Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Buster Posey Winning the Rookie of the Year Feels So Right...

I hate to compare players or situations from different sports. I think you're really overreaching mainly because different sports have different aspects and qualities. It basically becomes comparing apples to oranges when you compare a Giants team with a Warriors team. Baseball isn't played with the same emotion or physicality of basketball. So why compare the two, right?

Well, in some ways, before they announced the Rookie of the Year winners today, I couldn't help but think of last year's NBA Rookie of the Year race when Tyreke Evans of the Kings beat out Stephen Curry of the Warriors. Evans had the neat stats (20-5-5), but Curry in my mind had the more impact. First off, when you watched them play, there was no contest. Curry was out in the transition making plays. Evans on the other hand was looking to score anyway possible and that was about it.

But the real clincher in my mind was there situations. Curry had a team of cast-offs (seriously, Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Williams?), selfish players (Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson) and a star player who basically didn't want to play with him because he felt threatened that he'd steal the spotlight (Monta Ellis). As for Evans, he had a promising team with promising young talent that was pretty much built for him after they shipped Kevin Martin (a good player mind you) out of town. And yet, Curry's team finished well, while Evans' teams, for lack of a better word, did not.

So what got Evans his Rookie of the Year award? His start and his stats. Curry didn't have the start Evans had and he never caught up.

I thought it was going to be the same thing with Jason Heyward and Buster Posey.

After Heyward's home run in his first at-bat against the Cubs, I just thought "That's it, no one else is coming close to this award." That wasn't to say Heyward wasn't deserving. Heyward posted a .376 wOBA, helped by 18 homers, 83 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Add that with solid defense (4.8 UZR) and a whole year of play, and you just felt that it was Heyward's award to lose.

But deep down, as a Giant fan, you just felt Posey had more impact.

Posey had to catch one of the best staffs in baseball, and not only did he handle them, but he made them better. He became the main offensive hitter in a team that was punch-less for offense in the beginning of the year and all of last year. He became "The Man" and made everyone forget about Bengie Molina, even though Molina was certainly an above-average Major League catcher for the Giants the past three-plus seasons.

You just can't equate that all into stats, same with how you couldn't measure Curry's impact into stats. Posey changed the team dynamic. He helped bring them up from pretenders to contenders. Heyward helped make them contenders the whole year, but he wasn't the centerpiece. He didn't have the pressure like Posey. It's no fault of his own. When you play outfield, you just don't have as much impact on a team like a catcher. You're not dealing with pitchers who are notoriously known as headcases. It's just the reality of baseball. To do what Posey did was nothing short of incredible, especially considering he was only 23 years old.

I'm glad the voters thought right here. I figured they'd do what the basketball writers did for Rookie of the Year last year and simply say "Well, he's got the numbers! So we gotta give it to him!"

Chalk this one up for the Bay Area. Maybe Posey will be better than Heyward and maybe he won't in terms of long term. But for now, Posey earned it with what he did on the field and in terms of wins, and that is why he deserved this just a little bit more than Heyward.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reactions to the Giants' 2010 FSR (Fans Scouting Reports)

One of the most interesting things I have stumbled upon in recent days is FSR (On the Web site For those who don't know, it is basically "Fans Scouting Reports." Basically, fans log on, submit their evaluations of certain players on a 1-100 scale. As predicted, 50 is the average. The FSR allows fans to evaluate instincts, fielding range, hands and throwing measurements on a 1-100 scale. I really love this evaluation system for two reasons:

A.) It's another way to help measure defense, and it does it in a good way (allowing people to judge players on what they see). After all, a lot of people's big problems with UZR is that they don't think it equally justifies what they see on the field. While this isn't fail safe, FSR does give a nice complement to UZR.

B.) It's relatively simple. 1-100 ratings in seven categories. Doesn't need much explanation when you see it.

Here are my reactions to some of the evaluations. (Remember 50 is average.)

The Expected (No surprises here, good or bad):

Andres Torres (76), Nate Schierholtz (77), Buster Posey (72), Freddy Sanchez (70), Travis Ishikawa (68), Juan Uribe (57), Eugenio Velez (28), Jose Guillen (27), Pat Burrell (36).

Not any surprises here. Schierholtz and Torres are plus-plus outfielders, Posey was a huge upgrade defensively over Bengie Molina (who was last in team FSR with a 26 rating), and Ishikawa is one of the better defensive first basemen in the game. Also, though Buster Olney would disagree, Uribe is above average defensively, and thankfully the fans evaluate him properly here.

In terms of the bad ones, also no surprises with Velez, Guillen and Burrell. Velez is an adventure in the outfield or infield (though I was a little surprised by his ZERO hands rating) and Guillen showed he was ill-equipped to cover right field at AT&T Park. As for Burrell, he wasn't the worst, but his 36 rating (a little below-average) is what I would rank him as well. I think Torres definitely made Burrell a lot more tolerable in left field (e.g. he was covering the ball Burrell couldn't get to).

The Good Surprises

Matt Downs (52), Cody Ross (53), Aubrey Huff (47).

Downs is no longer a member of the Giants, but he had a seven point improvement in the fans' mind from a year ago, so it was nice to see a guy get some love from the fans. As for Ross, I think it was mostly a surprise because A.) he was pretty solid offensively and B.) And he's above average defensively according to defensive metric and FSR. Thus, it makes you wonder why the Marlins were so ready to jettison him. (Then again, when you have Mike Stanton, I guess you gotta do something...but you're telling me Ross had no trade value at all?)

Now, most pundits would say Huff's below average FSR isn't good. But I found it considering this: he was a career DH prior to this season. Yes, he's not going to win a Gold Glove anytime soon, but he didn't kill the Giants defensively as much as I thought he would and his pop in the bat was more than enough to help him overcome the more stellar defender Ishikawa.

Brian Sabean definitely lucked out with Huff, not just offensively, but defensively as well in 2010.

The Bad Surprises

Pablo Sandoval (46), Aaron Rowand (46), Mark Derosa (48).

Sandoval's FSR is a little disheartening because it clashes with his UZR numbers from 2010. In 2009, Sandoval had a negative-3.6 UZR in 2009 and improved to a 1.2 UZR this season. However, FSR goes vice versa. In 2009, he had a 55 rating (above average). In 2010, his rating was 46 (below average). Arm accuracy and instincts are the two categories where he took huge hits. He fell 15 points in each category from the previous year (from 54 to 39 in AA and 65 to 50 in instincts). Hence, it's not just an athleticism thing that is hurting Sandoval defensively at third (since his weight seems to be the main beef with his defense).

Rowand didn't really have much of a tumble (he went from 48 to 46 from 2009 to 2010) but Rowand has already has had an MO as a solid defender. The same goes with Derosa (though I wonder how much his injury hindered him this year). However, as FSR points out, they are both seen by the fans as slightly below average. That's not a good sign for two guys who made just a shade under 20 millions dollars on the Giants payroll last season.


I'm late to the game in this, but FSR is definitely a good tool. I really didn't have any gross disagreements on some players with FSR (not quite the case with UZR on certain players). That being said, much like UZR, FSR shouldn't be viewed solely, but it gives us a more concrete way to look at players defensively in addition to usual sabermetric analysis. Definitely expect to see FSR used more often (along with UZR) on Remember '51.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Jesus Guzman the Second-Coming of John Bowker?

If anything, there was probably one guy who didn't like the Giants winning the World Series this year. I'm not saying he wasn't happy for the guys or the organization, but rather, he was probably disappointed because their win probably put the lid in terms of him playing next year with the Giants.

That person was Jesus Guzman.

Could Guzman be a good player? I don't know. His minor league numbers (.885 and .886 OPS; 16 home runs and 18 home runs in 2009 and 2010 in Fresno) aren't extremely impressive, but they're solid and he did show improvement from 2009 to 2010 in the Pacific Coast League (his K/9 rate dropped from 18.3 to 15.1 percent and his BB/K ratio improved from 0.45 to 0.56). Of course, Guzman has no Major League numbers to fall back on (.250 average, .500 OPS in 20 plate appearances) and his defense isn't exactly heralded (he played five different positions last year, and the best one for him was DH). Despite this, Guzman still remains an interesting player who is still young enough (he's 26 years old) to have some kind of career at the big league level.

But then again, we said the same thing about John Bowker and Todd Linden.

The comparison between Bowker and Guzman is very interesting. Granted, Guzman broke into professional ball earlier than Bowker (Bowker played college ball at Long Beach State; while Guzman was playing ball in Venezuela at 17 years old), but they are pretty similar career-wise in terms of minor league numbers.

Both had big seasons in Double-A ball (Bowker posted an .886 OPS in Connecticut in 2007; Guzman had a .948 OPS in 2008 for Midland, the A's Double-A affiliate). Both had down initial campaigns in Triple-A (Bowker struggled in his brief time in Fresno in 2008, though that was probably affected by the fact that he played most of the year in the Big Leagues; Guzman struggled down the stretch in 2008 with Sacramento, posting only a .649 OPS in 65 plate appearances). And both rebounded to have solid seasons in Triple-A the following year (Bowker had a ridiculous 1.047 OPS, while Guzman posted a very commendable .885 OPS).

So is Guzman on that Bowker track? (e.g. a prolonged stint in the minors without ever having a solid chance to prove himself at the Major League level?) Most likely. When your team wins the World Series, you don't rebuild and take a waiver on guys like Guzman. You re-load with free agents or stick with the guys who got you there (and the latter is a very strong possibility if I know Brian Sabean).

That being said, I think Guzman has a bit more upside than Bowker simply because he has had a better history in terms of plate patience. Guzman has only posted a BB/K ratio under 0.45 once in his career (his 2008 in Sacramento). As for Bowker, sans his ridiculous 1.16 BB/K ratio in 2009, plate patience was always an issue for him (he never had a BB/K ratio above 0.40 at any level prior to 2009). Yes, Bowker showed more power in the minors (only 11 less home runs than Guzman in almost 1000 fewer at-bats), but I'll take a guy with better plate discipline any day. Don't get me wrong. I liked Bowker. I rooted for him to succeed with the Giants hard. But, unlike Bowker, I think a decent Major League career isn't a stretch for Guzman.

It just won't be with the Giants.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Did Andres Torres Deserve a Gold Glove?

Shane Victorino. Michael Bourne. Carlos Gonzalez.

Your NL Gold Glove outfielders for the 2010 season.

Now, there's nothing wrong with those choices. If the writers gave  one to last year's winner (Matt Kemp), I would have had serious problems with the award (though the "legitimacy" of the award already is on shaky ground after Derek Jeter won the Gold Glove for AL shortstop and Orlando Hudson winning it last year).

But, as a Giants fan, it would have been nice to see a journeyman like Torres take away some hardware, especially when you look at his defensive numbers according to UZR (just freaking off the charts).

As Rob Neyer concluded, what probably killed Torres from earning a Gold Glove was him playing multiple positions throughout the year. Unlike Neyer, I think this is an asinine argument. Right field in San Francisco is one of the toughest places to play defensively. You have to give up considerable room on the foul line to protect Triple's Alley. There's a reason why Randy Winn started in right for so long though he didn't have a "typical" right fielder's arm: the guy could cover the necessary ground in right at AT&T. (Of course, so did Nate Schierholtz, but that is an argument for another day...this is 2010! The Giants are champs!)

So, if anything, that should have helped his chances, right? You had Torres able to not only play center, but play right in a park where the fielder needs to be athletic and apt enough to play center. You don't believe me? Ask Garrett Jones and Vlad Guerrero about playing right in AT&T. They'll tell you it ain't easy.

What do I believe killed Torres' chances this year?

He's not a name. And it's sad that baseball writers seem hesitant to think outside the box when it comes to this award. If the Academy Awards were ran like the Gold Glove awards, Tom Hanks would have beaten Robert Benigni that one year for best actor in 1997. Was Tom Hanks great in "Saving Private Ryan"? Yeah, he was. But Benigni was special, and the Academy actually had the guts to say "You know what, it isn't familiar, but let's do it because the under the radar guys need to be recognized."

The baseball writers had a chance to have a "Life is Beautiful" moment this year with Torres. Instead, like the Academy went safe with picking Sean Penn over Mickey Rourke for best actor, they did the same with the NL Gold Gloves. Completely safe, logical, but rather uninspiring choices. Look...I'm glad for Bourne, CarGo and Victorino. They're all likable players and they are certainly deserving. But, you can't question how much of an impact Torres had in terms of saving runs in the outfield (whether you are in the sabermetric or "I judge baseball with my eyes" camp). You can't question that Torres probably made Pat Burrell look better than he was, because he was chasing the balls Burrell probably should have gotten to. You think the baseball writers would take into consideration ballparks, especially considering how Coors and Citizens Bank are crackerboxes in comparison to AT&T.

But sigh...they didn't. Oh well, Andres. You're the Gold Glover in Giants' fans hearts, and the World Series trophy proves it.

I can't wait for the NL Rookie of the Year award to be presented.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comparing the Giants and Phillies Defensively

I just can't get over what Buster Olney said on Bill Simmons' MLB Playoff Podcast, which I listened to yesterday. Basically, I came away with four things:

1.) The Tampa Bay Rays Have the Best GM in baseball (probably true).
2.) The Red Sox are hurting in terms of the money they owe to contracts next year (true, but unnecessary considering the Red Sox aren't in the playoffs).
3.) The Mariners made a mistake by taking Justin Smoak from the Rangers instead of Jesus Montero in the Cliff Lee trade (very, very true when you consider Montero's a catcher).
4.) The Giants have no chance against the Phillies because of their offense (true) and defense.

(You can find the BS Report Podcast between Simmons and Olney here.)

The defense part kills me. Olney remarked to Simmons that the Giants had "one of the worst defenses in baseball." For a baseball writer, and one who likes to follow modern trends (e.g. some sabermetrics), I can't believe Olney would put his foot in his mouth like this.

So, to prove my point over Olney's, let's look and compare the Giants  position by position (on UZR and UZR/150 basis) to the Phillies who apparently are "better" defensively than the Giants.

Left Field: Pat Burrell vs. Raul Ibanez.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Burrell: 4.9 and 10.7.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Ibanez: minus-6.9 and minus-8.4.

The positive UZR and UZR/150 information is probably an aberration. Burrell is a career neagtive-39.7 outfielder defensively. This positive UZR and UZR/150 is the first instance in his career since 2004. That being said, Ibanez has been atrocious in the field this year and has been so in the past (career negative-20.4 UZR). At the very least, it's a wash, but I would give the benefit of the doubt to Burrell mainly because he has been better this year, while Ibanez has taken a dive after posting positive UZR numbers a season ago.

Edge: Giants.

Center Field: Andres Torres vs. Shane Victorino.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Torres:  21.2 and 24.8.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Victorino: 2.6 and 3.3.

Victorino has traditionally been a solid outfielder (career 30.5 UZR). But what Torres has done has been unbelievable. And it's not just a fluke either. Torres still posted very good UZR numbers a year ago (8.2) despite playing a sparing amount of games (his UZR/150 translated to 33). Torres can save runs and he can save runs in bunches, particularly helpful considering the Giants pitchers are primarily strikeout-flyball pitchers. You don't want to discredit Victorino and what he has done in his career, but the past two years, he can't hold a candle to what Torres has done defensively.

Edge: Giants

Right Field: Cody Ross vs. Jayson Werth.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Ross: 2.9 and 3.4.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Werth: negative-6.9 and negative-7.2.

This may be the toughest position to judge for both teams. Ross isn't incredible defensively, but at the very least he's average to above-average (career 3.5 UZR in OF). Werth has actually been great over his career (career 43.8 UZR in the OF), but has struggled this season. If you judge Werth against Jose Guillen (negative-23.1 UZR for his career in the OF), then the Phillies have this won outright. But then you consider Nate Schierholtz (6.4 UZR this year in RF), and suddenly the Giants have more depth (Ben Francisco, their backup right fielder posted negative UZR numbers). I'm just going to call this one a draw, mainly because I don't think Werth is as bad as his stats this year indicate, and Ross, while solid, is nothing special (though he certainly is a heck of a lot better defensively than Guillen).

Edge: Push.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval vs. Placido Polanco.
2010 3B UZR and UZR/150 for Sandoval: 1.2 and 1.5.
2010 3B UZR and UZR/150 for Polanco: 10 and 11.3.

No doubt the Phillies have the edge here. Polanco has been stellar this year, and has been over his career (21.8 career UZR at third). Sandoval performed much better this year (he had a negative-3.6 UZR last year), but he has regressed in the second half, and he still has problems with his throwing accuracy at times. Even if Mike Fontenot starts at third, the Phillies still have the advantage with Polanco. Fontenot's career UZR is negative-4.2 at third base.

Edge: Phillies.

Shortstop: Juan Uribe vs. Jimmy Rollins.
2010 SS UZR and UZR/150 for Uribe: 2.1 and 3.3.
2010 SS UZR and UZR/150 for Rollins: 6.9 and 12.3.

This one is another matchup that clearly favors the Phillies...though not as much as people would like to think. Olney was pretty clear in calling out Uribe as a poor defensive shortstop. Now is he a gold glove candidate? Probably not, but he is better than his pudgy frame would suggest (career 18.5 UZR). Rollins of course is a better athlete and hence, a better defensive player (career 44.5 UZR), and the Phillies have the advantage in this department because Rollins is so great. They don't have the advantage though because Uribe is so poor, like Olney would like to think.

Edge: Phillies.

Second base: Freddy Sanchez vs. Chase Utley.
2010 2B UZR and UZR/150 for Sanchez: 5.9 and 9.3.
2010 2B UZR and UZR/150 for Utley: 10.3 and 12.9.

The Phillies take it again here, but it's closer than one would like to believe, especially if you look at UZR/150. I think when you take into consideration that Sanchez has been hurt most of the year, Sanchez's UZR numbers look a whole lot better (hence, the drop in difference in UZR/150 between him and Utley). Utley is one of the top second basemen in the game both offensively and defensively, so on just position alone, Utley is the clear favorite. But Sanchez is no slouch, and Fontenot has proven to be a more than adequate backup at second as well (8.6 career UZR at 2B).

Edge: Phillies.

First base: Aubrey Huff vs. Ryan Howard.
2010 1B UZR and UZR/150 for Huff: 5.4 and 9.7.
2010 1B UZR and UZR/150 for Howard: negative-12.8 and negative-11.6.

Olney also said in the podcast that Huff "probably should be a DH." Well, Buster, you haven't been watching the Giants season that closely if you think that. First all, Huff is significantly better than Howard at first. Second, in addition to better UZR numbers than Howard, Huff has also played three positions this year (left field and right field) and held his own (he only posted negative numbers in right field, but his UZR/150 was only negative-7.2, which isn't bad considering how hard it is to play right in AT&T Park). Huff not only showed that he can field adequately at first, but he showed that he can be mixed in the field and not be a complete disaster.

Edge: Giants.

Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Carlos Ruiz.
2010 stats for Posey: six errors, one passed ball, 37.1 CS percentage.
2010 stats for Ruiz: six errors, four passed balls, 28.6 CS percentage.

No question Posey is a better athlete than Ruiz. However, Posey showed great defense behind the plate this year for the Giants. His 37.1 CS percentage was fourth in the National League this year, not bad considering it is his first year. Furthermore, he was tied with Ruiz in terms of errors committed (4th best in the NL). Sure, Ruiz isn't much worse, but I'm giving this one to Posey, mainly because he's done all this as a rookie, and he has the better CS percentage.

Edge: Giants.

Team UZR in 2010:
Giants: 56.4 (2nd in MLB).
Phillies: negative-5.8 (17th in MLB).

Edge: Giants.

The Giants have the better outfield and catcher. The Phillies have the better infield (sans first base). On terms of count alone in the breakdown, the Giants beat the Phillies 4-3-1 (with the one draw being right field). Are the Giants much better than the Phillies defensively, probably, but not by much. That being said, I think this effectively refutes Olney's point on Simmons' podcast that the Giants are a lousy defensive team. They're not, and the numbers back it up.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 2010 San Francisco Giants: NL West Champions

Those eight words haunt me. They give me shivers. In June, if you would have told me the Giants would be NL West Champs, I would have laughed. Not because I didn't believe, but because it just didn't seem possible. Not with Aaron Rowand patrolling center field. Not with Bengie Molina playing catcher. Not with Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list and Edgar Renteria rotating between shortstop and the disabled list.

But it happened...and what can I say. I couldn't be more shocked and happy as a Giants fan.

92-70. Four wins better than last year. You wonder what made this team different. Sure you could look at stuff like wRC and wRAA and say "The offense was better" and you certainly would be right. The offense was better this year, a whole lot better (over 10 points better in terms of wOBA). The Giants weren't a playoff team according to the numbers last year, and it made sense why the Rockies bounced them. You could argue that they aren't this year, but there would be an argument. Giants fans didn't have that luxury a season ago.

It was a funny regular season. The guy we expected to be money in the bank offensively (Pablo Sandoval) was far from it. The local guy we all had hope for (John Bowker) came manifested in another form (Burrell). The vets whom Bochy seemingly couldn't bench last year (Rowand and Renteria) were finally put on the bench when it mattered the most. And the guy we thought we wanted (Nick Johnson) tanked, while the guy we thought was a mistake (Aubrey Huff) proved to be everything we did want and more.

2009 was a great year. No doubt. But 2010 was special and special in a way that you just can't explain. How could you explain Sabean holding his guns at the trade deadline when everyone was telling him to trade Jonathan Sanchez for whatever bat he could? (Cough...Cody Ross...cough). How could you explain three washed up relievers (Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez) suddenly become late-inning studs? How could you explain a rookie catcher (Buster Posey) not only handle one of the league's best staffs, but help make them better?

No doubt about it. The Giants took risks in 2010. Much more risks than 2009. And you know what? It paid off. I didn't think they would. I'm a pessimist by nature when it comes to Giants baseball. Game 6 haunts me. Playing in Miami in October haunts me. Livan Hernandez haunts me. Steve Finley haunts me. And after the Giants dropped two in a row to start off this series, I was thinking "Great, these ghosts simply won't go away."

Yet the Giants believed, and helped pessimistic and agonizing fans like me believe. There hasn't been this kind of attitude about a Giants team in well...a long time. I don't even think 2002 had this kind of fan fervor. I went to a Giants-Dodgers game in September at Dodgers Stadium and the Giants fans were rowdier than the Dodgers fans. They owned the place and guess what? They won.

The Giants are onto something special, a special that is far and beyond what happened in 2009 (and you know what? That was pretty darn special).

We've seen teams play well one year and tank the other (ask Seattle fans about that). And the Giants had all the ingredients for a similar kind of collapse. And not only did they not, but they were better. Sabean, for all his faults, did the right things. Bochy, for all of his faults, stayed on the right track (though he could have played Jose Guillen a lot less). Brian Wilson, for every naysayer out there, slammed the door again and again. Tim Lincecum, enduring a down year, came up big when the Giants needed him the most in September. Juan Uribe proved that just because you look bad statistically, it doesn't mean you can't have impact (the 2005 Chicago White Sox can testify to this).

I could go on and on. The Giants are in the playoffs. And I still am in utter shock/disbelief/elation. I haven't wrote a post on this blog for almost three months. Work caught up with me, but the Giants started winning when I stopped posting and I didn't want to jinx them. That's how irrational I've become. For every post I write about how Andres Torres can't be judged on his past MLB numbers, I do things like not posting because I fear I might blow the Giants playoffs chances.

And now it's over. The Giants did it and I feel, as a fan, I can speak up again, now knowing that the tension is behind me...though only momentarily. After all, there is still the playoffs. I don't want this feeling to end.

Before the season in 2008, the Giants were actually being talked about as a candidate to break the '62 Mets record for most losses in a year. Eugenio Velez was heralded as one of their "Top" prospects. Rowand was expected to be their team leader and run producer after they signed him to a $60 million contract.

And look where they are now. 92-70, NL West Champs and in the playoffs for the first time in 2003.

Thank you God.

I can feel Bobby Thomson watching out over us as we speak.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Pros and Cons of the Jose Guillen Trade

Well, it's official. Jose Guillen is a Giant (I got the e-mail from the Giants' Web site, and usually, that seals the deal in terms of "officialness").

I can't explain my feelings in one or two tweets. This has been a long time coming, ever since June when the Royals were rumored to be in talks with the Giants in terms of trading Guillen.

So here are the pros and cons of the trade that went down today on a weird day for Bay Area Sports fans. (The Glen Coffee retirement was puzzling, but it's not a huge loss; as my friend Travis said on FB chat today "Coffee f******g sucked...I don't give a s*** about that...He was soft." I tend to agree with him for the most part.)

Pros of Acquiring Guillen

1.) People say Guillen doesn't provide much more offense than Aaron Rowand they're probably right. Let's look at some advanced numbers on the two players:

Guillen: .325 wOBA, 100 wRC+, 0.32 BB/K ratio, .174 ISO, 0.7 WAR.
Rowand: .307 wOBA, 89 wRC+, 0.24 BB/K ratio, .154 ISO, 0.9 WAR.

Now, I know fans will say "His WAR is Higher!" in defense of Rowand, but remember, Rowand is playing for the Giants (a team that is winning) and Guillen played for the Royals (a team that isn't). As you can see though, Guillen is a better option than Rowand. Is he much better? No. Is he a better clubhouse guy? Probably not. However, the Giants need offense, and Guillen provides a better upgrade than what they currently have on the bench, which is Rowand and Nate Schierholtz (who, from what I heard, could be the "PTBNL").

2.) The Giants starting pitching is shakier than it was at this point last year, especially Tim Lincecum. Guillen makes the team more offensively average, which they may need after watching yesterday's game against the Cubs (e.g. the bullpen blew a 7-3 lead). The days of them winning 1-0 games is a lot less likely than a year ago.

Speaking of Timmy, Lincecum doesn't look like 2008 or 2009 Tim Lincecum but more like...well...2010 Tim Lincecum. (He has only two full seasons prior to 2010 for chrissakes!) His FIP (3.31) is almost a full point higher than last year (2.31) and his K/BB ratio (2.76) is over a full point lower than last year (3.84). Granted, this isn't necessarily an alarming thing. Lincecum was so good his first two years that anything less would look bad in comparison.

3.) Guillen shouldn't cost any prospects of note. Furthermore, he'll be a free agent after this year, so if he doesn't work out, then the Giants will be off the hook after the season ends.

Cons of Acquiring Guillen

1.) Guillen's lackluster defensive skills don't help the Giants and hence, the Giants defense is probably the biggest concern of this trade. While Guillen has been pretty decent for the Royals this season in right field (2.6 UZR), Guillen for the most part, has been a sub-par defender in his career (minus-22.4 career UZR). An outfield with Burrell, Andres Torres and Guillen is shaky, mainly because you're putting two iron gloves out there (Burrell and Guillen) and that puts more pressure on Torres and the pitching staff. Furthermore, right field isn't easy to play in San Francisco. If you don't believe me, ask the Pirates' Garrett Jones, who got owned by the wall on Aubrey Huff's early-season "Inside the Park" home run.

The Giants have been successful this year because they have had one of the top defenses according to UZR. Guillen isn't going to bolster that UZR.

2.) He has power (career .171 ISO) but that's about it. Guillen doesn't draw walks (career 0.29 BB/K ratio) and he doesn't get on-base well either (career .322 OBP). In order to be worthwhile, Guillen is going to have hit dingers and fast. Granted, Burrell did that when he came over to Tampa, but can the Giants get lucky on three cast-offs in a row? (With Huff being the first.) That seems like a lot to ask and hope for.

3.) Guillen doesn't exactly have the most sterling clubhouse reputation. This year he openly complained about being benched and this year wasn't the first time something like that happened. He was suspended for the playoffs when he was with the Angels, and he was volatile his second year in Washington. Granted, Bruce Bochy is known for managing clubhouse knuckleheads well, but still...why risk it?

Granted, people will say that "chemistry" in baseball doesn't matter and to a point I would agree (just because baseball is such an "individual" sport). However, while good chemistry, in my opinion, won't bolster a team automatically, bad chemistry can certainly destroy a good team fast. If you don't believe me, look at what happened with the Giants when they acquired A.J. Pierzynski and Shea Hillenbrand.

Final Conclusion?

It's another low risk, potential high reward move by the Giants. They get a player with pop and they got him for "Fred Lewis to Toronto-esque" cheap. If Guillen doesn't work, the Giants can cut ties with him and there won't be much of a loss.

That being said, you have to like the way the Giants are playing. They're looking good and they're playing with confidence. So, you just have to ask, "Why mess with it if it isn't broken?"

Is it the worst deal of the year? No (Mark Derosa's

We have to wait and see, but I'm not optimistic. (Then again, I wasn't optimistic about Burrell either; I don't mind be wrong again if it results in the Giants winning.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Brian Sabean Finally Wising Up as Giants General Manager?

I hate to say it. I am as big a Sabean basher as the next McCoven commenter on McCovey Chronicles. For years, I felt he got too much credit as GM when the Giants were riding high and competing for the NL West Division title every year. I came to these feelings because of two things: A.) He had Barry Bonds, the best hitter alive, and B.) the NL West wasn't exactly flush with talented "management" (e.g. Sabes was the best of a mediocre bunch of GMs in the NL West at the time).

But, as I write this post, the Giants are 64-49, which is three wins better than where they were at last year after 113 games. They are one game back of the Padres in the NL West, which I never would have thought back in June when they looked like a dead lock for third or fourth in the division. They are one game up in the Wild Card race, and I like their chances considering Dusty Baker is managing the Reds (e.g. They are going to self-destruct at some point).

And, who deserves some credit?

Sabes. F'ing Sabes.

Those words don't come easy. However, just look at what he's done this year.

  • He signed an aging, "left for dead" ("I Spit on Your Grave"-style) Aubrey Huff to a one year deal worth three million dollars. Huff, a career DH prior to this season, was expected to play first base and provide the Giants with pop, though his projections were rather disheartening (Bill James projected a .338 wOBA and a 4.5 wRAA). What has Huff done? He has mashed (20 home runs), surpassing expectations offensively (his wOBA is .403 and his wRAA is 30) and defensively (he has played three positions and sports a cumulative 2.1 UZR). Huff has been the Giants MVP, and his WAR (4.2, which converts to about $16.9 million according to Fangraphs) proves it. And we all thought Nick Johnson (.330 wOBA; 0.1 WAR) was a better option in the off-season.
  • He passed on Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, more expensive free agent choices this off-season. Granted, some of it was out of his hands (Bay said straight up he didn't want to play in SF and Holliday was demanding too large a payday because his agent is Scott Boras), but Sabes made the right move by passing on the two, expensive sluggers. While Holliday looks to be worth his salt (4.4 WAR; .388 wOBA), Bay has been a tremendous disappointment (.144 ISO; .337 wOBA; 1.3 WAR).
  • He admitted he was wrong (not publicly, but in action), cut ties with Bengie Molina and by July 1st, Buster Posey was the everyday catcher, which every Giants fan wanted in the beginning of the year except the Molina family. And guess what? The move paid off. The Giants went 20-8 in July, the first time they won 20 games in July since 2000 and Posey has been a spark in the lineup (.387 wOBA; 2.4 WAR).
  • He signed Pat Burrell, though everyone thought (including myself) thought it was a dumb idea, that Burrell was done, and that he was just going to cause a logjam in the Giants lineup. I was totally wrong. Bruce Bochy finally decided that Aaron Rowand was benchable, Mark Derosa got surgery and sat out the rest of the year (a blessing in disguise; Derosa would have made the lineup situation worse), and Burrell came in rejuvenated and with a chip on his shoulder to prove the Tampa stint was a fluke. Burrell has posted a .377 wOBA as a Giant, has been a model teammate and has provided one of the best moments Giants fans have had against the Dodgers in quite a while.
  • And lastly, he stayed pat at the Trade Deadline, and didn't trade away any top prospects, even though everyone clamored that the Giants needed a bat. My argument for those pining for Jose Bautista or someone similar was this: Where would he play? I think Sabes realized that and decided to roll the dice on this offense, figuring that Pablo would turn it around at some point, which would cover the offense should Burrell and Posey cool (which sort of has happened). Second, the Giants have some special prospects, and I think Jonathan Sanchez is a special (not to mention affordable and under team control for two more years) pitcher, and to lose them for short-term gain would've been a travesty. If you don't believe me, look at how the Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez trades have turned out on the Giants end.

Granted, Sabes has made some blunders. Signing Molina was a bad decision. Signing Sanchez, despite his glowing recommendation from Mychael Urban (Urban said that Sanchez was a guaranteed for a .300 average and 10 home runs prior to the season and that we should "Book it." Not quite Urban. Not quite) was a bad decision (his .286 wOBA and 0.3 WAR echo that). Signing Derosa was a bad decision. Not doing enough medical research on Sanchez and Derosa in the off-season was a bad decision.

That being said, Sabes has improved on those mistakes (for the most part). He didn't stay hard-headed about improving the blunders he made earlier this year. In fact, we've seen Sabestradeable player" factory. He understands that they can help you win games NOW. I think Posey has showed him that, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some guys in the minors this year get shots at starting positions next year. A couple of years ago (last year even), we couldn't say that of Sabes. It would almost be guaranteed that a veteran would be starting on Opening Day, even if that veteran is a washed up Steve Finley.

Maybe this is all a flash in the pan. Maybe Sabes is just letting it ride because that's what he does: let things ride when they are working. Maybe he hasn't changed philosophies, but just ran out of options and got incredibly lucky with Huff, Posey and Andres Torres. Maybe this off-season, he'll fall into his same, dumb idiosyncrasies and re-sign Edgar Renteria to a one-year contract because he's been a "Great Giant" this season.

I don't know. I can't see the future. But in terms of the present, Sabes has finally earned my approval as the Giants general manager so far this season.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to use the rest room and throw up now.

So...Are You Alive?

Sorry for the long delay. I know. If you run a Giants blog, you shouldn't be having long "Freddy Sanchez Hitting a Home Run"-esque droughts in July and August, the heart of the season. But there have been a variety of factors I can't control (e.g. work, no internet access, etc.) that have prevented me from posting. That being said, new REGULAR posts will be coming back starting today. With so many Giants blogs out there, I'm sure you haven't missed out, but I just wanted to give a heads up.

Let's make it two in a row against the Cubbies. Who would've thought three years ago they would be this bad?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July Bullets: Posey and Bumgarner, Marichal's Debut, Ishikawa, and the Second Half

Okay, I know I haven't posted in a while. Two things have happened:

1.) I'm working right now and my schedule severely limits my free time.
2.) I don't really have acess to the internet either.

So, add those two things together and this is what you get. A blog with a post every couple of weeks, if that. I will be back on July 30th, so expect some more regular posts then, but for the time being, I'm just going to give you these bullets for now.

Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner Tearing It Up

Remember when Giants fans and management didn't want to call up these two for fear of exposing them too early in their development? Remember when we felt Bengie Molina and Todd Wellemeyer were adequate enough?

Well, don't we as Giants fans feel a little foolish.

Posey is making Giants fans forget all about Bengie. He has been on a tear lately, as evidenced by his team-leading (of players with 30 or more plate appearances) .409 wOBA and eight home runs. Posey is also looking incredible behind the plate, posting a 44 percent caught stealing rate so far. (In comparison, Molina's caught stealing rate was 23 percent before being traded.)

As for Bumgarner, he is 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA and is posting a K/BB ratio of 3.43. Yes, the K/9 rate isn't Timmy-impressive, but his BB rate is impressive at 1.87 and he is showing an impressive four pitch repertoire with a fasball averaging 90.5 MPH.

Of course, there are concerns. Bumgarner's contact rate is 85.2 percent, which is very high, and his BABIP is .268, so he is due to come back to earth, as his FIP (4.13) suggests. Posey's BABIP is also high (.356), but at the very least he is posting a good BB/K ratio (0.45) and he is making good contact (83.8 percent).

It's safe to say, Posey and Bumgarner are proving that the Giants have a bright future.

Anniversary of Juan Marichal's Debut Yesterday

Thanks to Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times, who gave me a link to a blog which remembered some impressive debuts from Luis Tiant to Bob Feller. The most impressive though? The "Dominican Dandy" Juan Marichal.

Here's  blurb fom Jaffe's post:

On July 19, 1960, Juan Marichal made his MLB debut, pitching a complete game one-hitter with 12 Ks. His Game Score of 96 is the highest known one for a MLB debut.

If you haven't, check out The Hardball Times. It's one of the best Sabermertric blogs out there.
Travis Ishikawa es en Fuego
I have always been a big believer in Ishikawa. The guy has a great glove and some good power, and finally, it seems as if he is finally realizing his potential.
Ishikawa has been on fire (which is what I say in sloppy Spanish above), as evidenced by his .394 wOBA. What has been the key to Ishikawa's success? A decreased strikeout rate (from 27.3 last year to 18.2 this year) and better and more contact at the plate this year. Ishikawa's swinging strike percentage has gone down from 2009 (from 13.1 percent to 8.3 percent this year) and his contact percentage is up (from 71.8 percent last year to 83.2 percent this season). Also, he is making good contact, as evidenced by a ridiculous 36.7 percent line drive percentage.
Now, this may just be a "Eugenio Velez-style" hot streak. Ishikawa only has 81 plate appearances and his line drive perecentage and BABIP (.397) are bound to come back to earth. However, it's nice to not only see Ishikawa get some playing time after spending most of the first half as only a defensive replacement, but to see him succeed as well.
Giants Off to Hot Start in Second Half
The Giants are currently 4-1 out of the gate in the second half and should be 5-0, if not for a blown call by the home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. They have won 10 of their last 12 games. Pablo Sandoval has been on a tear since the second half started and may be on his way to being Old Panda again. The Giants finally broke a bit of a hex, and beat the Dodgers in LA last night.
It's still early, but man...what a difference a couple of weeks make.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Which Snubbed Giants Have An All-Star Case to Make?

First off, congratulations to Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson for making the NL All-Star roster. I know Lincecum hasn't been as dominant as in years past, but take this into consideration: despite his "off-year" Lincecum is still ranked fourth in the National League in FIP (ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez actually). So, despite him probably not being as big a "shoe-in" as the past two seasons, Lincecum was certainly deserving of the berth. As for Wilson, I've been harping that he's been one of the league's best closers, and his numbers go beyond saves. In terms of FIP, he's the fourth-best reliever in the National League. That is a far cry from 2008, his previous All-Star season, when his FIP was 3.93.

However, there are some notable exceptions on this Giants roster. Aubrey Huff, Matt Cain, Andres Torres, and Juan Uribe are all names that deserved some All-Star attention, but didn't get the invite today. Unfortunately, it seems like any of them getting in is a long shot at this point. None of the Giants players listed are in the running for the fan "vote-in" (Heath Bell, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Billy Wagner, and Ryan Zimmerman were the final five candidates chosen).

So, which Giants players have beefs, and which ones probably aren't All-Star worthy? Let's break down each player's "candidacy."

Aubrey Huff
.290 average, 15 home runs, 47 RBI, .391 wOBA, 17.4 wRAA, 2.6 WAR.

Huff probably is the most legitimate All-Star out of all the Giants players snubbed. He is ranked behind only Joey Votto and Albert Pujols in terms of wOBA for NL first baseman, and his 17.4 wRAA is tied for fourth out of NL first basemen as well. In addition to his offensive skills, Huff has shown tremendous defensive ability (4.2 UZR/150 at first base; 7.5 UZR/150 in the outfield) and flexibility (he has started at first base, left and right field). Thus, it's no surprise Huff's WAR is 2.6, which values to about $10.4 million dollars, according to Fangraphs.

So, why isn't Huff an All-Star? He's coming off an atrocious year, and he is playing for a Giants roster that has made more noise for their pitching and LACK of offense. It's really unfair. Huff is doing what Adrian Gonzalez did a year ago, but while Gonzalez has gotten the respect, Huff's incredible first half has been swept under the rug by the fans, players and of course, Charlie "I hate the Giants players" Manuel.

To illustrate my point that Huff is an All-Star-caliber player this year? He has a higher wOBA than All-Star first base reserves Gonzalez (.386) and Ryan Howard (.367). And, Huff's WAR is almost one and a half points better than Howard's (1.3).

Did Huff Get Snubbed?
Huff deserved an All-Star berth, but this system for first basemen is flawed to begin with. The fact that Joey Votto didn't make the roster is a travesty. Huff, unfortunately, is a victim at a position where fans, players and managers value big flies and hype more than actual overall performance.

Matt Cain
6-7 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3.60 FIP, 2.1 WAR.

Cain was an All-Star last year, and his year this season has been pretty similar to his 2009. He still has been pretty lucky (.262 BABIP) and his high xFIP (4.70) suggest that he may be due for a tough stretch sometime soon, but Cain has still been solid as the Giants' second-best pitcher behind Lincecum. Cain has showed improved control (2.93 BB/9, the first time it's been under three in his career), and he has already thrown almost as many complete games (three) as last season (four).

The main difference between Cain of this season and Cain of last year has been the record. Last year, Cain went 10-2 in the first half of the season, and it seemed to ride him into an All-Star berth. Don't believe the record has any effect? Look at Ubaldo Jimenez, who's advanced numbers are actually LESS impressive than a season ago. What has gotten him into the All-Star game? His 14-1 record trumps his 6-9 record in the first half a season ago.

Much like Jimenez isn't a better pitcher than he was a year ago (though he certainly should have gotten more credit), Cain isn't much WORSE a pitcher in 2010 in comparison to 2009. It's just that the run support hasn't been great (typical for Cain) and he hasn't gotten as lucky.

Did Cain Get Snubbed?
The problem with Cain is that he may have not been an All-Star caliber pitcher last year if not for his 10-2 record. He doesn't have great strikeout stuff, and his BABIP shows that he has been lucky this year (though his 76.4 LOB percentage suggests he hasn't been as lucky as 2009, when his LOB percentage wasn't under 83 percent for the first three months of play). Cain is a very good pitcher, don't get me wrong. But is he an All-Star like Lincecum based on the numbers? That might be harder to prove, especially when Cain isn't ranked in the Top-15 of NL Starting Pitchers in terms of FIP.

Andres Torres
.275 average, .819 OPS, 15 stolen bases, .370 wOBA, 11.0 UZR, 3.0 WAR.

Torres would have been a great story for the All-Star team. The 33-year old journeyman who went from poor, free swinging slap hitter with the Detroit Tigers to patient, speedy hitter with pop to the Giants. Torres has all the credentials of an All-Star candidate: great speed (15 stolen bases on 18 attempts), great defense (27.1 UZR/150), excellent run generation (10 wRAA), and plate patience (0.68 BB/K ratio).

Unfortunately, the powers that be felt Michael Bourn and his .319 wOBA was a better candidate in the outfield (seriously, I hate this "Every team needs one All-Star" rule; the Fresno Grizzlies have more All-Star candidates than the Houston Astros).

Torres can certainly rank up there with the best outfielders in the National League. However, Torres unfortunately plays at a position where the talent level is very deep. Torres' wOBA ranks him 12th out of NL outfielders. Fellow All-Star Snubs like Andrew McCutchen and Colby Rasmus look to be far more enticing candidates than Torres, though Torres' defensive value does give him an edge (He has the second-best UZR out of NL outfielders).

Did Torres Get Snubbed?
When you look at him in terms of pre-season hype and offense alone? No. There are a lot better outfielders offensively than Torres (though that shouldn't take anything away from Torres' season). However, when you look at his defense, and add that with his offensive numbers? Torres looks a lot more like an All-Star-worthy player. Unfortunately, it's offense, not defense and overall value that generate hype for an All-Star berth, and that killed Torres' chances before it could get started.

Juan Uribe
.256 average, 12 HR, .335 wOBA, 2.6 wRAA, 1.6 WAR.

Would you believe me if I told you that Uribe, going into today, was the third-best shortstop in terms of wOBA? Would you believe me if I told you that Uribe has been better offensively than Jose Reyes, who made the All-Star team, and Uribe's higher wOBA and wRAA prove it?

Well, it's the truth, and though he has cooled recently, Uribe still could make an argument that he has been one of the National League's better shortstops this season. Uribe has hit with some surprising pop (12 home runs) and he has done this despite his BABIP (.262) being shockingly low (the league average is .299 and his BABIP last year was .325).

Did Uribe Get Snubbed?
I love Uribe, but no. He didn't. The National League shortstop position is shockingly shallow in terms of talent beyond Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez. Uribe is simply the best of a rather mediocre bunch. Furthermore, Uribe's minus-6.6 UZR/150 at shortstop this year has killed any overall value he might have, and despite a high BB/K ratio (0.57), he has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone this year (32.2 percent in comparison to 31 percent last year) and has a higher whiff percentage in 2010 (12.2 percent) than in 2009 (11.5 percent). Uribe is a solid utility infielder to have, but he's no All-Star.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Is Jonathan Sanchez Worth Trading Away?

First off, I consider myself to be a big Jonathan Sanchez fan. I've been a fan of him since he burst on the scene in 2006, appearing in 27 games with the Giants his rookie season. Sanchez strikes me as a special player. On stuff alone, he is surprisingly good. Sure, he doesn't rock it up in the high 90's, but his K/9 has been over eight since 2007. The man knows how strike guys out.

However, like most pitchers with great strikeout stuff, Sanchez has been haunted by control issues. In fact, saying he has control issues is an understatement. That's like saying Lady Gaga doesn't know how to dress "properly" at a baseball game.

Sanchez's career BB/9 is 4.59 and his career K/BB ratio accordingly is 2.01. Those aren't exactly impressive, and aren't necessarily indicators of future dominance. Sure, the strikeouts are nice, but in order to really be something special at the Major League, a pitcher has to be able to throw strikes. Ask Omar Minaya and Mets fans about taking risks and giving a lot of money to a high strikeout pitcher with control issues (cough...Oliver Perez...cough).

So, much like last season, Sanchez's name suddenly has become a hot topic in terms of trade talks. After all, the Giants do have Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner is finally learning the Major League ropes at the end of the rotation. Sanchez could develop into a solid pitcher, but he has been too inconsistent in his career for Giants fans and management to be certain.

Furthermore, Sanchez's value has never really been higher.

If you look at the standard numbers, Sanchez blows away his first half stats from a year ago. By the All-Star break in 2009, Sanchez had a 3-8 record, a 4.69 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP (and that was INCLUDING the No-Hitter against the Padres). This year, Sanchez sports a 6-6 record, a 3.26 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. That's a vast improvement from where he was at this point last season (or at least according to the standard numbers).

The dilemma last year was trying to sell Sanchez despite his stats looking awful. This year, the Giants don't have that dilemma. The Giants can dish Sanchez, and I'm sure many teams will be happy to take the hook. However, before Giants fans and management are ready to trade away the Puerto Rican lefty, they have to ask themselves three things before making such a deal:

1.) What can we get in return for Sanchez?
2.) How will Sanchez perform for the rest of the season?
3.) How much do we trust Madison Bumgarner?

The first question is the most obvious one. Rumors have circulated that there could be a possible Sanchez and Thomas Neal (who's tearing it up now in Richmond after a slow start) for Prince Fielder deal. ESPN's Buster Olney has shut down such speculations, saying that Sanchez simply wouldn't be enough and that Matt Cain would have to be a centerpiece in the deal (which isn't or at least shouldn't happen).

With Fielder out of the way then, the most likely scenario in a trade involving Sanchez would either involve David DeJesus or Jose Guillen, both names that have been linked to possible trades involving the Giants. Though the outfield is crowded, DeJesus would be a solid fit (as Fangraphs writer Dave Cameron points out). Guillen on the other hand, wouldn't (too much of a fluke year this season, and he's starting to decline too).

In terms of the second point, right now it's tough to tell. Sanchez's success this year has been dependent on his April, which was very good. In April, Sanchez posted a 12.21 K/9, a 2.54 K/BB ratio and had a 2.14 FIP in 24.1 IP. However, in May and June, he has sported FIP totals of 4.27 and 4.63, respectively, and his K/BB ratios have been under two the past two months as well.

Then again, Sanchez did bounce back in the second half, so Giants fans can expect the same, right? Well, Sanchez right now is on pace for setting a career high in terms of innings (ZiPS has him finishing at 177 IP; his previous high was last year when he threw 163 IP), so it's tough to tell whether or not he can return to that second half for from a year ago. We just don't know how he'll hold up as he pitches more innings (though 177 isn't THAT bad of a load).

Furthermore, Sanchez's contact rates at are a higher total than last season (77.3 percent in comparison to 73.8 percent last year) and his swinging strike percentage is down as well (from 10.9 percent to 9.4 percent). This would be okay if he was throwing strikes, but unfortunately, he isn't (his strike zone percentage is down to 45.9 percent, the lowest of his Major League career; it was 48.3 percent a season ago).

As for the last point, if the Giants deal Sanchez, the pressure will be on Bumgarner to step up and be the fourth starter immediately (which would mean a return of Todd Wellemeyer or Joe Martinez to the starting rotation). That is a lot of pressure to put on Bumgarner, especially when you consider a.) He's only 21 years old and b.) He's only pitched 24 total innings at the Major League level.

If the team has playoff aspirations, they are going to need Sanchez. And, even if they don't have playoff aspirations, it would serve them better to hang onto Sanchez (who still has two years left of arbitration) for next season, rather than going out and spending MORE money on a free agent pitcher to fill the fifth spot next year. Bumgarner is going to be a solid pitcher, but they need to develop him a little more in the Majors, for he is going to be susceptible to getting hit (as we have seen in his first two starts this year) until he perfects his secondary pitches more. Sanchez is more of a sure deal, even if he can be erratic at times.

In my opinion, unless the Giants can make a play at Fielder (which I think is highly unliklely), the Giants should stay pat and stick with Sanchez. Is he going to bounce back in the second half like he did in 2009? I don't know, but for next season, Sanchez is a cheap, valuable option that the Giants would benefit from in the rotation (his WAR is still 1.5, which values at six million;  he'll probably makes about half of that in arbitration next year).

And, if the Giants want to stay in the playoff hunt, Sanchez needs to stay on this roster. Bumgarner and Wellemeyer/Martinez at the end of the rotation isn't going to get them into the postseason. But Sanchez and Bumgarner?

I think Giants fans can agree the chances are better with the latter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What the Bengie Molina Trade Means for the Giants

It's a great day for Giants fans today. Sure, Bengie Molina going to Texas for Chris Ray finally opens up the catching job for Buster Posey, something Giants fans have been clamoring for since Spring Training. Yes, the Giants get another arm in the bullpen, something that can't be taken for granted.

However, I think this trade means something more than just those two things above.

Today, the Giants youth movement should begin for the remainder of the season.

Of course, I say "should" because this is a team managed by Bruce Bochy and a team run by Brian Sabean. Bochy's affinity for veterans has been well-reported since his Padres days and Sabean is always itching to pull the trigger on deals at the Trade Deadline.

However, this latest series against the Dodgers showed that the Giants, unfortunately, are pretenders more than contenders in the National League West. At 40-37, the Giants have lost five straight and sit 5.5 games back in the NL West behind the division-leading Padres. They are 8-17 against the National League West (2-12 against the Dodgers and Padres) and fell from second to fourth after the Dodgers series. Unfortunately for Giants fans, they seem to be heading in the opposite direction momentum-wise in comparison to the Dodgers and Rockies, not a good thing considering how much better those teams are set up offensively.

The Giants may still "be in this thing" but they are hanging on by a thread, and it is only a matter of time before the wheels officially come off on this Giants wagon that has been teetering for so long.

And I think the Molina trade is a sign that the Giants management realizes that...finally.

The Giants really should be in "sell" mode this trade deadline, with all the veterans available for a certain price. Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria and even Freddy Sanchez should all be "trade-able" should a "contender" be calling. The Giants should have continued their rebuilding process last year, and started the whole "trade veterans for prospects" ordeal in 2009. A fluke season prevented that and put the organizational plan back a year. This year, the Giants have no excuse.

This isn't a bad thing for the Giants. There is young talent on this team and in this organization. Posey is one of the top catching prospects in the game. John Bowker is hitting .330 with nine homes runs and a 1.064 OPS since being demoted back to Fresno. Nate Schierholtz is one of the better defensive outfielders in the game (18.2 UZR/150) and has honed is free-swinging approach from a season ago (0.72 BB/K ratio).

And down on the farm? Ryan Rohlinger, Matt Downs and Tyler Graham have also proved to be too good for the Pacific Coast League this year with the Grizzlies, and in Double-A Richmond, Thomas Neal is finally coming back to form after a slow start this season in the Eastern League. He is currently hitting .288 with a team-leading eight home runs and 43 RBI.

The Giants youngsters should be given a chance, and that chance should be now. This organization has nothing to lose. The Giants have already given the chances to the vets, and as of today, they haven't gotten the job done and it doesn't seem as if they will get the job done either in 2010. The young players in this organization can provide upside, and even if many of them struggle for the remainder of the season, they will gain valuable experience for 2011.

Of course, it all comes down to whether the organization will want to do this or not. I have a feeling Bochy won't concede and thus, managing partner Bill Neukom has a decision to make. Does he continue to trust in Bochy and his "blocking the future" ways? Or does he send a message and have Bochy packing his bags like Molina?

It'll be very interesting for the Giants this July. There certainly will be pressure on the Giants to make a deal, and we have already heard the names pop up (David DeJesus, Jose Guillen and even Prince Fielder). However, that shouldn't be the course for the Giants. One guy can't rescue this team and push them into the playoffs. This team has too many holes too fill, and the holes simply can't be filled in the span of one month.

As a Giants fan, all I can say is this to Sabean and the Giants organization: don't waste the money. Go young, save the cash, and if anything, start stockpiling for the future. There's no shame in it. The Rays, Marlins and A's have done it, and the results have been kind to them.

Yes, Posey finally takes his place behind the plate. That is the immediate result of the Molina trade. However, this Molina trade goes beyond Posey. It should trigger more playing time for MORE young players on this Giants roster.

We'll see in a month if that happens.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ten Things Giants Fans Should Know Before the Start of the Dodgers Series

All right! Dodgers-Giants starts today. Usually when it comes to baseball, I don't get super-psyched about certain things. I like to keep things in perspective, because a baseball season is a So, as psyched as I would like to get about hot starts (e.g. Pat Burrell), I try to keep it in perspective because I know for every hot start that's bound to cool (as we have seen from Nate Schierholtz this year...though Schierholtz should still be playing), there's a slump a player is bound to break out of (I'm mostly pointing this out to all those Panda haters on Twitter).

That being said, Dodgers-Giants is different. It's baseball's oldest, most competitive and most heated rivalry. The only reason more fans don't know that is because Red Sox-Yankees gets all the headlines on ESPN, and the rivalry is on the West Coast. I can't blame the East Coast fans though. It's kind of hard to get psyched about a rivalry when most of the games start at 10 p.m. on their side of the country.

However, for the West Coast baseball fans, and especially Giants fans, here are 10 things you should know before the series' first pitch tonight.

1.) The Giants and Dodgers are separated by 0.5 games in the NL West.

We're rough 75 games into the season and the Giants and Dodgers are fighting for that second spot currently behind the first place Padres, who lead the NL West by 4.5 games. Granted, the season is still very early, so whether or not the Giants or Dodgers come out on top is really trivial at this point. However, getting a series win over the Dodgers would be nice, and would give them some much needed momentum as they head into the All-Star break.

2.) Zito, Cain and J. Sanchez will be on the hill for the Giants this series.

It's too bad Lincecum pitched the rubber game of the Red Sox series, but the Giants still bring a solid rotation into this series. There are concerns of course: Zito has bounced back in June a little bit (2.45 K/BB ratio; 4.63 xFIP) after a rough May (1.07 K/BB ratio; 5.51 xFIP), but he's still far from his April-form (2.71 FIP; 4.14 xFIP). Cain is coming off his worst start of the year (2.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER), and J. Sanchez is well...J. Sanchez.

3.) Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers is one of the league's best closers.

Don't believe me? He has a 7 K/BB ratio, a 0.93 FIP and a 1.93 xFIP. And he's doing this despite posting a .395 BABIP. Sure, I hate saying it because he's a Dodger, but if the Giants get into the ninth behind, chances are, Broxton's not blowing it.

4.) Edgar Renteria is hitting well since returning off the disabled list.

Renteria may be the key to this series, which I hate to say because it will mean the benching of either Pablo Sandoval or Buster Posey (The Giants won't bench Juan Uribe, but considering he's their main power source, I wouldn't want them too). In his past seven games, Renteria has 10 hits including 3 doubles, and has drawn four walks in 28 plate appearances. Who knows how long Renteria will be on the Giants (I think he'll be good trade bait at the Trade Deadline), but he could have a surprise impact this series.

5.) Sandoval could see the bench in a couple games this series.

It hasn't been a great month for the Panda, which makes two bad months in a row. In 94 plate appearances this month, he has a .226 average, a .280 wOBA and a .119 ISO (Eli Whiteside has a higher ISO than Sandoval). Those numbers, along with the cries of the panicking Giants fans out there and Renteria's hot return may doom Sandoval, which is a shame because he was an emotional sparkplug in last August's series at AT&T Park when he challenged Dodgers pitcher James MaCdonald after an inside pitch.

6.) Manny Ramirez is the Dodgers hitter to watch.

In the month of June, Manny is hitting .333 with four home runs and has a wOBA of .420 and a wRC of 17.0. Considering how much of an impact Manny had last year, this is definitely frightening to see for Giants fans.

7.) Matt Kemp is struggling badly this June.

Kemp may have kissed his All-Star status goodbye after a miserable June. His wOBA is .253 and he has a BB/K ratio of 0.25. Kemp hasn't shown much power either, as evidenced by his .130 ISO. Kemp had a big impact in last year's August series at AT&T Park, so hopefully, his cold streak will continue for the remainder of June.

8.) Other than Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo, the Dodgers bullpen is a mess.

George Sherrill has a xFIP of 5.93 in June. Carlos Monasterios has a xFIP of 6.25. Those were two relievers who were supposed to have a big impact for the Dodgers this year and they haven't lived up to expectations. Add that with their implosion against the New York Yankees at home last night, and it's easy to see why the Dodgers bullpen won't have a lot of momentum as they play the Giants tonight.

9.) John Ely has been mortal in June.

Remember the 1.71 FIP Ely of May? Well, he's been far from that form in June. His FIPBABIP (.259 in comparison to .293 in May). Ely has struggled with control immensely this June, as evidenced by his 1.50 K/BB ratio. Ely will start the second game of the series against the Giants on Tuesday. Hopefully, Ely will be close to June form, which could help Cain notch his first career win against the Dodgers (0-7 lifetime against LA).

10.) The Giants still lead the overall regular season series.

The Giants have won 1,080 games in the history of this series. The Dodgers have won 1,068. Giants still up by 12 games. That still counts in my book.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Better in Defeat: Comparing Madison Bumgarner's 2009 and 2010 Giants Debuts

Finally, Madison Bumgarner was called up and made his first start of the 2010 season and second start of his career. I must say, for Giants fans, it was a bit of a nerve-wrecking occasion. If his 2009 debut was filled with excitement and hope, then the 2010 version may have been one filled with dread and worry.

After all, after the failed experiment of Todd Wellemeyer so far this year, and with neither Joe Martinez, Eric Hacker or Kevin Pucetas the long-term solution, a lot of pressure rested on Bumgarner in his debut tonight against the Red Sox. If he did well, then he may have earned his spot in the Giants rotation for the remainder of the season. If he got shelled, well...then it would be back to Fresno, and the Giants would be shopping for a fifth starter by the trade deadline (which would undoubtedly mean more trades of prospects...sigh).

Well, how did he do? If you judge him by the loss and the two home runs and four runs allowed, then I can see why you might consider his 2010 debut a bit of a disappointment. However, Giants fans must keep two things in mind.

1.) He allowed all four runs in the first two innings and looked a lot better the next five innings. In fact, if you think about it, the notion that he went seven innings despite allowing four runs, four hits and a walk in the first two innings shows how efficient Bumgarner was from the third-through-seventh. Hence, rough start, but great finish in Bumgarner's debut (which evens out to above average, if not borderline good, start).

2.) This start was a heck of a lot more impressive than his 2009 Major League debut.

Sure, he allowed less runs in his first professional start against the Padres. Yes he was in line for the win in that start until the bullpen imploded against San Diego.

Look at the advanced pitch numbers from both starts though. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball's Pitch F/X tool.)

Bumgarner's 2009 Start against the Padres

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball)88.1190.44.008.094831 / 64.58%2 / 4.17% 0.86530.424
CH (Changeup)85.8587.67.454.4143 / 75.00%1 / 25.00% -0.24730.436
SL (Slider)78.9488.3-2.422.361812 / 66.67%0 / 0.00% -0.66330.475
FC (Cutter)77.0377.7-4.673.5241 / 25.00%0 / 0.00% 0.04850.481
FT (TwoSeam Fastball)81.3081.37.224.1911 / 100.00%0 / 0.00% -0.06240.455
Pitch classifications provided by the Gameday Algorithm and may be inaccurate.

Pitch Type LWTS correspond to how many runs were likely to score on a particular pitch based on average run expectancy when each pitch was thrown and what happened as a result. Negative scores indicate more effective pitches.

Time to Plate is the time, in seconds, that it takes an average pitch of this type to reach the plate. This is strongly correlated with velocity, but also factors in movement.

Bumgarner's 2010 Start Against the Red Sox

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball)89.7092.44.149.205640 / 71.43%0 / 0.00% -0.01610.417
CH (Changeup)81.1881.96.036.1754 / 80.00%1 / 20.00% -0.34720.462
SL (Slider)82.4285.2-1.722.611711 / 64.71%2 / 11.76% 0.19380.454
CU (Curveball)71.7973-6.70-4.2297 / 77.78%1 / 11.11% -0.50030.526
FC (Cutter)85.1085.3-1.914.9720 / 0.00%0 / 0.00% 0.07490.437
FT (TwoSeam Fastball)80.6981.96.585.0274 / 57.14%0 / 0.00% -0.50740.460
Pitch classifications provided by the Gameday Algorithm and may be inaccurate.

Pitch Type LWTS correspond to how many runs were likely to score on a particular pitch based on average run expectancy when each pitch was thrown and what happened as a result. Negative scores indicate more effective pitches.

Time to Plate is the time, in seconds, that it takes an average pitch of this type to reach the plate. This is strongly correlated with velocity, but also factors in movement.

A few things really jump out when you compare these two graphs:

1.) Bumgarner's velocity is back up, which has been the worry about Bumgarner since his debut last year. Last September, Bumgarner was averaging 88.1 MPH on the gun and was only topping out at around 90. Against the Red Sox? The average velocity was 89.7 MPH and he was topping out at around 92.4 MPH, which was what the scouts were reporting this year (nothing came out about his velocity before his debut last season).

2.) Bumgarner mixed it up with his pitches this time around. Last year, of the 75 pitches he threw, 48 were four-seam fastballs (64 percent) and 18 were sliders (24 percent). Hence, Bumgarner showed little pitch variety in his professional debut, which was a worry because he didn't have the velocity to back up such a limited pitch repertoire. Today though? He threw 96 pitches total, showed six pitches (in comparison to five last year) and threw only 56 four-seam fastballs (58.3 percent) and 17 sliders (17.7 percent). What was even more impressive was the fact that he threw 23 pitches (24 percent) that weren't four-seam fastballs or sliders, a increase from the nine (12 percent) he threw last year.

3.) Last year, Bumgarner had only three swinging strikes of the 75 pitches he threw last September, which totals to about four percent. Today, Bumgarner had four swing and misses (4.2 percent). The Major League Average is about eight percent, so in terms of getting guys to whiff, Bumgarner has been below average in both of his starts. Hopefully, he'll continue to develop the secondary pitches and continue to have confidence in them, because from the look of it, he isn't and probably won't be a pitcher that can overpower or fool people at the plate.

Another interesting thing to take a look at (I would put it on here, but I don't want things to get too graph heavy, so I'll just hyperlink) would be the inning-by-inning breakdowns of his 2009 and 2010 starts. He definitely was a lot more efficient in terms of throwing strikes, even with the shaky first two innings and all.

Overall, the numbers from today are solid, though far from spectacular. If anything, Bumgarner may be ready to take the fifth spot in the rotation for the remainder of the year, simply because I think he's a better option than Wellemeyer or Martinez. (And at the very least, it would almost force Bruce Bochy to play Buster Posey behind the plate more since they were battery mates in Fresno.)

However, like I've mentioned before on this blog, people expecting Bumgarner to be the next Tim Lincecum may be vastly disappointed if you judge him on his first two Major League starts. He simply hasn't shown (and most likely just doesn't have) a strong ability to strike people out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fredi Gonzalez's Firing Should Turn Up the Heat on the Giants' Bruce Bochy

I can't say I'm surprised that Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria decided to fire manager Fredi Gonzalez. This is an owner who fired manager Joe Girardi, even though Girardi won Manager of the Year honors that same year. This is an owner who won two titles in Florida, only to dismantle the team completely the following year. This is an owner who campaigned for a new stadium when he was the owner of the Montreal Expos, didn't get what he wanted, and bailed on the Expos, hence killing baseball officially in Montreal.

Loria is a terrible owner. The only reason he isn't put up there with the Chris Cohans and Donald Sterlings (Sorry the NBA Draft is on my mind) of the world is because he actually got bailed out by two world championships. Sometimes even the bad get lucky, I guess.

That being said, Gonzalez's firing is a big deal and should be a big deal to Giants fans.

Gonzalez and Bochy both took over the Marlins and Giants, respectively, in the 2007 season. Both teams were under similar rebuilding circumstances. The Marlins were expected to compete in the NL East despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, while the Giants were looking to start afresh in the Post-Barry Bonds era.

Well, here is Gonzalez and Bochy's records as manager going into today:

Gonzalez: 276-279, .497 W-L % (in 555 games as manager of the Marlins).
Bochy: 270-287, .485 W-L % (in 557 games as manger of the Giants).

While neither Bochy nor Gonzalez went to playoffs the past three plus seasons as managers, Gonzalez did have a better record at the time of his firing and actually had two plus .500 seasons entering 2010 (unlike Bochy who had only one).

What has been Gonzalez's undoing? His clash with superstar Hanley Ramirez, in addition to his disagreements with owner Loria.

Gonzalez publicly chastised Ramirez after a booted ball, and promptly took him out after the inning was over. Ramirez lashed out, called out Gonzalez's Major League "experience" and before he knew it, Gonzalez was fighting a battle he couldn't possibly win. Even though the situation was apparently "mended" it was obvious that Gonzalez's time as manager was ticking in Florida.

To credit Bochy, he has a reputation of managing the clubhouse. After the days of Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou, where clubhouse tension was obvious and very public, Bochy has calmed all that down and has kept whatever issues they have in the clubhouse only.

Other than that though, Bochy's profile as Giants manager has paled in comparison to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez took the young players he was given by GM Larry Beinfest, and has given them every day playing opportunities. Chris Coghlan comes up? He gets everyday playing time. Mike Stanton comes up? He gets every day playing time. He has been pretty consistent playing young players in this Marlins organization, and the Marlins have competed, despite the lack of "experience" on their roster.

That is a far cry from Bochy's managing style. While GM Brian Sabean made the ill decision to re-sign Bengie Molina, Bochy has absolutely handled the Buster Posey situation poorly. Posey is prevented from playing catcher (which the Giants paid and drafted him to do, or else they wouldn't have given him a $6.25 million signing bonus, a Giants record) and now, it seems he may be doing platoon duty with Pablo Sandoval, who is having a down season himself. He has benched guys quickly either due to slow starts (John Bowker) or slumps (Nate Schierholtz), and has given countless opportunities to veterans (Molina, Aaron Rowand, etc.) who have not made the most of their chances.

The Giants and Marlins were supposed to be rebuilding. One manager did a good job of handling the rebuilding. The other has done a poor job, and the records prove the point further.

I don't think you have to guess very hard who I'm talking about.

Granted, I don't know who's really calling the shots. Is it Sabean telling Bochy to play the older, more paid vets? Or is it Bochy making the calls by himself? Either way, this is disappointing. After a second straight loss to Houston today, it is obvious this team is on shaky ground. Unfortunately, the Giants most likely are going to handle it the wrong way: by adding more veterans and dishing out more prospects by the trade deadline. By August, I wouldn't be surprised to see more veterans seeing the field, and more young, cheaper prospects either rotting on the bench or in Fresno.

I guarantee you Gonzalez would have handled this roster a lot differently than Bochy would, and I guarantee as well that the Giants would have been a whole lot more successful to boot. Sure, Gonzalez wouldn't have pleased Rowand or Molina as much as Bochy has, but the youngster would have played and got the opportunities they never would have had under the Giants' current manager.

It's too bad there's another year left on Bochy's contract. By 2012, it's almost certain that a manager like Gonzalez would be off the market.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How Does the Giants' Tim Lincecum Stack Up Against the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez?

The hot talk this year has been all about Ubaldo Jimenez, and for good reason. In addition to throwing the season's first no-hitter, he has a 13-1 record and a 1.15 ERA going into today's start against Boston. Chances are, if there is any Cy Young talk, Jimenez is always the first guy mentioned.

However, would you believe me if I said that on paper, Tim Lincecum's 2010 is more impressive than Jimenez's?

First off, this is strictly a look at the numbers. I'm not saying Lincecum has been better than Jimenez or that Jimenez isn't impressive. Jimenez's stuff is incredible (he averages 96.5 MPH on his fastball), and I think Giants fans can attest to that after watching him dominate at AT&T Park earlier this year.

Other than the eye test though, as well as the wins and ERA (which as we all know, can be flawed measures of evaluating a pitcher's success), Jimenez's numbers pales in comparison to Lincecum.

Let's take a look at some of the advanced numbers for both pitchers.

Jimenez: 7.82 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 2.44 K/BB, 0.27 HR/9, .185 AVG., 1.00 WHIP, 91.2 percent LOB %, 2.94 FIP, 3.62 xFIP.
Lincecum: 10.10 K/9, 3.49 BB/9, 2.90 K/BB, 0.45 HR/9, .226 AVG., 1.21 WHIP, 76.7 percent LOB %, 2.73 FIP, 3.14 xFIP.

Lincecum dominates Jimenez's in the strikeout department, and while Jimenez has an advantage in the walks department, it really doesn't make that much of a difference (for Jimenez's K/BB is still lower than Lincecum's). I find the most startling stats his FIP and xFIP numbers, which are higher than Lincecum's. For as dominating as Jimenez's stuff has been, it seems, just looking at his FIP numbers, that he has gotten a lot of help from his defense and has gotten luckier in comparison to Lincecum. I believed this even more when I took a look at this stat:

Jimenez: .239 BABIP.
Lincecum: .313 BABIP.

Jimenez's BABIP is 63 points BELOW the league average, while Lincecum's is 11 points ABOVE league average. As good as Jimenez has been, there is no way he can sustain a BABIP that low for the remainder of the season. Yes, a good defense behind him, and the lack of good contact against him (his line drive percentage is 13.8 percent, while Lincecum's is 22 percent) may explain why hitters haven't been able to find hits against Jimenez. However, in the grand scheme of things, Jimenez's BABIP will only go up, which will affect his other numbers such as ERA and wins (unless the offense picks him up, which is possible because the Rockies have a good offense).

Another reason why I like Lincecum more than Jimenez this season? Lincecum has allowed less contact to hitters in 2010 than Jimenez. Lincecum has a contact rate of 72.2 percent this year, and a swinging strike percentage of 11.9 percent. Jimenez on the other hand has a contact rate of 79 percent (almost two points higher than last season) and only has a swinging strike percentage of 8.5 percent (Jimenez has never had a swinging strike percentage in double figures, while Lincecum has never had a swinging strike percentage under 10 percent).

What does this mean? For as wicked as Jimenez's stuff is, he simply doesn't get batters to miss as much as Lincecum. While this is not necessarily a bad thing (as Greg Maddux showed), this kind of pitching style can be subject to inconsistency. Sure, Jimenez is dealing now because the balls are going to infielders. That being said, should the luck run out or the defense decline behind him, Jimenez's numbers will look far less impressive. As for Lincecum, because he can strike guys out more consistently, and induces less contact than Jimenez, his numbers will be more stable, because he's relying less on his defense and luck.

I'm not trying to take away anything from Jimenez. He has been impressive, and I've seen a lot of his starts, so I can attest visually, he's a real deal ace. In my mind, comparing Jimenez and Lincecum is like comparing "The Godfather" against "Goodfellas" in terms of which is the better mob movie. They're both good, but it's all a matter of opinion really. (And if those two are those movies, then Todd Wellemeyer is "Fatal Desire." Seriously, if you have Netflix, add it to your instant queue. It may be one of the most unintentionally funny Thrillers ever made.)

What I am trying to prove though is that Jimenez's season so far may not be as impressive as everyone would like to think, and that Lincecum's season may not be as down as some baseball fans would like to believe as well. Jimenez is bound to regress, and Lincecum is bound to take care of his control problems and improve.

Giants fans saw that last night from Lincecum against the Astros. I am interested to see how Jimenez will do against Boston tonight.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Poll Up: Which Giants Deserve to Make the NL All-Star Team?

Just a quick post. I put up a poll on the sidebar asking which Giants deserve to make the All-Star game in Anaheim this year. I narrowed it down to eight guys who have a realistic chance of making it:

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, and Andres Torres.

I left out Jonathan Sanchez from the list because of his inconsistency and Buster Posey and Pat Burrell because they don't have that many games under the belt.

You can vote for multiple guys on the list. In my opinion: I would think five guys are deserving: Lincecum, Cain, Wilson, Huff, and Torres. Uribe has been good, but I can't see him getting a boost over Troy Tulowitzki (who was an MVP candidate until he got hurt) and Hanley Ramirez (though he certainly is a better candidate than guys like Jimmy Rollins and Orlando Cabrera, as Crazy Crabbers notes). Also, I put Sandoval on this list more out of formality, since his year hasn't been as good as last season. As for Sanchez, he too has been awesome, but I'm not sure if his sample is large enough in comparison to other second baseman in the league.

Would love any input on your all-star picks. You can vote for real on It would be nice to see some Giants position players on the NL roster for once.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Is the Giants' Brian Wilson An Elite Closer?

Brian Wilson is a constant source of frustration for Giants fans. It has been a far too common sight to see Wilson struggle in the ninth with a one run lead, and load the bases either through a series of hits, walks and/or both. Sometimes Wilson closes the game out and the Giants win. Sometimes he doesn't and the Giants lose. To put it nicely, it is more comfortable for a Bruce Willis to watch Ashton Kutcher on the screen in the movie "The Killers" than for a Giants fan to watch Wilson in the ninth at times.

So, I can see why the talk of Brian Wilson being an elite closer may sound like hogwash. Believe me. If you asked me the same question in Spring Training, I would have given you an emphatic "No way" and would have believed that a sequel to "Striptease" was more likely. (Boy...I'm really running with the Demi Moore-Bruce Willis divorce jokes, huh?)

When you look at the stats though, can make the argument.

At the very least, Wilson has improved. During his All-Star season of 2008, Wilson posted 41 saves in 62.1 IP. However, his numbers other than his saves were far from impressive. He had a 4.62 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP, a K/BB ratio of 2.39 and a FIP of 3.93.

In 2008, he was closer to Matt Herges than Robb Nen in terms of Giants closers.

Last year though, he made tremendous strides. While he didn't make the NL All-Star roster, he certainly made a case that he deserved one by year's end. He did earn less saves than 2008 (38), but he pitched more innings (72.1 IP) and posted a better ERA (2.74), WHIP (1.20), K/BB ratio (3.07) and FIP (2.50).

And this year? He's on pace to surpass his already solid 2009 numbers, and has put himself in the discussion of perhaps earning a spot on this year's NL All-Star roster (Of course, that's if Charlie Manuel doesn't fill all the reserves with Phillies first).

First off, his K percentage is up (from 10.33 to 12.58) and his BB percentage is down (3.36 to 3.07), which has produced a stellar K/BB ratio (4.10). While his WHIP (1.23) is a bit underwhelming, his FIP (1.90), back up the assertion that he's been a better pitcher than what his 2.15 ERA says (which is always the challenge for relievers because ERA numbers can fluctuate so easily due to the lack of innings in comparison to starters).

The most startling stat? The fact that he is putting up these numbers despite having a BABIP of .375 (which is almost 75 points above the league average and 55 points higher than his BABIP last season).

What has been the secret to Wilson's success this year? Well, he's getting ahead in the count against more hitters for one.

In 2008, Wilson had a first strike percentage of 57.7 percent (below the league average of 58 percent). Last year, the percentage was 60.4. This season? His first strike percentage is 66.7 percent.

Why is this important? Being ahead of the count has paid dividends in allowing him to throw his slider more (7.9 percent in comparison to only 5.7 percent last year), which has become his most effective pitch this year. Sure, Wilson's fastball has some serious velocity (96.1 MPH), but his slider has been the better out pitch.

This year, his fastball is valued by Fangraphs at 1.26 runs above average per 100 pitches. His slider on the other hand? It is valued at 5.26 runs above average per 100 pitches. (Note: the higher the number, the better, like UZR; basically, think that it saves 5.26 runs above average per 100 pitches, for example.)

The solid repertoire of a fastball, slider and cutter (which he throws 27.1 percent of the time), has made Wilson a force to be reckoned with this year. According to ZiPS projections, Wilson is one pace for 70.1 IP. Those kind of innings logged would be beneficial to the Giants bullpen, which has struggled at times this year, especially Jeremy Affeldt, who was shelled again in his latest outing against the Blue Jays.

Now, Wilson may have improved from 2009 and yes, he may be a solid closer. That being said, I'm sure some naysayers are thinking "He's not one of the league's top closers and he's not an All-Star, either."

Let's take a look at some of the saves leaders in Major League Baseball.

Matt Capps of the Nationals is atop the league with 20 saves, Neftali Feliz of the Rangers and Kevin Gregg of the Blue Jays have 18 saves, and Heath Bell of the Padres, Jon Rauch of the Twins and Francisco Cordero of the Reds have 17 saves.

Those are the closers, along with Wilson, who are in the top-eight of the league in terms of saves.

However, how many of those top-seven guys, Wilson included, are in the top-ten in terms of FIP? One.

That one closer is Wilson.

How many of those guys are in the top ten in terms of xFIP?

Only Wilson.

So, Giants fans, as hard as it is for some to stomach, Wilson is finally a worthy successor to fan favorite Robb Nen. We had to suffer through Dustin Hermanson, Matt Herges and Armando Bentiez to get to this point, but the day of finally having a reliable closer in the ninth has come. Not only does he deserve a spot on the NL All-Star roster, but he deserves to be talked about when baseball fans talk about the league's best closers.

Because Wilson has been up there with the league's best so far in 2010, and he has the numbers (beyond saves) to back it up.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Look at Fred Lewis' Transformation as a Hitter in Toronto

The Blue Jays and Giants start a three game series tomorrow and I admit, I'm excited for it. I've been excited about it since April 15th:

Why? Because April 15th was the day the Giants traded a solid outfielder named Fred Lewis for $75,000 dollars.

Yep...a player with a career 4.5 WAR for chump change.

In many ways, I have gotten over it. Andres Torres has helped me get over it. Aubrey Huff has helped me get over it. Buster Posey's hot debut helped me get over it. John Bowker helped me find a new "he's getting hosed!" guy to support. (And he's from Sacramento, so that's a double-plus!)

That hasn't meant though I've completely forgotten about Fred. I've kept close tabs on him. I added him on my fantasy team for sentimental purposes. Heck, I even added a Blue Jays blogroll and adopted the Jays as my "Second Favorite team for the 2010 Season."

And, after watching Lewis this year...well...I'm surprised.

I'm not surprised that he's done well. He's always had the potential. I'm not surprised that Jays fans have taken a liking to him. He was always a class act.

I'm surprised by his dramatic change as a hitter.

Believe it Giants fans. Lewis is far from the same hitter he was in San Francisco. In fact, he's been the complete opposite of his usual self so far this 2010 season.

The numbers prove it.

The report on Lewis in San Francisco was this: he's going to strike out A LOT, but he has good speed and he's patient.

In the minors, Lewis had a career .383 OBP in 599 games. With the Giants, he had an OBP of .355 over three seasons. Furthermore, his other plate discipline numbers in his three seasons with the Giants prove the point that he was a very picky when it came to his approach.

In 2007, he posted a BB/K ratio of 0.59, had a swing percentage of 42 percent and an O-Swing percentage (swings at pitches outside the strike zone) of 21.2. In 2008, his BB/K ratio fell to 0.41 and his swing percentage rose to 43 percent, but his O-Swing percentage fell to 18.9 percent. Last year, he improved his BB/K ratio to 0.43, though his swing percentage rose to 44.4 percent and his O-swing percentage jumped to 19.4 percent.

It made sense though why Lewis was patient. He struck out a lot (his K percentage was 20.4, 26.5 and 28.5 percent from 2007-2009, respectively) and he didn't necessarily make contact as often as you would like (his contact percentage decreased from 84.3 percent in 2007 to 80 percent in 2008 to  77.6 percent). That being said, Lewis offered a skill set that a lot of Giants hitters didn't have at the time: he didn't give away strikes and he got on base. That was something the Giants certainly weren't seeing from other outfielders like Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn.

Since the trade to Toronto though, Lewis numbers look a little funny. His slash line is .291/.333/.814, and his plate discipline numbers look even more peculiar.

His O-swing percentage this year is 30 percent, a career high, and the first time in his Major League career when it's been above the league average. His swing percentage is 49.4 percent, the highest percentage since his rookie year in 2006 when it was 50 percent.

But you know what? It hasn't hurt him. Yes, Lewis is drawing less walks (his BB percentage is only 5.8 percent, almost five points lower than last year), still striking out a lot (27.7 percent exactly) and his BB/K ratio (0.23) and OBP aren't as comforting as they were in his Giants days. Yet Lewis is producing. His wOBA is .351. His wRC+ is 110. He has already matched his doubles total from last year (21) in 113 less plate appearances. His ISO at .189 is a career high by 31 points.

Lewis changed from a "patient, speedy hitter with not much power who strikes out a lot" in San Francisco to a "free swinging, speedy hitter with a little power who strikes out a lot" in Toronto. It's funny because Lewis was the kind of hitter that frustrated a lot of Giants fans for not being aggressive enough. Now, as a Blue Jay, he is ALMOST TOO aggressive. You wonder as a baseball fan if all that time he spent with Juan Uribe last year rubbed off on him at the plate when he migrated to Canada.

Now, Lewis isn't perfect. He has a minus-13.7 UZR/150 in the outfield this year with the Jays, which pretty much confirms to all the "Lewis Bashers" how bad a defensive player he is (his UZR in 2009 was 2.0). Do I think he's that bad? No, but his UZR/150 numbers two of the past three season have been negative, so the argument that he may be a GOOD defensive player may be invalid. At the very least he's average, or just slightly below and I think this year probably confirms that.

Despite his dropoff defensively, you have to feel happy for Lewis and the Blue Jays. Lewis has found playing time, and the Jays got a good player for peanuts. Maybe that's why Lewis is more aggressive now as a hitter with the Jays than his days with the Giants. Maybe he feels more relaxed. Maybe he knows manager Cito Gaston won't pull him out at the first sign of failure like Bruce Bochy would. Maybe he feels happier knowing that Blue Jays fans won't hound him every time he goes after a ball in the outfield like Giants fans did during the latter days of his career. Maybe he is more confident in Toronto because he's succeeding Jeremy Reed (who sucks) and not Barry Bonds (who is a legend).

Whatever the reason is, this is simple: Lewis, the Blue Jay, isn't the same Lewis we Giants fans knew and you know what? It's a good thing. It's nice to see a guy find a home, and it's nice to know that the Giants organization can develop good players (even if we may not play them as much as we probably should).

It will definitely be fun watching this Jays-Giants series the next three days. I can only offer Jays fans two things before the games start tomorrow:

1.) There are still some Giants fans that wish Fred was still a Giant and Eugenio Velez was still a Jay ( couldn't be helped).
2.) Sorry Jeremy Accardo, Merkin Valdez and Brian Bocock didn't turn out as well.