Saturday, December 12, 2009

Some Possible Non-Tender Candidates and What about Uggla in Left?

This weekend is the final opportunity for teams around MLB to offer players under control contracts.  Non-tendered players are released from control and may hit the FA market.  This has particular meaning for the Giants.  First, current Giant Ryan Garko has not yet been offered a contract.  In all honestly, he probably will not be offered a contract.  The Giants simply do not have room for the first baseman.  The Giants essentially have one spot in the in-field.  One likely scenario signing Adam LaRoche or Nick Johnson at first base, while keeping Sandoval at third, Renteria at short, and Sanchez at second.  Another ever more likely scenario is getting Dan Uggla for second, moving Sanchez to third and Sandoval to first, while keeping Renteria at short.  I think it possible the Giants will trade for Dan Uggla as well as sign someone at first, which I will address later.  Regardless, the Giants are looking at options that do not have a spot for Ryan Garko.  Thus, I doubt the Giants will keep Garko on the team, which I do believe is a shame.  I think one wise option would be to trade for Uggla, keep Garko at first, and spend the money we would have spent on Johnson or LaRoche on getting a stud in the outfield (here's looking at you Xavier Nady).  There is little indication, however, that the Giants intend to do this.

Another significant result of this weekend is the class of free agents who will hit the market after this weekend.  Anyone who has followed the Giants during the past weeks know the Giants are looking for a catcher to hold down the fort while Posey continues to develop.  The Giants intended to sign the likes of Pudge Rodriguez, Olvio, or Ausmus.  Unfortunately, for the Giants, the catcher market was screwed up when the Washington Nationals agreed to sign Pudge for a two-year deal, something few clubs were willing to do with aged veterans past their prime (were the Giants willing to go multiple years on catchers they probably would have just re-signed Bengie Molina, much to my dismay).  Now, every catcher similar to Pudge (Olvio and Ausmus) are also looking at similar deals.  This effectively forced the Giants to go back to the drawing board, even to consider just starting Posey instead of signing someone else.

This weekend, however, brings the chance that new catchers will hit the market.  Catcher who has less value than Pudge, Olvio, and Ausmus, who probably will not be able to command the two-year deal that the older catchers can.  Two such men are Dioner Navarro and John Buck.

Navarro currently is the catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Something interesting of note: Navarro came up through the Dodgers system alongside current Dodger Russell Martin.  Navarro was originally given the starter job with the Dodgers ahead of Martin, while Russell was sent to develop further in the Dodgers' farm system.  After a lackluster year at the bigs, Navarro was demoted and Martin was brought up.  Eventually Navarro found his way onto the Rays, where he is today.

The good thing about Navarro is he would come very cheap.  The bad thing: there is a reason why he would come very cheap.  Throughout his career Navarro has continued to show weakness both offensively and defensively.  In 2007, Navarro had more errors than any other catcher in the bigs and batted with a .227 avg.  Navarro improved greatly in 2008: he hit with a .330 wOBA and .295 avg.  However, in 2009 he regressed again: .218 avg and .258 wOBA.  It now looks like the Rays are through with Navarro, as the media speculates he will be non-tendered.

The other candidate, John Buck, came up through the Astros and Royals systems.  In 2003, he was considered the 21st best prospect in MLB.  Buck is known as a catcher with almost no offensive ability, but with a strong defensive ability.  In his career, Buck has never hit above a .250 avg.  However, in 2009 he did post an above average .332 wOBA.  Perhaps Buck is beginning to turn things around, however the Giants should not count on that.

Ultimately, Buck is currently the more valuable catcher, with a 0.9 WAR in 2009 compared to Navarro's -0.1 WAR.  If these catchers hit the market, they probably will not be able to have much leverage to command more than a one year deal.  Their low value makes them fairly good candidates for the Giants to pick up for the interim, in order to give Posey enough time to get called up.  Of the two, Buck is clearly the better choice.  The Giants want a catcher who can show Posey the ropes and hold down the fort defensively.  Buck has shown better discipline behind the dish, while Navarro appears to be error prone.  Either catacher, however, would be decent for the short term.  The Giants will probably be looking into signing one of these guys should they hit the market.

Beside the catching market, there is also the issue of what to do with Dan Uggla.  It is no secret that the Giants are looking at acquire Uggla, and it also appears that the Giants have extended offers to sign Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson.  The Giants only have one spot in the infield open for a new player.  So what would happen if the Giants were able to get Uggla through a good trade and Adam LaRoche was willing to sign?  One idea that has been floated is moving Uggla to left field.  Indeed, the Boston Red Sox have considered Uggla as a replacement should both Jason Bay and Matt Holliday not decide to go to Fenway for 2010.

Uggla would probably lose considerable value moving to left field.  Uggla is already a below average second baseman.  A move to left might bring his value down even further.  On the other hand, Jason Bay is a terrible left fielder as well.  If Uggla could continue to put up the offensive numbers he has in the past, which he probably could do at AT&T, since he is a righty with pull, it might work out for the Giants to plunk Uggla in LF and put Adam LaRoche at 1B.

Here's to hoping.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jason Bay Five Year Deal?

One thing we have heard from Brian Sabean this offseason is how dedicated he is to signing second-tier players, and not looking at this year's premier free agents: Matt Holliday and Jason Bay.  If you have been reading my posts, you know that I pretty much agree with Sabean here.  The Giants do not need to needless throw money at Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.  We can put together a playoff calibre team much more cheaply (and perhaps more effectively) by signing the Adam LaRoche and trading for Dan Uggla, rather than dumping all our resources into Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

So what has been going on with Jason Bay this offseason?  The media has speculated there are three places he could end up: San Francisco, Boston, or with the Mets in New York.  I highly doubt the media's belief that Bay could end up here in San Francisco: sure we need a player like Bay but I don't think they realize how strapped for cash we are.

Today, Peter Gammons, a big time Red Sox fan and huge homer, mentioned that the Giants in fact have made a five year offer to Jason Bay.  Well, that's not true.  He said that he knows the Giants would make a five year offer to Jason Bay.  I have no idea how or where he got this information.  Perhaps he is clairvoyant.  However, there has been no indication whatsoever that the Giants would go that long with Jason Bay.  However, in addition to this mysterious five year deal, apparently Jason Bay does not want to play in San Francisco!  How does Gammons know this?  Well, naturally, he gives no sources and gives no reason.  He just knows.  Jason Bay does not want to play in San Francisco.  Really?

This article stinks.  I am not sure what Gammons is talking about and how much we can really trust it.  However, it does make one wonder: are the Giants out on Jason Bay?  Or are they secretly in on the slugger?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Count Out Dan Uggla?

Andrew Baggarly reports that the Giants are not out on Dan Uggla, and are probably just trying get the Marlins to come down on their price for the second baseman.

What about Ryan Garko?

The Giants acquired Ryan Garko after the All-star break in the 2009 season in order to bring in a bat that would help the Giants in their playoff push.  In acquiring Garko from the Cleveland Indians, the Gmen gave up pitching prospect Scott Barnes for Garko's services.

The 28-year old first baseman was suppose to be the offensive power that the Giants needed to get into the playoffs.  In the 2008 season, Garko put up good numbers: a .333 wOBA and a .346 OBP.  The guy could get on base better than most players in the MLB, which was excellent for the Giants, who had one of the league's most anemic offenses.  

Sadly, Garko was poorly misused in San Francisco.  He started for about 10 games until Bruce Bochey essentially sidelined Garko for Travis Ishikawa.  Ishikawa better with the glove, but was weaker offensively.  By the end of the season, Garko was rarely seen, even as a pinch hitter.  

What happened?  The Giants barely gave the guy a chance.  Moreover, he is exactly the type of player this team needs: a guy who can consistently get on base.  Granted, Garko's first several games in San Francisco did not go well for him.  He hit with a .235 avg, .289 wOBA, and .307 OBP.  It was probably for these, misguided, reasons that the Giants decided to drop Garko so prematurely.  

However, it shocks me that the Giants management would make a judgment on Garko's offensive ability in so few games.  Garko was never given an honest and true chance to show he could hit and to adjust to the National League (Garko had spent his entire professional career with the Indians in the American League).  

Little has been said about Garko for the 2010 season.  When asked about the status of Garko, Brian Sabean said he was "on the bubble."  I suspect the Giants are looking to trade Garko for one of the big bats they need.  Considering one of the premier free agents the Giants are pursuing is Nick Johnson, who plays first base, it would make sense if the Giants could trade Garko to another team for a bat (I know the Giants have been hot and cold on Dan Uggla, although I don't know how and if Garko could help out that team).  Barring any great deals to trade away Garko for a better bat, however, I think the Giants should retain him and give him another chance for 2010.  

One thing that alarms me is how wedded the Giants management is to the idea of starting Eugenio Velez next year in LF.  Let me be brutally honest: Eugenio Velez sucks.  I don't want to hear about how he went on that impressive hot streak in 2009.  Batters can be hot and cold, however to truly and accurately judge a player's talent you need to look at a larger sample size.  Offensively, Velez is a joke.  He hit with a .301 wOBA in 2009.  That is awful, especially considering Garko generally hits far above and beyond that.  Yet, for some reason the Giants are dedicated to giving Velez another shot at the starting job.  It is probably because the Giants have this old-fashioned belief that your lead-off hitter needs to be a speedy guy.  Let me make this clear to the Giants management: A leadoff hitter needs to be good at getting on base, not being fast.  Eugenio Velez cannot get on base enough for his speed to even matter.  At best, Eugenio Velez should be a pitch hitter/runner and a fourth outfielder.  

So what should the Giants do with Garko?  Almost no matter what the Giants do to upgrade their infield, someone else will be playing at first.  If they sign Nick Johnson of Andy LaRoche, then those players will be a first.  If they sign Adrian Beltre, then he will play third and Pablo will move to first.  If they trade for Dan Uggla, then Freddy Sanchez will move to third, while Pablo will move to first.  So almost no matter what we do, someone else will be at first.  That means, if we are to give Garko a starting job, then he will have to move elsewhere.  

The outfield is the only spot that makes sense.  Garko has played a few games out there.  Admittedly, he is not a good defensively player.  This is where Velez has the advantage over Garko.  In 2009, Garko played 20 games in the outfield.  He racked up a -2.4 UZR.  Velez, on the other hand, played 59 games in the outfield and had a 3.5 UZR.  First of all, we are dealing with small sample sizes, so there is not much weight that we can put into these numbers.  However, from we do have, we can make an unscientific, educated guess that Velez will be the better defender.  However, Garko's offensive numbers will hopefully make up for his lack of defense ability in LF.  To contract, Jason Bay had a -13.0 UZR with the Red Sox last season (although Bay's offense is much better than Garko's).  

If we put Ryan Garko in the outfield and signed Nick Johnson we could have a lineup like the following: 

(1) N. Johnson (1B)
(2) F. Sanchez (2B)
(3) R. Garko (LF)
(4) P. Sandoval (3B)
(5) N. Schierhotlz (RF)
(6) A. Rowand (CF)
(7) B. Posey (C)
(8) E. Renteria (SS)
(9) Pitcher

Not bad, I'd say.  If Renteria's injury last season really was the force that was causing him to underperform then we might see a bounce back next year.  If so, he could hit higher up in the line-up.  It is something to think about.  Ryan Garko could be a solution to our offensive woes, and it is a solution that we already have in our dugout. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Indianapolis Updates

Andrew Baggarly has reported some interesting tidbits on the Giants' front.  First of all, the Giants are effectively out of running for Dan Uggla.  Due to Uggla's nearing free agency and his weak glove, the Giants essentially lost interest in the Marlins's infielder.  Bengie Molina is certain not to return.  Brian Sabean spoke of Moline: "That ship has sailed."  Baggarly also reports it is possible that Uribe will revisit the Giants' offer (whatever that means).

Some good news though: Baggs has reported that the Giants are interested in Orlando Hudson.  If the Giants sign Hudson, they will move Freddy Sanchez to 3B.  That would be a wonderful pickup.  Hudson is a great player who fits nicely with the Giants' needs.  Hudson has a career .340 wOBA, which would contribute nicely to the Giants meager offense.  In all seriousness, we should have signed Hudson instead of Renteria last year.  That was a huge blunder on Sabean's behalf.

The Giants are still interested in Mark DeRosa, however. 

One interested piece of information reported by Baggs is that the Giants could possibly make a run for Jason Bay.  If we are only going to sign one bat, then Jason Bay would be a great option, obviously.

The San Jose Mercury News has reported that the Giants will probably only sign one bat this off-season.  The article offers no reason for this, and gives no sources.  I am not sure how much I trust this piece of information, but it is certainly disheartened if true.  I had hoped the Giants would sign one bat in the infield and one bat in the outfield.  I had dreamed of Nick Johnson/Andy LaRoche and Xavier Nady.  I really think the Giants need to sign two bats to make us a little more solid up the 3, 4, and 5 spots.

It looks like the Giants' interest in Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon has waned (good).

Wow.  Some of this news is good, some of it is bad.  Clearly, the Giants need more than one bat, short of returning players really stepping up to the plate.  Edgar Renteria was  a terrible disappointment for the Giants last year, however he was playing through an injury.  I expect Renteria will be better than he was in '09, but I don't think the Giants can count on him being a strong hitter.  He has declined in recent years.  Hopefully, he will have some sort of bounce back year.

Aaron Rowand hit .218 in the second half of the season. That is unacceptable.  Clearly and utterly unacceptable.  Rowand needs to get his bat back.  We are paying him a ridiculous amount of money.

It looks like Andres Torres, Eugenio Velez, and even Emmanuel Burris will be seeing significant playing time next year.  It is utterly absurd that Velez is being given a starting sport, seemingly, even before spring training.  Velez, despite his hot streak last season, cannot hit.  He hit last season with a .301 wOBA.  That is terrible.  If the Giants expect the start Eugenio Velez and still make the playoffs they are dreaming.  This is exactly why I wanted the Giants to sign two bats: one in the outfield and one in the infield.  If that were done, we could start Rowand in CF, Nady in RF, and Lewis in LF.  Or, we could start Rowand in CD, Nady in LF, and Schierholtz/Torres in RF. 

While Fred Lewis is bad on defense, he has decent hitting abilities.  He can get on base right at the league average (which for the 2009 Giants is stellar).  He should certainly be higher on the Giants list than Eugenio Velez . . . it is absurd.  Utterly absurd, that Eugenio Velez might be starting next season.

Can anyone tell how frustrated I am?

The best piece of news from this is the fact that Pudge Rodriguez was signed by the Washington Nationals for a two year deal.  Why is this good?  Because it screwed up the catcher market.  Remember in one of my previous posts when I talked about how the Giants would need to find a catcher who would be willing to take a one year deal?  Well, the market for that catcher no longer exists.  With the nationals setting a precedent like that, no other catcher will be willing to accept anything less than a two-year deal.  Thus, Sabean has admitted it might be time to go back and revisit whether or not starting Buster Posey is an option.

Mr. Sabean: 

If you are only signing one bat, you had better start Buster Posey, since he will be the only other player on our team, other than Pablo and Freddy Sanchez, who can hit.  Make it happen Sabes. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Talent Compression: Addressing One of Baseball's Chronic Problems

One of the blogs I regularly read is The Dodgerhater: A San Francisco Giants Blog.  The author recently reported on the spat Scott Boras made about revenue sharing, which led to a discussion about how the revenue sharing system is broken in MLB.  This probably does not come to a surprise to most of you, however if you are unfamiliar with the revenue sharing system and why it is broken, here is a quick summary:

Baseball has no salary cap.  In order to encourage competitive balance in MLB (which is good for the health of the sport and to keep fan interest), rich teams must pay into a collective pot which is distributed to poorer teams.  So, the Yankees help pay for the Marlins, Pirates, and Rays, for example.  However, despite collective revenue from this system, there is no guarantee that the teams will spend the revenue-sharing money on their payrolls.  In fact, the Marlins took in the most money in 2009, but still had the lowest payroll in MLB.  This apparently is not uncommon. The Pirates and Rays are both also guilty of hoodwinking their fans and the league in this same manner.

But, how do you fix baseball?  Forests have been felled to make the paper written about this subject.  The bottom line is you are never going to have all teams on a completely equal footing, but that is okay so long as there is some general feeling of league parity.

I do believe in salary caps and salary floors, the latter of which is hinted at by Jason Stark in the aforementioned ESPN article.  However, there is something that I rarely see discussed in mainstream baseball media, and I think this problem has led to chronic unbalance in MLB.

The problem I am talking about is talent compression.  Now what on Earth is talent compression?

Have you ever looked over old baseball records and wondered by so many of them were made in the early days of baseball?  How on Earth did Nap Lajoie hit a .426 avg in a single season?  No one has approached a .400 avg in years.  Hugh Duffy hit .440.  in one season.  Willie Keeler hit 424.  How did these guys hit so well?  They all played in the 1920s or earlier.  Were players better back then?

Of course not.  Baseball players were in no way better in the early days than they were now.  In fact, your average baseball player was far worse in the early days of baseball than the average player today.  Why?  Because of something called talent compression.

Take a society.  It can be any imaginary society.  Natural athletic talent falls on a bell curve, where most people fall somewhere in the middle.  However a small elite few land on one end.  This very small number of extremely gifted athletes are the Barry Bonds, the Hank Aarons, and so forth of the world.  Now, the larger amount of people you select from our bell curve means the larger disparity between the great players and your average Joes.  So, Nap Lajoie, for example, played in the early 1900s.  He played during an era when the vast majority of baseball players were white males from the North East.  If we made our bell curve for that "society" (white males from the American North East) we are going to have to select a higher percentage of people on the curve to be in our league, meaning we are going to have a large disparity between the good players and the not-so-good players.  If you are still confused let me put it in mathematical terms:

Imagine we have a society of 100 people.  On our bell curve 10% are too physically weak to even play baseball.  80% of our society is just average.  10% are bonafide athletes.  So, we have 10 people who are just too weak, 80 people who are okay, and 10 people who are good.  Imagine we have a league that need 30 players.  Well, we only have 10 bonafide atheletes in our society.  Assuming we draft them all, we still need 20 spots.  So, because of the way the market is, we need to bring in 20 people who are just average.  So, now we have a full league, but only 10 people in the league are actually good players.

But let's shake things up.  Let's say there are another 100 people who we previously didn't let play, but now we decided to let them play.  The talent distribution would be on the same level.  So now we have 20 people who are too physically weak to play, 160 who are just average, and 20 who are good.  Now our league has 20 good players and just 10 average players.

So what's the lesson here?  The greater the pool of people you have to make into professional athletes the smaller the disparity between good and bad players.  The above formula is exactly what happened in professional baseball.  Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, MLB was largely made of white males from the North East.  After the color barrier was broken we have a lot more people we can have in our leagues, and thus the talent becomes compressed: we have more talented players in MLB.  Because baseball statistics are generally a measure of relative worth against other players, that is why you don't see batters hitting above .400 these days: pitchers are better than they were in 1900.

So you are probably asking yourself: what's the problem?  We broke down the color barrier, we opened up the game to foreign players, it seems we are allowing more people to play the game than ever before, so shouldn't the talent compression not be an issue?

One problem is that there is a lot of talent out in foreign countries these days, but not all teams can bite at them equally.  Foreign players are not part of the minor league draft.  This means they generally are available to the teams with the most money to burn, because foreign minor-league players have the ability to negotiate their contracts, whereas American players do not.  If you have been following the news lately, that is exactly what is happening with Aroldis Chapman.  It is no surprise that Chapman is being courted almost entirely by rich teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees.  He is example from the minor league draft because he is from Cuba.  Given that, poor teams simply can't afford to throw money at him.  Compare Chapman to Stephen Strasburg.  Before Strasburg signed with the Nationals, he and Chapman were considered the two best pitchers in the world who were not playing in MLB (Yu Darvish is another, however he has expressed no interest in playing in the United States).  Not surprisingly, Strasburg, the best American pitching prospect in a generation, went to the lowly Nationals.  Why?  Because he was able to be drafted.

Thus, the problem is we have opened up the international market, however because international players are exempt from the minor-league draft, we have basically created a system where rich teams can shop around the international market to select the cream of the crop.  Everyone who is not selected by these elite teams loses value and trickles down to the hoi polloi.  Thus, one thing MLB needs to do is require that foreign born players are part of the draft, or create some other system to enforce more parity among teams shopping for foreign born players.

Another problem is there mere fact that baseball must compete with other national sports for talent.  Football, basketball, hockey, and (increasingly) soccer all compete for future athletes.  MLB should do everything within its power to create and encourage little league systems in the inner-city and poor areas of the country to get more kids playing baseball, who might otherwise turn to a sport like soccer which might be more available to them.  Fostering more talent at home would create a better sport with more players of fine talent playing the game.

Without any salary caps or floors you are still going to his disparities.  If we are able to create a system that encourage more players with more talent to play in MLB, you are still going to have the best players rising to the richest teams with the lesser players falling to the poorer teams.  The difference is, with the more "good" players you put in the system, the less the difference between rich and poor is.  This is basic market saturation.  The Yankees could still buy a better team, but they couldn't buy a much better team if there are six A-Rods in the league instead of just one.  Moreover, if you saturate the market with big talent, simple economics states that the value of those players will fall.  You aren't going to see the ridiculous contracts given to the likes of Mark Texiera and Alex Rodriguez if there are a lot of those guys in the league.  They simple will not be worth as much.  If the value of players falls, then poorer teams will be able to buy more with the limited funds they have, thus leading to more parity in MLB. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What might the Giants do?

The winter meetings are set to begin in Indianapolis.  Giants' GM Brian Sabean noted that they would not be looking to put Buster Posey in the starting position at catcher to start the season.  The Giants brass feels that Posey is just not ready for a starting position, and they want to see him get some more playing time in the minors.  They apparently also do not want to rush Madison Bumgarner, however they are still considering him for a sport in the rotation.  With Bengie Molina almost certainly not coming back (the Giants want to give him a one-year contract; Bengie wants a multiyear contract), it looks like the Gmen are going to be in the market for a catcher.  According to the SF Chronicle, however, the Giants are not keen on older catchers like Brad Ausmus and Pudge Rodriguez. 

The Giants are in a bit of a bind with the catcher position.  They are not keen on the older, aforementioned catchers, however there seems to be few other options.  Yorvit Torrealba, who has been linked to the Giants, is seeking a multi-year deal, like Bengie Molina.  That will probably rule him out, and the only other catacher on the Giants roster is Eli Whiteside, who is considered largely just as a backup.

One option out there is Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas, who is not the kind of offensive power the Giants need.  While he hit 19 homeruns last season, his wOBA is an abysmal .282.  Still, if the Giants are looking for a cheap solution to keep the position warm until Posey is ready to come up, then Barajas might not be a bad solution.  If the Giants want to sign him for a one year deal, and maybe pull of Posey halfway through the season that could end up being a fairly good deal.

The problem the Giants have with signing a catcher right now is anyone who comes here knows Posey will be taking his spot as catcher whenever the Giants brass feels the young pup is ready.  Given that, I think the Giants only real options for this position are aged-veterans who really don't have the bargaining power to go elsewhere for multi-year contracts.  No, they will not offer the Giants the offensive upgrade they need, but you aren't really going to be getting that from many catchers in MLB.  Not everyone can be Joe Mauer (except Buster Posey).  It will be interesting to see what the Giants decide to do with the position, but I think we are going to see them sign the likes of Barajas or Pudge Rodriguez just to keep the seat warm until Posey is called up, which I hope will be sometime around the all-star break.

Another interesting development is the Giants brass announcing the Pablo Sandoval will likely stay at 3B for the 2010 season.  This essentially rules out signings or trades for the likes of Dan Uggla and Adrian Beltre (both names have been linked at one point or another to the Giants).  What this means is the Giants will pursue a first-baseman, and luckily there are some good options out there.  Nick Johnson, Adam LaRoche, and Mark DeRosa have been thrown out there as possibilities.  Honestly, if the Giants could acquire DeRosa, put him in the outfield, and either Johnson or LaRoche at 1B, then we would have a very competent baseball team.  In fact, if we got something like that I would expect a very good contending team for the NL West.

DeRosa is primarily an infielder, however he has played all over the field.  He could end up being a good solution for the corner outfield, as he can put up some decent offensive numbers.  Bill James has him with an wOBA of .328 in 2010 and hitting 17 HR.  Not bad.

Nick Johnson is an OBP beast, which is what the Giants need.  In 2009 he owned a .426 OBP, .373 wOBA, and .831 OPS.  Really nice.  He would be a fantastic offensive upgrade for the Giants.

If Nick Johnson does not pan out, Adam LaRoche would be a satisfactory backup.  He doesn't have as good OBP as Johnson, but at .355 he was still hitting ahead of the curve.  What LaRoche offers that Johnson does not is pop.  In 2009 LaRoche hit 25 homeruns, while Johnson hit a paltry 8.

Hopefully, if the Giants pull together some of these deals, we will be able to put a team on the field that could make a great playoff run.  2010 is looking good.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tim Lincecum, the Cy Young, and the Changing Face of Baseball.

If anyone keeps up with this blog, they may notice that I have not posted anything about Tim Lincecum winning the Cy Young.  Why haven't I written anything about it?  A couple reasons, really.  First, I have just been genuinely busy.  The semester is wrapping up and I had things to do.  Second, everyone else was covering, and I was not sure what exactly I could say about the subject.  Finally, I wasn't really sure what the victory meant.  I was shocked, to be honest.

After thinking about it for a while, Tim Lincecum deserved to win the Cy Young.  Many around the baseball world are confused and angry about the subject.  One St. Louis writer (and a blatant homer) cried about how Lincecum won the Cy Young over Carpenter and Wainwright with having only 15 wins.  What?  How can that be?  Clearly, five years ago there was no way in heck that Lincecum could win the Cy Young with only 15 wins.  In fact, Lincecum is the fist NL pitcher to do so with only so few wins.

So why does Lincy deserve the award?

Simply put, wins mean nothing when determining the value of a pitcher.  Baseball fans, and especially baseball writers, need to learn this very basic fact.  Wins reflect more of how a specific pitcher performs on a specific team.  Let's imagine you had two pitchers of equal talent.  Pitcher A plays on a team with a great offense.  Pitcher B plays on a team with an anemic offense.  Pitcher A would have more wins than Pitcher B.  Yet, the pitchers are of the same quality.  Why, therefore, is it so ingrained in MLB-lore that we use win/loss as an indicator of a pitcher's worth?

Moving away from problematic statistics like wins, ERA, and RBI and focusing on more advanced statistics like FIP, K/9, K/BB, UZR and so on allow us to better evaluate a pitcher's value on his own rather than as a pitcher on a specific team.  If Lincecum played on the Los Angeles Dodgers (a terrible thought, I know) he undoubtedly would have more in the wins column.

Let's compare Lincecum, Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter, the latter two who were also in the race for the Cy Young.  

Tim Lincecum 15-7, 2.48 ERA, 261 SO, 1.05 WHIP, 4 CG, 225 IP, 10 K/9, 3 B/9, and 2.34 FIP.

Adam Wainright 19-8, 2.63 ERA, 212 SO, 1.21 WHIP, 1 CG, 233 IP, 8 K/9, 2 B/9, and 3.11 FIP.

Chris Carpenter 17-4, 2.24 ERA, 144 SO,  1.01 WHIP, 3 CG, 192.2 IP, 6.73 K/9, 1.78 B/9, and 2.78 FIP.

Wainwright and Carpenter had more wins than Lincecum (although Wainwright also had more losses, which I rarely saw anything about in conservative baseball press).  What really stands out here about Linecum is how he, moreso than the other two pitchers, was able to completely dominate pitchers in the NL.  Evidenced by his SO rate, Lincecum was preventing batters from putting the ball in play at a significantly higher rate than either Wainright or Carpenter.  Lincecum's 261 SOs is significantly higher than Wainright's 212 and completely dominates Carpenter's 144.  This is also reflected in FIP (FIP reflects a pitcher's value while omitting the skill of the pitcher's team's defense).  Lincecum's FIP is much better than Carpenter's and Wainwright's.  Clearly, Lincecum was the best pitcher in the NL last year, something that would not be reflected if we looked at flawed statistic like W/L and ERA.

I am very happy to see baseball writers move in this direction.  The way we evaluate baseball players has significantly changed, for the better, over the past ten years.  It is good to see the professionals actually in the industry catching on to what baseball fans have known for decades.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Offseason notes

MLB Trade Rumors took a look at the San Francisco Giants this offseason in their column "Offseason Outlook." According to the article have roughly $62 million dedicated to the payroll before arbitration raises.  Several key players are promised arbitration including Lincecum, Sanchez, Wilson, and Medders.  The article also notes that these raises will not come cheap (especially Lincecum who was awarded super-two status), and will likely push the Giants committed payroll into the $80 million range.  Considering our payroll was less than $83 million last season, and we are not expected to raise it much this season, this pretty much precludes the Giants from picking up a big name like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday (although, I always assumed Matt Holliday was too pricey for the Giants this year). 

On the bright side, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News suggested that the Giants have enough money to afford "one free agent starting pitcher and one modestly-priced free agent hitter."

Assuming this is correct we hopefully could bring back Brad Penny and some FA hitter (Xavier Nady or perhaps Nick Johnson is what I am thinking.  I would rather have Nady).  If Brad Penny insists on being paid more than the Giants can afford I suggest the Giants look after Rich Harden.  Harden is an old colleague of Barry Zito and I think he would fit in well with the Giants as a second option.

Despite these payroll limitations, the Giants still have the opportunity to field a good team next year.  Our first move was picking up Freddy Sanchez for what I believe is a good deal.  He plays great defense at second base, and he has an average bat (which is an above average bat considering the Giants offense since Barry Bonds left the team). 

Another option has floated around the Giants rumor-mill for our infield: Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins is apparently for sale.  Uggla plays third base, which means we could move Pablo Sandoval to first base and solve our corner infield problem.  This would preclude us from signing Nick Johnson, since he would have to play first and we would not have room for him and Sandoval.  For this reason, I think the Giants should move to sign Xavier Nady and plunk him in left field.  There is also talk that Uggla can play left field, in which case we could sign Johnson, put him at first, and leave Sandoval at third.  I do not think this is as good as the first option.  Uggla himself is a good player, especially since he will come on the cheap.

Initially, the Giants and the Orioles were the two interested teams.  Now it looks like the Orioles have dropped out of the race for Uggla, leaving us alone with him for now.  Hopefully Sabean can get this deal done without any drastic moves (like trading Alderson).  The Marlins will be looking for a prospect player that won't be arbitration eligible for a while.  I'm not really sure who could fill their needs, but hopefully we can get it done.

I would welcome Uggla on the team.  Last year he hit 31 HRs with a .243 AVG.  The guy also had a .813 OPS.  Definitely worth it for the Giants to pick him up.  He has pop and the guy gets on base.

So, what do I expect the Giants to do considering this information?  With our limited payroll this season due to bad contracts and pay raises, I expect the Giants to concentrate on keeping our core talent together, while signing Brad Penny and Xavier Nady ( or someone like him in the outfield) and then trade for Uggla.  If all goes according to plan, the Giants would boast a lineup like the following:

Aaron Rowand
F. Sanchez
Dan Uggla
Pablo Sandoval
Xavier Nady

Not a bad lineup.  Not bad at all.  I put Aaron Rowand in the lead-off spot because he did well there in 2009.  Hopefully he can pick up his game a little bit for next year.  I also am hoping that Edgar Renteria will see some more of his old self next year with his injury healed. 

There is one question left open here: what about Posey?  Is he ready to catch at the big leagues?  I think the Giants don't have many options here.  Molina is not going to be a Giant next year.  There is simply no way that will happen (unless Molina took a bizarre pay-cut, which he would be a fool to do).  There has been talk about the Giants signing Pudge Rodriguez as a way to mentor Posey during his first year.

I think the Giants need to stop pussy-footing around with Buster Posey.  The only way he is going to learn is by throwing him in there.  We don't need to waste precious money on Rodriguez.  Posey can come up and get the starting job.  Posey can hit, and he will learn to call big-league games.  If he has trouble in the beginning, we can use Whiteside to step in. 

All in all, I expect the Giants to put something similar to the above on the field in 2010.  If that happens I will be very pleased, and I think we will be a contender for the division title.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors released a note about where they predict the top 50 free agents will end up signing this off-season.  I've highlighted the ones that will have an effect on the Giants.

3.  Jason Bay - Red Sox.  It's been rumored the Red Sox are willing to offer four years and $60MM to Bay.  That seems to be a fair opening bid, given his defensive struggles.

I hope this is not what ends up happening, as Jason Bay is the premier free agent that I can see the Giants acquiring this off-season.  Bay ending up as a Giants is very unlikely (seeing as he is a very sought-after FA), however I really want him on this team, and I am sure the Giants brass is keeping a close eye on him as well.

9.  Adrian Beltre - Twins.  The Twins made a large upgrade at shortstop by acquiring J.J. Hardy.  Beltre would give them fantastic left-side infield defense and another possible 20 home run bat.  The Twins had interest in trading for Beltre a year ago, though the Scott Boras client added them to his no-trade clause.

 I have no idea how likely it is that Beltre will end up as a Giants.  If this is any indicator he probably won't.  However, it would be a nice move seeing as we could then send Pablo over to first base.  I don't know how keen on this the Giants brass is though.

16.  Nick Johnson - Giants.  A jolt of OBP at first base would do the Giants good.  They were involved in talks for Johnson around the trade deadline.

I am not sure how I feel about Nick Johnson coming over to the Giants.  He is a very disciplined hitter (something very few Giants are capable of).  His very good OBP is something this team really needs, and it certainly would make up a much better team.  However, I just don't want to try to get OBP from a first baseman.  I am not ready to give up on Garko or Ishikawa.  I think both of these guys (Garko moreso than Ishi) have the potential to be great starters.  I would feel better about getting an upgrade elsewhere (outfield).  However, if Nick Johnson is the best FA the Giants can get, then let's bring him on.

21.  Adam LaRoche - Braves.  Did LaRoche's scorching stint with the Braves last year price him out of their range?  The Mets, Orioles, A's, Mariners, Giants, D'Backs, and Rangers might also be in the market for a first baseman.

If the Giants are going to be looking for an upgrade at firstbase, Adam LaRoche might be an option if Nick Johnson does not work or (or is LaRoche comes with a cheaper price tag).  He has a nice career .834 OPS, which would be very welcome on the Giants.  Keep this guy in mind.  I have the same problems with LaRoche that I have with Johnson.

25.  Brad Penny - Mets.  Penny is just one of many different arms the Mets might consider as they attempt to bolster their rotation depth.  No other free agent starter throws harder, so Penny's upside is still tantalizing.

He was awesome with the Giants.  I'm sad to see him leave, if in fact he does not resign with the Giants.  Our rotation won't be as awesome as it was at the end of the season with him.

28.  Bengie Molina - Nationals.  Molina is difficult to place, especially if he demands more than $5MM.  With Jesus Flores coming off shoulder surgery, the Nats will probably add a veteran on a one-year deal.  The Mets also may sign a catcher.

Big Money might fit in well with the power-hitting Nationals.  Again, sad to see this guy go, but his time with the Giants is definitely up.  Time for Buster to step in.

38.  Juan Uribe - Mariners.  Uribe was quietly very valuable in 2009, playing all around the infield for the Giants.  Uribe's shortstop-third base flexibility could fit for Seattle.

A very good player.  This guy deserves a starting position.  If the Mariners are going to give him that, then he more than deserves it and at a good price.  He was very good with the Giants and I have nothing but love for this guy.

40.  Jermaine Dye - Rangers.  The Rangers signing both Byrd and Dye might be a stretch, though Dye should be used strictly at DH.  Given his second half decline he should be affordable.

There is talk that this guy could be a pickup for the Giants if Bay does not work out.  I am really against this.  His defense is just awful (worse than Bay's apparently) and he is getting old.  Injury prone as well.  Just say no to Dye.

48.  Xavier Nady - Diamondbacks.  The D'Backs will probably tender a contract to Conor Jackson, but Nady could still be helpful at first base and left field.  He's a Scott Boras client, but he missed most of the season due to Tommy John surgery.

A backup option if Bay does not pan out.  Nady has two problems: he is a Scott Boras client and he is injury prone. 

Angel Villalona Released?

I came across this bizarre tweet.  It notes that Angel Villalona has been released from jail upon paying $150,000 to the family of the man who was murdered two months ago.  First of all, I have no way to check the veracity of this.  Any fool could of made this up.  Even if the source is reliable, the tweet explains very little.  It does not appear this is some form of bail, however there is no equivalent in America.  In the American criminal justice someone, no one is ever released from jail simply by paying the family of the victim.  Only if one posts bail, by paying the court, can someone be temporarily released pending criminal charges.

I highly doubt this means the charges against Villalona have been dropped.  I imagine if the charges were dropped news sources would be popping up all over the place right now, considering he is the Giants' number one offensive prospect.

If Villalona is guilty of murder, clearly he should never play baseball in the United States (indeed, if he is found guilty of murder he probably will never return to the United States at all).  However, if this man is innocent this truly is a tragedy (not to mention the loss of life for the young man killed that night).  It could completely ruin this man's budding and promising career. 

Those who maintain that Villalona is innocent note that he is a celebrity in the Domincan town where he grew up, and is a target of frame-jobs like this.  I know nothing about Domincan culture, so I cannot comment on the veracity of that. 

All I can hope for is that the family of the murdered man will be able to see he who is responsible for this crime brought to justice, whether it be Villalona or some nameless thug. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Off-season Notes

The off-season has just begun.  However, some important trades that will likely impact the Giants have been made.  I will highlight those which I think are important around the league:

Manny Ramirez has picked up his $20 million option to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers through the 2010 season.  I am happy about this.  Ramirez is simply not the slugger he used to be.  Unlike Bonds, who kept putting up amazing numbers almost to the day he retired (perhaps due to prolonged PED use), Ramirez simply is not hitting like he used to.  During the 2009 NLCS he hit in the .260's.  He has complained that his knees are also hurting him, so playing in left-field is getting harder (and he never was a good defensive player).  I am glad Ramirez picked up this option because it basically locks the Dodgers into a very expensive contract.  If LA wasn't committed to Manny, they might be able to go out and get the likes of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.  I'm not sure what their budget looks like, but perhaps it will also put them out of the running in the event Roy Hallady goes on the FA market in the near future.

Bengie Molina has filed for free agency.  First off: Bengie, you were a great Giant.  You were recognized for your clubhouse presence, you were a decent hitter, and you called games pretty well.  In fact, your hitting is good enough to where you would be considered a great hitting-catcher on other teams.  However, on the Giants, who lack offensive pop, we need to be going in another direction.  We have Posey coming up this year, and there simply is not enough room for Bengie to be on the team for another year at the price a veteran like Bengie deserves. So, I do not think we will Bengie on the team next year.  I wish him the best on the FA market.  Good luck, Big Money. 

JJ Hardy has been traded to the Twins.  This really does not impact the Giants that much, however last week I thought about how wise it would be to eat Renteria's contract and pick up a cheap shortstop, who might have some future potential.  JJ Hardy was perfect.  The former Brewers shortstop has put up some decent number in the past, however he had a disastrous 2009 season.  In fact, he was sent down to the minors for part of that season.  I do believe, however, that he will have a bounce-back year.  Oh well, there is no crying of spoiled milk.  I think the best option for the Giants at shortstop is to the hope Renteria's dismal performance throughout 2009 was due to his injury.  Hope that 2010 is a bounce-back year for him.

Juan Uribe has also filed for free agency.  I really doubt we will see Uribe back next year.  Like Molina, there is just no place for him.  He was awesome during his tenure with the Giants, and I will be very sad to see him go.  After having a great year, this guy deserves a pretty good contract on a team where he will be playing every day. 

Coco Crisp and Austin Kearns hit the FA market when their teams declined their options.  Crisp might be a cheap FA pickup for the Giants, that might fill a good role on the team. 

That's all the noteworthy news I have for today!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lincecum Busted

Well, saying he got busted is a little over the top.  Lincecum was driving in his home state, at a rate of 76 mph in a 60-zone.  He was pulled over by a state trooper, who, upon contacting Lincecum, smelled weed in the vehicle.  Lincecum was found in possession of about 3.3 grams of marijuana. 

Oh man. 

The media is making a big deal about this, but I really do not see what the excitement is about.  Manny Ramirez and Big Papi both got busted using serious PEDs, and the baseball world seemed not to really care (especially regarding David Ortiz.  That was in the news for about a week). 

I mean, seriously.  Take a gander at the handsome fellow to the left.  If that is not the face of a stoner, I am not sure what is.  This is not really a huge revelation.  Thankfully, the guy plays in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place known for its tolerance of marijuana usage. 

I hope this remains a story for about a week, and then fades away. 

Knowing ESPN, this will be the most they follow the Giants all year. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Giants Name New Hitting Coach

Unfortunately, his name is not Barry Bonds (I had my hopes, however unrealistic they were).  The Giants have named Hensley Meulens as their new hitting coach.  Meulens is a minor-league hitting coach with the Giants system.  He has been credited with turning around Eugenio Velez and John Bowker.  Meulens has never had a coaching position at the major league level.  He will be replaced Carney Lansford, who was with the Giants through the 2008 and 2009 seasons. 


Jason Bay to The Giants?

We already signed Freddy Sanchez, why not bring over another one of the Pirates former stars?  It is no secret that the Giants are in the market for a player with pop and power.  We need to score runs, and we need someone who can bat in the fourth hole who is not as slow as Bengie "Ima take my time" Molina.  Jason Bay seems like someone who might be able to fill that role for us. 

Who is Jason Bay?  Bay currently plays for the Red Sox, but he came up through the Padres system, but ended up with the Pirates and, in fact, Bay played with Freddy Sanchez back in Pittsburgh.  In 2008, Bay was involved in a three-way trade involving the Pirates, the Dodgers, and the Red Sox.  Manny Ramirez left Boston for Los Angeles, Laroche and Morris went to Pittsburgh, and Bay ended up in Boston (where he would replace Ramirez in left field). 

Bay was selected for the 2009 All-star team, and Sporting News listed Bay as the 41st best baseball player today.  Bay stated that he would test the free agent market for the 2010 year.  Boston still seems interested in Bay though, and the Giants seems to be the other team in the running to get him. 

What are Bay's strengths?  Basically, he is essentially what the Giants need: a player that excels in nearly every offensive statistic.  Bay is a good base runner and has a healthy number of stolen bases. The guy can also rake: he has a career .280 avg and185 HR.  Bay has some power, clearly: in 2009 he had a .547 SLG.  He shows great plate discipline, as he walks often (15 BB%).  He owned a .921 OPS in 2009.

Clearly, Bay would be a great addition for the Giants offensively.  A possible line-up might be:

F. Sanchez

Or some variation thereof.  All of a sudden our lineup seems pretty formidable.  If Renteria's poor performance in 2009 was due largely to his arm injury, then maybe we will look even better. 

So what is bad about Bay?  He apparently is below average in left field.  He also will not come on the cheap.  I would expect to pay at least $15 million a year for this guy.  However, I think it would be worth it if we were able to get into the post-season next year.  Afterall, that's the point of the game.  We cannot be in rebuilding mode forever.  I think we finally have the ability to make a strong run for the NL West, after years of trying to tread water.

I would support a move for Jason Bay.  How likely is it that we will get him?  I think we would generally lose a bidding war with the Red Sox.  However, we do have one thing going for us: Matt Holliday.  Holliday will never play in San Francisco, however he could go for Boston.  If the Red Sox got Holliday, there would be no reason for them to sign Bay.  Holliday probably go to the highest bidder, and it looks like the Red Sox may just be that. 

Only time can tell, but I think Sabean will keep a close eye on the Bay situation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Giants Resign Freddy Sanchez

Good news for Giants fans: Freddy Sanchez has been resigned and at a lower price that we had anticipated.  Sanchez had an option for one year at $8.1 million.  This is a little steep for a player who barely gave us any playing-time last year.  However, luckily, Sanchez has agreed to a two year deal at $12 million.  This is great, because we will have a solid .300 hitter for 2B for the next two years (assuming Sanchez's production won't drop a great amount), and for a price cheaper than we had expected. 

Here is a link to the story

In the story Sanchez noted how sorry he was that was unable to help the Giants into the post-season in 2009:

"I try to be as loyal a person as I can . . . . Being a part of this San Francisco Giants family, hopefully I can do what they traded for me to do." 

A real class-act.  I appreciate a player who is a humble and loyal to his team.  That is a rare quality these days.

Freddy Sanchez is already shaping up to be my favorite Giant of the 2010 season. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Being A Giants Fan Is Better than Being A Dodgers Fan

It's the offseason, so I don't have a lot to write about.  Naturally, I gravitate toward what most Giants fans like to write about when they don't have games to talk about: Why we are better than the Dodgers.  So, here are my reasons why if you are a Giants fan you should be proud.  If you are a Dodgers fan, you should probably just check out.

I.  The Giants Have Beaten the Dodgers More Times Than the Dodgers Have Beaten the Giants.

Over the course of their entire history, the Giants have beaten the Dodgers 1160 times, whereas the Dodgers have beaten the Giants 1139 times.  When asking which team is better, there is no better measure than who has won more head to head contests.  And the winner of that, ladies and gentleman, is the Giants.  Ask Dodger fans they will probably respond with something asinine like "Well, the Dodgers have beaten the Giants more times since the move to California."  That's swell!  You can carve up history however you want ("Hey, the fact of the matter is, the Giants beat the Dodgers more times this past weekend.  So they must be better, right?"), but the fact of the matter is, the Giants won more times.  Period.  There is no denying it.  Sorry.

When confronted with this statistic, most Dodgers fans respond with touting the five World Series rings they have won since moving to California, whereas the Giants have yet to win one.  That's fine.  The Giants have still won five World Series championships over their history.  We only have to win one more to tie it all up.  And considered the Giants have been to the World Series twice since the Dodgers last appeared there (and the fact that the Dodgers seem to be NLCS challenged as of late), I would say it is quite possible that the Giants will win a WS before the Dodger win their next one.

II.  AT&T Park Is Vastly Superior to Dodger Stadium.

This one just seems unfair.  No one in their right mind would say Dodger Stadium is nicer than AT&T Park (Dodgers fans would, but no one in their right mind would be a Dodger fan to begin with).  Dodger Stadium rests over the giant parking lot that smells of urine.  On a hot day, the pungent smells of filth radiate off the asphalt, making Dodger Stadium one of the most unpleasant places to be in professional sports.  Contrast that with AT&T Park: a shimmering example of American architectural achievement, AT&T Park rests over the beautiful San Francisco Bay, with stunning views of East Bay.  There is little nicer than sitting at AT&T on a Saturday afternoon watching the Giants. 

But don't take my word for.  I am obviously biased. When rating all MLB ballparks, Forbes magazine placed Dodger Stadium at number 20 while AT&T claimed the top spot.  Dodger Stadium may have history, but that's about it.

Have some garlic fries, Dodger fans.  That will turn those frowns upside down.

III.  Juan Marichal Beat the Crap out of A Dodger.

I don't normally condone violence.  But this one is just too good.  On 22 August 1965 the Dodgers were playing the Giants at Candlestick Park.  Giants Pitcher Juan Marichal had thrown two balls near the head of Dodgers' outfielder Maury Willis.  When it was Marichal's turn to bat, Dodgers' catcher Johnny Rosboro returned throws too close to Marichal's head, with one ball in fact grazing the Giants' ace's ear.

Well, Juan Marichal doesn't take shit.  Especially shit from a blueberry.

Juan turned around and beat the living hell out of Rosboro with his bat.  Rosboro apparently took off his helmet to argue with Marichal.  Marichal responded by whacking the blueberry several times right across his empty dome.

The incident resulted in Marichal's suspension.  But it was well worth it.  Dodger fans still hate Juan Marichal for the incident.  For us Giants fans, however, it is a reminder of how you don't screw with the Gents and walk away from it.

Dodger fans remain angry to this day because, despite all their claims to toughness, a Dodger has never come close to getting the up on a Giant like what happened on that day.

IV.  Barry Bonds Broke the All-Time Homerun Record as a Giant and at AT&T. 

Barry Bonds is amazing.  Steroids or no steroids.  The man simply is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, and he is someone the Dodgers love to hate.  Why? Because he beat the crap out of them for years.  Dodger fans loved to call Barry a cheater during his tenure with the Giants.  They refused to acknowledge he is the Homerun King.  They always complained about how he was rude with the media.

Yet, now the Dodgers curiously have their own steroid-riddled outfielder.  And suddenly that is okay.

No matter: the bottom line is Barry Bonds has more homeruns than any other player in the history of baseball (with the exception of that Japanese guy, but he doesn't count since they play in Little League parks in Japan).   

The Dodgers have nothing comparable to put up against the Giants.

And that makes them sad.

IV.  Our Classic Song Is Better than Theirs.

"When the Giants Come to Town"  is simply better than "D-O-D-G-E-R-S."

Nothing else needs to be said about that.

V.  Tommy Lasorda.

I am not comparing Lasorda to anyone.

I'm just glad he never was part of the Giants organization.

VI.  Giants Fans Actually Show up for Games.

I wrote about this in a previous post.  Per capita, more Giants fans show up for their team's home games than do Dodger fans for their home games.

Sad but true.

Maybe if they didn't play over a latrine in a hot ravine they would have more people show up for their games in LA.

VII.  The Shot Heard Round the World.

The year is 1951.  The Giants were down and out mid-way through the season.  The Giants were 13.5 games behind the hated Dodgers and it looked like all was lost.  However, the Gents were able to pull off a 16-game winning streak and at the end of the season they forced a three-game tie-breaker playoff.   

The Giants won the first game at Ebbets Field.  From there, they went back to the Polo Grounds where they would play the last two games of the series.  The Dodgers won game 2.  So, it all came down to game 3.

The Dodgers started off well.  By the bottom on the ninth, the Dodgers were ahead 4 runs to 1.  The Giants managed to score one run, and ended up with two men on base.  The score was 4 to 2, Dodgers favor, when Bobbby Thompson came up to bat.  On the second pitch of the at-bat, Thompson ripped the ball into the stands, getting a walk-off three-run homerun.  It was called the shot heard round the world.  There is probably no other moment in baseball history as iconic as this one.  The announcer that day was so shocked and overcome all he could muster to say was "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"

In 2001 it was reported that the Giants actually had a coach sitting in the stands with a telescope spying on the Dodgers in order to steal signs.  Ever since this was revealed, Dodger fans act as if this moment somehow is cheapened or "doesn't count."  Unfortunately, Dodger fans fail to note that sign-stealing was not against the rules of baseball at the time, and was in fact a common practice.

Plus, if your signs get stolen, too f'n bad.

Play harder next time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

PEDs and HOFers

I was 9 years old in 1994. I loved baseball then. I played on my Little League team (several seasons with the Giants and several with the Yankees), and I looked forward to games every weekend. My friends and I had a vast amount of hero-worship for the Giants slugger, Mr. Barry Bonds. Whenever someone asked me who my favorite player was there was no question. Barry. Barry. Barry.

1994 was not a good year for baseball fans. The players went on strike and the season ended. I won't endeavor to comment on why the strike was held and whether I agreed with it or not. I will say how I felt though: devastated. How could baseball go on strike? How could they not play? I remember feeling slightly betrayed: I had to go and support my team even when I was sick. My mother made me. Because that is what a good teammate does. You always show up to play the game unless you physically can't. Yet, in 1994 all of my heroes walked off the field.

I was angry. And so were a lot of other baseball fans. I fell out of love with baseball for several years because of the strike.

The changed in 1998.

Mark Mcgwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. were all in the race to break Roger Maris's homerun record. It was exciting. Players in my time were breaking records. My friends and I watched games routinely throughout that season. The storylines. The drama. The record! It was simply an amazing thing to watch. When it was over, I was suddenly back into baseball.

But I wanted more.

Barry Bonds, my old favorite, gave it to me. Bonds broke the record that Mcgwire set. He also broke the all-time record several years after that. But, unlike with McGwire, suddenly people wondered.

What the hell is wrong with baseball? And why does Barry Bonds look like a body-builder? Is this right?

And so the great steroid drama ensued. People were mad. They called Bonds a cheater. They worried about the sanctity of the game. They threw syringes on the field. They hated the monster we had all created and allowed to come into fruition. And so now, with the steroid-era at a close one question remains: what do we do about the players who broke old records? Should those records stand?

This question is not new to anyone who has followed baseball, even in the most casual sense, over the past several years.

There are two rules which help me form my opinion on the matter:

1) Baseball is not a fair game;
2) There is no crying in baseball.

Following these two golden rules I come to the conclusion that those players who used PEDs should not be barred from entering the hall of fame, nor should their records be suspect or marked with asterisks. This is not simply because of Barry Bonds. I do not believe Manny Ramirez, Alexander Rodriguez, or any other player should be demonized for the steroid-era, or their accomplishment be cheapened.

Many people who believe that baseball players who used PEDs should not be allowed in the Hall of Fame, because they "cheated." I cannot say that using PEDs was not cheating. I think it is wrong, I think it is foul, and I think it is immoral. However, this brings me to Rule One: Baseball is not a fair game. It is true. Baseball is not a fair game. No one can sit with a straight face and say Major League Baseball is fair. Big market teams dominate playoff spots, since they have the most money to sign the best players. There is little parity in baseball. However, just because the New York Yankees have the most money to buy the best players does not mean their championships are tainted. Yes, the Yankees have a huge advantage over the Oakland A's. Yet, we accept that as fans of MLB. Baseball is not fair.

Let's look at another dark era in baseball history and at the stars who played during the time. The star of segregation-era baseball, for many, is Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth is still considered by many to be the true homerun king. He is certainly one of the top five most recognized names in American sports, let alone baseball. Yet, Babe Ruth had an advantage that a lot of players today don't have.

He didn't have to compete with some of the best competition. Up until Jackie Robinson broke down the color-barrier, black players were not allowed in MLB. Today, many of the greatest baseball players are black (see Barry Bonds). Babe Ruth had a distinct advantage during his era. He did not have to play against many people who may have become the best baseball players of the era.

Now, was it Babe Ruth's fault that black players could not play in MLB. Of course not. He wasn't in charge of that. However, he still benefited from a system of racism. Yet, we do not (and should not) fault him for it. Babe Ruth accomplished what he did and he did it during a time when that was considered acceptable and "how it was."

Jump forward to the steroid-era. The difference here is that Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Alexander Rodriguez, and so on, all made a personal choice to use steroids. Yet, at the same time, using PEDs was characteristic of the times. Just about every single big name of the time was using PEDs. If you wanted to make it in MLB during those years, you probably had to use PEDs, unless you were Heracles.

Just like segregation was not fair, so too is PED use. However, baseball is not fair. Steroids, like segregation, is a dark part of baseball's history. Despite that, we cannot cast shadow over the players who thrived during those times. We should put an asterisk on their records, to denote that their records are tainted, or were created in unfair conditions. If that were so, nearly every World Series winner would have an asterisk that would read: "WS Champs. Although, they had a lot more money than the team they beat."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Possible Trade Plan (Brian Sabean Read)

I post often at Pro Sports Daily, which has a lot of dedicated and knowledgeable Giants fans, who are always willing to share ideas for the team. The following plan was suggested by one poster on the board, and I have to say I think it is a solid plan for the Giants: it appears doable and, most importantly, it is a plan that could get us into the playoffs.

First, we would sign the following players:

Eric Byrnes (OF) - 2 years/7 mil
Brian Schneider (C) - 1 year/2 mil
Juan Uribe (Utility) - 2 years/9 mil
Brad Penny (SP) - 3 years/12 mil
Rich Harden (SP) - 2 years/10 mil
Freddy Sanchez 3 year (2B) - 16 mil

Second, we would make the following trades:

Aaron Rowand for Milton Bradley (OF)
Sanchez/Bowker/Kieschnick/Garko/Valdez for BJ Upton (OF) and Pena (1B) from Tampa Bay.

With those acquisitions we could have the following lineup:

1. Sanchez (2B)
2. Upton (CF)
3. Sandoval (3B)
4. Pena (1B)
5. Bradley (LF)
6. Uribe (SS)
7. Posey (C)
8. Schierholtz (RF)

On the bench we would have Velez, Ishikawa, Renteria, Byrnes, and Schneider.

Our rotation would be solid:

1. Lincecum
2. Zito
3. Cain
4. Penny
5. Harden

The bullpen would have Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Runzler, Medders, Bumgarner, and Joaquin.

Why do I like this plan? First, it adds some much needed offense to our lineup. Bradley, Upton, and Pena are welcome additions. Sanchez, Schierholz, Panda, and Uribe are good or great bats we already have. Put that group together and, ladies and gentlemen, I present you a playoff team.

Second, our defense remains strong. Schierholtz has a great arm, and I really like him in right field. Upton is known for his speed and strength in center field. We would not need to worry about him there. Bradley is not the best defensive player, but I will take him out there in left field. Pena will play some good defense at first, Sanchez is an excellent second baseman, Uribe has been better at short than Renteria has all year, and Panda doesn't need any justifications. Some say Posey is not ready for the majors yet, and there is some indication that he might spend some time down in the minors next year. I really hope this is not the case. Sabean should bring him up. If he doesn't, Schneider can hold the fort down. At the very least, they could share the catcher's role for a while, until Posey is ready to take it on full-time.

Third, the pitching remains solid, if not better than it was last year. As I noted in older posts, I am a huge Brad Penny fan. I am very happy to have him on the team, and I hope we sign him again. Lincecum, Cain, and Zito are all great pitchers, and three of them are the core of our franchise right now. I liked watching Harden pitch when he played for the A's. I would love to have him on the Giants. His ERA is not phenomenal, although we are spoiled in San Francisco. He would be great in the number five spot.

Now, what is lacking? I really want Norichika Aoki to play for us. Really, really bad. The Giants need an offensive, every day superstar again. All franchises need their face. Right now we have Tim Lincecum, and he is great. Every Giants fan loves Tim Lincecum (yours truly is no exception). However, he is not an every-day player. With a city known for its Asian-American community, signing a big name player from the Asian market would be a very smart move. I am sure he would bring people to the stadium.
Aside from a marketing standpoint, Aoki is just a wonderful baseball player. He is great with the bat and quick around the base pads. Bring Aoki t
o SF! If he could fit into our plans somehow, I implore Brian Sabean to pick up this wonderful player!

Good Video

This great video sums up a good season for the Giants.

Give it a watch.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Outlandish Acquisitions

The Giants' season is over. The race ended after the Giants failed to execute in a do-or-die series against the Chicago cubs. The club ended the year on a high note, sweeping Arizona and taking the final series of the year from the Padres.

Now begins the long winter and off-season.

The club has some questions it needs to answer. What is going to become of Bengie Molina and Randy Winn? Both veterans are up for free agency this year. I, personally, would like to see them both go. Winn has had some great years with the Giants, but his lack of power and his pathetic batting average this year has made me want to part ways. I am not sure how I feel about Benjie Molina. What I really want to see is Buster Posey playing, however many people around the Giants community believe he needs another year down in the minors. I am a little skeptical about that: we brought up Pablo very quickly. Lincecum as well. At the most, I would suggest playing him in the minors until the All-star break.

That brings me to Randy Johnson. I really enjoyed having this great baseball player on my team. The fact that he got his 300th win as a Giant is very special and I am glad he shared that achievement with us and made it part of Giants history. That said, the man got hurt and basically missed half the season. At his age it is doubtful he can return to playing at the level he did before the injury. I suggest cutting ties with him. Where would that leave our rotation?

Well, I would suggest that the Giants resign Brad Penny. This guy is a thug. I love his in-your-face attitude. We need a lot of that in our club. I cannot begin to gripe about how much I hated seeing the Giants completely collapse once they ran into some trouble. Come-from-behind victories were few and far between for the 2009 Giants. With a guy like Brad Penny riling up the club, perhaps we would see more fight in them. I would like to send Johnson to another team while, resigning Brad Penny. If we kept Bumgarner up we could have a rotation like:


This would also give us flexibility to trade Sanchez to another team, perhaps as a package with some minor league prospects, or with Aaron Roward or Edgar Renteria, for a better bat. There are a couple possibilities for offensive production that come to mind, and that I think might be some good choices for the Giants.

Milton Bradley
Bradley might seem like a strange choice. I like to call him the Terrell Owens of baseball. The guy has been in numerous scandals throughout his career. He made inflammatory remarks about his current team, the Cubs, calling the fans racist and questioning why they have not won the World Series in over 100 years. He did not have a great 2009 season with the Cubs. He had a less than impressive .257 batting average and only 12 homeruns. However, looking at his 2008 year with Texas, he puts up very impressive numbers: .321 avg; 22 HR; .436 OBP; .563 SLG.

I do not know why Bradley's numbers dipped this year. It might have a lot to do with the fact that he is a drama queen: he was unhappy in Chicago and the way he play reflected that. Or perhaps he was unhappy in Chicago because his numbers are declining. It is difficult to tell what is causing what. There is also talk that the Cubs' GM would like to swap Bradley's contract for another bad one, so that he can rid his club of Bradley. The Giants could jump on that and offer up Rowand for Bradley. If that were the case, I would be all for it. I cannot stand Aaron Rowand that much.

In the end I am iffy on Bradley. I do not want a temper-mental drama-queen on the team who will risk ruining the great chemistry we have built in San Francsico. We also have a long and proud tradition in SF of acquiring 30-something players who have declining past their prime, yet still pay them the big-bucks (See Edgar Renteria). On the other hand, we might get lucky and have a great player who wants to be a winner.

Norichika Aoki
Aoki is a Japanese star with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, who has expressed an interest in playing in Major League Baseball. Aoki has a combined OBI of over .400 in five seasons with the Swallows. He also is the proud owner of a career .332 avg and a three-time golden glove winner. There is no doubt: Aoki can field and he can hit.

The problem? He is Japanese. Players like Aoki, who are good enough to make the jump across the pond, usually come at a high-price, especially if they are the real deal. The other concern is that the good numbers posted by Aoki in Japan's league is not necessarily an indicator of how well he will play in the United States. It would be thoroughly embarrassing if the Giants shelled out good money for Aoki and he ended up a dude. However, if he became the next Ichiro, the Giants could be playing in the post-season next year.

I also think signing a big-name Japanese player could be a great marketing scheme. If the Giants signed him to a big multi-year contract, and the guy produced, he would become a fan favorite quickly, especially in a very diverse city like San Francisco, which also has a very large and proud Asian-American community. A Japanese star would put some buts in seats, no doubt.

Aoki is describe as a contact-hitter, which is exactly what we need on the Giants and at ATT park. ATT is known for suppressing homeruns, so I don't necessarily want the Giants to get another Bonds. I want the Giants to have a contact hitter that can place the ball in our deadly triples-alley. I have always yearned for a batter with Ichiro Suzuki's finesse, to place the ball in that gap. With Aoki as out lead-off man we might be seeine a fair amount of lead-off doubles and triples.

Defensively, Aoki is a great outfielder. He plays centerfield, which would be great for the Giants, since I would love to see Aaron Rowand off our team. If Rowand stays (because we cannot trade him away), then we could pluck Aoki in left or right field. All in all, I would love to see this guy in a Giants uniform.

Prince Fielder
This man needs no introduction. The Prince won the homerun derby in 2009, batted .299 in the same year, had 46 HRs, and owns a .602 SLG. The problem with Fielder is that he is so damn good, and proven to be a reliable player. Fielder will come a huge cost. I imagine the Brewers would want nothing less than a pitcher like Matt Cain plus something more for Fielder. Few Giants fans would be willing to give up Cain for anyone. In my opinion, Lincecum and Cain are simply untouchable. They are the cornerstone to the franchise, and if you trade them away you are ruining this team's near future. For the price, I think the Prince can go elsewhere.

BJ Upton

What is so good about Upton? First off, Upton is a young guy. He would fit in well with the Giants' youth-movement. Because he is young and promising, I would not be opposed to signing him for a decent contract for three or four years. Upton has a career batting avg of .288 and a .410 SLG. Upton is also able to make contact with the ball when he should: 82.3% Z-Contact%. Upton also has post-season experience, and was part of Tampa Bay squad that made it to the 2008 World Series. Such experience would prove to be valuable to a squad of young guys making a playoff run.

So, what would we need to do to get Upton? I think the Giants could offer a package to Tampa Bay for Upton. If we sign Penny and bring up Bumgarner we could off Lewis, Sanchez, and Ishikawa to Tampa Bay. Sanchez will be a great pitcher soon, and perhaps his break-out year will be the next one. Tampa Ba
y may want to take advantage of that, and Lewis and Ishikawa, while not great, are decent players to cushion the Sanchez deal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

COL 2 @ SFO 10; Giants Rebounding with a Fury!

Ladies and Gentleman, the San Francisco Giants are only 2.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies for the wild card, after decimating the Rockies for the second time in so many games. With Matt Cain taking the mound tomorrow, it looks like the Giants will be able to leave San Francisco for Los Angeles while only being 1.5 games behind the wild card. This is great news. The series with the Dodgers is the only series the Giants will have for the rest of the year against teams above .500. Luckily, the Rockies have two such series remaining in the year, one against the Dodgers and one against the Cardinals. If the Giants can come within 1.5 games, the chances of them tying the Rockies or overcoming them by the end of the season is pretty good. Last week I was fairly forlorn about our chances of seeing the post-season. Now, I think we can do it. We are definitely in this.

The game tonight was epic, and the Giants showed up. Everyone did. Zito's pitching was amazing. The Lefty walked one, struck out nine, and let up only on one in seven innings. What a thug. If they gave out Cy Youngs for the second half of the season, Barry Zito would win it. Hands down.

The offense showed up as well. The lineup tonight was similar to the ones seen in the past few days:

Velez (LF)
Sanchez (2B)
Winn (RF)
Sandoval (3B)
Molina (C)
Uribe (SS)
Ishikawa (1B)
Rowand (CF)
Zito (P)

Everyone got at least one hit tonight, except Rowand (who still got two RBIs) and Zito. Uribe was able to knock in three RBIs, and has really proven himself to be one b
ad ass. Bengie Molina had a great play, where he hustled in from third and was able to beat the throw. It was refreshing seeing him beat a throw for once. Good job Bengie!

I really like this line-up, and I am so afraid to see what will happen once Renteria returns. Bochey stated in his post-game interview that Rents would play tomorrow, which I hope to all that is holy and wonderful will not happen. However, tonight was a great victory, and I cannot believe the Giants have blown out their opponents three times in a row.