…. Cha-cha-cha-cha-changes

Big doings in orange and black. The Giants traded Jerome Williams and David Aardsma for LaTroy Hawkins, one of the premiere setup men in baseball. Listening to Brian Sabean made my heart all aflutter:

…. “We’re in desperate need to remake the bullpen. The more we watched our games, home or on the road, we have a very difficult time stabilizing the game when we need to. This sends a message to the position players that we’re serious about straightening this thing out. It also sends a message to the bullpen, although there’s going to be some changes because of this, because when he reports on Sunday, somebody is going to have to go. We may not be done rearranging this thing.”

…. “It’s the price of doing business. You take a step backward. Maybe Jerome can get his stuff together in another organization. Money was very important. We’re going to wind up paying less than $1 million on the whole thing, and that gives us flexibility to do some more things up the line. Obviously we’re in a negative leverage situation. With Benitez hurt, teams come in and assess the situation. It’s one of those things we’re going to have to live with. Hopefully, LaTroy comes in and fills the void.”

….”The Benitez thing was a shock. We took a huge step backwards. I think we’ve regrouped with Walker taking over, but again, we’ve had the hardest time seemingly trying to find folks who can pitch an inning or can be slotted. That’s hopefully what LaTroy can do — give us some sanity. It’s been a credit to Felipe and Rags [Righetti] how they’ve juggled it. At this point, there’s no system. There’s no method to our madness.”

True dat.

LaTroy Hawkins has been pretty good this season, moving back and forth between setup man and closer. In 72 at bats, he’s allowed 18 hits, (although 4 of them have been home runs, 3 of those have come at homer friendly Wrigley), which runs out to a very nice looking .250/.316/.444 .761 OPS against. His ERA stands at 3.32, and he’s got a 13 to 7 strikeout to walks ratio. In 2002, 03, and 04, he’d been outstanding, averaging about 80 innings with an ERA around 2.00 and a 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Yummy.

As for dealing young pitching for another 32-year old, well, 32 isn’t that old, and it’s likely that Sabean has again properly assesed his bargaining chips, and these two pitchers may have already reached their ceilings. If that’s the case, once again the lunatic fringe and I will have to give Brian his due for knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

It’s hard to see these two players in the same light as, say, Joe Nathan or Russ Ortiz, pitchers whose probability for continued big-league success was fairly high. Nathan in 2003 was essentially the same pitcher who went to the All-Star game for the Twins in ’04, something that was pretty hard to miss (I know I sure did, but in my defense, I had essentially no computer access for two whole months when the trade took place).

2003 79.0 IP 51 H 26 ER 7 HR 33 BB 83 SO 2.96 ERA
2004 72.1 IP 48 H 13 ER 3 HR 23 BB 89 SO 1.62 ERA

Jerome Williams, on the other hand, had pretty marginal numbers even when he was doing well. He went a combined 17-12 in 2003 and 2004, but he managed just 168 strikeouts in 260 innings, and with a less than 2-1 K/BB ratio, 5.5 strikeouts per 9 innings puts too much pressure on the defense, something that seemed evident this season as he’s struggled.

Kudos for Sabean for making a move before it got too late. It’ll be interesting to see how Williams and Aardsma fare over the next couple of seasons.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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