Sunday, January 31, 2010

My San Francisco Giants Wishlist for the 2010 Season

I know I probably should have done this around Christmas time, but I figured I'd do it now just for the hell of it. (Hey...Valentine's Day is coming up...we all wish for something on that day, right?)

So, to give a change of pace from all the analytical, sabermetrics-heavy stuff, I decided to do a list of 20 things I would like to see from the San Francisco Giants in 2010.

  1. I would like the Giants to make the Playoffs. They don't have to win the World Series (though if they make the playoffs, I will want them to win the World Series, of course), but I'll be more than ecstatic if the Giants can make the postseason. I still have memories of Jose Cruz Jr. I want those out of my head, or at least replaced by some other misfortune.
  2. I want Matt Cain to not fall off the face of the earth in 2010 after making incredible progress last year. I know his BABIP was low. I know he had a high strand rate. I don't expect him to be Tim Lincecum. I just want him to be a good second option and better than Noah Lowry.
  3. I want Noah Lowry to retire as a Giant. Why? Because I liked him...that's why. Then again, I said RETIRE as a Giant J.T. Snow style, not actually play as one.
  4. I want Fred Lewis to play. I do. I want him to play, I want him to succeed and I want him to say "F*** you!" to all those left field bums who heckled him day in and day out. He's no Gold Glover, but Giants fans booing their own players incessantly is uncalled for, especially when it's a guy as classy as Lewis.
  5. I want to own the season series against the Dodgers. Just beat LA as much as they can. Bragging rights against the Dodgers isn't so much to ask (especially after you watch all these Dodgers-Giants fans fights).
  6. I want Barry Bonds to come back to the Giants organization as some kind of front office member. You know, like Felipe Alou.
  7. I want Alyssa Milano to stop being a Dodgers fan. Seriously, I think she's awesome (I liked her in Fear a LOT...not for acting reasons though), and she looks so much better wearing Giants gear.
  8. I want Madison Bumgarner to have a decent year. I'm not expecting Cy Young, just solid numbers and a full, healthy season.
  9. I want Buster Posey to start by mid-season. That should be enough time for Posey to "learn" in Fresno.
  10. I want to see Zach Wheeler pitch. Can we somehow stream some Arizona rookie league games to Justin.TV?
  11. I want to go see a game at AT&T Park. I know, it's a modest request, but with my schedule, it could be very tough to do this summer.
  12. I want beer prices to drop at AT&T Park concessions. Seriously, $8.75 for a Bud Light! Who's making the prices? Mussolini?
  13. I want Tim Lincecum to be constantly in the discussion of the "Best Pitchers in Baseball" on Baseball Tonight. Seriously, two Cy Youngs in two years. Even the John "I probably should work out more" Kruk can't deny that.
  14. I want Pablo Sandoval to be an All-Star. He got screwed last year by David Wright (NY vote), Ryan Zimmerman (only good player on Washington) and Shane Victorino (won the fan vote). This year, he should be a shoe in. I hope he has that kind of season.
  15. I want to see Waldis Joaquin and Dan Runzler in the seventh. Runzler or Joaquin (depending on the lineup), Romo and Affeldt (depending on the lineup), and Wilson. That's one tough seventh, eighth and ninth inning bullpen.
  16. I want to see Joe Ezsterhas and Brian Sabean take a picture together. Angie Everhart from "Jade" can be in the middle for fun.
  17. I want Bruce Bochy to apologize to Giants fans during Spring Training for batting Bengie Molina in the cleanup spot last year. And for benching Nate Schierholtz for Randy Winn...and for playing Eugenio Velez so much...and for burying Fred Lewis...and for not playing Posey at all in his callup...I could go on forever you know.
  18. I want Livan Hernandez to NOT return to the Giants because we need to "ease" Madison Bumgarner along. Seriously, an 83 MPH fastball isn't the answer.
  19. I want Giants fans to remember next season that it's a 162 game season. Thus, we shouldn't freak out after every loss.
  20. And I want Will Clark to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. This clip explains it all.

So that's the list. Let's hope at least two or three can come true, right? Two or three is not a lot to ask...I hope.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Can Waldis Joaquin Break Out for the Giants in 2010?

We've heard a lot about Dan Runzler this off-season as being a breakout player, and a key component to the Giants' already steady bullpen next season.

Granted, there is good reason for the hype surrounding Runzler. Last year, in his short September callup, he absolutely dominated. In 11 appearances, he posted a 1.04 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and a K/9 rate of 11.42 (highest on the team).

Sure, he wasn't perfect. His FIP was high at 4.14, and his BB/9 rate and K/BB ratio left a little to be desired (5.19 and 2.20, respectively), but for the most part, Runzler has rightly deserved the hype going into spring training.

However, one young pitcher who could be just as interesting to watch next year, perhaps even more so than Runzler, might be Waldis Joaquin.

Now Joaquin isn't exactly an unknown. He was turning heads after his first Major League outing in Houston. That being said, with all the hype concerning Runzler, Joaquin has gone a little underneath the radar this off-season, and that shouldn't be the case for a guy who has the potential to be a solid contributor to the Giants' bullpen in 2010.

Granted, the kid is still a little raw. Joaquin is only 23 and has been playing ball "officially" for the Giants since 2005. Despite his youth and lack of experience though, he does offer a lot of upside for the Giants.

For starters, Joaquin throws some serious gas. Last season, Joaquin averaged the second fastest fastball on the Giants at 96.2 MPH (he followed only Brian Wilson by 0.4 MPH). Furthermore, he had a K/9 rate of 10.13, fifth highest on the team. And those strikeout numbers might not be a fluke either. Joaquin had a 14.40 K/9 rate and a 8.00 K/BB ratio in 10 IP with Fresno last season as well.

Joaquin still has plenty to work on going into spring training. He had a 5.91 BB/9 rate and a 1.71 K/BB ratio last season with the Giants, which are not exactly impressive numbers. And if that isn't enough, Joaquin's WHIP and FIP weren't particularly great either a 1.59 and 4.60.

Thus, Joaquin isn't exactly coming of an impressive cup of coffee stint in San Francisco if you look beyond his fastball velocity and strikeout rate. However, even though his 2009 stats may pale in comparison to a guy like Runzler, Joaquin did benefit (albeit, strangely) from a couple of factors that may work in his favor as he continues to develop in 2010:

1.) Joaquin suffered from an abnormally high BABIP at .332 in 2009.

Though Joaquin may be at risk to high BABIP numbers in the future because he induces a lot of groundballs (he had a 3.60 GB/FB ratio last season), chances are, it won't be that high again next season. In all likelihood, it will hover around the league average of .300.

2.) Joaquin has a solid variety of pitches.

In 2009, Joaquin threw three pitches with consistency: a fastball (which he threw 76.6 percent of the time), a slider (which he threw 13.7 percent of the time) and a changeup (which he threw 9.8 percent of the time). And if that isn't enough, Joaquin also had some value behind those pitches in 2009. Though his fastball wasn't as effective as it could have been (he had a -1.07 fastball runs above average per 100 pitches), his slider and changeup proved to be solid, though not spectacular, pitches (as evidenced by his 1.85 slider runs above average per 100 pitches and 0.59 changeup runs above average per 100 pitches).

Why is pitch variety and runs above average per 100 pitches important to look at in Joaquin's case? Well, Runzler really showed confidence in only TWO pitches last season: a fastball and slider (he threw the fastball 74.7 percent of the time and the slider 20.8 percent of the time). Granted, he does have a curve and change, but last season he only threw the pitches a combined 4.5 percent of the time.

So, Runzler had only two pitches last year. He must have been awesome with them, right? Well, not exactly. Though he had tremendous value behind his slider (he averaged 10.0 slider runs above average per 100 pitches), his fastball actually proved to be less valuable than Joaquin's at -1.39 fastball runs above average per 100 pitches.

(Also, for the record, Runzler put up a -3.51 curve ball runs above average per 100 pitches and -4.43 changeup runs above average per 100 pitches in 2009 as well. However, considering he threw the pitches so little, they were bound to have such little value).

Is Joaquin going to perform better than Runzler in 2010 for the Giants? I probably wouldn't bet on it. Runzler is a lot more polished than Joaquin with his control and command at this point.

(Then again, Runzler also had less time above Single-A than Joaquin, which makes one wonder if Runzler might need to develop a little more in Fresno or Connecticut to start off the year. Joaquin pitched in 44 games in Connectictut and Fresno in 2009, while Runzler only pitched in nine games in Double-A and Triple-A.)

Whatever happens with Runzler, this is certain with Joaquin: with Merkin Valdez and Justin Miller gone from the 2009 bullpen, a spot is open in the bullpen for Joaquin to contribute right away. And, even though his 2009 wasn't as impressive on paper as one would like to hope, Joaquin certainly has the tools to succeed in 2010.

With a 96-plus fastball and a three-pitch repertoire, Joaquin is more than capable of bursting onto the scene as a surprise stopper for the Giants.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Around the "Candlestick": Simmons Lists Giants, Top 50 Prospects, Panda in Sharks Jersey, Bautista Piece, Angel Villalona!

All right. Bored, and just been browsing around the net. So, I decided to shoot up some links of things I found on the net concerning Giants baseball. Some are creative; some are not. Give me a break. I can't focus with the Zags losing to the freaking Santa Clara Broncos. (Update: they won...thank you Kerry Keating for being the worst coach in the history of the WCC!)

Giants Are N0. 6 On Bill Simmons' Most Tortured Franchise List

Just saw this one this morning. Finally, Giants fans get some much due respect for being a tortured organization. I mean, we heard Red Sox fans moan for 86 years, and Cubs fans continually whine and get massive publicity for it (BTW they should lose their "Lovable Losers" title after the way they crucified Steve Bartman; blame Alex Gonzalez and you're crappy bullpen for the loss Cubs fans!). The Giants haven't won a title since moving to San Francisco for chrissakes! Why is there not a curse moniker for that? I'm sure Mad Dog would love one so he can have something concrete to vent his frustration at on his dying radio show on Sirius.

And to make matters worse, the Florida Marlins (I'm sure the state of Florida has forgotten about them...after all they're too fascinated with Tim Tebow and his "friends") have won two titles! (Ironically, they have beat the Giants in the playoffs in both their World Series runs in 1997 and 2003).

See what the Sports Guy says here:
You'd think a 66-year title drought, the Bonds/BALCO fallout, a borderline Level 1 loss in 2002 and having its first World Series home game in 27 years postponed by a devastating earthquake during batting practice of the first-ever Bay Area World Series would get the message out that, "Hey, we need to start including these guys in all future Tortured Sports Cities discussions." Can you be underrated/tortured? Apparently so.
Thanks Sports Guy. Giants nation salutes you.

Bumgarner and Posey Make's 2010 Top 50 prospects

Awesome. Just awesome. I know, I could say more, but what else can you say. Giants fans have known this for a year, so it really comes as no surprise to us that Bumgarner finished 10th and Posey fourth on Chris Mayo of's Top 50 Prospects for 2010. I really have only two beefs with the rankings:

1.) Bumgarner fell four spots from last year (he was the No. 6 prospect on last year's list). I know his fastball dropped in velocity in the second half last year, but this guy actually did well at the MAJOR LEAGUES last year in a short stint. Shouldn't that count for something?

2.) Why is Buster Posey's video only 15 seconds? Seriously, he's the number four prospect and all you can give him is 15 seconds, while the No. 49 prospect, the Dodgers' Ethan Martin gets a minutes and 23 seconds? Come on MLB Network!

Panda in a San Jose Sharks Jersey

My Spanish isn't spectacular, but I'm pretty sure the description on the Tweet photo says "Pablo Sandoval after visiting the San Jose Sharks' arena this Thursday." (They played the Blackhawks tonight).

See, three years of high school Spanish did teach me something. Also, I will say this...Sandoval looks better in a Sharks jersey than Jonathan Cheechoo in a Giants jersey.

An Introspective on Denny Bautista

What do I know about Bautista? Not much other than the fact that he's Pedro and Ramon Martinez's cousin. However, thanks to Give 'Em Stankeye for putting up a good piece that recalls the "baseball experts" ripping the Orioles a new one for trading him away to Kansas City for Jason Grimsely. Basically, they made Bautista sound like the next big thing.

How the times have changed Denny. How the times have changed.

Angel Villalona Strikes Out (awfully) in Minor League Game

Remember when Villalona was one of the top prospects in the Minors? Then he gained a tremendous amount of weight, was unable to tell the difference between a ball and strike, and involved himself in a murder case in the Dominican Republic. Has it reached Ugueth Urbina-status yet? No, but it will be tough for Villalona to come back after this latest incident, especially with other Giants in the system making tremendous progress while he is...well...not. Just watch the link and how he strikes out on three straight, bad pitches. Can you really see a guy make the Major Leagues with a plate approach like that?

John Shea jinx? I think you could say that...if there was such a thing. Maybe Giants fans can coin that term with a few more flops.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Which Giants Players Were Losers from Fall and Winter League?

The "Winners Post" got long, so I decided to split it up.

Like I said before, just because these players are "Losers" of Fall/Winter League doesn't mean that they buried themselves for next season. It was just something I noticed, plain and simple, and I just think numbers, regardless of the level, should be recognized. Do I think guys who were winners can tank in Spring Training? Yes. Do I think guys who were losers are capable of doing much better come March? Of course.

That being said, I also think vice versa as well, for I am an avid believer that some players are capable of transitioning solid Fall/Winter seasons into solid Springs and hopefully, regular seasons. You can't ignore numbers. I learned that in Business school. When you ignore numbers, you get a situation like Enron (the baseball equivalent would be Lance Niekro).

Now, onto the losers. I'll try to be gentle (and you'll want me to especially when you see who I put on the list).


Buster Posey:
Yikes! I blasphemed, right? No, not really. Posey had a really underwhelming 2009 campaign in Arizona Fall League. In 19 games and 71 AB, Posey posted a .225 batting average, a .683 OPS and hit only two home runs. That is not what Giants fans expected from Posey in Fall League, especially not after his incredible rise through the Giants farm system last season which saw him go from San Jose to San Francisco within the course of a 162 game season. Thus, after posting rather pedestrian numbers for Scottsdale, one can understand why Sabean may have balked at giving Posey the starting job and decided to re-sign Bengie Molina for one more season.

Of course, Posey didn't completely tank. He still posted a .345 OBP (thanks to his 13 walks drawn) and drove in 13 RBI. So, Posey didn't take a complete turn for the worse. That being said, Posey probably needed a strong showing this Fall to prove to Sabean he is ready for the starting catcher's position, and unfortunately, it just didn't happen for him in Scottsdale. Hopefully, he can pick it up in Spring Training and convince Giants brass that he is worth having up at the Major League level as a backup for the time being over Eli Whiteside.

Eugenio Velez:
Velez needs to prove this Spring Training that he is not just a "one month player" and that he can put up solid numbers over the full course of a season. Unfortunately, his performance in DWL play certainly didn't convince anybody that he can play a 162 game season for the Giants.

In 161 AB, Velez posted a .261 batting average, a .313 OBP and a .679 OPS. Furthermore, he only hit two home runs, drew 10 walks and managed to strike out 25 times. Basically, Velez proved to be the same player he has always been, only this is worse because this is Dominican Winter League and not the Major Leagues.

On the bright side, he did show some speed and a better propensity for stealing bases this Winter. He managed to snag 11 bases and was only caught twice. However, in order to be a contributor for the Giants, he needs to improve his abysmal plate patience, and this Winter showed that little progress is being made in the category.

Thankfully, Giants fans can rest nicely knowing that Mark Derosa will be starting in left field on Opening Day (barring injury of course) rather than Velez.

Jesus Guzman:
I know Guzman's gone, but I think his Winter League stats may explain why Sabean was willing to pull the hook on him to clear space for Molina. Sure, Guzman's stats aren't bad: eight home runs, a .290 batting average, a .851 OPS, eight home runs and 37 RBI. Those numbers should be pretty promising, right?

Well, I think you have to only look at two numbers to understand why Guzman was sent packing: 22 BB, 37 SO.

While those numbers aren't atrocious, they aren't comforting for an organization that is looking to upgrade over Travis Ishikawa (though I think Ishikawa can actually be a good option if you look at what he did in the second-half last season). Basically, Guzman's BB/K numbers from Winter League solidify the common-held thought by Giants fans: he's basically a right-handed Ishikawa, but without the glove.

Guzman may find a career with another team. He may find a career as a designated hitter, saving teams of his mediocre defense. However, after looking at his Winter numbers in VWL play, the Giants might have done the right thing by letting him go, especially after Pill's solid season in the VWL.

Osiris Matos:
Matos isn't gone? He's still on the roster? Well...he could make the Giants roster by Opening day, even though it's more likely Shannon Doherty will have a resurgence on television. Why? The guy simply struggles wherever he seems to pitch at.

In DWL play, Matos got shellacked, as evidenced by the 10 hits he allowed in six innings pitched. He also had a god awful WHIP of 2.33 and an ERA of 6.00 in his seven appearances in the Dominican Republic.

Let's face it, in order to make the team, Matos really needs to do something to wow the Giants. After a dismal Winter, I don't think he's capable of doing that.

Denny Bautista:
He's Pedro Martinez's cousin, right? So he must be good, right?

Well, he's going to be 30 in August, and he has bounced around the Majors, unable to live up to the hype that came after the Orioles traded him to Kansas City for Jason Grimsely (the Royals supposedly came up with a steal in that trade when they got Bautista at the time).

In many way, Bautista is just a roll of the dice for the Giants. Is he going to be good? Most likely not. However, the Giants have gotten lucky with these kinds of deals before. Keichii Yabu wasn't terrible, and Justin Miller proved to be decent for half the season in 2009. Could Batista be one of those guys. He could. He has a powerful arm.

That being said, a 1.96 WHIP and nine walks in 7.2 IP isn't going to help put him on that road to "surprise success" anytime soon.

Joe Martinez:
I know this is one more than the "Winners," but I couldn't ignore Martinez. Martinez is a class act, and his recovery from injury really is a great story. Nonetheless, the guy may not have that much of a future with the Giants unless he is really able to turn it around in Spring Training.

This Fall in Scottsdale, Martinez continued to struggle. He finished with a 6.08 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 23.2 IP. While he put up decent strikeout numbers (26) and low walk totals (8), he simply just gives up too many hits (31 hits) and too many runs (19).

The worst part of this mediocre AFL campaign is that these numbers came in Fall League against Rookies breaking into the league and guys with little big league experience. Martinez actually started a few games for the Giants last season.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Which Giants Players were Winners from Fall and Winter League?

First off, I want to get something straight. I know Winter and Fall League performances don't mean a whole lot when it comes to how a player will perform that following Spring. A good season in the Dominican Republic certainly doesn't make a player, but a bad season in Arizona Fall League certainly doesn't break a player either.

However, it is interesting nonetheless to see which players played well and which ones didn't in the "off-season" nonetheless. Like I said before, I'm not putting too much salt into these, but I'm not completely ignoring them as well. Good or bad play should be recognized regardless of the level or season.

That being said, before I go into the "Winners and Losers of Fall and Winter League 2009" I also want to clear two things:

1.) I will not analyze Pablo Sandoval or Nate Schierholtz.
2.) I will only be referring to standard statistics.

For the first issue, we know Panda and Nate are going to be starting next season. Randy Winn looks to be joining New York next season, and unless Schierholtz gets hurt, or John Bowker looks like the second coming of a young Ryan Klesko in Spring Training, Schierholtz will be starting in Right Field come Opening Day. The same goes for Pablo. He's the third baseman, whether he hits .400 or .200 in Venezuela Winter League. What I really want to look at are guys on the cusp of making or being released from the team, for I feel Winter and Fall league play is much more important for those guys than ones who pretty much have a guaranteed position on next season's squad.

As for issues number two, that simply comes from what I have available. I wish Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs had GB/FB rates for Dominican Winter League, but unfortunately, they have much bigger fish to fry than finding out what Geno Espineli's Pitch Value in PWL play was. So, for the most part, I'll be using standard statistics (batting average, OPS, WHIP, ERA, etc.) for this evaluation of these players in Fall and Winter League.

Okay, now that all that stuff is out of the way, onto the "Winners and Losers of Fall/Winter League 2009" for the San Francisco Giants! (I'm only doing the Giants by the way, so don't think I'm doing this for the Mariners, Rangers etc; I don't care how Justin Smoak did, even though I think Justin Smoak is a hell of player).

(Note: the post ran long, so I split it into two. Check out the "Losers" in the following post tomorrow).


Kevin Frandsen:
Frandsen is on the cusp of being jettisoned from San Francisco. All the signs point to it: the acquisition of Freddy Sanchez at the July Trade Deadline last season, the re-signing of Sanchez and Juan Uribe this off-season, Emmanuel Burriss coming back from injury. Frandsen, who had a solid campaign in 2007, hasn't seemed to recover from the 2008 Achilles injury that derailed him that season. In 2009, He was either buried in Fresno, or buried on the Giants' bench.

However, if Frandsen wanted to send a message to general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy that he can be a solid option for the Giants in 2010, then his Winter League play may have been it. In PWL (Puerto Rican Winter League) play, he posted a .337 batting average, a .396 OBP, a .907 OPS, hit two homers and drove in 14 RBI. Frandsen was a force of nature in Puerto Rico, and finally started to show some of the promise that many Giants fans saw during that stretch run in 2007.

Now, the jury is still out whether or not Frandsen will still be wanted come Opening Day. With a team chock-full of infielders, Frandsen may not have a spot on this team in general and may just be the odd-man out. However, Frandsen needed to show Giants brass this off-season that he was still worth keeping on the roster, and fortunately for Frandsen, he proved it and then some.

Brandon Crawford:
You want to know why the Giants' shortstop of the future got an invite to Spring Training this year? I guarantee you his season in Arizona Fall League play was probably the culprit. Crawford absolutely tore it up for the Scottsdale team this fall, as evidenced by his .312 batting average, two home runs, 10 RBI, 12 BB, .396 OBP and .850 OPS. Crawford proved to be a real star this Fall, and also gave comfort to Giants fans that the Giants organization doesn't just produce Brian Bococks at shortstop in the farm system.

Granted, Crawford is still young (he just turned 23) and is probably a long shot to make the roster with Edgar Renteria still under contract for this season. However, after a stellar Fall in Scottsdale, Crawford should be a guy to watch this Spring Training. It definitely isn't impossible to think that he could be competing for the Giants' shortstop position as early as 2011 if he continues the progress he made in AFL play.

Brett Pill:
Pill not only earned an invitation to Spring Training this year, but he also earned a spot on the 40-man roster this year, and seems to be in a good position to compete for the starting position with Travis Ishikawa in 2011 after Aubrey Huff is gone. While many Giants fans questioned the release of Jesus Guzman, Pill certainly makes the decision easier to swallow. Pill put up solid numbers in Venezuela Winter League as he had a .303 batting average, a .385 OBP, and a .901 OPS. He also showed some power, as evidenced by his five home runs and 19 RBI.

Is Pill ready to contribute to the Giants next year? Probably not. He only had nine walks in 89 AB in VWL play, so he could use some time in the minors to work on his plate patience. That being said, Pill proved to be a surprise this Winter League season, and should not only be carefully watched this Spring Training, but in 2010 as well. If the Huff experiment falters, don't be surprised to see Pill giving Ishikawa a spell from time to time.

Santiago Casilla:
Casilla is coming off two bad seasons in Oakland, and thankfully, his Winter campaign in the Dominican Winter League gave Giants fans a little bit of hope that his acquisition may not be a waste of money. In 14.1 IP, Casilla has 13 strikeouts, a 2.51 ERA and a WHIP of 0.98. 0.98! That's dominating, regardless of the fact it is Winter League play.

Casilla definitely has the ability to strike guys out, and he also has decent control (he only walked five guys in DWL play). That being said, Casilla has tanked in Oakland the past couple of years, and at 30-years-old, he isn't exactly on the upswing in terms of his career either. Hopefully, his solid numbers in the Dominican Republic, as well as a change of scenery (though not much of a change, for he's just coming across the Bay) will rejuvenate Casilla in 2010. With Alex Hinshaw and Kevin Pucetas on thin ice in terms of making the roster, Casilla, with a strong Spring, could definitely be a contributor to the Giants bullpen come Opening Day.

Tony Pena Jr.:
I know I made fun of him. I know that he used to be a shortstop and now converted to a pitcher. Regardless of the fact that he was once dubbed the Kansas City Royals' "Shortstop of the Future," Pena may actually have a decent career as a relief pitcher.

In 18 IP in DWL play, Pena absolutely tore it up. He allowed only 13 hits and seven walks, and he also managed to strike out 13 in addition to posting a 1.11 WHIP. Those numbers are not only surprising, but comforting, especially considering most Giants fans don't think Pena will contribute at all considering he spent most of his career as a shortstop.

To look at the situation realistically though,Pena is definitely a little raw as a pitcher, and for him to start out in the bullpen for the Giants in 2010 is also a longshot. However, if Pena can put up solid numbers in Fresno to start the year, don't be surprised to see the former "bust" infielder get a chance to show what he can do as a pitcher at the Major League level. It would be like Rick Ankiel in St. Louis, only reverse.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Giants Prospectus Profile: Freddy Sanchez, Second Baseman

This is the first post of a series of posts looking at the players on the Giants roster analytically and through sabermetrics. I don't know if I'll have time to finish all the players before the season starts, but I'll try to be consistent with the updates.

Also, these stats on Sanchez don't include his Pittsburgh first-half numbers, just his numbers with the Giants.

Standard statistics:
2009: 25 (games played), 102 (AB), 107 (PA), 29 (hits), 27 (singles), 1 (doubles), 0 (triples), 1 (home runs), 11 (runs scored), 7 (RBI), 2 (BB), 0 (IBB), 16 (strikeouts), 1 (HBP), 2 (sac flies), 3 (sac hits), 3 (grounded into double plays), 0 (stolen bases), 0 (caught stealing), .284 (batting average).

Advanced statistics:
2009: 1.9 % (BB %), 15. 7 % (K %), 0.13 (K/BB), .284 (batting average), .295 (OBP), .324 (slugging), .619 (OPS), -0.39 (ISO), 1.6 (SPD), .329 (BABIP), 8.0 (wRC), -4.8 (wRAA), .274 (wOBA).

Batted Ball statistics:
2009: .329 (BABIP), 2.37 (GB/FB), 26.4 % (LD %), 51.7 % (GB %), 21.8 (FB %), 5.3 %(IFFB %), 5.3 (HR/FB), 1 (IFH), 2.2 % (IFH %), 0 (BUH), 0 % (BUH %).

2009: -4.9 (batting), 3.5 (fielding), 3.6 (replacement), 0.4 (positional), 2.6 (RAR), 0.3 (WAR), $1.2 million (WAR in Dollars).

Win Probability:
2009: -0.26 (WPA), -1.63 (-WPA), 1.37 (+WPA), -2.34 (RE24), -0.25 (REW), 0.82 (pLI), 0 (PH), -0.42 (WPA/LI), 0.1 (Clutch).

Plate patience:
2009: 35 % (O-swing %), 64.1 (Z-swing %), 50.4 % (swing %), 72.6 % (O-contact %), 88.2 % (Z-contact), 83.1 % (contact %), 52.8 % (zone %), 64.5 % (F-strike %).

2009: 210 (innings), 44 (PO), 65 (assists), 3 (Errors), 9 (double plays turned), 0.973 (fielding percentage), 4.4 (RF/G), 4.7 (RF/9), 24 (DG), 56 (exO), -0.5 (DPR), 3 (RngR), 1 (ErrR), 3.5 (UZR), 21.9 (UZR/150).

Bill James Projections:
2010: 138 (games), 539 (AB), 155 (hits), 35 (doubles), 2 (triples), 8 (home runs), 67 (runs), 56 (RBI), 71 (runs created), 4.78 (RC/27), 29 (walks), 76 (strikeouts), 4 (stolen bases), 2 (caught stealing), .670 (stolen base %), .288 (batting average), .329 (OBP), .404 (slugging), .733 (OPS).

Remember '51 Analysis

Sanchez is a contact hitter, but not necessarily a "smart" contact hitter. While Sanchez most likely will hover around the .275-.315 range in terms of batting average, his low walk rates (1.5 percent last season) and OBP (.295 in 2009) make him a risky hitter to have. Furthermore, Sanchez doesn't seem to understand the strike zone very well as evidenced by him swinging at 35 percent of pitches outside the strike zone (third highest on the team, behind Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina). And, to make his situation offensively worse, Sanchez has no power. He had only one home run last year as a Giant, and his sub .300 slugging wasn't good.

Sanchez's strength seems to be groundball singles. He has a high GB rate (51. 7 percent) and a high BABIP (.329). Therefore, he is gong to be a guy that will put the ball in play. However, his BABIP will determine whether or not he has a breakout or mediocre season. If the groundballs aren't getting through, he looks like a pretty pedestrian player rather than a two-time All-Star.

Sanchez isn't a terrible offensive player by any means. His strikeout rate is respectable (15.7 percent) -- though it doesn't help his K/BB ratio (0.13), which suffers greatly from his lousy walk rate. Furthermore, he will be a tough out at the plate because he makes contact well (83.1 contact rate). That being said, his offensive value doesn't look good on paper (-4.9) because he lacks power (-0.39 ISO, rare for an All-Star player not named Walt Weiss) and just doesn't seem to draw walks or show much patience at the plate.

Sanchez is solid defensively on paper. He had a high UZR (3.5), UZR/150 (21.9) RF (4.4) and RF/9 (4.7). Those were the highest numbers of any Giants second baseman in those categories. Thus, it is easy to see why he won a Gold Glove in his tenure with Pittsburgh, and sports a respectable value defensively (3.5).

There are some concerns though with Sanchez going into 2010. His double play rate leaves a little to be desired at -0.5. It especially looks bad when Kevin Frandsen and Matt Downs have better double play rates (0.4 and 0, respectively). Also, his RngR in 2009 didn't look hot at 3, and in 2010 may look worse considering the two surgeries Sanchez had this off-season.

The Giants re-signed Sanchez for two years at six million per year this off-season. Though it is not a bad as the $8.1 million the Giants would have had to pay had he reached 500 PA last season, the Giants certainly got a bit swindled. His WAR converted to dollars last season was only $1.2 million. Thus, the Giants overpaid Sanchez by at least $3-4 million. With Orlando Hudson still on the market, chances are the Giants could have signed him at a much better deal (one year, $3-5 million) and probably get similar to better success at the second base position with Hudson.

Outlook for 2010:
Pre-injuries, Bill James' projections weren't all that great. His sub .300 OBP and sub .740 OPS didn't bode well for a team that ranked last in those categories in 2009. If Sanchez is going to be an All-Star for a second straight year, he's going to need a lot of help from his BABIP, which needs to be high in order to counteract Sanchez's lack of plate patience.

Defensively, I wouldn't expect a Gold Glove-caliber season out of Sanchez, especially after two major surgeries in less than six months. Giants fans should expect Sanchez to regress defensively from a season ago.

Remember '51 Grade: C+
Sanchez is a solid contact hitter and fielder, but lackluster plate patience, lack of power and injury problems severely downgrade his value as a Major League player. Sanchez will be lucky to touch his first half numbers from Pittsburgh a year ago, especially after his latest surgery, which will keep him out of Spring Training and perhaps Opening Day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ready or Not, It Will Be Madison Bumgarner's Time in San Francisco in 2010

There is about a month until Spring Training officially begins in Scottstdale, Ariz. for the San Francisco Giants. And, in many ways, one can say Brian Sabean was quite active this off-season.

He re-signed the guy they traded Tim Alderson for at the July Tradeline, but let go the guy they traded Scott Barnes for. He signed a guy coming off a wrist injury in St. Louis, and another guy who is coming off an atrocious stint in Detroit. (Deja Vu perhaps?) He delayed the era of a promising prospect, but didn't do so at an enormous cost either. (One-year, four-and-a-half million isn't bad for a sub .300 OBP cleanup hitter, right?) He settled before arbritation with a lefty who may be primed for a breakout in 2010, but seems to be headed to court as of this moment with their top ace and closer from a season ago.

Yes, one can say Sabean was indeed active this off-season, but there were two moves that did surprise many Giants fans:

He let Brad Penny go, and didn't sign another starting pitcher this off-season. (As of January 25, 2010.)

Thus, it seems Sabean is confident that highly-heralded left-hander Madison Bumgarner is ready to join the Giants rotation as the fifth starter.

The jury may still be out on whether or not Bumgarner is ready to start in 2010. That being said, he did look good at the MLB level in a September callup last season, even if his fastball wasn't as electric as we all hoped (he averaged 89.2 MPH on his fastball, which tied him with Ryan Sadowski for the fourth-slowest fastball on the team; Sadowski is in Korea by the way).

However, despite his struggles battling arm fatigue (or at least that seems to be the common consensus), Bumgarner still managed to succeed in his cup of coffee with the Giants.

In 10 IP, Bumgarner posted a 1.80 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and a 3.33 BB/K ratio, which are solid numbers for a someone breaking into the Major Leagues and only 20-years-old. And, even though he didn't seem to have the jump on his fastball at the Major League level like he did in San Jose, Augusta and Connecticut, Bumgarner proved he could mix it up with his nasty slider and still strike guys out, as evidenced by his 9.00 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate.

That being said, while Giants fans have to be comforted by Bumgarner's debut (sans his lack of fastball velocity), there were some unusual signs.

For starters, he had a very low BABIP (.248) and a very high fielding independent pitching in ERA (4.60). Add those two factors along with a 100 percent left on base percentage, and it is easy to see that Bumgarner was very lucky last year, in addition to being a beneficiary of solid defensive play behind him. Does that mean Bumgarner is going to drop dramatically in those categories next year? Not necessarily (though I imagine he probably won't have a 100 percent LOB again).

It definitely will be interesting to see how Bumgarner will respond to an increase in adversity at the Major League level, especially over a 162 game season. After all, Bumgarner only pitched 10 innings as a Giant, and though the stats in those 10 IP are solid, it is still a very small sample.

Of course, regardless of how small a sample it is, and regardless of the fact that he has little experience beyond Double-A (he didn't pitch at all in Fresno last season), the fact of the matter is this:

Bumgarner WILL be the No. 5 pitcher next season.

Why is that?

Well, Bumgarner is the team's best option for the fifth spot on the current 40-man roster. Seriously, it's either him, Joe Martinez or Kevin Pucetas. Who would you rather have? (Don't think about that for more than a's a no brainer).

Therefore, the ballyhooed first round pick of the 2007 draft, the guy that mowed down Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez in a Spring Training game on April 1, 2009, will not get much time to "develop" in 2010. Unlike Buster Posey, who may start out the year in Fresno to "get more experience" (laugh), Bumgarner will be depended on to contribute right away to this Giants team that has playoff aspirations after barely missing out on the playoffs in 2009. And, to put more pressure on him, the Giants will be forced to stick to him early and often, even if he may struggle out of the gate. Like I said before...Pucetas and Martinez are the backup options if Bumgarner fails or gets hurt. That certainly doesn't make Giants fans sleep any better at night.

Granted, it's not a done deal yet. Who knows what Sabean could pull off in the coming weeks. Maybe he'll sign that fifth starter in free agency (though, with the possibility of perhaps spending $ 21 million in arbritation on Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson, I find it highly unlikely that he'll spend any more cash this off-season). Maybe Bumgarner will be regulated to Fresno to start off the year if the Giants get a guy like Bartolo Colon or Ben Sheets off the scrap-heap for cheap.

Yet for now, the situation is what it is: Bumgarner will round out the rotation and will be expected to pitch big innings for the Giants in 2010.

Let's hope as Giants fans that his arm indeed was just suffering from fatigue last September.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The San Francisco Giants "Prospectus" Project

Call me crazy. Call me nerdy. Call me insane. Whatever. I know the average baseball fan doesn't care about advanced statistical analysis. I know everyone thinks Sabermetrics is for geeks who don't watch the games. I know projections rarely ever live up to EXACT fruition.

Like I said before...whatever.

I have the time. I have the energy. I have the resources.

So, I'm starting a San Francisco Giants prospectus.

Granted, this is a very personal prospectus. It includes everything from batted ball analysis, win probability, advanced stats, plate patience, pitch type, etc. And that's not all. I have roster lists, contract information (thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts!), and this year's Bill James Projections (I had to splurge $9.95 on Yahoo for it, but you know what, it's worth it considering what you get).

Of course, this is all on excel sheets and paper right now. So, basically, the only one seeing this prospectus is me, KOB, the author of Remember '51. However, leading up to Spring Training and in the course of the season, I expect to use notes I write in my prospectus "notebook" as posts on this blog. Anything sabermetrically from now on will not just be exclusive to this blog. It will be in handwriting first, in a big purple notebook before I write it here on this blog.

So, does that mean I'm going to be another blog with only sabermetrics baseball angles? No, not really. I will continue to try to be pessimistic and humorous with some posts, be it the Remembering the Great '08 series or just other crazy thoughts in general. However, I think this Prospectus is worth noting because it is an ambitious project and I think it will give some insight to some of the future analytical pieces I will be writing in the future.

But like I said, the posts from now on just won't be from a Saber-slant. I will have articles that will go beyond all statistical and general baseball reasoning. After all, I am half-Filipino and half-Irish, and that mix doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense either. I might as well translate that into my baseball writing as well from time to time.

Crazy, irrational, "What the hell does that have to do with Giants baseball?" thought for today? Who would win in a fight? Eugenio Velez or Juan Uribe? Honestly, I don't know. I love the possibilities. On a Giants-fan-level, I would liken the fight to the first Clubber Lang-Rocky fight from Rocky III. Not exactly a fight everyone expects, and probably a lot shorter than we would all want, but there would be fireworks.

The Genie vs. Big Juan. I'm more excited for that than the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight in March.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The "Brian Sabean Watch": One similar-looking Giants off-season (only less money)

You's hard to say exactly how I feel about Brian Sabean's performances as general manager for the San Francisco Giants this off-season. I didn't agree with him getting a two-year extension this off-season, but owner Bill Neukom gave him one anyway, simply because of the 88-74 season the Giants had in 2009. Granted, I do think Sabes deserved some credit for that season. Everybody expected the Giants to hover around .500, but they stayed in the playoff race until the last week of the season. That should be commended, no doubt. I am not one of those kinds of fans where "no playoffs = no success." Last season was very successful for the Giants, they just played in a division where there were two other playoff-caliber teams. If the Giants are in the NL Central, maybe they're in the playoffs instead of the Cardinals. Who knows.

Thus, while I didn't agree with Sabean coming back, I tolerated it just because he deserved a shot to show whether or not 2009 was a sign of progress or a fluke.

For some reason, I just get this bad lingering feeling 2009 could be a fluke.

I understand the deals Sabes made. I understand you can't just release Freddy Sanchez when you traded your second-best pitching prospect (Tim Alderson) for him at the Trade Deadline last July. I understand the Juan Uribe signing because he might need to take over at shortstop if Edgar Renteria flounders once again for a third-straight season, and you don't want to have another situation like 2008 where your only backup is a career Single-A player like Brian Bocock. I think Mark Derosa is a safe pickup because he can play multiple positions. I also like the fact that Sabes waited until the end of the off-season and scrapped guys Aubrey Huff and Bengie Molina off the bargain bin for one-year deals, when in the past, he would sign them early and for more money and years than they worth (e.g. Dave Roberts).

That being said, the Giants built success last year of their pitching and defense. So, you think, if your a general manager that needs to improve their offense from laughable to just mediocre, you would want to sign guys that wouldn't jeopardize the qualities that made your teams so successful a season ago.

Huff is a designated hitter. Derosa is going to be 35. Bengie is Bengie, only he's a year older and a year more out-of-shape.

The Giants may be on paper better on offense, but the defense without a doubt is going to dip, and that makes you wonder what the pitching staff is thinking. You think Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain feel comfortable taking the hill with Huff manning first base? You think Brian Wilson, who's already defensively deficient on the hill as it is, will feel even more comfortable with an aging defense that might not be able to make the plays they did in 2009?

In many ways, this off-season was just typical of every off-season the Giants have had under Sabean. A lot of big-names, a lot of promise, but in the end, usually not a lot of follow-through. The list of big-names who seemed to "tank" for the Giants is practically a mile long: Renteria, Roberts, Edgardo Alfonso, Mike Matheny, Michael Tucker, Jeffrey Hammonds, Ryan Klesko, Steve Finley etc., etc.

Grant from the McCovey Chronicles summed it all up in a great post about Sabean and this off-season: Sabean is a great developer of pitching talent and has made a solid knack in the past couple of years in terms of finding hiddeng gems to add to the bullpen, but is a lousy evaluator of offensive talent.

In many ways, that seems to be the case again this season. The Giants rotation can only get better with a young Madison Bumgarner in the number five spot in the rotation. The squad has two young, incredible arms in Dan Runzler and Waldis Joaquin that are ready to contribute to an already solid bullpen led by Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo. Sabean also spurned the common route that a lot of GMs take in terms of adding big-name arms to the bullpen even though they are at the end of their primes or in fact, past it.

Yet the guy is still clueless. I understand Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche didn't want to play in San Francisco, and I understand you can't do anything about that. However, really...Huff is an upgrade over Travis Ishikawa even though Huff struggled in a pitcher's park like Comerica last season? Molina is really that much better than Buster Posey? Sanchez is better than Orlando Hudson, who could go into "eff you" mode after the Dodgers spurned to re-sign him this off-season?

It's just the same old Dog and Pony show from Sabean. He didn't deserve his extension at the end of last season, and he didn't seem to do anything to show he was worth it at the end of this off-season.

Let's just hope Sabean and the Giants get away with it like they did last year. Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval can carry us to the playoffs, right?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Panda" Fluke? A look at the Projections on Sandoval

After looking through some projections of some San Francisco Giants position players for next season, I was interested by some of the projections concerning the Giants' budding star, Pablo Sandoval.

On Fangraphs, the projections are varied concerning the "Kung Fu Panda". According to Bill James and 109 fan projections, the outlook for Sandoval in 2009 is quite optimistic. BJ projects the "Panda" to hit .327 with 24 home runs, 97 RBI, and have an OPS of .934 and BB/K ratio of 0.66 (a three point improvement in terms of the latter). The fans are equally generous, perhaps even more so on run production end. They project Sandoval to hit 26 home runs and drive in a 110 RBI along with a .323 batting average, .905 OPS and 0.63 BB/K ratio.

However, while those two projections are very comforting for Giants fans, two other projections on Fangraphs, CHONE and Marcel, are actually very pessimistic of Sandoval's future in 2010.

CHONE does project that his batting average will remain high (.323), but unfortunately, that's the only real good sign in their projections. They project that Sandoval will dip in his run production numbers and will only hit 17 home runs and drive in 71 RBI in 2010. Furthermore, they project his OPS to drop to .883 and his BB/K ratio to fall to 0.44.

(Granted, CHONE makes these projections on the thought that Sandoval will only play 138 games, which I think is preposterous due to the fact Sandoval is getting slimmer--or at least trying to--and is only 23-years-old)

As for Marcel, they don't give him much more slack. They only project two more home runs (19) and four more RBI (75) than CHONE. The BB/K ratio and OPS projections from Marcel are a little more generous than the ones from CHONE (0.59 and .918, respectively), but they still are low in comparison to what James and the fans project.

So why do CHONE and Marcel don't give Sandoval much slack? I think there are sticking a little TOO closely to some factors in terms of evaluating Sandoval.

Factor One: Sandoval is too wild a swinger

Sandoval doesn't walk an incredible amount (as evidenced by his 8.3 walk percentage a year ago) and does have a poor tendency to swing out of the strike zone (he swung at 41.5 percent of pitches thrown outside the strike zone, second only to Bengie Molina who had a percentage of 43.9). However, Sandoval's contact rate of pitches outside the zone is 75.2 percent, which goes to show that despite Sandoval's free-swinging nature, he is able to back it up somewhat because he can hit pitches that may be swinging strikes for other guys on the squad.

Furthermore, Sandoval did make some progress in terms of plate patience in the last two months of play. In the first two months, Sandoval had only eight walks combined. In August and September/October (seriously, you can't consider October a month; there is only a week of regular season play), Sandoval accumulated double-digit walk totals (10 in August, 16 in September and October), and drew 13 walks in the month of June before hitting a skid in July where he only had five. Granted, Sandoval won't be challenging Nick Johnson for the walks-leader any time soon. However, Sandoval is getting more selective at the plate, and we may see him more refined in terms of his plate patience in 2010, especially after those promising walk numbers in August, September/October.

Factor two: AT&T Park is a death trap for hitters

This is a true fact, and it takes a different kind of hitter to succeed in AT&T Park. Are you going to see guys put up Raul Ibanez-esque numbers like Ibanez did in Philadelphia last season? Of course not. However, good hitters will still succeed in AT&T despite its dimensions. After all, how do you explain Rich Aurilia's 2001 or Barry Bonds? (Well...probably steroids I guess, but let's just ignore that for now).

That point seems to be the case in Sandoval's favor. Despite AT&T Park's notorious "Pitcher-friendly" reputation, Sandoval put up better numbers offensively at home than on the road. While the numbers weren't that much different in a lot of categories (he hit only one more home and four more RBI at home), the numbers tell a different story in one big category: OPS. At AT&T Park in 2009, Sandoval had a 1.012 OPS. On the road, he only posted a .877 OPS.

Therefore, while AT&T won't exactly be the place for him to hit 40 home runs, the idea that the ballpark will keep him under the 20 home run mark is somewhat ridiculous. Sandoval is a proven hitter in San Francisco, and he will only get better as he continues to feel more comfortable at AT&T Park.

Factor three: Sandoval's supporting cast will kill his stats

This point I partially agree with. While the Giants upgraded offensively (that is of course if you consider Aubrey Huff, Mark Derosa and Freddy "Limp Away" Sanchez upgrades...I will concede and say 'yes' for the moment), the team is still far from being a Murderer's Row by any measure. Thus, Sandoval, much like last season, will have little support behind him, not to mention guys on base when he comes to the plate.

Therefore, I believe Sandoval will struggle in one category: RBI. I don't think he'll hit over 100 mainly because the Giants a.) still have a lineup that will accumulate one awful OBP (compounded even more by Bengie Molina's return) and b.) the Giants' leadoff spot is still undetermined (seriously, Aaron Rowand is a prime candidate...ouch).

So, anyone banking Sandoval to eclipse the century mark in RBI probably should think again. That being said, any of other Sandoval's categories, such as OPS, batting average, home runs, hits and BB/K ratio, shouldn't be affected by the Giants' mediocre lineup. If anything, Sandoval could help OTHER guys on the team because chances are pitchers will pitch around him come Opening Day, knowing that he is the Giants real only legitimate threat. Sandoval will get on base, and guys like Huff and Derosa will get the opportunities to drive him in (whether or not they DO drive him in of course is a different story).

There really is a lot to like about Sandoval next year, and in my mind, the CHONE and Marcel Projections underestimate his ability a little too much. Will Sandoval be the second-coming of Albert Pujols like Willie McCovey coyly implied last season? Probably not (or at least not by next season), but Sandoval will still prove in 2010 that 2009 was no fluke.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Molina Signing Sets Back Posey, Giants' Future for Another Year

It was supposed to be Buster Posey time in San Francisco in 2010.

Sure, there were rumors that there would perhaps be another guy to keep the seat warm as Posey eased himself into the starting position. A lot of people were thinking about Rod Barajas as an option. Some were thinking about a Gregg Zaun-esque player. Heck, some people even thought Yorvit Torrealba coming back to San Francisco was a realistic possibility.

Whoever the temp would be, the plan seemed to be clear: whether it was Opening Day or by May or June, Posey was going to be the man calling pitches for the Giants.

Or so that was the plan... until Bengie Molina re-signed with the Giants today.

Now, with Posey's lack of experience catching at the big league level, and manager Bruce Bochy's undying love of Molina (and batting him in the cleanup spot to boot), the "Posey Era", which was talked about so much this Winter, seems to be on hold.

As a Giants fan, it's hard to understand fully what happened. Sure, there are certain things that make sense.

For starters, Posey is inexperienced, and considering the team has aspirations to make the playoffs last year after barely missing out in 2009, Molina is more suited to start for this team. Furthermore, when you couple that with the fact the Giants got him on a one year deal because Molina and his agents severely overestimated his market value (seriously, did he really think he was worth a three-year contract in this economy?), then this really is on paper a win-win for the Giants. The Giants get an experienced catcher, a solid (if unspectacular) hitter, and they got him at a relative bargain considering what he was demanding when the off-season began.

However, Molina's signing still makes Giants fans wonder. It makes fans wonder if General Manager Brian Sabean has gotten any smarter or dumber since being put in hot water after the 2007 season.

In some ways, you could make the argument for both. When you look at the glass half-full, no longer is Sabean throwing really big money at aging guys. He only signed Huff for one year, and he only signed Molina for one year, and they will make less than ten million dollars combined. Three or four years ago, Sabean signs both these guys for no less than nine million per year each, and no less than three years. So, in that sense, you have to think Sabean is learning after 13 years.

On the flip side, he's still signing aging guys, not necessarily a good thing. With Tim Lincecum filing a record $13 million arbitration offer today, Sabean needs to show his young star players (mainly Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval) that he has a solid team built for the future in order to keep them from jumping ship to New York or Boston when they offer them more money when they become free agents. However, when your core team is built around a guy who tanked in Detroit after the Trade Deadline, and a cleanup hitter who had an on-base percentage under .300, I don't necessarily know if you're really building for the future, even if you have a lot of talent in the Minor Leagues.

There are many questions to ask about this whole Molina re-signing. Will the Giants be better? Will Molina be a better hitter now that he isn't forced to bat cleanup? Will Bochy still hit him cleanup even though he has better (although not much better) options in Huff and Derosa?

That being said though, I think the main question Giants fans will continue to ask until Opening Day is this: will Buster Posey ever be given a chance to show off that upside he has?

As of now, it almost seems definite that Giants fans won't get an answer to that question until at least the 2011 season.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Farewell Ode to Merkin "Manny Mateo" Valdez

Dear Mr. Valdez,

We hardly knew ye. But believe us, as Giants fans, there was hope for you when you first arrived.

There was hope for you when you appeared to be the key cog in the Russ Ortiz trade with the Atlanta Braves in December of 2002 (at the time, many Giants fans were flummoxed by Brian Sabean's decision because Ortiz was such a valuable pitcher on the Giants' NL Pennant-winning squad).

There was hope for you when you were selected to play for the World Team in the MLB All-Star Futures game three straight years from 2003-2005.

There was hope for you when you were named "USA Today's Organizational Player of the Year" for the San Francisco organization in 2003.

There was hope for you when you were an available player on MVP Baseball 2005 for the Sony Playstation 2.

There was hope for you despite you actually being nine months older than you originally claimed when you were drafted by the Braves in 1999.

Despite all that, however, it just didn't work out in San Francisco for you.

Why did it not work out Merkin? Who knows, really. The list is as long as Samuel L. Jackson's filmography on

Perhaps it was the injuries.

You missed the entire 2005 and 2007 seasons, and maybe that just doomed your potential from the beginning, even though in this day and age of "super medical advancements" we thought you would overcome them. Sure, there was always the consensus from a lot of experts that your arm mechanics were suspects. However, the experts said the same things about Tim Lincecum as well, so we cut you some slack.

Perhaps the pressure and expectations were too great.

Giants fans originally wanted you to be a starter, then scrapped that idea after your arm problems, and envisioned you as the Giants closer of the future. Sabean seemed to have the plan so nicely formed after the Matt Herges fiasco in 2004: Armando Benitez for at least a few years as our closer (after all, he was the National League Saves Champion in 2004 along with Jason Isringhausen), and then the torch would have been passed to you by 2008 or 2009. At the very least, you proved to be a more likable guy than Benitez in your tenure here in San Francisco.

Perhaps you just weren't all that great a pitcher.

In 2009, you threw you're fastball 80.3 percent of the time. But I guess you had to. With a 5.66 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP, you really couldn't afford to take chances with your below average pitches, such as your slider and split (which you threw 13.4 percent and 6.2 percent of the time, respectively). Hey, your fastball was in the mid to high-90's, which got you some positive (in a pessimistic kind of way) marks. It didn't count in strikeouts (6.93 strikeout rate), but I'm sure it counted in something (walks, I guess, as evidenced by your 5.11 walk rate, but I won't dwell on that).

I could go on and on Merkin, formerly Manny Mateo, Valdez. But I won't. You deserve better than that. You were an intimidating figure physically, you were Jonathan Sanchez's best buddy (I'm sure you said something that inspired him to throw that no-hitter on July 10), and like I said before, Giants fans certainly liked you a hell of a lot more than Armando Benitez (not hard to do, but still an accomplishment nonetheless).

There could be a chance you could pass through waivers. There is a chance you could still be a Giant. That being said, I know a GM will be awed by your fastball. We Giants fans certainly were in your tenure in this organization.

Thus, you will most likely be in another uniform in 2010 that won't say "Giants" or "San Francisco" or "Gigantes" across the front. Granted, we've had worse partings. Will Clark, Matt Williams, Dave Roberts (no...just kidding), Barry Bonds. There was some kind of disappointment when they all left. You're not in the same ballpark of course, but there is some disappointment with you leaving (of a different kind from Williams, Clark and Bonds, but disappointment still), and your departure will be remembered (the over/under is currently at 14.5 days).

What could have been, Merkin. What could have been.

God speed and the best of luck with whatever Major (or Minor) League team you play for in 2010.


The Remember '51 Blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Remembering the "Great '08": Dan Ortmeier and Osiris Matos

I know I actually have to stick to something for once, but for one, I get bored easily, and two, I just get too many ideas at times. Brian Sabean Report. Brian Sabean Watch. Around the Candlestick. Now, Remembering the Great '08. (I'll try to keep faithful to at least the latter two).

Anyways, I'm trying to get over this latest Adam LaRoche signing by the Diamondbacks, so I'm trying to think optimistically. What makes me optimistic? The crappiness Giants fans experienced in 2008. While it could have been worse (a lot of experts going into the year thought the Giants in 2008 actually could have challenged the '62 New York Mets; at the time, I thought so as well), it was a laughably bad season, and an indicator that Sabean had a lousy foundation that had solely relied on Barry Bonds post-2002.

So, in the spirit of being optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, I'm going to look at two players (one position player and one pitcher) periodically from the Giants 2008 squad that are no longer with the Giants due to a.) trades, b.) free agency or c.) just being lousy. Some guys might fall in the A and B categories, but for the most part, you should be expecting a lot of C's in the coming posts (I wouldn't call it the "Great '08" for nothing, you know).

Position player: Dan Ortmeier, 1B, OF.

There was some hope for Dan back in the day within the Giants system. Back in 2007, when Giants fans were going through the beginning stages of the "Oh My God, We're Going to be Screwed When Bonds Leaves" phase, Ortmeier came up and had a decent stretch at the Major League level. In 62 games, Ortmeier hit .287 with six home runs, and sported a .497 slugging percentage and .814 OPS. Furthermore, Ortmeier was a switch-hitter (until early in 2008 where he figured out him batting left-handed was futile; it paid off though once), and being a powerful, big guy, many Giants fans legitimately thought that Ortmeier was the solution to the first base problem the Giants were marred in after JT Snow was traded to Boston, and Lance Niekro fell off the face of the earth.

The problem, however, was that Ortmeier was the classic, Sabean-mold player: struck out a lot, and didn't walk very much either. Despite good slugging numbers in 2007, Ortmeier only sported a .317 OBP. Additionally, he had ridiculously low 0.17 BB/K ratio (thanks to a 4.3 percent walk rate and 26.1 percent strikeout rate).

A lot of Giants fans thought Ortemeir could improve upon that the following season. Unfortunately, he didn't. Ortmeier tanked in 2008. In 38 games with the Giants, he showed none of the power he had in 2007, as evidenced by his zero home runs and .628 OPS (ironically, his .313 slugging percentage was lower than his .315 on-base percentage). His BB/K ratio went up to 0.39, but unfortunately that was the only statistical category where Ortmeier showed any improvement from a season ago. Couple that with mediocre defensive skills (he had a career UZR/150 of -9.9 in the outfield, though he made it up at first base with a career UZR/150 of 8.9), and the hot start of John Bowker, and Ortmeier was pretty much done in terms of being a Giant. Any shot he had to gain ground in the Giants system was also killed by an abysmal 28 games in Fresno where he hit .206, one home run and sported a .523 OPS, and a 0.24 BB/K ratio.

Where is Ortmeier now? He is on the Colorado Rockies Triple-A team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, and could compete for playing time with the Rockies if he has a solid Spring Training, even if it is probably unlikely. Though his plate patience has improved since coming over from the Bay Area (he sported a .373 OBP and 0.55 BB/K ratio last season in Triple-A), the power Giants fans thought he had in 2007 seems to have disappeared. In a 122 games in Triple-A, Ortmeier hit only seven home runs.

Pitcher: Osiris Matos, RHP

What can I say about Matos? Well...not much. He pretty much was a younger version of Merkin Valdez (who was designated for assignment today...collective gasp from Giants nation? No...okay), only without the injuries and Valdez fastball. He had three pitches, and only one he could throw decently (I'll try to let you guess which one). The problem with Matos was his fastball wasn't incredibly fast (it averaged around 90.5 MPH) and he simply didn't have a lot of command with his other pitches. His BB/K ratio was pretty mediocre at 1.78 in 20 games with the Giants in 2008, mostly because he walked too many guys (he had a 3.92 walk rate in 2008) and he didn't strike out all that many (his strikeout rate in 2008 was 6.97).

Matos did show a little progress in 2009. While he got rocked in five games with the Giants to skyrocket his ERA to 9.00 and WHIP to 2.00, his Fresno numbers in 2009 aren't terrible. With the Grizzlies, he had a 1.27 WHIP and 3.48 ERA in 54.1 innings pitched. His BB/K ratio was also good in Fresno last year at 3.69. Heck, even his 5.00 BB/K ratio was pretty good in his five games with the Giants.

However, what keeps me from jumping on board to support Matos? His strikeout rates still were pretty low in 2009 (7.50 with the Giants, 7.95 with the Grizzlies). Thus, while Matos may have solved some of the control issues he had in 2008 with the Giants, he just doesn't have the stuff to be a contributor to the Giants bullpen.

Matos was designated for assignment last season when they brought up Madison Bumgarner on September eighth. However, it seems nobody has claimed him on waivers just yet, and most likely, he will be trying out with the Giants come Spring Training. That being said, Matos pretty much has no future with the Giants at this point, and unless something dramatic happens, I can see him in another team's uniform in 2010 (though it will probably be a minor league uniform if anything).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Could Alex Hinshaw Be A Surprise for the Giants Bullpen?

With Bob Howry gone and officially an Arizona Diamondback (Collective "Yea!" heard from Giants fans all over), the Giants are in need of another arm to hold the fort down in the bullpen. Amazingly, one of the most underrated improvements of the Giants from 2008 to 2009 was the stellar relief pitching. Brian Wilson had a career year with 38 saves and a 1.20 WHIP, Jeremy Affeldt proved to be a solid left-handed option thanks to his 1.73 ERA, and Sergio Romo mowed guys down with his 10.85 K/9 IP rate.

However, there are still some questions lingering in the Giants bullpen. While Dan Runzler proved to be sterling in a late-season callup (he posted and 11.42 K/9 IP rate in 11 games last season), there is still wide sentiment around Giants nation that Runzler might still be a year away from seriously contributing at the Major League level. The same goes with Waldis Joaquin, who put up strong strikeout rate numbers (10.13 in 10 games), but had a lackluster WHIP (1.59). Though Runzler and Joaquin have the most potential out of the Giants current relievers (other than Romo, of course), they probably should be expected to be in a Giants uniform in 2011 rather than 2010.

So, with that being known, where do the Giants go for help in terms of stacking their bullpen, and continuing the progress they made from last season? While the Giants re-signed Brandon Medders, it may be a bit lofty for Giants fans to think that he can once again put up the solid numbers he put up last year. Medders' mediocre strikeout rates, and high walk rates do not bode well for future success and Bill James and CHONE projections already are thinking pessimistically for Medders next season (BJ predicts him to have a 4.38 ERA and 1.47 WHIP; CHONE projects a 4.36 ERA and 1.44 WHIP).

With Medders out, who does that leave the Giants to have hope for in terms of the bullpen behind Wilson, Romo and Affeldt? God forbid people think it's Merkin Valdez. His 1.72 WHIP last year should be a sign for any Giants fan that has hope in him that he doesn't have it together.

How about this idea though?

Alex Hinshaw.

I know, Giants fans are asking "Who the Hell is that?"

That being said, Hinshaw might be due for a good season next year, should General Manager Brian Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy give him a shot.

For staters, let's get one thing out of the way: Hinshaw had a terrible callup in San Francisco last season. That is for certain. His 2.83 WHIP and 12.00 ERA look awful on paper. However, it must be noted that was in nine appearances. So to come any kind of concrete judgment on Hinshaw's 2009 because of nine Major League appearances is a bit unfair.

In order to judge Hinshaw, you have to look at where he got extended time: in 2008 with the Giants, and in 2009 with Fresno.

In 2008, Hinshaw put up very good numbers. He had a 3.40 ERA, a 10.66 K/9 IP rate and hitters only hit .217 off of him. Granted, his K/BB rate wasn't good (1.62, thanks to a 6.58 walk rate) and neither was his WHIP (1.51), but overall his 2008 with the Giants was very promising for the left-handed reliever.

In 2009 with Fresno, Hinshaw improved with the Grizzlies. His strikeout rate per nine innings improved (12.38), his walk rate per nine innings dropped (5.50), and thus he sported a much better strikeout-to-walk ratio in Triple-A (2.25). Furthermore, his 1.41 WHIP was better, and he did this over the course of 52.1 IP, almost 13 more innings than his stint in San Francisco in 2008.

And, if that isn't optimistic enough, CHONE projections are actually in Hinshaw's advantage. CHONE projects Hinshaw to throw 46 innings in 2010 and post a 3.72 ERA. A lot of categories that he is strong in will go down a bit according to the projections (CHONE projects his strikeout rate to drop to 9.59, and his BB/K ratio to go down to 1.96), but there is an expectation that he will improve in some important categories, such as WHIP (CHONE projects him to have a 1.35 WHIP next season, 16 points better than his stint in 2008).

Thus, if you look at it in terms of what he has done in a short extended stint with San Francisco in 2008, what he did in Fresno last season, and the projections from CHONE, Hinshaw could be a very solid left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Giants in 2010. Granted, those CHONE Projections are just that: projections. However, he should definitely be a pitcher that Sabean and Bochy should be seriously adding into the mix for 2010 come Spring Training.

Hinshaw shouldn't be a guy whom Giants fans should be saying "Who the Hell is that?" come March. If Hinshaw continues to make progress (like I expect him to do), then Hinshaw will be making the big jump next year, much like Johnny Depp made the jump from "21 Jump Street" to Edward Scissorhands in 1990.

(Or at the very least a Richard Greico-esque jump...hey, he was in "Night at The Roxbury", right? That' a good movie).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Around the "Candlestick": Huff Analysis, Prospect Rankings, Roster Talk, Offense Musings

Decided to post some pieces I found on the Internet about the Giants that were interesting. Definitely gives me a nice break to not actually do some original "extensive" writing for a change. Come on. I do enough work on this blog posting as it is. Give me a break! I'll let Harrison Ford voice my feelings. (BTW Thanks Bill Simmons!)

Aubrey Huff Analysis on Fangraphs

I really respect and love the Web site Fangraphs, a sabermetrics heavy baseball site (you can get all kinds of advance statistics on players; it's pretty much an easier to navigate Baseball Prospectus in my mind). Anyways, Jack Moore of Fangraphs posted an interesting article on the Giants' acquisition of Aubrey Huff. Basically, we shared the same feelings: he was less than thrilled about Brian Sabean's acquistion.

John Sickels Top 20 Giants Prospects

This was posted almost two months ago, but due to certain circumstances, I wasn't able to see it until now. Some things I like: Buster Posey and Thomas Neal at the top of the list. Some things I expected: Conor Gillaspie near the bottom. Things that make me a little queasy: Sickels "less than thrilled" attitude concerning Dan Runzler and Waldis Joaquin (both whom I love).

Roster Thoughts from McCovey Chronicles

I went a little off on the McCovey Chronicles a couple of days ago in my Huff Post. I didn't really mean it though. I think was just more upset by the constant Ishikawa bashing than anything else. Really. I love this blog. You know that scene where Jeanne Tripplehorn is crying when she is ex-communicated from the Church of Latter Day Saints in the show "Big Love"? Yeah, that would be me if I was barred from that Giants blog. My favorite blog on the Giants period (other than this one of course...sorry I'm vain).

Some Thoughts on the Giants Offense for 2010

Satchel Price of Beyond the Box Score posted a piece musing on the offense of the Giants going into the 2010 season. In summary, it's probably the most optimistic thing I've seen about the Giants offense in quite some time. There are some things he did point out I didn't agree with (he mentioned that he believes Aaron Rowand is due for a breakout year, while I think Rowand can improve, but only because last year was so atrocious), but for the most part, it makes you think good things about the Giants offense around Pablo Sandoval for a change. If you're a Giants fans, read this and keep it bookmarked for when you're feeling blue.