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…
RP: First off, welcome to Paapfly. Come up with the right answers, and you come out of this alive. Off-topic topic first… how did it feel to be approached by Neyer to join the awesome SweetSpot?
DH: It was (and is) a terrific honor. I was at the Sportvision Pitchf/x Summit in San Francisco and saw him standing by himself during a break. I figured I probably wouldn't be in the same room with him again, so I introduced myself. Couldn't have been a nicer guy. Talked with me for about 15 minutes and asked me to remain in contact with him. Uh...sure, Rob...I guess. I want to put it in perspective, because the guy didn't change my life and he's not a personal hero or anything, but he is the reason why I watch baseball in the manner I do, with an eye toward numbers and a deeper truth. And baseball matters to me. When he considered my writing at least adequate enough to be associated it with his name, well, that was a pretty good day.
RP: In the non-Mariners category, the A’s didn’t score runs last year. So, some guy named Billy Beane – he runs things in Oakland between watching soccer – made a few changes. The Giants were no powerhouse offense either, but opted to do very little after winning it all. Good or bad idea?
Here's what the Giants did: their team won the championship, so they brought everyone back. Is Aubrey Huff a bargain anymore? Absolutely not. Will he be worth it? I lean toward no, but there's a chance. The only addition was Miguel Tejada, and there are so many places for regression in that lineup that I can't help but think they'll be worse. After all, they won 92 games last year...a lot of teams will be worse after that. The A's changes were all at the margins and for almost no cost; it might not seem like a lot, but the half-wins they add at six or seven spots add up. What they really need though is for the guys they already have to play better.
RP: Do you think the Giants have a legitimate claim to San Jose?
DH: I hate everything about this stadium mess. I work for a transportation consultant and have worked on stadium proposals for the A's in both Fremont and Oakland. It seems so wrong to me that this can't be figured out. MLB clearly wants the A's in Oakland. The Giants want anything but San Jose. Wolff wants to be anywhere but Oakland and his number one choice is San Jose. And would you just give away rights that you own? Even if you didn't want them/had no problem with someone taking them, you'd still make them pay for it. The Giants are doing what's right by them, even if it's not good for the A's or baseball. Nothing wrong with acting in your own self-interest.
RP: I have my owns thoughts on Trevor Cahill, but despite their completely disparate pitching style, he and Matt Cain fall into the same “Lucky” or “Good” category. Fielding-independent pitching (FIP) crushes them both. Tell me, Dan: Is Cain lucky or good?
Can't it be both? Sometimes I feel like sabermetricians get so caught up in trying to find an answer for every little thing that they lose sight of the bigger picture. Matt Cain is good. 30 teams would take him on their roster tomorrow. Is he going to continue posting ERAs in the low 3.00 range like the last two years? I'd guess not. He might be an outlier, but there's 40 years of data that say he'll fall back a little bit. And even if he does, he's still really good. If he gives up a few more hits with men on base and a couple of extra homers, does that make him bad? No, it makes him normal. Now, Trevor Cahill, that dude is LUCKY.
RP: We witnessed Pablo “Kung-Fu Panda” Sandoval go from a budding star to an overweight, poor-hitting, defensively-challenged third baseman. Do you think his new figure will lead to another monster season like 2009? Or, do you think somewhere in the middle of 2009 and 2010 is more likely?
DH: I get the feeling with Pablo that if he gives a crap, he'll be fine. I think he was a little unlucky last year, but he has to hit for more power if he's going to continue to walk so little. The Panda will probably never duplicate his 2009 season, but he's not as bad as last season either. .280 with 20 home runs is reasonable, and if he could walk enough to get on base 35 percent of the time, that would make him much more valuable. He has to hit though if he's going to play; they aren't putting him out there for his glove.
RP: The A’s have their own quality catcher that came from a legit college program (Kurt Suzuki, Cal State Fullerton). Do you think Buster Posey (Florida State) is in danger of a sophomore slump? Also… what the heck happened to Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech)?
DH: I think the sophomore slump is a creation of expectations. Of course rookies who do well will struggle more often in their second seasons. We expect them to keep trucking along, but if we noticed them as rookies, they probably played a little bit above their heads. That said, Buster is the real deal. Given the result of the season, it's hard to question what Sabean did, but Posey was ready in April. Leaving him in Triple-A could have cost them games, and even one fewer win could have kept them out of the playoffs.
Will Posey hit .300 again and play at an All-Star caliber level? I'll lean towards no, only because it's really hard to do. But I fully expect him to be the Giants' best hitter. As for Wieters, again, expectations. PECOTA had the guy as an MVP candidate before he made his debut. Is he going to be the savior some thought he might be? Probably not. But he's only 24 and he's got time to become an above-average major league catcher.
RP: If you’re Brian Sabean, what do you do with Brandon Belt?
DH: I let Huff walk and I play him at first. Oh, too late for that? Hey, injuries happen, slumps happen. At some point, Brandon Belt will be a Giant this year. Now, having re-signed Huff, they almost have to play him, probably in left field (although apparently the Giants have a grasp of the concept a sunk cost; see: Rowand, Aaron; Zito, Barry). Issue there is that Huff may give back in the field all the runs he creates at the plate. Belt's got a long future with the Giants, even if it's delayed a little at the beginning of the season.
RP: The A’s have a sparkling, young rotation anchored by Brett Anderson. The Giants do too. How much better is the Phillies’ rotation, really? Would you prefer the Giants’ rotation over the long-term?
DH: Depends what long-term is. If it's three years, I'd probably still say Phillies. If it's seven years, Giants. Halladay is the best pitcher in the game. Cliff Lee is one of the top five or six. Oswalt and Hamels are All-Stars. The Giants have Tim Lincecum, who is in that group with Lee. Cain is an All-Star caliber pitcher. Are Sanchez and Bumgarner? Not yet, but both could be. I don't see the Philly pitchers phading phast enough to pick the Giant pitchers just yet. Both are a lot of fun to watch though.
RP: Final question, and the most important of the lot: The Giants and A’s, half-and-half hat… lame, right?
Stupid. If you have a son on both teams, it's ok. I went to Ohio State while Brady Quinn's sister dated A.J. Hawk; I hated every second of this. Pick a team, stick with them. If you are an A's fan and the Giants are good, the playoffs roll around and you want to root for them, fine. Everyone likes a winner, plus the Giants rival is the Dodgers. The A's-Giants thing is overblown to me. It's fun during interleague, but essentially means very little. For a real rivalry, there has to be a history, and one World Series (sweep) doesn't cut it.
But, if you're going to cross over, no gear. And certainly no half-sy gear.
No doubt about it, I agree with Dan around the horn…
The Giants’ offseason strategy clearly wasn’t the best repeat strategy. I’d have let Huff walk and inserted Belt, were it me, because I think he’s every bit as ready this April as Posey seemingly was about 365 days ago. The expectations for Weiters were outrageous and irresponsible. Pablo should be much better in 2011 by simply showing up and caring, and arriving in Scottsdale with 40 less pounds kind of already accomplished that. The Giants are acting rationally in their guarding of San Jose. Cahill was very lucky last season and Cain is very good pitcher. At tossing the pill, the Phillies have no peer, at least for a couple more seasons. And the A’s/Giants, hybrid hat is an atrocity.
Finally, I agree the A’s and Giants rivalry is way overblown. In fact, I am one of those people that root for the A’s when they make it to the tournament. Also, I think Dan underplayed what they managed to accomplish in improving their roster this winter. I guess we’ll all see soon enough.
Now head on over to Baseballin’ on a Budget where I answer those questions that Dan has chosen to fire at me about the Giants and Oakland A’s.