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.