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Archive for the 'Baseball Prospectus' Category


…. Long time coming

And a long time gone….

…. San Francisco Giants (1954)
Years since last championship: 56

Reason for gap: Though the Giants’ long drought is no secret, it’s still somehow shocking to see the team so far down this list given its status as one of the National League’a great franchises. This is a franchise that has 17 modern pennants and five championships, the team of John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, and Willie Mays. And yet, since they relocated to the West Coast, they haven’t been able to raise another flag. This is especially odd because the Giants have often had the talent to compete, have often had the financial support necessary, and have had the opportunity to win. Some aspects of the long slump are just a matter of bad luck, of not being able to win a key game in a postseason series. As Charles Schulz’s outraged response, a slightly different swing by Willie McCovey and we might not even be talking about more than a half-century without a Giants championship.

Notwithstanding the post-Bonds years, when Brian Sabean’s efforts to rebuild the team have been hamstrung by what must be an organizational edict not to sign any bats….

I figured I’d stop it right there. This is a BP piece, talking about the franchises that have gone the longest without a title. The Giants have the third worst streak in all of baseball, behind only Cleveland (62 years) and the Cubs (102 years). That is simply awful.

It reminds me that this team has no excuse not to make a run at a title, or should I say, had no excuse this past off-season not to make a serious commitment to building the championship caliber offense needed to compliment their championship caliber pitching staff. Fifty-six years. Longer than my whole life.

UPDATE: Joe Posnanski knows one of the reasons the Giants have gone so long without a title:

…. Houston’s new third baseman Pedro Feliz. You know the Astros signed Feliz during the off-season for $4.5 million — he was the big offensive acquisition for a team that finished 14th in the league last year in runs scored. Now, I should start by saying the Feliz is not without value. He is an excellent defensive third baseman. He has never won a Gold Glove, but I think he should have won in 2007 for sure, and he had a strong case the previous two years. He does not seem quite as mobile now — he used to be the best in baseball at charging the bunt; now, not so much — but he’s still awfully good defensively. And he has a great arm. And, by all accounts, he seems a very good guy.

Also, every now and then, his bat will run into a fastball.

OK, those are the positives. Now, the downside: Feliz is a terrible hitter. No, really, dreadful … historically dreadful. The last five years, Feliz has not had an OPS+ of better than 85 in any season. The last four years, his combined OPS+ is 80. His batting Runs Above Replacement? Minus-70.9 for his career. He isn’t just worse offensively than a replacement level player, he’s A LOT worse. His .293 on-base percentage … worst in baseball for the decade (4,000 or more PAs).

Feliz isn’t a bad big league hitter … he’s an atrocious hitter.

Brian Sabean collects empty hitters, RBI men, and hitters like Feliz, like they are made of platinum.



…. More bad news

I know I tend to lean towards the negative. Sorry. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of what I read about the Giants is positive, and for a team that has had it’s share of worst in baseball players, contracts, offenses, and acts, that is simply Polly-Anna. The Giants are not one of the better run organizations in baseball, as suggested by this BP article:

…. the best-run teams of the decade:

1. Oakland Athletics Billy Beane (2000-09)
2. St. Louis Cardinals Walt Jocketty (2000-07), John Mozeliak (2008-09)
3. Cleveland Indians John Hart (2000-01), Mark Shapiro (2002-09)
4. San Francisco Giants Brian Sabean (2000-09)

Whatever. I don’t care how you measure it. The idea that any of the team’s success in the “aughts” was due to anyone but Bonds is provably false. They’re not one of the best-run teams, they are one of the worst. They are one of the worst.

I wrote several years ago that I thought Brian Sabean was riding on the coattails of the best offensive player of all-time, and that the minute Bonds was gone we’d all see just how bad Sabean was at building an offense. Well, we sure see now. The Giants have been one of the worst offenses in baseball from the instant Bonds left the team, and Sabean shows no signs at all of being able to turn things around. That he was rewarded with a contract extension after years of failing is astounding. That he is still around to throw money away, to trade away important and valuable prospects for more old, declining, injured and injury-prone mediocrities is frankly unbelievable. Sabean lives in a world where players are frozen in time, where the best thing a player gas ever done is what the player will do now, regardless of how long ago it was, or how fluky it was, or whether the player has undergone major surgery, or whether the player is injured.

…. Giants GM Brian Sabean was already pleased with his winter after re-signing second baseman Freddy Sanchez before he could reach the free-agent market, then signing free agents Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa to play first base and left field. However, Sabean is even happier after catcher Bengie Molina decided Friday to return to the Giants as a free agent on a one-year, $4.5 million contract on Friday following protracted negotiations with the Mets that did not produce the two-year deal he was seeking. The Giants did not want to commit to Molina beyond 2010 because of the presence of top catching prospect Buster Posey in their system.

…. Sabean thinks the Giants will contend after finishing 88-74 last year to end a streak of four consecutive losing seasons. Molina believes the Giants can do better than contend, commenting “I think we can get to the playoffs and win it all. This team is that good. The pieces are all here. We’ve just got to go out and do it.”

First off, the worry that someone would sign the broken-down, shadow of a former batting champion out from under the Giants is laughable. LAUGHABLE. Not only was Sanchez under contract for 2010, but there wasn’t a GM in the game who though as highly of him as Sabean did. Not one. There was absolutely no chance whatsoever that Sanchez was gonna play anywhere but major league baseball’s version of the Seniors Tour, San Francisco.

And as for this quote: “I think we can get to the playoffs and win it all” all I can say is, Huh?

That’s not optimism. That’s not even wishful thinking. That is blindness. The kind of blindness that cripples a team, the kind of blindness that allows one to trade away two of the team’s top four pitching prospects away at the deadline to acquire razor-thin, marginal talent upgrades. It is the kind of blindness that allows someone to sign one percent better players than the ones you have for another $4 or $6 million dollars; so that at the end of the day, they very amount of money needed to land a top free-agent has been wasted on five players who are not more than ten percent better than the five players you already had.

…. First Base: Aubrey Huff (.248 EqA, -1.0 WARP)

Given what we know about the defensive spectrum and the distribution of talent in baseball, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a player who can hit at a league-average clip and play first base in a manner that doesn’t suggest a future nomination for the Darwin Awards. Yet here we are. Huff had shaken off three years of mediocrity to enjoy something of a career year in 2008 (32 homers, .306 EqA), in part because he didn’t see all that much time in the field. With the departure of the undead Kevin Millar, the Orioles told Huff to reacquaint himself with the leather. Huff wasn’t egregiously awful afield (-2 FRAA), but his bat went limp (.253/.321/.405) before dying a miserable death upon being traded to Detroit, where he applied the coup de gràce to the Tigers’ season as a Replacement-Level Killer DH (.189/.265/.302).

That’s Aubrey Huff, our new first baseman. One of the worst hitters in baseball at his position, a player no better than either of the two first basemen we ended 2009 with, Travis Ishikawa or Ryan Garko –and arguably, worse– but as always, a player who is absolutely, positively, older. Once again, I cannot begin to understand how Sabean can fail –for virtually his entire career, now– to acquire a guy who can stand at first base, catch a throw from the shortstop, and hit a couple of home runs. In just the last two seasons, now, Sabean has spent $14 million dollars and traded one of our top young pitching prospects in his efforts to fill the easiest position to fill on the diamond. Who wants to bet Ishikawa is out there by the end of May? If he is, then you can know that the money and the prospect was wasted, COMPLETELY WASTED; because Brian Sabean cannot do his job.

And that’s just first base. I could go on and on. Shortstop? Please. Too easy. How about second base? Right now, the odds are just as good that Sanchez’s career is over as they are that he’ll be a key offensive contributor:

…. Sanchez has been hurting since the Giants obtained him from Pittsburgh in late July. He had said the Giants knew before the trade he’d need knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus (it was performed Sept. 30), and he went on the disabled list Aug. 25 with a strained shoulder, the same shoulder that was surgically fixed last month.

The surgery repaired a torn labrum and cleaned up an arthritic AC joint, said Groeschner, who added that recovery could take 12 to 15 weeks.

Asked why the shoulder damage was not detected in the physical and MRI exam before the contract was consummated, Groeschner said, “Sports medicine is not black and white all the time. It’s not just reading an MRI. A lot of interpretation goes into it.”

Asked if he would have done anything differently with the contract in retrospect, general manager Brian Sabean said, “Not at all. Due diligence was done on the medical side. This is something we couldn’t pinpoint. It shows the medical profession isn’t perfect. … There’s nothing more we could have done. We checked out every medical question.”

That is disingenous at best. Everyone knew Sanchez was injured. Everyone. For Sabean to sit here and say they did due diligence is, at best, an admission of failure. At worst, it is a bold-faced lie. This is the exact same thing that happened when Sabean went out and signed Edgardo Alfonzo. The. Exact. Same. Thing:

…. (December 16, 2003)

Manager Felipe Alou said Alfonzo, 29, could hit third or fifth. While he batted .308 for the Mets last season, 10th in the National League, Alfonzo had 16 home runs and 56 RBIs, his second straight subpar season on the power front.

In 1999 and 2000, he averaged 26 homers and 101 RBIs. A back injury hurt his numbers in 2001 (.243, 17 homers, 49 RBIs), and it was speculated in New York that he also suffered the consequences in 2002 even though he was considered healthy.

The Giants were so confident that Alfonzo has recovered that they didn’t require him to take a physical.

“It feels pretty good. I’m fine,” Alfonzo said. “Last year, I dedicated the offseason to working out and getting in great condition.

The Giants were so confident that Alfonzo has recovered that they didn’t require him to take a physical.

That was six-plus years ago. What’s changed? Only the cast of nobodies Sabean goes out and wastes money on. They’re still old, injured, and declining. The team still says it cannot afford top-flight hitters. Still says nobody wants to come here (except, of course, the really old guys who see the Giants as the Seniors Tour of baseball).

So, sorry, I cannot focus on the positive. Sure, our pitching is tremendous. I love seeing Lincecum dominate. I am ecstatic about how good and young our core of arms are.

But the way Brian Sabean treats this essentially unprecedented bounty is unforgivable. And this team will tease us, because the pitching will be so dominant at times. And then Brian Sabean will trade away some more good, young pitching to acquire some old, broken down baseball player who is five percent better than the old, broken down player we are already paying, and our future will continue to recede into the dark.



…. Unbelievable but true

Joe Sheehan is probably gonna be pissed that I am cutting and pasting almost his entire article today, but, Jesus Fucking Christ, I feel like Nostradamus:

…. Let’s get something out of the way: as currently constituted, the Giants are unlikely to make the playoffs. True, they have played well so far, thanks in no small part to a devastating one-two rotation punch and a surprisingly strong bullpen. The Giants are very, very good at preventing the other team from scoring, and that’s the skill that has enabled them to be a factor in this summer’s playoff chase.

…. What they can’t fake is an offense, which has been hideously bad. The team is 15th in the NL in runs scored, and 16th in Equivalent Average with a .241 mark that’s seven points worse than the Padres. They have one good bat in Pablo Sandoval, one average one in Aaron Rowand, and seven guys who can’t hit.

…. they can acquire and play just about any player in baseball because they have so few players who can’t be benched.

…. the other factor in play here is that the Giants have significantly outperformed their expected record, not just from the preseason, but what you’d expect from what they’ve done on the field. The Giants have scored 33 more runs their their third-order prediction, and allowed 17 fewer. That’s a five-win swing, right now the difference between second place the wild-card chase and nowhere.

…. it brings up the question of how good the team really is, and how good it can be? If the Giants are “only” a .500 team, improving them to .550 is harder than if they’re a .530 team. The Playoff Odds Report is seeing this problem as well, giving the Giants a mere 9.5 percent chance to make the playoffs, a small chunk of which is their chance to win the division.

…. With that in mind, should the Giants bother to make a big move? As mentioned, their top-heavy farm system is a challenge, as teams want their very best prospects, and four of those guys are among the top 60 prospects in the game. Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Angel Villalona, Tim Alderson… these guys are the core of a championship team down the line. Add in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and you can see the Giants playing deep into October in the not-too-distant future.

On the other hand, four of those guys are pitchers, and one, by definition, will be the fourth starter in that rotation. The Freak isn’t tradeable, and Matt Cain’s contract and jump in performance make him a fixture. Bumgarner is ahead of Alderson by any evaluation, and I haven’t mentioned Sanchez, himself an incredible talent, in this paragraph yet.

Alder

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son could be in the major leagues a year from now, and he’ll be a top-40 prospect on next year’s list. He is, however, a level back of the guys who will be one-two-three at that time. As Kevin Goldstein said, “His ceiling is nowhere near that of teammate Madison Bumgarner, but he could be closer to the major league rotation.” That actually could be a selling point in a deal, as GMs trading away veteran talent like to do so for players who are close to the majors. Alderson could be starting for his new team next summer, providing the local fans proof positive of the value of what could be an unpopular deal.

…. What your team needs more than anything else is guys who don’t make outs. Nick Johnson doesn’t make outs to the tune of a .410 OBP. There’s not much power left in his bat, and he runs poorly, but you’d be picking up 15-20 runs at first base over the rest of the season, with no loss in defensive performance compared to Travis Ishikawa, himself a good glove man. That’s about two wins. The Nationals also have two left fielders better than Randy Winn or Fred Lewis, one expensive, one less so. Josh Willingham is having a nice season, but it’s Adam Dunn that you want. A poor left fielder, Dunn hits more than enough to make up for that, and it’s not as if Lewis is a tough act to follow out there. Even if Dunn asks for a trade this winter, so what? Let him walk as a free agent and take back the $10 million you would have owed him. For now, bank the 20-25 extra runs he’ll be worth and start taking yourself seriously as a contender.

First, I'm sending Joe an email apology for posting pretty much his whole fucking article.

Second, Joe only affirms that I have been right about the fact that Adam Dunn is the single most effective player available to solve the Giants offensive woes, and he has been SINCE THE END OF LAST SEASON!!!!!!!

My thanks go out to Joe for confirming that I –in fact– am not an idiot. “A poor left fielder, Dunn hits more than enough to make up for that.” Yes, I have only been saying that for going on seven months now.

So, trading for Dunn, (as opposed to signing him as a free agent, which would have been the absolutely best possible move the team could have made last off-season), is, in point of fact, pretty much the only move the team could or should make, even though Brian Sabean should be fired for coming to this conclusion now, because the facts were there, for all of us to see, in November of last year.

As an alternative, Josh WIllingham, simply because he's just a bit younger, would be equally valuable to a team that has pretty much the very worst offense you can possibly have and still talk about contending.

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…. Hot corner

I don't want to jinx him, but it's clear by now that Pablo Sandoval is having a hell of a season. He's running out a very handsome .329/.371/.531 .902 OPS line, with 28 extra base hits. That .329 batting average is second only to league leader David Wright for third basemen, and is the fifth best batting average in the NL. His .902 OPS ranks as the fifteenth best in the league, right between Chipper Jones and Hanley Ramirez –two of the best players in baseball– which is pretty good company.

Marc Normandin, at BP, has some nice things to say about Sandoval as well:

…. Sandoval is just 60 games into the year, but his line is very similar to PECOTA's most optimistic forecast. He is currently hitting .329/.371/.531, with walks in 5.5 percent of his plate appearances and a .205 ISO. He's become more patient, which is the kind of thing that turns someone with Sandoval's contact skills into a dangerous hitter.

…. Pitchers have also begun challenging him later in at-bats now: he saw first pitch strikes in over 70 percent of his plate appearances last year, and is down to a more league-average 58.9 percent this season. This may be partially due to his hitting .345 with a .621 slugging percentage on first pitches last year. That success has carried over, as he's hitting .350 with a .600 slugging percentage on first pitches in 2009. Starting him

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out with a ball on the first pitch hasn't helped either, as he's hit .398/.459/.682 following a 1-0 count. The only times that it seems like Sandoval struggles at all is when he is behind in the count with two strikes, but good luck making him sit still long enough to get there.

His only real weakness as a hitter right now is his lack of walks, something that perhaps isn't easy to learn, but then again, hitting as well as Sandoval isn't easy either.

All in all, for a 22-year old, he's having a terrific season. Over the next year or two, it's up to the Giants to figure out where to play him, and make sure he learns how to play there. My guess is this year is the last one he spends bouncing around, and he settles in behind the plate. My hope is that the team –are you listening, Sabean?– realizes that a player with this much offense in him needs to learn to play first or third base, so that he can focus on hitting, and not get beat up so much.

UPDATE: As of Sunday night, Pabo Sandoval is batting .338, good for second in the entire National League, and third in all of baseball. It should go without saying that the Giants haven't had a player rank in the top of any offensive category since Superman was around, so, it's an accomplishment worth noting.

His overall numbers, .338/.386/.543 with a .929 OPS are simply outstanding for a 22 year old, and without question, bode well for his future.

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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
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