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.