Monday, November 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good Surprises

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

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

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

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

The Bad Surprises

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

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

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


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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Jesus Guzman the Second-Coming of John Bowker?

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

That person was Jesus Guzman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It just won't be with the Giants.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Did Andres Torres Deserve a Gold Glove?

Shane Victorino. Michael Bourne. Carlos Gonzalez.

Your NL Gold Glove outfielders for the 2010 season.

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

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

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

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

What do I believe killed Torres' chances this year?

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

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

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

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