Saturday, January 30, 2010

Farewell to a Good Giant

Randy Winn officially signed with the Bronx Bombers this week. He got a 1 year deal worth $2 mil guaranteed. More importantly than the money, he may have punched his first ticket to the playoffs. The Yankees had the best assembled team in MLB in 2009 and brought back title #27 with it. Much of the strength of that team will return (Teixera, Rodriguez, Posada, Rivera, Cano, Swisher, Sabbathia, Burnett, Hughes, Pettite and of course the Captain himself – Jeter). The Yankees lost World Series MVP Hideki Matsui (who is basically a full time DH at this point) and the perennially productive Johnny Damon. But, they also acquired Curtis Granderson from the Tigers (sending CF prospect Austin Jackson to Detroit and Ian Kennedy to Arizona), traded for one of the most dominant 2009 NL starters in Javier Vasquez and now have added Winn. Winn will no doubt be a quality 4th outfielder (if for his ability to excellently play the corner outfield positions and center adequately alone) with a chance of Winning the everyday LF job. My one criticism is that it didn’t exactly seem to fit them perfectly and I think it probably became workable to Cashman because he came cheap and only for 1 season, opening the possibility for the Bombers to sing Carl Crawford next winter as he becomes a free agent. The Yankees were said to be looking for a right handed hitting outfielder. Brett Gardner will play the position quite well but has trouble with lefties. While Winn has been almost identical hitting from both the left and right side over his career, he was absolutely abysmal in 2009 against left handed pitching*.  Furthermore, Granderson is outstanding against RHP but can't hit a lick against LHP. I have to believe the Yankees feel or at least are hoping Winn's woes against lefties won't continue. Girardi will enter the spring wearing the No. 28 jersey in the hopes to bringing a 28th title to the Bronx. Girardi should feel confident with that goal in mind as it appears the Yankees will no doubt yet again be a powerhouse in the AL East. Randy Winn is the longest tenured active player (1,601 career games) without a single postseason appearance. Perhaps Randy can thank the likes of two of my favorite punching bags – Bill Bavasi and Brian Sabean – both of which were unable to surround Winn with enough quality players to propel him and his teammates to the postseason. His younger days were of course spent in the dark ages of the previous Devil Ray franchise.

*What was quite curious in 2009 was how Bochy continued to frequently play Winn against lefties despite the fact that he looked as if he’d never hit right handed in his life all season. Making it worse was the fact that by doing this, Bochy left Schierholtz on the bench who despite being a left handed hitter was handling lefties even better than righties throughout the season. It was a small sample of course and could have been a fluke, however, Schierholtz hit 3 of his 5 homerun against lefties and OPS’d 1.027 vs. .626 despite only logging 54 AB’s vs. 231 AB’s against righties. This is something that Bochy should keep an eye on in 2010. It’s a major plus to have a pure lefty handle lefty pitching so well. His OPS vs. RHP is frightening, though. So I looked up how he’d done in 2007 and 2008 in the big leagues and it was more or less the same story, though again in small samples. So then I looked up his minor leagues splits and discovered that over his minor league career he has handled LHP and RHP similarly and I would probably give him the edge versus righties, which is typically to be expected. For whatever reason, the RHP in MLB have found a way to severely exploit his weaknesses. Having watched so many games, I would have to say that his weakness is the down and in breaking stuff. He (like most of the Giants’ prospect lefties) have a huge hole down and in. And, in the major leagues, the pitchers can hit that spot nearly every time. Furthermore, they will continue to do so until he simply learns to lay off it.

I’d like to congratulate the Yankees for scooping a stand up guy and quality player. After close examination, Winn is actually one of the brightest spots of Brian Sabean’s tenure, a steal in terms of the trade that landed him as well as the salary he was paid while on the Giants. Sabean flipped Jesse Foppert (a once very highly regarded “can’t miss” top tier pitching prospect) who was coming off Tommy John surgery along with backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba at just the right time, i.e. just before Foppert was truly to turn into a pumpkin as he was the key to the trade. Bavasi: “Jesse has a better upside than any of the other pitchers with other clubs that we talked to about Randy Winn. We could end up with a real fine pitcher who was on his way to a real nice career before Tommy John surgery. But it’s a gamble, a real gamble.” And a gamble it was, one that really shows just how poorly Bavasi did in his tenure with Seattle.

As soon as Winn arrived in San Francisco he started tattooing the ball all over the park for the remainder of 2005. He had 6 HR though 102 games for the Mariners but hit 14 more for the Giants in just 58 games. It was definitely the most scorching hot that Winn would ever get in his career. Over those 58 games he had a Pujolsian OPS of 1.071 and played solidly in CF. Over the roughly 4 and a half seasons Winn played for the Giants he was paid a total of around $31 mil but racked up about $55 mil in value according to FanGraphs (see here) due largely to his outstanding defense. His best overall year came in 2008 when he probably deserved a gold glove for his masterful defense in the incredibly difficult right field of AT&T and his greater than league average hitting. And you can’t talk about how valuable he was until you mention how efficient he became as a base stealer. Winn swiped 25 bags in 2008 while only being caught twice. He was, without question, very useful.

I’m a bit sad to see fellow Santa Clara alum Winn go. I wish him the best of luck in his quest to seeing some October baseball for the first time, though I certainly won’t say that I hope it ends in a World Series ring. The thought of watching yet another Yankees dynasty makes me cringe. And if Mauer somehow is wearing the pinstripes in 2011, I may have to start following Cricket.

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