Thursday, September 24, 2009

Aaron Rowand: the 2009 San Francisco Giants Least Valuable Player

I have been easy on Aaron Rowand in his two years in San Francisco. Maybe I was just being sympathetic because he had a decent first half in 2008. Maybe I forever have the image of him crashing into the wall at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia burned in my mind. Maybe I like the fact that he chews Grizzly.

But I can't defend him anymore. Tonight proved, as most Giants fans have already known for a couple of months, that Rowand is the team's Least Valuable Player for the 2009 season. That's how bad Rowand has been this year, and that isn't easy to say when you have Merkin Valdez and Edgar Renteria on this roster.

Yet time and time again, Rowand has simply been unable to come up big on any occasion with the bat. Tonight's at-bat was a golden chance for him to at least somewhat improve upon his declining image, and still...he has a classic, "Your 2009 San Francisco Giants" at-bat. He looks at two very hittable pitches and then whiffs on a crappy low, out of the zone pitch.

I mean...well...I didn't die really on that strikeout. I was more devastated by Fred Lewis' strikeout to be honest, mainly because I want Freddie do well considering all the unmerited grief he has gotten this year (even on this own blog).

However, that is the problem with Rowand. It was almost as if I expected Rowand to get out before he even stepped into the batter's box. I was disappointed Travis Ishikawa walked the at-bat before despite the walk putting runners on first and second because I knew Rowand was going to strikeout, or even worse, ground into a double play. That is how bad it has gotten with him. We can't expect good things from him ever, and even when he does good things, the game is usually in hand.

I know there are the Rowand fanboys out there, and believe me...I was one of them for a long time. I want to have patience for Rowand because he seems to work hard (Kruk and Kuiper harp about how much batting practices he takes before games). However, Rowand was paid handsomely and expected to be a centerpiece for this team and he has been anything but in his two seasons in San Francisco. He has been anti-clutch in every sense of the word. Lewis or Randy Winn in my opinion would be a better option in the outfield next year, and when you say're not having a very good tenure with your team to put it nicely.

Here are the two stats that clinch Rowand's putrid, award-winning season in my mind. He leads the team with a 119 strikeouts (the next highest total is Winn with 90) and Lewis has seven more walks than Rowand despite having almost 200 fewer at-bats.

I'm sorry. That's pathetic. Plain and simple.

Aaron Rowand. You're a likable guy. You chew Grizzly dipping tobacco (an underrated brand), you can make a great catch here and there, and you even look like Johnny Drama, my favorite character from "Entourage."

Nonetheless, you take this LVP award easily this year. You lead the team in strikeouts, you have a lower OPS than two backup outfielders, and you grounded into a triple play in Milwaukee. I think those accomplishments speak for themselves.

Congrats Aaron, and good luck on defending your title next season. With Randy and Bengie Molina likely gone next year, you'll certainly be the favorite to repeat (unless Brian Sabean idiotically resigns Rich Aurilia next year somehow).

Sanchez's Surgery Should Be Final Straw For SF Giants GM Brian Sabean

From Bleacher Report

With this being the last year of GM Brian Sabean's contract, owner Bill Neukom is put in a very tough decision.

Does he stick with the GM who has been at the helm of the Giants' front office since 1997? Or does he go in a different route with somebody else calling the shots when it comes to personnel decisions?

As far as I'm concerned, everything Sabean has done (or has occurred as a result of his decisions in the past) after the All-Star break has showed why Neukom should go in a different direction next year when it comes on taking or declining Sabean's option.

First off, Sabean pulled the trigger on trading for Cleveland's Ryan Garko, who has done relatively nothing in his tenure in San Francisco as evidenced by his .233 batting average and only two home runs in 113 plate appearances as a Giant (It also should be noted that both his home runs came in the same game and at Coors Field).

Secondly, Edgar Renteria has been a tremendous, and classic Sabean-bust, which is only magnified by Juan Uribe's season, which may be his best offensive year since 2004 when he helped the Chicago White Sox to a World Series title.

Not only has Uribe been better than Renteria this year in almost every offensive category despite 98 less at-bats, but he also came seven million dollars cheaper.

Just imagine what the Giants could have done with an extra seven million dollars to spend had they not wasted it on Renteria.

Next, Angel Villalona, a highly prized prospect a couple of years ago that Sabean sold Giants fans on being the future of the Post-Bonds era, not only has tanked on the field (he had only a .267 average, .303 OBP, nine home runs and 42 RBI in 310 PA in Single-A San Jose this year), but now he is a suspect in a murder case in the Dominican Republic.

Villalona's future seems closer to Ugueth Urbina than Miguel Cabrera, and even then, at least Urbina had SOME time in the Major Leagues.

And lastly, Freddy Sanchez, who was traded for No. 2 pitching prospect Tim Alderson, may be shut down for the year after reports, via the Giants Web site, revealed his knee will need surgery.

If anything, Sanchez's impending knee surgery should be enough for Neukom to send Sabean packing. Everybody knew there were some questions with Sanchez's health before the trade deadline, but Sabean "examined" Sanchez and assured Giants fans he was healthy enough to make an impact during the August-September run.

Well...Sanchez, despite a solid debut, has barely made a dent on this Giants team. He has only played in 25 games, not exactly what Giants fans expected when Sabean traded him for Alderson.

To make matters worse, with Sanchez most likely not reaching the amount of plate appearances he needs to activate his 2010 option, the Giants will need to renegotiate with him on a contract next year.

Therefore, there is a possibility that Sanchez could be gone next season, and if that happens, the Giants basically lost their second-best pitcher in their minor league system for an injury-riddle player who barely played a half-a season.

That's the kind of thing Giants fans wanted to avoid this Trade Deadline. The San Francisco faithful didn't want another Ricky Ledee or Sidney Ponson half-season disaster.

And yet, here we are, with that situation a possibility again.

Overall, there has been a lot Sabean should be credited for in his tenure in San Francisco, especially recently. He has set down a solid foundation around pitchers like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and position players like Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey (even though Posey can't seem to find the field since being called up).

However, the mistakes of Sabean have added up too much in the recent past, and this year is no exception. Some new energy is needed in the Giants front office to keep this team going in the right direction, and unfortunately, after almost 13 years at the helm, the Giants aren't going to get that if Sabean is still calling the shots.

Neukom. The decision is up to you. Do the right thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good Job Giants in 2009, On to 2010

I am officially throwing in the towel. I know. Four games back with 10 games to go. It's possible, but it's also possible Paris Hilton will join the Carmelite Sisters or Al Pacino will retake his Tony Montana role and do a "Scarface" sequel.

So what am I saying?

You can never say never, but right now it's like 90 percent never.

Thus, I want to give the Giants some props for this season, but not without some reserve. Sure, 2009 was good, but it could have been great. Like most Giants fans, I am a believer that two things characterized this Giants team this season:

1.) A lot of players Giants fans expected to be big contributors tanked (e.g. Bengie Molina, Emmanuel Burriss and Aaron Rowand).
2.) The players who were capable of making up for these "tanking" players weren't utilized quickly enough.

I blame 70 percent of that on on-field management (e.g. Bruce "I won't bat Bengie Molina out of the four-hole ever" Bochy) and 30 percent on the front office (e.g. Brian "I shouldn't, but probably will have a job next year" Sabean). Bochy should have recognized what guys were having stellar seasons and let it ride with them in the lineup on a consistent basis (e.g. Juan Uribe, Nate Schierholtz etc.), and Sabean should have been releasing guys (e.g. Merkin Valdez) who were having no impact, while at the same time, calling up young arms with big upside (e.g. Dan Runzler).

Yet, hindsight is 20/20, and the bottom line? Giants had a great season, but it just wasn't enough. I think for a lot of Giants fans, this season surpassed our expectations. We certainly didn't expect this team to be in contention for a Wild Card berth this year. For the most part, I think a lot of Giants fans were simply hoping for a .500 record. Well, after tonight's win, we got over .500, so all in all, it was a great season for the Giants as well as San Francisco fans.

That being said, this season has certainly raised the bar for next season, which means a lot of crucial moves will need to be made. Simply plus .500 ball won't be enough next year. The Giants will need to make the playoffs because to put it bluntly, that is what people will expect from them. People will expect Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to be another solid 1-2 punch next year. People will expect Madison Bumgarner to make the leap to the rotation. People will expect an even bigger breakout year from Pablo Sandoval.

Those things added up should equal a playoff berth. Granted, you never know. As we seen from the Detroit Tigers ala 2007 and Florida Marlins ala 2004, things don't always work out like they should. However, judging from expectations alone, this Giants team is a playoff team next season, no doubt about it.

Granted, next year is just that: a year away. Sure, there are 10 games left, but if anything, we are seeing a last hurrah for some veterans with something to prove (e.g. Bob Howry and Eli Whiteside) while getting extended looks at some of the Giants' best prospects (e.g. Runzler, Waldis Joaquin and finally...Frandsen and Bowker). The positive way to look at this is that this is what we expected to see this year when the rosters expanded in September, only it happened about three weeks later than expected. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it depends. It shows that we had a decent team for most of the year, but it also gave less big league experience to some of our top prospects who will be looking to make the 40-man and 25-man active rosters next season.

In the end, this Giants season will be a season known for some disappointment. However, it will also be known as either a turning point or a flash in the pan. We've seen the Mariners in 2007 show some life, only to tank the following season. Is that going to happen to the Giants?

Let's hope not. 2009 brought Giant fans, a fanbase struggling since 2005, more hope than we could have ever thought imaginable.

All I can say is that on behalf of Giants fans, I pray that owner Bill Neukom doesn't screw this up.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Giants closer Brian Wilson has earned his spot in the bullpen

From Bleacher Report

To be honest, I have never been that big of a Brian Wilson fan prior to this year.

I have been skeptical of his ability to take the ball in the ninth inning, and I felt that his All-Star selection last year was not as deserved as some other relief pitchers in the National League.

Even in the beginning of this season, I called him out and said that he needed to step it up if he really wanted to be the Giants closer of the future.

How is he now? put it nicely, Wilson has stepped up and has made my claims against him look foolish.

Because as of now, there is no other pitcher in this Giants bullpen I want to have the ball in the ninth inning other than Wilson.

As Giants fans have seen throughout the year, many pitchers in this Giants bullpen have had their series of ups and downs.

Just when we thought Sergio Romo was being groomed to be the Giants closer perhaps as soon as next season, he had a brutal stretch in July where his ERA ballooned, and he couldn't even get outs, let alone get out of innings.

The same goes with any other pitcher in this Giants bullpen. Justin Miller, Brandon Medders, Bob Howry, and even to a point, Jeremy Affeldt. They all have been very dependable on some occasions, and well...not so much during some stretches.

Strangely enough, the guy who I thought was the most erratic reliever last year, and at times this year, has been a strong, consistent force for this Giants relief corps.

Is he perfect?

No, but Wilson's shortcomings don't seem as bad as they were a year ago.

If you look at him statistically, Wilson has improved in almost every category this season.

Last year, his ERA was 4.62. This year, it is 2.77. His WHIP last season was 1.44. This season it is down at 1.23. Opponents batting average against him is down 30 points (from .261 to .231), his BB/9 ratio is down almost .60 points (from 4.04 to 3.46) and his K/9 ratio is up as well (from 9.67 to 9.97).

And he's doing this despite pitching more innings from last year.

In 2008, Wilson pitched 62.1 innings. This season he has pitched 65 innings, and with the Giants in the heat of a playoff run and the offense keeping games closer than they probably want, Wilson is going to see a lot more work in September.

I know there is a lot to not like about Wilson. His groundball to flyball ratio is down from last year (from 1.75 to 1.35), and he has matched his blown save number from last season already (six), but for the most part, Wilson has done what the Giants have asked from him as closer.

What has sparked his resurgence?

If you want to look it casually, you could say he has gotten more comfortable in the role. After all, last year was his first year as closer, and while he did well in the first half, the second half of the season took its toll on him because he wasn't used to being in so many pressure-packed situations.

With a year under his belt, Wilson was bound to improve.

If you want to look it "sabermetrically," you could point to Wilson's change in pitch variety as a key to his success.

Last year, Wilson relied heavily on his fastball, slider and cutter. He threw his fastball 70.9 percent of the time, his slider 14.7 percent of the time and his cutter 13.1 percent of the time.

In 2009, Wilson has almost eliminated his slider from his repertoire altogether. Instead, he relies almost solely on his fastball and cutter. He throws his fastball 69.5 percent of the time and throws his cutter 24.5 percent of the time. As for the slider, he only throws it 5.7 percent of the time, nine percent less than last season.

Whether those percentages are a trend of improvement and ownership of his pitches, or a sign that he has lost confidence in his slider, who knows. However, the repertoire has worked so far this year, as evidenced by his strikeouts (72) and saves (34).

Sure, there has been a lot to be frustrated about with Wilson in the past two years. However, Wilson is the Giants closer of the future, and barring injury, Giants fans should get used to him coming into the ninth not only for the rest of this year, but next season and beyond.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Update for those who follow Remember '51 blog

Because of certain work responsibilities, the blog here is going to take a hit. I will try to make time to write articles from time to time (especially with the stretch run in full bloom and the Giants still in the thick of things), but a lot of things are going to take a hit.

Here are two things that won't be going anymore on the blog at the time being:

The PG Beat and Potent Preview.

I'm sorry, but I simply don't have the time to write those pieces anymore, and instead of doing them swiftly, I'd rather just not do them at all. However, I will try to post a lot of my Bleacher Report articles on here as well as other pieces that will solely be written on this blog (and later transferred to Bleacher Report).

Also, if you haven't noticed, a lot of the articles have follow a Sabermetrics slant. For those who hate that stuff, don't worry, the articles won't permanently take that slant, but I want to try out some articles with the Sabermetrics angles after finally getting a better understanding of Sabermetrics this summer.

That is all for now. Let's Go Giants and let's hope Tim Lincecum mows the Phils down again. Giants pitchers have been looking awesome lately. In the words of Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta from "Revolver") Fear us Dodgers and Rockies fans.

Bob Howry a Disappointment? Not As Much As Giants Fans Want To Believe

From Bleacher Report

It is safe to say that Bob Howry's tenure in San Francisco this season has gone without much fan fare.

With a 1-6 record, and a propensity to give up the walk-off home run (he has given up five home runs this year, and has blown three saves), Howry has been constantly hounded by boo-birds throughout the Bay Area.

If you look deeper at the stats though, Howry hasn't been as bad as Giants fans would like to think.

For instance, Howry currently has the second-best WHIP (Walks and hits divided by innings pitched) ratio on the Giants pitching staff at 1.13.

The only guy he is behind? The Ace of the Giants pitching staff, Tim Lincecum, who has a 1.03 WHIP.

Surprisingly, his WHIP is also better than more liked, and more used relievers such as Brian Wilson (who has a 1.25 WHIP), Sergio Romo (1.32) and even...gasp... holds leader Jeremy Affeldt (1.27).

I'm sure most fans will probably say, "So what! He has a good WHIP. That doesn't mean he's a good pitcher by any standards."

Yet when you have a guy like Howry, whose WHIP is dramatically better than the pitcher with the worst WHIP in the current bullpen (Merkin Valdez, who has a 1.59 WHIP, though he is to be supplanted by Joe Martinez who has a 1.94 WHIP), that has to be a sign that he should be getting more innings on the mound.

I can certainly understand a lot of people's disappointment with Howry. In terms of many of his other statistics, Howry has had a down year since his 2008 season in Chicago.

His strikeouts-per-nine innings pitched is down (7.51 to 6.36), and his walks-per-nine innings pitched has risen as well (1.66 to 2.75). Furthermore, his WPA (win probability added) this season has been awful (-1.32), even though last year it wasn't much better (-0.79).

Yet strangely enough, Howry actually has improved upon some categories this year while taking the hill for the Orange and Black.

His home run-per-nine innings ratio is actually down from his last year in Chicago (0.86 in comparison to 1.66 last year), and the .226 batting average of hitters who have faced him this season is not only dramatically down from last year (last year hitters hit .311 off of Howry), but is actually fourth-best on the team, behind only Affeldt, Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez in that order.

Howry's season this year hasn't exactly been a replica of what we have seen from the other free-agent signing Brian Sabean inked this offseason in Affeldt. I will let fans have that.

However, to compare Howry to Affeldt is unfair. They are two different kinds of pitchers, and thus comparing the two would be comparing apples to oranges.

If anything, we should be comparing Howry to Brandon Medders and Sergio Romo, both who have seen much more time on the mound than Howry this season.

Romo getting more work lately than Howry makes sense. While Romo's WHIP is worse than Howry's, Romo makes up for his inefficiencies in the WHIP and ERA (5.04) categories with incredible strikeout-per-nine innings percentage and strikeouts-to-walks ratio

With a 10.44 K/9 and 3.22 K/BB ratios, he is first and second in those categories on the team respectively.

Thus, as evidenced by the data, Romo fills a need. He is more likely to get the big strikeout when the Giants need it, and Howry, with 6.36 K/9 and 2.31 K/BB ratios in the categories listed above, just can't do that as well as Romo.

That being said, Medders certainly doesn't do it much better than Howry.

Medders has a higher strikeout-per-nine innings ratio at 7.36, but after that, there isn't much Medders does better than Howry.

Medders' opponent batting average is higher than Howry's at .251, and his 1.42 WHIP is atrociously worse than Howry's WHIP as well.

Basically, whenever manager Bruce Bochy decides to put in Medders over Howry, the team is putting themselves in a dangerous spot. Fans may not want to believe it, but statistically, Howry is a more dependable pitcher than the erratic Medders, who has been a mess in the second half this season.

Overall, I still think Howry should be regulated to secondary set-up duty behind Affeldt, and shouldn't be kept beyond this year. That being said, those who blame Howry for the bullpen's struggles this year should quit pointing the finger at him all the time.

Yeah, he has been part of the problem with the Giants bullpen, but not as big as many would like to think, especially when compared to Medders.