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.