Thursday, December 12, 2013

Your 2014 Giants: Mike Morse Signed to Play LF

As reported by the usual suspects, Mike Morse has been signed by the Giants.  I've seen one report for $5M plus incentives, another for $6M.  He has been named the starting LF, apparently that had to be promised to him in order to get him to ignore a larger money deal with Astros.

He had a down season in 2013 after a strong three years 2010-2012, and thus the worries, plus he has missed a lot of games due to health issues, only putting in one season where he played most of the games, in 2011.

ogc thoughts

Some are complaining that he's not much of an improvement over Blanco, that their WAR production is similar.  Signing a free agent is not always about improving on what you got already. In this case, the Giants have almost zero depth in the OF, with Perez, Kieschnick, and Brown as the most likely call-ups, and none of them looking particularly good as a starter. By getting a player like Morse, now they have better coverage should Pagan (or Morse) be felled by injury, with Blanco taking over in that case. Last season, instead, Torres came in and sucked.  I think that is a major reason for the signing, providing additional depth.

In any case, since there is no agreement on which defensive metric is the best one or even the correct one, while I would agree that comparing players as to who is better is fine, to try to measure exactly who is better and calculating a WAR to compare is equivalent to the old-timers who still love to use BA to compare hitters.  That degree of lack of alignment to true value makes it hard to say anything definitive in either case.

And there is an improvement over Blanco in that Morse has amazingly even splits versus LHP and RHP, whereas Blanco is clearly a platoon player, unable to figure out LHP yet.  People forget how much platoon players cost your lineup when they are in there and sucking badly. Morse is someone who can hit either pitcher similarly well.  On top of that, he has actually hit better on the road than at home, suggesting that his numbers have been suppressed by his home park (though with AT&T, he'll probably be suppressed again)

In addition, the Giants seem to have some success working with guys who have historically been poor defenders in the OF and getting some improvement. Burrell and Huff playing much better than expected in the OF and in fact turned in positive WAR, a total 180 degree turn. I assume they hope to do the same with Morse, which would improve on his WAR/600 greatly if, say, they can turn a strongly negative player to positive, as they did with those two, until health affected both. I think Pence too had a turnaround as well, at least in UZR.  

Furthermore, he also can get some help out in LF.  Pagan is pretty speedy and could shade towards LF to help Morse out. And Blanco can and probably will come in the late innings and help reduce that negative fielding issue, Bochy has done that before in the past.

Also, Morse was once athletic enough that his team put him at SS, roughly 50 games. He is much older now and is a huge guy, but he's also never really had that much experience with playing LF, and as they say, practice makes perfect. Maybe the Giants puts him through a lot of extra drills in spring training to prepare him better to play LF than the Nats did. Again, they have had success turning water buffaloes into good fielders in the OF.

Depth is also important should the Giants make it into the World Series again.  NL teams normally are at a disadvantage with the DH in AL home parks.  But as long as Morse is healthy and productive in the fall, recovering from whatever injuries he may have during the season, Blanco can start in LF and he could be the DH, neutralizing the AL advantage for a good part.

Lastly, for $5M, they might pick up 20-30 homers to their lineup.  Plus, at $5M, you expect some warts to come with the player, it is a high risk, high reward type of situation.  Yes, his defense and chronic healthy issues are things to worry about, but there are positives as well in his power and resultant high OPS.

It's not like I'm in love with the move, but I see the positives of the move for the Giants, and there are areas where they can help tilt the balance towards the Giants favor. Unlike many others, I was OK with Blanco/Perez in LF, but improving our OF depth helps mitigate the risks of either an injury or poor performance by one of the outfielders, plus Morse could man 1B should anything happens to Belt for some reason (hey, weirder things can happen, see Kendry Morales).  Yes, he might get injured, but if they can keep him on the field, imagine him repeating 2011 with better fielding due to the Giants defensive magic.  Overall, I think it improves the Giants and helps move the bar towards the Giants making the playoffs again.
That solidifies the bench further.  Now it's Hanchez, Arias, Abreu/Adrianza, and Blanco, leaving one spot open for Juan Perez, Brett Pill, and Kieschnick to battle for, plus any minor league invites that goes out.

5 comments:

  1. I think it's a win-win for the Giants, especially since NO YOUNG GUNS were traded away!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Latest news, care of Baggs, is that Morse signed for $6M plus up to $3M in incentives based on games played.

    Also, apparently the Giants are trying to work out a trade to open up a 40 man roster spot. Baggs noted Pill as the most likely suspect, since he has a similar skill set as Morse, but I disagree. Morse has a long history of injury, so they should then keep around his most likely replacement, since there is no one else close, maybe Duvall or Villalona if they have a great start to 2014, but that is a big if.

    To me, the most likely is Abreu, given that we have Adrianza, who we would lose if we do not keep him on the 25 man roster. They are going to lose one of the two at some point, why not now when there is a need for the spot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. ogc,

    Great to see you making regular posts again. I had stopped coming by because it had been so long since there was something new. Keep it up!

    I would add a comment about Aubrey Huff. His success in 2010 was no accident or stroke of luck, nor was his crash in 2011. Huff got himself into tremendous shape before the 2010 season and was darn near a 5 tool player that year! Whether the Giants knew that when they signed him or not might be debatable, but I suspect they knew. He then partied all offseason after the World Series and came back in 2011 all bloated and chunky again. You had to know what was coming just taking one look at him!

    Anyway, it might have been less that the Giants found a way to use a bad fielder than that he actually was a good fielder in 2010, then regressed back to being a bad fielder in 2011.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, but 8 posts in roughly a month that is one every four days, i would not evaluate that as "so long" since I last posted. I posted every less during the season I think.

    That is a very good point about his 2010 season, I had forgotten that fact. In spring, whan a former coach of his was asked about Huff, he said that Huff got into great shape and was ready to perform.

    I would also add that my analysis of his prior season showed that he was also suffering from a lot of bad BABIP luck, as his strikeout rate was still pretty good, as well as his walk rate. He was bound for some sort of rebound.

    Still, per your point, it was his being in much better shape that probably contributed to his better fielding in the OF that year. So he is not a good example of that.

    Still, Burrell and Pence had some improvement, plus Giants FO personnel have noted their defensive positioning analysis, plus pitchers pitching to certain parts of plate for hitters, help fielders be in the right position for each hitter, I do expect some improvement in Morses fielding stats over his horrific rates before.

    ReplyDelete

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