Tuesday, July 10, 2007
First Half Studs and Duds
Barry Bonds He's old, he's cranky, the media hates him, his legs have about as much mobility as a couple of tree trunks, but he still just may be the best hitter in the league. If it weren't for Bonds this Giants lineup would just be plain offensive, like 2003 Dodgers-caliber bad. Without Bonds, the 2007 batting order would be the suckiest bunch of sucks to ever suck, to quote Homer (Simpson that is).
Bonds is currently lapping the field in the NL in OBP, OPS, walks, and he's third in slugging. Bonds has clearly lost a step (due to injury, age, drug testing, I don't know), but the fact that we can say that and he's still OPSing 1100 is a testament to the kind of amazing hitter he's been in his career.
What I find most ridiculous is that there are people, many of them Giants fans (just read some of the comments on Rob Neyer's blog entry on the Giants yesterday, and you'll see them), who are complaining to this very moment that the Giants shouldn't have brought Bonds back for the $18 million they're paying him this year, that his contract was overpriced and that he's been a huge financial burden.
Um, what? Bonds, as I said before, is the only reason I don't turn the TV off when the Giants come to bat. In a lineup full of punchless veterans with no plate discipline, Bonds provides a refreshing injection of patience and power. The financial part of his contract, to me, is irrelevant. Yes, $18 million is a lot of money, but for only one year it isn't going to tie your hands up and keep you from making any other moves.
You want to complain about a contract? Complain about the $126 million for seven years given to a certain soft-tossing lefty pitcher (oh we'll get to him in the duds section, believe me). This bitching about Bonds's contract is nothing but typical, brainless "team sucks, so blame the best player" bullshit.
Matt Morris, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry Credit the Giants' pitching staff for retaining some measure of respectability. The Giants are currently third in the NL in ERA, and much of it has been due to the performance of the Morris/Cain/Lowry troika. Their poor peripheral stats belie their shining ERAs (all three have mediocre K/BB rates, and all have given up a ridiculously low number of home runs), but hey, we're not here to project future performance (yet), we're just handing out first half awards, of sorts. In the first half, these guys have gotten the job done, although Cain sadly doesn't have the record (i.e run support) to show for it.
Ryan Klesko Maybe the only offseason addition that has worked out so far (all right, maybe besides Bengie), Klesko is probably my favorite player on the Giants right now. He has a distinctively weird style of play, kind of a quirky tough guy thing going, and it's amusing to me. He lumbers around the diamond, scowling and looking mean. He takes massive windmill swings when at the plate, and when the ball connects, it goes a long way. When it doesn't, Klesko nearly falls on his butt, which is still great.
Even if Klesko stunk, he'd be a fun player to watch. Thankfully, he's been quite good, easily the Giants' second-best hitter, with a line of .295/.385/.477. Finally, fellow Giants fans, we have adequate production at first base. And to think Klesko was brought in as the backup to Rich Aurilia! It boggles the mind. He was signed for chump change this offseason, so this has been the rare post-2001 Sabean move that has worked out beautifully.
Perhaps that's a little unfair. Maybe the finger should be directed at Brian Sabean, Peter Magowan and co. for lavishing that fat contract upon Barry Zito in what was obviously just a glorified PR move. Anybody with a working brain realized that this was a stupid signing, that in about four years the team would be regretting it. Now, with Zito sucking, despite pitching in a tough park on hitters and despite moving to the easier league, it's starting to look like it might be an unmitigated disaster.
Still, there was reason to at least hope that Zito would provide some return on that contract, and who knows, maybe he will. He has six and a half more years to do it, after all. There have been starts where he looks like the Zito from the early-00's, with the snapping curveball working beautifully. Unfortunately he's been alternating those with starts where he's Kirk Rueter circa 2005.
With all that we know about pitchers with long-term contracts going into their late-30's, Zito's current 4.90 ERA could be as good as it gets. How horrifying a thought is that? And guess what, fellow fans of the black and orange, he has a full no-trade clause! So start praying for improvement, because the Giants are pretty much stuck with him. For all of us long-suffering Giants fans, we deserve more.
Dave Roberts I hated this signing when it happened, and that was still assuming that Roberts would be his normal, decent self. Now that he's been one of the worst hitters in the major leagues for three months, the three-year deal handed out to him looks like rank idiocy. Let's see, he can't hit, he can't get on base, he has no power, his fielding isn't particularly good. Other than that, no problem.
Maybe Roberts has just been unlucky or something. Maybe he will revert back to his career norms (.709 OPS, which still ain't anything to brag about) and be a decent player in the second half. Or maybe he's hit the wall at age 35 and he sucks.
Fred Lewis is a better player right now than Dave Roberts has ever been. They essentially serve the same function, as a fourth outfielder-type. Knowing this, and knowing the Giants control Lewis for another five years (I think) for like nothing, how awful does the Roberts signing look? Yeah, it's only $6 million a year, but you know what, that's $6 million a year that could have been spent on someone, you know, good.
Pedro Feliz I was going to lay off Pedro for once, but after careful consideration...nahhhh. The Giants brought Feliz back for no good reason after a miserable 2006, and guess what? He's even worse this year! He sports a line of .234/.270/.405, he swings at everything, he eats babies (or so I hear). Do I need to go on? Can someone just spike his coffee with some greenies so we can get him the hell out of the lineup?
The crazy thing is, he still has defenders! Every time a "DFA Pedro Feliz" diary gets put up at McCovey Chronicles, there are always four or five misguided individuals who just keep on parrotting lines like "Well, his defense is pretty good", or "Hey, he hits some home runs, that counts for something", or my favorite, "Well, he's really the least of the Giants' problems". I guess you could argue that Feliz isn't the Giants' biggest problem, but all that says is that the Giants have a pretty shitty team.
Looking around the majors, the Twins are in desperate need of an upgrade at third base (they have Nick freaking Punto getting the lion's share of playing time there), and might be willing to take Feliz off our hands. The Twins have some live arms in their farm system, and perhaps the Giants could snag one of them in a trade. Or maybe the Twins would be willing to trade Nathan, Bonser...sigh, I won't go there. I know, I know, too soon. Seriously, though, I'd take chump change. I'd take a Randy Messenger clone. Anything just so I don't have to watch another terrible Feliz at bat.