Monday, February 19, 2007

New Blog

If anyone still comes here, I've moved to, although I reserve the right to start posting here again as well if the Giants make things interesting for us in during the upcoming year.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dog Days

Not really a good time to have a Giants blog, is it? I give full credit to Grant over at He manages to find stuff to write about them each day, and makes me laugh more often than not.

[not talking about LaTroy Hawkins]

The last time I wrote, I was trying to find something to be positive about, and I found it in Todd Linden's AAA performance. Well, Linden didn't disappoint. He crushed the ball for another month and got himself called up, hopefully for good. He's been up for 25 ABs now, and other than a dramatic 3-run homer (which was ultimately wasted), he hasn't done much yet. I'm not worried yet, though - I think if he's overmatched, we'll know after 150 ABs or so. But I think he's got enough skill to stick.

[not talking about LaTroy Hawkins]

The Giants are a bad team. This is pretty clear at this point. Would they better if Bonds was playing? Yep. Would they be better if Benitez was playing? You bet. Would they be better if Jason Schmidt was pitching like an ace? Absolutely. In fact, if all three of these guys (arguably the three best players on the team, really) were playing at a high level, the Giants might even be competitive this year. And while I'm the last person to support the way the current team has been constructed, it's important to remember this if you want to come by your conclusions honestly.

The Giants are currently 29-39 going into today's game. They've scored 309 runs (more than only ... Colorado? ... in the division) and have allowed 367 runs (again, more than any other team in the division other than Colorado - in fact, more than any other team in the National League other than Colorado). So how much difference would Bonds, Good Schmidt and Benitez have made?

There are ways to do this scientifically, but I'm neither patient enough to do it with rigor nor particularly interested in scientifically showing how close they'd be if nothing had gone wrong. The qualitative way to look at it is to look at it this way:

Pedro Feliz has been playing left field. His line this year is .318 / .439 (notice, btw, that Feliz gets talked about so much more when he starts out hot rather than when he turns back into himself).

When Feliz doesn't play left field he plays third base. Most of the playing time there has gone to Edgardo Alfonzo (.370 / .403). Feliz also sometimes plays first base, which is currently manned by Lance Niekro (.331 / .577) or JT Snow (.361 / .354).

Now there is no question whatsoever that Bonds is MUCH better than any of these guys. But the point I'm trying to make is that the Giants have gotten an OPS of between .773 (Alfonzo) and .908 (Niekro) from the guys who are likely taking Bonds' ABs. Not all-star performances, certainly, but neither have they replaced Bonds with automatic outs. Even Michael Tucker (.347 / .395) hasn't been a complete offensive zero.

The Giants would have scored more runs with Bonds playing, but the offense wouldn't have gone from bad to genuinely good even if he was playing.

Schmidt probably would have made a bigger difference. The version of Schmidt we currently have (5.40 / 1.60) is well below league average. The version we were expecting (say, last year's 3.20 / 1.08) is an ace. Very unscientifically, I think Good Schmidt is worth 3 or 4 wins more than Evil Schmidt at this point in the season.

As for Benitez - the whole bullpen has been a disaster, and honestly, Tyler Walker has converted most of the saves since Benitez went out. My views on closers are well-established, but of course we'd be better off with him than without him.

None of this is quantative or scientific, but I think the Giants are maybe 6 or 7 games if all the guys were playing and were healthy. That would put them at something like 35-33, three games back of San Diego.

It also bears mentioning that if the Giants were 3 back in this scenario, it would look like a complete miracle. Jason Ellison, Lance Niekro and Mike Matheny have all played FAR better than projected (as has Moises Alou), so at that point literally everything would be going right for the Giants, and they'd be only a couple of games back. It's not really relevant, since when you build an old, injury-prone team you expect things to go wrong, but it's a somewhat interesting thought experiment.

More later in the week on what the team can do going forward.

[not talking about LaTroy Hawkins]

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Getting Excited about Todd Linden

There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn't write this post.

The Giants don't develop position players.
It's only been 100 ABs.
It's obviously a pathetic attempt to distract from the major-league team.

But hey, it's been a few days, the big-league club isn't giving me anything to write about (I refuse to talk about Barry's knee) and as they go today trying to stay above .500 knowing that The Man isn't coming back any time soon, that the New Closer is essentially done for the season and The Leadoff Man can't stay on the field, I looked around for something to feel good about.

And found Mr. Linden. For those who follow the Giants closely, there was a lot of buzz about Linden once upon a time. He had a great little season in AA a couple of years ago, the type of season that makes one say, "This guy could really be a decent regular. He's not going to be Albert Pujols, but he could be Paul Konerko or Brad Wilkerson or Ryan Klesko". Then came his rather disappointing AAA season last year and his poor performance during ill-advised callups and suddenly he became another failed Giants prospect.

Normally the story ends here. He turns into Tony Torcato or JR Phillips or Dante Powell, spends a few seasons hitting .250 with minimal power in Fresno and then gets waived. Except that maybe we all thought Linden was good for a reason, and maybe the 2004 season was just a "building" season, and that he'd figure it out during his second time through that level.

The difference between Linden and the Torcatos of the world is that he walks. That was what I liked so much about his AA performance - his hitting for average and power were good, but plenty of guys can hit .290 with 25 homers in AA. If they don't back it up by showing that they can lay off the bad pitches, you generally expect them to get exposed at higher levels as they pitches get harder to hit and the pitchers are better at locating them. A guy who can hit .300 with 25 homers by hitting mistake pitches in the zone in AA often turns into a guy who hits .240 with 10 homers in AAA and strikes out like crazy. But a player who hit .290 with 25 homers in AA by swinging and crushing good pitches but also took 80 walks when the pitchers couldn't find the zone - that's someone to get excited about and that's what we all thought we had in Linden.

So anyway, he's kicking some serious ass at Fresno. He's putting up numbers (SAMPLE SIZE ALERT) that make one think that maybe we're talking about future Jim Edmonds or Brian Giles type if we're really really lucky.

So yes, it's only 100 ABs but...

Linden is hitting .320 - that's good, but honestly hitting .320 over 100 ABs doesn't get me so excited. Mike Cervenak is hitting .310. Lots of guys can get 30 singles in 100 ABs at some point in the season, so let's keep going.

Linden has walked 20 times. 20 in 100 ABs. It's too hard to look at 100 ABs as 1/5 of a 500 AB season and see 100 walks. A guy who walks 100 times in AAA is likely to be a good major league regular. Of course, that assumes that the next 400 Abs will be like the last 100, which is a terrible assumption (not least because if he hits like this he won't be in Fresno at the all-star break). But his current OBP is .439, which is absolutely outstanding at AAA.

He's hitting for power, too. He's hit 8 homers and 7 doubles in those 100 ABs. His slugging % is .630, again outstanding for the high minors.

The bad in the eyes of many is that he's striking out a lot - 26 punchouts in 100 ABs means over 100 through a full season. My views on this topic are well known - the walks mean he's only swinging at good pitches. Even without the .320 average the strikeouts don't bother me much as long as he walks are still there. 26 Ks to 20 BBs is fine.

And just for a little bonus (and to make it obvious that I play fantasy baseball) he's got 3 steals in 3 attempts this year.

So just for fun, if we project out a 500 AB season for Linden this year we'd get the following line:

.320 / .439 / .630; 40 HR; 115 RBI; 130 runs scored; 100 BB, 130 K, 15 SB

That all being said, if I can come back 6 weeks from now and report that his second hundred ABs were as good as his first, I'll be able to state with more confidence that the Giants have something potentially special on their hands.

Until then, I'll just be a little excited about what he's doing over there in Fresno.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Huh. Really? 13-11

What a weird first month it's been for the NL West.

The Dodgers lost their best player (Gagne), had what was thought to be a very poor offseason and currently have the best record in the National League. But the weird part about that is that they are only 1.5 games in first, because running a close second is ... Arizona? The Giants, losing the best player in the game to injuries and watching most of the team spend time on the DL are in third, at 13-11, and the Padres, who many thought would actually win this division, are in fourth at 11-14.


Ok, there are some answers to this and then a caveat.

The Dodgers: There are reasons why they're 16-8 (other than how crappy the rest of the NL West is). For one thing, while they lost Gagne, as performance-minded GMs often do, Paul DePodesta had a young no-name called Yency Brazoban ready to close games, and he's 8 for 9 this season. But the big story, at least to me, is that maybe DePo really is a genius:

Derek Lowe: 41.1 IP, 1.96 ERA / 1.06 WHIP / 26 K

No one (and I do mean no one) thought the deal he gave Lowe was a good idea. Lowe had a great 2004 playoffs but has been very mediocre over the bulk of his innings the last few years. And frankly, it's just 41 innings, but so far, DePo is looking smarter than the rest of us. In addition, how about another guy that people thought he overpaid for:

Jeff Kent: 87 AB; .450 OBP / .632 / 23 R / 20 RBI

Part of it can be ascribed to Jeff Kent finally being in his natural environment. Kent was born to be a Dodger, and was clearly uncomfortable everywhere else he played. He is finally where he belongs, and I never enjoyed hating a Dodger quite so much. He is, as some will know, the only player ever to win the MVP with the Giants and then go sign with the Dodgers. And with full disclosure, I never liked him.

There are other reasons, but essentially the Dodgers picked up (relative to expectations) an ace starter, a superstar slugger and a shutdown closer essentially out of nowhere. Especially in a weak division it doesn't take much else.

I'm not going to spend much ink on Arizona and San Diego - I think luck explains their differing records a this point. To wit:

Arizona: 15-10
San Diego: 11-14

Arizona: 109 runs scored; 114 runs allowed
San Diego: 107 runs scored; 110 runs allowed

These teams are playing identical baseball, but one is getting luckier. That wont' last.

And the Giants? 13-11; 125 runs scored, 119 runs allowed. So they're right about where they ought to be. Lose Bonds? No problem - we have Jason Ellison (1.384 OPS in 38 ABs) and Lance Niekro (.595 SLG) to fill in, not to mention Peter Happy himself, currently putting up a respectable .826 OPS as a full-time player. Lots of Giants are hitting - pretty much everyone other than Ray Durham (.278 SLG) and Marquis Grissom (.554 OPS) but as readers know, an April does does not a season make. It's great if the Giants can steal some wins by riding hot streaks by the likes of Niekro and Ellison, but if they're in it for the long hall, something's going to have be done. The pixie dust won't last forever.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


In some ways, last night's win felt like "watching" (quotation marks because I live on the East Coast now, and don't get to actually watch the games very often) a team that's already been mathematically eliminated win a pointless game in September. Why the sudden pessimism?

Nen Redux.

An MRI revealed that Armando Benitez will miss four months with a torn hamstring, trainer Stan Conte said.

Stan Conte had said that he was 99.9% sure that Benitez' injury wasn't a "Garciaparra situation". Well, as it turns out that 0.1% came up for the Giants. Four months means we might get him back for September. Call me a doomsayer (I've been called worse), but I don't think it's going to matter much by September.

So what really to say about this? It would be unfair and completely inaccurate to say "I told you so" about Benitez, since I didn't genuinely dislike the signing, all things considered and because this isn't a recurring injury.

That being said, we don't have to go back too far to get back to one of my baseline notions about roster construction - DON'T SPEND SO MUCH *&#*$&ing money on a $*!damn CLOSER!

I mean come on. One Robb Nen wasn't enough to learn the lesson? Benitez is going to make $21M off the Giants one way or another over the next three years. $4.7M of that is due this year. For that $4.7M worth of 2005 dollars, in all likelihood, the Giants will have received:

8 appearances, 1-1, 9.1 IP, 5.79 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 4 K, 4 BB, 4 SV

Doesn't seem like a very good investment to me.

Honestly, as I read over the above, I'm just a little angry, and I have to admit it. $4.7M is a pretty decent deal for Benitez' average season, which looks something like:

2.75 ERA / 1.29 WHIP / 80 Ks in about 75 innings

If the Giants had received that in 2005, Benitez would have been a good signing, at least as regards this year, which appears to be the only calculus the Giants' front office knows. But is it so much to hope that an organization that drafts NOTHING but pitchers can't develop a closer every few years? Looking back at the Giants' closers, how far back do we have to go to find one that was actually developed in-house?

2005: Benitez - free agent (and God only knows who else)
2004: Herges - trade; Hermanson - Non-roster invite to camp; Eyre - trade
2003: Worrell - trade
2002: Nen - trade
2001: Nen
2000: Nen
1999: Nen
1998: Nen
1997: Beck - so here we find it, and I suppose 8 years ago isn't *so* long ago (considering that if we ran this exercise for a number of positions around the diamond we'd have to go a LOT further back).

Rod Beck was drafted by the Giants and came up in 1991 as a 23-year-old (one of my favorite strangenesses of the baseball world is that Rod Beck is currently only 36. I'd have sworn he was 36 in 1993) and closed for the Giants starting midseason in 1992 and held the job until the end of 1997. Looking over his 1997 line, I'm not entirely sure why the organization decided to get rid of him (this is a sidelight, but I need something to distract me from the current season). Beck's 1997 line was:

73 appearances, 70 IP; 67 H; 53 K; 8 BB; 37/45 saves; 3.47 ERA; 1.07 WHIP

I'm guessing it was the 8 blown saves that did it. It's too bad, when you look at it with 2005 eyes, because this was a pitcher who had a 7 to 1 K/BB ratio and a WHIP just north of 1.00. He just happened to be brought into a lot of one-run games.

If there's more to this story, I invite my more seasoned Giants fans to comment on it. There's certainly no question that as good as Back was in 1997, Nen was better in 1998 (when he put up a 1.52 ERA with 110 Ks in 88.2 innings), but it strikes me as curious.

The amusing thing about the Benitez situation is the absolute feeding frenzy that took place in my fantasy league as people try to get what save opportunities the Giants will deliver. Here is a list of the Giants pitchers picked up in the wake of Benitez' injury:

Matt Herges
Jeff Fassero
Jim Brower
Merkin Valdez
David Aardsma

Note that Jesse Foppert is already on a roster despite playing in AAA.

So as far as I can tell, essentially every reliever on the Giants' roster has been picked up other than Scott Eyre, Jason Christianson, Tyler Walker and the recently activated Al Levine, including THREE GUYS IN THE MINORS.

Think this is a team currently sailing in choppy waters?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

9-11 (no, not that one)

The Giants are 9-11 (in case anyone thought this was going to be the oft-threatened but never executed inclusion of politics into this space, fear not) and April is nearly over. They've scored 97 runs (5th in the NL behind LA, Chicago, the Mets and, of course, Colorado) and have allowed 105 runs (13th in the NL - only Philadelphia and, of course, Colorado are worse). It's sort of strange outcome given the conventional wisdom about [annoying phone company name of the week] park.

It's also strange in that what I had wanted for this team was to play .500 until Barry Bonds came back, because really to hope for more was quite foolish. But looking at the way this team is winning and losing, I have to wonder how much it will really help. Obviously it will make the team better, but this is a team that is scoring enough runs to compete, particularly if you factor in park effects, but can't pitch to save its life.

It's worth looking a little bit at how this is happening, even if it'll be relatively obvious.

The runs are being scored because of Pedro Feliz (.819 OPS), Edgardo Alfonzo (1.047 OPS), Omar Vizquel (.379 OBP, 7 for 7 in steal attempts) and terrific part-time performances from Yorvit Torrealba (1.064 OPS in 10 ABs), Jason Ellison (1.028 OPS in 22 ABs), Lance Niekro (.528 SLG in 36 ABs) and JT Snow (.441 OBP in 52 ABs).

So the scary part is 50% those numbers above - this is a team that is hitting well above its head and is still under .500. Really only Ray Durham (.596 OPS) and Moises Alou (.542 OPS) look very likely to significantly improve, while all the guys above look likely to decline. I'd probably include Grissom in the "likely to improve" category, but at 38 and with his history of helpelessness against right-handers, I'm not entirely sure. He's still hitting lefties well, although not crushing them, but it's a mere 14 ABs at this point, so nothing can be drawn from this. In his 58 ABs against right-handers he's hit like a pitcher, with an OPS of .565.

On top of all of this, Bonds' rehab is going slowly and Armando Benitez just hurt his hamstring. On April 27, 2004 the Giants were 8-13. They wound up winning 91 games. So of course it's too early to give up on this team. But I see very little I like right now.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Westworld" is embarassing

The Giants aren't creating a lot of excitement right now. I was looking over their site and saw a new feature called "Westworld", which is a "a weekly foray into the wild, weird and wonderful workings of the West divisions of the American and National Leagues, where so many interesting things often happen after all the major news organizations in this country have gone to sleep." Alright, so the opening column of this west-focused feature compares the organizational styles of the Oakland A's, known as "Moneyball" (duh) to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (is there anyone not annoyed by this, btw?), known as "Mikeyball". First things first, is there a reason it's not called "Stoneyball" after GM Bill Stoneman? He's the guy who built the team, isn't he?

Right off the bat, I know I'm going to love this. The sidebar near the author's name has a picture of Vladimir Guerrero pointing skyward, indicating his acknowledgement that yes, Jesus wanted the Angels to win that game. The caption reads, "Vladimir Guerrero fits perfectly in Mike Scioscia's game plan -- a great situational hitter and aggressive baserunner". Really? Vlad fits into Scioscia's gamplan? Amazing, because he's such a poor fit for most gameplans. Good job, Mikey?

Come on. To say that Vlad is a great situational hitter and an aggressive baserunner is like saying that a Porsche 911 Turbo has a 6-disc CD changer and connolly leather seats. It's true, but it's not why you buy such a vehicle. To the unsophisticated (which not having even read the article I'm starting to think is the case with its author), the Moneyball approach is about walks and home runs rather than sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.

So which is Mr. Mikeyball Vlad? Well, over the three-year period between 2002 and 2004 he stole 64 bases and was caught 28 times (a 70% success rate, which is pretty decent and indicates a "break-even" effort, at least according to the very anti-Mikeyball stats-minded). That being said, he stole 40 of those 64 in 2002 as an Expo. He stole 15 last year. It's an average of 21 per year. How about home runs? 103 over the last three years, 39 last year. Walks? Vlad has a reputation for being a hacker, and it was true ... until 2000 when he boosted his walk rate. Barry Bonds he isn't, but Vlad has averaged about 70 walks a year over the last four years.

All of which tells is what we already knew - Vlad is neither a "moneyball" or a "mikeyball" player. The guy is just a superstar. Alright, moving on.

Here's a choice bit:

"We want to stay aggressive and play 'little ball,' but only as long as we have the team to do it," Scioscia adds. "I just don't think you can cookie-cutter any team into a philosophy."

We'll soon see how the cookie crumbles in the AL West.

Ok, I don't mean to be difficult, but after lauding the Angels' defeat of the A's in the final series of the regular season last year, how can this comment be credibly made? For one thing, wasn't the 2004 Angels team built around Vladimir Guerrero, Troy Glaus, Garrett Anderson and Tim Salmon? Aside from the ridiculous decision to play Darin Erstad at first base, this was a power team last year. This year, with Glaus gone and Salmon out with injuries we'll see what happens when the Angels actually play little ball, rather than just claiming they're playing little ball while holding a roster full of sluggers.

This is particularly irksome to me in that the 2002 Angels, who of course beat my beloved Giants in the World Series, were lauded as the Great Littleball Team that could. Strangely, though, I remember it being Scott Spiezio's HOME RUN that put the Angels back in. It wasn't David Eckstein hitting an infield single and then skittering around the basepaths three times. It was the good old Earl Weaver-style 3-run jack that got them back in. Furthermore, the Series MVP was Troy Glaus, who hit what, seven home runs during the Series? The Angels might have been all about the sac bunt but it was pure power that got them their rings. That the conventional wisdom was so inaccurate just added lemon juice to my wounds.

The rest of the article is relatively benign, but the other bit I think is just criminally omitted if you're going to compare the A's to the Angels:

A's 2005 payroll: $55.8M (btw, when did THAT happen?), 21st in MLB
Angels 2005 payroll: $95M, 5th in MLB (after the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and ... Phillies?)

Just for reference, splitting the difference:
Giants 2005 payroll: $89.5M, 7th in MLB

Anyway, if you insist on comparing the Angels to the A's, might at least *mention* the economic disparity. One easy thought experiment on how to equalize these teams would be this: If you moved Vladimir Guerrero's $12.5M from the Angels to the A's you'd be looking at $68.3M (A's) versus $77M (Angels). I don't think too many would argue that the A's with Vlad would have a lot of trouble taking on the Angels without him. Well, some would, and I'd be forced to write about it.