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Archive for May, 2007


…. Fast and furious

The Giants have come to terms with the Florida Marlins on a deal that would send embattled closer Armando Benitez back to the Marlins. Early reports seem to indicate that the Giants would be getting a major league player in return, although Miguel Cabrera is obviously too much to hope for.

Who might be the player?

The first guy that comes to mind would be Joe Borchard. He fits the Sabean mold perfectly, veteran, cheap, little upside; and he’s having a terrible season right now. That would also fit my prediction, that Sabean waited too long, and he’s gonna get essentially nothing.

It could be for another reliever, like Kevin Gregg, or Henry Owens, both of whom have handled the closer role well.

Of course, maybe we threw in somebody from the minors that the Marlins want, and we’re getting Cabrera. AAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Ouch, that hurts. ;-)

UPDATE: It looks like it’s Randy Messenger, the proverbial player to be named later. Hat tip to Marlins Today at MVN.

Messenger looks like a body. His ERA is 2.66, but he allows more than one and a half baserunners per inning, he doesn’t allow a lot of home runs –none this year– but the league is getting a lot of singles against him. He’s had a great May, ERA-wise, but he allows a lot of baserunners, and throws a lot of pitches.

As I said, the chance of Sabean getting anyone with value evaporated Tuesday night. But he had to go.



…. Bounce Back

Barry Zito earned his pay last night, leading the Giants to an impressive 3-0 whitewash of the NL’s best offense. Zito threw a ton of pitches –which I don’t like– but held the Mets in check through seven innings. Taschner pitched an economical eighth, and Hennessey got the save. That’s right, even though Bochy is backing his beleaguered closer, he didn’t use him last night.

…. “I don’t think you give up on a guy with two blown saves. Looking around the league, there are other guys with more blown saves. He’s had some good outings, too. This is probably one of the tougher parks for him to pitch in, but you’ve got to put aside your emotions. You’ve got your 25 guys, and Armando is the guy we’re using.”

When reminded that the fans’ animosity goes back to last season and is driven by Benitez’s body language and blaming others and his hubris, Bochy said, “You understand the frustration. You’re going on the past and what happened last year. You have to remember he had some (physical) problems last year. He’s been healthy to this point. Now his knee has flared up. You have to do the best you can with the players you have. … We’ve got to close these games out and we’ve got to use our best option.”

Note that Bochy didn’t address the unprofessional and immature act that Benitez brings to the mound, the constant displays of emotion that distract himself and his teammates; and that fuel the opponents drive to beat him. How many times have we seen him strike out the first batter, pump his fist like he just won the world series, and then proceed to walk the next two batters?

He wants us to remember that Benitez only has two blown saves, but he has three losses too, which make him directly responsible for 20% of the teams’ losses. Add in the rest of the times he failed to prevent inherited runners from scoring, and it’s easy to see that he’s failing to do his job. Put it this way, he’s made 18 appearances, and he’s allowed the leadoff man to reach 7 times. He’s thrown an astounding 308 pitches in 17.1 innings. He’s allowed 26 baserunners, and 9 earned runs in 19 appearances. That’s atrocious. Sure, he’s got 9 saves. Hooray. The league leaders are already approaching their 20th.

His numbers in May are abysmal. In 8 appearances, he’s gone 8.1 innings, 9 hits, 4 walks, 2 home runs, 7 earned runs, 2 saves, 2 losses, 1 blown save, and a 7.56 ERA.

Once again, Sabean missed whatever chance he had to make a move that mattered, when he could have pressed for a trade partner after an April in which Benitez ran off seven straight scoreless appearances. On May 4th, Benitez ran his string to eight, lowered his ERA to 1.80, and will, in all likelihood, NEVER AGAIN BE AS VALUABLE.

Of course, for Sabean to realize that Benitez’s value at that time was an illusion, he would have had to look up his stats; something I imagine Sabean must be allergic to; because anyone who analyzes stats as a normal part of their job would have seen that Benitez was a ticking bomb, waiting to explode and destroy everything in his path. He would have seen that, even though Benitez was lowering his ERA, getting saves, and “doing his job,” he was walking a tightrope without a net.

Benitez threw 9 innings in April, and finished the month with 7 saves and a 2.00 ERA. But those aren’t the numbers that matter. The numbers that matter are these, I’ll give you April and then May, so you can see:

April 9 IP 8 H 5 BB 170 pitches thrown Batters Faced 40
May 8 IP 9 H 4 BB 138 pitches thrown Batters Faced 38

I took out the .1 for May so the numbers line up. Do you see? He was laboring to get through those innings, throwing tons of pitches, getting lucky, and the NL was wising up to him. See how the number of pitches has gone down, while everything else has remained the same? Teams have realized that they can sit on his fastball –he can’t thrown anything else for a strike– and, like Delgado two nights ago, they are raking him.

But that would have required analysis and foresight, which are sadly absent from the Giants “braintrust” these days. However, those of you seeking it can come here, where I will continue to make Nostradamus-like predictions of doom and gloom, while Sabean tells us that all he cares about are “results,” regardless of the fact that using stats to bolster an argument is what fools do.

You use stats to learn something that the eye cannot discern, you use them to peek through the curtains, to gain understanding; and to predict, if possible, the future. We all saw how much angst was involved in Benitez’s appearances, even when he was going well. A closer look told us that his current problems were predictable, even expected. If Sabean was gonna move him, he should have done it back when his obvious numbers may have duped another GM into thinking he had value. Problem is, Sabean was the dupe. So now, we either release him, keep using him, or make him a mop-up guy. Either way, we’re fucked.

UPDATE: El Lefty Malo listened to KNBR today and heard Sabean telling Raplh Barbieri that, for all intents and purposes, Benitez is done as the closer for the Giants. Well, if it’s something that Sabean can get done in the next 48 hours, it’s gonna be too little, too late. Sabean’s options will either be dump him or get a player to be named later type of deal. Anything more than that would be a miracle.



…. Momentum killer strikes again

How many more of these do we have to go through before Giants management realizes what the entire National League takes for granted, that Armando Benitez is a shadow of his former self? How many more blown saves, how many more leadoff guy gets on, stomp around and huff and puff and stare at the sky and glare at the umpire and keep finding new ways to lose, how many more stupid, unbelievable, idiotic, team-destroying performances do the Giants have to endure before we see someone else get a shot at the closer role?

Walk Jose Reyes?! Reyes?!?! One run lead, walk the fastest leadoff hitter, the best base-stealer in the game?

That’s an inning for you; walk, balk, sacrifice, balk, home run. Wow.

UPDATE: This is a must see.



…. Barry US Bonds

Remember when Bonds wasn’t the pariah of all baseball? Remember when Chris Berman used to call him Barry US Bonds on ESPN’s highlight show? Seems like such a long time ago….

Murray Chass looks at the “steroid era” in yesterday’s NY Daily News:

…. In a demonstration unprecedented in baseball’s long history, players erupted in an orgy of home runs, achieving feats no single player or group of players had ever approached. It is reasonable to conclude that someone had to be doing something.

Bonds was part of that orgy, the most prominent part. He slugged a record 73 home runs in 2001, three years after Mark McGwire broke the record by hitting 70.

In 1998 and ’99, McGwire and Sammy Sosa became the first players to hit 60 or more home runs in a season twice. Two years later, Sosa did a solo performance, becoming the first to hit 60 or more three times.

That same season, 2001, Bonds made it six times in a four-season span that players slugged at least 60 home runs. Before 1998, in all of the years that players sent baseballs over fences, they reached 60 only twice.

The title of this op-ed is “Making sense of a mountain of evidence,” but the only evidence that Chass considers is the fact that a lot of home runs were hit. He doesn’t reference Will Carroll’s book, which suggested that there were many factors involved in the home run explosion; he doesn’t reference any of my statistical analysis of the subject, (not that I’m the king of Siam, or anything), he ignores the entire internet community of baseball writers and sabermetricians.

All he looks at is the fact that from 1998 to 2003, there were more 50 home run seasons than in the history of the game. But, as I wrote two years ago, if you lower the standard to 45 home run seasons, you find that the super spike goes away.

…. that’s selective use of the statistics. If we use 45+ HR seasons as our starting point, we see a whole different picture. There have been twenty-two 45+ HR seasons in just the last four years, by as varied a group of players as imaginable; A-Rod (four times), Thome (three times), Palmeiro, Glaus, Sosa (three times), Bonds (four times), Bagwell, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Todd Helton, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, and Adam Dunn have all done it. Going back to 1993, the year Stark and most everybody else keeps saying signals the start of the “steroids era,” you can add McGwire (four times), Andres Galarragga, Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr. (four times), Albert Belle (twice), Canseco, Brady Anderson, Mo Vaughn, Greg Vaughn, Vinny Castilla, and Chipper Jones to the list. That’s 26 different players, who have hit at least 45 home runs over 30 times in the past 12 seasons, a total that was reached but 5 times the previous 12.

By using 50+ HR seasons as your analysis point; you can narrow your focus to the big three, Sosa, Bonds and McGwire; who all share one unmistakable characteristic; super-muscularity. Their size makes them an easy target for suspicion, and with such a narrow focus, it’s inevitable that the muck-raking would eventually make a dent and produce something, anything to use as proof that they are using PED’s. This is called missing the forest for the trees.

A more reasoned look at baseball during the “steroids era” would conclude that there would have to be more to the upswing in home runs totals, simply because of the number of different players who have hit so many home runs, (unless you believe Tom Verducci, that 50% of the players were using). And an even more revealing analysis can be found by looking at league season by league season home run totals, which clearly show that starting in the mid-nineties, all players have been hitting more home runs….

The home run surge has continued, we just don’t have the three greatest home run hitters of our era in their prime anymore.

Chass should do better. He’s a big-time sports columnist, who should have known that he’s not only plagiarizing Jayson Stark –who wrote essentially the EXACT SAME COLUMN four years ago– he’s guilty of lazy analysis.

It doesn’t take very long to crunch the numbers, but you could just type it into Google and get my work, Will Carroll’s, Baseball Prospectus’s, Baseball Analyst’s, the Hardball Times’s…. it’s out there. Instead, we get Chass rehashing the same tired bullshit.



…. New & Improved?

There is a new Giants site to check out, Excuse Me Swing, the ramblings of a guy named Dave. He wonders about the Giants offense in this post:

…. Do the Giants trade away a starting pitcher for a bat that can get them closer to that 5.2 runs they had in 04 or even the more modest 4.8 that got them to the seventh game? Again, I have no idea.

I do. Currently, they are scoring 4.4 runs per game and allowing 4.15. That’s not nearly enough of a difference for a team to be a serious contender. That would run out to 709 runs this season, while allowing 670. You’ve gotta outscore the opposition by a 100-150 runs, minimum, to have a real chance at 90-plus wins; and more importantly, a championship. This is a .500 team right now.

In ’02, they scored 4.8 and allowed 3.8. In ’04, the offense was the best it’s been since I’ve been covering the team, scoring an outstanding 850 runs (5.2 per game), but they allowed 4.75. In both of those years, the team had the offense to be a legitimate contender, (’04 was a lost season because the Giants bullpen blew 28 saves that season, allowed 271 runs(!) –100 more than the Cardinals– and posted a collective 4.53 ERA, third worst in the NL).

No matter how you look at it, unless you go on some miracle run, like the Dodgers in ’88, you can’t seriously expect a team to win enough of the time outscoring their opponents by so little. It just doesn’t happen. Look at the Red Sox right now. They’ve score 267 runs and allowed 188. They’re already almost 100 runs on the plus side. The Mets look like the class of the NL right now, and they’ve scored 244 and allowed 187; that’s more than a run per game.

Winning baseball requires that you are better than your opponents over the long haul. That’s one of the reasons batting average captured the imagination of the fan and the sportswriter for so long. One game, one week is nothing in baseball. What do you do over the course of a month, two months, a year, that’s how success is measured.

We’re 50 games in. The bullpen has cost the team about 3 or 4 wins so far, but the offense has cost them more. The margin is too thin. Our starters have posted the third best ERA in the NL, but are just 3 games over .500. The pen –for those of you who think I’m being too hard on Benitez and company– has posted a 4.15 ERA, a full 2 runs worse than the Padres. We’re tenth in runs scored, a full run per game behind the Mets and the Phillies. You want to know why the team is treading water? It’s the offense. You think Matt Cain would’ve liked a run or two here and there? How about Lowry?

Morris is perhaps the most tradable commodity from the Giants perspective, if they’re gonna trade a starter, but I agree that there’s no such thing as a surplus of starters. Trade Benitez for a bat (which I’ve already proposed), and make Cain the closer. Or if that’s too radical, make Taschner the closer, or Hennessey. Or leave everything the way it is and trade minor leaguers for a hitter. The team needs about an extra 100 runs. It can’t be that hard to get.



…. Momentum gained

Momentum lost. Since the bullpen’s meltdown of what should have been the team’s sixth straight win, the Giants have lost in just about every way possible. Today’s “here you take it,” loss, 6-4 in ten innings, included the humiliating three-up, three-down bottom of the tenth, in which the Rockies closer (Brian Fuentes), ran his record to a stellar 15 saves, 2.22 ERA, with a WHIP of 0.83; just in case Sabean wanted to know what a closer’s numbers are supposed to look like.

As opposed to Ray Ratto, who seems to want me to believe that Benitez’s 9 saves, 3.78 ERA, and 1.44 WHIP are worthy of our appreciation:

…. Right now, a case could be made that Texas, Toronto, Cleveland, Kansas City, Atlanta, Florida, Philadelphia, Washington, Cincinnati, Houston and Pittsburgh would all take Benitez’s numbers (0-2, 3.78, 9 saves, 1 blown). Even the Yankees would be a lot happier with Mariano Rivera if he had Benitez’s numbers, and that is something that has never been said in baseball history.

Yeah, well, bullshit. Sure, Benitez has only one blown save, but he’s been part and parcel to about four others. The reality is that he’s no longer a top-flight closer; and more importantly, HE’S KILLING THE TEAM.



…. Pissin’ in the wind

Barry Zito thinks people should reconsider the other Barry:

…. I wish more people got to see the Barry we all see. He’s incredibly motivated, determined and disciplined. What he does requires a level of focus most people can’t understand. If he doesn’t want to deal with making everybody else happy, so what? Would the fans rather have an average player who’s a great guy off the field? Kids want superstars.

…. The way he’s perceived doesn’t trouble me. I know people love to hate. My dad always warned me that great champions walk alone. The average guy just can’t relate to the president or a $20 million-a-movie actor or a home run king. Those are extraordinary people. Which is also why people want to knock them off the mountaintop.

Why is Zito doing this? I find it fascinating to see him go so far out on a limb; to what end would he bother putting his good name out there for Bonds?

Not that what he’s saying isn’t worth listening to. Many people forget how hard Bonds works, how much he sacrifices to be the best. Even if he did do steroids, he still had to put in the work, the hours and hours of weight-training, and working in the batting cage, and all the work and time he put in to become a Gold Glove left-fielder. And even if you believe that he used steroids, you still have to accept that steroids are but one step in a continuum of athletic performance enhancement. Ahhhh….. no one’s listening anymore, I know. I just can’t stop.



…. Cain and Unable

Matt Cain lost a win, as the bullpen let him down for something like the fifteenth time this season, and the Giants again gave away a win and some real momentum, falling 5-3 to the Rockies. Until we see some real changes in the way the bullpen is put together and used, this is going to remain a common refrain. Benitez no longer has it, and because of the failure of the Giants to face that truth, the rest of the pen is being misused.

David Pinto writes about Bonds’ slump:

…. The change in walks actually started on May 4th. Barry has drawn at least one walk in seventeen straight games, leaving him one game short of his own National League record for walks in consecutive games. He may even reach the ML record of twenty two held by Roy Cullenbine, which has stood for sixty years.

So are the walks part of the cause of the slump? In early May, it was clear that Barry was as dangerous as any time in his career. It would make sense at that point for opponents to stop pitching to him, hence the rise in walks. But Barry doesn’t know how much time he has left, either because his body burns out or the feds take him off the field. So he presses just a bit. He swings at borderline pitches that he’d normally take. Lower quality pitches, lots of walks, low batting average.

He also has a scout’s take on Bonds’ sore hamstring. Read and learn.



…. When you’re right…

…. You’re right. Joe Sheehan is so much more eloquent than I am, and when he takes the time to address the steroids scandal, he always seems to put his thoughts together in a way that I can only hope to emulate. His latest article is simple, straightforward, and a must-read for the serious and the casual fan:

…. The Mitchell Commission should be disbanded. It should be disbanded because all it’s doing is extending the shelf life of a story that does the game no good. MLB isn’t going to get anywhere by trying to figure out who was doing what five to 10 years ago; there’s nothing that can be done, and no credible way or sorting out the impact of PEDs on gameplay, wins and losses, or statistics. If the evidence in Game of Shadows isn’t enough for the Commissioner to come down on Barry Bonds—and no, it’s not—then no amount of paper-shuffling and stern questioning is going to produce actionable information.

The Commission isn’t helping baseball. It’s only keeping a dead story alive, while shifting focus from the evidence we have from three years of testing, from MLB’s toughest-in-sports PED policy, from the great storylines created by the players on the field. In four seasons of testing, going back to the survey year, the number of positives has dropped from the high 80s in survey testing down to a single-digit number. Of the players who have tested positive, we’ve seen a mix of pitchers and hitters—putting the lie to the idea that steroids were responsible for the raised offensive levels of the 1990s—and the entire list has a Q rating comfortably behind your average “Dancing With the Stars” cast.

Now, there’s a standard counterargument here: it’s not that no one is using PEDs, it’s that they’re using stuff that doesn’t show up in testing. If that’s your position, fine, but at that point aren’t we talking about a belief system? If it was so important a few years ago for players to give up their rights to privacy to prove their innocence—so important that Congress had to get involved—then how can you ignore the results of the prove-your-innocence program? If the testing results aren’t going to be seen as evidence of the state of PED use in baseball, then stop testing the players, because it’s a pointless exercise.

I could practically run the whole piece, because you need to read it all. Go, now.



…. Pitching makes it better, Part III

Four in a row, as Zito puts it together, Molina is simply unstoppable with men on base, Klesko forces Bochy to keep him in the lineup, Lewis keeps up his hot start, Winn gets back to another streak, and it’s all good in San Francisco. Yummy.



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