Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Your 2018 Giants: Sabes Back! But Not Lincecum...

Got some news to discuss on the Giants front (though I first had to post on Watson siging).

First off, Sabean is, as the title of Baggarly's exclusive interview conveys so nicely "Giants ownership directs Brian Sabean to reassume day-to-day responsibilities (subscription required)".  And that's the main message I would take from the interview.

The other is that Big Time Jimmy Tim Lincecum had a showcase the other day at the facility he's been working out at to get back into the majors.  As NBC Sports Bay Area reported, Jon Heyman reported that he pitched for 25-30 scouts, roughly 15-20 teams, throwing 90-93 MPH.  He averaged only 88.4 MPH for the Angels in 9 starts a couple of seasons ago.

ogc thoughts

The claim is that this is not "purely" about Evans but more about widespread failure that led to the 98-loss season.  So, reading between the tea leaves, Evans was demoted, (hence the Sabean reassume day-to-day responsibilities), but it was not all about Evans alone, according to the Giants.

The article also noted that a Sabean interview with USA Today while scouting rankled some of the ownership, because he apparently was seeking to separate himself far from the MLB team. So it also seems like a reaction to Sabean wiping his hands of the whole thing, in that interview, and reminding him that he still has a job to do beyond scouting.  If so, that's petty to me (which is not unusual for Giants ownership), because as I've been writing all off season, the 2017 Giants were done in by a lot of one-off type of injuries and off performances.

Perfect Baseball Storm

The list was long and there is no way to cover all them with any sort of decent depth, it was just bad fortune, not bad planning, as no one can plan for so many injuries across a team, as well as poor performances:
  • Melancon:  from the first day of the season, he had an arm problem that had been bothering him for years and finally he couldn't get over the tightness and had a poor season, before finally getting operated on at the end of the season.  His blown save on the first game of the season set the tone for everything else to follow.  There's rarely a backup when your closer goes down, but Smith in this case, probably was the backup.
  • Smith:  his TJS diagnosis right before the season began started the season's bad tone.  Here, there were two lefties as backup, but neither Osich or Okert could deliver, and with the season in the dumper so soon, no need to trade for a better one.  
  • Bumgarner:  injured himself riding dirt bike, and the Giants season was much like Bumgarner's body afterward:  beaten and hurting.  Nobody replaces an ace easily, but Blach did a nice job for a few months.  And 'nuff said, Bumgarner's injury won't happen again.
  • Cueto:  blisters from the new baseball being used (not just him, others reported it too).  Shouldn't happen again.  But no team replaces an ace easily, ask the Twins about Liriano costing them prime seasons of Maurer and Morneau.
  • Moore:  somehow lost his mechanics for his fastball when he added a cutter.  How does that happen?  Pitchers add pitches all the time, and generally get better, not lose their bread and butter pitch.  
  • Cain:  he's been bad and never recovered, and Blach would have been a great replacement but with Bumgarner out, Blach replaced him instead, and they had to keep on going with Cain since the season was done as well.
  • Belt:  hit in the head with a pitch, the offense was averaging 4.6 runs scored per game in the two months before, which was above average; they only averaged 3.9 runs scored per game after, which was very poor.  He basically got replaced by Hundley, as Posey took over firstbase while he was out..
  • Panik:  cold slump until near the end of May, once he started hitting, the Giants averaged 4.6 runs scored until Belt went out.  It happens, but usually there is another player playing above expectations to counter.
  • 3B:  once Nunez was traded, Arroyo, Jones, Tomlinson, Hwang, Gillaspie, and Sandoval did not hit very well, so badly overall that even though Nunez hit very well when playing 3B, the offense from 3B was still horrible overall:  .568 OPS.  Again, the Giants had a number of options, but nobody could deliver until Sandoval in the last month, roughly, of the season, when he was Panda.  
  • Crawford:  for whatever reason, he was not himself early in the season (potential reason that he said wasn't, was that his brother-in-law passed away suddenly at a young age before the season).  He reached a low point of .618 on July 7th.  He hit .802 OPS the rest of the season.
  • LF:  Parker started off cold, but soon was on the DL long term with his busted shoulder after hurting himself going after a flyball.  People complained about LF, he actually hit OK, not great, but for a young player, he was OK.  And, here, we actually had a good replacement here, with Slater taking the opportunity and hitting well ... before he got injured.  No team has that many replacement OF sitting in their farm system waiting for their big chance, people want to blame the Giants for not being prepared, but this was a perfect storm of injuries and poor performances by hitters we were depending on.  Still, we had Williamson, but he also got injured (but hit decently, not bad for a replacement player), and after that, Gorkys got most of the AB's and did not hit well enough.  He was like the fourth option, and after the first three options hit OK but then got injured, he didn't hit well.  That's actually good depth.  
  • CF:  Span actually hit well (though hot and cold) during the season, but it was his excruciatingly poor defense there (along with Gorkys) which hurt the team badly here.  All together, -32 Rdrs, or roughly -3 wins defensive value.  On a seasonal basis, Span was -31 Rdrs, Gorkys Hernandez -11 Rdrs.  No depth here, though Duggar was supposed to be that depth, and got injured...  
  • RF:   As I wrote about in a post, Pence had issues with injuries in April.  He was hitting well when injured, tried to play with it, and then finally was DLed.  He then came back before he got his hitting stroke back.  He hit his low point on June 10, then hit .759 OPS the rest of the season, covering roughly 4 months.  He had an OK season except for that early part when he was injured and not hitting well.   Plus all the backups in LF could have played here, but got injured.
No team can cover for everything that happened above.  Even if you had all the money the Yankees had, you would not be able to buy your way out of the miserable season like 2017 when so many things conspired to make the season bad.  Very few things actually happened as expected, and unfortunately, one of the expected results was Cain doing poorly.  And Posey, one of the few bright spots for the season had one particularly cloudy issue:  his power disappeared again in the second half.  The only good thing was Stratton's breakout performance in the majors.

Where's There Smoke

I found the news to confirm my spidey sense that something was happening, because Sabean had mostly been in the shadows in previous off-seasons, but he not only showed up for the press conferences, but he also was being quoted regarding the team.  That was something I noted in my posts about the various press conferences that came out, how different it was that Sabean was speaking for the Giants, for after Evans got promoted, Sabean had been mostly in the shadows, and didn't even show up for the ending presser, Evans ran the whole thing.

It sounds like Evans will be doing what he was doing before, for the most part, but that Sabean will be handling all the day-to-day interactions with Bochy, and the buck will stop with him now, instead of Evans (hence why I agree with you that he was demoted).  And he's there to light a fire under the team, under the players.

Lincecum's Showcase and Giants Opportunity Not Good Enough

Nobody knows what Lincecum wants right now, other than that he chose a guaranteed contract.  Presumably, he wants a starting position, but the bigger question for most teams probably is this:  is he willing to take a relief position now, if not starting?  In any case, an unreported team has offered Lincecum a guaranteed contract, so we'll never know whether a reunion with the Giants would have worked out, but the Giants have a lot of open spots if he would have been willing to accept the uncertainty.

And the Giants have a lot of opportunity across the board this season.  There are starting positions open in the rotation, though I think Stratton's position is his to lose, as long as he has a decent spring training, he should have that #4 position, but that still leaves #5.  In addition, there's the long reliever position, which the Giants have gone with most seasons, and Lincecum would be ideal for that position, as Bochy could be able to use him both in long relief and short relief, due to his ability to bounce back so quickly, at least in the past, and his ability to warm up quickly.  Finally, the Giants have an open reliever position that Law looks likely to win right now, but the competition is wide open there.

Competition for #5 starting position would be Holland, Blach, Suarez, Beede.  There are so many candidates that Bochy has already said that he's going to have to pitch them back to back, like 4 innings each, and also pitch them in short relief roles as well, just to see what type of flexibility the Giants can have with each SP candidate.  And Stratton needs to pitch well too, or there's two positions open.

Same competition for the long relief position too.  And with Fernandez around, they could decide to make this a short relief position too, as a long reliever is not necessary early in the season, as the bullpen is fresh enough to take on bullpen games.

The competition for short relief are Law, Fernandez, Okert, Osich, Moronta, Holland, roughly in that order.  The Giants will be leaning towards Fernandez because he's Rule 5, so if they decide that he's good enough to keep, they will probably have to keep him on the 25-man at least a month, because the Rockies most likely will not make it easy for the Giants by making a trade.

With most competitors for the position having options the Giants can use, or in Holland's case, can be placed in the minors initially (assuming he's okay with that placement; the Giants likely need to work with him on his sequencing and pitch usage, as he has elite spin rates on a couple of his pitches, and a couple of effective pitches), Lincecum's hardest competition is Fernandez, and he's making the jump from A-ball to the majors, and thus unlikely to be huge competition.

Still, with the velocity he demonstrated in the showcase, he could be of value this season, but 90-93 MPH isn't elite, and he had some success in that velocity range, but could not sustain performance.  However, a pitcher noted that Timmy wasn't pitching off a mound or in a game, and so he would have more velocity in a game situation, something I did not see mentioned in any media article about the showcase.  How much more, however, is the key.  And presumably all the scouts there knew about that and adjusted as necessary, in their heads, I assume the comment was more for the fans on Twitter, where he posted.

The Giants just don't have much money, so it'll be interesting to see what another team offered him guaranteed.  Too bad, would have loved to see him in Orange and Black again.  But like last time, if he don't deliver quickly, he could find himself DFAed again, quickly, unless he's with a team that's rebuilding and can tolerate losing to find out if he can be good again.

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