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Eric's Giants Blog

Baseball blog centered around the San Francisco Giants, written with a respect for performance analysis and a distinct lack of respect for players who "do all the little things" and the old-school baseball men who love them. If you have comments, feel fre

Updated: 2015-09-16T13:22:21.411-07:00


New Blog


If anyone still comes here, I've moved to, although I reserve the right to start posting here again as well if the Giants make things interesting for us in during the upcoming year.


Dog Days


Not really a good time to have a Giants blog, is it? I give full credit to Grant over at He manages to find stuff to write about them each day, and makes me laugh more often than not.[not talking about LaTroy Hawkins]The last time I wrote, I was trying to find something to be positive about, and I found it in Todd Linden's AAA performance. Well, Linden didn't disappoint. He crushed the ball for another month and got himself called up, hopefully for good. He's been up for 25 ABs now, and other than a dramatic 3-run homer (which was ultimately wasted), he hasn't done much yet. I'm not worried yet, though - I think if he's overmatched, we'll know after 150 ABs or so. But I think he's got enough skill to stick.[not talking about LaTroy Hawkins]The Giants are a bad team. This is pretty clear at this point. Would they better if Bonds was playing? Yep. Would they be better if Benitez was playing? You bet. Would they be better if Jason Schmidt was pitching like an ace? Absolutely. In fact, if all three of these guys (arguably the three best players on the team, really) were playing at a high level, the Giants might even be competitive this year. And while I'm the last person to support the way the current team has been constructed, it's important to remember this if you want to come by your conclusions honestly.The Giants are currently 29-39 going into today's game. They've scored 309 runs (more than only ... Colorado? ... in the division) and have allowed 367 runs (again, more than any other team in the division other than Colorado - in fact, more than any other team in the National League other than Colorado). So how much difference would Bonds, Good Schmidt and Benitez have made?There are ways to do this scientifically, but I'm neither patient enough to do it with rigor nor particularly interested in scientifically showing how close they'd be if nothing had gone wrong. The qualitative way to look at it is to look at it this way:Pedro Feliz has been playing left field. His line this year is .318 / .439 (notice, btw, that Feliz gets talked about so much more when he starts out hot rather than when he turns back into himself).When Feliz doesn't play left field he plays third base. Most of the playing time there has gone to Edgardo Alfonzo (.370 / .403). Feliz also sometimes plays first base, which is currently manned by Lance Niekro (.331 / .577) or JT Snow (.361 / .354).Now there is no question whatsoever that Bonds is MUCH better than any of these guys. But the point I'm trying to make is that the Giants have gotten an OPS of between .773 (Alfonzo) and .908 (Niekro) from the guys who are likely taking Bonds' ABs. Not all-star performances, certainly, but neither have they replaced Bonds with automatic outs. Even Michael Tucker (.347 / .395) hasn't been a complete offensive zero.The Giants would have scored more runs with Bonds playing, but the offense wouldn't have gone from bad to genuinely good even if he was playing.Schmidt probably would have made a bigger difference. The version of Schmidt we currently have (5.40 / 1.60) is well below league average. The version we were expecting (say, last year's 3.20 / 1.08) is an ace. Very unscientifically, I think Good Schmidt is worth 3 or 4 wins more than Evil Schmidt at this point in the season.As for Benitez - the whole bullpen has been a disaster, and honestly, Tyler Walker has converted most of the saves since Benitez went out. My views on closers are well-established, but of course we'd be better off with him than without him.None of this is quantative or scientific, but I think the Giants are maybe 6 or 7 games if all the guys were playing and were healthy. That would put them at something like 35-33, three games back of San Diego.It also bears mentioning that if the Giants were 3 back in this scenario, it would look like a complete miracle. Jason Ellison, Lance Niekro and Mike Matheny have all played FAR better than projected (as has Moises Alou), so at that point literally everything would be going right for the[...]

Getting Excited about Todd Linden


There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn't write this post.The Giants don't develop position players.It's only been 100 ABs.It's obviously a pathetic attempt to distract from the major-league team.But hey, it's been a few days, the big-league club isn't giving me anything to write about (I refuse to talk about Barry's knee) and as they go today trying to stay above .500 knowing that The Man isn't coming back any time soon, that the New Closer is essentially done for the season and The Leadoff Man can't stay on the field, I looked around for something to feel good about.And found Mr. Linden. For those who follow the Giants closely, there was a lot of buzz about Linden once upon a time. He had a great little season in AA a couple of years ago, the type of season that makes one say, "This guy could really be a decent regular. He's not going to be Albert Pujols, but he could be Paul Konerko or Brad Wilkerson or Ryan Klesko". Then came his rather disappointing AAA season last year and his poor performance during ill-advised callups and suddenly he became another failed Giants prospect.Normally the story ends here. He turns into Tony Torcato or JR Phillips or Dante Powell, spends a few seasons hitting .250 with minimal power in Fresno and then gets waived. Except that maybe we all thought Linden was good for a reason, and maybe the 2004 season was just a "building" season, and that he'd figure it out during his second time through that level.The difference between Linden and the Torcatos of the world is that he walks. That was what I liked so much about his AA performance - his hitting for average and power were good, but plenty of guys can hit .290 with 25 homers in AA. If they don't back it up by showing that they can lay off the bad pitches, you generally expect them to get exposed at higher levels as they pitches get harder to hit and the pitchers are better at locating them. A guy who can hit .300 with 25 homers by hitting mistake pitches in the zone in AA often turns into a guy who hits .240 with 10 homers in AAA and strikes out like crazy. But a player who hit .290 with 25 homers in AA by swinging and crushing good pitches but also took 80 walks when the pitchers couldn't find the zone - that's someone to get excited about and that's what we all thought we had in Linden.So anyway, he's kicking some serious ass at Fresno. He's putting up numbers (SAMPLE SIZE ALERT) that make one think that maybe we're talking about future Jim Edmonds or Brian Giles type if we're really really lucky.So yes, it's only 100 ABs but...Linden is hitting .320 - that's good, but honestly hitting .320 over 100 ABs doesn't get me so excited. Mike Cervenak is hitting .310. Lots of guys can get 30 singles in 100 ABs at some point in the season, so let's keep going.Linden has walked 20 times. 20 in 100 ABs. It's too hard to look at 100 ABs as 1/5 of a 500 AB season and see 100 walks. A guy who walks 100 times in AAA is likely to be a good major league regular. Of course, that assumes that the next 400 Abs will be like the last 100, which is a terrible assumption (not least because if he hits like this he won't be in Fresno at the all-star break). But his current OBP is .439, which is absolutely outstanding at AAA.He's hitting for power, too. He's hit 8 homers and 7 doubles in those 100 ABs. His slugging % is .630, again outstanding for the high minors.The bad in the eyes of many is that he's striking out a lot - 26 punchouts in 100 ABs means over 100 through a full season. My views on this topic are well known - the walks mean he's only swinging at good pitches. Even without the .320 average the strikeouts don't bother me much as long as he walks are still there. 26 Ks to 20 BBs is fine.And just for a little bonus (and to make it obvious that I play fantasy baseball) he's got 3 steals in 3 attempts this year.So just for fun, if we project out a 500 AB season for Linden this year we'd get the following line:.320 / .439 / .630; 40 HR; 115 RBI; 130 runs scored; 100 BB, 130 K, 15 SBThat all being sa[...]



Huh. Really? 13-11

What a weird first month it's been for the NL West.

The Dodgers lost their best player (Gagne), had what was thought to be a very poor offseason and currently have the best record in the National League. But the weird part about that is that they are only 1.5 games in first, because running a close second is ... Arizona? The Giants, losing the best player in the game to injuries and watching most of the team spend time on the DL are in third, at 13-11, and the Padres, who many thought would actually win this division, are in fourth at 11-14.


Ok, there are some answers to this and then a caveat.

The Dodgers: There are reasons why they're 16-8 (other than how crappy the rest of the NL West is). For one thing, while they lost Gagne, as performance-minded GMs often do, Paul DePodesta had a young no-name called Yency Brazoban ready to close games, and he's 8 for 9 this season. But the big story, at least to me, is that maybe DePo really is a genius:

Derek Lowe: 41.1 IP, 1.96 ERA / 1.06 WHIP / 26 K

No one (and I do mean no one) thought the deal he gave Lowe was a good idea. Lowe had a great 2004 playoffs but has been very mediocre over the bulk of his innings the last few years. And frankly, it's just 41 innings, but so far, DePo is looking smarter than the rest of us. In addition, how about another guy that people thought he overpaid for:

Jeff Kent: 87 AB; .450 OBP / .632 / 23 R / 20 RBI

Part of it can be ascribed to Jeff Kent finally being in his natural environment. Kent was born to be a Dodger, and was clearly uncomfortable everywhere else he played. He is finally where he belongs, and I never enjoyed hating a Dodger quite so much. He is, as some will know, the only player ever to win the MVP with the Giants and then go sign with the Dodgers. And with full disclosure, I never liked him.

There are other reasons, but essentially the Dodgers picked up (relative to expectations) an ace starter, a superstar slugger and a shutdown closer essentially out of nowhere. Especially in a weak division it doesn't take much else.

I'm not going to spend much ink on Arizona and San Diego - I think luck explains their differing records a this point. To wit:

Arizona: 15-10
San Diego: 11-14

Arizona: 109 runs scored; 114 runs allowed
San Diego: 107 runs scored; 110 runs allowed

These teams are playing identical baseball, but one is getting luckier. That wont' last.

And the Giants? 13-11; 125 runs scored, 119 runs allowed. So they're right about where they ought to be. Lose Bonds? No problem - we have Jason Ellison (1.384 OPS in 38 ABs) and Lance Niekro (.595 SLG) to fill in, not to mention Peter Happy himself, currently putting up a respectable .826 OPS as a full-time player. Lots of Giants are hitting - pretty much everyone other than Ray Durham (.278 SLG) and Marquis Grissom (.554 OPS) but as readers know, an April does does not a season make. It's great if the Giants can steal some wins by riding hot streaks by the likes of Niekro and Ellison, but if they're in it for the long hall, something's going to have be done. The pixie dust won't last forever.



In some ways, last night's win felt like "watching" (quotation marks because I live on the East Coast now, and don't get to actually watch the games very often) a team that's already been mathematically eliminated win a pointless game in September. Why the sudden pessimism?Nen Redux. An MRI revealed that Armando Benitez will miss four months with a torn hamstring, trainer Stan Conte said. Stan Conte had said that he was 99.9% sure that Benitez' injury wasn't a "Garciaparra situation". Well, as it turns out that 0.1% came up for the Giants. Four months means we might get him back for September. Call me a doomsayer (I've been called worse), but I don't think it's going to matter much by September.So what really to say about this? It would be unfair and completely inaccurate to say "I told you so" about Benitez, since I didn't genuinely dislike the signing, all things considered and because this isn't a recurring injury.That being said, we don't have to go back too far to get back to one of my baseline notions about roster construction - DON'T SPEND SO MUCH *&#*$&ing money on a $*!damn CLOSER!I mean come on. One Robb Nen wasn't enough to learn the lesson? Benitez is going to make $21M off the Giants one way or another over the next three years. $4.7M of that is due this year. For that $4.7M worth of 2005 dollars, in all likelihood, the Giants will have received:8 appearances, 1-1, 9.1 IP, 5.79 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 4 K, 4 BB, 4 SVDoesn't seem like a very good investment to me.Honestly, as I read over the above, I'm just a little angry, and I have to admit it. $4.7M is a pretty decent deal for Benitez' average season, which looks something like:2.75 ERA / 1.29 WHIP / 80 Ks in about 75 inningsIf the Giants had received that in 2005, Benitez would have been a good signing, at least as regards this year, which appears to be the only calculus the Giants' front office knows. But is it so much to hope that an organization that drafts NOTHING but pitchers can't develop a closer every few years? Looking back at the Giants' closers, how far back do we have to go to find one that was actually developed in-house?2005: Benitez - free agent (and God only knows who else)2004: Herges - trade; Hermanson - Non-roster invite to camp; Eyre - trade2003: Worrell - trade2002: Nen - trade2001: Nen2000: Nen1999: Nen1998: Nen1997: Beck - so here we find it, and I suppose 8 years ago isn't *so* long ago (considering that if we ran this exercise for a number of positions around the diamond we'd have to go a LOT further back).Rod Beck was drafted by the Giants and came up in 1991 as a 23-year-old (one of my favorite strangenesses of the baseball world is that Rod Beck is currently only 36. I'd have sworn he was 36 in 1993) and closed for the Giants starting midseason in 1992 and held the job until the end of 1997. Looking over his 1997 line, I'm not entirely sure why the organization decided to get rid of him (this is a sidelight, but I need something to distract me from the current season). Beck's 1997 line was:73 appearances, 70 IP; 67 H; 53 K; 8 BB; 37/45 saves; 3.47 ERA; 1.07 WHIPI'm guessing it was the 8 blown saves that did it. It's too bad, when you look at it with 2005 eyes, because this was a pitcher who had a 7 to 1 K/BB ratio and a WHIP just north of 1.00. He just happened to be brought into a lot of one-run games.If there's more to this story, I invite my more seasoned Giants fans to comment on it. There's certainly no question that as good as Back was in 1997, Nen was better in 1998 (when he put up a 1.52 ERA with 110 Ks in 88.2 innings), but it strikes me as curious.The amusing thing about the Benitez situation is the absolute feeding frenzy that took place in my fantasy league as people try to get what save opportunities the Giants will deliver. Here is a list of the Giants pitchers picked up in the wake of Benitez' injury:Matt HergesJeff FasseroJim BrowerMerkin ValdezDavid AardsmaNote that Jesse Foppert is already on a roster de[...]

9-11 (no, not that one)


The Giants are 9-11 (in case anyone thought this was going to be the oft-threatened but never executed inclusion of politics into this space, fear not) and April is nearly over. They've scored 97 runs (5th in the NL behind LA, Chicago, the Mets and, of course, Colorado) and have allowed 105 runs (13th in the NL - only Philadelphia and, of course, Colorado are worse). It's sort of strange outcome given the conventional wisdom about [annoying phone company name of the week] park.

It's also strange in that what I had wanted for this team was to play .500 until Barry Bonds came back, because really to hope for more was quite foolish. But looking at the way this team is winning and losing, I have to wonder how much it will really help. Obviously it will make the team better, but this is a team that is scoring enough runs to compete, particularly if you factor in park effects, but can't pitch to save its life.

It's worth looking a little bit at how this is happening, even if it'll be relatively obvious.

The runs are being scored because of Pedro Feliz (.819 OPS), Edgardo Alfonzo (1.047 OPS), Omar Vizquel (.379 OBP, 7 for 7 in steal attempts) and terrific part-time performances from Yorvit Torrealba (1.064 OPS in 10 ABs), Jason Ellison (1.028 OPS in 22 ABs), Lance Niekro (.528 SLG in 36 ABs) and JT Snow (.441 OBP in 52 ABs).

So the scary part is 50% those numbers above - this is a team that is hitting well above its head and is still under .500. Really only Ray Durham (.596 OPS) and Moises Alou (.542 OPS) look very likely to significantly improve, while all the guys above look likely to decline. I'd probably include Grissom in the "likely to improve" category, but at 38 and with his history of helpelessness against right-handers, I'm not entirely sure. He's still hitting lefties well, although not crushing them, but it's a mere 14 ABs at this point, so nothing can be drawn from this. In his 58 ABs against right-handers he's hit like a pitcher, with an OPS of .565.

On top of all of this, Bonds' rehab is going slowly and Armando Benitez just hurt his hamstring. On April 27, 2004 the Giants were 8-13. They wound up winning 91 games. So of course it's too early to give up on this team. But I see very little I like right now.

"Westworld" is embarassing


The Giants aren't creating a lot of excitement right now. I was looking over their site and saw a new feature called "Westworld", which is a "a weekly foray into the wild, weird and wonderful workings of the West divisions of the American and National Leagues, where so many interesting things often happen after all the major news organizations in this country have gone to sleep." Alright, so the opening column of this west-focused feature compares the organizational styles of the Oakland A's, known as "Moneyball" (duh) to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (is there anyone not annoyed by this, btw?), known as "Mikeyball". First things first, is there a reason it's not called "Stoneyball" after GM Bill Stoneman? He's the guy who built the team, isn't he?Right off the bat, I know I'm going to love this. The sidebar near the author's name has a picture of Vladimir Guerrero pointing skyward, indicating his acknowledgement that yes, Jesus wanted the Angels to win that game. The caption reads, "Vladimir Guerrero fits perfectly in Mike Scioscia's game plan -- a great situational hitter and aggressive baserunner". Really? Vlad fits into Scioscia's gamplan? Amazing, because he's such a poor fit for most gameplans. Good job, Mikey?Come on. To say that Vlad is a great situational hitter and an aggressive baserunner is like saying that a Porsche 911 Turbo has a 6-disc CD changer and connolly leather seats. It's true, but it's not why you buy such a vehicle. To the unsophisticated (which not having even read the article I'm starting to think is the case with its author), the Moneyball approach is about walks and home runs rather than sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.So which is Mr. Mikeyball Vlad? Well, over the three-year period between 2002 and 2004 he stole 64 bases and was caught 28 times (a 70% success rate, which is pretty decent and indicates a "break-even" effort, at least according to the very anti-Mikeyball stats-minded). That being said, he stole 40 of those 64 in 2002 as an Expo. He stole 15 last year. It's an average of 21 per year. How about home runs? 103 over the last three years, 39 last year. Walks? Vlad has a reputation for being a hacker, and it was true ... until 2000 when he boosted his walk rate. Barry Bonds he isn't, but Vlad has averaged about 70 walks a year over the last four years.All of which tells is what we already knew - Vlad is neither a "moneyball" or a "mikeyball" player. The guy is just a superstar. Alright, moving on.Here's a choice bit: "We want to stay aggressive and play 'little ball,' but only as long as we have the team to do it," Scioscia adds. "I just don't think you can cookie-cutter any team into a philosophy." We'll soon see how the cookie crumbles in the AL West. Ok, I don't mean to be difficult, but after lauding the Angels' defeat of the A's in the final series of the regular season last year, how can this comment be credibly made? For one thing, wasn't the 2004 Angels team built around Vladimir Guerrero, Troy Glaus, Garrett Anderson and Tim Salmon? Aside from the ridiculous decision to play Darin Erstad at first base, this was a power team last year. This year, with Glaus gone and Salmon out with injuries we'll see what happens when the Angels actually play little ball, rather than just claiming they're playing little ball while holding a roster full of sluggers.This is particularly irksome to me in that the 2002 Angels, who of course beat my beloved Giants in the World Series, were lauded as the Great Littleball Team that could. Strangely, though, I remember it being Scott Spiezio's HOME RUN that put the Angels back in. It wasn't David Eckstein hitting an infield single and then skittering around the basepaths three times. It was the good old Earl Weaver-style 3-run jack that got them back in. Furthermore, the Series MVP was Troy Glaus, who hit what, seven home runs during the Series? The Angels might have been [...]

The Bullpen and Plan B


Tim wrote in a comment to yesterday's blog entry: I think the fact that it is so hard to believe, looking back, that we'd have landed Morneau, Crosby, etc. is both a testament to your baseball knowledge and to the "fantastical" nature of the entire concept.I'd like to know what you think of this year's bullpen (an entity conspicuously missing from the "Plan B" story). I made it very clear during the first week of the season that the bullpen woes did NOT bother me, and it was because of the ineffectiveness of Spring Training for relief pitchers. If anyone else is interested, I'll explain that concept, but I'm interested in Eric's analysis (pre-season perspective, even) of the 2005 San Francisco Giants Bullpen.While at the same time accepting Tim's compliment about the quality of the Plan B team I put together last April, I would like to divert some of this praise by saying this: The idea of a Plan B-style rebuilding isn't as difficult as it seems. It's not *that* difficult to identify the guys likely to be successful once players are in the high minors (assuming you believe the once-"fantastical" notion that minor-league performance data predicts with some accuracy the major-league potential of a player) and note that the Plan B acquisitions were almost all position players rather than pitchers. The pitching staff was composed primarily of existing Giants farmhands (Williams, Foppert, Cain, Valdez) with a handful of new guys (Blanton, Nieve, Honel) brought in to ensure that we actually got a few good ones. Pitchers are MUCH more difficult to project and injuries make them a far dicier proposition.No, I don't think you need to be a genius to trade a team with guys like Bonds and Schmidt into a great young team. What you need, -ahem-, is balls (apologies to the likely non-existant female readers of this blog). It takes cojones to trade away Jason Schmidt, at this point a proven commodity and an extremely valuable one, to get Jeremy Reed. Do I think Reed is going to have a couple of .325 / .410 / .475 seasons with 30 steals at a good success rate while playing plus defense? Yes, I absolutely do. But I don't *know* that. I do know that Schmidt is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. So there's a big risk in trading away proven commodities to get prospects who might become future all-stars but could just as likely turn into Ruben Rivera or Esteban German.As well worth it to note that the Giants have some extraordinarily attractive trade pieces in Bonds and Schmidt and, to a lesser extent, Durham. I was able to put together the Plan B team with real blue chip prospects because the veterans being dealt were so good.So yeah, I'll say it. Like Billy Beane. Beane was criticized by those who don't know as much as they think they do for trading away two of the "big three" for younger guys. In trading away Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton, Beane is essentially putting in place his own Plan B team (the part I don't understand is why he hasn't traded for Ryan Howard and done something about the Scott Hatteberg situation). Hudson and (to a lesser extent) Mulder are known quantities. Those guys he got aren't. But they're good and they're cheap. And they will allow Beane to build his team with the knowledge that he has inexpensive skilled players. But you have to admit, Beane has balls to trade Mark Mulder for Dan Haren. No matter how smart you think it is, it's a pretty gutsy move regardless.So yeah, thanks for the kind words about Plan B. I think it would have made being a Giants fan very interesting and fun to watch a team full of great young position players the for the next 5 or 6 years. Hopefully when it comes time to rebuild, there's still some value on the Giants roster to trade for the generation. Certainly Mike Tucker and Jeff Fassero aren't going to do it.As far as the[...]

Looking back on Plan B


Last April I posted a long plan to dismantle the 2004 Giants team and rebuild to contend in 2006. My theory was that the current team built around Bonds and Schmidt wasn't good enough to go all the way, and that we'd all be better off trading the few (very) shiny baubles the Giants had on the roster for a boatload of prospects that would form the next great Giants teams. Some thought my notions of the Giants' players trade values were a little inflated, but most of the disagreements were on the margin.As it turns out, I was both right and wrong. I was right in the Giants, built to win in the present, missed the playoffs. I was wrong in that they just barely missed it. Fantastic second-half surges from Brett Tomko and JT Snow kept the Giants in the thick of it until the bullpen imploded against (who else?) Steve Finley and the Dodgers.I'll be honest, I don't think last year, looked at as a whole, really deserved Plan B, but it was an idea that I thought about a lot, so now, near the outset of 2005, I want to look back at the "Plan B Team" to see what they're all doing and how we'd be looking as a franchise if we'd put that in place, rather than watch the Tuckermohr's almost make the playoffs last year.Note for those that might actually be checking: Comments on the Giants early-season exploits will be forthcoming. If last year proves anything it's that you can't rely too much on April.Going around the diamond, I'll check in with the Plan B team one by one, along with how I had the Giants acquiring each player:Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba (already on the team)Yorvit is still on the Giants, but Sabean signed Mike Matheny to a 3-year deal that relegates Yorvit to a perennial backup role. I still believe he'd be at least an average starting catcher in the NL, possibly better.1B: Justin Morneau (acquired from the Twins for Ray Durham)For those who will immediately exclaim that Minnesota would never trade Morneau for Durham, remember that at the time of this post Morneau was languishing in the minors. He's currently the starting first baseman for the Twins after a very good (.271 / .340 / .536) 280 post-callup ABs. The consensus is that Morneau is going to be a very good, possibly great slugging first baseman for many years to come. He's currently 24.2B: Bobby Hill (acquired from the PPirates for Pedro Feliz)I think I might have blown this one. I had a strong sense that Hill was a late-bloomer, and that his on-base skills would make him at least a Todd Walker for relatively little coin. He did his best David Eckstein hitting impression with the Pirates last year (.266 / .353 / .339) over 233 ABs as a backup to Jose Castillo. He was 0 for 3 in steal attempts. All that being said, his OBP was still .353, and that's nothing to scoff at. A lot of leadoff guys are worse than that. A guy like that, particularly if he developed just a smidge of power, is valuable.SS: Bobby Crosby (acquired from Oakland for Barry Bonds & Neifi Perez)I had the Giants getting the A's crown jewels for Bonds (Swisher and Blanton along with Crosby) and I still maintain that Beane would have done it. Crosby was last years ROY in the AL (in real life, of course, he was still with the A's - in the NL he'd likely have lost out to Jason Bay just like Khalil Greene did) and looks to be an above-average starting shortstop going forward.3B: Morgan Ensberg (acquired from Houston for Edgardo Alfonzo and Jason Christianson)Ensberg had a terrible 2004 and lost a ton of playing time to Mike Lamb (for those who don't think Houston would have traded him, note that he lost playing time to MIKE LAMB). He's off to a great start this year and I still think that had he been allowed to settle in and play full time he'd have had no trouble (cheaply) hitting .270 / .350 / .475, which is quite adequate. Ensberg wouldn't have been a long-term solution at third base (he[...]

RIP Mitch Hedberg


This has nothing to do with baseball and it's been so long since I posted that I suspect few people are still paying any attention to this blog.

I'm not generally a big fan of standup comedy. Not a big enough fan to go out of my way to actually see them in person anyway. Except for Mitch Hedberg. Mitch's comedy was original, hilarious and rare in its ability to find humor without significant reliance on profanity or sex or politics. He made me laugh so hard it hurt. So it hurts that much more that he's gone so prematurely. I don't know how he died, and it doesn't really matter. I'll miss him.

At least I got to see him once.

P.S. more baseball coming soon.

Traded for scraps


So all that Sammy Sosa commanded in trade was Jerry Hairston Jr. and two B-grade prospects? That's pretty astonishing.

Most people who know me know I am no fan of Mr. Sosa, mostly because I think he's a whiny bitch but his gentle treatment of reporters made him everyone's darling. This is a guy who whined about his contract, his manager and his lineup protection. Can anyone see Barry Bonds, noted surly "bad guy" of baseball doing any of those things?

True to form, Sosa reverted to his natural whiny ways when things went badly for him in Chicago, skipping out early when the Cubs missed the playoffs and blaming everyone but himself. Putting the overrated media favorites Sosa and Dusty Baker together was bound to result in something relatively fun.

So now Sosa goes to Baltimore and out of the realm of relevance. I'll miss his big smile on WGN, because you know a guy that smiles like that just loves the game so much and is SO GREAT for the game.


(P.S. He really was unbelievably great from 1998 to 2002. During those five seasons he did basically everything - hit for a good average, drew walks, played defense and, of course, hit 292 home runs in five years. It was legitimately among the greatest five-year spans for any player, ever. I still hate him)

Does anyone else want to claw their own eyes out?


According to the AP, Magglio Ordonez has INSTRUCTED HIS AGENT to make an offer to the Tigers.

That's right. The Tigers. They won 72 games last year and honestly, that was a pretty good year for them. I lived in Southeast Michigan for three years and I watched a fair amount of Tigers baseball from 1998 to 2001. The team they fielded in 2004 was a pretty good Tigers team.

Huh. So let's imagine someone had given Ordonez a choice: Go to to the Tigers, where he'd have to battle ... Carlos Guillen? as the team's best player (to stifle the chorus of Pudge Rodriguez supporters, Guillen was better last year, posting a VORP of 70.5 to Pudge's 63.1. In fairness to Guillen, he was second among shortstops to Miguel Tejada, and in the top 5 in the AL (Melvin Mora, David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, Guillen, Manny Ramirez - interesting list, btw) or go to the Giants to be Barry Bonds' sidekick, hitting 5th behind him (yes, I've officially given up the dream of putting Bonds back in the 3-sport where he belongs) and playing for a team that has contended every year for about a decade.

Ah, but the chorus of outrage continues - we have Alou! And Maggs has a bad knee. He might miss time...

It's all true. If Ordonez didn't come with serious warts, he'd already have received a 5-year, $75M contract from Anaheim, Baltimore or one of the New York teams. So the real question is, which are the greater set of risks - Magglio's twice-operated knee or the combination of Alou's age, the likelihood of a park-related decline and the defensive disaster of playing an average left fielder (yes, I'm in a generous mood tonight) in a very difficult right field?

Alou's been a pretty great player at various times in his career. He was awesome in 2004, there's no denying it. He was nothing short of spectacular from 1998 to 2001 (not counting the entire 1999 season, which he missed due to an ACL tear). He has a lifetime career OPS of .880 and a lifetime batting average of .300.

Ordonez became a very good player in 1999, putting up his first .300 season in the majors (only his second full season), with a nice .349 / .510 line to go with it. He played in 157 games. Since then, he did nothing but get better before getting hurt in 2004.

1999: .300 / .349 / .510
2000: .315 / .371 / .546
2001: .305 / .382 / .533
2002: .320 / .381 / .597
2003: .317 / .380 / .549

Note that I'll still give 2003 the nod over 2002, since he played in 160 games that year, compared to 153 in 2002. His Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) went up every year from 1999 to 2003.

This is the development of a fantasic ballplayer. He hits for average, draws plenty of walks (although he'll never be Barry Bonds or even Jim Edmonds in this regard) and hits for power.

We'll have to see how many years Ordonez gets from the Tigers or whoever signs him. If it's five (it won't be), I'll be the first to say to that brave team - enjoy him. But if it's 4 or less (my guess is 3 with an option if he's lucky, 2 with an option if he's not), he's a better investment than Alou. It's not that he's better so much as it's more likely he's still as good as he was. Call me crazy, but I just can't get over how old Alou is. And that the Giants were the ones who decided to pay for his 2004 season.

At least he and his dad will have fun in the clubhouse.

I guess.

Even Mike Harmon gets it.


"Mike Harmon is a Yahoo! Fantasy Sports expert" according to Yahoo. He's one of the guys that has me contemplating starting up my own fantasy website just so that people will have something worth reading. If you read a lot of fantasy sports columns, his are the ones that involve the largest number of synonyms for "hit" when discussing home runs. In a Mike Harmon column, a hitter "bashed 20 taters" or "crushed 17 dongs". A hitter never "hit 25 homers" in his columns. He's not among the worst, btw, but regardless - generally doesn't get it.

And yet, in his review of right-fielders...

Moises Alou, SF
Alou leaves the North Side of Chicago to reunite with his father in San Francisco. The 38-year-old slugger established a new career-high with 39 home runs last season. He reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth time in his career and topped 100 runs for the second time. Alou will miss Wrigley Field, where he launched 29 of his 39 home runs. Additionally, his batting average was 92 points higher at home than on the road.

When even mediocre fantasy sports columnists see things that a team's GM doesn't see, you know you have a problem...

So let's see...


The Giants needed a slugging right fielder. Michael Tucker clearly wasn't it. Even if you buy Dustan Mohr's 2004 breakout, he played as a plate-selective table-setter, not a traditional power guy. Alright, I think that as a baseline the need for a slugger in that position was pretty clear.

So what they did was sign an extra left fielder to play right field. Eh. He's old and he can't play defense. He was really good in 2004. He was halfway decent in 2003. And he stunk it up in 2002. They paid him about $13M for his age 39 and 40 seasons, hoping that his .900+ OPS would hold up for two more years (even though he had big home/road splits, is moving into a much tougher park and is at an age where dropoffs are usually sudden and swift). All in all, I'd say it was a pretty high-risk gamble with pretty good upside, because if Alou actually hits for a .293 / .361 / .557 line in 2005 the Giants are going to win the division and Barry Bonds is going to challenge Jeff Bagwell's record for runs scored (152, if memory serves).

But let's think about another way they could have gone. Remember this guy?

Player X; Age 30; Pos: RF

2001: .305 / .382 / .533 (160 games)
2002: .320 / .381 / .597 (153 games)
2003: .317 / .380 / .546 (160 games)
2004: .292 / .351 / .485 (52 games)

Player X is currently unsigned, because ... he's high-risk. The knee injury that caused him to miss most of 2004 is still a question mark. More of a question mark than a 39-year-old left fielder who has suffered through chronic injuries for most of his later career? Who knows. As of right now Player X (known to some as Magglio Ordonez) looks likely to sign with some irrelevant team like the Orioles or Tigers. Possibly to an incentive-laden one-year deal.

Score another one for Sabean's "sign 'em early and overpay 'em" approach.

The morning after


Note that this began as a comment and morphed into a full post when I realized how lengthy it had become. It responds to the first comment left by "The Bosnian" to my post entitled "Nightmare Scenario". Respectfully, I must disagree with virtually everything The Bosnian wrote. Since there appears to be a need for further explication on some of my exasperated one-line conclusory statements above, I'll go into slightly greater detail about why I think the 2005 Giants represent a nightmare scenario. Responding to the overall point that this is no time for a "youth movement" like the one Billy Beane is ostensibly undertaking in Oakland - I never said now was the time for a rebuilding period (actually that's not true, I said it in May of this year, but I'm not saying it now). What I did say was that signing ancient, overrated veterans to multiyear deals is NOT the solution. The two best things that will be said about the 2005 Giants will be that they a) had Barry Bonds and b) had a lot of guys who used to play great defense. Between Bonds, Snow, Grissom, Vizquel, Matheny and Alfonzo the Giants will have no shortage of late-30s players who used to play great defense in their prime. Vizquel: Player A: 567 AB; .291 / .353 / .388 / 7 HR / 19 SB / 6 CS Player B: 250 AB; .244 / .321 / .336 / 8 SB / 3 CS Player C: 582 AB; .275 / .341 / .418 / 14 HR / 18 SB / 10 CS I wouldn't mind terribly getting player A to play shortstop for the Giants, although I can't see I'd be jumping up and down. Player B, of course, is a disaster. Player C - similar to player A, I guess. Player D: 1399 AB; .276 / .343 / .391 / 23 HR / 45 SB / 19 CS So of course Player A is Vizquel in 2004, B in 2003 and C in 2002. D is his 3-year line. So figure if you look at D divided evenly among 3 seasons, you're talking about: 466 AB; .276 / .343 / .391 / 8 HR / 15 SB / 6 CS. That's the Giants new shortstop and he plays stellar defense, so that's good, right? Not really. The three-year numbers are for his ages 35, 36 and 37 seasons. Vizquel turns 38 in late April. So the Giants will have him for his 38, 39 and 40 seasons. How many productive 40-year-old shortstops can you name? For that matter, how many 40-year-old shortstops can you name? And why stop there? How many 38-year-old shorstops can you name? Because Vizquel hit .291 in 2004 you seem to assume that he'll do so in 2005. There are a lot of very good reasons to believe otherwise. Reason #1: He has hit over .290 twice in the last 8 years. Four times over a 16-year career. In 2004 Vizquel had a fluky high batting average, and most of his offensive value is batting average. Reason #2: He's 38. Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson notwithstanding, the VAST majority of players are in steep decline in their late 30s. Reason #3: He's played his entire career in the American League. Now, at 38, he has to face a league's worth of pitchers the majority of whom he's never faced. The majority of hitters who switch leagues suffer a significant performance decline (see Pierzynski, AJ). Reason #4: He is moving from a neutral environment in Cleveland to an extreme run-suppressing environment in San Francisco. The likelihood is, Vizquel is going to be a very substantial liability offensively. My suspicion is that his offensive line will look something like this, assuming a full season's worth of ABs: .260 / .325 / .345 / 5 HR / 12 SB / 7 CS Let's look at a couple of other things: Player E: 397 AB; .292 / .322 / .431 / 7 HR / 1 SB / 3 CS Player F: 542 AB; .276 / .344 / .351 / 4 HR / 53 SB / 23 CS These represent (some of) the alternative universes to the one where the Giants overpay for Omar Vizquel. Player E is, of course, 2004 Deivi Cruz.[...]

Nightmare Scenario


Moises Alou playing right field for $6.5M a year. My opinion of Alou is below.

Mike Matheny catching for $3.5M a year. Yorvit on the bench. Others have commented on this extensively. I agree with them all. He's old, overrated defensively and could never hit.

Omar Vizquel. See below.

Armando Benitez. When this is the best thing you do...

Too angry and depressed to write more right now. More later if I'm feeling self-destructive.

A problem of Vizquellian Proportions


It's not really that hard to divine what was going through the heads of the Giants' "brain trust" as they decided to sign Omar Vizquel to a 3-year, $12.25M deal. Their thinking on all of these decisions starts and stops with the utterly fallacious thinking that because the 2004 Giants were a 91-win team that scored 850 runs and missed the playoffs by one game, the 2005 Giants will be essentially the same team. Of course, with this impossibly foolish precept as the foundation for their thinking, they will proceed as if minor improvements will get the Giants those 1-2 extra wins and vault them into the playoffs in 2005. Winning in the playoffs, even under this analysis, is not a priority.

The thinking goes that the Giants middle-infield defense wasn't very good. The two shortstops on the 2004 roster, Deivi Cruz and Cody Ransom, are both poor-range defenders who don't flash particularly impressive leather. This, of course, is true. And as Tim pointed out in his review of shortstops below in the comments section, Vizquel represented a halfway decent 2005 stop-gap solution. And if they'd given him a 1-year, $4M contract with a mutual option year, by all means. Vizquel is still a decent player - he can play defense, draw walks, steal bases. I have no doubt we'll enjoy him in 2005. But for God's sake, the guy will be 38 when the season starts - teams with limited resources don't give 38-year-old players 3-year deals. Not everyone can be Barry Bonds (congrats on another well-deserved MVP, big guy) and it's unlikely that Vizquel is anything like him. Hell, the guy failed his physical when Cleveland tried to trade him to Seattle last year.

So basically Sabean signed a guy who is likely to help our team in 2005 and very likely to hurt our team in 2006 and 2007. He plays with a weak hand to begin with, and he plays it poorly. As I understand it, Vizquel had competing offers from several other teams. The winning move in such a scenario is to back out. Getting a guy for more than he's worth is the fabled "winner's curse" and that's what we have with Mr. Vizquel. In 2007 we'll have a $4.5M 40-year-old shortstop. Go Giants. For your enjoyment:


Age 35 season: 582 AB .275 / .341 / .418
Age 36 season: 250 AB .244 / .321 / .336
Age 37 season: 567 AB .291 / .353 / .388

Shortstop X

Age 35 season: 583 AB / .293 / .390 / .420
Age 36 season: 396 AB / .313 / .389 / .487
Age 37 season: 156 AB / .256 / .373 / .372
Age 38 season: 507 AB / .245 / .305 / .367
Age 39 season: 241 AB / .282 / .345 / .382
Age 40 season: 346 AB / .289 / .352 / .419

It bears mentioning that Shortstop X is a better player than Omar Vizquel. And Shortstop X (Barry Larkin, obviously) didn't have to switch leagues after his age 37 season and move into one of the toughest ballparks in the NL to boot.

Go Giants.



Why Omar Vizquel? Why for so long? Why for so much? And why give away ANOTHER first-round pick for NO REASON??? Cleveland had no intention of offering arbitration to Vizquel. I'm too angry to even analyze why this is so stupid it makes me want to vomit all over myself. Maybe someone can comment and give me an explanation that doesn't make me want to abandon my fandom of this team. It's like they're trying (really hard) to lose.

More unjustified hope


Note: There is no evidentiary basis for any of what follows. Note also: This is the year for ideas with no evidentiary basis. So I'm reading a fantasy baseball column on (can you tell I miss baseball season) and the author, one Matthew Pouliot (who writes with greater intelligence and a more obvious connection to reality than most fantasy baseball columnists, the majority of whom would finish last in most of my leagues based on the harebrained advice they dish out) is running over his projected lineups for the American League. It's an interesting and fun exercise, and one which I may try myself at some point later in the offseason. At any rate, as I'm reading and skimming over the teams in the AL, I notice a couple of oddities in the entry for the Chicago White Sox. For one thing, they still have Paul Konerko, even though my assumption was/is that he will be traded. And as I scan down their starting lineup I was surprised to see: C: A.J. Pierzynksi And then further below: RHP: Jerome Williams Needless to say I read a little more closely, curious to see how he arrived at these two 2004 Giants being on the White Sox roster. What I see is that he envisions a "mutually beneficial" trade between these two teams. The trade sends Jerome and AJ to Chicago for Carlos Lee and Damaso Marte. The logic runs as follows: The White Sox want to trade one of Konerko or Lee, presumably for financial reasons (it's not for performance reasons, given that he has Lee being replaced in the White Sox lineup by either Carl Everett or Brian Jordan. The theory continues that it will be Lee that gets traded rather than Konerko, the market for the latter being depressed because of the presence of superior free agent options in the market, named Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson. Let's examine the premises of this trade and see if it's either feasible or beneficial (to the Giants) or both. First off, let's at least look at the assertion that Konerko will run distant third to Delgado and Sexson in the 2005 market. 2004 Stats: Konerko: Age 28; 563 AB; .277 / .359 / .535 / 41 HR / 117 RBI / 107 K Delgado: Age 32; 458 AB; .269 / .372 / .535 / 32 HR / 99 RBI / 115 K Sexson: Age 29: 90 AB; .233 / .337 / .578 / 9 HR / 23 RBI / 21 K 3-year averages: Konerko: 525 AB; .275 / .344 / .483 / 29 HR / 95 RBI / 75 K Deldago: 511 AB; 284 / .403 / .561 / 35 HR / 114 RBI / 126 K Sexson: 422 AB; .273 / .369 / .530 / 21 HR / 83 RBI / 103 K Of course, all of these numbers arguably don't tell the whole story. Konerko had his best year in 2004 while Sexson only logged 90 ABs because of injuries. Delgado had an off-season. The 3-year numbers reflect that each of them has had one year that was either off because of performance (Konerko's 2003) or injuries (Delgado's and Sexson's 2004). I think it's safe to say that Delgado is a better hitter than Konerko, but that doesn't mean he's a better investment. For one thing he's four years older. Let's look at a couple of examples: Slugger X: Age 31 season: .314 / .435 / .598 Slugger X: Age 32 season: .250 / .412 / .527 Slugger X: Age 33 season: .208 / .342 / .379 Slugger Y: Age 31 season: .337 / .402 / .591 Slugger Y: Age 32 season: .281 / .358 / .508 Slugger Y: Age 33 season: .272 / .365 / .498 Of course there are plenty of counterexamples to Sluggers X and Y (Jason Giambi and Mo Vaughn) but both were big, slugging 1B/DH types just like Delgado and both began to decline and fall to injuries around Delgado's age, so to simply assume that Delgado will rebound from 2004 and go back to being the monster he was before is fool[...]

Maybe Moises


I suppose it was inevitable that this rumor / news would come up. Despite playing for the ultimate players' manager, a guy that gets more out of his players than anyone else in the game, Moises Alou is talking about leaving the Chicago Cubs and coming to San Francisco to play for his dad. The real question is - do we want him?

The good

He can still hit. Alou was a great hitter this year and stayed healthy. His .293 / .361 / .557 line over 601 (!!!) ABs for Chicago made him extremely valuable, and an all-star. He hit 39 home runs. For those who care about such things, 106 runs and 106 RBI. I know that "Goliath himself couldn't protect Barry Bonds" but having Alou instead of the collection of scraps we had hitting 5th this year probably would have put Barry at 150+ runs scored and the Giants in the playoffs.

He got better as the season wore in in 2004. Pre-break: .836. Post-break: 1.017. (!) He's actually been a second-half player for years.

The Bad

He's old. 38. Imagine a starting outfield of Bonds (40), Grissom (38) and Alou (38). He's managed to stay healthy the last two years, but injuries are an issue.

He can't field. I mean, he's a left fielder with a bad arm. We're talking about having him play right field at Pac Bell Park? That seems like a very bad idea. Playing right in our yard is tough, and he's not even a particularly good left fielder. We might gain on offense (well, we WILL gain on offense) if he hits like he did last year, but there will be a lot of cringe-worthy defense if he's playing right.

Wrigley really helped him. Over the last three years with the Cubs, he logged 1,650 ABs total (really good for a brittle guy). Look at this:

Home: 782 AB; .304 / .381 / .559
Road: 868 AB; .264 /.327 / .417

These splits were never so stark as they were in 2004:

Home: 301 AB; .339 / .405 / .714
Road: 300 AB; .247 / .316 / .400

Those are Coors-like splits, folks, and unless we think there's a good reason that they are misleading, attention must be paid. For reference:

Tucker: .256 / .353 / .412

The Ridiculous

They aren't talking about having hit 3rd. They aren't talking about moving Bonds back to 3rd and having Alou hit 4th. No, they're talking about having Alou hit 5th, presumably leaving the likes of JT Snow, Pedro Feliz or AJ Pierzynski hitting third. Madness is sweeping this country in more ways than one.


I can't sign onto this one. Given his age and his home/road splits I just don't see Alou hitting like he did in 2004 for the Giants in 2005. And he'd need to hit that way to be a real asset. More likely he'll hit somewhere in the same vicinity that Tucker did or maybe a little better while being a terrible liability in right field and giving fly ball pitchers (of which the Giants have several) fits as balls dropped all over the field. I started this entry hoping I could sign onto Moises Alou for one year, $4.5M, but I'm afraid I just can't do it.

Which almost assuredly means it will happen.



Just to let everyone know, you can now leave comments at the bottom of each post. Leaving them will give me an idea that people are actually reading, which will encourage more posting. If that's desirable.

Standing Pat


I think a few were expecting to see some off-topic election ranting in this space, and truth be told, I considered it. But that's not what this space is for, and so I'll refrain, and stick to why we're here - the Giants. The Giants made a number of unsurprising moves, and these moves say a lot about what we can expect in the next year. Suffice it to say, we're going to have a very similar to team to the one we had last year. Deivi Cruz signed: This isn't any kind of surprise. Cruz has, as I and many others have noted, a surprising and helpful season for the Giants in 2004. Is anyone shocked that they read this to mean that, at age 31, he's become a better player? Here's what Cruz did for a few years before getting to the Giants: 2003: .250 / .269 / .378 over 548 ABs with the Orioles 2002: .263 / .294 / .366 over 514 ABs with the Padres 2001: .256 / .291 / .379 over 414 ABs with the Tigers So the question is, which is the real Cruz? That 1,500 AB span or his 397 ABs of .292 / .322 / .431 in 2004 with the Giants? His offense is highly dependent on batting average, and .292 was his highest since 2000. If he hits .292 again, he'll be valuable. If he regresses to the previous 3 years and hits .258, he won't be. The good news is at least they didn't pay too much for him. After the team gave Neifi Perez a 2-year, multi-million dollar contract I was terrified at what they'd do with Cruz. But in a rare move, he was signed to a one-year, $800,000 (guaranteed) deal with some incentives. At this price, I don't feel bad about him being on the roster even if he isn't very good. JT Snow's option picked up: How great was Snow in 2004? And how unlikely that he'll be similarly great in 2005? Snow was largely considered to be on his way out, of the Giants and possibly of the league at age 36, but then he put up an Edgar Martinez-like line in 2004 and so now he'll be back, for $2M in 2005, presumably playing 1B against right-handed pitchers and playing good defense. Obviously if he recreates 2004 he's very valuable for $2M, but if he returns to the previous few years (where he still got on base, but didn't hit for anything like the average or power of 2004) he'll be merely acceptable. Snow isn't really a problem, given his likely .380+ OBP, but first base was an area where the Giants could have improved, and now won't. Here's what really bugs me, as will surprise no one. They also picked up Marquis Grissom's $2.5M option. I mean come on - how much blood do you want to squeeze from a stone? It's hard to believe the Giants still haven't realized that Grissom is a platoon player. I just don't see how it's hard to figure it out. He wasn't good overall in 2004 like he was in 2003 (although still performed over my projection): 2004: .279 / .323 / .450 over 562 ABs. Of course, the problem is really this: Vs. RHP: .266 / .311 / .404 over 413 ABs VS. LHP: .315 / .356 / .577 over 149 ABs Are you really trying to tell me that those 413 ABs can't be put to more productive use? Grissom isn't Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds or Tsyoshi Shinjo in the field anymore. He once was, but now he's 37 and will turn 38 in April, and there aren't many good 38-year-old center fielders. Just for giggles: Dustan Mohr vs. RHP: .297 / .433 / .466 over 148 ABs Mohr looks a little silly, but he could play CF in a platoon with Grissom and actually give the Giants good offense out of the CF position. Of course, we've been over this before with other players and it hasn't happened, and won't now. The Giants[...]

The overratedness of Brian Cashman


A friend emailed me this question, and since the response kind of took on a life of its own, I figured I'd put it up here: I found myself in a minority at an office party last week with my argument that Cashman's an overrated GM. And these were Mets fans, not Yankees fans. My basic argument is that Cashman has, respective to anyone else, an unlimited budget and a team for which free agents (generally) want to play, yet he ends up with Tony Clark (Tiger reject) splitting with Olerud at first, and with Miguel Cairo at second. I know he had Giambi slated for first, but if Cashman had taken the gazillion dollars he's paying A-Rod and spent it on a quality utility infielder/first baseman/second baseman and another decent reliever, they'd have been even more dominant this year and may have avoided The Collapse. Also, who exactly has Cashman brought up through the farm system? He wasn't around when Jeter/Williams/Posada/Rivera were drafted and brought up. - Josh I absolutely couldn't agree more. He had $183M to spend on his team, and he still only wound up with about 16 good players on his 25-man roster. Put it this way - this is the Yankees' final 25: C: Posada / Flaherty 1B: Olerud / Clark 2B: Cairo SS: Jeter 3B: Pay-Rod IF: E. Wilson LF: Matsui CF: Bernie RF: Sheffield OF: Lofton OF: Bubba Crosby DH: Ruben Sierra SP: Mussina SP: Brown SP: Vazquez SP: El Duque SP: Lieber RHP: Rivera RHP: Gordon RHP: Quantrill RHP: Sturtze RHP: Loaiza LHP: Heredia Of that 25-man roster you essentially have nine stars that make most of the money (Posada, Jeter, Pay-Rod, Matsui, Sheffield, Mussina, Brown, Vazquez and Rivera), one player who produces more than he earns (Gordon), a bunch of expensive, washed-up veterans (Bernie, Sierra, Olerud, Lofton, Quantrill) and a bunch of scrubs (Flaherty, Cairo, Clark, Wilson, Crosby, Lieber, Sturtze, Loiaza, Heredia). On a team that spends $183M there should only be stars and solid midlevel players. Cashman is fine as long as he can just overbid for the best players (although even that is generous, as he picked up Brown and Vazquez for a ton of money and neither performed for him - but I don' t think that's his fault. I expected both to do well. Still, if you look at failed experiments like Steve Karsay, Chris Hammond, etc... ), but is actually very much like Brian Sabean when it comes to picking up quality replacement-level players. He equates experience with talent. Compare the efforts of Theo Epstein at specific positions to those of Cashman: First Base Cashman signs GIambi to a gazillion-dollar contract, then when Giambi gets hurt Cashman picks up Tony Clark off the scrap heap (after he wasn't good enough for either the Red Sox or the Tigers) and Olerud, who was cut by the Mariners. He couldn't have traded for someone better than that? Hell, I imagine Ricciardi would have traded Delgado... Epstein, by contrast, claims Kevin Millar off waivers when the Marlins try to sell him to Japan without passing him through waivers first. Millar costs a paltry fraction of what Giambi or even Olerud cost the Yankees. Millar posts an OPS of about .840 over his two seasons (about $6M) for the Red Sox. Designated Hitter: This one just seems too easy. All you have to do is sign a big fat guy who can hit homers, right? Yet the Yankees never seem to do it right. Ruben Sierra? You've got to be kidding me. Sierra was a pretty good player, once upon a time. Of course, we were in high school then. His last good full season w[...]

Dare we hope...


Ah yes. The offseason, and so shortly into it we're already talking about prospects. Which, for a Giants fan, is always a dicey proposition. With 2004 stats and some 2003 books in hand, I'll look at a couple of Giants farmhands every time I do this. We'll see if we have any legitimate basis for optimism. Boring, I suppose, but I think any conversation about Giants minor-league players has to start with Matt Cain, even though I don't believe he'll make it to the majors this year. That the Giants' best prospect is a 19-year-old pitcher is, of course, depressing, but he's a pretty impressive 19-year-old pitcher. Cain was drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft right out of high school. His 2003 season in the Sally league was a terrific success in terms of performance, but of course was also marred with an elbow injury. He made just 14 starts, but averaged almost 7 strikeouts per start. So that's nice. 2004 was a good year for Cain, one in which he certainly solidified his prospect status. For one thing, he began the season at single-A San Jose as a 19-year-old, which is not outrageous but still a stretch for a guy his age. He was pretty dominant at San Jose. He made 13 starts for San Jose, averaging about 5 1/2 innings per start. I don't have his pitch counts in front of me, but I'm at least hopeful that this indicates a level of care with his arm that is utterly crucial at his age. His numbers at San Jose were eye-catching: 72.2 IP; 1.86 ERA; 58 hits; 17 BBs; 89 Ks Let's pause for a second here, only because I so enjoy looking at that stat line. This pitcher is 19 and only walked about 2 batters per 9 innings while striking out 11. A 5.5-1 K-BB ratio. At age 19. I don't care that it's in the California league. Most pitchers with incredible stuff can't throw it for strikes initially. Cain can. And so the Giants front office, seeing a level of success this tremendous (more strikeouts than baserunners), send the fast-tracked Cain up the latter to AA Norwich for the second half of the season. And Cain more than held his own. He made 15 starts for Norwich, totalling 86 innings, or about 5.7 IP/start. He totaled 158.2 innings this year. I think that's probably 15 too many, but it's a quibble (I hope). Cain was a very good pitcher at AA, putting up the following numbers: 86 IP; 3.35 ERA; 73 hits; 40 BBs; 72 Ks Clearly this is not the same level of performance he enjoyed at San Jose. Duh. But he still struck out nearly twice as many as he walked. My guess is that as a 19-year-old at AA he didn't quite trust his stuff as much after getting hit hard initially. So what can we expect from Cain? Well, the fast track that he's on would suggest that he starts the year back at AA. If he succeeds he could see a promotion midseason to AAA Fresno and then could compete for a job in 2006. In a strange parallel universe, Cain makes the San Francisco Giants as a short reliever out of the bullpen - sort of the Johan Santana approach. Use him as what would likely be a highly effective reliever on the big club for a year or two and then make him a starter in 2006. The Giants don't typically work this way, so I consider this extremely unlikely. But I think a couple of years of throwing 80 innings instead of 160 would be good for his exceedingly valuable arm. I guess we'll also look at last year's darling, Merkin Valdez. After a similarly dominating 2003 for Hagerstown in the Sally League, 2004 was an off-year for the M[...]

A perfect fit (and a pipe dream)


I have no doubt that I will talk about this right up until the day he signs with another team, but there is an available free agent player could potentially put the Giants over the top, in a way that's not flashy or massively expensive, but would require some work and medium amounts of money. 2004 was very good for this player, which is unfortunate from my perspective, since I'd still want him even if he'd had a more typical year. Here's what 2004 looked like: 219.2 IP; 3.48 ERA; 1.16 WHIP; 143 Ks; 26 BBs; 23 HR allowed There's no question that in 2004 this was a very very good pitcher, especially when you consider that he pitched in 2004 for a team in a very friendly hitting environment. Anyone who knows me (which is everyone who reads this) already knows who this is, but I'll talk a little bit more about him in the abstract, so humor me. This is a pitcher whose skill is clearly control. His strikeout rate is acceptable, but his walk rate is astronomically low. David Wells low. He allows contact, but his unwillingness to put extra guys on base makes this manageable. Now, compare 2004 to his last couple of years. 2003: 212.1 IP; 4.49 ERA; 1.27 WHIP; 120 Ks, 28 BBs, 32 HR allowed 2002: 118.1 IP; 4.72 ERA; 1.22 WHIP; 62 Ks, 20 BBs; 12 HR allowed 2001: 226 IP; 3.94 ERA; 1.15 WHIP; 137 Ks, 26 BBs; 24 HR allowed 2000: 226.2 UP; 4.45 ERA; 1.38 WHIP; 141 Ks; 51 BBs; 27 HR allowed Let's throw out 2002 simply because it involved injuries and will skew the counting numbers. The three-year average of 2000, 2001 and 2003 look like this : 221.2 IP; 4.29 ERA; 1.29 WHIP; 133 Ks; 33 BBs; 28 HR allowed Brad Radke, I hereby dub thee - SBC Park pitcher. Brad Radke, age 32. Brad Radke, pitched his whole career in the AL, facing DH'ed lineups. Brad Radke, played his whole career for the Twins in the Metrodome. Brad Radke - only one year in the majors where he's thrown fewer than 210 innings. Brad Radke, who has pinpoint control. Brad Radke, who has one flaw in his game - allowing the long ball. Think about it - this is a guy whose ERA is regularly in the mid-4's while his WHIP is in the 1.25 range. Pitchers with a discrepency of this kind are typically those who have trouble keeping the ball in the park. The Giants have a ballpark that helps pitchers like this tremendously. Of course, as always, there's a problem. Well, a couple of problems. First off, Radke just finished the last year of his contract, a contract that was clearly from the previous era. In 2004 he made $10.75M, and earned it. His previous deal was a 4-year, $36M deal. Unfortunately, with the 2004 year he just had, and in his pitching prime, he is likely to get a deal not terribly dissimilar to this. He was considered by most to be the third-best pitcher in the AL this past year, after Johan Santana and Curt Schilling. Schilling, clearly a significantly better pitcher than Radke, but also quite a bit older, earned $12M at age 38 from the Red Sox this year, as part of a contract signed recently. My guess is that Radke is looking at something around 3 or 4 years at $8M a year. And he'd be worth that and then some to the Giants. Without going through and actually running numbers on park effects and a league-switch, I'd very roughly project the following numbers for 2005 if Radke pitched for the Giants (note that these numbers assume that his 2004 breakout was real but probably also represents something of a career season): [...]