Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I'm taking a break

Unfortunately, my sister passed away this weekend, so I won't be posting for a while.  Not sure how long, as it was quite upsetting as she was so young, maybe my feelings will settle down once I'm done taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of, as I'm taking care of her arrangements.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thoughts After Cueto Signing Press Conference

With the Cueto press conference introducing him (accounts by Pavlovic and Baggarly), news about the details of his contract came out.  Wow, complicated:
  • 2016:  $15M
  • 2017:  $21M
  • 2017-2021:  $5M bonus, paid $1M annually, but apparently only one if he opts out
  • 2017 Opt-out:  If he exercises it, he gets $5M buyout.  Else...
  • 2018-2021:  $21M
  • 2022:  Team option for $22M, and if not exercised, he gets bought out for $5M
Through all those complications, if he opts out after 2017, he will have received $46M in total:  salaries for 2016-17 of $36M, bonus of $5M, and $5M buyout.   He can be traded, but gets $500K for the first trade, $1M for the second.

According to the press conference, they did an MRI and found nothing wrong, that the flexor problem he had earlier in the year was fully healed.  And obviously he passed his physical.  And while Sabers hate the word, chemistry was also inferred.

The elbow issues limited Cueto’s market, but the Giants aren’t concerned. He missed a start while in Cincinnati last season because of a flexor tendon strain, but an MRI during the season came back clean and Evans said an MRI the Giants took on Thursday came back clean. “His elbow looks great,” Evans said. “It really looked good.” 
The Giants investigated those risks, and deemed them sufficiently minimal. Cueto underwent an MRI exam as part of Wednesday’s physical, and GM Bobby Evans said the right-hander’s elbow “looks great, really good.” 
The missed turn in May that caused him to skip a start and led to so much concern from clubs this winter? A mild flexor strain, said Evans, adding that a contrast dye injection was the only reason Cueto missed one start. The checkered performances following the late-July trade to Kansas City? An inevitable adjustment to a new team and catcher, agent Bryce Dixon said. 
Baer said the front office contacted several of Cueto’s former coaches with the Reds and Royals, and came back with a positive assessment of his personality, passion and clubhouse demeanor. 
So what, exactly, allowed them to move past those ghosts [of Zito Past]? “It’s a fair question,” Baer said. “What we really saw was, if you have five strong (in the rotation), plus (Chris) Heston … we think it just gives us the best chance to win. It changes the bullpen equation. We don’t have to overtax the bullpen, which is one thing that might have happened last year. 
“We did a really thorough war room analysis and everybody said" [Cueto was the free agent to get. (cribbed this from the televised press conference and inserted here)]
“And the other thing, as Cueto’s name was out there, a lot of calls were made and he came through as a huge plus-guy in the clubhouse. A huge plus teammate. Huge plus. That was really important, too.
Also, Haft has some info regarding Cueto's workout regiment, showing how much a competitor he is and how fitness conscious he is:
Based on the testimony of Jeff Brantley, the former Giants right-hander who scrutinized Cueto as a Reds broadcasting commentator, Cueto works ceaselessly to match the achievements of Marichal and other greats. "He's a high-end competitor," Brantley said. 
Don't be fooled by Cueto's thick frame, Brantley advised. "If you take a look behind the scenes and watch his workout regimen, it's about as professsional as you can get," Brantley said. 
"There's not too many starting pitchers out there who run 'stadiums [up and down the aisles of an entire ballpark].' He runs them until he's blue in the face."
Bochy was a noted driver for this move, and how it would work:
“Bochy said get me another 200-inning starter and I’m good,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. “I’ll figure out left field … It’s our recipe: Pitching, defense and sprinkle in position players where we can.” 
Sounds like LF will not be a high priority either going forward, barring a free agent desperate for something.   Still:
Although the Giants doubled down on pitching this winter, Evans said he remains involved on “all levels” of a free-agent outfield market that remains slow to develop. Evans wouldn’t say how much wiggle room remained in the budget, but the Giants expect their payroll plus benefits to exceed $189 million and thus would pay into the competitive balance tax for the second consecutive year.
But there's a 30% premium now with the next bit of news, which is that Baer noted that the Giants had went pass the payroll threshold and will be paying the tax this season.  At 30% tax, any additional salaries added on would effectively cost the Giants at 130%, or, in other words, for every $10M added, $3M of tax is collected.
Baer noted that the development of homegrown stars like Matt Duffy and Joe Panik made this offseason spending spree possible. Counting the Brandon Crawford extension, the Giants -- resigned to paying the competitive balance tax for a second straight year -- have committed $295 million to three players over the past month. Cueto’s deal is by far the biggest, and it’s a complicated one.
And a word about Lincecum:
Evans acknowledged that filling up the five-man rotation “does put us potentially in a difficult spot” to re-sign Tim Lincecum, who is looking to start again and will showcase himself in January. “But in the meantime, we’re not ready to come to any landing there right now. He’s done a lot for the franchise, he means a lot to the organization and we’ll let that play out over time.”
I interpreted that to mean that the Giants are interested in bringing back Lincecum as the long reliever if he don't sign with someone as a starting pitcher, else they would have just said "adios" like they did with Vogelsong because there are no more spots in the starting rotation.   That would put Heston into AAA to work on whatever it was that they intimated that they would have him work on when discussing the options with him.

Speaking of Vogelsong, he just signed with the Pirates, $2M contract with $3M in incentives.  Don't know details, but basically he's signed to a cheap deal where he'll probably have a role like he had with the Giants last season, and if he ends up starting a lot of games, get his incentives, I would bet.  Good luck to him, he's been a great Giant and we'll always remember everything he's done for us.

Lastly, interesting news to come out (via Pavlovic) was that apparently the team Greinke was close to selecting was the Giants, not the Dodgers as most (including me) assumed.  Apparently the Giants brass got the impression from meeting him that he was leaning towards the Giants.  Greinke impressed by asking about prospects that not everyone in attendance was aware of.  In their meeting, he blew everyone away with his knowledge of the Giants.

This could tie in with the information I read about how upset he was about Puig in the clubhouse.  This could have been akin to the Kent-Bonds situation for the Giants after 2002, where the free agent was not returning to the former team for any price because of a tense situation he has with another star on the team.  Given how Greinke is clearly a GATE student type (smart, but socially a bit awkward, and in his case, bordering on insensitive), it would not surprise me if he just wanted to get away from the LA situation, as Puig is apparently not going anywhere.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Start Spreading the News: Giants Sign Johnny Cueto to 6 years, $130M

Getting news off Twitter:

  • Cueto has agreed to deal, now pending physical, as usual.
  • $130M over 6 years, so more than D-backs offer ($21.67M AAV for threshold purposes)
  • Opt-out after two years, team option for 7th
  • $23M for first two years, $21M over final four

Thursday, December 10, 2015

2016 Giants: Samardzija Deal Official

The deal for Jeff Samardzija is official:
Here are the highlights that I can see, which I compiled across the accounts of the signing:
  • Bruce Bochy described Samardzija as “high energy,” and multiple Giants people have said this week that Samardzija’s desire to pitch in San Francisco was a boost. 
  • “He's got the equipment. Jeff's always had great stuff,” Bochy said. “He’s really had a nice career. Last year had his hiccups, but, you know, we certainly like what we're working with, and we look at him as a guy that's starting to come into his own. He's young, he's got a young arm. He's got velocity, sink. He's got all the pitches that can make him successful. 
  • “Hopefully we can do our part and help out, but I think he's primed to come into his own. That's how we felt and that's why we signed him, and we're excited to have him. He's a guy that can carry some innings for us, get us deep in the game, something that our pitching staff could use.” 
  • “You know, it plays a little part. We do look at that,” Bochy said of the ballpark switch. “We’re into analytics and we are in a pitcher-friendly park that does benefit a guy … He does sink the ball and he can get ground balls. There's a little bit of a margin of error when you pitch in our ballpark. 
  • “But, regardless, this is a guy that was on our radar, and we wanted him.” 
  • The sense here in Nashville is that Samardzija will be a good fit in San Francisco. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are familiar with his good times (2.99 ERA in 2014) and down times (4.96 ERA, 29 homers allowed in 2015). The word out of Chicago is that Samardzija didn’t always see eye-to-eye with pitching coach Don Cooper last season, and Bochy noted Tuesday that he believes he’s got the best in the game in Dave Righetti. Samardzija also goes from the worst defense in the American League to the best in the National League. And he’s moving to a pitcher’s park. 
  • The Giants trusted their scouting reports while paying for stuff over stats. They see someone who could thrive in their ballpark, throwing pitches with more conviction knowing he has some additional margin for error. The Giants fielded one of the best defensive teams last season; the White Sox were one of the AL’s most porous. And Buster Posey is pretty okay at calling a game and maximizing a pitcher’s strengths. 
  • Mostly, though, there is Samardzija’s 94.1 mph fastball, an average that ranked alongside Matt Harvey’s for 12th best among major league pitchers last season. They see a pitcher like Jason Schmidt, who can carry that fastball into the late innings. They see a pitcher whose stuff does not match his track record, but could – and soon. 
  • Bochy's interview on getting Samardzija, which is quoted on by beats above, seems some parts got edited out (see video up top of this article), I edited to get his points in more logical order:  Samardzija has the equipment, great stuff, young, young arm, got velocity and sink, all the pitches one needs to be successful.  He's had a nice career, with hiccup in 2015, but view him as prime to come into his own, plus he carries a lot of innings, going deep, that's valuable too.  
  • Also noted that the Giants has a balanced lineup, good roster makeup, so now they are flexible in getting any player that they think would improve them, keeping options open for all possibilities.  
  • From interview with Sabean (see video in middle of article):  Giants saw something about his arm angle - "it strayed last season" - that their pitching brain trust will work on with him.   Loved that he was still throwing 94 MPH in his last start.   They believe that they have the answers for why he didn't do well last season.  Noted small sample of 2015 vs. abilities to go 210+ IP in his career.  And he really wanted to come to SF.  [ogc:  Interesting point:  they saw all of his starts last season, which means that they were already targeting him for trade or free agency.]  
  • Also noted that the Giants wanted to move fast because they didn't want to get in a "negative leverage" situation (I've been noting this since Beck tried to leverage Sabean, so he traded for Nen, and when Baker tried to leverage Sabean, and he brought in Felipe Alou to replace him).  Now they got a full roster, and focused on improving themselves, ideally with another SP, good #3 starter.   He also noted that the Giants were unwilling to go six years for Greinke, that 5 years is their max for free agent pitchers.
Interesting enough to include separately, the White Sox pitching coach taking the blame for Samardzija's problems in 2015:
  • Helping along that narrative is this, from Samardzija’s last big league pitching coach: “Man, I failed.” 
  • Samardzija was supposed to be a prime piece of the White Sox’s splashy offseason last winter. Instead, he was one of many things to go wrong – and there was no fixing it, especially after he wasn’t traded at the July 31 deadline. Disappointment might have crept into his performance as he went 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA over his next nine starts. 
  • “It didn’t work out the way any of us would have wanted,” Cooper told Padilla. 
  • “That’s not to say anything negative about Jeff. He’s a quality pitcher and has many great assets, and I wish him the best. 
  • “I never wish poorly on anybody because I feel if you do that something’s going to come back and bite you in the ass. It just didn’t work, and that’s one as I sit home [I think about] when I do get around to thinking baseball.” 
  • Those around the White Sox say that Samardzija and Cooper had a breakdown of communication. The Giants have hinted at dysfunction as well, saying that pitching for his third team in two seasons might have impacted Samardzija’s performance. 
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn told Padilla that Cooper shouldn’t be so quick to impale himself. “There was communication on a daily basis, and an open and honest communication on a regular basis,” Hahn said. “There might not have been full agreement on what was going to be the remedy, but that’s not totally atypical, especially when you have a veteran guy who’s had success and sort of feels like he knows, and he does know more than anybody how he feels and what he’s doing and what he thinks are his keys to success.” [ogc:  classic CYA]

Monday, December 07, 2015

How Samardzija Was This Signing?

The Giants signed Samardzija (pending physical on Tuesday, which is expected to be fine) and so how good a deal is it?  There were some negatives that led me to not want to sign him, but now that I've seen more information, I'm actually pretty excited about it.  Plus, it gives us more Shark marketability, with Gregor Blanco (White Shark) and Samardzija (Shark).

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Giants Sign The Shark: Samardzija for Pence Deal

As the beats have been reporting, Giants signed Jeff Samardzija to a 5 year, $90M deal.  The deal details per Pavlovic, who first reported the deal:
Samardzija got the same five-year, $90 million deal Hunter Pence signed in 2013. The deal includes a $9 million signing bonus, with $3 million paid upfront and the rest spread out. Essentially, he’ll make $12 million in 2016 and $19.5 million each of the next four seasons. Samardzija also got a limited no-trade clause that allows him to pick eight teams each season that he can be traded to.
The Giants lose their #19 draft pick with this signing, as Baggarly noted.   Apparently the Giants think a lot more about the Shark (it's going to take a while for me to learn to type his last name without errors :^) than they do Leake, because the reports are that while they remain interested in Leake, they will not be willing to give him the same deal and with all the deals done already and teams interested in Leake, it appears that market demand will push him up to that size of a deal.  And signing him would not cost the Giants another draft pick, so not only did they pay more in contract, they gave up on a draft pick.

In any case, reportedly, Samardzija preferred to sign with the Giants over other teams.  And that was probably key to this deal being closed so fast after Greinke signed with the D-backs (you know the story, so I won't repeat that), as his agent reportedly said that he had a $100M deal on the table a few days ago (though, for what it's worth, all the reporting I saw after that was that this was what they were asking for, not that he was offered that).

Plus, Pavs noted these factors that the Giants took into account:
“Even in tough times (last year) he still put 200-plus innings on the board,” Evans said. “You look at his track record, you look at his presence that he brings on the mound, you look at back-to-back-to-back 200-plus (inning) seasons, and you realize this guy is a force to be reckoned with. There’s a reason why we targeted him and a reason why we focused on him as one of our top priorities. 
“You’ve got a guy who has made the conversion from reliever to starter and has done that well. There are a lot of innings left in that arm.” 
The Giants believe Samardzija’s 2015 numbers may have been partially skewed by the fact that he was pitching for his third team in two seasons, and they have identified mechanical adjustments they can make to a guy who has the tools to be an ace. Samardzija, a former football star at Notre Dame, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, throwing a fastball that averaged 94.3 mph last season and topped out at 97.9. The Giants believe they can harness that kind of electric stuff, and they have one of the best pitching coaches in the game in Dave Righetti.
ogc thoughts

You're a Rich One, Mr. Greinke

This was the title I was going to use for the blog post when it was reported that we signed Samardzija (yea, typed with no mistake, though I did slow down near the end!) so I wanted to use it somewhere.  His signing to the largest AAV contract, as well as nearly as big as Price's, at 6 years, $206.5M (though some of it was deferred, making the contract worth more like $190M in present value; though I would note that, strictly speaking, I take any discussion of "present value" with regards to baseball contracts with a grain of salt because if one is going to calculate net present value, the whole contract has be netted, not just the deferred payments) was apparently the domino that needed to fall in order for the Giants to sign the Shark.

This move should make the D-backs into close to being a contender, as they were around .500 last season and have some good pieces in Goldschmidt and Pollock, plus stated that they are still in search of another starter and are pursuing, among others, Mike Leake.  I had been hoping that their pursuit of Cueto would kill their interest in Leake, and here they sign Greinke to about $14.3M more per season than Cueto and they are still pursuing him.

Giants Next Moves

Surprisingly, per the accounts from the beats (Baggarly and Pavs above, here's Schulman), it sounds like the Giants will probably not get Leake.  The feeling is that with Samardzija's deal, Leake will be wanting 5 years, $90M ($18M AAV) as well, and, basically, that's too rich for the Giants blood, which I've been noting had been the problem area between the two sides.

Rumors currently have the Giants looking at Iwakuma right now.  And that makes some sense.  One because the Giants might not want to commit to another pitcher for 5 years now that they have Blackburn, Beede, Blach, Stratton, Meija, Bickford, Johnson, and Coonrod waiting and rising up the minors.  Two, the Giants already lost their first round pick, so now they would only lose their second round pick.

So why did the Giants give up on their draft pick?  Evans did say that they would prefer to keep the pick.  Yet the guys they went hardest after (per media coverage, Greinke and Samardzija, plus they brought in Zimmerman, as well as Samardzija, and Zobrist will be visiting soon).  Perhaps they view next year's draft depth to be not worth keeping the pick?  Or perhaps that is why the Giants went hard for Fox and a number of other IFA's this time, knowing that they anticipated losing the first pick due to a QO.

The Giants are also looking at Zobrist as well.  We need a LF and his versatility around the infield would give Bochy a lot of options for mixing and matching.  As well, given that Panik is one of the most asked for players in trade, the Giants could decide to make the trade, say for a pitcher (Indians reportedly asked for both Panik and Duffy for Carrasco), and use Zobrist at 2B.  However, part of the reason being given that the Giants can spend big now is that having young producing assets like Panik and Duffy gives the Giants the ability to sign large deals like the Shark, and pursue another big free agent.

My calculations come out with $24.2M left to spend before reaching the luxury tax threshold, $29.2M left to spend, depending on where exactly they want to target their annual payroll at.   As noted in my prior post, enough to get a mid-range signing like an Iwakuma or Fister, plus a nice bullpen addition like Soria.

I wanted to get this out now, I'll look at my thoughts about Samardzija in another post.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Love Me Tender: Arbitration Offers for Belt and Kontos; Sanchez and Petit non-tendered

As reported by the beats, Belt and Kontos were given arbitration offers and thus are being retained by the Giants.  The bigger news, though anticlimatic since the beats have been foreshadowing this for a long while now, was that Hector Sanchez and Yusmiero Petit were non-tendered.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

2015 Hot Stove: Setting the Table

There has been some recent deals that I think provides some market parameters for Leake and Lincecum.  In addition, I provide some free agent contract projections from:
And that's what I get for taking so long to finish this up, Price just signed.  I'll update some of the text to account for this and hopefully get it out before Greinke signs (rumors say it's LA vs. SF, 5-6 years, that he wants more than Price's AAV; plus Magic Johnson said that Greinke is their #1 priority; Greinke's camp says the decision will be made within the week, perhaps as soon as in the next few days).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Your 2016 Giants: 40-man Roster Gets Filled

The Giants added eight pitchers to their 40-man roster, filling it full with the following prospects:
  • Ty Blach
  • Clayton Blackburn
  • Kyle Crick
  • Ian Gardeck
  • Adalberto Mejia
  • Steve Okert
  • Jake Smith
  • Chris Stratton
Per SFGiants.com:
Six of the additions were ranked among the organization's Top 30 prospects: right-handers Kyle Crick (No. 6), Chris Stratton (14) and Clayton Blackburn (21), as well as left-handers Steven Okert (9), Adalberto Mejia (12) and Ty Blach (20). Also added -- and therefore protected from next month's Rule 5 Draft -- were right-handers Ian Gardeck and Jake Smith.
Reports by:
All good reads, as usual.

ogc thoughts

Congratulations to the new 40-man players!

First immediate thought is that some trade will happen in the next few weeks, probably by Winter GM meetings, definitely by the time when arbitration-eligible players would be non-tendered, because the 40-man roster is full, and the Giants are planning on adding at least one free agent starting pitcher, if not two, plus they said they are looking for a starting LF, and they also might be interested in players non-tendered by other teams.

Baggarly also noted the possibility of non-tendering one or more of our arbitration eligible players, noting Yusmeiro Petit and Hector Sanchez.  I would be surprised if Sanchez is, but the speculation has been swirling around Petit for a while now, so I would not be surprised if he's gone before the non-tender deadline via a trade.

A trade to get the players the Giants desire seems very possible.  Evans has already noted in at least two off-season press conferences that the Giants think that they might be able to add an upgrade to our pitching and/or our outfield via a trade.  As I noted in my previous posts, the Giants don't have enough money to get their upgrade #2 starter (and this is the opinion of many other people regarding securing a #2; I personally believe that Leake is capable of being that #2 starter for us) as well as sign Leake, who Evans committed to trying to sign in his last press conference (the Crawford signing).  So a trade is the most likely scenario for obtaining that second pitcher, assuming that Leake is the first pitcher.   And especially if the Giants somehow signs an ace level starter like Greinke or Price or Cueto, that would pretty much prevent the Giants from signing Leake unless they go over the penalty threshold, and would make a trade the most likely way to avoid the penalty and get that second starter.

Thoughts on pitchers:
  • Ty Blach
    • A crafty lefty, he lacks the overpowering stuff that teams like to see in a pitcher, but he has made it all the way to AAA and been able to do well climbing up one level at a time.  One thing I've been leaning on as an analytic device is how a player performs in the league while being younger than the league, especially significantly so (at least a year younger).  Recent studies have shown that players who can hold their own in a league, while younger, tend to have a greater chance of making the majors, as well as doing well in the majors.   This is a theme that will recur in my comments below.
    • Blach was 2.8 younger than the average AAA player, yet his stat line was at or better than average in a number of categories.  One stat that I think carries better upward is BB/9 and while the average was 3.3 in AAA, he had a 1.7 BB/9, significantly better.  That helps him make due with a subpar 5.1 K/9, leading to a good 3.00 K/BB.  Because he's a SP, he's been building up his IP, and he had 165.1 IP last season, so he looks like he can be a good innings eater at minimum in the majors.  And given our age and history of injuries with Peavy and Cain, we need backups in AAA.  I don't think he's top of the list (Blackburn currently is, and if two SP are acquired, perhaps Heston becomes top of the list, if he's not traded away; more on that later) but good depth to have in the minors should a disaster happens again with multiple injuries and/or lack of performances.
  • Clayton Blackburn
    • Kind of a bookend to Blach, Blackburn is a crafty righty (a rarer breed in that this term is hardly ever used), however, he does have some MLB velocity, low 90's and can reportedly crank it up to 93 MPH on occasion.  There has been some controversy over how high Blackburn can really throw, as there has been reports of mid-90's heat at times early in his career.  The way I view it is that he's been a pitcher's pitcher since we drafted him, much the way the Giants have been operating with Beede, asking him to not use the high heat as much and focusing more on inducing weak contact and keeping the pitch count down, and so while he can throw heat, he's been choosing not to, because he don't need to in the minors.  That's part of the reason why I like him more than the ranking services have, I think he can hump it up as necessarily once he reaches the majors.
    • Even without that uptick I expect, he has performed great as he has risen up the ladder of the farm system, and continued to do well in 2015.  He had a 2.85 ERA (league 4.73 ERA), 1.293 WHIP (league 1.420 WHIP), and about average in most peripherals, but most importantly, significantly lower BB/9 with 2.3 BB/9 (league 3.3 BB/9), which is a skill that I think translates better as a player moves up a level.  That led to a very good 3.09 K/BB (league 2.2 K/BB).  
    • I think that once he makes the majors, he will just get better and better, adjusting to the league, much like how Cain and Bumgarner have gotten better and better.  It is not like he has no prospect cred, he did make BP's Top 100 in 2013.    Oddly, to me, though, he is currently only ranked 21st on the MLB.com's Giants Top 30 list.  I would have him in the Top 5, if not Top 3, because I think he is that close to making a big impact at the major league level.
  • Kyle Crick
    • Speaking of Top 5, Crick just missed, as #6 currently for the Giants.  He has been a highly ranked prospect before, making even the Top MLB Prospect lists as well (MLB.com, BP, and BA have ranked him in their Top 100 lists previously, and as high as the 30's in 2014), but took at least a step (if not two or three) back this season, going wild enough that the Giants moved him into relief.  I believe that they did it in order to reduce the stress on him and to have him focus more on his mechanics than have his confidence swirl down the drain as he struggled with starting.  But it seems that most prospect hounds have given up on him and deem him a reliever going forward.
    • I still think that he has the potential to be a top of rotation starter.  Look at his starts in 2015 to start the season, he had a lot of good starts (using Game Score, most of his starts were good, at or above 50) and he did that a lot in his previous seasons too.  Something happened at the end of May and suddenly he just couldn't get through a start well at all, so I see this as a temporary thing that he should get over.  And with the ability to pitch consistently in the mid-90's and rear back and get into the upper 90's on occasion, he still has the velocity teams drool over.
    • Of course, he still has a lot to work on.  Consistency is what I would note, look at his career starts, he has had a lot of starts where he struck out a lot and walked very few, but then the bad starts would creep in there and his overall numbers turn out really wild looking.  But it's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing, he needs to be more Dr. and less Hyde.   In any case, still too much talent to risk losing via Rule 5 draft.
  • Ian Gardeck
    • He was a surprise to me (he's not even on the MLB.com's Top 30), but looking at his numbers, not so surprising anymore.  While he was old for his league (24, +0.9 vs. average), he had a 10.8 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.33 K/BB, and 1.158 WHIP.  They were all vastly superior to the league averages.   I think it came down between him and Agosta, and Agosta was just too high in some other key stats, even though his K/9, BB/9, and K/BB were about the same or better than Gardeck, and they were the same age.
  • Adalberto Mejia
    • He has been a highly touted prospect in the Giants farm system for a number of years now, but fell a bit on the Top 30 because of a number of new prospects added in the past year or two, and is now 12th.  I have not been as impressed but he definitely was worth rostering.  He was only 22 YO in 2015, -2.8 years below the average age, yet he had a 2.45 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, and 2.11 K/BB.  He repeated AA, partly because he played there the previous season and did only OK (but remember, he was 3.8 years younger in 2014) and partly because he was caught using a drug that is a common ingredient in weight loss (he's on the bigger side) that is not allowed by the MLB.   If he's playing a shortened season anyway, just have him repeat AA since he wasn't all that great there in his first try.
    • While his overall stats are not impressive, they need to be adjusted to account for the fact that he's so much younger than the competition in the league.  Thus, his H/9, HR/9, and BB/9 are high because of that difference in experience/development, and his K/9 is low for the same reason.  Yet, in spite of his disadvantage, he was much above average in ERA, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, plus about average in BB/9, K/9, and K/BB.  
    • And he's still only 22 YO, so there is still some development and learning he can do.  He operates in the 91-95 MPH range, with sinking and tailing action, which is pretty good, so I'm not sure why he's not getting more K's.  He has repeatable mechanics that enables him to throw strikes consistently.  Should reach the majors in 3 years, which is how many options he has (or perhaps he has 4, the MLB sometimes give that extra option when a player is signed young, but the rules are arcane and I'm not exactly sure, so I went with the lower number for a conservative stance).     
  • Steve Okert
    • While his numbers in 2015 was not that great, as he struggled for the most part mechanically until August, he pitched well to the end of the year, as he greatly reduced his ERA, WHIP, H/9, and increased his K/9 and K/BB.  Also, even with his struggles, he was 3.8 years younger and still about average across his stat line, and much better ERA and K/9, significantly so K/9.   
    • Showing how good he was in the past, MLB.com still has him ranked 9th in the system despite his problems this season.   This is most probably because MLB.com profile notes that "he owns a pair of plus pitches in a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 and a sharp slider that peaks at 87."  That's two plus pitches, and his cross-body delivery helps him get out LHH, suggesting that he could at minimum be a decent Loogy in the majors soon, and, given his good history previously, could be an Affeldt type who could handle both RHH as well as LHH (he was ahead of Osich previously; if he can regain his abilities to get our RHH, we could have two lefty relievers who can get out both LHH and RHH).
  • Jake Smith
    • It was a breakout season for him.  Joe Ritzo noted  that Smith "has an electric mid-90's fastball/cutter combo."  He was not much of a prospect before, doing well in certain aspects but he has been significantly older than the leagues he's been in as well.  I think he was a borderline candidate relative to Biagini and Agosta (and MLB.com ranked Biagini 28th, but neither Gardeck, Smith nor Agosta are on it now), and won out because he greatly improved in his BB/9, from a very poor 4.7 BB/9 in 2014 to a great 2.2 BB/9 in 2015.   
    • Still, 25 YO, +1.9 years above average, so I think the tipping point for him making the roster relates to his superb 12.6 K/9, which continues his good performances in this area previously, and his now great 2.2 BB/9, which leads to a great 5.62 K/BB, which is another factor in him getting placed on the 40-man.  The 2.35 ERA also helped as well.  
  • Chris Stratton
    • As a 1st round draft pick, there were a lot of expectations placed on him.  Unfortunately, he had barely turned pro when he was struck by a batted ball in his head, suffering a season-ending concussion and, as we have seen with all the news on concussions in recent years, recovery is never linear nor a guarantee.  So it has been very hard for prospect hounds to get a good feel for him.  I think I've been more on the positive side than most, as many have wrote him off during the years after.  Still, ranked 14th by MLB.com in Giants farm system, and that is because of his plus fastball, normally 88-92 MPH and above average slider.
    • Here's why I have liked his performances.  While he has not lived up to expectations, my studies of draft picks have found that not all first round picks should have the same expectations.   Once you get beyond the first five, then the first ten, the odds of the pick making the majors is actually pretty low.  Stratton's range where he was selected is at 4 to 1 against him ever being good in the majors, and perhaps as high as 9 to 1 against, depending on the depth in the draft that season.  So I think people have placed too many expectations on him, they have been spoiled a bit by Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner, other first found picks.
    • In addition, while he has not done all that well, and poorly at times, I think a key thing to remember is that he's actually been young in almost every league he has played in, and younger relatively as he has risen, he was 2.8 years younger than the league in 2015, and yet if you look at his stat line, he's about average for the league.   
    • Add on top of all that is his building up of arm stamina, as he's up to 148.0 IP in 2015, he's in a similar situation to what I described above for Blach, as he looks ready to take a back of rotation spot - and I would place him ahead of Blach overall (so it would be Blackburn, Stratton, Blach currently).   Though I would note that both Beede and Mejia looks like they should be ready to jump ahead of Stratton and Blach by mid-season, and I would watch Phil Bickford, Sam Coonrod, and Jordan Johnson, as they might leapfrog multiple leagues in 2016, plus Chase Johnson showed some good stuff in 2015 as well.   

The 40-man roster is full now and there are no one I would call marginal enough that dropping him would not hurt some.  Not that long ago, I would have counted Heston and Parker as easy calls for DFA, so caveat anything I say relative to those misses.  I guess, per my discussion above, Smith and Gardeck might be on the edge, but you don't discard pitchers with over 10 K/9 easily and without some regrets.

Still with 25 pitchers on the 40-man roster and the need for a starting LF and possibly another backup OF, something will need to happen among the pitchers to open up spots, because there are few position players who look like they can be DFAed (Hector Sanchez perhaps, given all the talk by beat writers) or traded (I don't think the Giants want to trade Susac, but he is a big trading chip since most prospect services thought that Susac was ready for a starting catching job last season, except that Posey had a lock on the position).

Trade Thoughts

As I noted first, given that the roster is filled now, and at least one free agency signing (Leake) is expected, if not two or three (another SP and a starting LF), trades are probably going to be the way the Giants will plan on clearing space in the 40-man roster, particularly among the 25 pitchers on the roster.  Some might be swapped to bring back someone the Giants can leave off the 40-man, like when they traded Conor Gillaspie.

To get a good SP, in terms of someone to pair with Bumgarner, you are going to have to give to get.  I know the prospects who they would have to give up in order to get a pitcher that good, but I don't know if the Giants even want to make them available in trade, as they might be on their rumored "Do Not Trade" list (and some were just acquired in 2015 and per CBA, not tradeable right now):   Panik, Duffy, Susac, Arroyo, Fox, Blackburn, Beede, Bickford, Mejia, Coonrod, Jordan Johnson, Okert, Law, Crick, Williamson, Parker, Suarez, Miller, Marshall.   And as noted before, Evans stated in recent press conference that while teams are asking for Panik or Duffy, the Giants are not looking to trade them.

And really, look at the history of trades under Sabean/Evans, the vast majority of them have been guys with minimal or no MLB experience, and the vast majority of them have not been one where the Giants regretted losing the player.   So I would not expect either Panik or Duffy to go unless the Giants get an offer that they can't refuse (you have to leave wiggle room as bait to other teams dissecting what you publicly say, so I don't take that as a negative with regards to the Giants intent regarding keeping them, it is much like when Sabean said that both Cain and Lincecum were on the table, because you never know if another team makes an incredible offer, but it is not likely to happen, nonetheless).

If I had to chose someone to trade, I would say Mejia since I've not been all that impressed, but most services think a lot of his prospects and once ranked him in the Top 100 prospect list.   I like Heston and would not trade him, but he certainly has trade value, and again, to get value, you have to give value, and in the Giants case, it will be more quantity than quality.  Coonrod is another who has a good statline, but which I'm not sure how good he is.  And Crick I really like, but his struggles with walks could make him available.  
Others who might also be available, but I see more as additional pieces, to fill out a trade, off the 40-man are Stratton, Blach, Gardeck, Smith, Broadway, Hall, Gregorio, Guerrin, Petit, Hanchez, Adrianza.  But I've not been the best in discerning who is on on the "Do Not Trade" list or who would get dropped off the 40-man list, so I could be missing something somewhere.  So it should be an interesting off-season as we learn what the Giants really think of some of their prospects.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Professor Gets Tenure: Giants Sign Crawford to 6 Year, $75M Contract

It has been reported by all the beat writers, which will be officially announced in news conference on Wednesday:

He gets a $1.2M bonus, then $5.8M in 2016, $8M in 2017, then $15M from 2018-2021, covering his second and third arbitration seasons, then four of his free agents years, covering him to age 34 season.  Now only Crawford and Posey are signed for the 2021 season, though I expect Bumgarner to join them within the next season or two.  He has a full no-trade clause and no option language.  

He and the team had briefly discussed an extension last spring, but the conversation never got serious.  However, that discussion began the process and then the talks picked up earlier this month, as the extension took a high priority for the front office.  And now they got this bit of business done before getting hot and heavy into the free agency market.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Your 2016 Giants: 40-man Roster Moves

Beyond the Aoki non-option, I realized that I should mention other roster moves that had been made recently.  The Giants outrighted Juan Perez, Nick Noonan, Jackson Willilams, and Brett Bochy, which opened up spots for guys the Giants brought off of the 60-day DL, which was necessary once the World Series was won by the Royals (Congrats!), allowing Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, and Hector Sanchez back on the 40-man.  Juan Perez was also brought off the 60-day DL, then was waivered and passed through.  Oh, and I recall that Kevin Frandsen was released as well, at some point.

It appears that Perez was placed back on the AAA roster after passing through waivers.  No news on what is happening with Noonan, Williams, or Bochy.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Your 2016 Giants: Aoki Option Declined

Reported on by:
Some quotes:
“The timing is bad because we have a lot of things to address this winter and a lot of things we want to look at, and it’s about keeping our options open,” Evans said. “To predetermine left field today is just premature.” 
“We’re definitely not closing any doors,” Evans said. “There’s certainly interest in having him back, and if we do bring him back, I want to be sure everyone is clear on his role and what he’s walking into in terms of his situation on the roster. We’ll know more about that in the next weeks or months.” 
“We’re aware pitching is a concern and there are a lot of ways to address that, (but) we’ll need to look at our outfield,” Evans said. “We can’t have an offseason without ways to improve ourselves (there).”
Giants have declined options on both Aoki and Byrd.  Byrd was expected, but it was surprising to see Aoki let go.  The Giants paid Aoki his $700K buy out instead of picking up his $5.5M option, adding $4.8M to the money it has to spend on free agents for the 2016 season.

Ironically, Evans said that it was because he wanted more options.  Evans noted that they didn't want to commit to a full outfield yet (already got Pagan and Pence) but could circle back to Aoki (or Byrd) later in the process (he was signed in January last off-season, so he could possibly be still available again in January).  He noted that there were interesting trade possibilities for the OF, and also noted that this gives more financial flexibility as well.

And the Giants still like Aoki and says that health was not a factor in the decision, only the desire to not limit the Giants options in LF or in pursuing players in general.  And it does not necessarily tie to SP pursuit, again, just looking to be more financially flexible.

There were internal options, but no one the Giants would commit to.  Belt has played some LF, but Evans said that the Giants prefer to keep him at 1B, where he's a gold glover, and in any case, the more important issue is that he's still experiencing concussion symptoms, though he's expected to be fully recovered by spring training.  Tomlinson has not wowed in instructionals, “showed it’s not his natural position" but good a lot of good work in and might work on it in the Mexican League during the off-season.  Ideally, Parker or Williamson would take the job like Duffy, but they can't rely on that, and thus will search for acquire someone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: End of Season Presser

The Giants held their end of season press conference on the Monday after the last game.   Unfortunately, none of the beat writers wrote up the transcript of what was said, nor was the full video made available by the Giants or CSNBA.   The Giants did provide a summary video that seems to capture a lot of what was reported by the beat writers and CSNBA did have a number of snippets, which perhaps, altogether, might be the entire conference.
Note:  I was going to work on this earlier but then my back went out with a massive sneeze - I was crawling around on all fours for the next two days, walking around like a 100 year old for another week, still dealing with the pain still - and so apologies for taking so long to get to this.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Matt Duffy Ascension

Matt Duffy.

What more can be said about this young man, this young rookie, this first rookie to win the Willie Mac Award, who has traveled a long road filled with "no's" to reach the majors and be batting third for a MLB team?  I thought I would give it a try for this special player.

2015 Playoff Rooting Interests: Giants Fan Perspective

When the Giants are not in the playoffs, I sometimes run through the playoff teams and give a recap of Giants fans' long-term rooting interests, based on prior history.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

2015 Giants: August PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of August 2015, 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 (wow, 10th year of this!) 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).

Friday, September 18, 2015

2015 Giants: July PQS

Whoa!  Just realized while preparing for the August version that I had neglected to create a July version.

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 2015, 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 (wow, 10th year of this!) 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, September 15, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Some Thoughts Looking at the Standings

I was looking at the standings, seeing how difficult it is for the Giants to climb out of the hole that they are in, and I had some thoughts, which are below.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thoughts on Championships and Dynasties

Saw a column on Fox Sports, about how the season teaches us nothing, about how the season don't matter much anymore, how the best team no longer wins the World Series championship, about how there's no dynasties anymore, and I just couldn't let it go without comment.  My comment is below, unchanged, other than that size limits forced me to break it up into, like, five comments, plus I put in what seems to be the right breakpoint for a header.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Fallacious Finger Flipping

As the season starts to sink (though I haven't given up hope yet), thought I would address something I've been seeing on-line that bothers me (and has bothered me for years):  righteous anger over the 25th man not hitting well at all.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Trade for Marlon Byrd

I can't believe that I didn't think of writing on this, but the Giants yesterday traded prospect RH RP Stephen Johnson (AA) for Marlon Byrd, former CF but been playing corners lately.  The Giants are only paying him $500K of his contract, the Reds are handling the rest.  He's happy to join the team, looking forward to contributing, as he understands that he will sit once Pence returns.  Which is the right attitude to have for someone who has only been in the playoffs once in his career, in 2013 with the Pirates.

To open up a 25-man roster spot, Chris Heston was optioned to AAA today, reportedly to rest (no plans for how he'll be used or even started) and to work on his mechanics.  Sinkerballs are notoriously a feel pitch that can be lost suddenly, but more likely this is just the time of the season that Heston starts to tire out, because last season, his production went down right around this same time:  he has three DIS starts out of his last four.  (I got into more detail about why the Giants should option Heston in the comment section of my last post)  Oh, just found out Bochy noted in his comments that he saw some fatigue, sees this as a skipped start to rest him up.

This move also gives the Giants an extra position player on the bench for this game, as most probably, the OF who would have been optioned back to AAA (Lollis probably) will be optioned to bring back Leake to start the game Saturday.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: The August Gauntlet Hits Its Peak

I was commenting on Raising Matt Cain (great blog to go to for Giants news and a heavy dose of Matt Cain, which is always good) and I realized that I should post something regarding this important and tough road trip:  facing Cards for three then the Pirates for four.  I took some stuff about the pitchers and expanded it into the below.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: A Peek at PQS Data

As you may or may not remember, I've been actively keeping track of PQS data the last two seasons, and this season I expanded it to include the actual pitching line for each starter, so that I could build pivot tables and see what the numbers say.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Cub's Sweep Aftermath

A lot of fans (and beat reporters) are up in arms after the Cub's sweep, with talk about being "brave" when Peavy notes that the team is not panicking.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Some Notes on Cubs

I haven't had time to delve into series for a while, but thought I would throw down some info.  Go Giants!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: The August Gauntlet

{Note:  I had this written up for publication before Friday's game, but then the Leake trade happened.  Apologies in advance for any numbers not updated to current figures as of publication, I'll update where I can.}

Every year, the Giants have a schedule full of games in August, leaving only two days off the whole month.  That's why I've been suggesting a modified 6-man rotation during this period, to give our SP regular rest.  This season, people are also worried because the Giants are facing teams who are all contenders:  Rangers, Braves, Cubs, Astros, Nationals, Cards, Pirates, Dodgers, during the month of August (only the Braves are too far out of a playoff spot).  That would be 27 out of 30 are contenders.  Plus 18 of 30 (I'm including the Rangers first game of the series) are on the road.

The following was a comment I posted on Raising Matt Cain, and expanded (as I am wont to do) because I tweak.  Plus, then, you know, the Leake trade happened, so this post got delayed to today instead, with some final tweaks.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Trade for Mike Leake

Breaking news:  the Giants have traded for SP Mike Leake from the Reds, a player who they have coveted for a long time.  Extra Baggs has an account:

Leake, 27, was 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 21 starts for the Reds – numbers that the Giants did plenty to inflate when they scored nine runs against him on May 16. He is a ground ball machine whose strike-throwing ways should translate extremely well to AT&T Park. He’s also a perennial Gold Glove candidate and his hitting prowess will give even Madison Bumgarner a run for his money. 
The Giants have long coveted Leake, going back to when the San Diego native was the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Arizona State. Giants scout Doug Mapson, who signed Greg Maddux back when he worked for the Cubs, said he has only written a Maddux comparison once to another amateur player. It was Leake. 
Leake also knows Giants manager Bruce Bochy because he played with the manager’s son, Brett, along with Stephen Strasburg, on a travel ball team in his youth. Leake even grew up a Giants fan because of his father, whose favorite player is Willie Mays. All of this might be a factor after the season, since Leake is a free agent and the Giants planned on pursuing him over the winter even if they didn’t acquire him via trade. Now they get two months to make an attractive case while employing his services as they attempt to defend their World Series title.
The Giants traded two prospects:  corner infielder Adam Duvall and RHP Keury Mella.  It is expected to be the only deal done before the trading deadline (Morse was just DFAed by the Dodgers, so he'll be available in 10 days for free).  The Giants have not announced any other personnel moves other than that Tim Hudson will not be in the rotation now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bonds Overturned Conviction Upheld: Media Got it Right For Once With Bonds

Following is my comment after the news that Bonds' conviction is finally laid to rest, the government will not push this to the Supreme Court for judgement, I was happily surprised by the journalist's take in his article regarding Bonds finally clearing his name for that outrageous conviction for "obstruction" (if that is obstruction, then any politician and/or lawyer who ever spoke to a Grand Jury - hello Bill Clinton - should be convicted for felony as well).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Thoughts on Lincecum

Tim Kawakami wrote a beautiful article on a great athlete - Tim Lincecum - on what could be his final days, at least with the Giants.  He termed it "the long goodbye" which seems appropriate for Tim's current two year contract.  What follows is the comment I left after this article (plus updates, I always tweak :^).

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kyle Crick: Yea or Nay Prospect? Yea!

I have seen a lot of debate regarding Kyle Crick as a Giants prospect, so I thought I would share my thoughts, particularly since few seems to share my stance.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Second Half Thoughts

Given that this is often considered the halfway point for the season, I thought I would write about some current topics and thoughts on the second half, as well as playoff thoughts.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

2015 Giants: June PQS

Happy Fourth of July!

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of June 2015, 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 (wow, 10th year of this!) 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).

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Giants Sign Lucious Fox in 2015 J2 IFA Period

The Giants have signed coveted 18 YO J2 amateur international free agent prospect, SS Lucius Fox, to a reported $6M bonus.   The Dodgers were the rumored favorites to sign him at $4M until the Giants came in at the last moment with their "buy now" bid.  A very happy birthday for him since he just turned 18 today.

He is from the Bahamas but had played for a U.S. high school ("powerhouse" American Heritage High School in Florida) and in a number of tournaments, so he's probably was well known as most of the top prospects who were available in the amateur draft that happened almost a month ago.  However, because he's from the Bahamas, he went back home and declared for the J2 instead of the draft, and the MLB allowed this, which doubled or tripled (per Kiley's estimates, see below; Passan estimated $1-2M) his bonus money he would have gotten, as Kiley had him as a Top 50 pick had he been in the draft.

A fast switch-hitting SS, Fox was ranked 3rd by Fangraph's Kiley McDaniels, 4th by Baseball America's Ben Badler, and 3rd by MLB.com's Mayo and Callis.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Rotation Judgement Day

Per the beat writers, the Giants brain trust are spending this off day to discuss the pitching rotation for the near future, when Peavy and Cain come off the DL (Peavy's 30-day rehab is over, so he should be back by weekend; Cain probably one or two rehab starts away, Sabean gave a good report on his last MiLB start).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 Giants Draftees for First Ten Rounds

The first two days of the draft is over.  I've covered the first two picks overall, I'll cover the rest with a few comments in this post.  The selections were (ranks:  MLB.com 200, BA 500, Garrioch 400):
  • Round 1.18:  RHP Phil Bickford (21; 27; 42)
  • Round 1.31:  1B Chris Shaw (46; 45; 51)
  • Round 2.61:  LHP Andrew Suarez (75; 73; 85)
  • Round 3.95:  SS Jalen Miller (41; 35; 54)
  • Round 4.126:  LHP Mac Marshall (118; 86; 146)
  • Round 5.156:  CF Ronnie Jebavy (NR; 208; NR)
  • Round 6.186:  CF Steven Duggar (123; 167; 158)
  • Round 7.216:  3B Jose Vizcaino Jr. (NR; 214; 238)
  • Round 8.246:  RHP Cory Taylor (NR; NR; NR)
  • Round 9.276:  RHP David Graybill (NR; 446; NR)
  • Round 10.306:  RHP Tyler Cyr (NR; NR; NR)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Giants 2015 Supplemental First Round Pick: Chris Shaw, 1B

The Giants selected with their second pick, the supplemental first round pick, 31st overall, that they got when Sandoval signed with Boston, Chris Shaw, who was an OF in college, but projected to be a 1B as a pro.  He is one of the legit power bats available, batting left while throwing right.

One mock had him selected in the first round, but most had him not selected in the first round.  There were a handful that had him picked in the supplemental first round, though, though not by the Giants.  Most agree that his was the best, or one of the best, college power bats available, and didn't note anything more than that, so this post will be much shorter than Bickford's.

CSNBA had a good overview profile of him of readily available information:
In 40 games for Boston College this season, Shaw led the team with a .319 batting average, 11 home runs and 43 RBI. He posted a .411 on-base percentage and a .611 slugging percentage. 
The junior was named All-ACC Second Team for the 2015 season. He earned All-ACC First Team honors as a sophomore in 2014.
Giants also do like prospects who wins awards and honors like these, as well.

Your 2015 Giants: Heston Throws a No-Hitter

Mucho grande congratulations to Chris Heston for throwing a no-hitter against the Mets, his first in the majors (and probably ever as a pro)!  It was an odd start, in that he while he had a no-hitter and didn't walk anyone, and struck out 11 batters, he also HIT 3 batters.  It was a 110 pitch complete game, the second CG of his career.

KNBR reported that it was the third no-hitter by a Giants rookie (Christy Mathewson had the first, both for the Giants and in MLB history).  And that it was the 22nd no-hitter by a Giants pitcher.  It was also the 6th no-hitter on the road, and 2nd no-hitter against the Mets (Ed "Ho-Ho" Halicki having the other no-hitter; his name will trend for a while now).  There are probably other fun facts, I'll post them in the comments as I find them.

Congrats again to Hesto Presto!  He has helped to save our rotation's loss of two key pitchers in Cain and Peavy by having a 58% DOM so far (unfortunately, also 25% DIS), which is very good (very good pitchers are above 50% DOM).  And thus helped to save the team, we would not be just half a game (pending the Bridegroom's result) out of first place in the NL West without his great pitching, the team has been 8-4 in his starts, due mainly to 7 DOM starts and the team going 6-1 in those DOM starts.

Giants 2015 First Round Pick: RHP Phil Bickford

For their first pick of the 2015 draft, the Giants selected RHP Phil Bickford.  I'm going to be compiling information on him from Baggarly's BA and Merc article, CSNBA Staff report, and bits and pieces from various mocks I've been collecting (BA, FG, MLB.com).

The CSN report was nicely done, covering all the essentials (saves me the job of finding these readily available info elsewhere), so I will quote it here:
Bickford was ranked No. 27 on Baseball America's Top 500 Draft Prospects. 
Two years ago, Bickford was selected with the No. 10 pick by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian High School. Toronto was unable to sign him and he instead went to Cal State Fullerton for his freshman year. 
After one season at CSU Fullerton where he went 6-3 with a 2.13 ERA and posted 74 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched, Bickford transferred to the College of Southern Nevada to become draft eligible for 2015.

In his one year at Southern Nevada, Bickford went 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA and struck out 166 batters compared to only 21 walks in 86.2 innings pitched.
MLB.com ranked him #21, Minor League Ball's Garrioch ranked him #42, Fangraph's McDaniels ranked him #25 in his draftboard.

FYI, Baggarly has a great article regarding Barr's successes in filling out our infield with draft picks.   I highly recommend a read.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Your 2015 Giants Draft

I try to write about the draft every season.  Of course, it's important to the team to find good players, so that this dynasty can continue.  I also have a strong interest because of my draft study that I did long ago.  And, really, after the excitement of the Lincecum draft, listening to the broadcast over the internet, wondering whether he would fall to us or not, I got hooked.  Of course, that was a rare one, you really need a high pick to hope to have such an experience, and all you need is one or more teams going off mock to really mix things up, and make a mock, well, mockable.

I've gotten more involved over the years.  First, of course, I read the reports, saw the mocks.  Then I started tracking the names of players, their positions, and the various mocks by writing them down on paper.  Now I create spreadsheets so that I can view the evolution of how some players rise up the mocks, and others fall out of the first round.

There are usually some Giants rumors, but most seems to be off.  But you never know, the rumor could have been right, but the player got plucked before the Giants could pick the player.  Still, I've only seen one rumor come to fruition, Kiley McDaniels was the only draft expert to note that the Giants were interested in Christian Arroyo.

So my philosophy for the draft is to have some ideas who the better prospects are, particularly in the range where the Giants are selecting, and just follow along.  I will fall in love with some prospects, like Tuki and Grant Holmes (not the Dodgers!), but not get too hung up, as the Giants will go their own way, and, so far, successfully so.

Monday, June 01, 2015

2015 Giants: May PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of May 2015, 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 (wow, 10th year of this!) 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).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: On the One Hand, Obvious, On the Other, Not So Obvious

I think that we all know that there are platoon differences, and understand the strategic and tactical issues involved that with.  Bringing in the same-handed pitcher to face a dangerous batter.  That's how Loogies were born.

But I've never seen anyone take the next step with that thought from the other side, the lineup.  As usual, the below started as a comment (Shankbone!) and I tweaked it from there.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Lincecum Appears to be Back

Six starts into 2015 season, Lincecum has a 2.00 ERA.  Many doubt that he is back, pointing out his reduced velocity and his decline in strikeouts.

I understand the reticience to say that Tim Lincecum is back. Even as late as last season, he pitched well deep into July only to get dropped from the rotation soon afterward. So how does one know for certain? 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: xBABIP

BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play, and every hitter has their own level of skill in maintaining that batting average.  People could periodically try to develop an estimator.  Someone associated with Fangraphs gave it a try (here is the article) using BIS batted ball data.  The idea is that tying the likely results given where and how a ball is hit to develop what should have happened given the batted ball would give us a better idea of the underlying BABIP skill of the hitter.  The author provided a link in his article to the data, and below is my thoughts on Giants players and select NL West hitters.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

2015 Giants: April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2015, 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 (wow, 10th year of this!) 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).

Friday, May 01, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: It's Getting Better All The Time

Seems as good a point to get out from all the grey clouds and examine where we are.  I would probably normally put this under my PQS for April, but don't have time to get to all that before game time.   I posted much of this at Shankbone's and put it here for those who haven't (or don't) go there regularly (which they should, good stuff there).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Enough With the Duvall Talk!

I've been seeing a lot of talk about bringing up Duvall because of his hot hitting.  Here's where sabermetrics comes to the rescue, from the hype.

ogc thoughts

First off, I have to state that I have nothing against Adam Duvall.  I like him as a prospect, particularly his power, but he needs to prove that he can field a position as well as just hit in the majors.  Like any fan, I would love for a guy to come up and do what he's doing in AAA right now, hitting .431/.455/.824/1.278 with 4 homers in 51 AB (13 AB/HR) and 15 RBI in 12 games.  Sign me up!

But, unfortunately, AAA is not the majors and he's only had 51 AB.  SSS to the extreme, it is two weeks worth of games, a drop in the storm.  And remember, the vast majority of pitchers in AAA are not good enough to pitch in the majors, lacking a major out pitch, for the most part.

Nobody is mentioning his 15 K's in those 51 AB.  This is a miserable 70.6% contact rate.  Which would only get worse in the majors, where most of the major league pitchers have out pitches that enable them to stay there and not end up in AAA.

Nobody is mentioning his .545 BABIP, which nobody in MLB history has ever duplicated in a season.  Even the best hitters of our era, like Ichiro, never maintain an BABIP that high over a full season.  He did reach .399 (again, he was one of the best of this era) in 2004, and .389 another season, but his career BABIP is .343 and over his best period of years, .357, which are considered great for a hitter.  And he was one of the fastest players around, which helped him beat out grounders for infield hits.

Duvall is not much of a runner, so he's not going to get many of these.  So what are the odds of him having a .545 BABIP in the majors?  Especially in light of his sad 70.6% contact rate.  Which might be fine if he was walking a lot, but with only 3 walks in 55 PA, he isn't much of a walker either.  Which is another sign that he's not that great a hitter (because good hitters generally walk a lot, while doing other good things with his bat), and therefore unlikely to be able to maintain such a high BABIP.

Even his career numbers for BABIP are not as good as that.  Individual hitters attain their own levels of BABIP.  And remember, these were achieved in the minors, there will be a reduced ability to achieve these numbers in the majors, what sabers call Minor League Equivalencies.  Each has their own methodology, but essentially the idea is that the competition is that much tougher in the majors, and thus, say, an 1.000 OPS guy in AA, might be a .800 OPS in AAA, and a .600 OPS in majors (my own made up numbers to illustrate how the process might work)  I'm not sure what the exact translations are, but I would note that I noticed that guys who hit 1.000 OPS in AA is a sign of a guy who will get chances in the majors:  Sandoval, Bowker, Ishikawa (but against RHP), Schierholtz, Belt are ones who come immediately to mind, so you can see the checkered history of that (and again, they hit over 1.000 OPS in AA!).

Some are able to learn at each level and advance, like Duffy or Panik, but the vast majority of players who hit very well in AA do not necessary make it in the majors.  There is a severe weeding process and many a prospect (Linden, Feliz, Ishikawa, Bowker) come up from AAA after killing the ball there, and not do all that well.  Swing and miss guys like Duvall usually just end up missing even more in the majors.  If he could get his contact rate up into the 85% rate, I would have greater hope for him.

And I wish him all the best, as I do all Giants prospects.  But calling him up now is just an act of desperation, a hope to catch lightening in a bottle.  Just because Duvall has been very very lucky thus far in just a couple weeks of games does not mean that he's going to duplicate that at the major league level, particularly given his lack of overall contact, his high BABIP and low walk rate.

He will need to continue to hit like this into June before I would start to take notice and think that this might be real, it is not impossible to strike out so much and still do well in the majors, but two weeks is not enough for me to believe. If I were totally tied to statistics, the amount of time statistically necessary to verify him would be too much time to take, probably a couple of season's worth, and that's obviously too long a time.  I don't think that you can wait for confirmation in baseball or you will never make any moves at all until the guys career is over.

Stats help point out stuff, but then intuition and guts (i.e. scouting) need to be part of the overall equation.  I don't have the scouting, so two months seems fair to me, he would have earned a chance with such hot hitting over an extended period.  But everybody is different, I recognize that.  Still, two weeks is just too short, statistically just too short.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: PQS After (nearly) Three Turns of the Rotation

I was not planning on writing anything regarding PQS this early, but with the losing and the fans' angst, I thought I would look into it.  Plus, with LA coming up, thought I would combine the two.

ogc thoughts

Again, the Giants starting rotation starts out slow, as they did in 2014 as well.  This time, it's Heston being the dominant starter (last year it was Hudson), with 3 DOM starts out of three.  Unfortunately, the others only have two DOM starts among them.

But it's not like the others were all bad.  Lincecum has 1 DOM and 1 MID, for a 50% DOM/0% DIS.  Hudson had two MIDs until his start today, where he had another MID but got BABIPed badly, so he is 0% DOM/0% DIS (but would probably have gotten a DOM today had he not thrown so much because of that one inning.    Bumgarner had one of each in his three starts, for a 33% DOM/33% DIS.  

It was really two starters who really stank, Peavy and Vogelsong.  Peavy had two DIS starts after talking his way out of not being placed on the DL, until he finally admitted he wasn't doing the team any good by not DLing and getting himself 100% healthy.  I understand the value of guttiness, but now was not the time for that, even if he just signed a new contract, he should have took the DL since we had starters in reserve for this type of situation.  On top of that, Vogelsong had a really bad start in place of Peavy's first start, and really hasn't pitched well in any appearance this season, he's been worse than gasoline, more like jet fuel.  

And here are some odd similarities between 2014 and 2015, even though there are a number of new members of the rotation.  In both seasons, the ace (#1) starter was up and down to start the season.  The second starter has not been his normal self, and eventually been DLed.  The third starter have seen a nice surprise, wasn't sure what to expect, but he came out dominating.  The fourth starter has been middling.  The only difference is the fifth starter has been better than last year.  

And the losing streak had a fair bit of bad luck in there too.  We lost the two DOM starts in that eight game losing streak.  And there were three MID starts. Plus the three DIS starts, which we rightly lost.  Instead of 0-8, most of the time, probably should have been 3-5 in that streak, winning three of the five DOM or MID starts.  That would have changed our record from 4-10 to 7-7, and even just winning the two DOM starts would have meant a 6-8 record, changing gloom and doom 6 games back to 3 game back mehness.

I'm Not Worried

I don't feel good, like everyone else.  It is never good to be 6 games back.  

But I'm not worried.  We still have 148 games to play.   A LOT can still happen.  We can still win 90 games, we still can get into the playoffs.  To reach 90 wins, the Giants only need to play at a .581 win pace to reach that.   This team has done it before with the majority of these players.  

One good win streak and we are back into the playoff race.  We have seen this back and forth action in terms of the NL West standings for years now, one or two teams will get off to a great start, but then they hit their bad patch, while the others who had bad were now good, and catch up, changing up who the leaders are during the season.  The Giants can be that team.

It is not good that Pence and Cain is still not ready to resume physical activity, but, at least for Pence, it should not be much longer.  Hunter broke his arm, but none of it was displaced, it is just a matter of time before he's back in the lineup and all that would be forgotten.  

As I noted above, the pitching hasn't been all that bad, based on their sabermetric performances per PQS.  It has certainly not been good, a 36% DOM is never good, but good starts at 40% and goes from there.   And they were similarly poorly performing last season as well, that was masked by the hot offense we had at the start of last season, but then turned it on by mid-to-late April, and that carried the offense for a long while, until June.

And we have had good pitching.  Bumgarner, would be foolish to think he's going to be like this all season.  He'll snap out of it, like he did last season when he stumbled to start the season.  Hudson and Lincecum has been OK up to now, showing some flash, but more importantly, not giving in and throwing up a disaster start.  And Heston has been a god-send thus far, can't expect him to be this good all season, but based on what he's done at each level rising up the minors, he's a battler with success at every level now, so you can't bet against him either.   

And that's the formula the Giants used in 2009 to 2014 to deliver good PQS performances each season that helps drive winning streaks.  You have the ace, you have three good contributors, and then you have the 5th starter who stinks up the place.   That will kick in soon once Bumgarner finds his bliss, like he has in seasons past, and give us the ace to go with the other good performers.  

Peavy Replacement Starter and When

Bochy has not given a hint yet who will get the last rotation spot in place of Peavy, other than to say probably either Vogelsong or Petit.  Looking at the 40-man roster makes that statement look clear:  they have no 40 man starting pitcher waiting in the minors.  If they want to bring up, say, Braulino Lara, who has done very well in two AAA starts so far, or old vet Kevin Correia, who they recently picked up, they would have to drop somebody that they have held onto very strongly so far.  Cordier and Parker are probably the next guys on the list, but the Giants have steadfastly held onto them so far.  

Bochy has also said that he's not adjusting the rotation by moving Heston up a start to pitch against the LADdies.  That makes sense, as then he would be pitching the potential rubber game against our hated rivals.  That would be a lot of pressure to put on the young rookie, a lot to put on his shoulders.  It would also have the stink of desperation, which a lot of fans have been giving off, but not something that Bochy would ever do this early in the season.  So Vogie or Petit would be taking that Peavy start against LA.

Thinking it over, seems to me that there are two scenarios that could affect the decision, which I expect to be announced after the second game of the series.  While it is too early to have a must win, if the Giants are in position to win the series, I think that Bochy would start Petit.  He has pitched much better than Vogelsong so far this season, and better than him the past two seasons, when Petit is given the mantle of "starter in the rotation" and not "replacement starter".  If the series is tied 1-1, I can see Petit being given the start, to go for the win.

On the other hand, if either team has already won the series by winning the first two games, then I can see Bochy giving Vogelsong the start.   At this point, he got nothing to lose by starting Vogelsong. Perhaps Vogie has been struggling to get into his relief role.  That happens to most pitchers, it seems like, I've read that comment too often to not believe that until a pitcher accepts his relief role, he can't do well as a reliever, because part of him still thinks he is a starter.  So putting him in the rotation in place of Peavy would at least place him back in a familiar role, and hopefully relax him enough to do well again.

And that circumstance, Vogie in the starting rotation relaxing him, might just be the factor that makes him the starter no matter what.  However, that was true even before Peavy got DLed, and up to now, Bochy had been deferring to Vogie's veteranness and making him the starter while keeping Petit in his great role out of the bullpen.  But instead of going there immediately, Bochy first said that they would need to think about it, then said that it would be either Vogie or Petit.  So hence why I tried to divine what circumstances could be driving Bochy's decision making.  It will be interesting to see how and who he choses.

LA Due to Cool Off

Plus, the Bridegrooms have been riding a bunch of hot streaks.  A-Gon is not going to hit so many homers and doubles.  A-Gon and Kendrick's BABIP is going to regress to career means as well.  Pederson is striking out way too much to keep up his hitting or .474 BABIP.  And Peralta is not going to be able to keep up being a good closer, his last very good season was in 2011 and he's 39 YO, not likely to get better suddenly, he's more likely to regress to his 3.79 ERA over his past three seasons.  

This is as good a time for them to return to reality.  Streaks like this rarely last more than a couple of weeks, and they have a bunch of players just playing above their talents, and these guys have good talent, just not good enough to do something that no player in the history of the majors has ever done, having such high BABIPs.  Plus, getting to play at home for 9 of their first 12 games (and the 3 road games were in AZ, hardly much of a trip and they even got an off day before the short trip), helped them a lot, I would have to think, they got to stay home and get comfortable.   Today is their third off day already.  So a lot of things have gone their way, and good times don't last forever.

Giants Get A Rest

Plus, they'll be in SF, which gives us some home advantage as well, as bad as we've been doing.  There must be some reason why the MLB starts each team slowly in April.  As much as players complain that they don't need that much spring training or that much rest, there is always a lot more days off in April than there is in August and September.  That is why a lot of teams skipped their 5th starter in April in years past and didn't bring him in until May, all the days off enabled that.  I view them as opportunities to rest and allow the players to get back into the swing of things, as well as a day to get their mind off things.

But the Giants have just had a 14 day stretch where they started the season and didn't have a rest until today.  Many teams already had two days of rest already and I read that the Cards will have their 4th day of rest tomorrow, plus as noted, today is the Dodger's 3rd day of rest already.  The Giants, meanwhile, had three travel days with no off days plus no off days.  It is almost like the MLB did that on purpose, the Giants being on the road should have gotten more days off, while the Dodgers, being mostly at home, should have had zero days off.  

So whether it's mental or physical rest that players need this early in the season, the Giants players have gotten no rest at all, which has not helped to change their mind set once the badness started to flow.  I expect the players to get refreshed some with today's off day and be better able to battle LA the next three days.  Hopefully they can get out of whatever bad habits they have gotten into, hit the mental reset button, and come out great tomorrow.

Go Giants!  Buck the Bridegrooms!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Big Six Prospects

I've tried in prior years to discuss prospects, and so again I'm trying.  I honestly don't think more than 6 prospects at any time is ever going to make the majors, and Christy Mathewson was nicknamed the Big Six (after a famous fire engine company in NYC), so I've named it in his honor in my blog posts so far.

But in recent seasons, more than six were interesting, and so I would at least mention ones who looked interesting to me in some way (honorable mentions).  And I've never liked the format of combining by some combination of closeness, or potential impact, so I'm going to break them up in this post.  Also, I'll mention interesting players for both pitching and hitting.

The Hidden Game of Baseball: What Makes Teams Win

Long time readers will know that one focus of my blog has been on research of how teams win.  A long-time classic sabermetric book, The Hidden Game of Baseball, by John Thorn and Pete Palmer, had been out of publishing, like, forever, until recently having another printing with a new Foreword and Preface added, and I just got my copy the other day.  I am going to go over the chapter on what makes teams win in this post.

Monday, April 06, 2015

I Read the News Today: Lon Simmons Passed Away

And a strong part of my boyhood passed away with him.  Lon Simmons' death was reported Sunday night by the beat writers and the Giants issued a press release today.

ogc thoughts

I guess it was just meant to be.   My passion for baseball.  My dad was not into sports, he being an immigrant coming into the U.S. around the time he was in high school, though he was open to a lot of things and I would not put on him the image of the immigrant stuck in the old ways.  So I didn't get it from him.

I was introduced to baseball in fourth grade and I loved it from the first second.  Made my dad get me a baseball glove.  Made my dad return that catcher's mitt (here his old-world sensibilities came in:  it had a lot of material and thus a lot of worth).  I think he got me an outfielder's glove:  it didn't have an autograph (not that I would have recognized anyone at that point) and it's not small like the infielder's gloves I've seen since nor large like a firstbaseman's glove, but it wasn't as large as the outfielder's gloves either, it was a tweener.  It was perfect.

I've thought about why I love baseball so much.  As a skinny kid growing up (and on the taller side), basketball was the sport most people thought was for me.  But I had problems shooting the ball up close (unfortunately, pressure gets to me) and was only OK from the outside, so I focused mainly on rebounds.  Plus, the point guard generally hogged the ball most of the time (rightfully so :^).  And my physique and generally awkwardness made me a lineman in football, either rushing or defending.

But baseball, it didn't matter if I was the last player picked when choosing up teams (really, you picked THAT guy over me?), I got to bat and I got a position.  It might have been behind the pitcher, it might have been catcher, it might have been Left-Out, but I had a position.  And while some would bat me last often, they learned that I was better than that (I eventually batted leadoff for my 8-1 intramural softball team in college) and I was usually in the mix higher.

So while I didn't do much of significance in basketball or football that I can remember (getting a QB down behind the line?  I can remember passes I dropped...), I can still remember big plays in baseball.  Hitting a double down the line and driving in the winning run.  Blocking the plate to keep the runner from scoring and holding onto the ball for the out.  Doing a Willie Mays, running straight back for the ball and reaching out and grabbing it blind.  I might not have always been good in baseball (or any sports for that matter) but in baseball, I could be the hero at some point, you never know.

So, of course, I had to follow major league baseball.  Again, it was fate, meant to be.  Like any kid, I went for the team that was winning, and so I went for the Giants that season, 1971.  But after that season, growing up in the East Bay, I heard it a million times:  why aren't you an A's fan?  And I just missed their World Series run that happened then, though as a baseball fan, I enjoyed it.  So it was just meant to be.

And I wouldn't have it any other way, I feel like I earned my fan badge by cheering on my team from 1972 to 1986, and it was branded on, white hot with each near miss, 1978, 1982, 1987, 1989!, 1993!!!, 2002!!!!!!!!! Blacker and Oranger.

If I were an A's fan growing up, I'm not sure I'll be a fan today, I think I would be more jaded than I am, more willing to move on to grown up stuff.  You would think I would be a better fan, given that I loved sabermetrics forever, even before Bill James came around, I was fiddling with statistics anyway, crude stuff and yet strangely apt, I didn't have the Pythagorean formula, but I was using runs scored over runs allowed plus runs scored, so I think I have some affinity to the discipline.

But there was a time after the strike of 1994, when Matt Williams was stolen of a chance to match Babe Ruth's 60 homers, and worse, the World Series was cancelled.  I barely paid attention to the MLB back then.  If it wasn't that I was a lifelong newspaper reader and subscribing, it was Pavlovian, I would read the sports because it was there, as I still had interest in other sports, like basketball, football, golf, it was just, now, baseball was just another sport.

Maybe since it was McGwire and Sosa who brought me back, with their home run chase (I still believe Commisar Selig had the ball juiced to bring back the homers, but that's another story), one would think I would be draw to the A's story.  Maybe, maybe not.  I think I would have tired of the ownership being cheap, though.  I know I had some feelings like that when Lorie owned the club, and definitely when Magowan forced Sabean to buy a boadload of cheap players instead of allowing him to pursue Vlad, and worse, sacrifice a draft pick in order to save money to buy a player.  No owner should ever put a GM into such a position, they should just get out of baseball then.  Still, Magowan for the most part never cheaped out, and once AT&T was open, the pocketbook was open too.  So I think I was just meant to be a Giants fan.

And if you follow the Giants, you had to watch their games or at least listen to them.  Just happened that my Uncle gave me a small Japanese transistor radio, and I killed it carrying it everywhere, listening to games, no matter where I was.  It's like kids today glued to their smartphones or iPads, only I had that radio next to my ear.  And under my pillow, listening when I should have been sleeping (sorry Mom!).

And for me, listening to the Giants don't get any better than listening to Lon Simmons' rich baritone broadcasting the Giants games.  His humor, as he was very self-deprecating.  His grace.  His humility.  His distinctive voice.  He was a great story teller and yet knew when less was more.  He was a great announcer.  His voice was the voice of my childhood.

And that's another thing different between the Giants and the A's.  Simmons was the long-time voice of the Giants, then Hank Greenwald, then Jon Miller (there were a few others mixed in, but they were the main guys I remember over the years).  When I think Giants, I think KSFO and then KNBR, Channel 2 for TV games, there was stability throughout much of that period.  The A's had a new radio station every season, it seemed, nobody was willing to listen to them, and the broadcasters would change often too, and TV wasn't always assured, it seemed.

And, I'm sorry, I love Bill King, but for me, he was the voice of the Warriors (and apparently the Raiders too) and to hear him doing the A's was weird, though not as weird as Simmons doing A's broadcasts (a time we should not speak of...).  And that was after my childhood, I think, I would listen to A's game back then too (I needed my baseball fix), but don't really recall anyone distinctive enough to come to memory.

That continuity would help to sustain my interest, I believe, as my radio station locks were always set to KNBR first, then I get to the rest.  It would have faded had I been an A's fan, as I would not have been able to keep up with the radio and TV changes over the years, and would lack the identification with the team that I got with the Giants.

And Lon Simmons is a huge part of that.  His voice will forever mean that I'm a teenage boy, listening furtively to a Giants broadcast late night, hoping that his team will win (for once).  His voice will forever remind me of green grass and picnics, with the radio blaring in the background, ready to give me the latest score.  It will mean good times and bad, the next "great" player, starting with King Kong Kingman, the past losing season.  It will mean mediocre teams and yet the feeling that it might be different, next year, but generally not.

I was happy when the Giants re-hired him to be a broadcaster emeritus, who would show up sometimes to bring back good memories for fans like me.  I was especially happy because I knew that he was ripped off an some jerk investor who stole his life's savings, and needed the income.  It sounds like he has had a great retirement life in Hawaii (Maui Wowie!) for many years now, and I was happy about that.

Now he is gone:  Rest in Peace, Lon Simmons, now you get to broadcast again with Russ Hodges (who I never got to hear, so that's why it's all Lon for me) and get to tell him all about the three World Championships that the Giants have now.  And show him all your rings.


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