problems finding an adequate LF hitter. I think one of Blanco, Nady (maybe platoon, I heard that mentioned somewhere), waiver deal trade, is more likely right now.

      Yep, great story gone sour milk overnight. I saw a picture of a woman whose t-shirt was modified from "Got Melk" to "Spoiled Melk".

  4. My guess is Melky has played his last game in a SF uni. I just can't see the clubhouse welcoming him back after this. He broke the code -- he let his teammates down. The only silver lining is that the doyers can't block a waiver claim now.

    1. I have found that ballplayers are very forgiving of their colleagues (except for the scabs who crossed the picket line and played during the last strike, that enmity has lasted) and their human frailties.

      More to Shankbone's point, will management welcome him back? As I noted above, they appear very open to any ballplayer as long as they have paid their price to society within the rules of the MLB.

  5. Based on the numbers thus far (available on line from ESPN) I doubt that the problem is the Giants' offense, which (given the park factor) was about average in 2012, with Cabrera but without Pence, often without Sandoval, and with less production from the Brandons than I think we're likely to get. As I suggested on DrB's blog before the horrendous Cabrera news broke, our problem has been and continues to be our pitching, not Runs Scored but Runs Allowed. The shock of losing Cabrera oughtn't to make us focus attention on the wounded lineup in a way that distracts us from the often lackluster pitching. Our response to the loss of Cabrera should of course include an upgrade in the outfield, if we can find one, or perhaps a signing of Overbay for 1B and having Belt play LF; but more crucially, if we are to pay attention to the stats so far, we need to strengthen the bullpen (since for obvious reasons we can't remedy the ongoing dreariness of Lincecum) so that the offense we have can function.

    1. yes, you did great analysis on DrB about offense and pitching relative to league.

      But beyond how bad or good either is, we can win by improving one or the other. I am only trying to point out that the offense still looks good despite this setback, period, and just as good, maybe better, than it has been all year, with Pablo back, Pence now basically replacing Cabrera's production to now, and the big potential plus is if Belt is now hitting like his potential and if he can continue it.

      Good point about Overbay as option, but I agree with the Giants stance that he should play in AAA first to get his bat back, he's been horrible for a long while now, but with minor leagues ending soon, he might not get a chance with us now.

      Pretty stupid on his part, particularly now, the Giants wouldn't ask him if they weren't serious about putting him on the roster soon, just hit the damn ball. Does he really hate the Giants that much? Or just don't want a chance with a playoff contending team, I don't see a mad rush to sign him by any of the other contenders.

      I also don't think the Giants would move Belt right now while he's doing well for a short stretch. It is more important long-term to get him hitting consistently, which he's done all month, and that's why they committed to him playing only 1B this season and shoved Huff to LF (maybe that was the final crack for his mind). I can see a future move to LF in the future if we need a LF and have a replacement 1B ready somewhere (whether Posey, free agent, or other), plus, more importantly, Belt is established and not going to be phased by playing a new position. But not right now, when he's having his first extended bout of great hitting (as evidenced by his sterling contact rate this month so far).

      Again, about offense, the point to me is that this team is in contention despite Lincecum basically being almost useless in the first half and Wilson being gone and Pablo gone for long stretches of time. Better pitching, better offense, either gets you more wins.

      Our pitching, despite his hiccup yesterday, appears to be better overall, our fielding too, over earlier in the season. Our offense, with the addition of Pence and hopefully Belt, makes it as strong as it has been all season, maybe even better, even with the loss of Cabrera.

      So my point is that while this is a huge kick in the stomach, there is still a lot of good baseball probably in store for Giants fans as we head into the homestretch. It won't be easy, but as we have learned, it's rarely easy. It won't be the cakewalk that many of us, including me, imagined with Cabrera in there, but his loss does not mean that we can kiss the playoffs good-bye either.

      We are still competitive. We can still beat teams, we have the pitching, we have the fielding, we have the offense (just not as much as we first thought).

      Or to quote an old sage, "Don't let your dawber down". We can still win this. It just will be harder than it would have been had he not been suspended.

  6. sorry for the language OGC - kneejerk reaction.

    Have to agree with Campanari - this, from the right side of this page:

    Offense Win/Loss: 57-46
    Pitching Win/Loss: 52-51

    is very striking. It's good, in that one doesn't quite realize day-to-day how good the offense is. Surprising, really, and a credit to the team.

    However, that the pitching is the weaker of the two is more surprising - it really shouldn't be that way. I realize that Timmy and Zito are the lesser of the 5, but with the seasons MadBum, Cain, and Vogelsong are putting up... it's hard to ask for more. So it's definitely the bullpen.

    I agree that the Giants will (are) probably pursue an outfielder, but my point is that there are internal options that aren't that bad - the level of bench players is really very high. Having Scutaro or Blanco or Theriot in a platoon is a good problem to have. These are starters somewhere else - not everywhere else, but somewhere else.

    So a bullpen arm. Or a closer. Who in the world that is I have no idea. Considering the current and potential status of Wilson, more than a stopgap might be wise.

    And speaking of status - what's the latest with Aubrey Huff? I really feel for the guy, and wonder how he's doing. It seems he's gone the way of Kahlil Greene, which is too bad.

    1. Like I said, no biggie, probably appropriate for this situation, just wanted to remind though :^)

      Hah, yes, my own stats on the side, thanks!

      I should update that...

      Zito is actually doing about what can be expected of him. For a 5th starter, what he is doing is great. Not great for his salary, of course, but just great on an overall basis. Only Timmy has disappointed to a great degree, but he appears to have righted his ship for the most part and that's good.

      The bullpen is an area that we can and should upgrade, but yeah, who? I was only pointing out options for OF, I think Blanco will be good enough for us, though perhaps in platoon with Nady. Or who knows, maybe we can play an infielder in LF, Scutaro has played there very briefly before, and Arias, after being cold for half the season, is suddenly heating up this month.

      I agree that is a good problem to have, people don't always see that these players, while not the top hitters you would love to have in every position on the field :^), is good in their own respect and complementary to the players who are actually good, in our case, Posey, Pence, Pablo (and hopefully Belt and maybe Pagan and Scutaro).

      I think the trading well has dried up in terms of getting an established closer for the long-term. Best is to get a pending free agent who is doing well as closer now, and the team is willing to accept lower prospect in return for salary relief. Not sure if anybody fits that requirements.

      Huff is still working out and trying to return to the team. I think the team is now just stashing him until rosters expand in September, where he can be a valuable cog on the bench. But with LF open, if he shows any life, you probably can expect to see him, but after all this time, I just don't see how. If he comes back, that would be an amazing comeback story, but unfortunately, I don't really believe in fairy tales (though obviously Vogelsong's story deserves a motion picture treatmenat at some point, maybe after he writes a book about it in a few years). Yeah, I feel bad for the guy, but I'm just more worried about the team, I wish him to best but expect the Giants to part ways this off-season.

    2. to your point, updated, Giants offense is 66-52, which is already more than the number of games where they scored 4 or more runs last season (64).

      The pitching appears to be down a lot, but while that is a huge component, fielding is also significant and I think that is part of the problem, along with the bullpen as you noted.

      If you look at my PQS studies, the starters as a group is basically around where they were last season. That means two things since the pitching win/loss is at 60-58. First is that poor defense is resulting in less games with 3 or less runs allowed. Second is that the bullpen is allowing more inherited runners (or runs themselves) to score, again resulting in less games with 3 or less runs allowed.

      The fielding appears to be improved, but hoepfully we can get some better bullpen help.

  7. I realized last night that I didn't really delve into the ethics of all this.

    I personally am of the view that there are not really that many PEDS that help a ballplayer perform better than his physical peak. The best I can think of is Lasik, as it helps the hitter see the ball better, sooner, out of the pitcher's hand, if the doctor give the hitter better than 20/20 eyesight, and TJS, where there has been cases of guys throwing even faster.

    I believe that the eye-hand coordination of both hitting a pitch with the sweet spot of the bat and throwing a pitch to the strikezone is too specific and specialized to cheat on. Either you have it or you don't.

    Strength building does seem to help with power, but there have been big guys who have been puny hitters and skinny guys who blasts balls to kingdom come, so again, to me, that seems more like a skill thing, though if you have the skill, then presumably the strength helps you out with your hitting.

    But Eric Walker's research on his Boskage House website covering PEDS found that there is not any proven drug that helps performance. While I don't undertand everything there, he is a respected analyst in the saber community, creator of the A's handbook and overarching philosophy, so I'm accepting his stance until someone points out something egregious. I've been quoting him all over and nobody has attacked his work yet that I can recall from a scientific viewpoint.

    So my view is that usage by players is misguided but ultimately does not affect the game, and thus the game is unaffected.

    Amphetamines, however, I believe, has been a bigger problem, as it allows players to play at their peak performance longer into the season. When they should be dragging down, they are at peak levels of energy. Given it's wide availability, I think that evens out a bit, but I credit it for increasing the career numbers of most players post-WW II, when many if not most soldiers were introduced to amphetamines as a way to keep them alert in the battlefield. Mays has already been named before, and Bouton talked extensively about its usage in the Yankees clubhouse in his book, from what I read.

    But I don't see how testosterone helped Melky much. He was already entering his prime anyway, physically, and I place it alongside steriods in what it does for the body, and steroids per Walker's research don't help players.

    And I am sanguine about breaking rules. We all break rules here and there to cut corners or whatever. Given that I don't believe that he did anything to help himself, that he only hurt himself in the long-run by tainting his reputation, I'm willing to forgive right now, despite his declared cheating. At least he copped to it, many have said they didn't know what they are doing.

    And as successful as the MLB has been saying their testing program is, I have to think that there is an iceberg somewhere that they are not aware of, so I just see Melky as one of many, only he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

    but maybe I'm jaded, let me know what you all think.

    1. I think we are all jaded, and there are some icebergs for sure.

  8. Breaking news:

    Justin Christian (not too surprising) and Eric Hacker (a bit surprising) have been promoted.

    Good interview with Sabean too, lots of notes, but taking off for lunch...



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