Monday, February 03, 2014

Your 2014 Giants FanFeast

The Giants had their annual FanFest and Baggerly, Schulman, Pavlovic, and Haft posted good bits of info (I would just link, but some spread it out over a number of posts, so find their links to the right if you don't already have them bookmarked, THE sources to go to for comprehensive Giants info).

ogc thoughts

Thought I would go around the diamond, in baseball order.

Starting Pitching

For the starting pitching, as I noted in the other post, Lincecum wants to learn from Hudson.  I forgot to add that Hudson when he signed said that he wanted to share stuff with his new teammates.  A match made in heaven, as Lincecum wants to learn Hudson's sinker plus pick his brain on how to pitch when you don't have your best stuff.  It was reported that since Hudson is also shorter like Lincecum, he has gone through similar issues as Lincecum and can help guide him with his experiences.

Hudson was also reported to be fine physically, with his ankle healing up well, as expected.  I would remind that the Giants training staff did a great job with Posey's ankle rehab.   Sabean also mentioned that Hudson's arm is fine, and, in fact, with the extra rest he got while on the DL for the busted ankle (he missed all of August and September plus no post season games), his arm will be well rested for 2014.

Hudson is looking good to me for returning to his prior goodness, for as poor as his ERA was in 2013, his peripherals were very similar to what he did in 2011 when his ERA was 3.22, as his FIP was 3.46 in 2013, very close to the 3.39 FIP he had in 2011.  Plus, I would note that he's now pitching in SF, which is again a pitcher's park and he's pitching for the Giants, which has, for a number of years as a staff, been able to suppress their HR/FB ratio below the mean regression sabers use of 10%.

Sabean noted that the Giants were not going to add another starter, that they don't have the flexibility that other teams have, and that teams normally don't sign more than five starters unless they are flush with cash (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, the Bridegrooms of LA who has been operating like they have unlimited cash).

The beat writers keep on harping about the lack of pitching depth that hit the Giants last season, and I hate that they go for the negative headline so much, I think that is as much to blame for that segment of the Giants fanbase being so down in the dumps about Sabean as anything.  They forget that last season the Giants had only Gaudin as a valid backup then had to rush up Kickham and Surkamp plus acquire Moscoso before turning to Petit who did a great job as well as Gaudin, while this season they have Petit and Escobar, and potentially at least one of Crick, Blackburn (my bet), Mejia, and Blach.  That's an improvement, in my view, even if Sabean cautions that the Giants don't have confidence in the starting pitching depth yet until spring training (that's the negative headline) but that relates more to seeing how well Escobar and Kickham pitches in spring training, I believe.  I expect to hear good word on Escobar, Sabean has been selling him all off-season.  We have a lot of young arms getting really close to the majors, and even though many will wash out, with so many, some should be productive at some point and contribute big time.

Furthermore, how many teams have two pitchers in reserve who can come up and do as well as Gaudin and Petit did, without trading for help?  How often has the Giants had more than one starting pitcher struggling in recent seasons?  If you want to harp on anything, a team will always have some weakness somewhere you can attack if you want to, even the Yankees and Dodgers.  I personally do not find that very productive, other than to note that area.

Stressing the need to have "depth" skips over the more major issue being that if that many starting pitching are struggling, your season is pretty much toast anyway, so why try to prop up the mess of a season with more depth or wasting prospects in trade to improve things?  Frankly, as I've discussed before, a team should either compete or sink the season, being in the middle is just being mediocre because then you don't get a great draft pick.

Having "depth" don't do much if you lost one of your ace starters, which is a strength of the prototypical successful Giants team, and replacing him with "depth", because if that depth was that good in the first place, he would have been in the rotation already.  For example, the Dodgers is part of the reason driving this "depth" issue, but if they lost Kershaw, no way in heck will they be able to truly replace him in their rotation with "depth", and the Giants, having three ace level starters in Cain, Bumgarner, Hudson, can't really hope to have "depth" to truly replace them either.

And depth, for the Giants going forward, will take on the 2010 model, which is having young prospects on the verge, and that's really how the Giants have been doing it, taking on less depth in an area when they have young prospects soon on the verge, and pitching is one of the areas this season (previously, the Giants left space at 3B for Frandsen, OF for Bowker, Kieschnick, Peguero, among others, for examples).  Bumgarner in 2010, Escobar in 2014, Crick, Blackburn, Mejia, Blach in the 2014-2015 time frame, Stratton and Agosta in the 2015-2017 time frame, plus others, is how I see it.

And the Giants appear to continually to be on the lookout for free agents who might be able to help, whether more experienced like Gaudin (or Willis) or those on the edge, like Petit (or Boof), so I expect that to continue.  I'm satisfied with the Giants efforts here, no need to throw more money in this area, as some of the beat writers have been agitating for by bringing up, for example, Bronson Arroyo.  I see injury and poor performance as an opportunity for our young pitching prospects to come up and see what they can do.

And speaking of said young pitching prospects, one of the beat writers wrote suggesting that the Giants might soon be trading away that surplus.  Well, yes and no.  The Giants have historically kept a "do not trade" list and, of course, we don't know who is on that list (and this list hasn't been mentioned for a long time now publicly), but what we do know is that over Sabean's tenure, his list of keepers (which now include Ortiz, Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, Sanchez, Bumgarner) is a pretty sterling list by itself and particularly good when compared to the list of pitching prospects lost in trade or given up on, which currently amounts to Foulke, Howry, Liriano, Torres, Correia, Williams, Villaneuva, Grilli, Aardsma, and Wheeler (and Vogelsong ended back up with us, long after the trade).  So we don't know who is even available in trade, he could hold onto all of them, he could surprise and start trading a bunch of them.  Let's just say that betting against Sabean when he trades a pitching prospect is usually not a good proposition, as a national writer once wrote about around the time of the annual amateur draft.


The Giants have been carrying seven spots and as a result, with Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla signed, plus Petit being the front-runner for the long-relief position (he has been mentioned in post-season interviews, but I assume he is only viewed as the incumbent and will need to battle other starters like Kickham, Huff, and others to keep the spot), that leaves only two bullpen spots.  The guys probably most in the mix for that are Machi, Kontos, and Hembree, plus an outside chance for the guys invited to spring training, like Cordier, De Paula, and Huff.

Sabean had already noted Hembree in the post-season interviews he did right afterward, but the new name he put out at FanFest is Derek Law, who in the post-season, sparkled in his AFL stint, after dominating at Augusta and San Jose.  He had a 45.0 (!!!) K/BB ratio in San Jose as well as a 15.8 K/9, both signs to me that he probably should come up to the majors eventually, that kind of dominance is striking to me.  And overall for the season, he has 102 K's and only 12 walks, for a great 8.50 K/BB ratio.  Plus in the AFL, he struck out 16 in 12.2 IP while walking 6, a good 2.67 K/BB.

Sabean also noted that if an interesting reliever is available on the cheap, they might sign him.  But at this point, if anything was going to happen, I would have thought it would have happened already.   Maybe once we get into spring training and some guys get desperate.

Also, not sure where he fits in, as he would probably start out in the minors should the Giants sign him, but there is talk that the Giants are looking into signing Suk-Min Yoon, considered the second best Korean pitcher over the recent past, after the Dodger's Ryu, and Yoon is only 27 YO.  Yoon won the 2011 MVP award, but for some reason, even though he wants to be a starter in the majors, he was used as a reliever last season.  Scott Boras is his agent, though, and he noted that Yoon doesn't have that great an arm, but could be a good pitcher like Lohse.


The news here is that Posey has added on, like, 10 pounds of muscle.  The talk in the early part of the off-season was his stated need to improve his conditioning so that his strength lasts longer and deeper into the season, as he clearly lost his power sometime in the second half.  He reiterated that again, not as an excuse, but as something he felt he needed to do for this season, and this ties in with the Giants stating that they are giving Posey as many days at 1B anymore, as the Giants want to play Belt there full-time in 2014, meaning that when Posey gets a rest from catching, he will get a full rest on the bench and not play 1B as much.  The are probably shooting for 140 starts at C plus some at DH.

That was the worry about Posey from his minor league days, that he would not physically hold up over a MLB season catching.  They only started him a little over 100 games catching in 2010, including minor league games, during the season (plus obviously the playoffs) and his stats did go down right around after the 100 start mark and he also noted that he really needed the breather between the regular season and the playoffs, and of course his 2011 season was cut short, so he had a lot of rest going into 2012, where he excelled in the second half.  So 2013 was his first real full MLB season, and while he was able to hit well all season long, his power dissipated sometime in the second half, and that helped to cripple our already damaged offense.  I expect much better results offensively from him in 2014.


Great news here with regards to Belt.  Even though he and the Giants are far apart in the arbitration salary figures, both sides agree that figuring out a contract before the arbitration is a slam dunk.  And Belt noted that even if it came to that, he knows what his areas of weakness are, so he wouldn't be hurt by what is said in the arbitration hearing.

Plus, the Giants noted that then talks of an extension is part of their plans, which I've been agitating for all off-season, as I think he's ready to break out, so we need to sign him up soon before his price goes way up (if not already, he actually did very well last season offensively).  He has four arbitration years and hopefully we can control him for at least 1-2 of his free agent years, with team options, like we did with Bumgarner.  Since both sides appears nonplussed about the wide difference in salary figures, I'm hoping that is a sign that an extension will be easily negotiated as well.  And I expect a breakout from Belt in 2014, as he'll be utilizing his new grip all season long (he hit extremely well, Votto-like, after changing his grip).


Scutaro is reported to be fine on his two health fronts.  He has been doing exercises to build up his core so that he will not have as much problems with his back going forward.  That has been a chronic problem for him throughout his career, caused by him having uneven leg lengths, requiring, basically, a special shoe that evens things up for him.  I thought that discovery in early 2013 season would help him a lot, but I guess the Giants don't want to minimize the odds of losing him again due to that issue.

His pinkie finger is also reported to be fine and pain-free.  A pin was inserted after the season, and while his finger will never be straight again, it is fine now for baseball.  The reports I read last season was that it was affecting his hitting.  I expect to see him rest more often because of his age, giving more starts to the MIs on the bench.


Also great news here with regards to Panda.  As he has twittered, he has been losing weight on his own in his homeland Venezuela.  The trainer said he looks good in the Twitter-pics but reserves judgement until seeing him in person.  Sabean noted that the Giants were impressed that Pablo was able to lose weight, not only on his own, but while visiting home, where the temptations exists that normally lead him to gain a lot of weight, and that was part of the calculus in why the Giants have said that, once they see him with their own eyes in spring training and verify how well he has done on his own, they would be interested in trying to sign him to a long-term extension.  I hope this get done too, along with Belt's, I would expect to see Belt first, then Pablo, as Pablo's would probably be the harder negotiation.  I'm expecting him to hit like he did in 2011 as well as field as well, both of which could lead to an MVP level season.


In a nice snippet of an interview by Amy Guiterrez, Sabean noted that Crawford is the guy Sabes is looking for to break out in 2014.  Sabean said that Brandon gets the type of hitter he can be and Sabean feels that he could learn from his ups and downs and break out, which would extend our lineup even further.  Crawford's great hitting in early 2013 season showed the impact that he could provide if he hits like that all the time.  Also, Bochy noted that he liked the way Brandon handled the bat and would not hesitate to bat him second in the lineup when Scutaro is getting a rest.


Of course, Morse is the full-time starting leftfielder, as the Giants have been saying during the off-season, not the platoon as many other baseball outlets have been saying.  That means that Blanco is our full-time fourth outfielder in 2014 and first line replacement should anything happens to anybody.  Bochy noted that Blanco can expect to see a lot of playing time still, as he will be replacing Morse for defensive purposes late in games (just like what Bochy did with Bonds and with Burrell when they were playing LF for him), plus Pence will not be playing all 162 games in 2014.

Schulman also noted that Morse is probably a Bochy signing, they had met a couple years back when Bochy was managing a touring team and they clicked, and Morse concurred that Bochy was a factor in coming here.  Morse is expected to bat 7th most of the time, but as we well know, Bochy likes to move guys around in the lineup, plus if Posey is resting on the bench, Morse should move up at least one spot in the lineup, and if there is a tough lefty, Belt could move back and Morse up.

In addition, the Giants said that they will be carrying a fifth outfielder on the bench in order to enable this defensive switch-off, which the beats interpreted to mean that the Giants do not want to see Belt in LF.  Belt did reveal, however, that during the off-season, the Giants checked with him to see if he was OK with moving to LF (he was) should the Giants be able to sign a starting 1B (obviously, they didn't but it still shows that they would be OK with him in the OF), so I think this has more to do with Bochy's M.O. of not wanting his full-time starting players to think about playing other positions on the field, in order to give them less to think of or worry about so that they can focus full-time on being the best that they can at their starting position.  I see this announcement as a confirming declaration that Belt is their full-time starting firstbaseman, which they have repeatedly said or intimated throughout the off-season.


So that clarifies the bench further.  Obviously, Hanchez is the backup catcher.  And with a seven-man bullpen, that means there are only five bench spots, which leaves us four spots.  With two confirmed backup outfielders, that means that there are two backup infielders.  Clearly, Blanco and Arias hold the OF and MI first chair, leaving one backup outfielder and one backup infielder.

Obviously, Perez looks like the front runner for the 5th OF spot right now.  However, two other OF prospects got shoutouts at FanFest.  Sabean noted that Brown survived his 2013 season, which can be a good character builder.  Plus he noted that Kieschnick worked out with Chris Davis, the Orioles big homerun hittter, during the off-season, so let's see if Davis can teach some aggressiveness to Kieschnick, whose MLB stint was criticized for his not being aggressive enough at the plate.  Plus, I've seen mention of maybe seeing some of the MIs practicing in LF, so there is that too.

For the other infielder spot, right now it looks like it is Abreu vs. Adrianza, though Noonan is probably in the mix too (just not likely since he still has an option left, and Abreu and Adrianza do not).  I have to think that the Giants are leaning towards Adrianza right now because he is out of options and has shown great defensive skills (some said he was MLB ready when he was a teenager and in the low minors) as well as some nice hitting skills, here and there, with a nice breakout type season in AAA in 2013.

I think Adrianza wins the spot if his periperhals are OK in spring training, I don't think he needs to hit as well as Abreu to win that spot, because he plays great defense, particularly at SS.  I think Abreu is only around as insurance in case of injury or lack of performance on the part of Adrianza, plus be a nice trade chip if he is not be needed by the end of spring training or, if he falls through waivers, a nice backup in AAA.  I expect Noonan to end up manning SS at AAA most of the time, with Panik the starting 2B, but also seeing plenty of starts across the infield, to build him up for utility duty.  I still like his bat, but time is running out (I think this is his last option), and he might need to continue to develop on a MLB bench.  With Arias getting more expensive, that could be Noonan's spot in 2015, with Adrianza.

2014 Season

I'm very excited about the 2014 season.  When healthy, the roster was winning at around a 90 Win pace last season, and we upgraded from Zito to Hudson.  So I expect at least 90 wins.

We have a nice core with Cain, Bumgarner, Hudson, plus Lincecum should be good enough (though maybe not up to his contract status, but like with Zito, we don't need him to do that; plus I think he could be back to Timmy standards if he can get everything together) and any return to goodness for Vogelsong is a plus.  Our bullpen looks good with the expected relievers, plus Hembree and maybe Law could provide not only new and young blood, but heaters that we have not had in a while, we need some shutdown guys in there again.

The lineup should be good if healthy, as it was in April, most of May, and September.  Pence probably will not hit as well, but I think Sandoval and Belt could break out with great seasons.  Crawford I also agree is looking like he might have a breakout year offensively, he has battled in the majors to keep his strikeouts down while hitting for hits, and he did really well in early 2013, so that's why I've been so positive about him throughout the off-season.  Pagan just needs to be healthy, Morse too as well as Scutaro, and they should produce just fine.  Most of all, I think Posey will return to 2012 standards with his improved stamina, as well as more actual rest instead of starting a dozen plus games at 1B.

On top of that, Bochy as I've noted before, has a career long history of winning a lot of one-run games, statistically significantly so.  Through this, he has added on average four extra wins to his team, basically converting two losses into wins, which results in a average four wins over .500 per season career record.  He was at .500 or zero extra wins last season, and he, if I recall right, has not had two seasons in a row like that.  Anything extra he can add on top should help ensure at least 90 wins and a probable playoff spot and get us that much closer to a divisional title, ideally.


  1. I'm with you, OGC. I'm excited. This is a good ballclub. They stay healthy, get a fresh arm or two for the 'pen down the stretch, it could be a lot of fun.

  2. I'm excited as well. There are a lot of depth on the farm to trade or bring to the fight. Guys who have done it before like Vogey, Timmy and Affeldt will be key. I think the offense is actually pretty solid. The Giants strength has always been the ability to adjust mid-season as necessary. If Hudson can teach Lincecum a few things about pitching to contact and keeping the pitch count down, that could get him back to a new level of WAR awesomeness. Not old CY awesomeness, but still...

  3. Can't wait for the season to start. Lot of stuff to hope for in the rotation, but yeah, if everything breaks right….

    There is only so much room for stashing extra starters in the bullpen and a good starter is not going to accept an assignment to Fresno, so I'm not sure how they are supposed to add depth to the rotation. On the plus side, it looks like Escobar could be just about ready from the prospect side and I would not dismiss the idea of Kyle Crick coming up sometime after mid-season. The only problem with Crick is he did not get that many innings last year, so the Giants are not going to want to extend his season too far.



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