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…. All Star hitter

As in, a hitter with a .300 batting average is usually going to be considered for the All Star team. Barry Zito won his 30th game as a Giant last night…. in his 100th start. A .300 batting average for a pitcher is nowhere near an All Star. Consider Lincecum, who is an All Star. He’s won 42 games in his 92 starts, which would translate to a .456 batting average using this obscenely simple metric.

Chris Carpenter would be a better comp for Zito. Carpenter has started 262 games in his career, and won 118 of them. That translates into a .450 batting average, again, a powerful winning percentage. Or, you could look at what Zito did as an Athletic. 222 starts, 102 wins, a .450 batting average. Which means, obvioulsy, that Zito, as a Giant, has been unremarkable at best, and a tremendous disappointment at his worst.

That said, he’s now 2-0 for the first time in his Giants career, and he has pitched well this season out the gate; the two wins aren’t especially fluky. The Giants continue their torrid offense, now Sandoval and Molina are raking, although Renteria has come crashing back to earth (0 for his last 10). Huff reached base all five time last night, (that’s eight straight plate appearances reaching base), and the relief pitching last night was stellar. Romo was especially sharp, his two strikeouts last night were simply filthy.

Speaking of Lincecum, Sunday night was the 20th time he’s struck out at least 10. Henry Schulman looked up who’s struck out that many batters in their first 100 starts, and found a pretty damn impressive list:

1. Dwight Gooden (31)
2. Herb Score (25)
3. Kerry Wood (23)
T4. Mark Prior (21)
T4. Hideo Nomo (21)
T6. Tim Lincecum (20) — (in 92 games, not 100)
T6. Bob Feller (20)
T8. Roger Clemens (19)
T11. Randy Johnson (16)
T14. Nolan Ryan (14)

He has a realistic shot to get into the top three, but no chance to catch Dwight Gooden.

I was living in Manhattan when Gooden exploded onto the baseball scene as a 19-year old fireballer. His 1985 season ranks as one of the top five pitching performances in the modern era, and he was 20 years old. It ranks as one of the greatest season a 20 year old has ever put together, if not the greatest. As great as Lincecum has been, (and he has ben spectacular) I can safely say Gooden was better, (before he became a coke fiend, obviously).



…. Keep it continuous

The Giants are sitting pretty at 5-1. Tim Lincecum is 2-0, with a league-leading 17 strikeouts. Kung-Fu Panda smoked the ball yesterday. Renteria is still batting .500. Juan Uribe has 4 walks. The team has come back to win a game twice already this year.

All in all, a lot is coming up roses in San Francisco right now.

The question is; how much of this hot start is real, and how much of it is an illusion?

The Giants have scored 31 runs in 6 games, a nice 5 runs per game clip. They’ve posted a .361 OBP (3rd best in the NL), which is substantially better than last season. They’ve got a team-wide .779 OPS, again, a marked improvement over last season. But, and it’s a big but, we’re talking about a very small sample. 6 games is nothing. Edgar Renteria ain’t gonna hit .500 this year. They still have only shown a little power (5 home runs, just 15 total extra bases, only three teams have fewer), but they have 21 walks in 6 games (Newcomers Huff and DeRosa have a combined 8). When was the last time you saw this team earning more than 3 free passes per game?

I’m not ever gonna talk about the pitching, which has been as good as advertised, maybe even better (Is Barry Zito gonna pitch effectively for a change?).

So far so good. Let’s see if they can play this well for a month before we start talking about a new day by the Bay.



…. Liar

Is that what Renteria is trying to make out of me?

What is he batting so far this season, .800? Nice ninth inning by the G-men, win or lose.

I gotta say, so far this season, way more offense than anyone could have reasonably expected. Heading into the 11th, the game still tied, you gotta like the fight in this team.

UPDATE: 4-0!

Nice comeback win.



…. Pitching, pitching, pitching

Nice job, Brian Wilson. Way to pick up the useless Medders.

Fantastic job by Lincecum, who picked up where he left off last season. Terrific start to the season.

UPDATE: 3-0 start for the Giants. I don’t know whether the Giants are awesome or the Astros are awful. Nonetheless, Renteria tied a career=high with 5 hits, Rowand came out of his mini-slump, and the team pounded out 19 hits and 10 runs.

All in all, as good a start to the season as anyone could have hoped/wished for/dreamed of.



…. Real deal

Here’s what quality, well-run teams do when they realize that they have a once-in-a-generation player:

…. AL MVP Joe Mauer has agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension to stay with the Minnesota Twins.

The deal announced Sunday covers the 2011-2018 seasons and includes a full no-trade clause. It’s the culmination of a months-long negotiation between the Twins and their hometown star.
Mauer has won three AL batting titles and an MVP award. He is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Last year he hit .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs to help the Twins win the AL Central division.

That’s how you handle a once-in-a-generation talent. Teams that are run by real general managers, and owned by real men who know what the hell they are doing, understand this.

The Giants, on the other hand, spread rumors and innuendo about the physical limitations of their once-in-a-generation players, making it clear that they don’t trust them, and that they prefer to fuck them around for years, instead of locking them up.



…. 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.



…. Learning curve

In his post about Jeff Francouer, David Pinto does an outstanding job explaining what a batter’s value really boils down to:

…. Outs are the currency of baseball. Players who can buy more runs per out, or conversely, spend fewer outs per run, are richer hitters. An easy way to look at this, something you can do off any stat sheet or the back of a baseball card, is to use batting outs per run…

…. Since 2005, Francoeur’s first season, 163 players accumulated at least 2000 plate appearances. Among those, Albert Pujols spends the fewest outs per run, 3.14. Jason Kendall spends the most, 7.34. J.D. Drew ranks 26th, a run costing him 4.12 outs. Francoeur ranks 107th, a run costing him 5.33 outs. In other words, it costs Francoeur 121 more outs than Drew to produce 100 runs. That’s four and a half games of outs.

I’d say the majority of Giants hitter during that time land closer to Francouer than they do to Pujols. ;-)

I’d also like to see where Bonds ended up during his historic 2000-2004 run.

I’ll send him an email and ask him where the Giants hitters rank in his analysis.

UPDATE: David sent me the info. As I suspected, several Giants (and ex-Giants) rank among the very worst everyday players using David’s runs per outs standard.

Randy Winn ranks 145th (6.04 outs/run) out of the 164 players in the study (good luck, Yankee fans), just ahead of Double Play AJ (6.13). Juan Uribe ranks 139th (5.84), just behind our old friend Pedro Feliz (5.83). Freddie Sanchez ranks 136th (5.80), Bengie Molina 121st (5.57). Aaron Rowand 116th (5.48), and Edgar Renteria ranks 112th (5.42).

Interestingly enough, Aubrey Huff sits in 88th place (5.11), just 4 places behind new Yankee Curtis Granderson (5.08), while Mark DeRosa has the best ranking of any Giants player listed, 55th best (4.64), so maybe, just maybe, DeRosa and Huff will improve the offense as much as some people seem to think they will.

I will highlight, of course, that my personal pet peeve player, the one proverbial “One that got away” Adam Dunn, ranks 29th, using just 4.15 outs for every run he produces.

Using David’s spread sheet and formula, (yes, my friends, I, too, am not an idiot), I calculate that Pablo Sandoval uses 4.40 outs/run produced, which would rank him 40th on this list. Travis Ishikawa and Fred Lewis both come out poorly using this method, at 5.45 and 5.38 outs/run, respectively.

The overall list shows a fairly constant correlation between OBP and outs/runs produced, not exact, but close.

However, as much as it pains me to admit it, I may be wrong about the two newest guys, or at least I’ll say that I hope I’m wrong. Notwithstanding their potential declines and injury issues, over the last several years, Huff and DeRosa have managed to be modestly efficient offensive players. Freddie Sanchez has not. Pinto’s study demonstrates with brutal clarity exactly what we’ve been saying here all along, he is an empty batting average, and certainly not worth the money and prospects the Giants gave up to get him.

As I wrote at the time of the trade, he’s essentially the same as Juan Uribe:

Sanchez, 31 years old, is a career .300 hitter, but he’s never walked more than 32 times in a season, his career high in home runs is 11, and his career OBP is just .336. He’s ranked fifth among NL second basemen in just about every category, which is to say, we traded our top draft pick from 2007 for a league average second baseman. For an easy comparison, let’s look at Juan Uribe.

J. Uribe 72 G 222 AB 17 2B 4 HR 21 RBI 10 BB 47 SO .284/.313/.432 .745 OPS
Sanchez 86 G 355 AB 28 2B 6 HR 34 RBI 20 BB 60 SO .296/.334/.442 .776 OPS

I can’t for the life of me imagine how that kind of minimal upgrade would be worth one of the top forty prospects in all of baseball. Trading Alderson is fine, but WE NEEDED HOME RUNS AND WALKS!!!! Instead, we get two more 30-year old guys who are league average hitters. Can you see? This is systemic, because Brain Sabean does not know how to evaluate hitters, player value, or how to build a team.

Now we can add outs/runs produced:

J. Uribe 5.85 outs/runs produced
Sanchez 5.80 outs/runs produced

Yeah, that looks pretty good. ;-)

I also ran Bonds’ historic 2000-2004 run using David’s formula (outs per run is (AB-hits)/((Runs Scored + RBI)/2)). During that period of time, 5 years, Bonds had 2122 at bats, and, well, let’s just side by side him with Pujols:

Barry 2122 AB 1402 outs 1142 runs produced 2.24 outs/runs produced
Albert 3354 AB 1853 outs 1179 runs produced 3.14 outs/runs produced

Wow! Bonds, at his peak, was 70% more efficient than the best player alive today.

Hat tip, and then some, to my good friend, David Pinto.



…. Lies, lies, lies

This is starting to get ridiculous. Now, Andrew Baggarly tells us that the way the Giants handled Freddie Sanchez’s injury was part of some grand scheme that benefits the ball club:

…. The Giants made the decision to keep Sanchez’s surgery quiet because at the time, they were negotiating with Juan Uribe to bring him back as a reserve. They ended up signing Uribe to a $3 million contract, and when I spoke to his agent later on, he was proud of the fact that Uribe would be pretty much the best paid infield reserve in the big leagues.

Well, you’d better believe that news of Sanchez’s surgery would’ve impacted the Uribe negotiations. Uribe’s agent would’ve known he had more leverage and might have squeezed more money out of the club, or in the least, drawn out negotiations that would’ve prevented Giants officials from wrapping it up and concentrating on other business. So the hush-hush on Sanchez worked to the team’s advantage.

Yeah, right. If Uribe’s agent didn’t know that Sanchez was injured, something that pretty much everybody in baseball knew, he should be fired.

This is called spin doctoring. Just like the story we read about how the Giants were lowballing Lincecum because they didn’t want the other owners to get mad at them for overpaying such a young player.

Bullshit. That is pure, unadulterated bullshit. And so is this.

This isn’t a story about how Sabean and his crack team handled something well, some masterful tale of intrigue and espionage that worked out exactly the way they planned. This is a story of mistakes and errors. This is a story about Brian Sabean’s failure. Having decided four years ago that Freddie Sanchez was the kind of player he had to have, Brian Sabean finally got the Pirates to say yes; and even though Sanchez was older, injured and already declining as a player, Sabean pulled the trigger, trading one of the top pitching prospects in the organization for yet another old, broken down player.

Now, several months later, after Sanchez contributed exactly what any reasonable person could have expected to the Giants chase for the playoffs –nothing– and having gone into the winter even more injured and broken down than we were told, Sabean is trying to spin this story so it looks like he, Captain Queeg, knew all along what he was doing, that it was all part of the grand plan that only he is privy to, that only he can know.

It’s pretty sad, really. Sabean is trying to spin his way out of the results of last season’s trade deadline deals –only some of the worst deals any GM has ever made without losing his job, by the way– and in doing so, is making himself look even smaller.

Pitiful. Laughable. Embarrassing.

Your 2010 San Francisco Giants.



…. Franchise

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.



…. Old news

I was browsing through the Baseball Analyst’s Bill James Baseball Abstracts pages, and came up with a couple of interesting tidbits from James:

1978

“When you acquire any player over 28, you are getting about 40% of a career–and that on the downhill slide. You can do that, perhaps, to fill a hole. But what happens when you try to build a whole team that way? Your replacement-rate goes out of sight. If you’ve got eight players on a downhill slide, two of them are going to slip and fall–either that, or you’re defying the law of averages.”

This is your San Francisco Giants. Run with a game plan that was known to be flawed over 30 years ago.

1983

A lot of the public, I think, has the idea that arbitration hearings are sort of bullshit sessions in which the agent tried to convince the arbitrator that Joaquin Andujar is Steve Carlton’s brother, and the club tries to convince him that he is Juan Berenguer’s niece. It’s not really like that. The first and foremost rule of an arbitration proceeding is that you never, ever, say anything which can be shown to be false.

The second rule of an arbitration case is that you don’t start any arguments that you can’t win. . .Stick to the facts. . .Tell the truth. It’s the only chance you’ve got.

How many of you think the Giants will be able to handle this situation with the delicacy and foresight needed to avoid getting their dicks caught in the zipper?

Additionally, I’d like to point out the flat-out absurdity of all of these articles and op-ed pieces talking about how the Giants are worried about signing Lincecum to along-term deal because of concerns about his long-term health. This is a lie, an absurdity, a ruse, a smoke screen. If the team is spreading crap like this, it is just one more indication of how unprofessional and poorly run it really is. If it’s not, Sabean should come right out and deny it.

It is ridiculous to suggest that it’s Lincecum that the team has to worry about. RIDICULOUS!!

Sabean wasn’t worried about being upside down on any of these old, broken down mediocrities he keeps shoveling money at? Sabean wasn’t worried about the possibility that he might be paying the 36-year old Dave Roberts to watch TV? He wasn’t worried about the two-year deal he gave to 35-year old Bengie Molina in 2007? Wasn’t concerned at all about the possibility that the 40-year old Omar Vizquel might not be able to live up to his contract? Not worried about the 34-year old Aubrey Huff, coming off an injury-plagued 2009 season? Really?

Nothing to see here when Sabean signs an already injured, 32-year old Freddie Sanchez to a contract extension he’s not even up for? No concerns at all about throwing $55 million dollars at He-Who-Runs-Into-Walls? No issue whatsoever at giving a declining Barry Zito the biggest contract in baseball history?

No, the player Sabean is gonna hold the line for is Tim Lincecum. REALLY!?!

This is where you’re gonna draw the line on cover-your-eyes bad contracts?! Tim Lincecum? TIM LINCECUM!?! He’s the guy the team is worried about? The 25-year old, two-time Cy Young Award winning, once in a generation pitcher, the ace of your staff? That’s the guy who’s gonna break the bank? After all these horrible fucking contracts, after all the money Sabean has literally THROWN ON THE GROUND!!!!! It’s Lincecum they have to worry about? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!! What a joke. What a bad, stupid joke.

The fact that the sportswriters who cover this team have the gall to parrot this absurdity is bad enough, but even decent bloggers are buying into the line. This would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

Let me be the one to say what everyone should already know:

IF YOU ARE GOING TO GO BANKRUPT BECAUSE OF A BAD CONTRACT, LINCECUM IS THE GUY TO DO IT WITH

It is the equivalent of going all-in with pocket aces. If you’re gonna lose with aces, so be it.

1984

In Logic and Methods in Baseball Analysis, James states axioms, corollaries, and the known principles of sabermetrics in the following order:

Axiom I: A ballplayer’s purpose in playing ball is to do those things which create wins for his team, while avoiding those things which create losses for his team.

Axiom II: Wins result from runs scored. Losses result from runs allowed.

First Corollary to Axiom II: An offensive player’s job is to create runs for his team.

The Known Principles of Sabermetrics. Item 1: There are two essential elements of an offense: its ability to get people on base and its ability to advance runners.

Axiom III: All offense and all defense occurs within a context of outs.

The Known Principles of Sabermetrics. Item 2: Batting and pitching statistics never represent pure accomplishments, but are heavily colored by all kinds of illusions and extraneous effects. One of the most important of these is park effects.

The Known Principles of Sabermetrics. Item 3: There is a predictable relationship between the number of runs a team scores, the number they allow, and the number of games that they will win.

Ok, so here’s my two cents. Brian Sabean has no knowledge of these concepts. He can’t. Either he’s read Bill James and thinks he knows better, or he’s never read him. Either way, he’s obviously completely out if his mind.

He has been trying to build a team with old, soon to be out of baseball players, which is why, of course, the Giants never have any money for real players, because –as James illustrated 30 years ago– your replacement costs are gonna be sky-high, and you’re gonna be facing those costs every year.

And if you build an offense that consists of players who don’t get on base, and don’t have any power, you sure as hell will not be able to seriously compete, even if you have one of the most dominant pitching staffs of the last twenty years.

It just hurts my head to realize that I read this stuff 30 years ago, and the team I root for operates as if these simple concepts are still waiting to be discovered.



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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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