Archive for the 'Cy Young' Category
Lincecum signs a two-year deal for $23 million.
First, this deal is a bargain, easily the best contract on the team. Second, it makes me wonder why the team didn’t pursue a four or five year deal in an effort to lock him up through his prime. At the end of this contract, he’ll be 28 years old, and if he performs anywhere as well as he has to this point, the Giants almost certainly won’t be able to afford him.
Doesn’t make sense to me, but most of what goes on in Giants land is outside my understanding.
I was backtalking about Sabean, but I think I want everyone to read this idea…..
Brain Sabean has a blind spot, and we’ve been banging around for years now trying to understand what the hell it is, what the hell he’s thinking. I think I might have stumbled on to an explanation that makes some sense.
It’s like he looks at something a player has done, even if it’s only once, and he believes that that is what the player can do, or actually is. Neifi Perez had a .350 batting average once (in Colorado, of course), and he won a Gold Glove, and so, to Sabean, he is a .350 hitter with a great glove; it doesn’t matter that he hasn’t done any of those things in four or five years, or that he did it in an runs created context that outrageously inflated his numbers, or that he simply was never that good. To Sabean, once he sees a player a certain way, he always sees that player in that way.
Dave Roberts made one key play in his entire baseball life, and Sabean decided that Dave Roberts makes key plays.
Sabean is the absurd conclusion, the perfect example of the old adage that a player can get five years in the game off of one good season, or even one great month, or just one singular accomplishment, because people will always try and see if he can do it again. To Sabean, the player is that accomplishment, that season. Think about it, I mean, you could do this with every guy on the team, and it works.
Freddie Sanchez is a batting champion.
Randy Winn is the guy who had 50 hits that September, so let’s give him $50 million dollars, and more to the point, let’s play him every day in 2009, even though he has nothing left as a hitter at all. Randy Winn is 50 hits in a month, and to Sabean, he always will be.
Aaron Rowand is on Sportscenter every night, he must be great, so let’s give him $50 million dollars. Aaron Rowand is a human highlight reel, a “gamer,” and no matter how little evidence there is to support that, Brian Sabean will never see him as anything else, ever.
Bengie Molina hit a home run batting cleanup one day, so he is a cleanup hitter.
Juan Uribe is a backup infielder, so fuck him, he’s expendable.
Edgar Renteria is a World Series winning shortstop.
Barry Zito is a Cy Young Award winner.
You can go back in time, and it still works.
Sabean didn’t need to put Edgaro Alfonzo through a physical, because Alfonzo was a 25 home run hitting, Gold Glove winning second baseman.
He didn’t care that Moises Alou was 39 years old, because Alou was a good hitter.
He saw Livan Hernandez as an Ace, because he saw him strike out 13 guys in an NL playoff game once, and no matter how hard Livan tried to prove that he was anything but an inning-eater, Sabean never saw him any differently.
I could go on and on. On. And. On.
It also explains, perfectly, why he has so much resistance to playing rookies and young players. They haven’t done anything yet. Until he can see something that they have done; they aren’t players, they aren’t anything to him. So, on the Giants, rookies have about two weeks to prove themselves, unless somebody gets hurt, of course. And even then, after playing well for months, (like, say, Fred Lewis) a player on the Giants can still find that Sabean is ignoring whatever success they’ve had, because he sees them as they were, not as they are.
That’s also why he can’t forecast, because he sees things as if they were set in stone. There’s no room in his tiny brain for things like upside, or decline, or aging, or injuries. Players are what they are, and statistics are for the other guys. So he has a 22-year old shortstop who hit .240, which, for people who study baseball, is nothing to sneeze at. A 22-year old rookie who has any success at all at the major league level is a valuable commodity; but not to Brian Sabean. All he sees is a .240 hitter. He simply cannot see upside, or progress, or anything like it. He only sees that first thing. He is a first impression kind of guy, but taken to it’s absurd conclusion. He’s a first impression guy to a degree that would be laughable, if it wasn’t destroying the team.
Buster Posey is a rookie, he can’t possibly be expected to do what a “gamer” like Bengie Molina does, because Brian Sabean hasn’t seen him do it. And so he goes on TV telling everyone how worthless Posey is.
And, of course, once he decides a player isn’t a “gamer” there is nothing they (or anyone, for that matter) can do to change his mind. It’s why he had to trade for Double PLay AJ, even though he had Torrealba. He had decided that Torrealba couldn’t hit, or wasn’t “veteran” enough, or couldn’t call a game, or whatever bullshit he was telling himself, and there was no argument, nothing that could be done to alter that assessment. He had to have Mike Matheny, because he heard someone say that Matheny’s defense saved the team 100 runs a season, and he thinks saving a hundred runs a year is a real ability, and that only he sees the value in having a guy that can do that.
He saw JT Snow save a couple of runs in a game once, and he said to himself, “Wow, over the course of 162 games, that must translate into hundreds of runs being saved.” So JT Snow’s black hole offense was allowed to kill the team for 8 fucking years, and Sabean didn’t even notice. All he saw was a human vacuum cleaner at first base.
Listen, we all do this, in some way or another. It’s a way to simplify the complex. Think about a player, and immediately, one thing comes to mind. Cal Ripken? Games played streak. Hank Aaron? Home runs. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s when you are trying to evaluate players according to your team’s needs and the players values that parsing details becomes important. Sure Ripken plays every day, but he’s 35 years old. How many days is he really gonna be worth something at that age? How many 0 for 4′s can you handle?
Sure Edgar Renteria was on a champion, and that counts for something; but is he still playing at a championship level today? You need to be flexible in your view of a player to even ask that question. Sabean is not. He thinks he just signed a championship-level shortstop, even though Renteria’s championship was over ten years ago.
It’s OK to form a picture when you first consider a player, but a GM has to fill in the blanks, add some depth and some color to the image, step back and get a more clear view. He can’t just decide that Freddie Sanchez is great, and then keep trying to acquire him for five fucking years; with no concern for any parts of his game that may have changed since the first time you decided you liked him. That’s what fans do. For that matter, that’s what kids do. A general manager has to go way beyond that.
This is Brian Sabean’s blind spot, in a nutshell; and he’s given no indication that he will ever change. And maybe that’s why he sees people this way. Maybe he sees people as set in stone, because he is.
Here’s an article about Lincecum that addresses most of the issues fairly well:
…. In arbitration, the player and club each submit a salary figure to a three-person panel on Jan. 19, and hearings to decide which salary to award are Feb. 1-21 – unless an agreement is reached first. Hearings can get ugly, with the team bringing up negatives on the player (who’s sometimes in attendance) to make its case. Naturally, the Giants prefer to avoid a hearing.
Either way, Lincecum will cost a bundle.
Theoretically, because of a “special accomplishment” provision, the arbitration process allows Thurman to negotiate without regard to service time, meaning Lincecum could be compared with any pitchers, meaning teammate Barry Zito (averaging $18 million annually) and CC Sabathia ($23 million average) could enter the conversation, meaning open the vault.
Article VI Rule F (12) in the basic agreement states the arbitration panel must consider comparisons with others who have similar service time.
But it adds, “This shall not limit the ability of a player or his representative, because of special accomplishment, to argue the equal relevance of salaries of Players without regard to service, and the arbitration panel shall give whatever weight to such argument as is deemed appropriate.”
…. Sabean hinted no serious talks would begin until the sides exchange figures in January, because that’s when he’ll learn of Lincecum’s asking price. Thurman said he plans to meet with the Giants during the Dec. 7-10 winter meetings in Indianapolis.
As Robert pointed out in his backtalk, the Giants are hamstrung by the many expensive mediocrities currently occupying roster spots; and, unless Neukom authorizes a significant bump in salary expenditures, after Lincecum breaks the bank, we’ll be lucky if they sign anybody, let alone a good to great player.
UPDATE: I’d also like to mention that the above sentence makes me sick to my stomach. The very idea that the Giants cannot go after players because of money issues is the heart of my distaste for Sabean.
THE GIANTS WILL CRY POVERTY, THE GIANTS CAN CRY POVERTY, BECAUSE SABEAN SPENDS MONEY LIKE A DRUNKEN SAILOR!
The contracts of Edgardo Alfonzo, Edgar Renteria, Dave Roberts, and the endless stream of “gamers” and “character guys” and “veterans” has drained the pockets of the team. How about the $18 million dollars we gave to Reuter, who wasn’t up for renewal, was about to have his arm fall off, and didn’t deserve it? Hpw about the $10 million we gave Jason Schmidt so he could pitch three games?
The Giants have flushed, absolutely burned well over $100 million dollars in the last five or six years, on some of the worst players, signed to some of the absolute worst contracts any team has ever given any player, and Sabean’s been responsible for all of them!!
And now, even though, once again we desperately need offense, defense, youth and speed, we’re not in the running, once again, for the best player on the market, the player that fits our needs just about perfectly. Sound familiar? Here’s what I wrote in 2004:
…. Sabean loves veterans. I just think his love for the proven commodity has distorted to the point where he overpays for it, competing against nobody. It’s been written time and again how Tom Hicks overpayed for A-Rod, basically competing against himself. Well, I think Sabean is guilty of the same thing, in many of these instances. Who was going to give Reuter the kind of money we did? Who was going to give Alfonzo $25 million? Who was going to give Nen $30 million? Who was going to give Benard $10 million? Who was going to “steal” Snow from under Sabean’s nose and give him that $24 million dollars?
Here’s what we heard from Sabean way back when Vladimir Guererro was available:
…. the SF Giants’ GM, Brian Sabean, was featured in an MLB.com chat. During the chat, he was asked whether the Giants had made an offer to Vladimir Guerrero. His response?
“In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker–obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.”
It’s the same fucking story, year after year after year. Disgraceful.
Super-duper busy around my place this time of year, so I haven’t even had the desire to sit down and write, let alone the time. However, I have been reading. I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of hand-wringing about the fact that Lincecum beat out the two St. Louis players, especially around the voting of two of the newest BBWAA members (Will Carroll and Keith Law). Now, while it seems to me that what happened was obvious, that the two players from the same team split the vote, it appears clear that nothing about what happened was obvious to everyone. I just read Bill James’s terrific analysis of the Cy Young Award voting, and he and I are in complete agreement (very convenient, no?), and he’s much more eloquent and detailed than I will ever be:
…. (Brian) Burwell, writing for a St. Louis audience, is trying to smear sabermetrics by saying, in essence, that we were responsible for taking the award away from St. Louis pitchers. Setting aside the position that it may be better not to personalize the debate, is that even what happened? Isn’t what happened here more like two St. Louis pitchers split the vote and allowed the San Francisco pitcher to win it?
…. exactly like the American League MVP Award in 1954, when two Cleveland Indians split the vote (Larry Doby and Bobby Avila), and allowed a Yankee to win, or 1965, when two Dodgers split the vote and allowed Willie Mays to win, or the Cy Young vote in 1970, when three Baltimore Orioles split twelve first-place votes and allowed a Minnesota Twin to win with six. Et cetera.
Well, yes, exactly.
He then expounds, as he is wont to do, for about 15000 words, and finally comes to this:
…. here’s what I would say. In the National League, the vote was split three ways, it was a very close vote, and it’s been a controversial vote. In the American League Greinke won easily, and this vote has been uncontroversial, and this vote has been celebrated by the analytical community as a victory for reason and logic.
But actually it seems pretty clear to me, under the most careful analysis that I can do, that Lincecum was the best pitcher in the National League and deserved the award—whereas in the American League, under the most careful analysis that I can do, it is unclear to me whether Greinke or Hernandez is more deserving.
I love Bill James.
UPDATE: Rob Neyer gives us even more thoughtful analysis:
…. I’m not going to run through every basic statistic (and yes, K/BB is a basic statistic), nor will I run through every advanced metric. I will say that according to FanGraphs, the most valuable pitcher in the league was Lincecum, the second most valuable was Vazquez, and the third most valuable was Haren.
Which isn’t necessarily how I would have voted. Value-wise — as theoretically measured by dollars — there’s virtually no difference between Haren, Wainwright, Carpenter, or (gulp) Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson. My point is that among the five candidates who wound up on at least one voter’s ballot, only Lincecum’s fundamental performance truly stands out.
Lincecum edges Wainwright and Carpenter in the closest vote ever. Makes history as first to win Cy in first two full seasons.
More this weekend…..
Just the penultimate moment of the World Series, and Fox immediately cuts to a commercial instead of staying with the Sandman moment as Mariano comes in. Disgraceful.
El Lefty Malo looks ahead:
…. One question to ponder as you see all the trade and free-agent suggestions thrown around this winter — the Giants should sign this guy or trade for that guy — is not just whom to get, but how many runs do the Giants really need to score next year?
750 runs is a must. No way can the Giants expect to repeat their 2009 pitching performance, so just adding 50 runs will do nothing. The average NL team scored 718 runs, the Giants scored 657, so 50 runs added and we’re still below average. You cannot expect to compete for a championship if you’re not at least be average, and even that’s not really what contending teams are aiming for. Back to runs differential, the Dodgers scored (oops) 780 runs, and allowed 611. The Giants scored 657 runs, and allowed 611. Need I say more?
Trading Matt Cain is the best way to address the hole in the lineup, as he will never be worth more than he is right now.
The player to look for? How about Hanley Ramirez? Lots of stories this year about how players and coaches with the Marlins don’t like how he goes about his business. Maybe he’s tired of playing in front of empty seats, and is looking for a change of scenery. Maybe he wants to play for a contender that spends money, (even if they spend it poorly). Maybe he thinks the Marlins are small time:
…. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez recently forced all of his long-haired players, including Ramirez, into an impromptu date with the clubhouse hairdresser. He also banned any jewelry worn onfield by Ramirez or any of his teammates.
“We want to look professional,” Gonzalez told the Sun-Sentinel. “Nice and neat.”
Only problem was that Ramirez, ranked first overall in Yahoo!’s fantasy baseball game, didn’t take kindly to having his shortish dreads shorn off or his chain yanked off his neck. Once the media entered the Marlins’ clubhouse on Thursday, Ramirez made sure he was seen sporting a strong message — “I’m sick of this shit” — written in Sharpie across his chest.
“I’m angry,” he told reporters. “I want to be traded … It’s incredible. We’re big leaguers.”
And here’s another article, in which Ramirez is portrayed as strikingly similar to another superstar we Giants fans are familiar with:
…. Here is the dichotomy of Ramirez: a player with admirable work habits, yet an almost displeasing demeanor. Ramirez as a person can be dismissive and distant, yet as a player he’s dynamic and impossible to dislike.
Everything about Ramirez, 25, is big league — his game and his attitude. This season, he’s quarreled with teammates about the validity of an injury, argued with management about the team’s hair policy, and bickered with reporters over their criticism — something that would drive most fans, not to mention team executives, crazy.
Yet he may be baseball’s most complete player, a combination of power, speed and hitting acumen, all things that he could not have mastered without a tremendous work ethic. Teammates and coaches still consider him a kid — a well-liked but at times capricious one. But as he finishes his most productive season — an MVP-caliber year — and heads into his fifth full season in the majors in 2010, Ramirez is inching toward veteran status.
Ramirez is everything we don’t have. His career line of .316/.386/.531 .917 OPS is simply sensational. Over his last three full seasons, he’s averaged a .950 OPS, with 74 extra base hits, 38 steals (80% success rate). I mean, he does it all, and he’s only 25 years old. We could package Cain with Renteria — a reunion tour with the team he won a World Series with, nice story line there– and maybe a draft pick, if needed. All that trade would do is transform the face of the franchise in one fell swoop.
Sure Cain is good, young and under financial control for another year or two. But, he’s not that good. He’s not Lincecum good. He’s not Cliff Lee good. He’s not Chris Carpenter good. In other words, he’s not untradeable.
Baseball Reference has his ten most similar players:
Moe Drabowsky (977)
Clay Kirby (974)
Jack Fisher (967)
Jose Rijo (962)
Mike Witt (959)
Tom Gordon (958)
Dave Stieb (956)
Lefty Tyler (954)
Jim Kaat (953)
John Smoltz (953)
There’s some good pitchers there, plus Smoltz, who is legitimately great, but every one of those guys played for a bunch of different teams.
That’s not to say we should trade him for just anybody. Cain is 24 years old, and a 24 year old pitcher of his caliber is extremely valuable. But this Giants team is several players away from championship contention, and something’s gotta be done. If you can trade a 24 year old very good pitcher for a truly elite hitter of approximately the same age, you probably should do it.
Of course, maybe the Marlins fall in love with Mr. No-Hitter, and would part with their problem child for him and and some spare odds and ends. Yeah, right. Not to mention, does anyone really believe that Sabean could pull this off?
With the end in sight, the stories begin as everyone tries to understand why:
…. Bruce Bochy’s decision-making with his outfielders this year has left a lot to be desired, and in no case is that more obvious than his decision to bury Lewis in favor of Nate Schierholtz, and to a lesser extent Eugenio Velez, back in June.
Lewis is the third-best offensive player on the Giants, behind Pablo Sandoval and, oddly, Juan Uribe. He is the only regular other than Sandoval with an above-average OBP, making him water for an offense thirsty for baserunners. Yet Lewis has started just 20 games, about twice a week, since June 9, a time during which the Giants as a team have an execrable .305 OBP.
Of course, Sheehan is right. Lewis was the third best player on the team all season long, and it was Bochy’s poor handling of his weaknesses that ended his terrific start and began his slide. It was Bochy who wrote everybody’s name in the lineup except Lewis’ for such long stretches. But, in Bonehead’s defense, Lewis was terrifically bad in the field –something even I was eventually forced to concede– and with a team so dependent on preventing runs, Lewis’ “play” in the field was a problem that had to be addressed. (As an aside, Lewis did not provide the kind of offensive boost that would have mandated accepting the good with the bad here. He’s not Adam Dunn good with the bat, he’s simply the third best hitter on the worst offense in the league. There’s a difference.)
But, I digress….
The issue isn’t that Lewis was buried on the bench. The issue was that the team couldn’t figure out a way to help a player stay on the field. They couldn’t find a place for him, coach him up, and get the offense they so desperately needed in the game. So they played one dead body after another, and used him as a pinch hitter, or pinch runner; and hoped nobody would notice their failure. I noticed. And so did Joe.
I also noticed that Matt Cain seems to have faltered down the stretch. His last ten starts have been pretty bad, and I’m wondering whether he’s run down a bit, or if his earlier success was due more to luck than excellence. So, I looked it up.
At the end of July, he was 12-2, and leading the league in ERA, (2.12). His ERA was terrific, but, there were some mitigating circumstances for that stellar record. He beat some really bad offenses in the beginning of the season, notably the Mets, Athletics, Nationals, and Padres; and he won several games in which he allowed a bunch of hits, runs and home runs. He won on April 21st, against San Diego, despite allowing 9 hits in 6 innings. On May 12th, he escaped a loss when he allowed 9 hits and 4 earned runs in 7 innings, but the Giants somehow scored 9 runs and won the game. In fact, the Giants offense was certainly the reason he was 12-2 instead of a more pedestrian 8-5 or so.
At the end of June, Cain was 9-1. But he’d given up 4 runs or more four times, and he only lost one of those games. He was the starting pitcher in games the Giants scored 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, and 7 runs. He won five of those games, and got a no decision in the one I mentioned earlier. In those games, he allowed 1, 2, 0, 4, 4, and 1 runs. At the end of June, he was 9-1, and certainly could have been 6-4.
Had he started the season 6-4, instead of 9-1, his current stretch wouldn’t be so startling, because a pitcher that wins 9 of his first 10 decisions is thought of differently. He’s thought of as being a stopper, an Ace, and when your Ace struggles it’s noticed. But Cain has never been an Ace this season. His numbers have never been as good as Lincecum’s, not that that’s a reason to be down on him, nobody’s numbers are as good as Lincecum’s, but you get the point.
He was a little bit lucky early, and he’s been quite a bit mediocre lately. Since the end of July, when he was leading the league in ERA, he’s allowed 4, 5, 3, 1, 1, 4, 2, 4, and 4 earned runs. He’s gone 1-5 during that stretch, and that’s about right. He could’ve gone 3-6, which would leave him with an overall record of 15-8, which would look better than 13-7, but it’s the same, really.
He never was the best pitcher in the league, regardless of his numbers at the end of July. He doesn’t strike out enough guys, really, and he never has. He’s actually allowed more home runs this season than ever before (22), and his peripherals are decent, but in the end, his ERA is on the way to landing pretty much where it was last year, and the year before that, around 3.50. That’s very good, but it’s not great.
Matt Cain is a fine number two starter, and the Giants are lucky to have him and Lincecum at the same time, in their prime.
Two games back in the AILC with fifteen to go. Can the Giants get enough offense to catch the Rockies? Will Matt Cain ever win again? Can Lincecum throw out a couple of monster, dominating games to snatch the Cy Young Award back from Adam Wainwright? Will Sandoval average more than an RBI per game and get to 100?
Seriously, it looks like I might’ve been wrong about the Rockies, (or, at the least, I was a bit hasty). Or maybe, just maybe, they’ve hit the wall. If they keep losing, anything is possible. And they could keep losing. Their last nine games are the Cardinals, Brewers and Dodgers. Our last twelve are Padres, D’backs and Cubs. That’s a bit of an edge.
So that’s that.
Five games in the loss column with 21 games remaining, the rest of this season will pretty much be a tease. Maybe we’ll win some games here and there, but there’s just no way we’ll pull ahead of a team that is that much better than we are. No way. In fact, I should’ve remembered that this was a tease all along:
…. The Giants have no chance of competing for a championship this season.
The minor league system has been restocked, and there should be help, in the form of real hitters, coming up next season, and hopefully we will see the Giants become a team that has a steady supply of good, young talent in the future. It’s important that Brain Sabean remembers that championships are built, not bought.
…. The Giants should be sellers, not buyers. They should be looking to unload the collection of overpaid mediocrities masquerading as middle of the order talent. They should be looking to trade Winn, and Rowand and Molina, and Renteria, and collect even more minor league talent, young talent. They should wash their hands of these money sucking role players, and start looking to 2010, because none of these players will be around when Giants players are pouring champagne on each other.
The Giants have two studs right now, two. Cain and Lincecum. Pablo Sandoval looks pretty good, albeit a little rough around the edges. Perhaps Burriss grows into an everyday second baseman. Fred Lewis will be 29 years old at the start of 2010, and he’s done exactly, what? Maybe Jonathan Sanchez will be part of a contending Giants team. Maybe. Who else in yesterday’s lineup will be?
The Giants need three or four elite players to come up through the system in the next two seasons. A first baseman, Posey, and an outfielder or two would be perfect. Then the players that Sabean is so fond of would actually have real worth. Signing the Aaron Rowands and the Randy Winns of the baseball world would be a fine strategy if the Giants got 90 home runs and 250 runs batted in from their first baseman, left fielder and their catcher.
Trading anybody younger than 28 years old in an effort to make the playoffs this season would be a huge mistake, because you’d be betting half your stack knowing that you’re a 10-1 underdog.
I wrote that after the first fifty games. We all know what’s happened since then. The Giants went out a threw a nice June on us, and took the Wild Card lead, and so we all took the bait, (well, all of us except +mia). Sabean went out and traded not one, but two players younger than 28, for two more “veterans” and the Giants watched helplessly as the Rockies stormed by them like an interstellar cruiser.
On June 1st, the Rockies were 20-30, and had been outscored by 20 runs. Since then, their record is 62-30, and they’ve outscored their opponents by 118 runs, a stretch of dominance that is matched by only one team, the best record in baseball –91-51– New York Yankees. And, without question, it is the Rockies who are the best team in the NL right now, and whether they catch the Dodgers or not, we’re not gonna catch either one of them, so it’s on to 2010.
Meanwhile, the lack of offense has another casualty, with Tim Lincecum’s bid for his second Cy Young Award now gone to the wayside. He’s had seven no decisions or losses in games in which he’s gone at least seven innings and given up 3 runs or less, which means that he has no chance of catching Wainwright or Carpenter, since neither one of them has lost in a month. All in all, a decidedly depressing finish to a decent enough run. A big bat would’ve certainly made things a lot more interesting, but more than likely would not have changed the final standings.
Well, unless we would’ve had a full season of Adam Dunn, who now has 37 home runs and counting towards his sixth consecutive season of 40 home runs and 100 walks.