Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Around the Candlestick": Divisional Prospects Looks, M's Hernandez vs. A's Anderson Debate, "Four Eyes" Panda, Giants Win

Sorry, I'm feeling a little low after Canada won that Gold Medal game against the US today in hockey. Seriously, Sidney "Freaking" Crosby won he always does. I don't know why, but I'm getting tired of seeing the kid dominate so much. It's kind of tough to explain this feeling. I don't hate the Pittsburgh Penguins, and my favorite hockey team, the San Jose Sharks, plays in the West, so they don't face each other very often.

Who knows why I am starting to develop an annoyance with Crosby. Maybe he's too clean cut. Maybe he's too perfect. Maybe I like Alexander Ovechkin way more and Crosby is just too opposite from him. Maybe if I cared more about hockey I'd figure all this stuff out.

Oh well. Silver ain't bad, U.S. I sure as heck wasn't expecting a silver medal this year. So really, I can't complain.

Anyways, on a lighter note, let's look at some things "Around the Candlestick" style.

2010 MLB Fantasy Prospects By Division Series

As I have said countless time before, I have a lot of respect for Stephen Sheridan and the job that he and his crew of writers are doing at MLB Fantasy Prospects. MLBFP definitely helped put my blog more out there and Remember '51 has definitely skyrocketed in terms of page views and readers since MLBFP put me on their recommended reading list.

That being said, I'm not just doing this to be a nice guy. MLB Fantasy prospects has some great stuff, and now, writer Ben Carsley has a series that looks at the Top 10 prospects in each Division. I have looked at a few of them (AL West, AL Central and NL West) and they are all really impressive. As far as the NL West, three Giants make the list, with Buster Posey at No. 1, Madison Bumgarner at No. 2 and Zach Wheeler at No. 11.

If only general manager Brian Sabean and manager would wise up with Posey. Everybody and their mother seems to have jumped on the Posey bandwagon except them.

Brett Anderson of the Oakland A's vs. Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners

The link I posted is where the most debate is going on (including my own comments on Hernandez vs. Anderson), but other interesting articles concerning this debate are located here (Anderson being the best pitcher in 2010) and here (the 10 Best Pitchers of 2009).

Basically, Bleacher Report writer Nathaniel Stoltz claims that Anderson will be the best pitcher in 2010 and his second half hints that he is due for big success next season, perhaps even more so than Hernandez. Now, technically, Stoltz is a Featured Columnist for the Oakland A's on Bleacher Report, but don't let that fool you. He's actually a lot more objective than you think, and he rests his Anderson argument mostly on Fielding Independent statistics.

It's a interesting point, and he makes a lot of good arguments, but I disagree mostly because a.) Anderson's 2009 paled overall in comparison to Hernandez's (Fielding independent pitching stats included. b.) Anderson's second-half hype was a bit overrated (his August was okay, not great) and c.) Anderson pitched almost sixty less innings than Hernandez, so Anderson had the benefit of a fresher arm in comparison to Hernandez (thus, naturally the small regression in the second half last season.

Nathaniel is holding to his guns on this one apparently though. Now, I'm not saying Anderson can't be a good pitcher (he was a rookie after all last year), but he's not better than Hernandez at this point.

Pablo Sandoval Needs Glasses...Apparently

Thanks to Obsessive Giants Compulsive for bringing this story up. Absolutely incredible. Sandoval couldn't see well last year and he led the Giants in every offensive category by leaps and bounds. What can he do next year? I don't want to think about it. It makes my head hurt just thinking about.

Giants Win Puts Remember '51 on their Giants Blogroll 

Not much to say but thanks to Giants Win for putting Remember '51 on their Giants blogroll. A great Giants site that definitely connects you with every and any Giants news story imaginable. Definitely check it out when you have a free moment. Big D, the blogger at Giants Win, doesn't miss a thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lookout for These Lefties: Two Pitching Prospects to Watch in 2010

Eric Surkamp and Aaron King.

Not exactly pitching prospects that jump at you like Madison Bumgarner or Zach Wheeler.

That being said, while these two pitchers, both draft picks in the 2008 MLB amateur draft, may not deemed "Elite Prospects" by big-name publications, Web sites and blogs, they could be under-the-radar pitchers who could contribute to the Giants in 2011 or 2012 should they continue to make progress in 2010. While both these guys aren't perfect or "sure things" by any stretch of the imagination, they certainly have the potential to make the Giants' 40-man roster in the future.

Eric Surkamp, LHP (22 years-old, 6th Round Pick of the 2008 Draft from North Carolina State)

Why You Should Know About Surkamp:

I admit, I'm not the first guy to "discover" Surkamp in the blogosphere and give him some hype. That honor (or at least the first one who made it aware to me) belongs to Nathaniel Stoltz, a Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report and writer for Chicken Friars, a blog on the San Diego Padres. He wrote a piece on Surkamp back in January, and though it was widely dismissed by some at the time, I did some more research on Surkamp and liked what he had to offer.

The thing about Surkamp is this: he doesn't have great stuff, but for some reason, he can strike guys out. Grant from the McCovey Chronicles said this about Surkamp in his annual Top 30 Prospects rankings early in Feburuary (He ranked Surkamp at No. 13):

"...So, fine, Surkamp doesn’t throw especially hard, and he’ll likely have a tough time as he moves up the ladder, maybe aping the Pat Misch career path. But until that happens, I’ll overrate Surkamp’s K-inducing curve, I’ll ignore that he’s a fly ball pitcher, and I’ll note that the bottom of FanGraphs’ velocity rankings have lefties who are still quite successful."
In many ways, Grant sums it all up: Surkamp doesn't throw hard but he has an ability to miss bats, which is ultimately what you want from a pitcher anyways. And while his numbers in Augusta were very impressive last year, they aren't flukish by any means. He posted a similar strikeout rate numbers in a five game stint with Salem-Keizer (10.3) and a two-game stint in Rookie League Arizona (18.9, thanks to seven strikeouts in 3.1 innings pitched).

His college numbers also produced more of the same at North Carolina State, where he pitched for three years. During his junior season, Surkamp posted a 10.5 strikeout rate in 73.2 innings pitched, very solid numbers for a college starting pitcher.

If anything, Surkamp reminds me of a young Noah Lowry, who also posted similar strikeout rate numbers during his first couple of years of Minor League ball. Like Surkamp, Lowry was also a player out of college and did not have intimidating stuff. Nevertheless, Lowry found a niche as a starting pitcher his first few years as a Giant by having good (though not great) control and command.

I could also see Surkamp having that "serviceable starting Major League pitcher" potential by 2011 or 2012. Furthermore, I could see Surkamp be even better than Lowry if he doesn't run into the kind of arm problems Lowry had during his last few years as a Giant.

Why You Should Be Cautious About Surkamp:

Surkamp's 2009 with Augusta was good...maybe perhaps too good to be real. Just look at the stats: 11.6 strikeout rate per nine innings, 2.7 walk rate per nine innings, 4.33 BB/K ratio, 2.20 FIP. Those are the numbers of a really good starting pitcher.

Yet there are a two stats that worry me: 1.28 WHIP and 129 hits allowed in 131 innings.

Those aren't exactly the numbers of a pitcher who is dominating, especially at Single-A.

What does that mean? Surkamp is either striking guys out or he's giving up hits. His BABIP shows that (he had a .380 BABIP last season, exceptionally high). That's fine if he's got incredible stuff, but other than a wicked curve, Surkamp doesn't sport "strikeout artist" velocity. His fastball runs in the mid 80's to high 80's (at best) range. Those aren't exactly comforting qualities in a pitcher, especially when he's very low in the Minor League system at this point.

So, Surkamp dominated in Augusta in 2009. But can he do it again? He could. His high strikeout rate in his first three levels of professional ball illustrates that he has a good understanding when it comes to getting guys out, and you could imagine him keeping that ability as he progresses into Advanced Single-A or Double-A next year.

Then again, it would not be surprising at all to see Surkamp get shellacked in Advanced Single-A or Double-A next year. That's the kind of risk Surkamp presents as a player. He'll either continue to improve and continue to strike guys out despite "okay" stuff, or he'll get tattooed and won't be the same ala Pat Misch or Lowry post-2005. He didn't exactly set the world on fire at NC State (he posted a 1.57 WHIP is last year at NC State, not exactly great), so it's totally plausible that he could come crashing down to earth once he faces better competition.

Aaron King, LHP (20 years-old, 7th Round Pick of the 2008 MLB Draft from Surry Community College)

Why You Should Know About King:

King can bring it. Plain and simple. He throws in the low to mid-90's (up to 95 MPH, or at least that's the "legend", according to the McCovey Chronicles) and he can strike guys out. In 31.2 innings pitched in Rookie League Arizona, King posted an 11.65 strikeout rate per nine innings (he also made six starts in rookie ball). Last season, his strikeout rate dipped to 7.57, but considering that he started all 22 games he pitched in and logged in 104.2 innings pitched in Augusta, the strikeout rate isn't all that bad (though it certainly is discouraging).

Another aspects in King's favor is that he isn't exactly easy to hit, especially in comparison to Surkamp. While Surkamp posted a better strikeout rate, King allowed less hits in comparison to innings pitched than Surkamp (he allowed 14 less hits than innings pitched while Surkamp only allowed two less), and that is comforting. Then again, King benefited from a better BABIP than Surkamp last year (.281 in comparison to Surkamp's .380 BABIP), but if anything, last year, King showed that hitters aren't going to find gaps as easily as they did with Surkamp.

That being said, the kid is far from polished.  At this point, he sort of resembles a less-refined Alex Hinshaw (whether that's good or bad, I'll leave that you to judge; In my opinion, it's not bad). Granted, he's only 20-years-old, and with the kind of stuff and strikeout potential he possesses, King could be a very good pitcher with the right tutelage and if he finds the right role.

And you know what? Both those things could happen as early as next year. The Giants organization has a good reputation of finding and developing pitchers, (as evidenced by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez, etc.). Additionally, King may be better suited in the bullpen than in the starting rotation. With less innings pitched and opponents only seeing him once in a game rather than two or three times, it would not be surprising to see his strikeout rates increase should he make a move to the pen.

Why You Should Be Cautious About King: 

There's already a reputation around the Web concerning King's mechanics. Apparently, they're really, really, BAD. In this day and age of Kerry Woods and Mark Priors (both former Cubs!), you can't afford to take chances and spend money on guys with arm problem potential. It killed Chicago financially and they in some ways never really recovered from it.

Now, nobody is comparing King to Wood or Prior (they all had way more hype), but arm problem potential is still arm problem potential. Will King have a future of injuries and extended time on the disabled list? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not God, so I can't say. However, it's a huge red flag for his future, and it definitely keeps the expectations for him lower than they probably should be.

Furthermore, King's control is also a concern. The knock on him already is that he is very, very, VERY wild. Last year, he sported a 4.5 walk rate, but that isn't even the worst part. King also plunked 10 batters and threw 12 wild pitches. Those are the kinds of numbers that only Nuke LaLoosh and Ricky Vaughn would be proud of.

Now, is wildness an automatic career killer? No, but it certainly doesn't help. Just look at the stories of pitchers who never lived up to expectations because they couldn't throw the ball for strikes. Daniel Cabrera is the poster boy for "guys who have great stuff but can't throw a strike to save his life." Hinshaw went through the same control, command problems in 2009 and it may have shot him in the foot in terms of keeping his spot on the 40-man roster this season (especially with Guillermo Mota and Santiago Casilla signed to minor league contracts this off-season).

Is that going to happen to King? Like I said, I don't know. At 20-years-old, he still has room to improve, especially with good coaching. However, the history of guys succeeding with control problems isn't good. The history of guys succeeding with mechanics issues isn't good.

The history of guys succeeding with control problems AND mechanics issues?

Well...let's just say I don't want to see the odds on that one.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rowand Up, Torres Down in 2010? It Might Happen, Giants Fans

The popular sentiment of Giants fans these days seems to be this: bench Aaron Rowand, and replace him with Andres Torres, who is better suited to hit leadoff than Rowand, the Giants' current candidate.

Granted, I can't necessarily dimiss the idea. Torres is coming off a great year, and Rowand isn't. Rowand is a good defender, but statistically, Torres was better last year (Torres' had a 3.7 UZR in center field last season while Rowand sported a 1.3 UZR).

However, even though the stats from 2009 may favor more playing time for Torres and less for Rowand in center field, Giants fans shouldn't jump on the Torres bandwagon too quickly. While Torres may be a good player off the bench for the Giants roster in 2010 (especially considering he's might be of one of the better baserunners on the 40-man roster along with Eugenio Velez and Emmanuel Burriss), it is highly unlikely that he will duplicate the numbers that he posted in 2009. Additionally, while Rowand didn't exactly set the world on fire in 2009, there is a strong chance Rowand is due to improve in 2010.

Here are a few cases for my thought that Rowand should be the main man in center field over Torres for the Giants:

1. Torres most likely won't repeat his power numbers, while Rowand is more prone to stay around the same, perhaps even improve.

Here are Torres' power stats in 2009: six doubles, eight triples, six home runs, .533 slugging percentage, .876 OPS, .263 ISO, 12.5 percent HR/FB ratio.

Those really are incredible numbers, almost TOO incredible to be perfectly frank considering Torres' history.

In his Minor and Major League career, Torres only hit more than six home runs once (11 in 2008 with the Iowa Cubs, the Chicago Cubs' Triple-A affiliate). Granted, Torres has always had solid slugging and OPS numbers in the minors, but that may be more caused by his speed rather than natural power. From 2006-2008, in four Minor League stints (one Triple-A stint with the Minnesota Twins in 2006, a Double-A stint with the Detroit Tigers in 2007, a Triple-A stint with the Tigers in 2007, and a Triple-A stint with the Cubs in 2008), he accumulated 39 triples.

39! That's some absolute speed on the basepaths folks!

Yet here's a huge red flag when it comes to Torres repeating his 2009 numbers in 2010: the .263 ISO. Torres is not a .263 ISO hitter. The only other time he cracked the .200 mark was in 2007 with the Tigers' Triple-A team where he posted a .214 ISO. As far as his ISO in the majors, it isn't even close. The second-highest ISO he posted in the Majors was .077 in 2003 with the Tigers. (e.g. Walt Weiss territory.)

Another red-flag for Torres is his HR/FB ratio, which was an astounding 12.5 percent, third best on the team in 2009 (behind only Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe). His HR/FB numbers were nowhere close to that in his four seasons in the Majors prior to 2009. The second-highest HR/FB ratio for Torres? 3.1 percent in 2003 with Detroit. (He had a zero percent HR/FB ratio in 2002, 2004 and 2005, but he only played a combined 30 games during those three seasons.)

(Note: I could not find batted ball statistics for Minor Leaguers, so that's why I omit them here).

As for Rowand, 2009 was a little more typical for him in terms of power numbers in comparison to 2008. He posted a .419 and a .158 ISO, not to mention a 10.3 percent HR/FB ratio. Granted, those statistics aren't great by any measure, but they are least consistent with what we expect from Rowand. In his nine Major League seasons, he has only posted an OPS under .420 four times. (Although two of the four times were with the Giants...ouch!) Furthermore, Rowand has a career ISO average of .168 (in comparison to Torres who has a .139 ISO) and a career HR/FB ratio of 12.2 percent (in comparison to Torres who has a 7.1 percent HR/FB ratio).

One thing I think that could bode in Rowand's favor in 2010 was his dip in Line Drive percentage in 2009.  Rowand averages 19.7 percent in career line drive percentage. In 2009, that number dipped to 16 percent, the lowest percent of his Major League career. That total was probably affected by his increase in FB percentage (38.9 percent) and Infield Fly Ball percentage (13 percent, his highest percentage since 2005).

I don't think Rowand has a 16 percent line drive percentage in 2010, especially with a better hitting coach aboard in Hensley Meulens (Let's face it, Carney Lansford and his overly intense, counter-productive behavior probably wasn't helping him). If Rowand puts up better line drive numbers, chances are his power numbers will correspond as well.

2. Rowand is better at making contact than Torres.

Blasphemous. Or at least that's what Torres fans are saying. "Rowand can't hit the broad side of a barn!" is probably the most common phrase shouted at Rowand, but you know what? The stats say Rowand makes better contact at the plate.

In 2009, Torres posted a contact rate of 72.3 percent. Also, he made contact on 46.2 percent of pitches outside the strike zone and 84.1 percent of pitches in the strike zone.

Rowand? He posted a 74.8 percent contact rate, making 51.9 percent contact rate outside the strike zone and 85.2 percent contact rate on pitches inside the strike zone.

That is a big and surprising difference, especially considering the fact Rowand has earned a reputation of swinging and missing early and often (then again, his 25.1 percent strikeout rate and 0.24 BB/K ratio certainly didn't sway many Giants fans to believe otherwise). Yet according to the numbers, Torres may not be that much better a hitter as many Giants fans would like to believe. If given regular playing time, his stats most likely would look pedestrian to the point where they would be comparable, if not worse than Rowand's.

3. Torres' high BABIP doesn't bode well for 2010.

Torres posted a .347 BABIP in 2009, third-best on the team of hitters with 20 or more plate appearances behind Pablo Sandoval and Fred Lewis. Now, BABIP numbers aren't a bad thing. For the most part, groundball hitters have very high BABIP numbers, and Torres is a groundball hitter, so...

Stop right there! Torres was NOT a groundball hitter in 2009. He posted a 0.69 GB/FB ratio in 2009 along with a 49.5 percent flyball percentage. Rowand in comparison had a 1.16 GB/FB ratio and a 38.9 percent flyball percentage. So, if anything, Rowand is more of a groundball hitter than Torres, and Giants fans know that Rowand doesn't have the speed to be that kind of a hitter.

Torres does have the speed to be that kind of a player, but for whatever reason, he wasn't able to do so in 2009 and hit more flyballs than groundballs (15.5 percent more to be exact). Was last year an aberration for Torres? It could be. In 2002, 2003 and 2005 at the Major League level (again, no Minor League batted ball stats), Torres didn't have a GB/FB ratio below 1.81. That being said, his last stint in the Majors was 2005, and it is obvious by his power numbers in the Minors that he seems to be more inclined to try and hit for power and swing for the fences rather than just make contact.

If Torres continues that approach, chances are he won't have a BABIP as high as .347 at the Major League level again. Sooner or later, his luck will run out and his BABIP will hover around the league average of .299, which will make his stats look a lot more pedestrian than numbers he put up in 2009.

As for Rowand, he hovered around the league average in BABIP (.318) last season. If he can catch some breaks and get that BABIP to rise (which will if he can improve that line drive percentage like I said before), then Rowand's stats will look a lot better than in 2009.

The bottom line? I know Rowand makes more money and chances are, because of his contract and "gamer" status (which isn't a bad thing by the way), he will probably start in center field on Opening Day. That being said, Torres will be a very interesting player to watch in 2010. There is a good chance he could prove me wrong and continue to put the heat on manager Bruce Bochy to play him more. If he can utilize his speed better, he certainly will be hard to keep out of the lineup, especially if Rowand struggles.

However, if Torres regresses dramatically and posts lower numbers at the plate from a year ago, well...don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Giant Comeback? Four Infielder Prospects Looking to Bounce Back in 2010

Last year was a great year for some top Giants prospects. Buster Posey certainly made a leap in his first full year of professional ball, Madison Bumgarner made solid headway from Single-A to the Major Leagues and Waldis Joaquin and Dan Runzler proved they could be solid relief options in 2010 after solid Minor (and even Major) League campaigns in 2009.

However, for all the success stories concerning Giants prospects, there were a few downers in 2009. Specifically, four of them were middle infielders (two who were first round draft picks): Emmanuel Burriss, Brandon Crawford, Ehire Adrianza, and Nick Noonan. All four guys were expected to make big leaps after promising 2008 campaigns, but for some reason, none of them really lived up to expectations in 2009.

Now, does that mean the sun has set on these four infield prospects? Not at all. The potential for Major League success as soon as 2010 is still there for some of them. That being said, I feel it is important to look at the four and examine which guys are due for a breakout in 2010, and what are some of the warning signs that may prevent one, a couple (or perhaps all four) of the players from being big-time contributors at the Major League level.

Emmanuel Burriss, 2B/SS (Highest level reached last year: MLB).
2009 stats with Giants: 61 G, 202 AB, 220 PA, 48 H, 42 1B, 6 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 18 R, 13 RBI, 14 BB, 34 SO, 11 SB, .238 AVG., .292 OBP, .560 OPS

How Burriss Struggled in 2009:
Big expectations were put on Burriss, the Giants' First Round Pick in 2006, after a solid 2008 campaign with the Giants, and an even better Spring Training where he put up a .855 OPS in Spring Training prior to the 2009 season. With those credentials, and the second base spot open after Ray Durham's departure, Burriss was given the starting nod at second base with the hope that he would build on those two solid campaigns and become a viable candidate for the leadoff spot in the Giants lineup.

Well, Burriss never really lived up to the promise of 2008 or Spring Training, as he struggled to get on base (.292 OBP) and seemed to be overmatched at the plate. He posted the highest strikeout rate of his professional career with the Giants in 2009 (16.8 percent), and only hit six extra base hits all year (all doubles), which produced a putrid .267 slugging percentage and .560 OPS. Even though Burriss did provide some spark on the bases as expected (11 stolen bases in 2009), his defense didn't live up to billing. After sporting a 3.8 UZR in 2008 at second base, Burriss had a -3.7 UZR in 2009 at second base.

How bad was Burriss in 2009? In WAR values for the Giants, Burriss ranked last in WAR out of any San Francisco positional player at -0.8 (equivalent to $-3.8 million dollars, according to Fangraphs).

Why Giants Fans Should be Hopeful of Burriss:
Talent-wise, Burriss is a very interesting player. He has tremendous base-stealing ability (as evidenced by his 35 and 51 stolen bases in 2007 and 2008 in Salem-Keizer and Augusta), a quality that will be sorely needed in 2010 after the Giants lost their leading stolen base leader (Randy Winn) to free agency this off-season. The Giants really do not have a true leadoff hitter at the moment (Aaron Rowand is predicted to bat lead-off on Opening Day) and though Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres are solid baserunning options, they are much older ( 27 and 32, respectively) and it is debatable whether or not they will get many opportunities considering how crowded the outfield is. With Freddy Sanchez injured, and Edgar Renteria on thin ice, Burriss could have a chance to compete if somebody ahead of him falters and if he can get off to a fast start out of the gate in 2010 in the Minors or even Spring Training.

Offensively, Burriss does not draw a lot of walks (6.4 percent walk rate in 2009, 8.4 percent walk rate in 2008) but with the exception of last season, he does not strike out very much either. In 2008, he had a 0.96 BB/K ratio, and in 2009 with Fresno, he had a 0.75 BB/K ratio. While he could swing less outside of the strike zone (he swung at 28.3 percent of pitches outside the strike zone), he has a very strong ability to make contact at the plate. In 2008, he had a contact rate of 90.1 percent and even in his sub-par 2009, he had a contact rate of 84.6 percent, fifth-best of Giants hitters with 20 or more plate appearances.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Skeptical of Burriss:
Speed and defense were supposed to be the key characteristics of Burriss' game. Last year, he only proved the former. His negative UZR at second base was disappointing, and his negative UZR at shortstop in 2008 proved that he may not be as versatile in the field as many Giants fans would like to think.

Furthermore, Burriss' absolute lack of power is a huge red flag. He has never posted a slugging percentage over .370 in his career, and has never sported an OPS over .750 either. Granted, Giants fans don't expect him to be Barry Bonds at the plate, but one would expect with his speed that he would be better in terms of legging out extra-base hits, especially triples. Sadly, that isn't the case. In his career at the Major League level, Burriss has only hit 14 extra-base hits (12 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run) in 494 plate appearances.

Brandon Crawford, 2B (Highest level reached last year: Double-A).
2009 stats with Connecticut (Double-A): 108 G, 392 AB, 423 PA, 101 H, 69 1B, 26 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 38 R, 31 RBI, 20 BB, 100 SO, 11 SB, .258 AVG., .294 OBP, .659 OPS.

How Crawford Struggled in 2009:
Crawford actually tore it up in Single-A San Jose that is. In San Jose, Crawford hit .371 with a 1.045 OPS and also hit six home runs and 17 RBI in 25 games in the California League.

However, after getting promoted to Double-A Connecticut, Crawford ran into major problems at the plate.

Nearly every category of his dropped with the Defenders. His average went down to .258, his OPS went down to .659, he couldn't draw a walk to save his life (as evidenced by his 4.7 walk percentage, and .294 OBP), and he suddenly became a modern day recreation of Pedro Feliz circa 2001 when it came to swinging and missing (100 strikeouts in Connecticut, 25.5 percent strikeout rate).

To make things worse, he didn't add much power either in Double-A. After posting a .600 slugging and .229 ISO in San Jose in 2009, his slugging and ISO fell to .395 and .107 respectively. Additionally, he only hit four home runs in 423 plate appearances (he hit six home runs in 119 plate appearances in San Jose).

Why Giants Fans Should Be Hopeful of Crawford:
Crawford has always had raves for his glove and he still remains a solid defensive player. His RF/G was 4.58 in combined Single-A and Double-A play in 2009, so that should give some Giants fans hope considering Edgar Renteria's RF/G was 3.74 for the Giants in 2009. If anything, Crawford would be a solid upgrade over Renteria or even Juan Uribe (who had a 3.78 RF/G in 2009 at shortstop).

Granted, defense isn't everything. Brian Bocock was a good defender too. However, unlike Bocock, Crawford does have an ability to hit. His combined stats in Single-A and Double-A last year were still decent (.282 average, .742 OPS) and he had a solid campaign in Arizona Fall League this year (as evidenced by a .312 average and .850 OPS). If Crawford can get back to Single-A form somewhat, or hover around those combined-level stats from 2009 in 2010, it isn't impossible to think that he could be competing for the starting shortstop job in 2011 once Edgar Renteria's contract is up.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Skeptical of Crawford:
He is 23-years-old, and played three years of college baseball at UCLA. So, he's not exactly young considering where he's at in the minor league system, and he doesn't have a whole lot of time to develop in comparison to guys out of high school (such as Nick Noonan). Therefore, Crawford ceiling may not be very high, and Giants fans could seem him reach it in a couple of years considering his college experience.

That being said, despite his three years of college ball, and two years of professional ball, Crawford has serious issues at the plate. At four levels of play (rookie, short-season Single-A, Advanced Single-A, and Double-A), Crawford's BB/K ratios haven't been great. He had 0.00 BB/K ratio in Arizona and Salem Keizer (because he drew no walks, but then again, it was only a five game sample) and a 0.20 BB/K ratio with the Defenders. Even in his solid outing in San Jose, he BB/K ratio wasn't good at 0.31 (a 30.5 percent strikeout rate probably contributed to such a high ratio).

 Ehire Adrianza, SS (Highest level reached last year: Single-A).
2009 Stats with Augusta (Single-A): 117 G, 388 AB, 448 PA, 100 H, 80 1B, 15 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 54 R, 46 RBI, 42 BB, 66 SO, 7 SB, .258 AVG., .333 OBP, .660 OPS.

How Adrianza Struggled in 2009:
Adrianza played sparingly in 2008, but he showed some promise in Rookie League, Short-Season Single-A, and even Triple-A stints. He performed okay in his longest stint of of the year in Arizona Rookie league, hitting .255 with a .349 OBP and .731 OPS, but his two-game cup of coffee in Fresno proved to be the most impressive, as he went 3-for-8 with a double and scored two runs.

Despite the promise from the Fresno games, Adrianza didn't really make a jump at the plate in Augusta. He only hit .258 in 117 games and only sported an OPS of .660. While his plate patience numbers were fine, if not promising considering he was only 19-20 years old in 2009 (.333 OBP, 9.4 percent walk rate, 0.64 BB/K ratio), he really didn't show much ability to get extra base hits or produce runs. His slugging was only .327, his ISO was 0.70, and he had a runs above average based on wOBA of -2.6. That's not exactly the kind of improvement everyone expected from Adrianza after his callup with the Grizzlies.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Hopeful of Adrianza:
Giants fans should be hopeful because a lot of people are. Baseball America is, as is the McCovey Chronicles, not to mention Giants beat writer Chris Haft. Why is that? Because Adrianza has a great glove and great speed. Adrianza had a 5.06 RF/G in 2008, which shows that he is capable of being a Gold Glove-Caliber shortstop. And his speed? You won't see it in his seven stolen bases (though he was only caught once), but his speed score of 5.4 is very solid, and shows the potential he has when he gets running.

Also, Adrianza has very solid plate patience for a guy his age. Granted, he's no Nick Johnson, but considering he's only 20 and he had a BB/K ratio of 0.64 in 2009 shows that he isn't too much of a free-swinger and has an idea what the strike zone looks like. If he can continue to harness and slightly improve these solid plate patience skills as he makes his way through the Giants' system, Adrianza will be a very solid commodity to a ballclub that is notoriously known for lack of strike zone recognition from their hitters (e.g Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina, etc.).

Why Giants Fans Should Be Skeptical of Adrianza:
Giants fans should have some skepticism about Adrianza because some people seriously doubt his ability as well. Seriously, SF has him rated as No. 50 in their Top 50 Giants prospects. That's a pretty big difference from where Baseball America, McCovey Chronicles and Haft have him ranked. Why do I think there's such a big gap in terms of the mindset on Adrianza? Well...for the most part, at this point in his career (like I said before, he's only 20, but still) he's all potential and really hasn't proven all that much on the field.

At the levels of pro ball he has played at extensively ( Dominican Summer League and Augusta), his stats are very underwhelming, especially when it comes to getting hits. He hasn't hit over .260 in places where he has played 15 games or more (Dominican Summer League, Arizona Rookie League, Augusta), and his OPS in stints where he played 15 games or more has topped out at .676 (2007 in the Dominican Summer League).

Furthermore, the two aspects of his game that are most intriguing (defense and baserunning) took major hits last season in Single-A. His RF/G went down to 4.13 (he had a 5.06 RF/G in 2008) and he committed 30 errors as well. As for his baserunning, he only stole seven bases in 117 games in 2009, a huge drop from his ballyhooed 2007 in the Dominican Summer League where he stole 23 bases in 66 games.

Nick Noonan, 2B (Highest level reached last year: Advanced Single-A).
2009 stats with San Jose (Advanced Single-A): 124 G, 459 AB, 530 PA, 119 H, 78 1B, 26 2B, 8 3B, 7 HR, 82 R, 64 RBI, 48 BB, 97 SO, 9 SB, .259 AVG., .330 OBP, .727 OPS.

How Noonan Struggled in 2009:
Other than perhaps Conor Gillaspie, nobody had a more disappointing 2009 in the minors than Noonan. His rookie season in 2007 showed flashes of promise, illustrated by his .313 batting average, .809 OPS and 18 stolen bases. For a while, Noonan was being compared to a young Chase Utley: a solid defensive infielder with some pop and skill on the basepaths.

However, after a slight regression in 2008 Augusta (where his OPS fell to .730 and his strikeout rate rose to 19.6 percent, though he did steal 29 bases), Noonan really hit the skids in 2009 in San Jose. His average fell down to .258 (down 55 points from his rookie season), his OPS fell to .727 (down 82 points from his rookie season) and his stolen base total, one of the sole category highlights of his 2008 campaign, fell from 29 to 9. Noonan was deemed somewhat of "tumbling" prospects by some experts after the 2009 season, which made many Giants fans wonder if he ever could live up to those Chase Utley comparisons he was bestowed with after his rookie season in 2007.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Hopeful of Noonan:
Noonan is still incredibly young (he'll be 21 in May, something Grant from McCovey Chronicles continues to emphasize) and he still has shown some extended flashes of brilliance in his three years of pro ball (something you can't really say out of a guy like Adrianza, who has shown "brief" flashes of brilliance). Also, while Noonan's strikeout rate went up two points (from 19.6 percent in 2008 to 21.1 percent in 2009), his walk rate did improve in 2009 (from 4.3 to 9.1 percent) as did his BB/K ratio (0.23 in 2008 to 0.49). If his BB/K ratios had stayed around the same or went down (ala Brandon Crawford) then I would be more worried. So, to look on the sunny side of things, Noonan is getting a better idea at the plate, even if it isn't exactly reflected in his batting average or OPS. And if you look at video of Noonan's swing, you can't help but feel he has a solid, balanced stroke and approach in the batter's box.

In addition, Noonan still remained stellar defensively at second base despite his drop offensively. Noonan's RF/G stayed around the same at 4.68, and he made less errors (16 in comparison to 18 in 2008) in more games (120 to 116 in 2008) and chances (577 to 572 in 2008). So, even though his ability at the plate and his ability to steal bases are in question, his ability in the field certainly isn't.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Skeptical of Noonan:
Sure, he's young, but bad season is an "off season" (and Giants fans can live with those). Two bad seasons in a row, however, could be grounds for regression, and you could make that argument with Noonan. An 82 point drop off in OPS in a two year span is a red flag. A 20 base difference in stolen bases (despite having only two less plate appearances from 2008) is a red flag. A steadily increasing strikeout rate from 2007 to 2009 is a red flag. Going from 6.1 runs above average based on wOBA to -6.4 runs above average based on wOBA in one season is a red flag.

As you can see, there are so many red flags with Noonan that his career outlook almost looks like the Soviet Union (lots of red flags...duh!) Pre-Fall of the Berlin Wall. Therefore, Giants fans have every right to be skeptical. Then again, Giants fans have to remember that Noonan is still young (and I know it's tough to stomach because we saw guys like Pablo Sandoval come in and mash at the Major League level at 22 years old), and that is comforting because he still has a lot of time to develop his approach at the plate (something a guy like Crawford, for example, doesn't have the luxury of doing because he's 23 years old).

As far as the Utley comparisons, you have to take into consideration Utley's stats when he played in Advanced Single-A during his second season of professional ball. (Granted, Utley was three years older than Noonan when he broke into professional ball, so take that into consideration).

Utley's 2003 stats with Clearwater (Advanced Single-A): 122 G, 467 AB, 523 PA, 120 H, 25 2B, 16 HR, 65 R, 59 RBI, 19 SB, 37 BB, .257 AVG., .324 OBP, .746 OPS.

As you can see (unfortunately), those numbers don't bode well for Noonan in terms of being the "Next Chase Utley."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Giants Fans Shouldn't Miss Tim Alderson (Too Much at Least)

This is not a defense of the Freddy Sanchez for Tim Alderson trade last July Trade Deadline. Even though I liked Sanchez at the time of the trade, I admit, it was a horrible transaction by Giants general manager Brian Sabean in retrospect.

First off, Sanchez wasn't going to make that much of a difference to the lineup. The Giants needed someone with plate patience or run-producing power and Sanchez unfortunately provided neither. (In reality, he was pretty much Juan Uribe with a better glove and more "gamer" status, but without Uribe's power).

Secondly, and most importantly, he was hurt when he arrived to San Francisco. In fact, he was beyond hurt: he was used and damaged goods and Sabean ignored it because he was desperate to make a trade and didn't want to get waylayed by Giants fans because he couldn't get a deal done by the Deadline. Here's how I figured the conversation transpired between Sanchez's physical examiner and Sabean on July 31.

Physical Examiner: We might have found some problems with Freddy, Mr. Sabean. It's possible there are some big-time shoulder issues as well as knee issues. If we were you, we wouldn't make this trade.

Sabean: Are you kidding? How bad is all that?

Physical Examiner: Well...he might need a couple of surgeries in the next couple of months.

Sabean: Just a couple? Osvaldo Fernandez had 30! Two is nothing! We'll take it.

Physical Examiner: But if Sanchez isn't healthy...he's not going to play very much down the stretch, let alone play well. Mr. Sabean, as a Doctor, I must say...

Sabean: Listen "Doctor," if that is your real name, you don't tell me what to do. I make the call on executive decisions you hear me? I didn't get us to the 2002 World Series for nothing. Now, are you going to pass Sanchez or not?

Physical Examiner: No.


Sabean: What if I give you free season tickets in one of the MVP Boxes?

Physical Examiner: Is free booze included?

Sabean: You bet your butt it is.

Physical Examiner: He's healthy. Good luck with your run to the postseason Mr. Sabean!

So, as you can see, the trade was dumb. No one can excuse or pardon Sabean for making such a deal, especially when it was obvious Sanchez wasn't 100 percent.

That being said, I'm not exactly in the mindset that losing Alderson was the end of the world for Giants fans.

For starters, I don't know if Alderson can live up to his incredible hype.

It's one thing for Madison Bumgarner. Ever since Bumgarner was drafted there has been massive hype surrounding him (especially concerning whether or not he should be in the starting rotation to begin the season). There is good reason for Bumgarner's hype though: he for the most part has proven it on the field.

He proved it last Spring Training when he mowed down Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez.

He proved it through his dominance of hitters in Single-A San Jose and Double-A Connecticut.

He proved it with a solid, though not spectacular, start and some innings of relief work with the Giants last season.

Thus, it is reasonable why their is such high expectations for Bumgarner.

As for Alderson though, it's a lot trickier. Ever since high school there has been incredible hype about the tall right-hander from Scottsdale, Arizona. In fact, according to's Matt Remsberg, Alderson was rated the 11th best high school prospect in 2007.

To make things more startling, according to Remsberg, he was ranked four slots higher than Bumgarner in 2007.

(I know...pessimistic Giants fans are slamming their heads against a wall saying "It's Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan all over again!" Please let me finish though before you guys lose consciousness.)

Why was Alderson such a highly-rated prospect? Two reasons really:

1.) Impeccable control (he walked only four batters his senior season).
2.) International success (he was a member of the Silver-Medal winning United States team at the IBAF World Junior Championships in 2007).

So, it's understandable to see why Alderson was such a hot commodity and why he was drafted by the Giants in the first round along with Bumgarner (though he came after Bumgarner in the draft).

That being said, despite those high credentials, it is debatable whether or not Alderson will succeed at the Major League level.

Now, I'm not throwing him in to Todd Van Poppel or Kurt Ainsworth level yet, but there were several warning signs concerning Alderson's future from his tenure in Single-A and Double-A last season.

1.) Low K/9 numbers and an increase in hits given up put him behind Bumgarner.

Alderson had a great rookie campaign in 2007 in the Arizona Rookie league where he struck out 12 batters, gave up only four hits and didn't allow a single walk in five innings pitched. (Those kinds of numbers, though rookie league, proved point number one from above: he had EXCELLENT control).

He followed up the solid rookie league performance with an even more sterling 2008 in San Jose. In 145.1 IP, Alderson struck out 124 batters and only gave up 125 hits and 34 walks. His rates were equally impressive: 7.68 K/9 rate, 3.65 K/BB ratio, 1.09 WHIP, 2.64 FIP.

However, in 2009, some interesting things began to happen: his strikeouts went down and he suddenly became a whole lot more hittable.

In 26 IP, Alderson gave up 31 hits and only struck out 20 batters, producing a strikeout rate of only 6.92 (almost one less from 2008). And, even though his walk rate and his K/BB ratio (6.67) remained stellar (1.04, courtesy of only 3 walks in 26 IP), his WHIP proved to be remarkedly higher from a year ago (1.31) as was his ERA and FIP (4.15 and 4.12, respectively).

Despite the shaky numbers in San Jose, it didn't stop the Giants from promoting him to Double-A Connecticut after five outings. Despite the vote of confidence from the Giants' brass, Alderson didn't do much better with the Defenders.

In 13 outings and 72.2 IP, Alderson continued to show great control (1.73 walk rate, 3.29 K/BB ratio) and not much else. His strikeout rate declined in Double-A to 5.70, and though his WHIP and FIP numbers improved (to 1.24 and 3.53), they certainly weren't "elite" by any measure.

To make matter worse, Alderson's left-handed counterpart, Bumgarner, was tearing up Double-A hitters and making a lot of noise with a 1.03 WHIP and 1.93 ERA. (Though it must be noted Bumgarner's 5.80 strikeout rate wasn't much better than Alderson and he had the exact same FIP as Alderson at 3.53).

So, the situation for Alderson was very obvious: Bumgarner was the lead horse and Alderson was the second-in-line (though, considering at the time how well Scott Barnes was pitching, Alderson was very capable of losing that "second-in-line" status). That made Alderson expendable to the Giants, despite his lofty status when they drafted him.

Just think about it: the Giants have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito set in the rotation going into 2010. Furthermore, they have control of Linceucm until 2014, control of Cain until 2012, control of Sanchez until 2013, and have Zito under contract until at least 2013 (he has a club option for 2014). They're aren't going to let Lincecum or Cain go under any circumstances. Sanchez may go, but that won't happen until a couple of years (worst case scenario: after 2010 if he shows no promise...which I think isn't going to happen). As for Zito, he's untradeable just because his contract is so bad (who wants to pay $57.5 million for a number three pitcher from 2011-2013?)

Therefore, because of the loaded rotation currently, there really is only one spot at the moment in the Giants' rotation and that spot seems to belong to Bumgarner. If Alderson did remain in the Giants' system, when would he have gotten a chance? 2013? 2012 at the soonest? And by then, how great would his stuff be? Sure he's only 20-years-old, but do you trust a guy whose strikeout rate has declined rapidly in each prolongled place of play since 2007?

Which brings me to point number two concerning Alderson's questionable future:

2.) His funky pitching style.

Now I know the experts have said that there was nothing in his mechanics that would warrant worry. Obsessive Giants Compulsive remarked this about Alderson's delivery as well as his tendency to only pitch out of the stretch when he was drafted back in 2007:
Much has been made of #22 Tim Alderson's unusual delivery: he always pitches out of the stretch. As far as I'm concerned, I thought that's great because I don't know how many times I see a pitcher have to throw out of the stretch and suddenly loses his control. Alderson never has to worry about that. His coaches make their high school's pitchers throw out of the stretch in their freshman and sophomore seasons, but allow them to throw normally starting their junior year. Alderson continued doing it, I suppose because of his height, 6'7", which normally would be very hard to coordinate and thus why a lot of tall pitchers are wild and lack control, but since it was working for him already, why mess with success?
So after reading that, Giants fans should've felt fine, right? After all, there was a lot of worry about Lincecum's delivery when he was drafted out of Washington, and so far, he hasn't shown any signs of injury or long-term problems.

That being said, there is one key thing to remember: Alderson is not Lincecum, and if anything, though they are both funky, you can only say Lincecum's mechanics are sound. According to Chris O'Leary of Pitching Mechanics Analysis, Lincecum maximizes his velocity despite his small stature because of his excellent, though unusual-looking, mechanics. That being said, even with his solid mechanics, O'Leary still managed to find some problems with Lincecum's delivery:
Tim Lincecum's pitching mechanics are extremely efficient, which is why such a relatively small guy can throw as hard as he does. However, his delivery is a little max effort, his arm action is a bit borderline, and he shows signs of a timing problem, which is why I don't rate him as highly as I do Justin Verlander or Cliff Lee.
How does this relate to Alderson? Well, in comparison to Lincecum, Alderson has more physical ability than Lincecum: he's taller (6'6) and weighs more than Lincecum (who's 5'7, 170 pounds respectively). Therefore, Alderson physically has a much greater advantage than Lincecum, so there doesn't seem a need for Alderson to have an unusual delivery, because he already has the physical tools to throw hard. If anything, Alderson could have a run-of-the-mill delivery and he'd be fine, just because he's so physically gifted.

Here's the funny thing though: if anything, Alderson's mechanics and pitching style probably hinder his ability to throw hard. Just watch this outing against the A's in Minor League Spring Training last year: doesn't it look like he's just wasting a lot of motion? His body is jerking to one end, his arm is jerking to another. Granted, he strikes out Jemile Weeks, (mostly due to Alderson's great breaking ball), but you just feel that his delivery and style is just not efficient, unlike Lincecum, whom you feel is extremely efficient in pitching motion and delivery.

Furthermore, I can't get over the stretch thing. Granted, he has started to throw out of the windup now, but I just can't believe he didn't pitch out of the windup at all in high school. Sure, it produced great control, but how could you pitch seven innings out of the stretch entirely? It's one thing for a reliever to do it over an inning or two, but five or more? Additionally, he's only been pitching now out of the windup since breaking into pro ball. How's that going to effect his velocity in the future? Is he going to develop bad, injury producing habits because he's still unacquainted with pitching from the windup?

That being said, Alderson could have overcome all those questions, but to me, those issues were just too risky for the Giants management to ignore. Granted, there are some arm and mechanics issues with Bumgarner as well, but Bumgarner is worth taking a risk on because he has prolonged success wherever he has played. You can't really say the same for Alderson thus far.

Overall, you have to be sad that a guy like Alderson is gone from the Giants. There was a ton of potential there. But then again, was he going to live up to it? If anything, I could see Alderson's pitching career turn out like Alyssa Milano's film career.

For those who don't know, Milano had a whole lot of potential and buzz after her role in "Who's the Boss," but roles in some lousy movies (Poison Ivy 2Double Dragon) and her questionable acting skills, proved to be too much for her gorgeous looks to overcome. She had a decent movie (Fear) and a decent television show (Charmed), but for the most part, you can't help but feel she could have done more with her career considering how incredibly attractive she was.

The same would be true with Alderson: a whole lot of potential after a solid high school career and his first two years in pro ball, but a lousy situation that probably will produce bad seasons (it's bound to happen with him on the Pirates), and some questionable pitching skills and delivery issues will most likely prevent him from being anything truly great.

Like I said before, I'm not happy with the Sanchez trade, but considering it was Alderson and not Bumgarner, I can live with it (somewhat).

(By the way, did I really compare an incredibly gorgeous actress to a 6'6 minor league pitcher? You bet ya. Besides, I wanted to find a way to plug Poison Ivy 2 and show a picture of Milano.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Retro B/R Article: 10 Reasons Why Being a Giants Fan Is Better Than Being a Dodgers Fan

This probably happened to be the craziest article I ever wrote for Bleacher Report. Seriously, I don't do drugs, but you would think I'm a meth addict after reading this thing. A lot of the stuff is just so "inside," I don't think any reader could possibly understand the references I make in this article.

I quote Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dodgers Dogs, Leo Durocher and Fred Merkle in this piece. If that doesn't sound like a drug-addled piece, I don't know what does. If anything, this piece probably gives Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" and William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch" a run for their money in terms of "Wow, what the hell was this guy taking when he wrote this?" status.

But for the was not on drugs when I wrote this.

From Bleacher Report

It is one of the best rivalries in baseball, up there with the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals-Chicago Cubs rivalries.

Whenever the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers play, all baseball fans in the West Coast (and even some in New York) turn their eyes and ears to the Bay Area or Southern California.

Not many rivalries generate as much discussion and hatred between opposing fans like the Dodgers-Giants.

Not many rivalries in sports, let alone baseball, are as even record-wise as well.

However, this is not an article on which team is better on the field or historically.

This instead is a thesis, a proclamation of 10 well-justified (and maybe somewhat uncanny) reasons on why cheering for the boys in black and orange in the Bay is a whole lot better than rooting for the bums in blue and white down in Hollywood.

So, please as you continue reading, take these theses with consideration (or if you're a Dodgers fan, take them seriously and to heart because they are aimed at you).

1. Cheering for the Dodgers is unpatriotic.
The Giants were actually called the New York "Gothams" from 1883 to 1885, but they developed the nickname "Giants" after their owner and manager Jim Mutrie used to refer to his players as his "Giants" after wins, and thus the nickname stuck.

The name "Giants" correlates so much with America. "Giants" represent strength, courage, and fortitude.

Furthermore, the Giants name is also the nickname of the football New York Giants, which for a while was the exact name of the Giants baseball team until 1958 when they moved to San Francisco and changed from the New York Giants to the San Francisco Giants.

Even more signs to the Giants' connection to the football counterpart being patriotic? The football New York Giants' colors are red, white and blue, which are the colors of the American flag.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, do not have such a patriotic connection.

While the nickname originated from the term "Trolley Dodgers," the most well-known kind of "Dodger" in American history is a draft "Dodger" e.g. a U.S. citizen who skips out of the country to avoid military service.

The draft "Dodgers" were most prevalent during the Vietnam War, an era where not only the draft "Dodgers" were sticking it to America, but the baseball "Dodgers" were as well.

The Dodgers took the NL Pennant in 1966 and 1974, and studies are being finalized that prove the Dodgers' success in baseball at the time was the main reason why there were so many draft "Dodgers" during the Vietnam War.

Furthermore, the Dodgers colors are blue and white, which is the color of the Finnish hockey team that almost beat the beloved "Miracle On Ice" team in the Gold Medal game in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Thank God Mark Eruzione and company came through. If the Finnish team won, the Dodgers would have as much trouble proving they belong in America as Danny Almonte did trying to prove he was only 12 years old in the Little League World Series.

2. Giants still lead the all-time head-to-head series.
I don't want to hear "Well, the Dodgers have won more since both teams moved to California" hoopla.

I don't want to hear the Dodgers won more World Series titles or pennants.

Overall series head to head: Giants, 1,156. Dodgers, 1,134. (With 17 ties).

Until I see the Dodgers pass by in the head-to-head, the Giants are the better team. No arguments

3. Roger Craig was cooler than Tommy Lasorda.
Roger Craig had cool phrases like "Hum Baby" and got the most out of guys like Robbie Thompson, Kevin Mitchell, and of course, the dynamic duo of Matt Williams and Will "The Thrill" Clark.

In addition, Craig would have never been knocked down by a foul ball like Lasorda was in the All-Star game. It is heavily theorized that if Craig was coaching third base and the ball came to him, he would snatch the ball, smash it in his palm and eat it. That's how cool he was.

All Tommy Lasorda really had was a Sega Genesis video game that wasn't that fun to play, and had a weird "pseudo-drawn" portrait of himself on the cover of the box sporting a Sega Sports cap.
Studies have shown that Lasorda's video game cover picture was responsible for 75 percent of children's nightmares in the United States in 1989 shortly after its release on the market.

4. The Giants' former "steroid-riddled" left fielder is cleaner than the Dodgers' current "steroid-riddled" left fielder.
Remember Dodger fans; Barry Bonds was never suspended for steroid use while he played.

Never mind that there were no steroid rules in place while Bonds was in action.

Never mind that there was heavy evidence that he did indeed use "steroid products" from BALCO.

Never mind that his head grew like Ken Griffey Jr.'s in The Simpsons after Griffey drank that "Wonder Tonic" Mr. Burns gave him as a replacement for booze.

In this stat-driven age, it is only the numbers that count.

Number of games Bonds missed due to steroid suspension: zero.

Number of games Manny Ramirez missed due to steroid suspension: 50.

Furthermore, Ramirez has built on this "steroid-hoopla" celebrity as evidenced by his "Mannywood" fan section in left field.

What did Barry's steroid celebrity produce? He catapulted the ESPN careers of Mark Fainaru-Wada,
Pedro Gomez and Roger Cossack.

I'd say the results of Barry's celebrity are more honorable.

5. The guy who left the Dodgers for the Giants did more damage than the guys who left the Giants for the Dodgers.
One of the worst moments in my life?

Hands down, former Giants second baseman and 2000 MVP Jeff Kent and his press conference where he cried because he "always dreamed of playing for the Dodgers."

Things got even worse when our former ace, Jason Schmidt, left for Los Angeles the season after Kent signed with the Dodgers (though this ended up being a good thing for the Giants because Schmidt was at the end of the road career-wise and the Dodgers vastly overpaid for him. Thus, taking him off our hands was basically killing two birds with one stone for us).

However, despite Kent and Schmidt's crossover to Southern California, they didn't do much damage against the Giants.

The real double-crossing that did damage in this rivalry was when longtime Dodger player and manager Leo Durocher left the Dodgers midway through the 1948 season to manage the rival Giants.

The reason for his leaving? Dodgers ownership wasn't happy with the results of Durocher's managing, even though he compiled 738 wins and only 565 losses in eight-and-a-half seasons, which included capturing the NL Pennant in 1941.

So to stick it to his former team, Durocher managed the Giants in seven-and-a-half seasons to two pennants, a World Series title in 1954 and the single most devastating moment in Dodgers history:
The 1951 Bobby Thomson homer off of Ralph Branca, e.g. "The Shot Heard Around the World."
Kent leaving to the Dodgers looks pretty tame in comparison to what Durocher did to his former team.

Giants nation has been thankful for Durocher's decision since.

6. The Giants' famous "goat" has a better nickname than the Dodgers' famous "goat."
In 1908, Fred Merkle hit the game-winning base hit against the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Pennant.

Unfortunately for the Giants, Merkle, so caught up in celebration, forgot to touch first base in the process. The Cubs put out Merkle, the game continued, the Cubs won and Merkle was forever christened with the name Fred "Bonehead" Merkle in the press.

There will never be a nickname as good as "Bonehead" in the history of baseball.

The Dodgers' famous "goat", Ralph Branca, doesn't have a nickname (or any nickname I can think of) that can touch Merkle's.

Whether that is a good or bad thing is still to be determined, but I'm putting that on the list anyways.

Perhaps though the nickname Manny "I swear the estrogen stuff that was clearing out my system wasn't going to be used for steroids" Ramirez might surpass Fred "Bonehead" Merkle someday.

7. A game at AT&T Park is a better experience than a trip to Dodgers Stadium.
Going to a game at AT&T Park is more of a delight than a chore. You can take the BART train into the city. You can take the MUNI transit to the stadium. You can walk around the downtown Embarcadero, observing the beautiful, seaside view.

You get treated to a wonderful, old-fashioned park that is also technologically modern at the same time (You get Wi-Fi, for chrissakes!).

There isn't a lot to not like about AT&T Park. The overall experience can't be beat.

However, while Dodgers Stadium itself is nice, the fans at Chavez Ravine are incredibly rowdy and you basically fear your life if you're an opposing fan walking through the parking lot (the only worse place is the Oakland Coliseum during football season. If you're an opposing fan, you better have life insurance).

Furthermore, you have to deal with the notorious LA traffic.

If Larry David and the show Curb Your Enthusiasm taught us anything, the best way to get to a Dodgers baseball game is to pick up a hooker and put her in the passenger's seat so you can ride in the carpool lane to the stadium.

Does that sound like a relaxing way to travel to the ballpark?

8. The food is better on fans' mental psyches at AT&T Park than Dodger Stadium.
AT&T Park's staple food, Garlic Fries, only gives you bad breath.

Dodger stadium's "Dodger Dogs" make adolescent males self-conscious about certain regions on their body.

You decide which is worse.

9. J. Peterman Doesn't like Los Angeles.
J. Peterman of the J. Peterman catalogue said on the Comcast Sportsnet show, The San Francisco Chronicle Live, that he doesn't like living in Los Angeles because of the people. And, with that assumption, it can be safely said Peterman doesn't like the Dodgers either.

It is unknown how Peterman made the interview after living so long in privacy in Burma, and whether or not he returned to Burma after the interview was conducted.

(For the record, everyone knows the country of Burma is more widely known as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to Peterman)

It is known however that he still mourns Elaine's dead friend, Susie, a former lover of his.

10. The moments for Giants fans of Dodgers-Giants games are just better.
Bobby Thomsen's "Shot Heard Around the World," coming back to take the pennant despite being 13.5 games behind the Dodgers in 1951, sweeping the Dodgers in 1997 to take the NL West, Brian Johnson's game-winning home run, Eddie Murray grounding into the key double play, "Hum Baby," 1954 and 1962 in general.

There are a lot of great moments for Giants fans to remember when it comes to this rivalry.

As for Dodgers fans and their best moment?

Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez stealing home against the Giants in the movie The Sandlot.

And that wasn't real by the way.

After all, who pinch-runs at third?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Retro B/R Article: Sorry Barry, But the San Francisco Giants' Ship Has Sailed Without You

I re-read this and for some reason, I strangely liked it. I figured it had everything: nostalgia with Bonds, analysis on why he shouldn't come back and a Seinfeld and Can't Hardly Wait reference. Seriously, that's the trifecta of sports blogging in my mind. Any time you can bring in George Castanza and Jennifer Love Hewitt in a Giants article is just unfathomable.

Anyways, at the time, there was a little bit of hoopla with the thought of bringing Barry Bonds back to solve the Giants' offensive woes. The move would have been an absolute disaster. Bonds hadn't played in a year and a half, and the Giants were finally building chemistry for the first time in over a decade. If Bonds was back, all of that would have been kiboshed in a second.

But, as the article states, I don't hate Barry. It's just that I don't want him back playing. He's not the same Bonds we once knew.

From Bleacher Report

After browsing on the blogosphere, I found this article on the Daily Dish, a SB Nation MLB trade rumors blog.

Basically, in summary, it is suggesting that if the San Francisco Giants are looking for an upgrade in power, they should look in their own backyard and sign Barry Bonds.

It is a very intriguing suggestion.

The Giants as of this moment are in a bind. Some fans and baseball experts feel that in order to be serious contenders, the Giants need to add another offensive player to solidify their lineup.

However, who to give away in order to acquire an offensive upgrade is a tough subject.
Jonathan Sanchez, an early candidate to be traded, has suddenly become harder to dangle. The difficulty is not because his trade value went down, as it did for most of the season.

On the contrary, his value has sky-rocketed since his no-hitter on July 10.

Now, that begs us to ask some questions:

Are the Giants willing to trade a guy who looks to be turning a corner?

Do the Giants want to get rid of a guy who could be something special down the road?

Therefore, it's inquiries like these that make it tough for the Giants to make a trade. They certainly have enticing players on the market that could garner some nice pieces in return.

Yet considering how well this team has played in the first half of this season, whether or not those players are worth trading away is a whole different animal altogether.

This is a franchise and general manager that is known for trading away good players who were on the cusp of reaching their peak, for over-hyped, underachievers, especially at the Trade Deadline.

To have that happen again this year would be absolutely devastating to Giants fans, especially considering all the struggles since 2005.

So in some ways, the Bonds signing is a win-win situation in theory.

The Giants don't have to trade anybody away. They can keep their roster intact and they would be
 upgrading their offense at the same time.

Furthermore, as George Castanza said in the show Seinfeld, the Giants would "have hand" in the negotiations with Bonds.

After all, no other teams are exactly knocking on Bonds door with offer sheets. The Giants would be the only suitors, and thus, could afford to make strict demands.

Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan can make it very simple with Bonds:

"You want to play this year, you have to follow our rules and what we want. NO EXCEPTIONS. If you don't want to do that, you can forget about playing this season."

Bonds wouldn't have to be an everyday player either. Bonds splitting time with Nate Schierholtz could be a good thing.

Schierholtz won't have the pressure of having to deliver consistent performances at the plate game after game.

Instead, he can work on improving his plate patience, while Bonds, in platoon-outfielder duty, would provide the spark and power whenever he is filling in.

Yet the problem is that while all of this is great in theory, it never turns out like you want in the end.

Can Bonds handle being talked down to in negotiations after years of constantly being catered to?

Can Bonds learn to be a platoon outfielder after a career where he has always been "The Man"?

Is Bonds even baseball-ready after a year-and-a-half away from the game?

Sure, Bonds is in shape physically, but baseball is a game of skill. Can we be sure that those skills are still in tune after not seeing Major League pitching for so long?

If we were talking about this in April, I would be open to Bonds coming back. That way, the Giants could allow him to develop and get used to being in Major League lineup again.

However, this is July and to make things more pressing, the Giants are in a playoff race. The Giants can't afford to waste at-bats on a guy who is trying to get back in the swing of things after such a long lay-off.

This isn't like Pedro's signing with the Phillies. Pedro is a pitcher who can only affect his team every five days, if that.

Furthermore, he has only been out of baseball for less than a year (and this isn't even including his recent appearance playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic).

Bonds would be affecting his team on a more regular basis than Pedro, and to make matters worse, he is coming off a bigger lay-off.

Those two factors aren't exactly the recipe for success.

Unfortunately for Bonds, the ship has sailed on the chance to sign him this season. This team has gone through too much and has played too well for Sabean to make a crazy acquisition like signing Bonds at this point.

The Giants simply should stand pat with their current roster. If they are afraid that a trade may bite them in the butt, then the best thing to do would simply not make that trade at all.

This current team got them this far. Why can't they do it all the way?

In theory, a guy like Bonds would be perfect at this point. It is a very enticing scenario, even for those Giants fans who are glad the "Bonds Circus" is gone.

However, this isn't a video game. The chance that the Giants are going to get the Bonds of old is very slim, and if the Giants can't get the Bonds of old, then there is no point in wasting money, at-bats and possible wins on him.

Sorry Barry, but like Jennifer Love Hewitt in Can't Hardly Wait, we as Giants fans have learned better and moved on to different people.

And the results have been great since you've left. So you can understand why we don't want to go back, much like Hewitt didn't want to go back to that stupid, pompous jock.

Not that we're completely comparing him to you, though.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Jonathan Sanchez is Due for a Breakout in 2010

There is a lot of skepticism concerning Jonathan Sanchez, and for good reason. While he threw a No-Hitter last season and was re-signed to a $2.1 million extension this off-season, a lot of Giants fans still question Sanchez's ability to pitch at the next level.

After all, he was deemed to be a breakout candidate last season, and it took him until July 10 to really show any progress as a pitcher. Furthermore, if you look at his overall statistics from 2009, it isn't all that impressive:

8-12 W-L record, 4.24 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.37 WHIP.

Those aren't exactly the numbers of somebody on the cusp of success.

However, for all those who may not believe in Sanchez, and thought he should have been traded last season at the July Trade Deadline (despite his No-Hitter, he still didn't have as much value at the time as many Giants fans would've liked to believe), here are a few reasons why Sanchez is capable of breaking out in 2010.

1. Sanchez is getting better and more confident with his secondary pitches.

Sanchez only threw his fastball 66 percent of the time in 2009, his lowest total in his four seasons at the Major League level. Now, one may wonder why he threw his fastball less, though he was averaging the fastest average velocity of his four-year career.

Well, Sanchez may have better pitches in his arsenal than just his fastball, and he made a step forward to prove that in 2009.

Last season, he threw his slider 21.3 percent of the time, the highest percentage of any secondary pitch he has thrown in his Major League career. He threw it for good reason though, for his pitch value behind his slider proves that it was his most successful pitch in 2009.

While his fastball only average 1.2 runs above average, his slider averaged 11.0 runs above average in 2009.

Thus, Sanchez proved last year that he has an excellent secondary pitch to go along with a good fastball that is only going to improve, as evidenced by his increase in fastball velocity from 90.8 MPH in 2008 to 91.7 MPH last year.

Another promising sign of Sanchez's progress was also his willingness to throw a curve ball last season. For the last two years, Sanchez's arsenal was limited to three pitches: fastball, curve ball, changeup. The last time he had more than three pitches was his rookie season in 2006, where he threw a curve ball as well (though only 1.1 percent of the time).

Granted, Sanchez didn't throw a curve ball very much last year (only 0.8 percent). However, considering his changeup has never been too effective in his career (he has never had a positive runs above average in terms of pitch value with his changeup), a curve ball may be what he needs to continue his progression as a starting pitcher.

His curve isn't bad (as evidenced by the 1.28 runs above average per 100 pitches on his curve last season) and he still is learning to really throw it.

Why do I think he still is learning?

4.2 percent of his pitches were unknown according to Fangraphs.

I guarantee you most of those "unknown" pitches were attempted curve balls. If he can pan out his form on the curve this Spring, then Sanchez will have a very effective third pitch behind his fastball and slider.

2. Sanchez had some fluky stats in 2009 that probably won't occur again in 2010.

Sanchez's advanced stats from 2010 are a bit weird.

Sanchez didn't particularly have the greatest ERA, but opponents' batting average against him in 2009 was the lowest of his Major League career at .227.

His BABIP was below the league average at .290, but he had a high HR/9 ratio at 1.05, and a similarly high HR/FB rate at 10.3 percent.

And, Sanchez's GB/FB ratio was the lowest of his Major League career at 0.95 (probably caused by his 43.1 percent fly ball rate, which was his highest fly ball rate since his rookies season).

What does this all mean? I'm not sure. Sanchez has been throughout his career and will continue to be a high strikeout guy. He proved that in 2009 by his 9.75 strikeout rate (the second-highest strikeout rate for a Giants starting pitcher behind Tim Lincecum). So, naturally, with a tendency to strike guys out (not to mention walk guys) his batted ball statistics will always be out of whack from season to season simply because hitters won't make as much contact against him in comparison to an "average" starting pitcher.

Don't believe that claim? The stats say it all. Every year since 2006, Sanchez's contact rate has been below the league average (the league average contact rate for a pitcher is 80 percent; Sanchez has always been in the 70 percent range), and last season, he had the lowest contact rate out of any pitcher on the Giants team at 73.8 percent (to put things in perspective, Matt Cain had a contact rate of 80.7 percent).

Will Sanchez go down in a lot of those numbers from a year ago in 2010? Maybe, maybe not. However, judging from the progress he made from July through September, and his increase in pitch variety and comfort in them, dont' be surprised to see more average-looking stats from Sanchez (especially in terms of the HR/FB percentages).

3. Sanchez is meant for the fourth spot in the rotation.

Last year, Sanchez was the fifth starter in the rotation behind Lincecum, Randy Johnson, Cain, and Barry Zito. After Johnson's injury, Sanchez was moved to the fourth spot, while Zito was moved to the second spot in the starting rotation.

Sanchez was infinitely better when he was moved to the fourth spot.

Why was that so? Because Sanchez didn't have to face No.1 starters when he pitched. What many people don't realize is that being a No. 5 starter can be more of a challenge than people would want to believe. Thanks to all kinds of scheduling differences (and considering the Giants starting on the second day of the year in 2009 rather than the first, they had a lot of them) starting pitchers will usually not face their counterpart on another team. You won't always see Lincecum vs. Dan Haren. Some days you'll see Haren vs. Sanchez (as we saw at times last year) or Lincecum vs. Doug Davis.

Unfortunately, Sanchez wasn't ready to handle that pressure in the pitching rotation (and the pressure of not having run support in those matchups against an opposing "ace") and his confidence was shot early and often in the first half of the season. When he was moved to the fourth spot in the rotation and he was facing No.3 through 5 starters, he looked more comfortable, and therefore, had more success.

Starting 2010 in the No.4 spot in the rotation (behind Lincecum, Cain and Zito) will boost Sanchez's confidence. And, considering confidence is a big issue with him, the more confident and comfortable he is on the mound, the better results he will produce as a starting pitcher.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Retro B/R Article: Jonathan Sanchez's No-Hitter Reminds an Estranged Giants Fan What Fandom Is Like

 This is one of the pieces I'm really proud of and unfortunately, it never really circulated as much as I really wanted it to. The article only got 334 reads, and I find that disappointing, especially when I've had other stuff that's gotten 1,000 or more reads but aren't as personal or aren't as good in all honesty.

Of course, I have nobody to blame but myself for this. I made the mistake of publishing the story immediately after the game and that killed me because everyone was putting up a write up about Sanchez that night. So, a personal story like mine gets lost in the shuffle or quick write-ups because every Bleacher Report writer knew Sanchez was going to get a lot of hits that night.

Oh well...that's the nature of the biz. I will say this though, re-reading this, I still wouldn't change a thing. One of my friends remarked that of all the stories I wrote on Bleacher Report, this was his favorite one. I think stuff gets a little too sappy at point, but at the time, I had to write like that. The high from the Sanchez no hitter was just coursing through me that I was forced to be overly-romantic about the moment.

Hope you like reading it as much as I liked writing it.

From Bleacher Report

As a Giants fan, I couldn't be prouder of Jonathan Sanchez. There wasn't a guy on this team who needed this moment more.

After all the tough starts this season, amidst all the trade rumors that had been centering on him since June and with his Major League career possibly on the line in a meaningless game against the last-place Padres in July, Sanchez was perfect on Friday night.

Yet despite his record feat, this isn't a column about Sanchez's no-hitter. Sanchez's no-hitter is part of the story, but it is only a piece, not the crutch of the tale.

This rather is a story of a fan's relationship with the Giants team itself.

For as most people know, being a fan of a team is similar to being in a serious relationship. There are ups and downs. There are good times and bad times. There are moments when you can't feel happier. There are unfortunate periods where you are just completely miserable.

My relationship with the Giants has been estranged for two years. I hadn't quit on the Giants or given up on the organization though.

Rather, for the past two summers, I was in a different state studying and working at my college, Gonzaga University, which is located in the state of Washington.

Let's just say it isn't exactly a state that bleeds orange and black.

For the past two years, watching Giants games had been a chore and a luxury. If I could find a bar that had the MLB Extra Innings package and was playing a Giants game, I thanked my lucky stars.
Rarely did that ever happen, though. I think it only happened on one occasion, and by that time the Giants were already out of the NL West race.

Instead, most of my summer nights the past two seasons were spent at college bars where there were barely any televisions at all, let alone one that would be showing a Giants game.

On some nights, I was cooped up in a cubicle on the fourth floor of the Spokesman-Review newspaper building recording box scores of American Legion baseball tournament games until 11 p.m. The only way I was able to follow the Giants was through Gamecasts and postgame recaps on ESPN.

Let's just say watching a Gamecast didn't exactly satisfy my yearning for Bay Area baseball.

In some ways, for the past two years, the Giants and I were apart much like a husband and wife going through a separation period. We weren't divorced, but we were certainly keeping a distance from each other.

Deep down, as those two years passed, I still loved the Giants.

That being said, I couldn't be with them, and during that time span, I wasn't sure when I would be back with them again, either.

My future with this franchise was unpredictable, much like a separated couple that had fallen on hard times, unsure what to do with their relationship.

When I came back home after graduating college, with no plans until August, I was able to once again watch Giants games on television.

It was refreshing to finally see commercials on television of Giants players like Brian Wilson and Tim Lincecum rather than ones of Mariners players like Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre.

Yet for some reason, it was hard to get back into the groove of things as a Giants fan.

After all, I was two years removed from watching, following and being exposed to the Giants on a regular basis, so it was safe to say it took me back a little simply because I was prepared for it after such a long hiatus.

I enjoyed watching the games again, but as I watched the games, I questioned how deep my love for the Giants really went. It wasn't a question of whether I was going to stick with the team, it was a question of how my love for the Giants compared to other teams I liked in other sports.

Was I as big a Giants fans as I was a Niners fan? Was I a bigger fan of my alma mater, Gonzaga? Did I like the California Golden Bears above all my favorite teams?

In the beginning of this summer, I was unsure. I certainly liked the Giants, but where they stood in the pantheon of my favorite teams was hard to determine.

In the past, I always considered the Giants my favorite sports team without question. Yet when the baseball season started to take full swing, I found it more difficult to fully stand by that notion after years of up-close exposure to Gonzaga basketball.

Then, in late June, two days after Father's Day, I took my Dad to the Oakland A's-San Francisco Giants game.

Randy Johnson pitched the Giants to an easy 6-3 win, yet the victory was not as important as the feeling I got after Wilson shut the door in the ninth. For the first time since my senior year in high school, I went to a Giants game and once again recaptured the joy of watching Giants baseball in person.

Furthermore, I also realized that I loved this 2009 team.

As strange as this sounds to a lot of baseball fans, this is the kind of Giants team I always wished for. They have a scrappy, fun, no-name lineup, and a rotation that includes two budding aces and a legend.
Then again, it's not just the talent that endears me so much to this year's squad.

Every year there were guys on the team that I didn't like who prevented me from fully embracing the Giants that respective year. Last season, they had Dave Roberts, a former Dodger. The season before they had the overpaid, overrated Matt Morris in the rotation.

This season however, there hasn't been that guy, that player that holds me back from fully embracing this team.

Sure, there are guys I expect more from, but I don't hate any of the players. They're all likable guys on and off the field, and it seems everyone on the team realizes that as well.

Because in all honesty, I don't think I've seen a Giants team this jovial in the dugout in well...ever.

Or at least in my lifetime.

That's how special this season has become to me.

When you think about it, being back in California after graduation was sort of the beginning of my reconciliation with the Giants (much like a couple calling a truce after a separation period).
Furthermore, going to the A's-Giants game was like that moment when the couple finally moves back together into the house.

Just because I was back in the house however with the Giants, it didn't mean everything was back to normal like it was when I was a fan back before I left for college in Washington.

This was a team I liked, but I still wasn't totally comfortable just yet.

Despite that being the case, I was doing my best to mend that rift that happened for two years between the Giants and me. I watched games every day religiously. I studied this team, analyzed weaknesses, strengths, anything and everything about this Giants squad and organization as a whole.

Then I began writing about this team.

You see, after writing for three years for my college newspaper, I found myself in kind of a bind. I needed to write, but I had no subject.
I was away from the Northwest sports scene and away from Gonzaga basketball, so it didn't make sense to write about those subjects anymore like I used to.

So I started writing about the Giants every day.

Little did I realize though that it would bring me back together with this Giants franchise just like old times.

It was like couples therapy. I was actively doing my part, and was actively analyzing my partner, the Giants, in addition to myself.

I found out things about this franchise, this team and my own history as a fan of the Giants that were important, even if I didn't think they were very worthwhile before.

I got closer to this team. I got more involved than I ever could imagine as I started writing more and more, just like a husband and wife gets closer after those numerous sessions with a couples therapist.

However, it was not complete yet. The writing was great, but it was only buildup, not the ultimate goal just yet.

After tonight though, I found that completeness.

Once Sanchez's nasty curveball struck out the Padres' leadoff hitter Cabrera to end the game, there was nothing more emotionally I needed to do to try to regain what I lost after those past two years.

Sanchez's no-hitter finally brought me fully back to this team.

That moment reminded me why I continue to cheer for this team, despite the distance and challenges I faced those two summers I spent in Washington where I couldn't see a Giants game to save my life. Is it selfish of me to think of Sanchez's beautiful moment as something personal for me?

Probably. And I admit that a lot of this column most likely doesn't make sense to the common sports fan.

However, being a true sports fan rarely ever makes sense. It shouldn't make sense why I should feel such elation, relief and utter excitement after just watching a no-hitter.

Yet it does.

The no-hitter symbolizes more than that for a fan as torn as myself.

Watching that no hitter from beginning to end for me was that final confirmation that I am a Giants fan, and that nothing can sever my relationship with this team.

The no-hitter proved that those two years of separation and frustration in being away from this team was preparation for the ultimate moment that happened tonight at AT&T Park.

Because if things were the same as they were a year ago, I would have missed that moment. I would have been busy with "something else" and had to wait for another game to see my first no-hitter from beginning to end.

It is quite special the moment itself, getting to watch the no-hitter from beginning to end as a fan. It's like winning the lottery.

You don't expect it at first. Yet when it happens, you just don't know what to think because you're so happy.

 I hope this is the spark Sanchez needs to revitalize his season and perhaps his career in San Francisco.

I hope all those fans clamoring for Sanchez to be traded maybe aren't clamoring as loudly as before.

Sanchez got a second chance, and showed us what to do when we get second chances: make the most of it.

This 2009 Giants squad has given me a second chance as well.

They given me a chance to love a Giants baseball team again as much as I did when I was a kid, when things weren't about stats and performance, but just about the team that took the field.

Some people don't get those chances. For whatever reason, they get distanced from a team and fade away either to a different team, or away from the sport altogether.

I'm not saying that was going to happen to me, but I saw myself drifting in that direction more than once.

Not after tonight though. Not after the no-hitter Sanchez pitched, the first for a Giant since 1976. After tonight, I'll be damned if I don't take advantage of this second chance as a Giants fan.