Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finally, (actually) one bat away

Andres Torres is starting to get some attention from the sabermetric community. I noticed recently that FanGraphs posted a story on him saying that he should be the starting CF in the All-Star game if you go by WAR along – i.e. the stat which tries to combine offense and defense into player value. According to FanGraphs, Torres has already racked up 2.1 wins above replacement in 2010 which is the equivalent of around $9 mil per “win” in the current market. Rob Neyer wrote about it too, just today.

Torres’ story is pretty interesting. I think we’re all aware he was a track star turned baseball player, and that he really couldn’t hit his first 6 or so seasons in professional baseball. But then, he suddenly learned how to work a count and drive the baseball. He uses the largest bat on the Giants. That’s remarkable because Sandoval uses a large bat and he weighs at least 50 more lbs than Torres. When you couple Torres’ game changing speed and ability to flat out track everything down in the outfield you find that he’s a pretty solid player.
It turns out that he learned to hit in 2007 and started putting up good minor league numbers. Then in 2008, in the Cubs minor league system, he put up some outstanding offensive numbers. I agree with Neyer, it seems the baseball community determined his numbers were the product of him graduating to a 4-A player. A 4-A player is a guy that’s had plenty of opportunity to play at the major league level and has never succeeded. So the team sends him back down he tears up AAA. Then the team brings him back up and he can’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag. This is the definition of a 4-A player. They’ve played in the upper minors long enough to figure out the slightly less polished and weaker competition but cannot seem to figure out the select few players that are consistent enough to stick in the bigs. If you want exhibit A check out Brandon Wood. Brandon Wood was a super prospect for the Angels that demolished the minor leagues. His efforts on the big club have been futile. In fact, he lost his job to Kevin Frandsen. I’d probably say the Giants’ John Bowker and Nate Schierholtz certainly look like players that might fall into this category.

So what does this all mean? It means something significant to me. Bochy had a quote last night saying that he puts Torres in an elite group of the very best outfielders in the game. I completely agree. Torres doesn’t coast, ever. Torres blazes to where the ball is, wherever it is, and simply catches it. He makes it look easy. It’s ridiculous. He’s such a graceful athlete. He also has learned to utilize his speed and start stealing bags. And, perhaps most importantly, he’s able to work the count and take some walks which is evidenced by his OBP approaching .400. And if you make a mistake, he can hit the ball a long way.

I don’t see how Torres can’t have passed Rowand on the depth chart in CF. This is the time to make the move and prove to the fans that the Giants will play the best available player, regardless of their paycheck. Torres should be penciled in at CF and batting 1st until further notice. Rowand should have to work his way back into the lineup at the corner outfield spots.
And with that, I believe the Giants are probably one impact bat away from taking the west somewhat convincingly. I don’t think Burrel is the answer, obviously, but think he could provide a good power right handed bat off the bench. I think if the Giants could scoop up a solid left fielder who can hit, they’d be set. The best thing they could possibly do is to place Posey behind the plate, Huff back at first, add a LF bat, make Torres the CF, leave Uribe at SS and keep Renteria as a backup when he returns, Sanchez obviously sticks at 2B, the Panda at 3B and Schierholtz and Rowand can scrap for time in RF. What this effectively does is gives you a pretty strong defensive lineup as well as a lineup that is league average. More importantly, it gives the Giants 4 out of 4 strong up the middle players. Posey can be a stolen base preventing backstop with outstanding offensive ability for a catcher. Freddy Sanchez is a solid overall player who can really handle the bat. Uribe isn’t the greatest shortstop on the planet but he’s at least a league average hitter with more power than the shortstop position usually has. Finally, Torres is hitting league average in centerfield with power and tremendous ability in the outfield.

That’s the team I want to see. That’s a team I believe has a shot not only to make the playoffs, but to make some noise in October.

1. Torres (CF)
2. Sanchez (2B)
3. David DeJesus (LF):
4. Huff (1B)
5. Uribe (SS)
6. Sandoval (3B)
7. Posey (C)
8. Rowand/ Schierholtz platoon (RF)
9. Pitcher

I like the idea of having DeJesus come over from Kansas City. He’s the best left fielder in the game outside of Carl Crawford and can swing the stick. With the AL being a more difficult league, I could envision him flourishing in the NL, especially going from a losing franchise that must sap motivation. I also don’t know if Pablo Sandoval can be relied on the bat 3rd for the rest of 2010. Something is wrong. He’s not the same hitter he was at the end of 2008 and all of 2009. He’s a double play machine that looks out of shape and has no idea what he’s doing at the plate. I do think he can return to form, I just don’t know if he can in 2010.

The only thing I can say is that I agree but doubt that the Giants will do as you wish. They love to play the player getting paid the most regardless of how obvious it is that a better option is available. Molina will continue to catch and be a mediocre hitter, which erodes everything because you have to move Huff to first to get the impact hitter at LF. Removing/limiting Rowand is actually I think a possibility because he flat out sucks and that is not point up for debate.

What about this lineup (I like yours better)

1. Torres CF
2. Sanch 2B
3. DeJes LF
4. Huff RF
5. Uribe SS
6. Padna 3B
7. Posey 1B
8. Molina C

Rowand on the bench unless an outfielder NEEDS a day off.

I think you’re right about Molina. I don’t think he starts at catcher unless he continues to struggle mightily. But, I do think there’s a chance he continues to struggle mightily and Bochy reassesses. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, especially if they grab a DeJesus type player. DeJesus has played above average defense in RF for the Royals all season and could move there to open up LF for Huff. Huff should be in LF before RF, especially with AT&T’s dimensions. I also hate the idea of Bengie hitting behind Posey. They’ll pitch around Posey pretty often (like they did last night but Bengie burned them) and Molina will hit into double plays. Posey should be on often, and neither player has blazing speed. I think that’d be a dangerous combo for double plays hitting them 7 and 8. It’s tough to stomach Bengie in the lineup right now. Both his and Rowands OPS’ are darting towards low .600 to sub .600. That’s not bad, that’s HORRIBLE.
Another thing worth noting is this. Bochy and Sabean have been praising Posey in the media. Sabean said yesterday that Posey will not be sent down. He also was quoted as saying something along the lines of, ‘I just cannot believe how relaxed this kid is.’ I couldn’t agree more. He acts like he’s been in the big leagues for 12 seasons. As soon as Posey gets a few catching starts mixed in and wins over the pitchers, Bochy can make the move. He threw Joey Votto out by a mile in the only game he caught this season. I didn’t see him have to block balls but I’d be interested to see that. He’s pretty quiet behind the plate and shows a big target – his glove looks like a “big ol’ plate” – as Krukow would say. He’ll get better with each start.
In case you weren’t aware, the Dodgers are in first place by themselves.

Ya, totally right about pitching around Posey to see Molina, great point. BTW, I read Cain was saying that he's been on his game BECAUSE of Molina.
I wish I could watch more games to see what I think of this Panda in danger situation. What is he doing that is not working? I remember that when I played a lot of my success (if I ever had any) was because I swung a lot and could put almost anything in play, like Pablo with out any power. Hits fall and your average is high, but then the pitching gets better (or maybe in Panda's case, figures you out a bit) and it is way less effective. Then you try to be selective and end up watching good pitches go by. It's a rough cycle plus luck has a bit to do with it because the balls have to get down for you sometimes as well.
I haven't seen him play very much, but this is something I have thought about as he's been slumping.

He’s swinging at everything like he always has; however, he’s rarely driving the ball. It pretty much has to be one of two things. 1) The pitchers adjusted and don’t give him anything to hit. They almost never give in and pretty much throw him sloppy pitches, specifically low ones he can’t keep hitting off the ground. 2) His bat speed has been dramatically reduced and thus he simply cannot get to those balls he once was driving. Reduced bat speed can be caused by a bunch of stuff. One could be that he’s more tentative because of his slump and less reactive. I don’t think this is it though. The other is that he’s out of shape and more tired. I personally think it’s a combination of 1 and 2. The pitchers aren’t giving him pitches to drive ever. What’s worse, his bat speed is down. I’m almost certain of this because he’s not driving fastballs at the belt, especially while hitting right handed. Arthur Rhodes came in last night and blew him away on 4 straight fastballs (he managed to take one). He couldn’t even foul one off. Rhodes only throws about 91-92 MPH and they weren’t dramatically up in the zone. If you get a chance to see him hit, watch what they throw. It’s junk down in the zone and fastballs up in the zone. He’s not doing anything with either.

And Rowand sits today…

Heard about that. Saw some video too

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