Saturday, July 30, 2011

Letters to Sabean and Bochy

I wrote a piece at Bay City Ball entitled Letters to Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy. Go read it and laugh, or cry, or get angry, or do whatever it is you're gonna do. Excerpt;

24 July 2011

Dear Bruce and Brian,

I watched the game today. It was really awesome that you let Brandon Belt play again. Not only because he did really good by getting two hits and getting on base three times, but because he is my favorite player.

I must say, though, I was a little surprised he was playing outfield. It doesn’t seem like his natural position. Plus, I remember everyone saying that he was such a superb first baseman, and even J.T. Snow, who was like Keith Hernandez at first without the cocaine and the mustache, said he was excellent.

And also, Aubrey Huff, the guy that I really like but don’t want to play so much, he hasn’t looked so hot lately. But I guess maybe a few outfielders were banged up. Ya, that’s it.

But I guess you can’t argue with results! A win! Keep up the good work.


The Biggest Giants Fan

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bay City Ball and the SweetSpot

If you have not figured it out yet, the best way to read what Paapfly is writing about the San Francisco Giants is to head to Bay City Ball, the Giants blog for ESPN's SweetSpot Network. You'll also read good writing from both the blog's proprietor, Chris Quick, and Otis Anderson. The SweetSpot is now manned by David Schoenfield (and others) after Rob Neyer's departure to SB's Baseball Nation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pablo Sandoval's hot start

Pablo Sandoval is mashing this April, and he's not yet 25:

Overall, he’s hitting .328 with a .400 OBP and slugging .603. That’s good for a .423 wOBA. And, unlike last April, he doesn’t have an outrageous BABiP. Which isn’t to say it’s not well above average, it is at .341. But when you consider it was .382 last April and certainly not sustainable, and that his career BABiP is .325, his .341 mark so far this season seems more reasonable and less of a red flag.

What’s also interesting to me, though, is that he’s striking out roughly twice as often. His 20.7 strikeout rate is roughly double what he’s done in his career. But just maybe, that’s a good thing. Why, you might ask? Because he’s seeing more pitches so far. In 2008 when he came up, he saw 3.10 pitches per plate appearance, which is wholly awful. With a mark 3.44 in 2009 he improved it quite a bit, but it was still basically terrible. And he duplicated that with a 3.43 mark last season. But thus far in 2011 it’s been 3.80, and that’s sort of something to behold with the Panda. Anything approaching four pitchers per at bat seems like miraculous progress.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tim Lincecum's evolving repertoire

In case you haven't stumbled upon it yet -- it was linked by Rob Neyer on Friday and I also introduced it at Bay City Ball last Tuesday -- I wrote about Tim Lincecum's awesome slider and improved fastball at the Hardball Times:

At the end of the 2010 season, Cain taught Lincecum a new slider grip, his slider grip—it’s been a pretty excellent pitch for Cain in his career. He began using it on Sept. 12, and the results were awesome. Since he began throwing that pitch, including the playoffs and his first two 2011 starts, he’s thrown 78 innings with a strikeout rate of 10.73, a walk rate of 2.19 (K/BB ratio of 4.90) and a 1.85 ERA. He’s simply been better than ever, and half of those starts came against playoff teams in the NLDS, NLCS and World Series.

Go check it out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Giants' bullpen: Shutdowns & Meltdowns

I wrote about a couple of stats -- shutdowns and meltdowns -- I learned of on FanGraphs yesterday, thanks to Steve Slowinski, over at Bay City Ball. I wasn't shocked to learn which Giants' relievers had the best shutdown to meltdown ratios. Here's an excerpt:

I’ve also recently heard such ridiculous statements as: “I just don’t trust Romo, he’s always giving up big hits.” Well, he may not be Wilson, but he’s more trustworthy than Affeldt, Lopez, etc. Things like giving up game-wining home runs to Manny Ramirez tend to stick out in fans’ minds, while the countless number of times he whiffed batter after batter with his patented Frisbee slider do not.  Biases develop throughout a long season and throughout several seasons while fans follow a team. The most significant moments often cloud the judgement of the observer. Be mindful of this – Aaron Rowand is not the worst player of all time, Barry Zito‘s not the worst starter. And no, Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer despite his heroic, 10-inning shutout in game seven of the 1991 World Series; these biases go both ways.

Read it all at Bay City Ball, and don't miss Chris' Brandon Belt graph or Otis' thoughts on last night's hams, either.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Losing to the Padres

Why I'd rather have a hole in my head than watch the Giants lose to the Padres again. Plus:

Other things that are better than watching the Giants lose to the Padres:

1) Listening to every Nickelback song ever recorded in a single sitting
2) Watching From Justin to Kelly
3) Watching my fiancé file her nails – which just so happens to be my nails-on-a-chalkboard poison
4) Watching Yuniesky Betancourt play baseball
5) Listening to Joe Morgan disparage sabermetrics
6) Reading every word Murray Chass has ever written…

700,062) Instead of muting the television and watching the playoffs: closing your eyes and just listening to Tim McCarver and Joe Buck

The entire piece is at Bay City Ball.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Giants' (and Huff's) weekend

For those of you that missed the Giants game last night, here's Aubrey Huff's outfield contribution -- and the Giants' entire weekend, really -- in a nutshell. I promise it'll bring you more enjoyment than watching the actual game:

funny gifs

Giants hand three of four to Bums

In the Giants' defense... wait, this is starting to sound like an oxymoron. What an ugly, ugly, weekend. Here's what I wrote at Bay City Ball, touching on Zito's slowball, Tejada, the bullpen and Huff's... whatever you want call what he was doing in right field:

The Giants gave the Dodgers a drubbing on Saturday afternoon, beating them 10-0 behind a what-we’ve-come-to-expect start by Matt Cain. It was a six-inning, four-leaf-clover charmed effort with only three strikeouts. Three strikeouts! What a fraud. Fortunately, his luck will run out in another 1,000 innings or so. Other than that, they looked (and smelled) like hot garbage on Thursday, Friday and Sunday while more or less handing three of four to the archrival Dodgers...
It’s too early to be too concerned about this. It really is. For one, Huff didn’t get nearly enough reps in the outfield in spring training. When Cody Ross went down with a calf injury late in the exhibition schedule, the Giants’ brass were forced to more seriously consider Belt as an option to make the club. Prior to that, the Giants were not seriously considering the possibility that Huff would have to play right field. Not so soon, anyway. Still, though, San Francisco owes Huff $22 million over the next two seasons and he’s currently a man without a position. If Belt continues to produce – we have reason to believe he might, given the quality of his at bats so far – Huff’s not going back to first. And at his age, he’s not going to get any better as a water buffalo grazing in the outfield grass.

Read the whole enchilada here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Analysis of Freddy Sanchez extension

Yesterday, the Giants extended Freddy Sanchez for another year (2012) for another $6 million. After the jump, I'll peel off a few-hundred words on how I feel about the deal.


Actually, me and the fiancé are about to go check out Win Win; it looks good, and I really enjoy Paul Giamatti. I really do. Plus, I have a quicker way to break this deal down. That's what I call a win win.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lincecum's Opening Day velocity

Tim Lincecum didn't have either his best changeup or best slider last night, but he got by, despite the defense behind him playing terrible.

His line was seven innings, five hits, three walks, five strikeouts and one unearned run. He took the loss. It was understandable, though, as Clayton Kershaw wasn't just better, he was brilliant. With the shadows and glare masking his pitches in the early going, it was no wonder he was sending the Giants' hitters back to the dugout shaking their heads. He outpitched the Giants' ace.

But if there was one thing specifically that was encouraging -- aside from Brandon Belt's impressive debut -- it was that Lincecum's velocity was both quality and steady. According to the PITCHf/x tool from Brooks Baseball, Tim threw 57 fastballs (40 four-seam, 17 two-seam). His four-seam heater averaged 93 mph and he topped out at 95. His two-seam fastball averaged just over 93 mph and topped out at 94.7. More impressive than that, it hardly waned even into the seventh inning:

Pulled from here.

Compare that to his velocity on Opening Day 2010:

Pulled from here.

From the very first start of 2010, he showed an inability to maintain velocity throughout the game. Lincecum will probably never be a high-90s power arm again. But hopefully, with an apparent commitment to conditioning, Lincecum will be able to maintain above-average fastball speed with his devastating changeup and the nasty slider he rolled out in September and rode to a World Championship in October and November.

I wrote about Santiago Casilla yesterday at Bay City Ball. My thoughts on his spring (and day) were far less encouraging.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fear the Beard

A glimpse at getting in the box against Brian Wilson, sort of.

Opening Day Preview: Blind Optimism

If you look hard enough, you'll find me:

What better day is there, other than Opening Day, to have what can only be described as blind optimism? Easy. It’s Opening Day… after winning the World Series for the first time in 53 San Francisco seasons. I know, I know, you’re tickled. Me too.
Yesterday, I concluded that Brandon Belt would make his major league debut tonight at Chavez Ravine against Clayton Kershaw, and I was pretty okay with the notion. I was right. What a powder-puff first assignment. I mean, Kershaw isn’t that much like Sandy Koufax.
Let’s get into it.
Team by team in order of relevance...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Belt looks headed to Hollywood, not Fresno

At Bay City Ball, I break down why I think handing first base to Brandon Belt is a good decision. Even if he struggles, the Giants will have options.


Last night, a tweet by John Shea really sent shockwaves throughout the Giants’ fan base:

Heard management wants to keep Brandon Belt, leaning toward making him their starting first baseman. Announcement Wednesday.

At the risk of jumping the gun, I think Belt’s going to be playing in Los Angeles tomorrow. And it’s not so much the tweet by Shea, but the fact that Travis Ishikawa is playing first base today and Belt isn’t even so much as in the lineup. He has bags to pack and a plane to catch; he’s probably headed to Hollywood.
I won’t get too much into the details on what this means for the roster. Except I do think this is a farewell game for the aforementioned Ishikawa. He’s an excellent defender, a great guy, and a decent bat off the bench – assuming he’s facing a right-handed pitcher. I’ll also never forget the walk he drew in the divisional series against the Braves that keyed a Giants comeback win. Without that walk, who knows, maybe they don’t win the World Series. But with Belt now in the fold and the incumbent Aubrey Huff, this renders Ishi a superfluous commodity, and frankly one that lacked a ton of utility to begin with...

The rest is at the Giants' ESPN SweetSpot blog, Bay City Ball.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions

My 2011 predictions can be found here (Hardball Times staff predictions), along with those of my colleagues.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hey, the new guy's pretty good

I just thought I’d publish a few thoughts on the new guy, David Schoenfield. A couple of days ago, he officially debuted on the SweetSpot as the replacement of Rob Neyer – big shoes to fill according to us, little shoes according to Neyer. You have to love the humility.
Anyway, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eagerly awaiting his replacement. For one, Neyer vowed a hunger strike until his replacement emerged, and I don’t wish him to die. Of course, he was almost certainly as apocryphal about the fast as he was about the “small shoes to fill” comment. Or else he’d be quite gaunt.
The other reason is that I think I was ready for consistent, cohesive content on the SweetSpot. I thought handing the space over to the Network writers was a phenomenal idea, one that gave most of them a really great chance to showcase their talents. It also exposed a gamut of topics given the different styles and interests of each writer. Even better, I think the best of the bunch really shined. But as I said, I was ready.
His inaugural post was but an introduction, and I enjoyed it. As his furious pace continued in day one, I continued to read. Most importantly, when every so often a new post appeared on my Twitter feed, I found myself compelled to read it. This was always why I found myself coming back to the SweetSpot when Neyer was at the helm (and why I continue to do the same at his SB Nation page): I genuinely wanted to read everything he wrote. I don’t always agree with him, but there’s something about his writing that makes me feel as if, were I to miss a single post, I’ll have missed something important.
I also like this about the new guy’s style: it’s different. I won’t say they could have cloned Neyer, but maybe they could have hired someone to do something similar. Instead, they hired Schoenfield and he’s taken a different approach – as was evidenced by his posting of the Random Old Photo of the Day, which reminds me of something I quite enjoy about Roger Ebert’s blog. Another example: how he “teases” the ESPN Podcast – that’s one of David’s words (tease), by the way. Different. Joel and Ethan Coen could have casted someone to mimic John Wayne in the True Grit (2010) remake. But they astutely plugged in Jeff Bridges, allowed him to steal the show – alongside a brilliant performance by a 14-year-old girl – and forged a new classic. Brilliant.
I don’t know that I’ll continue to read David day after day, but I hope I do.
ESPN: you done good.
On a side note, I’ve joined Chris Quick and Otis Anderson at Bay City Ball, the San Francisco Giants’ representative at the ESPN SweetSpot Network. Many of you already know this. Both are great writers and I was thrilled to join Chris’ “nerd-squad.” We’ll be covering the Giants all year long, and Chris will continue to provide the blurb for the weekly Power Rankings. Good stuff.
Paapfly isn’t disappearing. I’ll probably update it from time to time. I don’t know. That’s the honest answer. But, as you can see, I just posted this, so I don’t have immediate plans to shut it down. What’s more, I plan to continue to excerpt what I write elsewhere here. Most of all, I’m confident if you truly enjoyed reading my writing that you’ll find it, wherever it is.

Schierholtz a decent replacement for Ross

Over at Bay City Ball, I examine why Ross' calf injury isn't the End of the World.

When Giants fans see Cody Ross, they see a bald, smiling saint that crushes home runs off of Roy Halladay. Luckily, though, not all Giants fans are created equal. You see, about half of today’s Giants fans were yesterday’s casual baseball fan – or maybe last August’s casual baseball fan. Certainly, half is probably an exaggeration, but you get the point...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nomar Garciaparra's career

I took the liberty of creating a visual of Nomar Garciaparra's career for you. I debuted this on Twitter earlier today, to my chagrin, it was met with lukewarm reception. I guess some folks don't quite understand the painstaking intricacies of such an endeavor.

After the jump, you can decide for yourself.

Brian Wilson is out, who's in?

Brian Wilson's likely out for at least a little while. That's not horrible news. I mean, it's not great but it's also not the end of the world. So, who will replace him?

Romo seems the obvious choice to fill his shoes, but it might be worthwhile to explore a platoon.

Click the link and enjoy the adventure.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No reason to panic about Tejada

Note: this post is a joke, a spoof, and does not represent my actual thoughts on the subject. I thought I'd made that clear at the end, but I apparently did not. Sorry about that. Head over to Bay City Ball for my real take (there was and is a link to it at the bottom as well). Also, please do enjoy this ridiculous post I had fun writing...

• • •

Here’s something I was surprised to read from Andy Baggarly, via Twitter (@extrabaggs):
Tweet 1: [The Giants] are having a great spring overall, but gotta be honest: Miguel Tejada has looked terrible. He falls down fielding hard grounder. 
Tweet 2: Not to be mean, but if I’m Tim Lincecum watching Miguel Tejada play short, I’m thinking I’d better strike out 400 this year.
Beat writers are paid to be objective, but this is borderline malicious. They have to ask the tough questions, sure, but come on! And besides, Tejada definitely has something left.

First of all, Tejada won an AL MVP award in 2002, and that definitely means something. He’s also an eight-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger award recipient. He’s one of the best players at the keystone over the last 20 years or so. What’s more, he’s hit in the middle of the lineup for just about every single team he’s ever played for, including the 2010 Padres, And those Padres almost made the playoffs.

He's a leader in the clubhouse, worthy of replacing two others in Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe.

The evidence doesn’t stop there. Tejada hit 50 doubles in 2005 to lead the league! 50! He even hit 46 in 2009 to lead the league again. He’s already got 300 home runs in his career and his career batting average is very good for a shortstop at .287. More important than all of that, though, is the RBI he’s accumulated. He can really smell a run batted in when there are runners on base. It’s because of this that he’s finished six seasons with 100 or more RBI, leading the league in 2004 with 150!

Defensively, I’ve read a lot of junk about how he can’t play the position – this in addition to Baggarly’s recent additions to the discussion. It seems crazy to me. Really crazy. Ozzie Smith has a career .978 fielding percentage, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. In fact, he was largely voted in because of his glove and not his bat. They didn’t call him The Wizard for nothing. Tejada is a career .972 fielder, or just a shade below Smith.

Smith played until he was 41, and I see no reason why Tejada cannot follow in his foot stops. And Tejada’s a better run producer to boot. After the jump, my conclusion on this madness about Tejada's shortcomings...

· · ·

Friday, March 18, 2011

Scoring and run prevention of World Series winners

I posted an addendum to my most recent Hardball Times article. You can find it here.


On an unrelated note, Scottsdale is warm and fun. Also, there are a gajillion Giants fans here. But, I do wonder when their love affair began.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What you risk when you send Brandon Belt to Fresno

I'm writing this from my iPhone, so when you find the first error, know that and move on.


I asked a question to myself today, and "fired it through the Internet," as Ron Gardenhire would say. I used Twitter, the preferred method of the times. My question: Are Brian Sabean's recent comments -- Brandon Belt might be ready, and he's opened up some eyes this spring -- obligatory, or are they sincere? Which is to ask, is he simply saying this so we all don't grumble that, when he does send him to Triple-A, he's done so to delay his seemingly inevitable date with arbitration, or, is he actually contemplating placing Belt at first on Opening Day at Chavez Ravine?

A fellow blogger, the Crazy Crabbers, wondered what the harm would be in being cautious:

I don't see there being a huge downside for waiting but there is in bringing him up too soon. What is wrong with [a] cautious approach?

It could be that there's no harm at all. Or, it could be disastrous. Here's why: If, when you leave a talented player in the minor leagues, you're not putting the best team you can on the field, you're playing a dangerous game. There's something to be said for putting your best team on the field, you know, because that's what wins you the most baseball games. The Giants played this game last year, gambled, and won. They "preferred" Bengie Molina to Buster Posey on Opening Day, and for the first couple of months. Then, when Posey was good and "ready," they brought him to San Francisco. There's little doubt that he helped the Giants win more games than Molina would have. There's little doubt they won fewer when Molina was starting every day in April and May.

What if the Padres don't lose 11 games in a row? What if, the Giants lost Sunday, October 3, 2010, and again on Monday. What if they then lose to the Braves? Well, because hindsight is 20/20: the Giants don't just miss the playoffs, they lose a World Series championship. They lose a parade of one million people rejoicing in the splendor of the first championship in San Francisco Giants history. They lose an awful lot.

I'm not saying Belt is ready or that he gives them the best chance to win. That's for Sabean and his minions to decide. But if he is, and they send him to Fresno, it's a crying shame. You might gain another year of Belt and save some money, but you potentially lose Who Knows What. that's the harm: The unknown.

The Giants aren't such favorites that a few wins shouldn't matter. A few wins might decide the division. Plus, wasn't it refreshing when Jason Heyward made the Opening Day roster of the Braves last year? I sure thought so. Something tells me the Braves' brass was also refreshed when Heyward helped propel his team to the first round of the playoffs. And finally, I'm not the least bit convinced a great deal of harm can be done by bringing a player up to soon, and having him experience a bit of failure. Show me the study that says it'll ruin a young hitter, and we can talk.


I'm now boarding to Scottsdale. Finally.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why the 2010 Giants' World Series was no fluke

I don’t have anything new up today, but I thought you might want to head over to the Hardball Times for my recent article: Pitching (almost) always wins championships.
Here’s a portion that would be of interest to Giants fans:
I think this really hammers home the point that pitching really does win championships; that you need at least an adequate stable of arms to have a prayer. Trying to win the Fall Classic without league-average pitching has proven to be about as fruitful as attempting to drive a car without gas. You’re not going to get very far. So, if you had to choose which is more important between offense and pitching, the answer is obvious: run prevention…
I also took the liberty of averaging each teams OPS+ and ERA+ to determine how much better than average they were overall. I then averaged all of those numbers, whereby I discovered the average World Series champion has graded out at 108.7, or about eight percent better than league average.
If you take the most recent champion, the San Francisco Giants, and add their OPS+ (95) and ERA+ (121) from 2010 together, you get a grade of 108. This goes to show their World Series title in 2010 shouldn’t be considered lucky or a fluke, rather, they were a perfectly average champion. What’s more, their excellent ERA+ fulfilled the pertinent requirement of at least adequate pitching. Looking at the data this way would make a lot of pundits feel silly on their pre-postseason picks, routinely expecting them to lose.
Please head over to the Hardball Times for the rest.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pablo Sandoval is lighter, but is he better?

Jeff Sullivan at SB Nation recently pointed out that this March isn’t the only March where Pablo Sandoval has lost a bunch of weight.

First off, while many claimed Sandoval had leaned out some last spring training, our eyes were telling us something different entirely. Perhaps, instead of admitting then and there that “Camp Panda” was a failure, the Giants figured they could get a handle on him once again considering they’d have their hands on him (figuratively speaking, folks) all day, every day… or most of it anyway.

But here’s the portion I’m interested in:
It’s important, though, to remain reasonable. Sandoval may bounce back in a big way at the plate. He may improve in the field, too. Being in better shape can’t possibly hurt him. But the last time he lost a lot of weight he went on to struggle, and that’s something people have to keep in mind. That Pablo Sandoval’s eating wheat bread now doesn’t automatically mean his numbers are going to go up, because while his weight was probably an issue, it was never his biggest problem. Sandoval’s biggest problem has always been that he’s way too aggressive, and unless he’s suddenly able to deduce more proficiently what’s a ball and what’s a strike, he’s unlikely to re-establish himself as a star.
I can sympathize where Jeff is going, but I don’t necessarily agree. No, I can’t because I don’t think Sandoval’s ability to re-emerge as a young star in the National League weighs on his plate discipline any more than Carlos Gonzalez’s plate discipline (or complete lack there of) weighs on his ability to remain one.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

View from the other side of the Bay

Dan Hennessey of the Oakland A’s blog Baseballin’ on a Budget – the same of Rob Neyer’s (abandoned) baby: The SweetSpot Network – and I thought it might be fun to get an unbiased take from one another on the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. It makes a whole lot of sense given the adjacency of their markets and the cross-town rivals that they are – not to mention, that “quick” little study Bud Selig is working on regarding the Athletics’ potential move to San Jose. After the jump, Dan will answer some questions on the Giants. Well, mostly the Giants…


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Remembering Giants’ 2006 offseason, ‘7 Rule IV Draft

The 2003 season ended abruptly for the Giants with a baseball tightly clutched in the hand of Ivan Rodriguez, dusty after being bowled over by J.T. Snow. The Marlins, for the second time in seven years, had blindsided them in the Divisional Series along their way to the World Series championship.

In 2004, the Giants’ season ended again in heartbreaking fashion, this time a bit sooner (but still late) on the last day of the regular season. As the Giants were eliminated from extra baseball – the scoreboard at Chavez Ravine happened to be the bearer of bad news – a disappointed Barry Bonds left the game early, grabbed his bats, and headed down the tunnel to the clubhouse. He’d had one of the greatest offensive seasons in history and it wasn’t enough to get to October. It was as painful as the day earlier, when Steve Finley had crushed their chances of the western-division title with a decisive walk-off grand slam.

The look on his face was and is unforgettable, a bitter representation of defeat. Not just of the battle, but of the war. Bonds must have known right then and there that his chance of making it back to the Fall Classic was gone; his career had slipped by without winning it all. At least there would be 755 to chase.

Unfortunately, the Giants and Brian Sabean didn’t know what their otherworldly slugger did. They’d won 91 games in 2004, finished a game out, and went looking to improve the team and make it back.

In 2005, they went out and got Omar Vizquel, Mike Matheny, closer Armando Benitez and, most notably, Moises Alou. The results were mixed, to say the least.

After a fantastic season in Florida the year before, Benitez blew out his hamstring in April. He’d never pitch well for the Giants, miss a ton of time to the DL, blow a lot of saves, and ultimately be traded back to the Marlins for Randy Messenger in May of 2007.  Giants fans wouldn't have peed on him if he were on fire. He was not a fan favorite.

Unfortunately, Alou dealt with injuries as well and only played 123 games. When he was on the field, he was very good. He hit .321/.400/.518 for an OPS+ of 138. But even worse than Alou’s limited playing time, Bonds only played 14 games (all in September) following knee surgery. He was his (not quite so) usual self, hitting five home runs in 52 plate appearances with a line of .286/.404/.667 for an OPS+ of 174. It wasn’t enough and the Giants finished with just 75 wins and in third in the NL West.

In 2006, the Giants were still supposed to contend. They signed Matt Morris but later sent him to Pittsburgh for Rajai Davis and a player to be named later (PTBNL) when they weren't contending. They also acquired Mike Stanton to close for a minor leaguer. But Bonds only played 130 games, Alou 98 and Ray Durham 137. That was trouble, because they were the only offense the Giants had to speak of. The acquisition of Shea Hillenbrand for an interesting bullpen arm in Jeremy Accardo didn’t do anything to bolster it. He was having a decent season in Toronto, but it didn’t continue in San Francisco as his average on balls in play (BABiP) went from .312 in Canada to .268 in the states.

They won 76 games to cap their second-straight losing season. Their once-great slugger was fading away. So, the Giants finally got the picture. They let their free agents walk, hung on to their own draft picks and collected those that came from the teams scooping up Stanton, Alou and Schmidt. They packed it in and prepared to watch the stadium fill, despite not competing, while Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron on his way to 762.


Friday, March 11, 2011

B:P&P: MVPs for a teams second-best player

Over at Baseball: Past and Present, I recently wrote a bit about MVPs and Win Shares...
I’ve never delved in to win shares on my own blog, but will here today. But first, what are ‘Win Shares’?

Win shares are the creation of the master himself: Bill James. They are a really fun and outstanding metric James first introduced in his 2002 book Win Shares. Bill uses his system to assign a certain number of win shares for each player on a particular team, based on that player’s offensive, defensive and pitching contributions to the team. The statistics are also park-adjusted, league-adjusted and era-adjusted. Of course, Bill is also dealing in advanced metrics – sabermetrics – and not in RBI, wins, etc.

More to the mechanics of it, a win share is a third of a team win. So when the Giants won 92 games in 2010, they had 276 win shares to go around. We won’t go into the complicated formula, we haven’t the time, and so you’ll just have to buy the book. The basic idea is to determine how many win shares each player on a particular team deserves, to determine how valuable each player was. Often, we give too much credit to the offense while taking away from the importance of defense. We won’t do that here, not today.

This brings us to the topic of the day: Most Valuable Player awards. There’s always a lot of debate on this subject. Should it go to the leagues best player? Should it go to the player that was most valuable to his team? Does that player get extra credit if his team makes the playoffs? These are all very fair questions. I won’t bore you with my own convictions.

When the award comes out, there isn’t always consensus on who should have actually won… “There’s no way Ryan Howard should have won, Albert Pujols had a way better season!” It happens. It happens often. A lot of the time, though, the player that loses comes from another team that just didn’t play as well overall; the deserving player was simply overlooked. But how often do they give the award to a player that wasn’t even the best player on his own team?
You'll just have to head over to Baseball: Past and Present for the rest.

THT: National League up in arms

Earlier this week, I wrote about the starting pitchers in the National League, and how they appear to be improving at the expense of the American League. The NL has a long way to go to match the talent in the "Junior Circuit," but they are making progress. Maybe.
The National League has been called the Senior Circuit for many years—I’m no historian so I won’t attempt to gather exactly how long. The American League has been the Junior Circuit for just as long, having been elevated to major league status in 1901, 25 years after the NL. These things tend to be cyclical, but currently the description doesn’t exactly fit. But the NL, though probably not consciously, is attempting to make strides to close that gap, and it’s with top-heavy pitching that it's making that progress.
You'll just have to head over to the Hardball Times right here for the rest.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Paapfly programming

I have not put anything up in a few days – with the exception of this phenomenal link… drink it in, Giants fans – because I’ve been working on something big to put up on these pages. Actually, I just lied there. It’s actually for the Hardball Times (THT) but I’ll be sure to excerpt it here and leave a link. I’m certain you’ll want to read it.
At the risk of later being told I’m full of spit: It’s a fascinating subject. It pertains to the Giants’ 2010 run to their first World Series in San Francisco history, and just how important pitching is in these matters. Stay tuned.
Over the weekend (Sunday probably) I’ll have a post up where Dan Hennessey of Baseballin’ on a Budget --which is a really great A’s site that belongs to the venerable SweetSpot Network – answers some Giants questions I throw at him. I’ll answer his questions on the Giants and A’s on his site. You won’t want to miss that either.
I’m also going to be in Scottsdale for spring training next weekend, starting Thursday (3/17 – 3/20). This means two things: 1) I may not have a lot up next week, either. Sorry. And 2) If you see me at the park on Friday or Saturday (or in Scottsdale at all) and happen to be there too, say hello. I’ll be the bald guy that’s extremely inebriatintoxicated. Don’t judge, it’s my brother’s bachelor party, so there will be a few of us.
Finally, I’d like to end this with a question or two: Dear reader, who are you? I’m quite curious. Send me an email at paapfly[at]gmail or drop something in the comments or on Twitter. I’d like to know how you discovered my blog, what you like about it, what you don’t, and maybe what you’d like to see more of. Seriously. Don’t be timid.
If you’re willing, anyway.

Best. Link. Ever.

Giants fans, you're going to want to see this.

Hint: it has to do with November 1, 2010.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Giants trade Catfish Hunter for A.J. Pierzynski

Don’t let the title throw you. Stick around until the end and you’ll see why.


My better half is a psychologist, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that I subscribe to the philosophy that one must confront that which he wishes to let go. So here goes:

In December 2003, the Giants acquired arbitration eligible catcher A.J. Pierzynski in exchange for right-handed pitcher Joe Nathan and two minor leaguers. At the time, Giants GM Brian Sabean said: “It’s not often you can send a right-handed reliever and two unproven prospects for a front-line, All-Star catcher.”

Pierzynski, the genial and non-abrasive type he is, said: “It’s outside, so that’ll be nice… Playing in the Metrodome all these years gets kind of old and kind of stale.”

Pierzynski would manage to get old and stale in San Francisco in just one season.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday philanthropy

If my links this week are a bit heavy, it's primarily because I am listening to Queens of the Stone Age this morning while drinking a homemade latte.
Jon Bois' latest in a (brilliant) month-long series entitled Letters From Spring Training: Kansas City Royals 

A great piece by Mike Fast of Baseball Prospectus: How Accurate Are BIS Pitch Locations?

A baseball 'Rooting interest flowchart.' I honestly got to the Giants, no lying. Why would I be afraid of eating sushi at a ballgame?
Our friends at Bay City Ball were on the SweetSpot this week. Here's a piece on Pablo Sandoval's potential bounce-back year.
Another awesome piece by Wezen-ball: Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays... and Charlie Brown! Enough said.
Shameless self-promotion... Some really smart guy wrote all about Aaron Hill's crummy 2010.
That's all I got. What's more, you guessed it, this is everything I RTed (retweeted) this week. Guilty.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Giants trade that wasn't

There’s almost always something worth snipping from Baggarly’s Extra Baggs blog, and yesterday evening was no exception:

The Giants should consider themselves fortunate that the Mariners ultimately pulled out of a trade for right-hander David Aardsma at the July 31 deadline last year. The Giants didn’t end up needed Aardsma because Ramon Ramirez was so good. And now Aardsma is just getting rid of his crutches after hip surgery in January. I’m told the deal would’ve sent [Ehire] Adrianza to the Mariners, along with either Jason Stoffel, Eric Surkamp or both.
If this doesn’t make you shudder, then you don’t understand what you just read.

Trading for a reliever that has one good season under his belt, and who also is smack dab in the middle of the season following and showing his true colors, is not a good idea. Not when you’re including two of your top ten prospects in the deal. Stoffel is an interesting arm too, and sending all three would be inexplicable.

Neither Adrianza nor Surkamp are hot prospects, but each has a shot at contributing at the major league level. Adrianza may not ever hit enough to play every day, but his glove is ready to play at shortstop in the big leagues and pretty spectacularly. Surkamp, on the other hand, has done nothing but dominate in the lower levels and could blossom into a mid-rotation starter in a couple years. Valuable indeed.

Aardsma had a solid season in 2009 when he saved 38 games and threw 71.1 innings. He was worth 1.9 wins above replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs. He struck out 10.09 batters per nine, but also walked 4.29 per nine. Thanks to a pretty low batting average on balls in play (BABiP) of .253 and a really low home run rate of 0.50 per nine (thanks also to a ridiculous 4.2% home run per fly ball rate – hello, Safeco), his ERA was 2.52.

Compare that to his career numbers where he’s missed a lot of bats (9.08 K/9) but also walked way too many (5.05 BB/9) and given up far more long balls (0.91 per nine with an 8.5% HR/FB rate). Sure enough, his numbers in 2010 were very close to these, a lot less so to his 2010. He doesn’t pound the zone and because of that, he’ll probably never be a great reliever.

But he was a “closer” and apparently Sabean had some lingering infatuation after trading him in 2005 to acquire LaTroy Hawkins. I don’t want to delve too deep into why he could have possibly believed the players mentioned by Baggarly were worth giving up for Aardsma. In fact, the more I think about it the more I’m compelled to believe Baggarly has bad information. Maybe he checked in with Jenkins’ source?

If not, God help us.

I am almost certain you have also heard by now that Matt Cain has been shut down for a few days with “right elbow inflammation.” While this isn’t good news, it’s certainly not time to panic. And that’s exactly what Cain suggested: Don't panic.

I wrote all about this last night. About how we shouldn’t panic but we shouldn’t assume pitchers for the Giants will always be healthy simply because they have been lately. They’ve had a bit of luck, maybe some skill in keeping their pitchers healthy, and nothing more.

Pitchers get hurt. It’s what they do. One day you have Adam Wainwright penciled in opening day, the next he’s headed off to Tommy John surgery. One day you have the phenom with the golden arm, Stephen Strasburg, the next he’s headed off to Tommy John surgery. One day you have the luxury of complaining about you overpaid fifth starter… the next, well, you never know.

It’s a cold, cruel world for pitchers.

About my blog post “that I wrote all about last night”… Blogger ate it. Seriously, some really, really, really, wonky stuff started happening and I eventually had to delete the whole thing. Good times. It was up for about five minutes, I think, so to those one or two that read it: Lucky you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A toothless threat to Zito

Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle wants to deliver a message to the Giants’ highest paid player, perhaps on behalf of the organization paying him:
A source close to the team indicated Tuesday that there is “exasperation” with Zito, that his status as the No. 5 starter is “definitely not safe,” and that the team would even considered buying out his expensive contract before Opening Day if that’s what it takes to say farewell…

Meanwhile, the Giants will take a close look at 16-year veteran Jeff Suppan (three shutout innings against Milwaukee on Monday), Class AA left-hander Clayton Tanner and other options for the No. 5 slot…

[Zito] has been a sub-.500 pitcher in each of his four seasons with San Francisco (40-57 total)…
 Let’s stop there. When, in a column, we start measuring a pitcher by his record, my eyes glaze over and I wonder why it’s so very hard to get away from this incumbent method.

What Jenkins failed to mention was that, since Zito arrived on the scene, the Giants have failed to score even 700 runs in any season (683, 640, 657 and 697). That’s 4.13 runs per game. Also, it’s completely terrible.

At the risk of a not-too-bright reader assuming that I am comparing Zito to Matt Cain, I will also point out that the latter has a record of 42-49 over that same period of time. Yet, he also carries an ERA of 3.35 and an adjusted ERA (ERA+) of 129 over the same period. That’s 29 percent greater than the league average starter. Also, it’s plenty good enough to warrant induction into the Hall of Fame if sustained over many years.

Please quit it with the wins.

It’s unfortunate, but writers and perhaps even the Giants’ entire organization is incapable of separating the player from the contract, an imperative when deciding what to do when a contract has gone sour. And this one has.

When we only provide Zito’s win-loss record in describing his abilities, we lose what he’s worth. The implication is that he’s plainly terrible. In truth, though, he’s much closer to a league-average starter. Overpaid? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Worthless? No.

Since 2007, in order, Zito has been worth 1.7, 1.4, 2.2 and 2.1 wins above replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs. Thus, he’s been worth nearly two wins (above replacement) per season (1.85).

When signing a free agent, the going rate for a single win is roughly $5 million. So, if Zito is to sustain his current performance of 1.85 wins per season over the next three seasons he’ll be worth approximately $9.25 million per season. He’ll be worth about $37 million over the next four seasons versus the $64.5 million he’s owed ($18.5 in 2011, $39 million 2012-2013 and a $7 mill buyout in 2014).

Maybe $37 million is giving him too much credit. What we should probably do is inflate the going rate per win by around five percent per season and decrease Zito’s worth by 0.5 wins per season over the life of his contract, as he’s likely to decrease in value as he ages.

Using that methodology, he’s worth about $23 million over the next four seasons ($9.25 mil, $7.09 mil, $4.69 mil and $2.03 mil). Compare that to the $64.5 million he’s owed.

Unless the Giants can get some team to bite into this hook for somewhere between $23 million to $37 million over the next 3-4 seasons, they should simply keep running him out there every fifth day and signing his checks until his value has vanished completely. Frankly, I don’t think there are any takers who are willing to pull over even close to that much of his contract.

As to the notion that the Giants are entertaining the idea of making Jeff Suppan the fifth starter, I say… wow.

Suppan has been a below replacement starter over the past two seasons. He was worth -0.7 wins in 2009 and 0.0 wins in 2010. Over the past two seasons, he’s performed exactly as you might expect a non-roster invitee to perform. He’s not getting a major league deal because he’s not a major leaguer anymore. He’s someone you stuff in Triple-A in case one of your five starters goes down, or your fifth starter becomes unbearable which is often the case two months into the season.

The Giants have close to zero organizational depth in terms of starting pitching right about now. It’s not that they don’t have intriguing pieces on the farm, they do. Eric Surkamp, for example, may well someday be a serviceable starter in the rotation. Zack Wheeler could be another No.1 type starter. That being said, these two aren’t close to contributing in San Francisco. Neither is Clayton Tanner, who Jenkins mentions. He’s likely a replacement starter at this point, at best.

Should the Giants cut Zito loose, they’ll be out 1-2 wins and will be further depleting their starting pitching depth, something they already sorely lack.

The Giants have every right to be frustrated, they really do. But they should be frustrated with themselves, not Zito. They signed the guy when the industry-wide consensus was that he simply wasn’t the top-tier starter he was being paid to be. Once upon a time, Zito was a very good pitcher when throwing for the green and gold. He was never great, despite the Cy Young award in 2002.

“Motivating” Zito by threatening to cut him loose at this point makes little sense to me. I truly believe his inability to meet expectations is due to one thing: He can’t. It’s the same reason he doesn’t throw 90 miles per hour: He can’t. The expectations that his contract placed upon him were ridiculous. They were in the winter of 2006, they remain so today.

Give it a rest.

The Giants bought a flank steak and paid for a filet. It’s now chewy and they are outraged. They can blame the server as long and as loudly as they’d like, but they ought to have spent a little longer reading the menu.

This article was linked on Baseball Think Factory

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tim Lincecum, FIP and fungible roster spots

This spring, many clubs will make roster determinations based on how well players play, how well a particular pitcher pitches. This invariably happens every March. I won’t say it’s a fool’s errand – though it almost certainly is one – for the simple reason that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Stick with me for a minute.

Jeff Fletcher suggested to Marty Lurie today that Barry Zito was in the top-third of fifth starters in baseball. To which Marty replied, via Twitter: “I’ll have to look up that list and talk about it tonite [sic].” He shouldn’t have to look anything up because Jeff’s right. And that’s exactly why it doesn’t really matter which team picks what warm body to start fifth. Because that's all these teams are really looking for, or at least expecting to settle for.
GM: Does he have a pulse?
Scout: 60 beats per minute.

GM: Is his arm still attached?
Scout: As far as I can tell.
GM: Would he consider starting in Triple-A?
Scout: Maybe.
GM: I'm sold. Let's sign him. Seems like a front-runner.
Every single season the majority of teams break camp by selecting a fifth starter. Every single season they choose from a stable of guys that they really don’t want pitching for them, but they have no choice. They’re usually a handful of replacement starters, non-roster invitees, or whatever. This is because, contrary to what you may have thought previously, most major league teams don’t really have a steady fifth starter. The secret is out. What’s more, whoever they chose, by May or June that player will be swapped out for some other replacement starter that’s going to pitch about as well (read: Poorly). The cycle goes on and on.

The Giants don’t have this problem because they’re paying some guy a total sum of $126 million to be their fifth starter. A little steep, sure, but boy they must feel ahead of the curve having that fifth starter picked out an all. And so early. This is why I know Zito, with all his flaws and everything that’s said about him, is in the top third of fifth starters in baseball. It’s really not all that difficult to be better than a bunch of four-A nobodies that are being swapped out like tires in a NASCAR race.

Clubs will do this with position players too, and still it won’t matter much. These are fringe players that are being decided on, after all. It’s not like if Travis Ishikawa leads the Cactus League in home runs again anyone thinks he’s going to be the next Will Clark. But he might make the roster and the point still stands.

So, as meaningless as these decisions are, I’m going to give you a taste of why you probably shouldn’t be making much of a fuss when a minor league invitee starts tearing the cover off the ball or your favorite player can’t hit or pitch his way out of a wet paper bag all spring. Or why, when Todd Wellemeyer pitched as well as any of the Giants last spring, you shouldn’t have expected it to continue. So here goes.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pressing Giants questions...

… like: What’s Buster Posey’s favorite food? And: Why doesn’t Barry Zito throw harder?

These questions are particularly burning because people sought answers to them and found my site in lieu of what they were seeking. At least that’s what my fancy Blogger “Stats” told me. Unfortunate, I know.

I guess I’ll give it my best in the event these two – unless, it was one person with each of these pertinent, brilliant questions – return for the answer. You know, because maybe each of them is a glass half full type.

So, what is Buster’s favorite food… in the whole wide world? I think this is fairly obvious, but we’ve already headed down this path so…

Posey’s favorite food is belt-high fastballs on the outer half of the plate. As Brian Wilson would say: Posey finds them particularly delicious.

Finally: Why doesn’t Zito throw harder? Great question. Simple answer. He can’t.

Ok, so maybe those weren’t the answers they were looking for. You just can’t please everyone. But for those of you that found this an utterly ridiculous waste of time, I do have some recourse.

Brandon Belt had three hits in his first start this spring today. He punched a single to center to score Travis Ishikawa. Then, directly following that and displaying his athleticism, he scored from first on a hit-and-run double by Brad Eldred. Later, he smashed a three-run double to right center field. For an encore, he clubbed an opposite-field double off of the base of the left-center field wall. So there’s that. Delicious.

Notice how I didn’t say he “belted” any of those pitches? I’ll refrain for now. Personally, I prefer to hear Duane Kuiper bellow that when he hits his first big league home run.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Buster Posey anchors Giants’ offense

First, the rules…

The rule is that every conversation about the Giants’ offense starts and stops with Buster Posey. The second rule is that the rules will undoubtedly change and they’ll change at the time of my choosing. Glad we have that squared away.

I said I might do a follow up post about players’ projections following my previous installment at Paapfly: Baseball Prospectus is bullish on Giants. I’d like to make good on that promise here and now.

As you might expect, rather, as you would expect – this is assuming that you were paying any attention to the ever important rules I’ve outlined above, while also assuming* they have not changed – we start with Posey.

*Rule of thumb: Don’t assume anything.

Posey took home the Rookie of the Year award in the Senior Circuit for the 2010 season, edging another eminently talented fellow named Jason Heyward. I’m happy to report that Baseball Prospectus (BP) again expects Posey to perform at a high level.

They are projecting him to hit .289/.358/.462 – meaning average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage – which isn’t far off from his .305/.357/.505 line from a year ago. What you can take from that is they don’t expect Posey to hit for as much power as he did a year ago (given the 43 point drop in slugging), but do expect him to draw a few more walks. Over 500 plate appearances (PA), their guess is 16 home runs for Buster. For what it’s worth, he hit 18 in 443 PA in 2010.

Baseball Prospectus has their own way of doing things and project 3.6 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) for Posey. To be honest, I’m not very well versed in their system because it’s not free and I grew up on (read: learned about a year ago on) FanGraphs. But I don’t think anyone on their site would be upset if I said WARP is more or less their version of Wins above replacement (WAR). In any case, you might assume a 3.6 WARP isn’t much, but it’s pretty darn good considering their only projected 5.0+ WARP position player is Albert Pujols.

Before you ask, allow me: Will Posey really lose long-ball power, not hit .300 and walk more? Maybe, maybe not, but I certainly have no problem with what they’ve provided. I think him drawing more walks is an excellent bet. I also think he’s likely to hit in a band around .300, meaning perhaps a bit higher or lower. In terms of pop, I can see it going either way. He could hit about as many home runs, a few more, or a few less. None of the three would shock me.

He’s an excellent hitter but he’s not likely to be a 30 home run guy in my opinion; he’s more likely to fall in the high-teens to mid-twenties if all is going as we expect. With the quality on-base percentage (OBP), ability to hit for a good average and the simple fact that he’s a catcher and they traditionally don’t hit at all, that’s excellent production for a catcher.

This is an excellent place for me to say something that I’ve been meaning to. For those of you who think Posey should move to shortstop – I’ve seriously read or heard this a number of times, believe it or not – to third base,  or to first base: stop. I mean it: please stop.

After Posey, BP is particularly optimistic about Pablo Sandoval. This is excellent news. It’s also a great time to drop a wonderful nugget from the awesome Craig Calcaterra, who just so happens to be watching the Giants’ first spring training game this morning:

It’s been written several times already, but seeing Pablo Sandoval up close really brings home how much damn weight he has lost. He doesn’t merely look good for a fat guy. He looks good. And it’s not just fat. His shoulders and arms are fairly awesome. And it may or may not be worth noting that he love, love, loves to sing aloud and dance some to his iPod.
Please do read the whole post from Craig. It’s funny. It’s about the Giants. What’s not to like?

Not knowing just exactly in how good of shape Pablo would be for the season, BP has Sandoval at a 3.0 WARP with a line of .299/.346/.464 with 17 home runs. That’s far better than his 2010, though of course not near the production he had in 2009. Here’s the thing with Pablo though: the sky is sort of the limit. With his lost weight, added strength and no doubt improvement in agility, he should improve in all facets of the game. I want to curb my optimism some, but I’m feeling extremely encouraged about this young man right now.

If his bat once again plays in the middle of the order with Posey and at some point, Brandon Belt – more on him later – the Giants’ offense shouldn’t have too much trouble accomplishing what’s needed to win: mediocrity. That’s right folks, when you have stellar pitching in both your rotation and bullpen, you win a lot of games by merely scoring a league average number of runs. You can even win a World Series.

I won’t get into too much detail, but others of note are Andres Torres, projected to hit .251/.320/.412. The projection isn’t a surprise, but I’ll take the over on that. He’s also the only player projected to steal double-digit stolen bases (20). They see a sharp decline in Aubrey Huff (.263/.336/.431) – no surprise there, he’ll have to prove 2010 wasn’t a fluke. They aren’t expecting much from Mark DeRosa after two wrist surgeries. In short: 127 lack-luster plate appearances. Rounding out the rest are Pat Burrell (.232/.342/.418 and 1.0 WARP), Cody Ross (.259/.313/.429 and 1.6 WARP) and Miguel Tejada (.269/.306/.375 and 1.4 WARP).

I know, I know, it feels like I’m rushing. That’s because I am. I want to get to Brandon Belt. I hinted in my previous piece that Belt is projected to produce the second best line on the Giants. They have him at .269/.359/.456. That there’s good stuff. Belt put up a prodigious minor league campaign in his first as a professional last season. It was huge. Anyway, if you want a real life example of how a season with a similar line and excellent defense at first base might look, look no further than Ike Davis’ 2010. He was a down-ballot Rookie of the Year candidate last year. He’s not a star, but he’s better than James Loney.

Davis hit .261/.351/.440 with a .345 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and was worth 3.4 wins because he was also playing excellent defense at first base, just as Belt is expected to do. What’s more, he’s another tall left-handed hitter at 6’4”. Belt’s projected line is slightly better than Davis’ and probably worth something like a .350 wOBA. That’s not great for a first baseman – it is better than league average – but when coupled with very good defense is perfectly playable. Also, it’s a lot more than you should ever ask from a rookie.

It’s worth pointing out that what BP is saying is essentially that Belt should be a better player in 2011 than Aubrey Huff. It’s far too early to know that for sure. Belt is still nothing but a prospect, though a top one, and Huff is still a player that had a resurgent season in 2010, though he’s not getting any younger. What’s probably assured in all this is the fact that Belt would be a defensive upgrade from Huff and that Huff would be no worse in left than Burrell; he might be better. Food for thought.

Unfortunately, here’s an enormous stick in the spoke, gum on the roller blade, sugar in the gas tank. Will Belt make his way to San Francisco at some point this season? BP says he’ll only take 100 plate appearances, but that seems ridiculous to me. No, while I don’t believe Sabean will dare give Belt a start on opening day, I do believe he’ll be up just as soon as one of three things happen: 1) his service time is no longer an issue, i.e. around May, 2) the Giants’ offense is running on fumes and needs a bump or 3) he’s obliterating the ball so absurdly in Fresno that Sabean has no choice but to cave to the cries for his summon.

I prefer option three, personally. Sounds awesome. But we’ll all just have to wait and see. Baseball Prospectus is about as optimistic about the Giants as they have been in years, so I’m told. So I’m told, last year they recommended Brian Sabean’s dismissal. Right or wrong, their enthusiasm for this year’s squad seems genuine and far less obligatory given their status as defending champs. It should be another exciting year. That’s really all you can ask for.

Finally, the rules have not changed and we’re still technically talking the Giants’ offense. So: Buster Posey.

I’ll make no promises here to dabble in BP’s projections on the pitching. I won’t say I won’t take a look at them either. But it’s just not as interesting to me, for whatever reason. Suffice to say, the holistic take on the pitching staff is that it’s very, very good.

Baseball Prospectus bullish on Giants

I hadn’t spent much if any time looking at Baseball Prospectus’ (BP) 2011 projections, that is, until now. Guess what: There’s another reason why it’s great when your team wins the World Series: their “Depth Chart” appears free to all at BP. This is also the case for the Texas Rangers, who in case you’ve forgotten, lost to the Giants in the Fall Classic. In five games.

They call their projections PECOTA – Pouring Endlessly and Cleverly Over These Algorithms. I made that up, but that’s because I don’t know what it actually stands for. Your turn to try.

For those Giants fans that are already worried the Giants are being underestimated, don’t be. For starters, you should never be worried of that because it doesn’t really matter. No, really, it doesn’t matter. You also shouldn’t this year because it’s simply not the case.

Baseball Prospectus is currently projecting the Giants to win the NL West by three games, besting the Dodgers. They have the Giants winning 90 games (two less than 2010) and the Dodgers winning 87. Beyond that, the Rockies grab 83, the Friars fall to just below .500 with 80 and the Diamondbacks… well their still in the cellar, though 74 wins is a nine game improvement.

But there’s more. BP also is projecting the Giants to have 1) the second best run differential (RD) in the National League at +86 runs and 2) the second lowest figure of runs against (RA). First is of course the Phillies. Just kidding. It’s the Dodgers. What?

Actually, this makes perfect sense. A couple reasons: the Dodgers have a solid rotation which includes Clayton Kershaw – a budding ace – to go with Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, as well as a very good bullpen.

I guess Padilla is having some issues with a nerve in his forearm. I guess we could start singing a jingle like Jonny Gomes, but we won’t do that here. But only because Padilla’s no ace. I mean, if Kershaw goes down I reserve the right to celebrate. Rob Neyer said I could.

I said a couple of reasons. I meant a few. I always thought a couple meant two, a few meant three and some meant four. That’s just me, but I digress. The other reason is the ballpark the Giants, Phillies and Dodgers play in. The Giants and Dodgers play in more neutral, less offensive parks. Actually, the difference isn’t what some people make of it because the Citizens Bank Park is regarded as a more neutral park when you really get down to it than is generally perceived (or portrayed) by most fans and the media. But when push comes to shove, Chavez Ravine (LA) is the most pitcher friendly, followed by AT&T (SF) and then Citizens Bank Park (Philly).

There’s also the fact that despite the Phillies’ wunderrotation – new word – their bullpen probably isn’t as good as the Dodgers’ and Giants’. They are all close though, at least in terms of RD: 637, 640, 657.

As I mentioned in passing earlier, the Giants have the second best run differential. First place does go to the Phillies with their +94 and 91 wins, but that’s just eight runs and one game in the standings. They win the East, in this projection. Rounding out the National League (NL) is the Cardinals with a +62 RD and 87 wins, despite losing Adam Wainwright. Make sure to mark your calendars for the Braves versus Dodgers one game playoff – they’ll fight for the last spot with 87 wins each.

Please also take note of the fact that the Brewers are the next in line with 85 wins. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone. They added Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke this offseason and already had a very solid offense anchored by Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Standings are very fungible, a little luck (bad or good), an injury here or there, and voila: the Cubs win the Central. This stuff happens.

Personally, I’ll take the Brewers in the Central right now on a whim. I have the right.

That’s the standings, kids. I’ll give you some thoughts on the player projections in due time. Probably. Hint: Brandon Belt is projected to be the second best hitter on the Giants in 2011, but won’t really play enough for it to matter.

Update: BP ran the numbers again and the Brewers are now on top in the Central, although in a virtual tie in the standings with the Cardinals. Waino's loss to Tommy John surgery figures to make a tight race in the Senior Circuit's weakest division.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Giants' expiring middle infield

Andy Baggarly's indispensable "Extra Baggs" blog went up yesterday, as usual. A nugget from the 941 word missive to "us"...
Freddy Sanchez will be cleared to swing a bat on Friday, Bochy said. Sanchez is just tracking pitches for now, but he’s swinging against coaches and in the cage. Bochy said if you saw Sanchez swing, you’d never think he had another left shoulder surgery in the offseason. I’d expect Sanchez will miss perhaps a handful of Cactus League games until he’s cleared to participate in those. There’s still optimism from all sides that he’ll be 100 percent and ready to be the Giants’ second baseman on opening day.
It reminds me of something. I say me because it probably won't remind you of the same thing, and that's assuming it'll remind you of anything. It just so happens to remind me of second base. 

The position is of particular interest to me because Sanchez's contract is expring at seasons end and I don't particularly expect management to bring him back. I mean, he's a good little player and he sure was a key to the 2010 World Series with his solid defense. That being said, he's not exactly the second baseman you're going to dream on. He's not Dustin Ackley who the Mariners have on the cusp. He's no Chase Utley, that's for sure. Also, Giants fans, he's no Jeff Kent.

Freddy will be 33 in 2011 and, if re-signed, would make the Giants the culprits of signing another over-the-hill middle infielder next offseason should they choose to go in that direction. I hope they don't, and don't forget they'll be in the exact same position at shortstop as they will be at second come December. Tejada will be a free agent too and surely won't be retained for everyday duties at the position. He'll be no more equipped than Freddie Prinze Jr. or Keanu Reeves to man a critical Martin Scorsese role -- he's not well equipped to play the position today as it is. But I've digressed from second base.

Sanchez was worth 2.7 Wins above Replacement (WAR) in 2010 according to FanGraphs. Unfortunately, his three-year average is just 1.8 wins. What's more, his ability to play solid defense has always been a significant factor in keeping him a solid player given the fact that other than 2006, in which he won a batting title, he's never carried a huge stick. As his defense slips, so will his utility, and it might not be particularly pretty.

Sanchez had a .327 weighted on-base average (wOBA) in 2010 which was very nearly, exactly in line with his career mark of .326. As I said, he's not much of a hitter. His career .335 on-base percentage (OBP) and .414 slugging percentage (SLG) won't get anyone excited. So we're really looking at about a two win player at best in 2011 with a swing of more than a win either way pretty unlikely.

Recently over at MLB Trade Rumors our friend Ben Nicholson-Smith went over next seasons crop of free agent second basemen:
Robinson Cano ($14MM club option), Brandon Phillips ($12MM club option) and Aaron Hill (series of club options) could all hit the open market, though it seems likely that their current clubs will retain them, at least through 2012.

Two Bay Area second basemen, Mark Ellis and Freddy Sanchez, are set to hit free agency after the 2011 season. So are Kelly Johnson, who just avoided arbitration, and Rickie Weeks... Clint Barmes, Omar Infante and Jose Lopez are on track to hit free agency after the season and early non-tender candidate Ryan Theriot could also hit the open market.

Some of the players above will sign extensions or see their options exercised, but teams looking to add proven players should have a deeper than usual class of second basemen to choose from next offseason.
As Ben points out, Phillips, Cano and Hill are all but off limits. Weeks already signed an extension and is now scratched from the once seemingly fruitful basket of options. That leaves Ellis and Johnson -- becacuse I want nothing to do with any of Theriot, Infante, Barmes or Lopez for what I feel should be obvious reasons -- both of whom I actually wouldn't mind on shorter deals.

I like Ellis a lot. He's an extremely similar hitter to Sanchez but there's reason to like him a bit more. For one, he's been playing in the tougher American League and playing half his contests in a serious pitchers park at that. But, even more than that, Ellis is the better defender of the two. Truth be told, he's an excellent defender that's deserved a whole heck of a lot more Gold Glove consideration than he's ever gotten. When you consider the fact that he's actually older than Sanchez, though, my interest in him comes close to disintegrating.

That leaves... just Johnson. If choosing the free agent route, he's my instant favorite. It's actually pretty wild when you consider he was non-tendered by the Braves in December of 2009. In hindsight, which is always 20/20, that looks like a pretty significant blunder.

He posted a 3.4 WAR in 2007 and a 2.6 WAR in 2008 for the Braves. He had a terrible 2009 which produced a WAR of just 0.6 but perhaps the Braves' brass didn't pay close attention to his .247 batting average on balls in play (BABiP), which appears to have punished his value that season. His walk rate was still solid and near 10% and his isolated power remained within career norms at .165. So, when he arrived in Arizona at a real hitters park, he flourished. It could have been predicted. No, it was.

I suppose the Giants have an interesting prospect or two that might push his way into the picture. Charlie Culberson in particular comes to mind. The Giants liked him enough to send him to the Arizona Fall League where he hit 366/.394/.591 after his 2010 breakout campaign in Single-A Advanced, San Jose. Keith Law ranked him the Giants' fifth best prospect (ESPN Insider). FanGraphs had him ranked seventh. He stole 25 bags there with 16 home runs and a .355 wOBA in his first season in San Jose. There are reasons to like him, including the fact that he'll be just 22 next season when he'll face a serious test in Double-A, Richmond.

Other than he, I don't see a middle-infield prospect ready to contribute at second. Plus, the fact that his glove remains very much a work in progress may gum up the works even further.

I hate to say it already, but the only real attractive option at second next offseason is Johnson. We also know the Giants will be looking for a serviceable shortstop -- I have not yet looked, but the pickings are usually pretty slim on that front. Needless to say, the Giants could use a kid or two from the minors to break out and join the ranks of "solid average regular" at the middle infield position. Because we know the Giants' front office has a flare for the geriatric... I mean dramtatic.

Anyway, I suppose this discussion is a bit premature but it's already stirring about in my brain which is always bouncing around baseball, especially as it pertains to the Giants. 2012 is a long ways away, but it'll be here before we even know it. And I'll bet Sabean is thinking about this already too.