Archive for December, 2005

…. Swap meet, continuum

OK, OK. I read his stats page wrong.

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He’s only missed major time in two of the last three seasons. He’ll be 41 March 12th of next year, which is to say, he’s four months younger than me, for crying out loud. That’s not much in the way of an argument for his youth, or his health prognosis.

He did have a productive 2004, so alright, he’s an upgrade if he’s healthy. Best we could do, obviously.

As for Finley playing every day, remember that Felipe played Moises something like 50 days in a row when he came back from his early season injury, until he was basically a shell of himself. He played the hell out of Barry in ’04 (145 games), and we saw how that turned out. These thirty and forty-somethings can’t play every day, and saying you’re gonna do it before the season even starts is stupid, sets yourself up for more aggravating issues, and irritates the hell out of me.

Let’s start out straight, then at least we have some chance of staying on the road. Starting out cross-eyed is a recipe for more of what we’ve had the last three seasons, aimless wanderings, countless trips to the DL, and endless four pitcher innings.

As for the Moises at first comment….

Listen, first base is a left-handers position. Going into the season with but one left-handed first baseman (one who’s only started about 100 games there in his whole life, by the way), and two right-handed backups, one who’s a career minor-leaguer and one who’s never played there before…. exactly what kind of recipe for success are we tallking about here?

First base is, in the words of Bill James, the end of the defensive spectrum. Am I supposed to believe that there are no real options anywhere in the baseball world other than the afore-mentioned crap we’re talking about here? Nowhere in anyone’s minor league system exists an inexpensive, moderately experienced, left-handed first-baseman that would play a season for a half a million dollars and not be a complete disaster? Nowhere?! Get real.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got time for. Discuss amongst yourselves.

UPDATE: Alright already! Finley only missed time last season. I must be smoking crack or something.

…. Swap meet, continuum

The Giants and Anaheim Angels traded problems, as two $7 million dollar men switched leagues. The Giants got Steve Finley, (after some-five years of trying), for the tremedously disappointing Edgardo Alfonzo. The deal saves no money, but it allows Felipe Alou to write Pedro Feliz’s name in as his third baseman pretty much every day. Hopefully the stability will translate into his offense, which was almost non-existent the second-half of 2005.

According the article, Finley’s horror of a 2005 season was due to a shoulder injury, which is supposedly sound, but jeez, I wouldn’t have thought we could have gotten any older.

Of course, Mr. Imagination still thinks he’s an everyday player:

“With his versatility, our goal is to make sure Bonds and Alou play 120 games each, and Steve can play every position. It’s a good problem. With Randy Winn, it gives us four outfielders, and Moises can also play other positions. Our goal is to get [Finley] on the field as much as possible.”

Our goal is to get Finley on the field as much as possible. Amazing. Sabean is completely out of his mind, as he apparently thinks he just signed the Steve Finley of 2000. The Steve Finley he did sign has managed to make it onto the field for just 160 games the last two seasons combined, and 264 the last three. He’s 41 years old, and coming off three consecutive seasons in which he missed major time due to injury.

A real GM would have said something like this:

Steve Finley is a decent outfielder, a veteran presence, and when healthy, a solid fourth man in the outfield rotation. We needed a left-handed bat, and I’ll be happy if he ends up with something in the 350-400 at-bat range. He’d be a renassaince man if he put up 15 HR for that much work.

Instead, we get more Wonka-ville lunacy. By the way, hidden in the above (absurd) quote is the possibility that the Giants intend to get Moises Alou some work at first base. Wow.

…. Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Over at the Sports Economist, Phil Miller has an article examining the recent lack of investment in the team the St. Louis Cardinals will be fielding at their new ball park this season:

…. the team can’t increase payroll for 2006 for a simple reason: The owners have reached into their own pockets to pick up much of the cost for building the new ballpark, and resources are limited.

…. This raises the old question of whether new capital in baseball (a stadium) enhances fans’ willingness to pay for players. Suppose that fans spend an additional $50 million to watch their team perform in a new stadium. How much of that $50 million was spent so fans could experience the amenities and atmosphere of the new stadium and how much was spent on the players?

Giants fans will tell you that the increase in a teams’ revenue stream generated from a new ballpark does not translate to payroll increases. In fact, regardless of what the team says, I’d tell Cardinals fans to expect the team to spend less money (relative to expectations) over the next five to ten seasons, not more. I’ve been listening to Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean talk about how tough it is to make their mortgate payments almost from the minute the paint was dry on PacBell. Here’s what Cardinals team Chairman Bill DeWitt said 2004:

“The new stadium will provide us with increased revenues and the ability to have a higher payroll. We should be in a more competitive position.”

In 2001, the late, great, Doug Pappas wrote that…. “Shortly after it opened, owner Peter Magowan told ESPN that the Giants were meeting their $20 million annual debt service from in-stadium advertising alone.”

That statement was conveniently forgotten almost immediately, as the Giants, since the Opening Day 2000, have consistently refused to make an effort to bring top-flight free agents to SF, engage in the strange strategy of ridding themselves of their first-round draft picks (too expensive, they say), and replenish the ranks of their team with bargain-basement free agents and waiver-wire pickups. In response to these complaints, Magowan suggests that his ownership group absorded a huge amount of debt when they bought the team:

…. The “mortgage” is approximately $20 million a year. In addition, we also contribute approximately $5 million in taxes and rent to the city. This, though, is just a part of the financial commitment our ownership group has made. We bought the Giants for $100 million. We invested another $120 million to pay for cash losses, most of which were incurred in the Candlestick era, and then we put ourselves on the hook for $170 million for our privately financed ballpark.

If you add this all up, our cumulative investment is over $350 million.

If that’s the case, then the Giants do have some defense for the constant stream of second-tier free agents (Edgardo Alfonzo, et al) we’ve been seeing these last four years. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Cardinals fans can expect the same line of BS Giants fans have been hearing. New ballparks make enormous amounts of money. When people, any people, suddenly find themselves with spectacular amounts of cash, they find it hard to let go of it, regardless of circumstance.

UPDATE: Biased Giants Fanatic has correctly pointed out (all over the freakin’ internet) that I’m not correct, and that the Giants payroll has risen just about every year since Magowan’s been in charge. Here’s Doug Pappas’ numbers, as researched by BGF:

1996 – $34.6M
1997 – $44.1M
1998 – $48.5M
1999 – $46.1M
2000 – $54.2M
2001 – $63.3M
2002 – $78.3M
2003 – $82.4M
2004 – $82.0M

OK. In my defense, I’d argue that Magowan has misrepresented the Giants revenues vs. costs, regardless of the payroll increases. The Giants have told us (many times) that their mortgage payments ($20 million) essentially represent the cost of one or two superstar players, and as such, we fans should consider the ballpark as an extra A-Rod.

In fact, it was just August of last year that I found out that the Giants mortgage payments are deducted from their luxury tax and revenue sharing responsibilities, meaning that at the very least, that $20 million dollars they keep telling us is preventing them from signing players like, for instance, Vladimir Guerrero; is in fact, not a true loss; and in reality, acts as an advantage that aids them in saving money even though their revenue stream would appear to put them among the teams that have to contribute large amounts to the Kansas City’s of the league.

It is this misrepresentation that irritates the thinking baseball fan, and makes the $5 million dollars they throw away on Neifi Perez, or the $18 million dollar extension they thoughtlessly give to a declining and soon to be out of baseball Kirk Reuter so exasperating. They are lying to us virtually every time they speak, and the fact that the franchise has increased in value by more than 100% since Magowan took over makes it so hard to accept the never-ending stream of mediocre players they are forcing down our throats.

There is no question they could raise the payroll by at least $20 million dollars. None. I’m no accountant, but even an idiot like me knows that a franchise worth almost half a billion dollars could find $20 million in about fifty different ways. The Giants haven’t won a championship in 54 years, and have only been in the World Series three times since moving to San Francisco. Bonds is almost done. Pare the payroll down to $40 million for three seasons after he retires, and break the bank while he’s here.

Any other strategy is, quite simply, a terrible waste. Giants fans deserve better.

…. Mirror Image?

Nick over at MVN Giants Cove thinks that Matt Morris and Brett Tomko were separated by birth. I looked a little deeper, and was fairly dismayed to find out that his comparison was far more accurate than I would have guessed, or hoped. Combining 2003 and 2004, you’d have a hard time figuring which player is which:

Morris 395 IP 414 H 217 R 194 ER 47 HR 93 BB 248 SO
Tomko 385 IP 401 H 197 R 182 ER 39 HR 121 BB 222 SO

That’s a pretty close comp, at first glance. Looking a little deeper, we see the following:

Morris 5.66 K/9IP 2.66 K/BB 1.28 WHIP 4.42 ERA
Tomko 5.19 K/9IP 1.81 K/BB 1.35 WHIP 4.26 ERA

Hmmmm…. Still pretty close. Is there anything that suggests that Morris pitched better than Tomko, seeing as Tomko would have cost the Giants about $9 million for three seasons, as opposed to $9 million per? Well, last season, the Cardinals allowed 323 runs, and 82 home runs in St. Louis. The Giants allowed 371 runs and 69 home runs in SF. That would lead me to believe that neither pitcher was particularly helped by his home park.

I guess what we’re left with is this:

Morris has had a much better career than Tomko. Both pitchers made the bigs in 1997, both have just under 1000 strikeouts, around 60 losses, 200 career starts, around 1400 innings pitched, 1400 hits allowed…. But Morris has allowed 50% fewer home runs (129 to 193), walked more than 100 fewer batters, and allowed over 150 fewer runs and earned runs, (albeit, while playing on better teams). All this adds up to Morris having an ERA almost a full run better, and a much better career record, 101-62 vs. 81-73 for Tomko.

If Morris can get back to his career norm, the Giants will be happy with the investment. If he stays at his current level of performance, (back to back years of league average production), this deal will look a lot like the numerous bad investments Sabean’s been guilty of the last several seasons.

…. So there you go

OK, so Sabean finally gets a break from the lunatic fringe. He lands Matt Morris for three years, $27 million.

By giving Felipe Alou a qualified, veteran, inning-eating, #2 starter, he has, in one stroke, solidified the entire pitching staff.

I guess the only complaint I’ve heard that really needs to be addressed is the price. Mike and the Maddog, here in NY, think that he overpaid for Morris. I disagree. His contract compares very favorably with that of just about every contemporary pitcher he is similar to, as listed on his Baseball-Reference page, including Freddy Garcia, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito (soon to be a $10 million dollar man), and Bartolo Colon. I’d also point out that his contract is better, (for the Giants), than the deals signed last season by Kris Benson, Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, and Jaret Wright, and this season by AJ Burnett, just off the top of my head. Add in the mega-deal we’re expecting to see for Kevin Millwood, and Morris looks like a bargain.

David Pinto worries that Giants fans, (like me), seem overly impressed with his won-loss record:

…. You can have a winning record with a high ERA if your team scores lots of runs. Since San Francisco was 15th in the NL in runs scored during 2005, that might be a problem.

Well, in 2002, the Cards only scored 787 runs, and Morris won 17 games. When he won 22 in 2001, they only scored 817, a good number, but certainly within reach of a Bonds-led 2006 Giants team. That season, his ERA was 3.16, and his peripherals were pretty terrific, 13 home runs allowed in 200-plus innings, 185 strikeouts with just 54 walks.

David also identifies his biggest weakness right now, the drop in his strikeouts. In 2001-02, he was above 7K/9IP, in the last two seasons he’s dropped into the 5.5K/9IP range. How that would happen to a pitcher heading into his late-twenties is a mystery, and certainly worrisome, but even so he’s made up for the drop by being more stingy with his walks. Also, although he’s allowed 47 home runs(!) the last two seasons, 32 of those have been in St. Louis, noted for being homer-friendly.

PacBell will go a long way to solving that problem, which should push his ERA back into the 3.50 range. If that happens, he’ll look like a steal at $9 million per, because he’ll be winning between 15 and 18 games.

And as for the wins and losses clouding my (or any Giants fan’s) vision, it’s one thing to get enamored of a guy’s wins when he’s coming off a big year. Morris, on the other hand, has never had a losing season in his 9 years as a major leaguer. NEVER. Some of the guys I mentioned earlier, as well as some of the guys who Sabean might have landed instead of Morris, have career records under .500.

Carl Pavano, for instance, who also makes $9 million a year, is 61-67 lifetime, has had but three seasons (out of nine) when he won more than he lost, and only two in which he’s struck out as many as 133 batters.

I don’t see what’s not to like here. I’m very pleased with the Morris signing, I think it is indicative of a real commitment to the 2006 season, and it makes me hopeful that Sabean’s got one more deal left, a deal that rids the team of Alfonzo and adds a big, left-handed bat, preferably a first baseman.

…. First or last

I’m sorry for beating a dead horse, but the idea that the Giants will once again, for something like the 8th consecutive season, head into the season with an enormous hole at first base…. I just can’t stop thinking about it. We’ve been in the bottom two or three in offense from that position for essentially as long as I’ve been following the team. And for someone who became a huge baseball fan way back in the glorious 1980′s in NY, when Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez, the two greatest defensive first basemen of the modern era, (IMHO), did it all, this torture.

The Giants have been trotting out a thin, watered-down version of that kind of ballplayer for a decade, while trying to sell us the idea that he was irreplacable. I’ve been advocating replacing Snow since I started this website. Snow’s long at-bats and endless string of singles, not to mention the insanity of Alou having in the #3 hole, have irritated and depressed me for years.

Sabean’s insistence that Snow “saves 20 games a year with his glove” at least gave some sense to the folly of keeping him around. If they really did think that was true (it wasn’t), at least you could see why they would put up with 7 or 8 home runs a year from an offense-first position. But if that were true, then how do you go out and sign Sweeney to replace him. Far from being a defensive minded first-baseman, he’s a pinch-hitting specialist for crying out loud!

You might as well keep Snow if you’re gonna go get a Mark Sweeney to replace him. Frank Thomas can be had for probably $3 millon a year for two years right now, I mean, the A’s are negotiating with him!!! He had 12 home runs in 105 at-bats, I mean, come on, that’s two seasons of Snow. I know he’s been injured a bunch the last two years, but jeez, the guy’s a Hall of Famer.

I’ve read that Sabean’s offering a two-year $4 million dollar contract to Bill Meuller. I mean, what the hell is that?!?! Make that offer to Thomas instead, you idiots, we’ve already got TWO THIRD BASEMEN!!! As bad as Alfonzo and Feli are, and they’ve got huge holes in their game, each of them; we still got…. uh, well, oops.

Just looked at the team by team stats for 3B, and the Giants were last in the NL. Dead. Last. Dead last in more than one category, too. OPS. Runs. 15th in OBP. Tied for 14th in HR and slugging. Ugly stuff. I guess Feliz did only play, what, thirty games there? But, even as ugly as they were at third, they were worse at first. 15th in runs scored, 14th in 2B, last in HR, last in total bases, 14th in RBI, 14th in BA, 14th in OBP, 15th in slugging, 5th in OPS. Actually, that’s so bad it needs to be adressed.

The SF Giants trotted out there just about the worst production from 1B and 3B in all of baseball. These are traditionally offensive positions, and the Giants got as little from those positions as they could. You have to be committed to achieve failure like that, really. You could run out just about any Triple AAA third or first baseman and get the kind of production the Giants are getting, and you know what really makes it great?

Over the last three seasons, we’ve paid very good money for this pile of crap. Between the $28 million dollars we’re throwing at Alfonzo, we’ve got the $11 million for Feliz at third. For Snow, he was cheap last season, but the two years prior to that, he was at the tail end of a four-year, $24 million dollar contract during which he produce 42 home runs, (which, incidentally, is what a healthy Frank Thomas puts up in a season).

Here’s an idea for Sabean. FIX YOUR PROBLEMS AT THE CORNERS!!!! The easiest positions to get offense from, and we get a combined 29 home runs from the 1st and 3rd, when the league average is 48. Last season, we got 39, which was pretty damn good by Giants standards, but also well below average. 2003 we had 38, again, well below average, and nowhere near the best teams. In 2003, Milwaukee got 73 home runs from first and third base. Florida got 68. This year, the Cubs got 84!, almost three times as much production as the Giants.

So, to solve what has been, for most of the last decade, a gaping hole at first base, Sabean signs a 36-year old, career pinch-hitter. Read that sentence a couple of times.

Listen people. Frank Thomas is negotiating with the Oakland A’s. That means he’s gonna be cheap. There’s no logical reason for Sabean to ignore him. Remember Galarraga? Thomas is a younger, better Andres Galarraga. He’s not worth two years for $6 million but Neifi Perez is worth two years for $5 million? Whatever drugs Sabean’s taking, he’s not sharing, that’s for sure.

…. Delusionality

How does John Shea manage to keep his job as a beat reporter covering the Giants? I mean, since he seems to have little to no real knowledge about anything pertaining to baseball. By sporting the company line, of course:

…. The Giants also sent the Orioles cash to help compensate for the difference between the 2006 salaries for Kline ($3 million) and Hawkins ($4.35 million), leaving them the flexibility to fill their other needs, including a starting pitcher, though acquiring Matt Morris appeared less likely.

First of all, how does giving away a million dollars increase the teams flexibility in attempting to rectify their horrible pitching staff? It does no such thing. In fact, what it does is limit a team that is operating under as tight a budget as any in baseball. It also means that Sabean screwed the pooch, and Shea is spin-doctoring like Condoleeza Rice.

I cannot believe that Sabean chose to replace a $3.5 million dollars a year pitcher who struck out 65 guys in 68 innings for a $4.35 million dollar pitcher who struck out 36 guys in 60 innings. Moves like that should get you fired.

As for the second part of that little excerpt, the Cardinals, after missing out on AJ Burnett, have offered Morris arbitration, meaning the Giants chances have essentially evaporated. I’ve also read, (coincidentally, I guess), that the Giants have no interest in trading for Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver, or signing Kevin Millwood. Why? because they all make, or want to make, real money, that’s why.

Sabean, clearly working under very strict financial constraints, decided to sign another pretend player, the Padres first-baseman Mark Sweeney, to replace JT Snow, who, along with Brett Tomko, was given his walking papers, (finally).

Great, let one no-bat first baseman leave and replace him with a guy who is arguably worse. Oh, and of course, Sweeney is 36-years old. But hey, he sure can hit. An 11-year career that includes 35 career home runs, and 195 career RBI. Finally, a real first baseman. More of the same bullshit signings from the Giants.

Oh, and in one of the press releases I read, Sabean is quoted as saying that the Giants saved a million dollars a season on the Worrell deal by letting him go. Yeah, good, solid logic there. Two seasons of almost 70 blown saves for a team trying to get the last possible greatness out of Bonds to save $2 million. Throw a million dollars away to downgrade your relievers, throw $18 million dollars at an aging, declining and soon to be out of baseball Kirk Reuter, throw away $5 million dollars on Neifi Perez, throw away two seasons to save $2 million dollars on Tim Worrell, and then tell us you can’t afford to sign real players and real pitchers ’cause your mortgage payments are too high, something we know isn’t true, by the way.

That’s called lying to your constituency, or in the case of the Giants, your clientele. Generally, not good for business. Ready to pony up the cash for 2006 season tickets yet?

…. Swap meet, continuum

I’ve read a couple of your comments, and I’ve gone and bounced around the Giants blogosphere. I’m surprised to see that Nick over at MVN Giants Cove has positive things to say about the Kline deal. Maybe it’s just a first glance kind of thing. Nick also mentions that the Giants are in the mix for Kris Benson of the NY Mets, a rumour that is also floating around at ESPN, (among other locations). As you’ll see, I like that idea a lot.

Looking closer at the Kline deal, I’ve learned that the Giants sent a couple of million with Hawkins to offset the differences in their salaries…. meaning that Kline actually is costing Sabean the same $5 million that Hawkins was set to make. Huh?

With that knowledge, this trade looks even worse. I simply cannot see the logic behind this. We lose Hawkins and Eyre, saving essentially only Eyre’s $1.75 from last season, and all we get in return is Kline? How is getting rid of arguably your two best setup men to save $1.75 million dollars making your (already horrible) bullpen better?

If you’re not saving money by moving Hawkins, you’ve dropped the ball, end of story. In this off-season of monumentally over-priced relievers, Hawkins had to be dealt for either a better pitcher, more pitchers, a better fit, or less money. The Giants falied on two of those three counts, and since lefties tattooed Kline last season, you could argue that his being a lefty is worthless, which amounts to Sabean being awarded the golden sombrero (as in 0 for 3, boys and girls).

As for picking up some starting pitching, it’s important to remember how thin the choices really are, unless you go the blockbuster route, a la Boston. I’d point out that only 8 pitchers (in the entire major leagues) reached the 200-plus strikeout mark this past season, with Johan Santana’s 238 leading the pack. That makes pitchers like Kris Benson, and even Estaban Loaiza’s numbers look a lot better than they might under normal circumstances.

(Editors aside: Anybody read or heard anyone trying to explain how nobody cracked 250 strikeouts this season? I haven’t heard a peep.)

Anyway, back to possible starters for the Giants. Here’s a quick and dirty look at a couple of guys I think Sabean should be at least talking about in Dallas:

Matt Morris 193 IP 209 H 88 ER 37 BB 117 SO 4.11 ERA
Kevin Millwood 192 IP 182 H 61 ER 52 BB 146 SO 2.86 ERA
Javier Vazquez 216 IP 223 H 106 ER 46 BB 192 SO 4.28 ERA
Kris Benson 174 IP 171 H 80 ER 49 BB 95 SO 4.25 ERA

As far as I can tell, all of these guys are available. Looks like Morris is as good as (or better than) any of these four, but if Morris is gonna cost over $7 million per, than there’s no reason the Giants couldn’t take a swing at Millwood, who is supposedly talking 4 years, $40 million with the Mariners. He’s (arguaby) the best of these four, and if you’re talking about the difference between the two being roughly same amount of money (per season) they just threw in to rid themselves of Hawkins, then maybe Millwood’s the guy.

Benson is clearly the worst of the four, with another Woody-esque strikeout total, one that demands perfect pitches and stellar defense, something that is virtually impossible to count on; not to mention his injury history, something the Giants absolutely have to take into account. If Sabean goes out and trades Pedro Feliz for Benson, that ain’t the end of the world, since Feliz is, right now, as valuable a commodity as he’s ever gonna be. If they trade young pitching for him, then they’re screwing up, because he’s as likely to be a 12-15 game winner as anybody they’ve already got. But Benson is a pitcher who wins when he’s lucky and loses when he’s not. Why trade for that?

Actually….. a quick look at Benson’s career begs the question of whether I know just what the hell I’m talking about? Benson is a career 57-61 with a 4.25 ERA. He was 10-8 last seaosn in injury-limited duty, which was the first time he’s won more than he’s lost in his whole 8 year career. He’s not an inning eater, not young, doesn’t strike anybody out, has no discernible upside, and has been injured 5 of the last 6 seasons. Trading anybody or anything for him (other than Alfonzo, who I would trade for a bag of sunflower seeds right now), would be a tremendous mistake.

A good, hard look at Matt Morris shows me that Morris is, in fact, a whole ‘nother ballgame. Morris has won as many as 22 games in a season. He’s also won 17, 15, 14…. in fact, Morris has won more than he’s lost every year but one, in 2000, when he was coming back from missing the whole 1999 season, (he was 3-3 with a 3.57 ERA pitching out of the bullpen). He has a career 3-1 strikeout to walk ratio, a career 3.61 ERA, and he’s 40 games over .500 (101-62) over virtually the same period of time Benson’s been driving pitching coaches crazy, (In case you’re interested, Millwood is 107-75 over his career, and he came up in 1997, just like Morris). I’d feel really, really good about the Giants landing Morris, who would probably be, dollar for dollar, the best pitcher they could get.

And then there’s Vazquez. Do I have to explain how important a 220-inning pitcher could be to Giants bullpen? If Vazquez is out there, they should take a long, hard look at him. He strikes out a bunch of guys, he’s young, and he’s durable (217 innings per season over the last 6 years). If Morris is gonna cost $7 or $8 million, Vazquez’s $11 million might be worth the extra bling, if. As in, if they can dump some salary.

To spend over $10 million dollars more on pitching, (something I am advocating, obviously), the Giants need to dump some salary. The player the Giants most desperately need to dump is, of course, Edgardo Alfonzo. He’s due to make about $8 million, and he had something like 18 extra base hits last season. I’d take anything for him, anything to save that cash, which would make a Javier Vazquez trade really palatable. Is there any possibility the Diamondbacks are stupid enough to make this trade? Didn’t think so. Land Morris and Vazquez, and 2006 changes, instantly.

OK, that’s enough hot stove BS for a while. Discuss amongst yourselves.

…. Swap meet

The Giants traded LaTroy Hawkins for Steve Kline, a 33-year old left-handed middle reliever. Kline’s been durable and modestly effective, while Hawkins, a pitcher in need of something Rags was unable to give him, remains in search of his former self. The Giants are saying that Klline is a replacement for the recently departed Scott Eyre. Are they right?

Kline boasts a career WHIP of 1.35, a modest number, and allows a somewhat large number of walks, 30 in 61 innings last season. In fact, his walk to strikeout ratio is the reason he’s bounced around so much in his career (the Giants are his fifth team in a career that began in 1997). He’s allowed fewer hits than innings his last five seasons in a row, and in his career he’s allowed 538 hits in 584 innings.

But his inability to strike guys out means more pressure on the team defense, the next reliever, and himself. Last season, Eyre posted a career-best WHIP of 1.33, almost identical to Kline’s career number, but still posted a 2.63 ERA, mainly due to his ability to strike guys out even after allowing a walk. Kline, by contrast, allowed just 11 more hits, so…. well, let’s just do a side by side:

Scott Eyre 68.1 IP 48 H 20 ER 3 HR 26 BB 65 SO 2.63 ERA
Steve Kline 61 IP 59 H 29 ER 11 HR 30 BB 36 SO 4.28 ERA

If it’s not obvious what his inability to strike out guys produces, take a look at Eyre’s 2003 season, when he struggled to finish guys off:

Eyre 2003 57 IP 60 H 21 ER 4 HR 26 BB 35 SO 3.32 ERA

If you’re not striking hitters out, you’re allowing them to put the ball in play, and since they’re gonna post (depending on luck and defense) a .300 batting average on balls in play, you’re gonna see something like an extra ten hits or so for that missing 30 strikeouts. Given the importance of the innings and situations most relievers see, Kline’s poor strikeout rate will be a problem. He also allows a lot of home runs, so, in my opinion, he will not be an adequate replacement for Eyre, regardless of the fact that he’s a lefty. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the level Eyre elevated himself to last season represents a new level of performance either, but….

A quick glance at their career stats shows us that while Eyre and Kline have identical career K/IP rates (.76), over the last four seasons, Eyre’s jumped up to .83 while Kline has dropped to .61. Over the last two seasons, Eyre’s been even better, at .95, which is just shy of elite. If Eyre has found a new performance level, the Giants will watch him pull a Nathan, at which point his contract, (3 years, $11 million) will turn out to have been pretty damn reasonable. Makes me wonder whether Sabean looks at any stats at all.

Kline, by the way, earned $2.5 million last season. I haven’t seen what he’s set to make this year, but the difference between Eyre’s $3.6 million (averaged out) and Kline’s $2.5 hardly makes this “exchange” look worthwhile.

I’ll tell you, it’s hard to sit here and not just rip Sabean and Magowan for doing things like this. They want to tell us how they have to keep the payroll below $90 million or whatever, but they’ve wasted something like $50 million over the last four or five seasons on absolutely terrible deals, deals that hamstrung the team completely in their efforts to field a competitve team.

How am I supposed to see the benefit of saving a million dollars a year for a left-handed reliever (who led the NL in holds with 32, for a terrible team, by the way), when Sabean flushed $5 million dollars down the drain two seasons ago on the worst hitter in modern baseball history? Or how about the $28 million dollars we’re giving to Alfonzo, who is so bad the team can’t find a spot for him on the field?

And now we have to let Eyre leave, maybe right after finding himself, because of a million dollars? What kind of way to run a team is this? Sabean actually thought signing Loaiza was a good idea? Are you kidding me? What about the $18 million the team gave to Reuter two seasons ago? Am I the only one seeing a pattern here?

Overpaying for established veterans (which is to say, for proven mediocrity), and then poor mouthing your inability to sign quality major league talent is the single biggest flaw this organization has, it’s been going on for years, and it’s getting worse, not better. How a team could field a $90 million dollar team (7th largest in all of baseball) and not have one young talented player at any position is more than disappointing, it’s a travesty, a faliure of monumental proportions.

One more thing…. The Giants probably would have been better served to buy Schmidt out and used that $10 million to get themselves some real, young pitching, or even better, they could have tried to get into the Beckett sweepstakes (don’t tell me the Marlins wouldn’t have been interested in some of the Giants prospects), or they could have gone after Burnett, or Barry Zito, or they could have tried to get two solid, young pitchers for the $10 million. Standing pat with this team, a team that was 13 games under .500, scored the second fewest runs in the entire National League, and allowed the 11th most runs is a slap in the face to the almost 4 million fans who fill PacBell every year.

…. Lost

The Giants have done nothing to improve their sub-.500 team since the season ended, but at least they’ve gotten a little luck, as craptacular starter Estaban Loaiza decided he’d rather be in green and gold. Thank God.

Loaiza got lucky a couple of years ago and won 20 games; last season he was the beneficiary of the Nationals tremendous pitching-depressing ballpark, and now he’s gonna make about the same amount of money Armando Benitez will over the next three seasons. He’s a bum, an expensive Tomko, and he would have killed the Giants efforts to stabilize their starters.

Matt Morris is still in play, (Hooray!), but that’s all Giants fans are gonna get, as far as I can tell, so once again; expect a marginal season filled with lots of surprising injuries; long, long slumps from overworked 40-year olds; and the teeny, tiny possibility of a championship.

If I were Bonds, and I really felt that I could make it through 130 or so games, I’d give back the $18 million I’m set to make this season so the team could sign a couple of real (i.e., young) ballplayers, because 2006 is gonna be more of 2003 and 2004; 200 walks followed by about the same number of double plays.

UPDATE: No sooner do I finally take the time to rip Sabean for sitting on his hands, he goes out and surprises me by bringing back reliever Tim Worrell. I have to admit, even though Worrell is another 38-year old, he’s been very effective over the last four or five seasons. He would have been a lifesaver last season, and should add some much-needed stability to the bullpen.

All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, or any other organization mentioned herein.

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