Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I think he loves baseball

Recently FanGraphs updated their UZR ratings by taking into account some of the unique ballparks – such as left field at Fenway. Guess what? Jason Bay’s 2009 UZR went from -13.8 to +1.9. You better believe that affected what he was able to get in free agency. I think a few more teams would have been interested and it would have driven his stock up. Anyway, I thought that was interesting.

Muy interesante. Hey I mess you guys, we got to hang out more often.

Love ya.

Miss u guys 2. I enjoyed hanging with u both this weekend.
Agree completely. Either of you get nervous when Lincecum pitches? I know that’s weird but I do! Murph and Mac were talking about that this morning. Pretty strange … I’ve never gotten nervous for a Cain start, Zito start, etc.
I just get a little nervous because I want him to get a W every time. But most of all, it hasn't worn off that we are watching something special. Every single start I feel very lucky because I know I am watching one of the few great dominate starters ever. We never saw Gibson or Koufax, or Gooden early just really great guys like Pedro etc. And even if we had, it wouldn't have been every 5th day!

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Look, Same Bad Smell....

Bob: Nothing good to talk about. It's early, but I feel like it's last year all over again with a different twist.
I can't believe how good the pitching has been 1-4? At least that is fun, but oh so painful to see it wasted. Is it too early to say that your Affeldt post in December was spot on, Ror? Yes, I think so...but time will probably prove you right. What to do in the mean time? I guess I could pretend to like the sharks until they get eliminated this week or next.

Dirty: They really didn’t fix anything that was the problem last year; we kind of knew that coming in. You could say they upgraded the offensive marginally, sure, but nothing drastic. We also knew that injury could become a factor with an aged every day lineup, which it already has. Rowand was a freak injury – but DeRosa is older and already missed a few games. Freddy Sanchez still isn’t very close to returning and May 1st seems highly unlikely if not impossible now.

The No. 5 spot in the rotation is looking to be precisely what it was last year – an almost guaranteed L. Their defense has probably played above its true ability to this point … we’ll be lucky if that continues. Affeldt’s not going to have the season he had last year – I think it was spot on. He’ll be good or at least Ok, but not dominant. I still think the ‘pen is solid though.
Most encourage is J. Sanchez. He’s missing bats as he always has but he’s found that consistency with his motion. It’s beautiful to see him grow up. He’s getting into the 7th and 8th inning now. That’s something he’s never been able to do.
Wellermeyer is the perfect example of why spring stats for veterans are utterly useless. Wellerymeyer deals only to promptly get hammered in the regular season. Lincecum was the exact opposite: bad spring, sterling April thus far. And Bumgarner is not ready to save the day on the 5 spot. He’s on a strict pitch count now too, apparently.

Watching the Giants’ offense disgusts me.

Big Pop: You are 100% right on the money. We didn't fix anything over the winter. Sabean and Botchy need to GO! They don't get the job done. It's time to clean the old out. We have some very good pieces to the puzzle. But, we are missing some very important ingredients. I am truly amazed at how slow they are to act on this. The time is now not in a few years. The staff is dominant 1,2,3, and #4 four (Sanchez is showing great ability). We need consistent offense, not some has beens or wannabe's. Retreads haven't worked in the past 5 years it's time for a a new strategy. I say fire Sabean and make some trades for offense. Just don't give away the farm.That's my take.

Rockfish: Passionate the Paap men are about baseball. The giants' fast start really worried me, because I knew it wasn't sustainable, and it would be just a matter of time before the offense returned to the mean. They aren't much improved from last year, and to Rory's point....they are still old, slow, and will struggle to support this stellar starting staff. Can you imagine what we would have if Tim, Cain, and Sanchez were here 8 years ago, or if BB was 8 years younger? That absolutely kills me. Sabean is a bum, and needs to go.
you should post this.
Bob: If Dirty is ok with it, we should post this tomorrow. Tim, Matt, Jonathan, and let's not forget how good Barry has been so far. Zito I mean, oh man, but this would have the baseball world pissing in their jock straps if the other Barry was 8 years younger.
Dirty: Well I guess while we’re at it we may as well plug in a younger Mays in center and Stretch at 1B. I’ll take Kent at 2B and move Posey in as catcher. Maybe a Spier at SS or Aurilia if we want more offense. Definitely leaving Panda at 3B. Shoot – lets just plug in Christie Mathewson or Carl Hubble as the 5th starter. Did Ott play RF – or Cepeda? I think that should do it …
Rockfish: Whoa Whoa Whoa, I think you are just being a smart a** now.

The Intricacies of the Giants’ offense (for lack of a better word)

Intricacy (noun)

1. Complexity – the character of something that has many aspects or parts arranged together in a particularly complex or artful way

2. Element of complex thing – one of the parts or details making up a complex and often puzzling whole.
I’ll take the second definition on account of the word puzzling, versus the first with the word artful. The Giants’ offense is about as artful as a made for TV B-rated movie on the Sci-Fi channel.

There are many ways to look at the failure of the Giants to find a way to win the last 3 days. One way that I would not choose to look at it would be to mention that Jonathan Sanchez failed to advance a slow catcher to third base on a sacrifice bunt and allowed Chase Headley to steal 3 bases off of him (1 of which resulted in the only run of the game).

I can’t imagine why anyone would mention that after watching last nights ballgame. After last night and through 3 starts – averaging 12.57 K’s per 9 IP – Jonathan Sanchez trails only Dan Haren in the Major Leagues with strikeouts. He’s mixing his pitches well with a nasty breaking ball and a splitter-changeup (much like Lincecum’s) – imagine the possibilities folks – and he incorporated a tiny hitch/ hesitation in his motion that’s allowing that lazy free long left arm of his catch up to his body and helping him repeat his delivery. When the Giants called the Marlins each time this offseason on Uggla, they simply said Sanchez, Sanchez, and Sanchez again. Sabean smartly said no, no and NO (again)! To discuss some of the things he must refine to get to the next level is silly. Tim Lincecum couldn’t hold runners on to save his life his first two full seasons, and I’m pretty sure two Cy Young’s later that was the least of our concerns. Lincecum has worked on it and in time so will Sanchez. Such things come with time and experience and should be completely tabled presently. Great pitchers are often afflicted with holding runners. You could swear that some players flat out didn’t even care about the runner. Rob Nen comes to mind. Bengie Molina could run at will on Nen. But guess what? Nen just knew he would simply strike out the batter at the plate, and thus the runner wasn’t but an afterthought. And as far as the bunting goes, it probably wouldn’t have mattered had he gotten Whiteside over, anyway. Not when not only can the lineup get a measly hit with RISP (runners in scoring position), but they can’t even hit a deep enough fly ball or in some cases even put the ball in play to get the run home. Plus, you try and bunt a 96 mph fastball off of a tall right hander with tremendous tilt. Not easy, not fun.

They scored a ton of runs versus some weak pitching early on, and that was the result of many of their runs. Consider this: Over the last three games, the Giants are 1-25 with RISP. That’s bad, right? Well, the Giants’ opponents are 0-11. The Giants’ pitching is doing way more than the can hope to sustain. They’ve allowed few base runners and have not given up a single hit with a runner in scoring position. The difference is that their opponents have found ways to win by hitting a big HR (Eck and Manny) and converting on sac-fly situations. The Giants have had more than twice the opportunities offensively and just haven’t gotten it done.
The Giants’ lack of speed and athleticism is also starting to get the better of them. There’s been at least a couple of balls this season where Renteria couldn’t range more than what seemed like a few steps to balls hit to his left and right. His lack of range is startling. A shortstop should be either providing great defense, or hitting more than his share to make up for it. Renteria is doing neither. He started off 11-16 but since has gone 5-38 with 10 strikeouts. If anything, though, the Giants have played above their ability defensively. They have made the routine plays for the most part and that’s all we can hope for from them.
Giants fans are quickly going to have to realize that little has changed in terms of last years offense versus this year. The pitching has a chance of actually being better, which is remarkable. It’s more than likely going to be another infuriating year. Watching them play with such brilliant pitching and stark ineptitude offensively can sometimes feel like the ups and downs of a co-dependant relationship, enough to madden even the sanest of Bay Area citizens.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kruk and Kuip are never wrong...oh wait

Did either of you notice the other night when Kruk and Kuip credited Molina with having the most RBI’s in SF Giants history for a catcher? Anyway, Rob Neyer checked that and found 2 players AHEAD of Molina on the RBI list – and gave them a gentle critique. They corrected themselves the next night and credited Neyer for alerting them of their mistake. It was pretty cool, anyway.

Farewell Fred

Ideas from Rory:
Here are the Giants options to designate for asssignment in place of Fred Lewis:
Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Velez, Torres or pitcher to go to 6 man pen.

Ishi: Most obvious defensive replacement on team, thus this won’t happen.
Schierholtz: Also a defensive replacement, player the Giants still very much like. Out of options. This won’t happen.

Velez: player who they were losing patience with, but who has come off the bench to hit a key double (in front of Renteria’s 2-run bomb off Wagner), and 2-run HR in the 9th Tuesday. + he has speed, plus he plays OF and IF, plus he’s a switch hitter. This likely won’t happen.

Torres: Slow start, but he’s a switch hitter – and the key is that his strong side is hitting right handed. Best defensive replacement on the team. Speed. Out of options, I presume. Seems unlikely.

Pitcher: Bochy could consider losing a bullpen arm with the days off in April and the way the starters have pitched. But this likely won’t happen. I don’t know who’s out of options … Medders seems most likely but he’s guaranteed I think … that won’t happen.

They’ve been saying it for months upon months, since the end of last season. If Lewis needed to start the season on the DL, then why did he start playing in Fresno basically a day after opening day? They were trying to buy themselves time, which they are out of. The Giants will either release Lewis or trade him for a half-full bag of Doritos. It’s been fun Freddy Lewis

Response From Rusty:
I like Fred Lewis a lot. I feel that he has more potential than he got credit for in SF. His tool bag was pretty full: potential for major power, speed, OB skills. I guess he and his tool bag are moving on and the G's get nada. Too bad. I wish him luck, same as Frandsen. How much do you really think his demeanor plays into this?
  Response from Rory:
A lot. Plus their belief he’s a crummy fielder  
Response from Rusty:
As a fan that really doesn't know crap about evaluating someone in the outfield, I thought he was crummy also. But, I think I was jumping the gun. It's really dumb to say someone isn't good based on a couple of misplayed or dropped balls, which is what I was doing. I assume the Giants are too. I also think he has a lot of speed, which probably means he can make up for bad routes to a degree, so I've heard. Never played much OF and we all know I never had any speed.
Response from Rory:
I don’t know much about it either, aside from the stuff I’ve read and the stats available. Defensive metrics are not yet an exact science. Also, franchises like the Red Sox claim to have their own ‘systems’ and don’t necessarily (at least publicly) subscribe to certain defensive metrics, such as UZR that FanGraph’s uses. Their GM Theo Epstein has said this publicly, though it may have been tongue in cheek to try and back up his player. I’m speaking about Jacoby Ellsbury, of course. The Red Sox said they didn’t agree with his 2009 UZR (which was absolutely horrendous). They believed he was average. But actions speak louder than words, and they signed Mike Cameron (who is 37 years old) to play CF and moved Ellsbury to LF.
Here’s the problems though. For starters, a lot of the UZR stuff is based on POSITIONING. Some players control this, some coaches do. It depends on scouting reports, etc. If a team has bad scouting reports he may get hurt in fielding metrics if he’s not positioned well consistently. Also, park factors. Some parks are just goofy. Left field in Boston is tricky because its so short and you have the bounces off the wall. It’s possible that wall is goofing up both LF and CF metrics for Boston players. AT&T might be a similar case with right field. Lastly, positions. Some positions are goofy. C is the biggest problem. They don’t really know how to evaluate catchers defense other than by CS % and observation – blocking, athleticism, etc. 1B can also be tricky. Other things? Hm … off the top of my head. How about if a team has a TON of sinker baller type pitchers? More opportunity for infielders, more data, likely a better sample size and representation of skill. The Giants, on the other hand, have a ton of strikeout/flyball pitchers. That gives the outfielders more opportunity, and less opportunity to go around all together because the players are not putting the ball in play.

Anyway, Lewis looks like a lost goat in the OF. He has bad instincts. He’s prob an average fielder, and that’s basically what the UZR suggests. People assume he’s terrible, UZR says he’s average.

Sabermetricians consider LF a “fungible” position. They can easily be replaced. You can have Adam Dunn out there who will cost you defensively but will add with his bat. You can have Carl Crawford who can do it all, little power, speed, average, decent on base skills, extraordinary defense. Or you can go defense with (David Dejesus – Royals) who can hit a little bit. There are certain things required of up the middle positions and RF. CF, you need RANGE. RF you need a good ARM. LF? You typically want a guy that can hold is own and catch the ball, and who can hit. Lewis is probably a below average LF hitter, and at best about a league average hitter period. He’s not the ‘answer’ so to speak. Does he have some things you look for in a player? Ya. But he’s got his faults, I think his demeanor has come into question, no one else seems to really want him, he’s out of options, and most of all – the Giants just have too many of these types. I mean … if you could throw Schierholtz’ arm, Toress’ speed and range, Lewis’ OBP, and Bowkers power into one guy, you’d have something. But we’re not in Santa’s Helpers’ factory, and we’re not building toys from spare parts. Someone is going without dinner in this family, and I think it’s going to be Fred Lewis.
Response from Rocky:
As a guy who has played outfield a lot, and even had the opportunity to roam the outfield at AT&T recreationally a few times. I have some thoughts. Fred Lewis is not as bad as fans, or the Giants think he is. I personally hate watching him fumble around in left, taking terrible routes to the ball, and generally looking like it's his first rodeo. The truth to the matter is, positioning, and instincts are what make fielders great, but athletic ability and speed can makes up for shortcomings in the previous. No one can say that Fred Lewis is slow, or isn't athletic. The dude, actually glides when he runs.

Cal Ripken Jr. was a master SS, because he played trends, and pitches. He literally knew where the ball would be. Ozzie Smith, was the Wizard because he knew the game, plus he was an athletic freak. Jim Edmonds and Ken Griffey Jr. were amazing outfielders, but both had different skill sets.

Fred Lewis is not gifted with fielding instincts. He doesn't appear to be positioned well at times, either because he is at fault, or the coaches don't take the wheel. Fred Lewis, however is FAST. I don't think he will ever be a Gold Glover, but he has value. His paient eye at times, his OBP, his Power Potential, and speed make him valuable beyond the shortcomings in the field. Any team with a stellar CF will gain from giving away their bag of Dorritos to have him as a 4th Outfielder. Especially if they have to compete in a division that has a truckload of Dorritos. (Think AL East)

Bits and Bites

Tidbits on Tim:
He’s (obviously) looked really really good thus far. Do you know what they (Bengie and Tim) said about the McCann homerun? Bengie and Lincecum said that they were trying to deemphasize the change-up early on in the game. Well, after that Lincecum threw a ton of change-ups and just dominated with that pitch. He’s truly working with 4 swing and miss pitches. His velocity isn’t quite what it once was but mixing all 4 and having that devastating change just makes that not matter (very much). Another thing that drives this point (which I realized recently while looking at some stats) comes from Ubaldo Jimenez. He’s the Rockies righty that throws GAS – like 95 mph average octane for a starting pitcher – which is incredible. He and Verlander are really the only two that do that. Anyway, Ubaldo has less than a strikeout per inning over the last three seasons even with that power fastball. So, it’s not (just) the fastball that is going to accumulate so many K’s, it’s the offspeed the pitcher throws OFF the fastball. Lincecum has 4 pitches he will throw at any time, any count, and any batter. Moreover, he’s fearless. He just doesn’t care. He’ll get hit for a 500 home run on a fastball, and then throw the same pitch the next time the guy comes up. Lincecum will not let a hitter take a single pitch away from him.

What does this mean, and why is it important? I’ll tell you, so stick with me. Hitters know that Lincecum is fearless. When a player like McCann hits a bomb off Timmy on a fastball you’d naturally imagine that the next time up McCann would have in the back of his mind that Timmy won’t throw him another. That would probably be true with your normal, non-Freakish pitcher, but it’s not the case with Timmy. The next time up, McCann (or the hitter) knows that he cannot eliminate that pitch or any other. He knows that Lincecum doesn’t care how hard he hit that pitch last time and so he has to be ready for that same fastball, that change-up, that slider or buckling curve. I’ve watched most of Timmy’s starts since 2007 and I can tell you with confidence that I’ve seen players take Timmy deep and then look like fools in their next at bat. I’ve seen him beat great players with the same pitch they previously hit out, and I’ve seen him make players look foolish on the other 3 pitches. That’s what having 4 above average pitches that you will throw in any count and any situation will do for a pitcher. Tim’s just … stupid (good).

Oh … and he takes 14 pitches to warm up after a 4 hour rain delay spent playing Golden Tee (an arcade golf game … ) and taking a nap. You can’t make that stuff up. We’re lucky we get to see him every fifth day. Parting fact: his fastball thru two games is exactly what it was 2009 – on average – or 92.4 MPH according to FanGraphs. That’s still about 8-10 MPH less than the change and quite obviously plenty effective.

Tidbits on Buster:
Posey played 1B for Fresno Sunday night and hit his first HR. To that point, he’d had something like 22 AB’s and reached 13 times. He was 9 for 18. I think (pray) the Giants realized something on Saturday night when Whiteside was playing and the Braves pitched around Bowker and Uribe when the Giants had an inning going. Having Whiteside hit 8th is like having two pitchers hit back to back. You want to talk about easy outs … it’s like the pitcher has to get 7 guys out and the next two are nearly automatic. He’s a rally killer in every sense of the phrase. At the end of May, Posey will have spent enough time in the minors to push free agency back 1 year because of the time he spent in the big leagues last September (33 days of service time) and they’ll want to keep him below 172+ days of service time which is considered a full season. Bottom line: If he’d made the club, his free agency would have started a year earlier. So, if the Giants are truly just protecting themselves from future cash and years of control on Posey, he’ll be up by one of two dates. It’ll be late May if they feel they can get him the AB’s and need him. Or, it won’t be until early July when they can push him past super-two status. Expect the kid then, late May or early July, and certainly this season.

Parting Bite:
I still think the Giants need a big acquisition to really be the team in the West and make noise in October. If you put some thump and plate discipline into the middle of the Giants lineup, it probably becomes an above average lineup. And, if the Giants could get a very good bat for Madison Bumgarner right now, I’d pull the trigger. There’s no such thing as an untouchable prospect, and his pitching (and fastball) of late certainly have seemed touchable.

He walk's....You Run

There was a LOT to be frustrated about last Tuesday's game, but I am going to pick something you might not expect. You might think I’d pick how the Giants went 3-14 with RISP, or how they had a runner at third with less than two outs a couple of times and couldn’t convert (such as when Uribe struck out in the situation). Or you might think I’d pick how they had 1st and 2nd no outs with the teams fastest player (i.e. Torres) up to bat. And how he somehow managed to hit into such a tailor made double play that he was out by literally a mile, despite his wonderful speed. Or you might think I’d pick how Medders came into the game in the 9th just down by a run and allowed the Pirates’ lead to balloon to 3 runs – it’s still early but if he continues to pitch like that, guaranteed contract or not, he’s a goner. Or, you might think I’d pick the most obvious person to blame, Edgar Renteria, who flat out dropped the most perfect double play feed from a pitcher imaginable – right at his chest, 1,6, 3 (to be) – but no.

I’ll actually pick what directly preceded that. Affeldt was pitching in the 8th inning with the ballgame tied, and he walked the Pirates’ fastest runner – Andrew McCutchen, whom already had stolen not 1 but 2 bases, mind you – on 4 straight pitches. That’s what really burned me. When I was a pitcher in college, we had to run poles – which is running from foul pole to foul pole along the in play fence line – every time as a team we walked more than 2 batters in a game, walked the leadoff hitter, or walked someone we had in the hole 0-2. What Affeldt did wasn’t on that list, but it should be. If I were Rag’s, you better believe Affeldt would be running some poles this morning before the game.

That’s what really burned me, and believe it or not, that’s what really burned the Giants. If Affeldt doesn’t walk McCutchen and actually retires him, the score likely stays tied. If the game stays tied, Brian Wilson pitches the 9th inning (because you always pitch your closer in a tied game in the 9th at home – but not away – because at home the save situation no longer exists at that point. And if Brian Wilson pitches the 9th inning, he probably doesn’t give up two runs. That’s a lot of “probablyeeze,” but the Giants should probably beat the Pirates – often – and certainly on Tuesday Night.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Wild West

Ok... So everyone always jots down the 'keys to the season.' they are always relevant, but really there are endless keys to the season. Usually people will tend to pick one player or two players, and say they need to have a good season (and/or stay healthy) for their team to contend and fulfill their playoff aspirations.
Specifically for the Giants, I'm hearing often that Zito must have a good first half in addition to his usual quality (if not stellar) post mid-summer classic. I'm hearing that Jonathan Sanchez must become what he's capable of: a swing and miss, dominant left handed pitcher who can steady the back of the rotation. Freddy Sanchez must get healthy, stay healthy, and produce. Finally, getting more macro, they must score more runs than 2009 and catch the ball better than experts are predicting they will. 

I'm going to think a bit outside the box. Sure, all of the above has been said and makes a bunch of sense. But, even if they can accomplish that, it may not be enough. This is a tough division. Colorado's lineup is a nightmare of speed, patience and power. They’re so good up the middle (where it counts), with Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler covering all that ground. Their rotation could be at the least quite good, if not very good. Ubaldo Jimenez is basically the hardest throwing starting pitcher in the league... He may even be the hardest throwing pitcher period in either league. De la Rosa gave everyone fits in the second half last season. Aaron Cook has been very solid for them and his sinker is suited for their home yard. Jeff Francis is shut down, and if he gets back healthy he only bolsters their chances. Their bullpen is banged up with Street out, but when he's back is going to be very good.

All offseason was the talk of the Dodgers' ownership divorce proceedings. Well, they may not have gotten much better, but did they need to? They took the division wire to wire in 2009. They have an excellent bullpen, spooky lineup that could only improve with maturation from the Kemp-Ethier-Loney trio - and the always fearsome Manny. He may be looking aged, but he can still hit and can carry an offense for a month at times. Their rotation? It didn't look all that great last year, but was one of the NL's best. Don't assume it's not good again. Their bullpen will often bail out the starters by stranding inherited runners. They are the team to beat until proven otherwise.

The Diamondbacks are lurking and will take off if Webb returns and pitches well. Beware. The Friars are probably fried, but aren't terrible. Teams will have to earn their wins against them. They are rebuilding and may unload their prized left handed masher Adrian Gonzalez sometime this summer.

The Giants have looked good through 3 games. But you must take that with a grain of salt. On a positive note, the wins were on the road, something that was scarce in 2009. On the negative, it was against the Berkman-less Astros. They aren't slated to contend with Berkman. Take him out of the lineup and their just not competitive. It's as Neyer said: "they're rebuilding but don't know it yet."

My keys to the season go something like this:

1) Win the head to head games against the Rockies and Dodgers. Every game is worth double H2H. They don't (and obviously couldn't possibly) win them all. But they'll need to win more often than not. This may seem obvious, but it's so critical.

2) Even if it is enough to win the division, and I’m very skeptical, it won’t be enough to do anything in October. They need something to push them over the edge and it’ll likely have to come as an offense (and hopefully defensive) upgrade from outside the organization. The Giants have not pulled off an impactful deadline deal since … quite possibly Kenny Lofton in 2002. It’s been dud after dud since then. If Sabean wants to get out of my doghouse – and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to regardless of what he does – he’ll need to pull off one last successful deadline deal. If the Rays fall out of the race in the AL East – Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford are going to get shopped aggressively. Adrian Gonzalez’s price will be too hefty (especially for an NL West team, but he’s still in the mix. Others will become available as the season unfolds and keeping an eye on the rebuilding franchises will be key; Grady Sizemore in Cleveland is a possibility. Sabean’s a former Executive of the Year, but he’ll need to actually earn his paycheck as that onetime honor has probably earned him his last extension.

3) Finally, Bumgarner and Posey are looming in Fresno. Posey is a slam dunk to unseat Whiteside and take over part time catching duties down the stretch. This is a very good thing. People assume the kid is just a bat – and he can hit – but that’s not the whole story. He barrels a lot of pitches and works the count. He’s got some pop for double digit dingers and will find ways to get on base. Defensively, he hasn’t gotten enough credit yet. He’s a confident, quiet leader who will be better at stopping the running game with a cannon for an arm and will provide energy and athleticism behind the plate. As he learns the game, learns the staff and matures – he’s going to be a defensive upgrade, a considerable one. Again, he’s not just a bat. If he was just a bat and couldn’t stick (and flourish) at catcher – he wouldn’t have been a top 5 pick and one that very well could have gone 1st overall. If Wellermeyer struggles – heck, even if he doesn’t – he may be displaced by Bumgarner. Once his mechanics settle down in Fresno, there’s reason to believe he’ll start dominating again. He needs to start missing bats again if he is every going to make good on the lofty Ace projections that surrounded him on draft day and as recently as last season. He’ll make his first start tonight for Fresno against the Reno Aces after the Giants’ home opener.

The year of the Chez (as in Jonathan Sanchez) begins at 1:35 PM – compliments of Murph and Mac.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Letter to Henry Schulman

This is a rebuttal to Henry's blog blast of sabermetrics.

Dear Henry:

SI’s “modest proposal” for the Giants is nowhere near as outlandish as you claim. I have no doubt many people email you saying Fred Lewis’ OBP should result in he being selected to start in LF every day, in addition to the similar comments on internet boards. But, I assure you, this isn’t the only reason Joe Sheehan would make such a (shrewd-ish) proposal.

First off, Lewis’ D is nowhere near as bad as it looks. It looks bad. There’s no doubt about it. He sometimes looks like a lost dog out there trying to track down fly balls. Luckily, he’s a greyhound. Lewis is athletic enough that his lack of outfield instincts allow him to somewhat make up for his poor routes and frustrating errors. Am I saying LF is equivalent to RF at AT&T? No. Am I saying that Lewis is as good as Schierholtz defensively? No. But, it’s not as bad as it seems. Furthermore, Mark DeRosa’s career UZR numbers suggest that his best position (of the many he plays capably) is right field. So, you have to at least consider this: DeRosa in right, Lewis in left.

Let’s now tackle the OBP matter, which you attempted to dismantle, halfheartedly. Lewis has always walked a lot and struck out a lot. He has in the minors, he has in the majors. In fact, despite the fact that he “backed off the plate” in 2009, his K% only went up from 26.5% to 28.5% from 2008-2009.  Yes, about 2 per 100 PA's or about 10 over the course of a season. Also, moving off the plate didn’t impact his walks (or OBP) much because he went from 9.7% to 10.8%, a difference of less than 1%. OBP and avoiding outs is important, this fact couldn’t possibly be said enough. And, Schierholtz hasn’t shown an ability to consistently get on base other than to hit his way on in either the minor leagues or the major leagues, and unfortunately – because I like Schierholtz a lot – he hasn’t shown near the power at the plate to slug away the problem his on-base skills create. The highest OBP Schierholtz was able to post in either the minors or majors at an adequate sample size was just .365 as a Fresno Grizzly in 2007. To make matters worse, the OBP he did have was due largely to his high BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which was .355. And his walk rate? Not quite even 4%.

Another factor that could lend to SI advocating placing players in the lineup with higher on-base skills, and specifically with Lewis, is the lead off spot. The Giants are going with Aaron Rowand. Rowand is not a leadoff hitter. The fact that Rowand thrived in that spot for a span of roughly 2 months in 2009 means next to nothing. Rowand doesn’t see enough pitches to bat leadoff, doesn’t get on base nearly enough and his no speed. He simply doesn’t move particularly well on the base paths. Lewis, on the other hand, is a more ideal leadoff hitter. He has the ability to knock the ball out of the park and the speed to make singles into doubles. He sees many more pitches and understands how to take a walk and make his way on base. He’s a threat to steal and can flat out move.

Ishikawa starting over Aubrey Huff isn’t so outlandish, either, though the real problem is that neither player is very good. Ishikawa doesn’t hit enough (but plays brilliant defense). Aubrey Huff has hit well enough in the past – key word – but has spatula’s for hands. Also, you seem to have forgotten that Huff had the worst hitting season of his career last year – and in a better hitters park. In fact, Ishikawa had a better offensive season than did Huff. I agree that Ishikawa is having a terrible spring. So is Tim Lincecum. Do you think his ERA will be in the 6.00’s all said and done? Oh, and Ishikawa was in a boot at the beginning of spring, which would obviously put him behind all of the other players. And finally, Huff is older and pretty apparently declining. Ishikawa, on the other hand, should be hitting his prime years as he’s not yet seen his 30th year.  Until Huff starts hitting home runs over the daunting right field bricks and proving to be a solid offensive contributor - I won't be sold either player is the right choice. Huff's janky glove makes his stick all the more important.

I myself am not advocating this logic - Iskikawa, Lewis, Posey - anymore. I’m not quite sure if it’s that I don’t think it will work, or that my knowing it will never happen because of Bochy and Sabean and thus don’t want to waste an ounce of energy entertaining such ideas in my head. What I do know – with certainty – is that you were the one coming off looking “so foolish,” and not SI.  The real problem isn't that Ishikawa is better than Huff (or vice versa), or that Lewis is better than Schierholtz (or vice versa).  It's that Sabean's forced us to choose from a decrepit car lot - this rusty station wagon or that clunky mini van - instead of from a squeaky clean show room floor.  Hell, I'd even take a new Toyota at this point.

In your defense, at least you recognize the value – or at least can understand the argument – in replacing Molina with Posey. Unfortunately, this is a moot point as the Giants already wasted the cash by resigning the big fella. Everyone outside the organization believes Posey is ready to catch 135 games. Furthermore, Bochy has praised Posey’s catching skills this spring, saying: "He's really quieted down back there. I like the way he's receiving the ball and he has more confidence with the staff. Last spring he didn't know these guys, their tendencies, how the ball moves. He's blocked well and he's thrown well. He's made huge strides behind the plate." Let’s hope the Giants’ motivation of sending him to Fresno is purely financially motivated – as in delaying his arbitration clock – and not based on their reluctance to believe he can catch 135 games in the big leagues.

Changing gears, here’s what the roster is (likely) going to look like … until Freddy Sanchez gets healthy which will undoubtedly complicate things. If multiple players listed, they go in order of likelihood.  And I'm crossing my fingers on Sanchez's health.  His acquisition last season won't be near the disaster - because Tim Alderson is no longer the prospect he once was - as the 2 year guaranteed $12 MM Sabean forked over to keep him if he doesn't' get on the field in short order and start producing with his glove and bat.  The Cardinals landed Felipe Lopez just before the spring for far less, and his recent numbers suggest he's the better player than Sanchez.  So much for Sabean letting the market develop this offseason.






I think this is the likely opening day roster. It’s going to get interesting when Sanchez gets back though. When Freddy Sanchez gets back it makes Velez expendable. I like Torres better than Velez, specifically for his better speed and defense. He’s a better center fielder than Rowand, Velez is not. I think when Sanchez arrives, that may be the time they dump Ishikawa (assuming Huff is hitting) and promote Posey if they truly want to keep Velez and Torres. Also, Posey can’t catch every day with Molina and they’ll probably find they want – no need – his bat in the lineup. They won’t want to keep Huff, Ishikawa and Posey on the roster.

Lewis appears likely to open the season on the DL to buy management time to trade him. They might even have some offers on the table right now. I don’t necessarily think he’s actually hurt. I also think Bowker probably won the RF job – or, that DeRosa will now play right and Bowker play left.