Saturday, July 28, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Trade for Marco Scutaro

It has been reported by Schulman and Baggs that the Giants acquired Marco Scutaro from the Rockies for Charlie Culberson.  They also get some cash to offset Marco's salary, which is roughly $2M for the rest of the season from what I read.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012 Draft: Pitcher Commentary

I ran across a prospect website with scouting reports covering the top 596 pitching prospects in the 2012 draft (The Baseball Draft Reports).  Honestly, I do not know how good he is, but that is pretty ambitious to cover so many, and to have something to say about every one, so I thought I would at least point it out, bring up some of the commentary about some of the picks, and if one of the prospect hounds can give me their assessment of the site, then at least we will be better informed overall.

2012 Draft: Final Signings

The final signings came in and the Giants were able to sign all their first ten rounds of picks, and 28 of their first 29.  The big signings was finally getting #2 Martin Agosta and #3 Mac Williamson to sign on their respective dotted lines.  However, they mostly struck out with their final picks, failing to sign any of their final 7 picks (including 4 high schoolers and 2 JCs).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nate Not So Great: But I Still Like Him

I had been out on vacation and was going to write one big post to cover all my thoughts, but my work is crazy good right now, so I'll bite off one at a time.

Nate Schierholtz made news lately by complaining in an interview with Hank Schulman that he's not satisfied with the amount of playing time he's been getting and that he would welcome a trade.  He said that if he's not their guy, then maybe he should move on.

He didn't back off of it yesterday but gave a more team oriented comment instead.  Schulman noted in his blog that it was clear that the team  informed him that he appeared selfish with his original statements.

Giants Thoughts

First off, I don't really think that Nate is going anywhere.  The Giants love defense, or specifically, Sabean has loved defense since he first became GM.  He might have to hornshoe in guys with poor defense, to accommodate roster and budget realities, but mostly, in his comments over the years, it's clear he prefers good defensive players.  Nate is a virtuoso in RF.

The main reason I think he is going nowhere is because I see another round of competition for playing time in the OF in 2013.  There is almost no way the Giants sign both Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, due to all the money devoted to the pitching, and most likely Melky will be signed, the question is how much (one item I wanted to cover).  Plus not much money for free agents, I don't think.

That means Melky got LF most probably, and Gregor Blanco will be the presumptive starting CF (perhaps in platoon with Justin Christian), and then Nate in RF, as nobody in Fresno is knocking down the door for the RF starting spot.  Francisco Peguero and Chris Dominguez isn't doing much there, and Roger Kieschnick, who put himself into position to challenge, got injured again, so who knows what he can do for us next season.  Plus maybe a journeyman OF, like Torres and Blanco before him.

Nate is just too valuable, as well as cheap, to trade away, unless another team really thinks he's as good as he think he is, and gives up more to the Giants in terms of a RF starter, who they can control for multiple years.  If teams really felt that way about him, then an offer like that might have happened before, and if that offer had ever been done, I would think the Giants would have gone for it, Nate has always been a tweener in terms of prospect potential, showing enough to warrant interest and continued opportunities, but never breaking out enough to hold the starting job.  However, the only type of trade I can see Schierholtz being a part of is one where both teams are giving up on a prospect, and seeing if they can do something with our castoff, like when we traded Salomon Torres for Shawn Estes, or Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert for Randy Winn..

A major league starter needs to be consistently good, or rather, not consistently really bad.  Nate has been great over up to a month's period of time.  If he hit like that all the time, he would be a star in the MLB and not needing to do such interviews.  Heck, if he could at least be replacement level during his down time, then the Giants could live with that.  But he's typically not and the Giants are forced to go elsewhere for RF starting.

That he didn't understand why he sat down for so long shows that he was being myopic and selfish.   Blanco had a monster May, much like the ones Nate puts out.  Like Nate, when he cooled off, he got the benefit of the doubt - if you go over Nate's usage patterns in the past, the Giants would give him chance after chance after his nice surge, but eventually had to go to another player as Nate was just cold.  Now that his cool off period has ran too long, plus Pagan is having a long cold period, Nate is getting his opportunities.

Bochy, contrary to popular opinion, likes static lineups, where he can write in the same names every day.  However, if a guy isn't hitting, he's going to mix and match.  If Nate had paid any attention the past few years, he would have seen that and realize that Bochy would probably start using him more again after the All-Star break.  He just needed to be patient.

The Giants believe in him, else he wouldn't still be around, unlike Lewis, Frandsen, Bowker, Linden (OK, he came back, but he was gone for a while).  He needs to realize that a MLB hitter can't be cold for an extended period and not get put on notice.  Bochy wants to win, and now.  I like that about him, and that is what changed my mind about him in 2010 down the stretch, you need a manager with that killer attitude to bring in the hardware, which he did in 2010.

This bit of hot hitting will get Nate some more opportunities.  Don't blow them Nate and you will have RF sewn up and Pagan and Blanco would end up sharing CF playing time.  I still believe in his abilities, but this lava hot and arctic cold can't continue if he hopes to start.  I think Bochy told him he wasn't starter's material to rile him up and get him motivated to get to this consistency level he needs to be a starter.  The Giants appear to be reaching the end of their string in terms of Nate as a starter, but he's still very valuable as a 4th OF because he can take over if there is any injury or cold stretch without much downside in production, so I don't see him going anywhere, unless the Giants get a very good deal.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

2012 Giants: June PQS

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

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: BP's Adjusted Standings Show Giants Well

I just ran into Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings report, where they analyzes all team's win/loss record, and adjusts them based on a a variety of factors, such as Pythagorean (they use the Pythangpat's formula however), the Pythagorean using adjusted runs scored (though I wonder why they don't do one with adjusted runs allowed as well), and lastly one adjusted for quality of competition as well as the other adjustment.

Interesting enough, the Giants should be leading, by about 1-2 games, but over the D-backs, not the D-gers.   The D-gers have been playing above their heads and should be close to, if not under, .500, which is where I opined they would be this season.  Of course, it helps that Kemp is out, but they are also being propped up by pitchers doing better than previously.

Of course, the Giants should be above their Pythagorean:  they are currently 4 games over .500 in 1-run games, which most teams regress to zero, but as my research showed, Bochy is the rare manager who can manage a winning record in 1-run games.  So that regression that BP expects with the first order win percentage probably will not happen.

Still, even with all that, the Giants are about where they are expected to be, statistically.  And the D-backs are the real team to be worried about, as they have been underperforming.  I don't know how they are doing it but for the second season in a row, their pitching staff is in shambles the first couple of months, then somehow they regroup, find some new pitchers and start rising up the standings quickly.

They also have playoff odds.  The Giants are currently at 83.5%, best in the NL.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: International Free Agent Signing Day

The Giants made a big splash today by signing two top prospects, Gustavo Cabrera and Natanael Javier.

BA's Announcement on Cabrera, who they ranked #5:
Dominican center fielder Gustavo Cabrera, the fifth-ranked international prospect for July 2, has signed with the Giants for $1.3 million. 
Cabrera, who is 6 feet, 190 pounds, is a 16-year-old righthanded hitter who stands out for his tools and athleticism. Several scouts believe Cabrera has the best tools in Latin America, though his bat is the main question mark. He played in the Dominican Prospect League and trained with Christian Batista, who is known as “Niche.”
ESPN's pre-signing article noted: "Cabrera is a five-tool center fielder who has been evaluated by all MLB clubs, but sources say he agreed to an offer weeks ago and it will be announced next Monday."  Apparently the Giants were the ones who had him eyeballed already.   This sounds almost like the Villalona signing where the Giants had developed the relationship long ago and won the trust of the family.

MLB.com ranked Cabrera #1:
Cabrera has dazzled scouts with his bat speed, hitting mechanics and raw power, but he has also opened eyes with his instincts on the bases. In other words, he can run, too. His all-around speed combined with his aggressive style, strong arm and athletic body have brought about comparisons to Arizona outfielder Justin Upton when he was the same age. 
Cabrera’s prior experience in the United States could prove to be an advantage in his development. Last year, he was named the MVP at the 2011 RBI World Series in Minnesota and also participated in a showcase in Orlando with his trainer. This year, he starred in the Dominican Prospect League and was part of the league’s All-Star travel squad that played exhibition games and participated in showcases at big league sites in Arizona and Florida during Spring Training. 
The biggest knock on Cabrera is the notion that he only has one gear: full speed. He is still harnessing his skills and working on the fine art of playing under control.
BA's note on Javier, who was not in their Top 20 ranking:
The Giants have agreed signed 16-year-old Natanael Javier from the Dominican Republic for $475,000. 
Javier, 16, is a big-framed third baseman at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. A righthanded hitter, Javier was named the MVP of the Dominican Prospect League's PG International Series all-tournament game last month when he went 3-for-3 with a double. He trains with Basilio Vizcaino, who is known as "Cachaza."
MLB.com ranked Javier #11:
Javier comes from a baseball family. The younger brother of Sony Javier, a prospect with Toronto, and the son of Narciso Tapia, a trainer in the Boca Chica area, baseball is in the young prospect’s blood. 
The big third baseman is considered a solid all-around player and is projected to hit for average and power in the future. He has impressed scouts with his large body frame, lean muscle mass and high baseball IQ. He appears to have the perfect body for third base but might have to move to first base if he gets too big to play the position. 
Some believe Javier is second only to Gustavo Cabrera and Wendell Rijo in terms of upside and overall talent. Javier just might have all the tools Major League scouts look for in a prospect, and he has the potential to be a special bat with plus power. 
Trained by Basilio Vizcaino in Santo Domingo, Javier starred in the Dominican Prospect League and was a member of the league’s All-Star travel squad that at big league camps during Spring Training.
Perfect Games had this note on them from May:
The 2012 DPL class is brimming with talent, and six of the top 10 top international prospects (according to PG scouting reports and MLB.com rankings) are expected to be in attendance at this event. They include top-ranked outfielder Gustavo Cabrera, along with shortstops Amaurys Minier, Richard Urena and Frandy De La Rosa; middle-infielder Wandell Rijo and third baseman Nathanael Javier. 
Perfect Game had this to say about Cabrera after DPL prospects performed for scouts in a series of workouts and in several games during a tour of Florida and Arizona in March: 
“Cabrera has a tightly wound athletic body reminiscent of Justin Upton. In fact, Cabrera’s tools at the same age are very reminiscent of Upton’s. He ran the 60 in 6.34 seconds in Arizona and has an explosive first step that enables him to steal bases at will (he had 5 steals in one game in Florida) and the aggressiveness and instincts to use his speed. He throws 90-plus mph from the outfield with a very quick release and his speed will give him well above average range at any outfield position.”
So Perfect Games ranked both in their Top 10 and Gustavo their #1 ranked prospect.


Giants Thoughts

Giants swoop in again and make the big signings, making many fans happy, particularly the prospect hounds, like Shankbone. I feel more comfortable with the Cabrera signing, despite its size and the poor history of top international prospects doing well, because he apparently has played games in some of the top U.S. amateur showcases, as noted in the MLB.com announcement.  That to me would give our scouts better proof points on how his talent compares with other U.S. amateur talents.

The announcement also noted that the Giants spent a total of $1.8M on the two (BA notes exactly ($1.775M).  With a $2.9M cap on spending for all teams, the Giants have $1.125M left to spend on other International free agents.  Given the stat I heard on KNBR today, that 20% of all major leaguers are from the Dominican Republic, the Giants need to be active there and have been, picking up Angel Villalona previously (now playing in the Dominican Summer League) and Rafael Rodriguez (now playing for Augusta and showing some potential there now).

Here is what the announcement said about the two prospects:
From Santo Domingo Norte, Dominican Republic, Cabrera's bat speed, raw power and overall athleticism in the field has brought comparisons to Arizona's Justin Upton. In 2011, Cabrera was named the RBI World Series MVP in Minnesota, and also participated in a showcase in Orlando, Fla. He played in Spring Training exhibition games this year as part of the Dominican Prospect League's All-Star travel squad.
Also from Santo Domingo, the 16-year-old Javier projects as a solid future option at third base. Possessing discipline at the plate, a large body frame and a high baseball IQ, Javier could bypass Chris Dominguez, Conor Gillaspie (Triple-A Fresno) and Adam Duvall (Class A San Jose) as the team's future at third base.

The Giants have always liked players with high baseball IQ.

It was also noted that in future years, the cap will depend on the team's winning percentage and the range will be from $1.7M to $4.8M.  Assuming the Giants will be on the lower end since they should be competitive, they did the right thing to spend so much and dive right in, because they might not have as much spending cap in future years.

Both sound very intriguing and of high potential.  Both appear to have plus power potential and Cabrera appears to have five tools, though his hit tool is most suspect.  Justin Upton appears to be the common comp for Cabrera, bringing a combination of speed and power, plus a great arm.  While Javier got a much lower signing bonus, one noted that he was second only to Cabrera and another player in terms of upside and talent, so that is pretty good, two of the top three players in upside and talent.  And the Giants still have $1.1M to spend on other prospects, so they might not be done yet.

Your 2012 Giants: Epic Addendums

There were other epic-worthy feats this season plus additional info on other ones:
  • Epic:  Shame on me for forgetting, but Melky Cabrera set a San Francisco Giants record for fewest plate appearances in a season to reach 100 hits, beating out Willie Mays for the SF franchise mark.  The Melk-man did it in 291 PA, while the Say Hey Kid did it in 295 PA.  Surprisingly, Rich Aurilia is third with 208 PA (From ESPN article on Giants finding the right puzzle pieces)
  • More Mays Epic:  Melky in May 2012 had 51 hits, which beat Willie Mays SF Giants franchise record for May of 49 hits, plus tied for the most hits in any month, which Randy Winn had set in September 2005 (coincidentally, also his second month with the Giants, like Melky).  Found that from Andy Baggarly of CSN.
  • Near Epic:  had Matt Cain been able to put together 2 shutout innings, the Giants would have tied the franchise record of 38 straight shutout innings, set in 1903 and 1933, which undoubtedly had Christy Mathewson and did have Carl Hubbell, two Giants Hall of Famers, contribute a number of those innings. (Alex Pavlovic of Merc at Giants Extra blog, plus the following ones)  Hubbell contributed 18 shutout innings in the first half of a July 2nd double-header (second game was also a shutout).  Unfortunately, no game by game results available for 1903.  But there were only 8 shutouts credited to the 1903 Giants and the Big Six had 3 of them (Iron Joe McGinnity had 3 of the others), so I would say the odds are pretty good that he was a part of that streak.
  • Additional Epicness:  the Giants are the first team in MLB history to shut out four straight opponents where each opponent (Dodgers and Reds) entered the day in first place.  Though as I noted before here at my blog that records like these are really random and smacks of really stretching to find firsts.   But this one I'm OK with, as that is quite a feat, shutting out a first place team, especially in the middle of the season, when games are starting to become significant in the minds of most players and fans (though I have always felt, and I recently saw a player say this in a quote, might have  been Vogelsong, approrpriately enough given his game face, that the games in April are just as important as the ones in September, as a win is a win, it is just that most people place the emphasis on the games late in the season because they are now more aware of the consequences, at least for the playoff contenders.  But clearly they are important, as many teams fall out of it by now, like the Cubs, Padres, Rockies, Astros, Twins, and Mariners.)
  • Additional Giants Epic:  Madison Bumgarner, with his 1-hit shutout at age 22, became just the fourth Giants pitcher 22 or younger in the live ball era (i.e. since 1920 when the MLB changed the ball plus had umpires change fresh balls for damaged balls) to throw a shutout allowing one hit or fewer.  Mike McCormick had two 3-hit shutouts in 1959 when he was 20 YO (he also had 5 no-hit innings shutout in a rain shortened game).  Juan Marichial had a 1-hit shutout in his first game of his career in 1960, at age 22.  And Matt Cain shutout the A's with a 1-hit shutout in 2006, at age 21, and he had just been skipped in the rotation (and had a relief appearance) to help him get over some issues (and how given the results).  And Cain would have had a 2-hit shutout at age 20 the season before had not one of the hits been a homer, most probably.
Giants Thoughts

Some other non-epic thoughts and stats:

  • I've been following Brandon Belt's struggles with strikeouts and he had a sudden peak of strikeouts in recent games, as his 10-game average fell from a high of 84.4% on June 18, to a low of 70.0% on June 28th, when he struck out 3 times, before rebounding to 76.7% currently, with 9 straight PA's without a strikeout.  His 15-game average is now at 75.6%, falling from his peak of 82.2% on June 23rd, and his 7 game streak at 80% and above that last happened on Jun 27th (that 3 K game costed him).  However, his 20-game average finally reached 80% and currently sits at 80.3%.  His high previously was 79.6% on June 23rd.  He had never reached 80% in his 20-game average ever.
  • With this achievement, I thought I would extend my view of his averages to 30 games.  He would start out his seasons in the low 70's (not that good, 85% is the threshold for good hitters), then fell into the 60's range for a long period, last season, the rest of the season, though he improved at the end of that season in his 10-game average, peaking at 76.7%.  This season, he returned to the 70's on June 19th and has slowly risen since then, peaking at his current 76.2%.  As noted before, he started really showing his changed and improved mechanics in his first homer game on June 12th, but had already been showing great improvement in the prior games, reaching a peak of 71.4% for his 10-game average on June 5th.  
  • And while 85% is the goal he should have ultimately, the most important point right now is when he becomes a productive hitter, and he clearly is a much better and productive hitter in the high 70's to low 80's contact rate, than he is when he is under 70%.
  • I had posted about Pablo Sandoval's recovery from his hamate bone surgery and when his power would return.  I would say that he appears to be coming out it, his 2 double game on June 25th could be the start of his return, in the games since, he has hit .292/.357/.583/.940, with 4 doubles and 1 homer, 5 XBH out of 7 hits, .291 OPS.  The fun stat here is that his BABIP is actually low for his career, only .300 during this stretch of 7 games, so he could get even hotter going forward.  
  • Congrats too, to Panda and Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, and Matt Cain for their All-Star selections.  The three hitters were voted in as starters, which I would note is most probably the first time ever for a Giants starting 3B or C (I did miss the 60's, but from my knowledge of Giants greats, while there may have been All-Stars among them, Bob Brenly comes to mind as a possibility, I don't think we've ever had one voted in as a starter.  Epic :^).
  • Also, lucky for us, but Ryan Vogelsong, who has the 4th best ERA in the National League right now, was not chose to the All-Star game and he vows eternal effort to prove that he belongs, he might just ride that chip on his shoulder onto the Giants Wall of Fame with that attitude and sterling pitching (I think a player can qualify with 5 seasons and at least one All-Star appearance; Ryan made the All-Stars game last season - many viewed it as a Bochy pick not based on merit, hence his chip - and I just realized that they might count the first two seasons he appeared with the Giants, which would give him 4 already out of 5, so maybe I should change that to mean that he can ride that chip to another long-term extension deal after his two year deal ends after next season, maybe even before the 2013 season)
  • Some things to worry about in July.  
  • First off, Gregor Blanco returned to Earth and his April stat line, hitting only .218/.277/.355/.632 in July.  He is like Nate this season, hitting much better against LHP than RHP, with .286/.355/.417/.772 vs. LHP and .228/.327/.359/.686 vs. RHP.   Nate hasn't been Nate the past couple of seasons, hitting better finally against RHP than LHP, but unfortunately, he's been sucking against LHP:  .293/.364/.458/.823 vs. RHP, .103/.152/.207/.358 vs. LHP, in 2012.  I see a smattering of talk of trading Nate, but given this, I actually see more Nate starts coming up regularly.  Particularly given the second factoid that Angel Pagan, after his hot streak, cooled off totally, hitting only .245/.302/.306/.608 in July.  And that is life when you are striking out as much as either have been, their batting average can go from good to bad very quickly.  
  • Not really worrisome but FYI, Joaquin Arias continued to suck as a hitter in June, hitting only .255/.288/.309/.597, despite a very good 89% contact rate and fast feet, his BABIP was only .280 for the month.  Ryan Theriot cooled off but more importantly, continues to get on base, hitting .307/.333/.351/.684 in June.  He also stole 8 bases.  
  • Melky has cooled off to merely good.  He hit .300/.366/.422/.789 in April (.333 BABIP), but a scorching .429/.457/.647/1.104 in May (.475 BABIP), before returning to .304/.343/.441/.784 in June (.329 BABIP).  That is similar to his 2011 season, where his overall BABIP was .332 and his batting line was .305/.339/.470/.809.  His monthly OPS by month in 2011 was .737, .785, .713, .992, .832, and .798.  Still, in today's game, a high 700's OPS is still pretty good.
  • Lastly, Hector Sanchez only hit .222/.216/.250/.466 in June in 10 starts, so this is not a good time to be using him more often in place of Posey.
  • However, Belt has been doing very well, as noted, as well as Buster Posey, hitting .299/.379/.483/.861, plus Sandoval has started heating up as well, earning a move up the lineup.  Our middle offense is still looking good.




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