Monday, August 27, 2012

Your 2012 Giants are 71-57: Houston and Chicago Got Problems

I'm not going to go in-depth on the next two series because both teams have got a lot of problems winning games (Houston is 6-24 in their last 30 games - and 4-16 at home - Chicago 9-21 in last 30 games- though 11-9 at home in their last 20 games there).  Basically, the Giants ideally need to go 4-2 in the six games, because they will be headed into tough series against NL West teams for the rest of the season.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wicked Witch of the West: The Empire Returns

Wow, Boston and LA pulled off the huge trade. as reported by MLB Trade Rumors:  LA receives Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto for James Loney and four prospects, Rubby de la Rosa, Alan Webster, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands.   Apparently Toronto screwed with the deal by claiming Rubby, so he was pulled off waivers and will be traded as a player to be named later in the off-season to complete the trade.  MLB Trade Rumors also provided their take on the prospects.

They also followed up with a post on future obligations.  $189M in 2013 and that does not include arbitration eligible players or pre-arb players (in particular, Clayton Kershaw).   Wow, all the talk about Yankees West appears to be coming true.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your 2012 Giants are 69-55: Chopping the Braves

The Giants get to face the Braves for four at home, which is good since they are potentially one of the teams we are battling for a wild card spot, should the dastardly D-dogs leap ahead of us again in the standings.  But it is for four games, so the Giants will need to continue to step up and take the series if they hope to win the division title and avoid the difficulties that being a wild card now engenders.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Your 2012 Giants are 66-55: Downward Dog Position

I haven't done this in a long while, but Richard from Canada mentioned his wish for my daily notes at another site.  I assume he meant the post I used to do covering each series, which I'm doing here.  I can't promise to do this consistently for the rest of the season but for the D-gers series, I can man up for it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Melk-down Rallying Point?

Wow, very interesting article in the Chronicle by John Shea about how the Giants players are almost uniformly UNSUPPORTIVE of Melky's blunder:

Hardly a soul in the Giants' clubhouse expressed support for Melky Cabrera. Several players were given an opportunity to voice an opinion on their tainted teammate, and they didn't line up to say they'll have Cabrera's back during his 50-game suspension.

Players such as Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence said little more than it's time to move on. Others such as Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum made brief comments but politely refused to answer pressing questions. Others simply stayed in areas off limits to the media, knowing some things are better left unsaid.

It was a sign Cabrera no longer is welcomed in the clubhouse, a sign he won't wear a Giants uniform again. If the players (along with many fans) don't rally around the All-Star MVP, management certainly can't.

... After Cabrera's positive drug test, [the fans] felt cheated. So, apparently, did the players.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: The Melky Aftermath: Survalist Mode

Brian Sabean was interviewed today (transcript of highlights via Schulman).  First the news about roster moves.  Justin Christian was brought up to take Melky's roster spot as 4th OF and Eric Hacker to take Brad Penny's spot (I guess Otero is back down too) as long reliever.  Here is the interview parts with my comments, as I usually do it.

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. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Key Series Vs. Nats

This is a key series, not just because the Nats are the best team in the majors right now, not just because they swept us in DC, not just because we might end up facing them in the playoffs and thus need to show we can take them on, but also because the Dodgers are facing a tough stretch, playing the Pirates and Braves on the road for seven games, both good teams and tough series to win, and thus we want to put more distance between us and them, and that starts with us winning the series against the Nats plus then needing to beat the Padres in SD, which is harder since they have been hot lately.

Especially since after these two series, the Giants face the Dodgers for 3 in LA right after that, and they will be wanting to beat us and retake the NL West division lead.  Put enough games between us, and they will have a harder time doing that, but with a slim 1 game lead, that disappears with a Dodger's series win, 2-1.  Luckily, the Giants will be the rested team in LA, a short trip from SD the day before, while LA will be flying the red-eye from Atlanta to LA after their series, so that hopefully will help us out with beating LA in LA, as the Giants will be more like the home team than road team, in terms of rest.

This is also key because the Giants new offense will be on display with Pablo Sandoval's return to the lineup, and up against the Nats three best starters, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, and Strasburg, while the Giants throw out Vogelsong, Bumgarner, Lincecum.  Seems like Bochy has scheduled the rotation just right for this series, Vogie has been our best and most consistent starter this season, Bumgarner has been arguably one of our best starters, and Lincecum has returned, thus far, to his prior goodness, and been the best pitcher among himself, Cain, and Zito since the All-Star break.

ogc Lineup Thoughts With Pablo Returning

I had written the other day that I would reduce my respect for Bochy if he batted Pence 6th, but I'm coming to the realization that batting Pence 6th is more a result of our luxury of having so many good hitters to put in the lineup, than any deficiency in Bochy's thinking.  So I was wrong there, I believe now.

With the way Scutaro has been hitting for us in the 2-hole, particularly given his skills in making contact and avoiding strikeouts, and being able to extend the AB, it would be a shame to take him out of that spot.  On top of that, Cabrera has been great batting third for us, and Bochy don't like to move hitters having success in a certain spot in the lineup.  Yet, at the same time, Cabrera has batted in the 2-hole a lot in the past two years and been successful there as well.

So, Pagan/Scutaro/Cabrera/Posey/Pence/Sandoval or Pagan/Cabrera/Sandoval/Posey/Pence/Scutaro or Belt, that's a great problem to have.

Back to the Future Offense?

On top of this, Belt has been hitting very well in terms of both contact (that is, avoiding strikeouts) and putting up a nice batting line, so with Pablo returning to the lineup, it is possible that we are adding two middle of lineup bats in Belt and Pablo, to the trio of Cabrera, Posey, and Pence, which has the potential to set off the fireworks for our offense for the rest of the season, once Pablo gets his bat back to normal. 

And that should greatly appeal to the offense-minded fans that still make up a large percentage of Giants fans.   If all the hitters are doing what we think they are capable of, we could have an offense as good as or better than the great Giants offenses led by Bonds and Kent in the early 2000's, especially the ones with Burks.  I know that sounds like hyperbole, but think about how well the offense has been on the road, especially after we added Pence to the lineup (and he really hasn't started hitting yet, like he could), then adding a Kung Fu Panda bat plus a Belt finally arriving bat, and that would make our offense very high octane, I believe.

Of course, if Pablo needs a while to get his bat back or Belt loses his mojo again or Cabrera and/or Posey finally cools off too much or Pence never takes off, then the offense will be more reminiscent of recent poor offenses than of Bonds/Kent era offense, but if the bats are all producing like their potential, we at least can dream about it, which is something we probably haven't been able to do since 2002 ended on a down note. 

Naysayers Losing Grasp of Their Last Strands of Their Stance

I find this to be a very exciting time to be a Giants fan. It is also a time where the Sabean Naysayers last vestiage of semi-rational Sabean hatred should be falling away.

First they said that Sabean couldn't build a team, that he was lucky that Bonds made up for all his errors along the way. They held onto that for a long time, almost from when he became GM to 2009 when Lincecum and Cain started wowing everyone, and particularly after Bumgarner showed his mettle in 2010, and put the final nail into that idea with Vogelsong's emergence, as Sabean found cheap parts in Casilla, Lopez, Ramirez, Vogelsong, to fill in the pitching staff.  And this took them a while to see, even though it was clear that back in 2007, when the Giants said good-bye to Bonds, that the Giants future was all about pitching, pitching, and more pitching (which was my reply to a media reporter's question of what is next for the Giants after Bonds, as it was not so clear to that reporter). 

So thus they finally admit that Sabean can indeed build up a good pitching staff, and particularly a good pitching rotation, but still they think that he doesn't know how to build an offense.


And actually, even that has not really been that true for us observers who could see into the future based on the players the Giants had in their farm system.   It was already promising once Pablo was producing in the majors and Posey clearly was a major leaguer hitter, even in the minors, in 2009.  Then particularly in 2010, as Posey showed that he belonged among the elite hitters.  Also, the drafting of Brown gave us a nice potential leadoff guy and Belt's charge up the minor leagues to shock and awe the prospect hounds, gave us four guys now to envision as the core of our lineup going forward, as early as late in the 2010 season, with Posey and Belt hitting well, and the signing of Brown.  But I understand why the doubts continued, just wanted to point out that the future was already seeable early on to those without blinders on.

Today, the Giants control Posey, Sandoval, Pence, Belt into at least 2013, and Pence is amenable to a long term deal while the Giants said that both he and Cabrera can be fit into the budget in 2013 and beyond.   Brown is handling AA just fine now, after a long period of adjustment, and still look on target to join the Giants in the 2013-14 time period as our long awaited - since Brett Butler - lead-off CF who can hit, get on base, steal a lot of bases, and play great defense.  He also has the potential to hit for good power as well, which I find to be a great potential bonus. 

That's a very good number of hitters who are potentially under control for the long-term, even more so if the Giants are able to sign Cabrera to a long-term deal this off-season. 

Posey, Sandoval, Pence makes a great middle lineup by themselves.  If we can add Cabrera, he would be a great #2 hitter for us and #3 on the days Posey is out of the lineup, as everyone moves down.  If Belt finally figures out how to be consistently good in 2013 - and he might have just done that, albeit small samples for now - he would also be a middle lineup capable hitter who can hit 2nd or 6th equally well, and if he can do that, we could afford to make Cabrera our leadoff guy in 2013, until Brown is ready do take over the leadoff spot. 

On top of that, we have a number of prospects who potentially could add to this bounty of offense.  Panik is another hitter who looks good for top of the lineup, particularly #2, and he could play 2B or SS, as necessary.  In addition, Noonan is having a breakout year as his skills developed the way some of us hoped, recognizing that his age relative to the league has put him in a big disadvantage all these years.  He is also a middle infielder, and could slot nicely in the #2 spot as well, so that gives us a lot of risk mitigation regarding 2B long-term, plus SS too.

And we could move a lot of pieces around as well.  Posey could move to 1B, but I think that he could be doable in LF should the need comes, should Hector prove capable as a starting catcher.  Plus, there is Andrew Susac as well, as a potential starting C.   Pablo could also play 1B, but right now the only 3B who might come up is Duvall, who has a lot of power, but not a lot of other qualities, so he's a long-shot right now.  So Sandoval looks like our 3B for the foreseeable future.  That's the infield, pretty much set.

The outfield has moving pieces as well, but not as many, hence all the trades Sabean made.  Belt is known for his great defense at 1B but all the defensive metrics rated him just as good in LF in 2011, despite that being his first time in the pros playing there, so I think he would be fine in LF should the need ever arises.  Kieschnick had a nice season in AAA this year until his season-ending injury, and unfortunately, that has been his bugaboo in his career, the injury bug, much like Nate.  But with Pence potentially around long-term, we can wait and see how he turns out.  And, of course, Brown looks like he could provide at least average production in CF just from his defense there, with his offense being a potential plus, much like Crawford.  And if Pence and/or Cabrera can be signed long-term, our OF looks set as well. 

All in all, the Giants offense really is looking good, and hopefully soon, will take away the Naysayers last complaint about team building, though they will always have free agency signings as their flaw to point out.

But when he can build a team like this, I think that would just be picky. 

And the future still looks good.  Beyond all the lineup long-term, we have Cain and Bumgarner signed long-term, and I have to believe that Lincecum wouldn't want to leave what he got here.   Vogelsong looks like he can last a good number of years, and in any case, being a back of rotation guy, don't really have to produce so much to be valuable for us in the back.  And at some point when one of them is injured or non-productive, someone among Heston, Kickham, Crick, Blackburn, Stratton, Agosta should be ready to ascend to the major league rotation, if not someone out of the blue, as has happened before for the pitching.  And there is still Surkamp, assuming he recovers from his injury (though he has been injury prone for good parts of his career, that has slowed down his development). 

This is good times for the Giants and their fans.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How Much for the Melk?

I was going to tackle this topic, but with the news that the Giants and Melky's reps agreed to table any extension talks until after the season, it didn't seem worth the exercise anymore.  However, someone at Fangraphs posted their analysis on this and I thought I would refer to the post and list some of its conclusions with my thoughts.
That gives us a four-year, $46.2 million deal for Cabrera. And Assuming Cabrera demands five years, we can add in the final year on Rios’ deal, giving us a five-year, $58.7 million deal. Either way, Cabrera will make slightly over $10 million per season. 
Going back to Gordon’s deal, this actually makes sense. Gordon is our most recent comparison and he only made $37.5 million over four years. But since Melky will hit the market, he’ll likely command a larger salary. It looks like anywhere between $45 million to $60 million is what it’s going to take to sign Cabrera.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Closer by Committee (or Moving Back One Inning?)

Wow, changes were even more drastic than I originally thought.  As reported by all the usual suspects in the SF Bay Area media (here's Schulman's since he originally broke the implications of Affeldt closing first), Santiago Casilla is out as part of the closer by committee scheme that was the apparently impetus for Schulman's spot-on speculation that the Mijares move was tied to having Affeldt being put in closing situations.

The reasoning is still the same, that blister issues is affecting Casilla's effectiveness, but his issues apparently are worse than initially mentioned because he warmed up early in yesterday's game (7th) and was almost immediately shut down due to the blister issue.  I would guess that maybe once he gets healthy, he'll be moved into a more prominent role, but for now, they are resting him as much as possible without DLing him so that he can get healthy while still being available occasionally for bullpen duties.

Instead, for the closer-by-committee scheme, Bochy will now mix and match Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, and Javier Lopez in the 8th and 9th, with Casilla, Hensley, Kontos, Penny, Mijares handling 6th and 7th, mostly (though clearly getting some late game work, for Penny was seen warming up in last night's game in the 9th).  They say (that is, Affeldt spoke for everyone) that once Bochy explained things, they understood their roles and is behind this closer by committee situation (even though Affeldt had said at the start of this season that he wasn't sure how it works).

The way it works is by matchups, so depending on who is coming up, Bochy might use Romo first one night, Affeldt first another night, Lopez first on some nights, and the mix and matching begins.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Mystery of Mijares

The Giants were awarded Jose Mijares, handy and productive LOOGY, formerly of the KC Royals (Schulman).  Hank posited that this was related to a move to a closer by committee situation, and he was spot on, as the Giants reported that with Santiago Casilla's blister problem affecting his performance previously, they need to use him more sparingly, in order not to cause the blister to return, so they are going to start using Jeremy Affeldt more often in the closer role.

The curious part of this transaction is that the Royals just handed him over to the Giants, no prospects asked for, and further, none of the teams ahead of the Giants (first all of AL, then NL teams with worse records, which is most of the NL) laid any claim on him first.  So the question is:  what's wrong with Mijares that none of these 20 teams didn't lay claim on him?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Living in the Shadow of Dan Ortmeier

Could not resist this title.  In one of his first interviews, as reported by Alex Pavlovic at his newspaper's blog,  Hunter Pence was told that he was not the first UT-Arlington alum to wear the Giants uni.  Pence then noted:
“Yeah, Daniel Ortmeier, I always knew of him because I was always in his shadow at UTA. I came right after him and played his position.”
Giants Thoughts

Wow, talk about two players who could not have two much different careers in the majors, but their college performances still gave some hint of that.

Their stats in their last college season are interesting (Pence; Ortmeier):

Ortmeier in his last college season, age 21, he hit .341/.395/.644/1.039 with 13 HR in 208 AB, .347 BABIP, 84.6% contact rate, 303 ISO in 2002.

Pence in his last college season, age 21, he hit .395/.441/.616/1.057 with 8 HR in 190 AB, .414 BABIP, 87.9% contact rate, 221 ISO in 2004.

Both were amazingly similar in OPS, but the other numbers showed the difference between the two.  Pence was clearly in the good contact rate, whereas Ortmeier was just short of the 85% minimum (and, of course, that is for the majors, so who knows what the minimum is for college) you want to see in the majors.  Ortmeier's BABIP was so good but Pence's BABIP was just so much better, showing how he made better contact than Ortmeier, as well as making contact more often.  Ortmeier was better in terms of HRs, monstrously better - 303 ISO vs. 221 ISO, which is still pretty good - but clearly, based on their careers, that didn't matter much.

From what I're read about Pence, he's kind of like in the mode of a Sandoval-type hitter, where he is very awkward, with his big body, and yet somehow he knows how to hit.  Maybe that can be a good role model for Belt to observe and get comfortable with his mechanics.

Now for A Completely Different Player

Different college leagues, but thought I would throw this out as well:

Gary Brown in his last college season, age 21, he hit .438/.468/.695/1.164 with 6 HR in 210 AB, .430 BABIP, 94.3% contact rate, 257 ISO in 2010.

There are many things I still like about Brown.  First and foremost has been his history of struggling in a league and figuring things out eventually.  He did that in Advanced A last season, mid-season, and after struggling for most of 2012, he has been stinging the ball the past month or so.  I also like the fact that he's not satisfied with just getting on base, just so that he can steal a base, he wants to hit for power as well.  Obviously drank from the pool of Ted Williams Science of Hitting philosophy.

And to those who say he didn't, because of his low walks, I would note that I examined the tradeoff between his batting line in his last season in college and, instead, changing 5 PA to 5 walks, and the value of hit hitting outweighted that of the five walks, meaning that he did the correct thing of hitting when the pitches were there for him to hit it well with contact.  And the ultimate thing a leadoff hitter should concentrate on is getting on base, and whether he's mastered a league or struggling mightily to buy a hit, he has always had a high OBP in any full season play, and he appears poised to do that again this year, despite his poor first two months of hitting.

I like that he is as fast as any left-handed hitter in getting to firstbase on a grounder, a testament to his speed because he is a right-handed hitter.  That means he has extra speed, making him elite.  I like that he took to CF easily and quickly, after playimg MI in high school, and with that speed he would be a good patroller of AT&T CF.   We need a good defensive player in CF because of Death Valley, but he's also shaping up to be a good offensive player, capable of actually being a good leadoff hitter for us.

Here is his progression by month (from FirstInning):

April:  .227/.330/.284/.614  .274 BABIP  57 ISO  50% GB 20% LD 30% FB .289 wOBA
May :  .258/.311/.317/.629  .300 BABIP  59 ISO  51% GB 17% LD 32% FB .284 wOBA
June :  .284/.355/.404/.759  .312 BABIP  120 ISO 41% GB 17% LD 42% FB .340 wOBA
July  :  .355/.386/.573/.959  .392 BABIP  218 ISO 37% GB 24% LD 39% FB .403 wOBA

As you can see, struggled first two months, but in June, starting hitting more flyballs than ground balls, and putting up a good month offensively, boosting his batting overall, then really started bashing the balls in July, pushing his offense into the elite range.   He should make AAA next season and, if Blanco falters as the CF during the season at any point, he probably will get the call up and see how he does.  Otherwise, 2014 looks like when he'll likely get elevated to the majors for extended time.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

2012 Giants: July PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 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 recommend buying their older books via their website to read up on this methodology and concept). 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).

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Hunter Pence Trade

Sorry I'm late on this, but I was offsite at work and then travelling back, stuck in the airport, when all this happened, not getting back home until 2AM.  Here are reports from Baggs, Hank, Pavlovic, and Haft.  Also, there is an interesting backstory on the Giants pursuit of Pence by CSN Bay Area's Rael Enteen and one by Schulman.

The deal is the Giants get Hunter Pence and cash (but not that much, I recall one report noting $2M total for both Scutaro and Pence, so maybe a $1M?) for Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph, and Seth Rosin.

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