Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Around the Candlestick": New Blog, Prospects Introspective, "Giants" Optimism, Affeldt Extension, Giants Book Review

Two things before I do another round of "Around the Candlestick" today:

1.) Butler proves that Gonzaga has no execuse for not shooting for the Final Four. Seriously, after Butler made the Final Four, I'm not doing the "Oh, I'm just happy if we go to the Sweet 16" act. Butler is in the Horizon. The Horizon is Butler and that's it. Mark Few and Gonzaga need to put up or shut up, and that put up is a Final Four berth.

2.) I'm still holding up hope that Fred Lewis will stay as a Giant, though all popular (and idiotic) opinion seem to be in the camp that he is out of here like Kevin Frandsen. I hope that the Giants management will see that Andres Torres and Eugenio Velez aren't upgrades over Lewis. I hope that management will realize that Mark Derosa might be a better option at second base to start the season than Juan Uribe (who had an uncharacteristically good offensive year in 2009). I hope that Brian Sabean isn't an idiot.

Like Andy said to Red in the Shawshank Redemption, "Hope is a good thing."

Now on to the "Around the Candlestick" links and hat tips.

New Blog: (500) Days of Zobrist

I am shameless, but I have to plug it. About a week ago, I asked my friend and fellow baseball fan (and crazy fantasy baseball fanatic) Luke Ricci to write a post for me on "five things he learned from our fantasy auction draft." Well, I re-thought about the request because I was like "Well, I don't really talk about fantasy baseball on this blog, and it would detract from the Giants theme as well."

So, Luke suggested the idea of combining forces to create our own fantasy baseball blog (which he was planning on doing anyway with or without me). And, like the good friend I am, I jumped head first in.

As of this moment, our fantasy baseball blog, (500) Days of Zobrist, is in its early stages. We have only five posts. We have only five followers on our Twitter account. We have had only five comments. (Strange how things work in five's huh?)

However, I assure you it's good stuff. Not only is it a place where you will see other posts from me on baseball subjects NOT involving the Giants, but you will also see great writing from Luke, who knows his baseball stuff.

Check it out today. If you like Remember '51, but want more general baseball talk, (500) Days of Zobrist is definitely worth a peek at.

A Realistic Look at the Giants Prospects

I have mad respect for Obssessive Giants Compulsive and his blog. Maybe it's because he's a cross between objective baseball analyst (he has an MBA and experience in analytics) and berzerk fan (he got so much bad grief from his rants on his earlier blog, that he had to create an entirely new one). I like to consider myself in that category of fandom. Do we agree on the same things? Not exactly, but I like to believe that are mindsets as Giants fans are quite similar.

Anyway, OGC had a great post yesterday in the comparison between hitting and pitching prospects and their success at the Major League level. He said it all in this bit:

"So the Giants lineup sucks. Other team's pitching sucks. And yet others, defense. Rebuilding teams always have things that suck. The successful ones add on pieces each year and make the playoffs eventually. Prospects don't all blossom all at once, they take time and not all take the same time. Lincecum took less than a couple of months to figure it all out. Sanchez took a number of years (so did Koufax and Randy Johnson, FYI)."

Well said. Yes we have to rebuild, but to think that it's going to happen overnight is a bit foolish. Granted, I wish our GM would actually adhere to developing guys more than settling on short-term free agent solution after free agent solution, but I do agree that the right guys are coming up in our system, and it's only a matter of time before our offense comes around like our pitching.

Giants NL West Champions? It Could Happen... wrote a great post concerning his optimism for the Giants in 2010. Basically, he plays off a piece he read by Joe Posnanski and the Royals (Posnanski is a Royals fan). So in the same vein, Rory at PaapFly decides to see if being optimistic about the Giants winning the West is a realistic thing or a "Head in the clouds" fantasy.

Rory doesn't hold the punches back when it comes to the Giants. He realizes a lot of pieces fell into place last year. He realizes that health is a huge factor. He realizes that Brian Sabean, much like Royals Datyon Moore, is a crappy GM. However, he makes this claim at the end of his post:

"It’s still mid-march and the games are still quite meaningless. But the Giants have some brilliant pieces and if everything goes more or less how they are hoping it will this season, we may well see some post season baseball. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Dodgers are busy spending all of their cash on legal fees rather than baseball players."

Would I want more closure than that? Sure. But for now, I'll take it. Everybody says we're the fourth-best team in the NL West. It's nice to see something for a change that gives us "leaning toward the pessimistic, but we're realists at the heart" Giants fans some hope.

(The hope theme is huge here! Drink it in!)

Jeremy Affeldt Returns! (For Two More Years...Maybe)

The whole contract situation behind Affeldt's deal is weird. Apparently it's incentive based, and there's a club option, and for the most part, it was a safe deal on Sabean's behalf.

Or at least that's what everyone is saying, even though I don't seem to agree with the mindset behind the deal.

Nick from Croix De Candlestick echoes the popular sentiment. He seems to be in the camp that Affeldt is needed, and that the Giants did a good thing by re-signing him so they wouldn't lose him to larger deals should he opt for free agency after the contract he signed in 2008 expired.

He says this about the deal:

"Expect a regression from the newly re-signed Affeldt, but not to levels that would make him ineffective.  He’ll still be the go-to 8th inning guy, and he’ll still do a damn fine job.  If he gets back in the strike zone and kicks up that K/9 rate it might make up for the increase in BABIP that he’s going to see in 2010, so the regression may not be quite as painful to witness.  Simply, it’s a good move with a low risk and good potential for upside."

I think this was a well-written piece, but for the most part I disagree with Nick. Last year was a regression. He just got lucky and it wasn't as noticeable (huge ERA and FIP discrepancy). I don't trust a guy to be a setup pitcher with a walk rate over four. I don't like it when he has a crazy GB/FB rate one year after never really being one in his career. I don't like it when he had 20 less innings than appearances. It just makes me think it's a waste of money, especially when you have a younger, cheaper option in Dan Runzler waiting in the wings.

(On a side note: I hate this "low-risk, high reward talk." As a business major, the term doesn't exist. In order to have high reward there needs to be risk. Now, it may not be obvious risk (maybe in contract, money, etc.), but there is risk nonetheless.

For example, a lot of people say "Aubrey Huff! Low risk, high reward!" Not really. The risk you have with a player like Huff goes beyond salary: he's a clunker defensively, he blocks Ishikawa (who has no minor league options left), he is 33 years old, and he is coming off a bad year. That's a hell of a lot of risk. Now look at the reward: he breaks out and provides offense similar to his 2008 numbers where he put up great stats. That's a high reward, but it comes with a considerable amount of risk.

With high reward there usually is high risk. The whole low risk, high reward talk is really a figment of people's optimism. Also, it excuses incompetency, which I think Giants fans have been doing for far too long.)

Chris at Bay City Ball echoed some of my same worries with Affeldt:

"As a starter-turned-reliever, Affeldt has found success in his bullpen role. Unless he’s closing for the Giants, you can expect him to post WAR values of anywhere between .4 wins to .8 wins in most seasons. He should continue to be a valuable member of the bullpen for the next two years. Just don’t expect him to post another 1.73 ERA. Again, it’s not a bad deal, but the Giants are soon going to have $10M of payroll tied up between Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. For a team that’s paying out a large chunk of payroll to Zito, Rowand, Renteria, DeRosa, and Freddy Sanchez, I’m not exactly thrilled with padding the bullpen with more money. It seems to be the one place on the team where the Giants have a few prospects that could come in and succeed without having to hand out $5M contracts.

Conclusion: I don’t hate the deal, but I’m not thrilled with the price."

I really think Chris hits it the nail on the head here. It's not necessarily a terrible move (if Affeldt has another year like last year - though I won't bank on it - the extension for Affeldt is worth it) it's just that it came terribly early, and it came at a pretty high price. In all likelihood, it would have been better for the Giants to wait until the season and negotiate with Affledt at the end of the year on a new contract once his current one ran out. If Affeldt wanted to hardball, let him walk. The Giants have Runzler, and at 31-years of age, Affeldt most likely would be in regression as a pitcher anyways, and would have been hard pressed to repeat those 2009 or 2008 numbers.

Book Review on "Giants Past and Present": the Aftermath

I have been getting a lot of thanks from Dan Fost and his crew at MVP Books for my review on his coffee-table book.  I really appreciate the feedback, (which is ironic since my review is feedback of his book; feedback on feedback! Crazy!)

That being said, I just want to clarify something as well: I mean what I say. One guy on Bleacher Report (I also posted the review on my Bleacher Report profile) gave a sarcastic little "You must work for the book company or be the author himself!"

One, I don't know why he would even suggest that when I wrote 90 articles on Bleacher Report other than that review (in comparison to him who wrote only around 10). Two, I don't write what people want. I take things into consideration, but I don't write to promote anything solely (unless it's my own, then I'm kind of shameless in that regard...sorry. I'm not perfect).

Example. Last year, I was given an opportunity as Sports Editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin to interview members of the ESPN College Gameday Crew when they visited Gonzaga. The marketing director asked if I could promote their "Hub of College Basketball" advertisements. I wrote a sentence in one of the articles about it, and that's it. I didn't want to please them completely even though they hooked me up with interviews (a luxury a lot of other media didn't get) because a.) I didn't know what the hell they were talking about at first, b.) I still didn't understand what the hell they were talking about after I interviewed Digger Phelps (jerk), Hubert Davis (awesome!) and the producer (can't remember his name, but really nice guy) and c.) nobody would have cared about their promotion or not. So, I wrote a sentence out of courtesy, but everything else was about the game, the event and the Zags, like it should have been, not some promotion.

So, you could say "They paid you off to do that review," but you'd be wrong. I love to criticize.  I criticize Brian Sabean as much as possible with great glee. But I recognize good things and give them their credit when credit is due. That is the case in Fost's book. It's great. It's an awesome read, it has a lot of great material, and it's essential because it's something different from the usual "Glory Days of the Yankees" or "The Curse of the Bambino" books you see in bookstores.

There. That settles it. There is no controversy.

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