Thursday, December 31, 2009

With Uribe Back, The Pressure is on Renteria to Produce for the Giants

From Bleacher Report

With Juan Uribe on the verge of getting a new contract from the San Francisco Giants, the pressure is on for one current Giants player:

Edgar Renteria.

With Mark Derosa getting signed to a two-year, $12 million dollar deal, and the possibility of an Adam LaRoche acquisition still looming, Uribe most likely will be a platoon player heading into Spring Training.

That being said, despite his backup-status, he will bring a lot of heat and competition to Renteria, who most likely will be slated as the Giants' starting shortstop come Spring Training.

For starters, Renteria is coming off an atrocious year, while Uribe is coming off a pretty good one. Renteria struggled through injury and ended up batting .250, with a .307 OBP and only five home runs, his lowest home run total in his career since 1998 (he hit only three for Florida that year). Uribe hit 16 home runs, drove in 55 RBI, and sported a .329 OBP (which is his highest number in that category in his career).

Thus, it makes sense statistically why Giants fans are pining for Uribe to start at shortstop over the overpaid (he'll make nine million dollars next year) and underachieving Renteria. Couple that with a major difference in personality (Uribe is a fun-loving guy, while Renteria is known for his seriousness, though Renteria did score some points for being the first guy off the bench and getting in Russell Martin's face during a scuffle in August against the Dodgers), and it almost seems logical that the end could be very near for Renteria in San Francisco.

That being said, I don't think Giants fans should be so hasty in terms of giving up on Renteria completely. For starters, the bottom line is this: he was hurt last year. It was obvious he played through injury, and was not 100 percent considering his elbow and arms problems. Thus, Renteria needs to be judged when he is completely healthy, and chances are, he will be in 2010 after having a full off-season to recover.

Secondly, Renteria, despite his decline as a player over the last few years, is the kind of guy that responds well to bad seasons. After a poor season in Boston, Renteria came back to the National League and lit it up with the Braves in 2006, where he hit .293 and scored a 100 runs.

Granted, most people thought that would happen LAST year when he was coming off a mediocre season in Detroit, but I think the adjustment from the American to National League, coupled with his injury, made things tough for Renteria. Thus, with a full year of being reacquainted with National League behind him, and healthy (hopefully), Renteria is more likely to breakout this year than he was last year.

And to put things more in Renteria's favor, Renteria did have an advantage over Uribe in one category: his BB/K ratio. Renteria had a 0.57 BB/K ratio in comparison to Uribe, who had a 0.30 ratio. While this may be a minute stat, it may be a telling sign that a healthy Renteria may be what this Giants team needs. Renteria's patient, less-free-swinging approach may be more valued on a team that ranked last in walks and OBP in the National League in 2009. Will the Giants get more pop from Uribe? Most likely. However, if the Giants want to score more runs and be playoff contenders, the Giants may want to go with a guy who has never had a BB/K ratio under 0.42 in his career rather than a guy has never had a BB/K ratio over 0.44.

One of the big gripes many Giants fans (and baseball fans in general) have had with Renteria (in addition to his inability to pull anything other than 85 MPH fastballs) is his mediocre defensive skills. Surprisingly though, in terms of playing shortstop, Uribe is not a dramatic improvement. Uribe's career UZR/150 is 3.5. Renteria has a career UZR/150 of 1.0.

Is Uribe better? Obviously, but Giants fans shouldn't be thinking that Uribe is a tremendous upgrade. He's better than the iron-footed Renteria, but he won't be confusing Giants fans with Omar Vizquel anytime soon.

Granted, the Bay Area faithful should be happy Uribe is back, mainly because he can play three infield positions and has a solid, if inconsistent bat. That being said, I think Giants fans need to give Renteria a chance to start the season. While Renteria was an obvious flop last season, if healthy, he is more than capable of turning it around in San Francisco this second time around.

That being said, unfortunately for Renteria, the time span should, and most likely will be short. The Giants need to win now, and they need to build on their 88 win season a year ago. If Renteria does not put up major improvement within the first month of play, it would not be surprising if general manager Brian Sabean sends Renteria packing, especially with Renteria in the last year of his contract.

It's put up or shut up time Edgar. The job's yours for now, and I do believe there are some Giants fans willing to give you a second chance, but just remember: there's a pretty decent option behind you, and the option looks more enticing to Giants fans by the day.

Another .250/.307/.635 season in terms of batting average, OBP and OPS isn't going to cut it this time around.

Mark Derosa is officially a Giant, but does it makes sense for San Francisco?

For the first time since Freddy Sanchez's re-signing, Giants General Manager Brian Sabean finally made a major move this off-season (of course, unless you consider Tony Pena Jr. signing big news, which I necessarily don't). He signed Utility player Mark Derosa to a two year, $12 million dollar deal.

First off, this probably is a solid move, regardless of what some Giants fans may think. Is it sexy? Of course not, but it is a low risk acquisition, which is what the Giants need after years of high-risk, somewhat irresponsible free spending (see: Rowand, Aaron; Roberts, Dave; Zito, Barry). And besides, even if Sabean was willing to go back to his "gunslinger" (e.g. thoughtless and incomprehensible) ways, this isn't the year to do it. The only real players who would make sense in terms of being worth big money contracts would be Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, but Holliday is represented by Scott Boras (e.g. nothing is going to happen because Sabean and Boras get along as well as North and South Korea these days) and Bay has stated publicly that he doesn't want to play in San Francisco (he is on the verge of signing with the Mets anyways).

So, with so few options left now, Sabean made a conservative signing in terms of Derosa. Sure, Derosa is coming off an injury plagued season, had dramatic dips in terms of batting average, OBP and OPS, and will be 35 by next season. However, Derosa does add more power (he had 23 home runs last year), can play multiple positions (such as third base or left field) and did come relatively on the cheap if you look at his WAR converted to Dollars scale on Fangraphs.

Granted though, Derosa isn't a sure fire signing. As bad as this sounds, Derosa does somewhat reek of Aaron Rowand. He's coming off a big power year in a relatively homer-friendly park (e.g. Cleveland, which was the launching pad for Ryan Garko) and at his age, he's likely to decline, especially considering the wrist injury he's coming off of after getting traded to St. Louis. If Derosa isn't healthy (and I'd say the chances are 50-50 he isn't) then there is a high possibility that Derosa may suffer in San Francisco's spacious AT&T park like Edgar Renteria in 2009, or simply not see the field enough to justify his acquisition like Freddy Sanchez's second half last season.

If Derosa DOES stay healthy (and that's a big IF), and he is able to somewhat replicate what he did in Chicago in 2007 and 2008, I can see Derosa having an impact on this Giants team.

However, not as a third baseman.

If anything, manager Bruce Bochy needs to play Derosa in left field for this deal to have any credibility. First off, I don't think Pablo Sandoval going to first is the answer. Is Sandoval perhaps playing a little out of position? Maybe, but his problems have more to do with his arm rather than his glove. After a full year at third, I think Sandoval has learned what it takes to be a major league third baseman. This isn't the Miguel Cabrera situation where Cabrera couldn't make a move laterally. Sandoval is actually very nimble for his size, and to put him at first, in my mind, would be a waste of his surprisingly athletic ability.

Furthermore, moving Sandoval to first would be pretty much it for Travis Ishikawa, who I'm not ready to give up on. Is Ishikawa there yet? No, absolutely not, but he showed significant progress after a slow start in 2009. The guy does need to be able to hit on the road better, but I think a platoon of Ishikawa and Jesus Guzman would be sufficient enough for a Giants team looking to make the playoffs next year.

Where Derosa really needs to go for the Giants is in left field, simply because the left field position currently is so unproven. Eugenio Velez was a product of a hot month. While he did show better plate patience and had a better approach at the plate in the second half last season, Velez's history of poor starts in his career should be a caution for all those championing him to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. As for Torres, he has good speed and had an excellent year (his best season so far in the majors), but again, it is hard to determine whether or not he will be able to replicate the season he had last season. There is just so little history on the guy to fall back on, and it would just be too much of a risk for the Giants to make Torres an everyday starter. As a platoon guy he's great, but the Giants need more proof from him that he can play left field everyday for the Giants.

In additon, left field might actually be a better position for Derosa, especially defensively. First off, his UZR/150 numbers in terms of playing outfield last year are actually better in comparison to him playing third base (31.2 in 2009 when playing outfield, -8.7 when playing third base). Thus, defensively, he is not that much of an upgrade over Pablo Sandoval (Sandoval had a -6.7 UZR/150 last year). Sure, defensively, according to UZR/150, Derosa may be worse than Velez (who has a UZR/150 of 46.1 when playing left field last year), but what Derosa will offer offensively should efficiently supplant Velez despite the difference defensively. Derosa has a better history compared to Velez in terms of OBP and OPS, and those are two categories the Giants need to drastically improve after their offensive debacle in 2009.

So, Derosa should be solid player for San Francisco in 2009. I am confident enough (and optimistic enough) to make that statement. Will he reach that 23-homer mark again like he did last year? Probably not, simply because Cleveland Indians players have not transitioned well to AT&T Park recently (cough...Garko...cough). However, to think his OBP and OPS numbers will dip under .320 and .750 again may be far fetched. Sure, age will come up and creep up on Derosa (simply because it does at 35), but I think Derosa is capable of having a solid season where his numbers in those categories could fall in the .340-.360, and .780-.800 range in terms of OBP and OPS.

That being said, for this signing to really have an effect, Derosa must play left field. Even if the Giants make a big splash signing in the Adrian Beltre (which would move Sandoval to third, but probably won't happen) or Adam LaRoche (which would supplant Ishikawa, and could happen) mold, Derosa is better suited to being the starting left fielder on Opening Day for the Giants.

Because in all honesty, an Opening Day lineup with Eugenio Velez may not be the best idea. He is relatively unproven, and probably better suited as a utility player. Having him start everyday to begin the 2010 season most likely will expose his inability to be a starting player, and will hurt the Giants playoff chances early on.

Is that a little pessimistic? Perhaps, but just look at Emmanuel Burris last year and you'll understand my concern.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Uggla and Damon Are NOT The Answers to the Giants Playoff Hopes

Dan Uggla and Johnny Damon.

They do not make sense in Black and Orange, right?

After all, currently, the Giants have Freddy Sanchez at second base. In fact, he's implanted there, without compromise. The Giants traded their second-best pitching prospect for him last Trade Deadline, and they signed him to a two-year, six-million per year deal early this off-season, the first real deal GM Brian Sabean did after he was re-signed as general manager for the Giants.

Uggla is a second baseman. I can't see him as a type that can move anywhere else. He's doesn't have the range or fielding ability to play shortstop (though anyone at this point seems better than Edgar Renteria), and I can't seem him being an upgrade at third base over Pablo Sandoval (though everybody--except me of course--thinks moving him to first is the answer).

Sure, there is a lot to like about Uggla. He hits home runs (and in a pitcher's park like Dolphins Stadium mind you) and he does have a decent on-base percentage (.354 last year) despite his high strikeout numbers (150 whiffs last year). Those two positives of Uggla, though, are two things that nobody else in the Giants lineup can do except Pablo Sandoval, so it is easy to see why some Giants fans would be tempted by Sabean acquiring the Marlin.

But he doesn't fit on this Giants squad. He would be a guy without a position, and that is never good to have, especially when you have somebody who has played second base so regularly as Uggla has.

And yet, according to Jayson Stark, the Giants seem to have interest in acquiring the Marlins big-swinger.


And if that isn't enough, there seems to be some increasing opinion on the Web (on Giants blog El Lefty Malo) that Johnny Damon wouldn't be such a bad idea as the Giants left fielder.

I know Eugenio Velez probably isn't the answer for the Giants in left field (he was a product of a hot two weeks and that's it). I know that Andres Torres isn't a very attractive option either. I know Fred Lewis has burned so many bridges with his high strikeout numbers and bad fielding that Giants fans would riot and start the next San Francisco Fire if he started on Opening Day.

However, the fact of the matter is this: AT&T is NOT a home run hitter's park, and Yankees Stadium IS.

That should be enough for Sabean to steer away from Damon despite his gaudy run production numbers (24 home runs, 82 RBI).

If Damon is signed by the Giants for 2010, Giants faithful should be prepared to experience an "Edgar Renteria-esque" season from the former Yankees outfielder.

The Giants shouldn't stay completely pat this offseason. I agree that Nick Johnson would not be that bad of a signing, and I think the case is aptly made in this article.

However, Sabean should not be swinging for the fences with these two guys. They just reek of Renteria, Dave Roberts, Steve Finley and Ryan Klesko. I want the Giants to win next year, and I think with the right player(s), they are more than capable of doing so.

But anyone thinking that Damon or Uggla is going to be that missing piece for this San Francisco Giants squad has to be out of their minds.

(Unless of course, getting Uggla requires getting rid of Conor Gillaspie, which the McCovey Chronicles doesn't think is such a bad idea. You know what? I'm agreeing with them! Just by looking at his stats, maybe an Uggla for Gillaspie swap wouldn't be such a bad thing. Only that though. Nothing else. Like I said before, neither guy alone will take the Giants to the playoffs.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mariners Nab Cliff Lee, Giants Sign Tony Pena, Jr. Ex-MLB Shortstop

Like I said in the previous post, Brian Sabean is doing everything I wanted him to do this off-season so far. He re-signed Freddie Sanchez to a decent price. He didn't cave in and sign Bengie Molina and Juan Uribe. He let go of Ryan Garko (whom he should have never traded for in the first place, because he was the second coming of Ricky Ledee).

I should be happy.

But I'm not.

This Cliff Lee to Seattle trade is ticking me off

For starters, anything Seattle does is personal for me. I actually still have a soft spot for the Mariners because I lived in the state of Washington for almost half of my life (I lived in Spokane for six years as a kid, and went to Gonzaga University for four years). I watched Mariners game in the Kingdome. Hell, one of the best moments of my life was seeing Tino Martinez hit a game-winning home run of Dennis Eckersley in 1995, the Mariners' "Refuse to Lose" season.

I like the Mariners. Do I like them like the Giants? Hell no. But I still consider them a fun team to root for from time to time, and think of them like that friend of your girlfriend or wife you think is hot and very fun to be with, but you wouldn't take her over your girlfriend or wife out of loyalty (though if your girlfriend dumps you or wife divorces you, she's the first woman you hone in on).

That being said, despite my inclination toward the Mariners, I'm envious and not in a good way.

Because they got a Cy Young winner, a legitimate playoff-proven starter, and...they got it at a steal. The Mariners lost only three prospects: Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez (the rumored third player to be named later).

My reaction? Who the hell are those guys? I mean, maybe Tyson Gillies is okay, but he's only played at Single-A ball, so the jury is still out on him.

You think for a guy like Cliff Lee, the Mariners would lose somebody decent, or at least big in terms of whom the Mariners currently have on the active Major League roster. A Brandon Morrow for example. I mean, they lost Adam Jones, an All-Star Major League outfielder, for a Glorified No. 3 starter in Eric Bedard in 2008! They should lose something for Lee, right?

Fortunately for long-suffering M's fans, that doesn't seem to be the case, and the experts are harping right with them.

Rob Neyer from ESPN likes what they're doing. The U.S.S Mariner, a Seattle Mariners Blog, likes it even more.

My friend Luke Ricci even gloated about it on Facebook saying....


(That means he's happy, if you didn't get the hint from the Bold and Caps and exclamation marks).

And though I don't want to admit it (because I am a bitter Giants fan that doesn't want any other team to succeed), I like the trade. Even one year of Lee is worth the trade in my mind, especially considering the prospects they lost don't have high ceilings like Jones.

Just goes to show you what changing a GM will do for a team. (wink...wink...).

As for the Giants? Well, they signed Tony "shortstop turned starting pitcher because he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat" Pena, Jr. I've seen Tony Pena Jr. He stinks. He can't hit. Matt Cain can hit better than him, and Matt Cain swings at times like a high school pitcher that is forced to hit because all of the bench players on his team suck and no one can DH.

Is Pena a bad signing? No. It's a fun signing because he's going to generate money at the gate for the Minor League clubs. He's kind of going to be that freak show people will say "Hey, it's that shortstop that couldn't hit, so he switched to pitcher. Let's see how good a pitcher he can be! He has to be a better pitcher than a shortstop he batted .098 and had a .132 OBP last year for the Kansas City 'Destined to Be Last Every Year' Royals!"

Gosh. Seattle gets Cliff Lee. San Francisco gets Tony Pena Jr. Granted it could have been worse for the Giants. At least it wasn't the other "crappy, over hyped shortstop turned pitcher" Matt Bush.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brian Sabean Watch: So Far, So Good, But...

Okay, Brian Sabean is back for two more years. We know that for sure, Giants fans have to live with it.

But how's the GM doing so far? Well, I think you can look at a few things that have characterized this offseason for the Giants so far.

-Bengie Molina not offered arbitration
-Juan Uribe and Brad Penny turning down contracts to become Free Agents
-Ryan Garko being non-tendered

For the first thing, I really like this. Look, Molina has probably been the best catcher the Giants have had this decade. The only close competitor is Benito Santiago, and Santiago wasn't forced to bat cleanup, he was in a loaded lineup with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, and he was on steroids. The close third would be Bobby Estalella, but I only liked him because his at-bat song was The Rock's theme song (yes, the pro "do you smell what the Rock is cooking" wrestler).

However, the Giants have Buster Posey. Posey has proven he can play at Triple-A. He has nothing to prove except at the Major League level. If he may not be ready at the beginning of the year, he certainly would be ready by mid-season, and I think an arbitration contract would be too much for one half-year of Molina. Thus, just from what it looks like, the Giants probably will sign a low-tier veteran (in the Ryan Bard, Brian Schneider mold) to be an emergency just in case Posey doesn't have a good Spring Training or gets off to a slow start. Believe me Giants fans who love Bengie Molina, this is the right thing to do. Posey's upside is too much. The Giants can't supplant him in the minors for another year.

As for the second item, it's predictable, mainly because Edgar Renteria is going nowhere, and Sabean signed Freddie Sanchez to a two year, six-million per year deal. So, Uribe has nowhere to go, and is basically a utility infielder...again. The Giants got lucky with Uribe last year, who was coming off such a bad year. To be perfectly honest, I think the Giants could have gotten away with just signing Uribe and passing on Renteria. However, since Renteria is likely staying in a Giants uniform next year, Sabean needed to let Uribe go. Uribe is going to command some money. Some team like the Royals or Nationals is going to pay a decent buck for him. That being said, it was very fun to have Uribe for one season, even if it took Bochy half the season to realized that he was more capable of playing everyday than Matt Downs.

In terms of Penny, I was very relieved Sabean passed on him. First off, I want Madison Bumgarner in the rotation. The guy proved he could pitch last year. Did he have his best stuff? No, but he certainly proved that he could come in and not get shellacked, not to mention hold his own. When he has his best stuff, and is more under careful watch (he pitched his arm off in the minors) Bumgarner will be a lethal No. 5 starter behind Lincecum, Cain, Zito, and Sanchez. As for Penny? He had a great second half, but there were some alarming trends with the guy: low strikeout, high flyball, groundball out numbers. I guess in a park like AT&T you can get away with that, but I'm not willing to shell out big bucks for what was most likely a fluky, "F-you mode" second half with the Giants ("F-you mode" because almost everyone wrote off the pickup as a dumb move by Sabean originally, when in fact, it turned out to be Sabes' best trade deal that season).

And lastly, I just found this out today, but Ryan Garko will not be tendered a contract, according to the San Francisco Examiner Web site. Personally, I love this. One, I think Garko was a crappy pickup from the beginning. His home run numbers were incredibly slanted because he played in a home run hitter's park in Cleveland, and his choke up two-strike approach is the kind of crap you only see in Little League these days. I know Garko is a standup guy, but I'll take Travis Ishikawa, who while is more strikeout prone, gives you more bang for the buck in terms of power, and is a lot better defensively.

Of course, what could change this maneuver from a good decision by Sabean to a poor one is if he does one of two things: a.) he signs Adam LaRoche or Nick Johnson. b.) he moves Sandoval to first.

First off, I would hate Adam LaRoche to be in a Giants uniform. I know I actually campaigned for him before on Bleacher Report, but the guy stinks, and his swing is not tailor made for AT&T Park. Nick Johnson I do like though. He's a high OBP guy (which the Giants desperately need) and he's good defensively. Does he have power? Only if you consider eight home runs last year power, but I think his ability to draw walks is something that the Giants need in order to be contenders. My only concern is Johnson is injury prone, but with Ishikawa as back-up (along with Jesus Guzman, perhaps) I think that will be fine. I would rather have Johnson and Ishikawa and Guzman platooning than Johnson and Garko.

As for the move for Sandoval. I guess it makes sense (because the Giants' best offensive lineup [when they were forced to play Renteria] consisted of Uribe at third and Sandoval at first). However, I don't like the move. Sandoval has a glove, and a cannon, the problem is that his cannon is too wild. That will eventually be molded with more time. It's not the Miguel Cabrera problem with Sandoval where he doesn't have any range like Cabrera. He surprisingly has range for a guy his size. He just need to get his arm accuracy under control. I sincerely think he can do that, and when he does, he will be a solid third baseman for the Giants for years to come.

Okay, so those are the issues so far with Sabean. My analysis? I like what he's doing. He's giving Giants fans what we wanted when the season ended (passing on aging veterans, and being conservative with money). Now, are Giants fans out of the woods with him? Oh heavens no! There are plenty of moments for Sabes to be Sabes (Adam LaRoche would be the dagger). Yet for now, I think Giants can breathe easily, knowing that Bill Neukom wasn't a complete moron for re-signing Sabes so far.

Back from Break...A Few Updates

Okay, crap. I've been gone a long time. Anyways, I've been without Internet, TV or Newspaper for over a month, so I'm a little behind on things. My apologies. I will begin posting new things on Remember 51 as well as Bleacher Report starting today. Here are a couple of things I wanted to address that I missed before I start new posts.

Tim Lincecum wins second straight Cy Young
--All I can say, "Yay!" and "It was much deserved." Seriously, I'm glad that the Baseball Writers of America are finally starting to realize that being a good pitcher goes beyond Wins and Losses and ERA. I think Lincecum and the Royals' Zach Greinke, who won the AL Cy Young, are class examples of Baseball Writers starting to look at more and more stats to see who merits the Cy, which is good because we've seen guys get screwed in the past just because they have 20 wins on a good team like the Yankees.

"Brian Sabean Report" Nixed, Now "Brian Sabean Watch"
--The BSR is just too long, and I'm too behind and don't have that much time to do such an extensive study on everyone's "favorite" MLB General Manager. However, during this off-season, I will monitor Sabean periodically through a series of pieces called "The Brian Sabean Watch." First post today!

Okay, that's it for now. Glad to be break from the break, mainly because Sabean hasn't done anything bonehead (yet) and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are 8-2 and ranked 22nd in the nation, despite having only one returning starter back from last year's team. (That being said though, the 49ers are 5-7, and I'm in tears because they wasted such a good start. Sigh...Typical Niners).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Silence in November...But Quick Thoughts

Okay, so due to some circumstance beyond my control, Remember 51 won't have any more posts in November beyond this one. I will be without Internet, TV, newspapers etc. for a month, but don't worry, the Blog will be up and posting new pieces come December.

However, there are some quick bits I want to do before I hibernate for 30 days.

-The Freddy Sanchez Signing: To be honest, I like it. I was deftly afraid the Giants were going to sign Sanchez at eight million per year because he would have satisfied the clauses in his contract had he not been hurt. Problem was though, he was hurt and he didn't deserve the eight million. That being said, even in his short, injury-plagued second-half last year, Sanchez still looked good, and I honestly believe if healthy, he could have helped us get into the playoffs. He was hitting well, was a great fit defensively and really seemed to mesh on this Giants roster. If he's fully healthy next Spring Training, I certainly believe he can have a big impact next year, and will be worth the six million per year for the next two years (and will help Giants fans forget all about Tim Alderson).

-Juan Uribe's status as a Giant: For all those Uribe fans, it looks like Uribe is most likely going to be gone next year. GM Brian Sabean in the Giants' Sanchez signing news release claimed that with the Sanchez signing, Uribe is most likely going to test the free agent waters, and with that being the case, he will probably get paid much more than he deserves. I like Uribe as much as the next guy, and wish he could start at shortstop for this team, but he's typically a low OBP guy and with a roster full of those kinds of guys, I think the Giants can afford to cut Uribe loose. Thanks Juan. You gave us some great memories in 2009! Best of luck. (And for the record, I'm not being sarcastic here).

-49ers, Sharks and Warriors: I know this is a Giants blog, but I want to make some quick notes one the other Bay Area Sports teams sans the Raiders:
  • As improved as the 49ers look, they won't make the playoffs. The offense still isn't complete, and while their defense is good, when you're opponent consistently has an advantage over you in time of possession by 10 minutes or more, than chances are, you're going to lose, despite how good your defense is. I think Singletary is the right man for the job. I do think they are the best team in the NFC West. However, the tough schedule, and the inconsistency on the offensive end is going to doom this team down the stretch.
  • The Sharks on the other hand look to be declining. After years of coming so close to the cup, I seriously think the Sharks are in for a slow descent down a slippery slope the next few years. I think they will make the playoffs this year (simply because of the talent of Thornton and Marleau alone), but they won't go beyond the second round and I wouldn't be surprised if they actually miss the playoffs next season.
  • The Warriors are a wreck. Don Nelson doesn't know what he's doing. Stephen Jackson's greatly on the decline and he's being a team cancer, and the team still doesn't have a point guard who can effectively distribute. Neither Stephan Curry or Monta Ellis is the answer at point. I think the Warriors have a talented team, and I think if they get a new coach, and get rid fo Jackson they will be greatly improved, but they are a tough team to watch next year. As sad as this is to say, I wouldn't be surprised if the Sacramento Kings finish better than the Warriors this year. They're this year's Washington Wizards.
All right, that's it. See you in a month folks!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ishikawa? Garko? Or Guzman? Who Belongs at first for the Giants?

From Bleacher Report

Let's face it. The San Francisco Giants have not had decent production from first base since JT Snow left the team after the 2005 season.

Mark Sweeney? Meh.

Shea Hillenbrand? Not one of Brian Sabean's finest Trade Deadline deals.

Lance Niekro? Let's just say Giants fans and management overestimated that guy because of his family history.

Ryan Klesko? (What? The Giants had Ryan Klesko? And they had him play first base? Apparently so).

John Bowker and Rich Aurilia? They probably belong at other positions (and that's putting it nicely).

Thus, as you can see, in the Post-Snow era, the first baseman have been pretty meager for the Giants.

There is some hope though, and it comes in the form of three guys, potentially.

Travis Ishikawa, Ryan Garko and Jesus Guzman.

First off, I'm a fan of Ishikawa. Am I the crazy, "don't trade him for anything" kind of fan? Not really. He's good, but he's not untouchable.

That being said Ishikawa does offer a unique skill set: he's great defensively and he is a patient hitter.

That is something that can't necessarily be said out of many of the players on the Giants roster.

However, while I do fantasize of a day where Ishikawa may turn into the next Carlos Pena, I do worry about one thing: high strikeout percentages, low walk percentages and a lack of power (even though he turned it on at times during 2009, his .387 slugging percentage in 2009 left much to be desired).

In 2009, Ishikawa had a walk percentage of 8.4 percent and a strikeout percentage of 27.3. That resulted in 0.34 walk-to-strikeout ratio (e.g. awful).

To make matters worse, Ishikawa has not been a high walk percentage guy at any point in his career. While he is patient at the plate, he has only had a walk percentage higher than 10 percent only twice: both times in Double-A in 2006 and 2008.

And that isn't bad enough, his strikeout ratios have been alarming. In his four years of professional baseball, Ishikawa has had a strikeout percentage under 20 percent only once (in Double-A in 2008).

Granted, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but usually you need a double digit walk percentage at the very least to back up those kinds of strikeout percentages, and unfortunately Ishikawa doesn't have that luxury.

That being said, Giants fans shouldn't give up on Ishikawa just yet. To justify my Carlos Pena comparison, Pena struggled with many of the same problems Ishikawa has experienced so far. In his first six years of Major League ball, he had only a walk-to-strikeout ratio above 0.50 once (his rookie year, a 22 game stint in Texas).

It wasn't until 2007, when he finally started to put up respectable walk-to-strikeout and walk percentage numbers (0.73 and 17.4 percent respectively).

Thus, it is important to be patient, and take Ishikawa's first full year into perspective, even though most "impatient" Giants fans may refuse to go that route.

Just look though at Ishikawa's and Pena's first full seasons according to Fangraphs, and you can see that Ishikawa is fully capable of budding into the long-ball threat that plays first in Tampa Bay.

As for the other two, they too offer some intriguing scenarios, though one is significantly more attractive than the other.

If you look at Garko, he is a very tough guy to solve. While his numbers over his career aren't bad, it's hard to make a good judgment on him simply because until this late July when he was traded for Scott Barnes, he pretty much played his whole career in Cleveland in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.

Sure, he can hit left-handed hitters, and he won't strike out nearly as much as Ishikawa (as evidenced by his 14.1 strikeout percentage and 0.58 walk-to-strikeout ratio).

As far as proving that he can be a good hitter at AT&T Park, however, is yet to be determined. If anything, his disappointing short stint where he hit only two home runs (and both in the same game at Coors Field) didn't exactly prove he was the missing offensive link the Giants needed.

Therefore, Garko can still turn out to be a decent offensive player, much like he was in Cleveland when he platooned at first base with Travis Hafner. However, after watching his three month stint in San Francisco, Garko seems to be expendable, and doesn't seem to fare well in AT&T Park's big dimensions.

The most interesting case, even more interesting than Ishikawa perhaps is Jesus Guzman.

Now, if you look at him strictly statistically, he is very similar to Ishikawa. In fact, if you judge him by his strikeout and walk percentages, he is practically a right-handed Ishikawa.

His strikeout percentages may be a little smaller, but for the most part, he is practically Ishikawa in the sense that he is patient, but patient in the way that he will strike out more than walk.

However, if there is anything that separates the two, it is one thing: power.

Ishikawa has only had an OPS over .850 twice in his career (2008 in Fresno and 2007 in Single-A).

Guzman has had an OPS over .850 four times, including this year in Fresno where it was .885 thanks to the 16 home runs he hit for the Grizzlies.

Therefore, Guzman is an attractive choice at first base just based on his potential at the plate, and should be considered for the first base job in 2010 when Spring Training starts. His power numbers and potential cannot be ignored despite his lack of big-league experience.

So in my mind it comes down to two players in terms of whom the Giants should play at first base. Ishikawa and Guzman both offer significant upside at the position, even if they haven't proven too much at the Major League level so far. As for Garko, he's a nice bench player, but he doesn't seem to have the skill-set to be a permanent starter.

It will be interesting to see what manager Bruce Bochy and Sabean do concerning the position. One popular sentiment seems to be sticking Pablo Sandoval at first and making Juan Uribe the starting third baseman.

As tempting as that sounds, I think Giants fans should really consider Ishikawa and Guzman a heck of a lot more.

They will bring a lot more to the table at first in the future than Uribe at third

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"The Brian Sabean Report": 1997, The Turnaround

This is part one of an ongoing 13-part series here at "Remember 51." The point is to do a year-by-year analysis of GM Brian Sabean as General Manager of the San Francisco Giants. After all 13 parts are finished, I will write an overall evaluation based on the information compiled by this "report."

Despite my past criticism, I will try to look at each year as unbiased as I can, looking solely at the numbers and acquisitions of each individual year.

In my opinion, it wouldn't be crazy for a Giants fan to say Sabean's most successful year as general manager might have been his first (I don't believe it was, but like I said, you can make the argument). He took over a team that was dead last the year before in the NL West at 68-94, and not only made them into a winning ballclub, but a playoff team.

The turnaround from 68-94 to 90-72 was absolutely stunning, a feat that is up there with the turnarounds of such recent teams like the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.

And it would be fair to give Sabean a lot of the credit for the turnaround. For going into 1997, his first season as Giants general manager, Sabean made a controversial move that was widely lambasted throughout the Bay Area media circles:

Trading fan favorite Matt Williams for Jeff Kent, Jose Vizcaino, Joe Roa and Julian Tavarez.

The deal ended up being a great success. The Giants won 90 games, Kent became a mainstay for the Giants at second base until 2003, and Vizcaino and Tavarez all made key contributions during the 1997 season (the only guy that didn't pan out was Roa, but three guys panning out wasn't a bad price to pay for Williams, who was starting to decline as a player anyways).

However, if the Oakland A's teams of the early 2000's are classic examples of why "Sabermetrics" and "Statistical Analysis" work, the 1997 Giants are the exception. Despite winning 90 games, the Giants had a run differential of minus-nine and a Pythagorean W-L of 80-82.

Were the Giants just lucky in 1997? Were they just the best of an incredibly weak NL West division (as evidenced by them getting swept by the Florida Marlins in the NLDS). Was Sabean just blessed with a team that had all the right breaks going for it?

Or was Sabean really onto something? Was he perhaps building a franchise that went beyond the numbers?

The "Good" of Brian Sabean: J.T. Snow

In terms of the players Sabean acquired, he is widely lauded for nabbing Jeff Kent. Yet while Kent ended up being a mainstay and MVP for the Giants, his 1997 wasn't as great as some people might remember.

Case in point: despite 29 home runs and 121 RBIs, Kent had a measly .250 batting average, a .316 OBP and a team-high 133 strikeouts.

So while Kent eventually turned into a great hitter over the years, 1997 wasn't exactly his magnus opus of seasons. That being said, Sabean widely does not get credit for a deal that had far more impact than the Williams-Kent swap.

Signing J.T. Snow.

Snow had an incredible year in 1997 for the Giants. Known for his defense, Snow was an offensive machine. He had 28 home runs, 104 RBI, 96 walks (second behind Barry Bonds, who had 145) and an OPS of .898 (109 points better than Kent's).

If anything, Snow and Bonds were the machine that churned the Giants offensive engine in 1997, not the Kent-Bonds combo that did in the years following 1997.

The "Bad" of Brian Sabean: Poor production from their catchers.

For all the good things in his first few years in San Francisco, Sabean could not find a productive catcher over a long period of time and 1997 proved to be no exception. Rick Wilkins, Damon Berryhill, Brian Johnson, Marcus Jensen, and Doug Mirabelli all shared duties behind the backstop and neither did much to keep the job for very long.

Wilkins, the more regular-playing catcher was a mess. He batted .195 with a .257 OBP in 210 plate appearances. Even for a catcher, those numbers are pathetic, and make Bengie Molina's 2009 season look MVP-ish by comparison.

Is Sabean completely responsible for the catcher being so awful? Maybe, maybe not. However, it was one hole that wasn't filled in 1997 and struggled to get filled throughout the early years of Sabean's tenure.

The "Good" of Brian Sabean: Signing Kirk Rueter

"Woody" wasn't going to win any CY Young awards. He wasn't going to lead the league in strikeouts. Yet Rueter proved to be a strong, dependable arm that lasted with the Giants for years, and Sabean can be thanked for acquiring him.

After all, when the Giants had heard of him, little was known about the lefty who was just recently with the Montreal Expos.

However, Rueter immediately contributed, combining with Shawn Estes to be a pretty good one-two lefty punch. Estes went 19-5 with a 3.18 ERA, and Rueter went 13-6 with a 3.45 ERA.

Sure, Sabean could have gone with a bigger name, or a more proven commodity for more money. Instead though, Sabean went with a much cheaper, and under-the-radar option that proved the be beneficial to the Giants pitching staff not only in 1997, but for years to come.

The "Bad" of Brian Sabean: Trading away Keith Foulke

Sabean has had a reputation for being very active during the Trade Deadline and 1997 first showcased that. At the July 31 Trade Deadline, Sabean traded a plethora of players to solidify their pitching in preparation for a playoff run. Who did the Giants acquire? Wilson Alvarez and Roberto Hernandez...who lasted for only half a season.

The key cog from the Giants that went to the White Sox? Keith Foulke, who later became a proven closer on the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox.

Now, while Foulke would have struggled to be the closer during the late 90's and early 2000's (Rod Beck and Robb Nen held the position firmly until 2004), Foulke could have been effectively used as a prime set-up man, something the Giants didn't really have in 1997 as evidenced by Jim Poole and Doug Henry (e.g. awful).

The only problem? It seemed like Sabean and manager Dusty Baker viewed Foulke as a starter rather than a reliever, and thus viewed him as expendable because their rotation was already in pretty good shape (Sabean made the same mistake with Joe Nathan years later).

Is it nit picky? Sure, but Foulke could have been a great closer that could have carried the torch from Nen after he got hurt. Instead, the Giants were forced to drudge through years of Matt Herges, Armando Benitez and Tyler Walker blowing saves in the ninth.

Overall Evaluation of Sabean in 1997

You can't really find much wrongdoing with Sabean in 1997. He turned around a franchise that had turned crummy under previous General Manager Bob Quinn, and did so quickly. To turn around a team from last-to-first in one season is quite an impressive feat, and Sabean deserves recognition for that.

So the overall judging of 1997 for Sabean? Good. He did a really good job in fact. However, I can't say it was his best work. Did he lay down a good foundation for the following years? Yes. But was it his best season? No. The NL West was terrible and the Giants were darn lucky. Teams that finish with minus run differential usually don't have winning records, let alone make the playoffs and win the division.

Yet what can I say. Sabean got the Giants to be winners again and assembled a team that made the playoffs for the first time since 1989.

You can't ask for more as a Giants fan than that in a season really.

New Series of Posts Coming up: The "Sabean Report"

Many people throughout the Giants blogosphere think I am too hard on Brian Sabean. Maybe I am, maybe I am not. However, I want to look at Sabean's career more completely and one way to do that is to do some research on Sabean's 13 seasons as the general manager of the Giants.

So, starting sometime today, I am going to make a series of posts where I examine every year of Sabean's tenure as GM, starting in 1997. I will look at the good, the bad and the overall picture of whether or not that was a successful season or not for Sabean. I am dubbing this the "Sabean Report," and by the end of the series, I will come up with a conclusion whether or not Bill Neukom did the right thing in extending Sabean's contract for another two seasons.

Maybe I'll learn something new, maybe I won't. I've already done the research, now it's just onto the writing...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is re-signing Juan Uribe worth it for the Giants?

Giants general manager Brian Sabean has been known for some awful deals. This season was no exception as he proved to make a disastrous blunder in signing shortstop Edgar Renteria to a two-year, $18.5 million deal prior to the 2009 season.

What did the Giants get from Renteria? A .250 average, five home runs, a .307 OBP (the lowest of his career) and 124 games, most of them played while injured (so basically I would give him 80-90 games fully healthy).

Yet, while Renteria and his eight million dollar per year contract is another classic "Sabean Blunder," Sabean did make one deal that should be lauded and will be interesting to look into as we enter the baseball offseason.

The Juan Uribe signing.

When Sabean signed Uribe, many thought Uribe was going to be an afterthought on this team. With Kevin Frandsen and Emmanuel Burriss the favorites to play second base in Spring Training, and Pablo Sandoval and Renteria firmly implanted at third and shortstop, respectively, many experts wondered if Uribe would even have a place on this Giants roster, let alone starting lineup.

Well, Uribe surprised the experts, much to Giants fans' delight. After going through a woeful 2008 season with the White Sox where he hit only seven home runs, drove in 40 RBI and sported a .247 batting average and a .682 OPS, Uribe broke out in his first season in San Francisco.

While rotating between second and third base and shortstop throughout the season, Uribe hit .289, sported a .824 OPS and hit 16 home runs and drove in 50 RBI.

And all this production came at around one million dollars, seven million less than what the Giants had to pay Renteria this season.

However, with only a one-year deal signed last offseason, Uribe will be a free agent this year, and that begs Giants fans and management to ask the question:

Is he worth bringing back?

For starters, it is important to realize one thing: to bring back Uribe means somebody is going to go. The Giants can't afford to give Uribe a new deal and have him play a utility role again. If he comes back, he needs to be in the starting lineup consistently or the signing will be a waste of money.

Who that person is, however, is yet to be determined (though Giants fans probably should have a good sense who it might be).

For starters, it won't be Freddy Sanchez (unless he decides not to re-sign with San Francisco, which is a possibility). Sanchez is too much of a veteran presence for another veteran like Uribe to push out.

Secondly, it probably won't be Renteria either. While getting rid of Renteria is a nice thought, chances are it's more fantasy than reality. Renteria makes too much money and is coming off too poor a year to have any trade value. Thus, as crappy as it is for Giants fans to imagine, Renteria most likely will be back at shortstop on Opening Day.

Therefore, if Uribe is decided to be brought back by the Giants management, it probably will result in this scenario:

Uribe will become the starting third baseman, and Pablo Sandoval will be moved to first base, which is probably a better fit for him and his defensive skills, and Travis Ishikawa, the Giants current starting first baseman (along with Ryan Garko, but after Garko's bad year in San Francisco, I'm not going to give him anything just yet) will likely be bounced from the roster.

That can be good or bad depending on how much you like Ishikawa. As for me, I'm torn. Yes, I love his defensive ability, but I'm also disgusted by his propensity to strike out a lot (by swinging at a lot of pitches that aren't in his zone) as well as hit ground balls.

For some reason though, I can't shake this fantasy that Ishikawa has the potential to be a Carlos Pena-esque player. Ishikawa has the kind of power and plate approach that is very similar to Pena's. Like Pena, Ishikawa is never going to be a high batting average guy. He'll probably be in the .260 range at-best.

Yet once he understands what pitches he can hit, and which ones he can't, he will have the kind of breakout that Pena had while in Tampa Bay. Now, it's not going to happen right away. After all, Pena struggled as well in his stints in Oakland and Detroit. That being said though, Ishikawa seems to have made quicker progress than Pena did at this point in their careers, which gives me a little hope Ishikawa might be worth keeping in the long run.

So that's the dilemma. Believe me, I love Uribe, and I wouldn't mind to see him in a Giants uniform for the next couple of seasons. He's the kind of free-swinging, loosey-goosey player that can play three infield positions and drive in runs (he's consistently been a 20 homer, 70-plus RBI guy until 2008). However, his OBP numbers (career .296 OBP) might be an indicator that he may not be a fit for a team that struggles in that category mightily.

It's a tough call: should the Giants go with the present, run-driving support of Uribe? Or the Carlos Pena potential of Ishikawa?

Either way, Sabean will have to make a choice, and it will be very interesting to see what he does this offseason.

Thoughts on Carney Lansford's Firing (Now that the fire has cooled off)

Now that the flames of the initial reactions of Giants hitting coach Carney Lansford's firing have cooled off a bit, I wanted to take a look at the overall picture about the Giants brass' decision not bring the Bay Area native back.

For starters, I understand how tough this is for Lansford and some of his fans. The guy is a Bay Area legend. He grew up rooting for the Giants, was a key cog of the great Oakland A's teams in the late 80's and admitted that this was a job he took for "sentimental reasons" according to San Jose Mercury Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly.

Yet the fact of the matter is this: in his two seasons as hitting coach, the Giants ranked 29th and 26th in the Major Leagues in runs scored in 2008 and 2009, respectively. They ranked 24th and 30th in OBP in 2008 and 2009, respectively. They ranked 28th and 30th in OPS and 27th and 30th in walks in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Ironically, this is a hitting coach that is supposedly known for preaching plate patience and taking walks.

Well...the numbers of his hitters certainly show he wasn't very effective in getting his points across.

Because those numbers are flat-out pathetic, plain and simple. Sure, the Giants won 88 games this year, but they had an incredible starting pitching staff and a much improved bullpen.

How they won 88 games is simply a miracle of God, and to think they can pull off the same kind of feat next year with the same anemic hitting really is asinine.

The Giants need something to spark the offense, and when you need a spark, it usually comes in the form of a change, either with the players, manager or coaches.

Bruce Bochy was deemed worthy of coming back at least for another season (despite his inability to make a lineup at times), and it's too early to tell what GM Brian Sabean is going to do in terms of the roster next Spring.

So it makes sense that Lansford was pushed out after two seasons. The Giants needed to make a change, and he was the odd man out. It really doesn't get more complicated than that.

However, while I do feel somewhat sorry for Lansford that it didn't work out here in San Francisco, I don't totally feel Lansford was a fault-less victim.

Too many times have Giants fans heard Lansford complain about the hitters he had.

Too many times have Giants fans heard that nobody was listening to his hitting instruction.

While you can partially blame that on the Giants players (I mean, it's not Lansford's direct fault that Bengie Molina doesn't know what a ball is), it also shows a vital flaw: Lansford must not be a good coach.

After all, coaches are going to get new players all the time. They are going to have to deal and adapt with the hitting styles of each individual player. They need to understand which guys have the propensity to be patient, Scott Hattiesberg-types, and which guys are going to be free-swinging, Vlad Guerrero-types.

Unfortunately, you never got the feeling Lansford understood that. He expected every Giant to follow one model, and if they didn't follow that he seemed to give up on them easily. Granted, that may have been the result of Lansford's blunt personality (the guy wasn't afraid to say anything and everything to the media), but most likely, it was an indicator of Lansford's impatience as a hitting coach.

Maybe Lansford got a raw deal, and maybe he was just not a good fit on this roster with the kind of hitters the Giants have. Perhaps the Giants need a guy that will have to live with what he has and work around it, even if it may not fit into his "agenda."

Who that is, I don't know. Apparently, Hensley Meulens, the Triple-A hitting coach in Fresno, seems to be a popular pick to succeed the position due to his ability to take flawed hitters and improve their approaches (as evidenced with Eugenio Velez and John Bowker).

The bottom line though? As good a guy as Lansford was, he simply didn't get the job done. The stats say it, and when push comes to shove, you have to judge him by the results. Numbers don't lie. You want to wish him luck, because he is such a likable guy, but in reality, he simply wasn't a fit as the Giants hitting coach, and this probably was a move for the best considering Bochy is staying as manager.

Sorry Carney.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Five Things Giants Fans (and Players) Will Want to Forget from 2009

I did the good parts about the Giants season already, now I figure it's time to be a little pessimistic. Granted, in the long run, this really was a good season from the boys in Black and Orange, but there was plenty to stew about if you were a San Francisco fan (and chances are, the Sabean and Bochy extensions didn't help things very much either).

1. Merkin Valdez: Glorified Mop-Up Man

Let's face it. Valdez simply doesn't have a future on this Giants pitching staff. Sure, he can throws heat, but that's about it. He doesn't have very good second or third pitches (as evidenced by him throwing his fastball 80.3 percent of the time), he doesn't know how to locate (especially on 0-2 counts) and he can't be depended on in tight games (I think his 5.66 ERA and 1.72 WHIP say enough).

And the worst part? He's old. He's 28, and he pitches like he's only been in professional baseball for less than a year, when in fact, he's bounced in and out of the majors and minors since 2004 (granted, he was out for the year in 2005 and 2007 because of injury, but that doesn't change his old age factor). I mean, Waldis Joaquin, has better command and he's only 22. Furthermore, he has only been in the Majors for 10 games total in his career, all coming this season.

Is that a sign of how good Joaquin is or how bad Valdez has pitched for the Giants? Both I guess. Joaquin is great, and he could be a deadly stopper behind Sergio Romo, but for the most part, that is an indicator of how far Valdez has fallen.

Remember, in 2004, this guy was the next big reliever not just in the Giants farm system, but perhaps in the Major Leagues. He was being compared to a better Armando Benitez (who ironically, pitched, badly of course, with the Giants).

Now though, Benitez looks like a Hall of Famer in comparison to Valdez. At least Benitez had that good 2004 season with Florida.

2. Sanchez and Garko: The Typical Brian Sabean Trade Deadline Acquistions

Giants fans knew it was going to happen. It had happened before countless times. Ricky Ledee. Sidney Ponson. Shea Hillenbrand.

Yes, the Giants needed to do something to get better offensively. Yes, they needed a power threat and had to solidify their middle infield (especially with Edgar Renteria having the season he was mired in).

Yet two home runs from Cleveland's Ryan Garko and 25 games from a "broken" Freddy Sanchez was far from what the Giants needed. And to make matters worse, those two "acquisitions" came at the expense of two very good pitching prospects in left-handed Scott Barnes and No. 2 pitching prospect (behind Madison Bumgarner) Tim Alderson.

I know you have to give something to get something, but this trade deadline was far too characteristic of Sabean's past deals where the Giants seemed to give up more than they received. While the Brad Penny signing in late August did ease things a bit (mainly because he performed well so cheaply), this Trade Deadline was another classic case of where less (e.g. not making so many drastic trades) probably would have ended up in more.

3. Burriss, Frandsen, Lewis, Bowker: Not living up to potential

A lot has been expected from these four guys who have come within the Giants farm system. That being said, they have not lived up to the hype in 2009 despite many fans and experts thinking big things out of them.

Despite a solid 2008 campaign, Emmanuel Burriss struggled in his transition to second base in 2009, especially defensively. He registered a UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating in runs above average per 150 defensive innings played) of - 8.7 (Juan Uribe playing second base this year in comparison had a UZR/150 of 10.5). And to make matters worse, Burriss was a mess at the plate as well. While his inability to hit for any kind of power was well-known prior to this year (his slugging percentage has never hit the .400 range at any level of professional ball), Burriss struggled to get on base (.292 OBP and .560 OPS) despite his excellent speed (he had 11 stolen bases in 61 games).

Basically, Burriss, a ray of hope for the Giants after posting good numbers in 2008, suddenly became a huge question mark, especially when it comes to his future in San Francisco which looks shaky with Renteria and Freddy Sanchez likely holding down the middle of the infield next season due to financial reasons.

Though if you think the future is cloudy for Burriss, his year was nothing in comparison to what Kevin Frandsen experienced. After missing all of 2008 due to an Achilles injury, Frandsen simply couldn't catch a break. Frandsen lost the second baseman job in Spring Training to Burriss, and he couldn't buy a hit during the regular season, as evidenced by his .140 average, .204 OBP, and .384 OPS.

Sure, you could complain Frandsen hasn't got his shot at the Major League level, but other than a great last couple months of the season, Frandsen hasn't really shown the Giants brass enough to merit regular playing time. In order to play, he has needed to show more in his rare playing stints, and constantly, when Frandsen needs to show something to prove he belongs, he has often fallen flat.

As for Fred Lewis and John Bowker, here are two guys who came off great starts in 2008, only to have mediocre years in 2009. Lewis eventually lost out to Randy Winn, and eventually Eugenio Velez after struggling mightily in June, and John Bowker, despite putting up excellent minor league stats (.342 average, 21 home runs in Fresno), never really found a groove in his Major League tenure this season (.194 average, two home runs in 73 PA).

It's likely that Giants brass will stay patient with Bowker, mainly because his stock is so low and he still is relatively young (he's only 26). As for Lewis, who is 28 and has played two full seasons with the Giants, the future doesn't look so bright and most likely will be gone next season to make room for Velez, Torres and even Bowker in the outfield.

4. Aaron Rowand: Continuing the "Freefall"

Giants fans have seen bad in their tenure in San Francisco. Rick Wilkins at catcher in 1997. A.J. Pierzynski in 2004. Armando Benitez's whole career as a Giant.

Yet Rowand's 2009 season may have secretly ranked down there with the worst of them.

Sure his stats don't scare you "Tony Pena, Jr."-style, but if you look deeper, you can see how detrimental Rowand was to the Giants. While he hit more home runs (15 in comparison to 13 in 2008) and scored more runs (61 in comparison to 57 in 2008) in eight less games played, Rowand had alarming stats in many other areas.

He led the team in strikeouts with 125 and ranked fifth on the team in walks with 30 (and so you know, this is a team that was in the basement of the league in terms of walks. The leader for the Giants was Pablo "I swing at anything and everything, but still hit it" Sandoval who had 52).

Couple that with a .319 OBP and a .738 OPS (his lowest numbers in each category since 2006), and Rowand has been a flat out bust that has been a classic example of Sabean's overpriced, under-performing acquisitions.

Can Rowand turn it around? Maybe, but unless he gets a serious grasp of the strike zone, the chances of that happening seem very slim.

5. Bruce Bochy: Managing the "Right Way" (And "Right Way" meaning the opposite of common sense)

Giants fans knew Bochy played favorites. In fact, that's partially why Sabean hired him in the first place: he was one of the only managers in the league that would please the egomaniac known as Barry Bonds.

Yet that was in 2007, and in 2009 the best players available on the roster were not veterans like in the Bonds-Days.

Unfortunately, Bochy seemed to miss the memo.

While Nate Schierholtz wasn't having as great a season as many people thought, he certainly deserved some more playing time in 2009. Yet Bochy continued to rely not only on Randy Winn, but on Rowand as well, despite it being obviously clear Rowand was having an atrocious season. Bochy was more concerned about where Rowand should bat in the order at times than finding the best lineup possible, and that proved to infuriate Giants fans on more than one occasion.

Furthermore, Bochy continued to rely on Edgar Renteria even though Juan Uribe was clearly a better option. He buried Ryan Garko in September even though Garko should have gotten at least some at-bats when the Giants were facing left-handed pitching. He constantly forgot he had Brian Wilson as the closer and not Trevor Hoffman as he continued to stroll out Wilson to get four and five out saves (which usually ended disastrously).

There was so much to gripe about in terms of what Bochy did as a manager in 2009.

Thankfully, Giants fans will get to do plenty more in 2010.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Retro B/R Article: What do the Giants Do with Jonathan Sanchez?

I wrote this article partially in defense of Jonathan Sanchez. At the time he was tanking with a 2-8 record and a ridiculously high ERA. Every Giant fan and their mother was urging the Giants to trade him, but even then, trading him didn't even seem like a possibility considering that when I wrote this, he had little to no trade value. After all, who would want a pitcher who at that time had an ERA of 5.54?

To show how bad things were for Sanchez, I took a look back at the author poll I made which asked if we should trade Sanchez or keep him. 75.9 percent said trade him, 24.1 percent said keep him.

Let's just say all that sentiment changed a couple of weeks later. (Note: I had a bit of a nagging curiosity with Sanchez in 2009, and I wrote about four articles about him in a two month span. This is the first of many to come)

As the Giants continue to surprise people in the National League early on, and the need for an offensive upgrade becomes more evident with each passing series, a lingering question is on the minds of Giants fans everywhere:

Who do we give up to make this team better?

And the main player who is deemed expendable by a majority of Giants fans, bloggers, and columnists?

Jonathan Sanchez.

A lot was expected from Sanchez after he rose up the minor leagues at a quick pace. While a low draft pick (he was picked up by the Giants in the 27th round in 2004), Sanchez dominated at Double A level and proved to be a strong lefty relief guy in his first couple of stints with the Giants.

However, as a starter the results have been mixed.

In his first full year as a starter last season, Sanchez put up a decent 9-12 record and recorded a 157 strikeouts. Unfortunately, his penchant for giving up big runs was evident on more than one occasion as he finished the year with a 5.01 ERA, far too high for a good starting pitcher.

And this season has been an utter disaster for Sanchez.

He is 2-8 with a 5.54 ERA, and his confidence on the mound has dipped so drastically that the Giants are actually thinking about skipping his next start in the rotation, and putting him back into the bullpen. If anything, he seems to be a repeat of Barry Zito from a year ago, only Sanchez isn't the number one starter, and isn't being payed in the hundreds of millions.

The worst part of Sanchez's disastrous start this year was that we felt if we were going to upgrade offensively, Sanchez would be the key cog in any deal. Now it doesn't look like we can even use him as a second or third player in a trade. After all, who wants a starting pitcher with shelled confidence and an ERA near six?

Sanchez has the tools to be a good starting pitcher and it is possible to think that a team might take a waiver on him thinking they might get an Oliver Perez-kind of pitcher.

The situation is very similar to Perez a couple of seasons ago: he was struggling mightily with Pittsburgh mentally and while he had the tools, many thought he was done in terms of being a decent pitcher. Yet he goes to New York, gets to be in a different environment, and actually becomes a solid pitcher for the Mets the following year during their 2007 playoff run.

Could that be the case with Sanchez? Maybe, maybe not; it is early and difficult to tell at this point because he is pitching so poorly right now.

But it begs Giants fans who are so desperate to get rid of him to ask themselves, are you willing to get rid of a pitcher who could potentially give the Giants a killer 1-2-3 punch next season in exchange for a player who may be with the organization for only half a season?

No question Sanchez has confidence issues and something needs to be done to get him back on track to the potential he was showing last season, in which he looked dominating on certain occasions.

However, his lack of trade value might actually be a blessing for the Giants. Maybe he can get through this and bounce back after the All-Star break or next season, when the Giants can really be serious contenders with a more active off-season, and not just surprise fringe contenders like they are this year.

And if (perhaps when) next year comes and Sanchez suddenly starts to show that 2007 Oliver Perez form (15 wins, 3.56 ERA, 174 strikeouts), we'll start to breathe a sigh of relief we didn't trade him away for a Shea Hillenbrand-esque player like we wanted back in June.