Friday, August 13, 2010

The Pros and Cons of the Jose Guillen Trade

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

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

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

Pros of Acquiring Guillen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cons of Acquiring Guillen

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

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

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

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

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

Final Conclusion?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Brian Sabean Finally Wising Up as Giants General Manager?

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

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

And, who deserves some credit?

Sabes. F'ing Sabes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So...Are You Alive?

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

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