Monday, August 29, 2005
Thoughts about pitchers
So there are some good relivers out there this year. You know the big bad mean closers but unless you live in San Diego you might have never heard of Rudy Seanez (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=4414). However, he is having a quitely dominating year or is he? I wanted to get to the bottom of why a 36 year old journeyman with his sort of rate stats this year was never discovered earlier. I mean his K/9 is 13.25 (which is right up there with noted K masters Brad Lidge 13.99 and BJ Ryan 13.72), his bb/k is 4.86 (better than Lidge 4.5 and Ryan 4.42), and his bb/9 is lower than that tandem as well at 2.73 (Lidge 3.11 Ryan 3.10). So why is this guy not being heralded around the league as some kind of wonder or late blossoming superstar? Why did no one try and trade for him at the deadline? In other words this guy has been getting no fan fare. I offer my explanation of the situation. It is not overly exciting, but there is a stat we don't really pay attention to very much. It is G/F ratio, and the reason that Brandon Webb can still be a good pitcher though he walks his fair share of batters. While Seanez's .84 doesn't look much worse to Lidge's 1.02, and Ryan's 1.3. I assure you there is more than meets the eye. Seanez pitches 81 games in one of the more pitcher friendly parks in the league. I wonder if some of those extra flyballs would be off the wall or over the wall in TEnron err Minute Maid and Camden. Not to mention that 3 of the 4 parks in the NL West are considered very pitcher friendly with the best hitters park in the league (Coors Field) being the only exception out west. Oh yeah and I almost forgot that the west is the worst division as a whole in baseball ever and if not they are at least in the argument. Who is the most feared hitter in the west that is playing this year? Jeff Kent? No I am really serious. If you can think of anyone better please let me know. All of these combined have caused all of us to temper our enthusiasm regarding a player with such good stats. However, I bet some wanna be contender throws millions of dollars at him (Yankees anyone?) for no reason when they can all go out and get their own George Sherrils or Tyler Walkers from within their own system.
Tyler WAlker is a perfect segue way into the Giants. Let's focus on the good now rather than the bad. As a devout Giants fan born and raised I am always looking for some hope. Our bullpen is solid. We have a few surprises this year that are playing real well. Tyler Walker filled in the closers role very well for Armando Benitez while he was hurt leaving little doubt that at the end of Benitez's contract we can turn the reigns over to Walker at a cheap price. While Scott Munter might be a little over his head he can at least put up similar stats to Chad Zerbe. Scott Eyre came on stong this year. Though a good middle reliever doesn't necesarily deserved to be traded for a once promising but still young SP (Williams), and a relief pitcher with potential (Aardsma), LaTroy Hawkins can be a good pitcher when he is on. I would be ok with him filling the Felix Rodriguez circa 2001-02 role. If either of Taschner or Accardo could come on strong next year we have the makings of a good bullpen. It might be getting us to the 7th inning which is the problem. At any rate this is my 1st blog and I don't want to overwhelm everyone at once ;p.
Agree or Disagree? Leave a comment
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Monday, August 15, 2005
2006 Outfield Outlook: Return of the King
Lest we forget, as I promised, let’s take a look at how the outfield shapes up for next season. Looking into our crystal ball, we see an aching deity, an overpaid left fielder masquerading as a center fielder, and a creaky slugger whose baserunning is only marginally better than Ruben Rivera’s. The starters seem pretty set, barring a trade, so the real interest is in who will win the reserve outfield spots. Will we slog through another year of Michael Tucker, or will we give Todd Linden a chance to stick? Will Ellison be back, or will Calvin Murray make a triumphant return from the dead? The excitement is too much!
Left Field Rejoice, for he who is all-powerful, he who sends small white orbs sailing into the night sky and splashing into the cold McCovey Cove water, he who gives his middle finger to inquiring reporters, shall return to grace SBC Park once again! Opposing pitchers, beware! Autograph-seeking white boys, repent! Bonds is back!
Or, um, so we hope. The Great One has vowed to be back next season, and after a year of watching some of the most turgid Giants baseball since Mark Leiter was the team’s unqualified ace, fans will be happy to see what should be some exciting play at SBC. But with Bonds’ return come some big fat question marks, lit up like the Las Vegas Strip at night. Even though Bonds is Bonds, he’s been out for a year, and a year layoff for anybody would make a man rusty. Going up against 90-mph fastballs after a year of non-baseball related activities and snapping at various media outlets can be a rough thing. I mean, even Superman would lose a little of his touch after a year of sitting around the couch, eating nachos and watching the belly grow. I’m sure even he would get his ass kicked around a little by Lex Luthor’s faceless goons during his first few times back on the horse.
Well, I’m sure Bonds hasn’t spent his injury time sitting around gorging himself, but even if he has been rigorously working to keep himself in game shape, it'd be naive to think he'll immediately come back and start smashing terrified pitchers like he has all his life. Then again, he's amazed us before, and even Bonds at half-speed is better than no Bonds at all, given the fear factor in opposing pitchers.
If something does happen, God forbid, and Bonds isn't ready for next season, it seems that Pedro Feliz would likely get the majority of the at-bats in his stead, with Todd Linden spelling him occasionally. This is a doomsday scenario, of course, because without Bonds next season, I can't even begin to concoct a scenario where the Giants will be competitive without him, unless Jason Ellison is suddenly possessed by the ghost of Joe Dimaggio, and I just don't see that happening.
Center Field When I heard that the Giants had traded for Randy Winn, I was more depressed than mad, figuring this is what we should have expected from Sabean at this year's trade deadline, dealing two decent younger players (one with solid potential) for a middling outfielder with an arm rivaling Ethel Merman's. I was like Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing when Gabriel Byrne coldly told him that he was plowing his fiance; I just felt a deflated sort of sadness.
Well, I've reconsidered and decided that it really wasn't such a horrible thing when you think about it. Yeah, Foppert once upon a time threw in the mid-90's with satanic breaking pitches, but since 2003 his velocity has dropped and his mechanics are a complete mess. The boys at Baseball Prospectus, especially pitching injury guru Will Carroll, didn't really have anything good to say about him. Torrealba was a fine backup catcher, but that's basically all he was, a backup. Is he better than Yamid Haad? Hell, yeah. Is he just as good as Matheny? Sadly, yes, but we're paying Matheny 3 mil to save games with his magic glove, so Yorvit had to go. All in all, it's not like his loss was going to make or break the franchise.
As for Winn, we've at least solved the Center Field problem for next season. Winn is not a star, but he's a decent bat who can patrol center field as well as anybody who's started for the Giants in recent memory. He can take walks, steal bases, occasionally pop one out (as I write this, he just homered off of Aaron Harang), and hit for a reasonably high average. He sings, he dances, he puts up a .770 OPS. Not great, but certainly better than what we got in the first half of this season.
Of course, you might make the argument that he's basically Michael Tucker. That argument carries water (Winn has a .745 OPS, compared to Tucker's .707), but Winn switch-hits and plays better defense. Winn does have a $5 million player option that the Giants are sure to pick up for next season, making him a rather pricey average outfielder. Ugh. Winn is no prize, but if he can get on base enough to set up Bonds, I guess he'll be worth that contract and the price of Foppert and Vorvie.
Backing him up will be Jason Ellison. I was going to praise Ellison's defense, but he's made 8 errors this season, a ghastly sum. Then I looked at his .277/.331/.380 line and figured hitting might not be his cup of tea either. So what exactly does he do? Well, he hits lefties decently and runs like the wind. Other than that, he doesn't do anything particularly well, and if he's not hitting around .300 (as he was in his hot first month) he shouldn't be playing with any regularity. He's a nice fifth outfielder, but if he gets the Shinjo treament next year and receives way more playing time than he's worth, it's a sure sign that the 2006 season is down the dumps.
Right Field Moises Alou, in between DL stints, has been everything the Giants could have hoped for. Before the season, Alou stated that if the Giants won the World Series he would retire. Ye-harrrr....ugh. Reading that quote would be rather funny now if it didn't conjure up a sensation like a flaming knife to the sternum. I think it's safe to say that Alou will be back in right field next year, slugging prominently, taking bizarre routes to low liners, and fumbling around the basepaths like Mr. Magoo. Even though he'll be a year older, I just can't see a complete collapse happening.
Now we get to the fourth outfielder, and I see one prime candidate, Todd Linden. Linden has been unconscious at AAA this season, and he just has nothing left to prove in the minors. His major league trials have been shaky, but there's no reason to think he couldn't cut it as a backup to Alou and Bonds. Are you going to tell me he's a worse fit than Michael Tucker? Yeah, I thought not.
The other option is bringing back Tucker, and I really hope Sabean hasn't gone so far off the deep end that he feels he has to re-sign Tucker or something at the behest of a cheaper, younger option than Linden. Tucker has been a decent outfielder for two years, and he cost us a nifty draft pick to the Royals, but if I see him in black and orange next year I'm going to puke.
Another, less appetizing options besides Linden is the guy we got for Matt Herges, Doug Devore. Devore is a fourth outfielder-type who didn't hit in 2004 with Arizona but who is hitting reasonably well with Fresno now. I guess the best thing to say about him is, hell, he couldn't possibly be as bad as Alex Sanchez.
I have all kinds of wild and crazy propositions for fixing the pitching staff, and we'll get to them sometime this week, hopefully.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Stick A Fork In Her...
As for the Giants, let's not kid ourselves, they're done. This has been the most depressing season since 1996, when flotsam such as Dax Jones and Desi Wilson floated across the San Francisco Bay and somehow got blown onto the Candlestick ground. As much as I'd love to see a miracle run to a playoff birth, I'm realistic enough to realize that this team simply has no such run inside it. Just when it seems like the Giants are about to go on a hot streak, they cough, they wheeze, they run for the respirators, and they give Brian Cooper a start against Roger Clemens. Geez, I thought dry humps like this were reserved strictly for middle schoolers.
The overall suckiness of the NL West has created the illusion that this is anyone's division, but with the Giants now a grotesque 16 games under .500, it's time to start looking at next year and see what moves can be made, or not made (cough Jerome Williams cough) to improve the team and turn this burning Wright Flyer back into a Boeing 767. We'll look at the catching and infield today and look at the outfield and the pitching staff in the future, which, at the rate this blog is going, will be sometime in 2009.
Catcher It would seem I owe Mike Matheny an apology. After the Giants signed him I basically accused the guy of everything from being an overpaid lout to being the second coming of Heinrich Himmler. Since he's batting .252/.310./.435 on the season, I've been forced to digress, as he's been a solid bat at the bottom of the order and has been a lot better than most catchers (emphasis on most). Some scribes have gone so far as to hail his signing as a fabulous acquisition by Sabean, but hold on, Chief, let's not start rubbing each other with baby oil just yet. This is still a guy with a career .639 OPS and a guy who we're going to be paying about $3 million to for the next two years. His defense has been good but hardly game-altering, and he's more likely to revert back to his old craptastic ways at the plate next season than continue on his current pace. I'd certainly rather have him out there than Yamid "G" Haad, but I'm still dubious at the prospect of an aging Matheny as our starting catcher for two more years.
First Base The Giants are going to have to make a decision here for next year, and the decision really isn't all that hard, but then again we are talking about Brian "If You Aren't Over 33 Then Get The Hell Out Of My Face" Sabean here. Lance Neikro should be given the starting job and J.T. Snow should be given the 21-gun salute, but the face of loyalty can sometimes be grim. Neikro this season has shown a propensity for destroying lefties but looks positively Lemaster-like against righties. Still, he's young and his .842 OPS speaks for itself. If Snow can be kept around cheaply for use next season against tough righties, I guess it's all right, as he can still get on base and field his position with the best of them. Still, I think it'd be better for everybody if Snow just hung it up and became a TV color analyst with Kruk and Kuip. Hell, give him Larry Krueger's old job, but just tell him to lay off those Caribbean hitters, okay?
Second Base Ray durham enters the final year of his contract and should be one of the team's best hitters when he's not icing down in the trainer's room. For all the bitching Giants fans do about Durham's gimpy legs and his crummy fielding, it's sort of been glossed over what a good hitter he's been. Durham is currently hitting .300/.371/.432 despite a gawdawful start and completely lit it up last year. Hitting out of the 5th spot may not be the thing for him (as if the Giants have any better options), and a return to the top of the lineup (maybe the three spot when Bonds returns next season?) would probably be beneficial to the team. Post-Durham, your guess is as good as mine because, just like pretty much every position on the Giants, there's no help coming from the farm system. God, I love Sabean.
Shortstop Omar Vizquel's signing hasn't really done a damn thing for the Giants in terms of on-field success, but hey, he is fun to watch. He's Baryshnikov in the field and a pesky gnat at the plate, and he's one of the few reasons to watch the Giants this year. He'll be a year older in 2006 and maybe less of an acrobat, but he shouldn't be any worse than he is now. However, it just goes to show how screwed up Sabean's line of thinking is that he convinced himself that grabbing Vizquel was going to have some sort of cataclysmic impact on the team. It hasn't, and it won't.
Third Base Now here's a position of controversy, and I have a solution for it. Trade Feliz! Trade him while his value is high. Yeah, he's versatile and he's got some game-changing pop, but his .754 OPS is underwhelming and folks, he just ain't going to get any better. Sabean needs to unload him on some poorly-managed pseudo-contender (the Mets come to mind) and get a decent young pitcher in return. Maybe that's just sports talk show-type raving, but something needs to be done. Alfonso isn't as good as Feliz, but the difference isn't so large that trading Feliz would sorely hurt the team. Plus, Alfonso and his $8 million contract won't draw as much attention as Feliz will. If the Giants go into 2006 with Bonds back in left and the same cluster-f*** situation at third base, we need to toss Sabean into McCovey Cove to be ravaged by Portuguese water dogs. There's no excuse for having two mediocre 3rd Basemen when there are so many other holes on the team.
Tomorrow (we can only hope) the outfield. Winn or Ellison? Bonds or Feliz? Alou or Benard? Wait, check that last one.