Friday, August 24, 2007


Peripheral Madness

On Sunday the Giants are going to be facing this guy named Dave Bush, a starting pitcher for the Brewers who has been one of my own personal enigmas for going on a year now. I traded for Bush in my fantasy keeper league last season (don't worry, this isn't going to be another of my interminable roto league rants, so don't click to another blog just yet), hoping to buy low for a future star pitcher. He wasn't setting the world on fire, but I was entranced by the potential that his shining peripheral numbers seemed to point to.

Bush came up with the Blue Jays in 2004, put up pretty good numbers in two years with Toronto, then was traded to the Brew Crew before the 2006 season. Last year, Bush's ERA was a mediocre 4.41, hardly something to be excited over. His peripheral numbers though? Maybe some of the best in the major leagues. In 210 innings, Bush struck out 166 batters while walking just 38, which tied him for the best K:BB ratio in the National League. His 1.13 WHIP was fourth in the NL.

I was excited. In all of these peripheral stat categories, Bush rated with the best pitchers in the majors. It stood to reason that with a little better luck, he could lop a run off of his ERA and be a Cy Young contender. Some fantasy magazines were picking him as a top 20 pitcher going into this season.

Unfortunately, that great leap forward into the NL elite just hasn't happened, much to the chagrin of my fantasy team. In 2007 Bush has regressed considerably. His peripherals aren't bad (1.37 WHIP, 112:35 K/BB ratio), but his ERA still isn't matching them and has been hovering around five all year. He is giving up way more hits this season than last season, so maybe he's just really unlucky this year, or maybe he was just really lucky last year. If it's the latter, my fantasy team shudders.

Let's compare this case to one of our own beloved pitchers, Mr. Noah Lowry, a guy who ranks ninth in the NL in ERA despite an atrocious 82:82 K/BB ratio. Every Lowry start is a full-out assault on the nerves, with runners all over the bases and batters licking their chops at another of those changeups floating in over the plate. Yet, at the end of the day, Lowry comes out ahead. Bush, meanwhile doesn't really give up many baserunners, yet his ERA is a run-and-a-half worse.

What the hell is going on here? My tireless efforts at trying to unravel this Dave Bush/peripheral stat mystery are beginning to rival those of the translation of the Rosetta Stone. Has my lifelong allegiance to the ways of the peripheral stat all been for naught? Have we stat dweebs been overrating them all this time? Well, no. For one thing, Bush has given up 22 homers so far this season, which is awful. Lowry has given up eight. Even though Lowry has been better this year (and perhaps it's sacrilege saying this on a Giants page), I'd still take Bush's next five years over Lowry's, but that says more about Lowry's bad control and weak stuff than it says about Bush.

Maybe some guys just can't ever live up to their peripheral stats. Javier Vazquez of the White Sox is sort of the golden boy for this kind of underachiever, or at least he has been since 2004. Perhaps Bush is just eminently hittable, and his great stats last year were a fluke stemming from the grace period of NL hitters adapting to him. In most cases, guys with 2006 Bush-caliber peripherals throw hard and blossom later. Bush might just be an exception to the rule. We'll see what happens on Sunday, and maybe I'll see something that sheds some light on the Great Dave Bush Conundrum.

Until then, all hail the god of the peripheral stat!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


Cain't Take It Anymore

Methinks Matt Cain is a little tired of the lack of run support that has plagued his starts all season long, as he took matters into his own hands again today by blasting his second home run of the season to help his own cause in a 4-1 Giants win. Cain only has four hits all year, but two of them have been homers. At 6'3'', 234 pounds, Cain does seem like the kind of guy who should be able to put a charge into a few per season. He's only three away from Krukow.

The Giants salvaged the win today in a series I was really hoping that they would sweep. You see, back when I was a little youngin' and collecting baseball cards, I was a huge fan of Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, who were then paving their Hall of Fame paths with the Brewers. For whatever reason, I've always liked the Brewers just because of those guys. Of course, once those two left in the early '90's, the Brewers franchise was run into the ground over the course of the next decade by everybody's favorite used-car salesman. They haven't sniffed the postseason since 1982...the year I was born! Have mercy!

Now, however, they have a group of exciting young stars and they're right in the thick of the race in the NL Central. Their main combatants, of course, are the Cubs. Since the Giants aren't going anywhere, why not root for the Brew Crew to win the Central? They've suffered long enough, and their fans deserve some sort of redemption now that the Selig era is thankfully over. I realize the Cubs are sort of the weepy favorites because of their long history of suffering, but hey, it's not my fault Phil Wrigley wouldn't let that damned goat into his stadium.

Anyways, as for today's game...The good: Matt Cain's dominance, obviously, and the hitting of Dave Roberts and Randy Winn. The bad: Rajai Davis took another ofer and is stuck in a 1 for 19 rut. Maybe he really is the player that all those Pirates fans were pooh-poohing when he came over from Pittsburgh.

Also, Ray Durham is now hitting .221. Is this man really done? It's hard to believe after the year he put up in 2006, but right now it looks like it's time to stick a fork in him.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Not-So-Lovable Loss

Brutal loss last night, but I'm well past the stage of where this kind of thing has any effect on me this season. If the Giants were in a pennant race, then last night's ninth-inning choke job against the Cubs would have been utterly heart-wrenching, kinda like this game ten years back. As it is, it's just another day in a lost season. I can move on without too much trouble. I've become comfortably numb, to quote the great poet Roger Waters. Or is that opera writer?

I've been hearing a lot of naysaying (mostly from talk radio nitwits) about Bochy's decision to leave Lincecum in the ninth, but come on. Lincecum was only on 90 pitches going into the final inning and the Cubs hadn't been hitting him all night. If the Giants had scored some runs for him, it wouldn't have been an issue. The Giants let Jason Marquis off the hook in the first after he walked the bases loaded, then for the rest of the game simply couldn't take advantage of the fact that he's Jason Marquis.

A bad loss, but all in all yet another very encouraging outing from the kid. Tonight Barry Zito tries for his second consecutive quality outing. Cue the Sideshow Bob/rake sound. Actually, to be fair, Zito dominated the Cubs in his start at Wrigley this season. It's just that the whole contract-to-subpar performance equation instantly triggers a gag reflex at this point in time.

My only plea is please, please keep giving Rajai Davis more playing time. Even if he doesn't keep up this torrid streak, there's really only so much more of Dave Roberts that I can take. A lefty starts tonight for Chicago, so Davis is surely in the lineup, but it'd be silly for him to lose at-bats to Roberts over the rest of the season against righties. What do the Giants have to lose by giving him a shot every day and seeing if he's really this good?

I didn't get to catch much of the Giants' sweep of the Marlins this weekend, suffice it to say that it was easily the most impressive the team has looked all year. From what I could hear on the radio, it sounded like the games were being played in a library.

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Friday, August 10, 2007


Pedro Feliz...the Best?!?!

Yeah, you read that right. On his blog The Soul of Baseball, Joe Posnanski has been doing a series on the best fielders at every position, based on the cumulative results of a number of defensive metrics, both old school and newfangled, and also just based on his two good eyes. His verdict on who the best fielding third baseman in the majors is? That's right, it's our old flailing friend Happy Pete. Here's a snippet of what Posnanski has to say:

>"Statistically there is absolutely and positively no doubt that Feliz is the best defensive third baseman in baseball. None. For you traditionalists, he has the best fielding percentage. For the Bill James lover in all of us, he has the highest fielding range. For those looking for a little bit of a statistical edge, he has the best zone rating. And for those, like me, who love John Dewan’s plus/minus system, Feliz is FAR AND AWAY the best in baseball."<

Holy crap. I was pretty sure that Feliz was near the top of the list, but the best? Posnanski brings up the statistical portion because, in his view, Feliz has ugly mechanics and sure as hell doesn't look like he's a Gold Glover. However, I think most Giants fans agree with me that from watching him day in, day out, it's been pretty clear for a long time that he's an exceptional fielder, and you don't need any crazily-acronymed stats to see it.

Fielding stats are notoriously hard to decipher, because, for one thing, it's difficult to distinguish how much a player's fielding ability is being impacted by his environment (think Fenway Park's Green Monster or Mays Field's massive right-center field), his pitchers, or even his teammates (like Derek Jeter's mysterious improvement when ARod partnered with him in 2004). Fielding percentage is perhaps the worst way to evaluate fielding, while range factor is better but still pretty bad (it's useless in evaluating first basemen). Other, more advanced statistics like Ultimate Zone Rating, Fielding Runs Above Average (a BP stat), John Dewan's plus/minus, and David Pinto's Probablistic Model of Range, are some of the best in terms of cutting through the smoke, but even they have their holes.

The thing is, usually all of these statistics disagree. One model will find a player to be the best at his position, while another will find that same player to be one of the worst. In this case, though, they're all spitting out the same result, and that means that something else is going on. If all of these normally combative elements suddenly join hands and verify what our eyes have been telling us, then it stands to reason that, yes, Feliz is the best fielding third baseman in the majors. Congrats, Pedro. This is the first time in the history of this blog that I've said something complimentary about you. Mark this day.

The question now is whether or not Pedro's sparkling defense is worth his hideous bat. A .294 OBP is pretty tough to take no matter how much of a genius you are with the glove. Its not like Feliz is Ozzie Smith here. It's the same old debate we had about Mike Matheny. Awful hitter, but great defensive player. We could gauge how much Matheny's bat was killing the lineup (as it turned out, he was decent in '05, his only full season with the Giants), but not how much his defense was helping. With Feliz, he's one of the worst hitters in the league, except that he's playing a position that isn't as difficult as Matheny's.

Basically this just confirms what I've been saying about Feliz all along. His super defense and his ability to smack one out of the yard should make him a pretty good spare part. Use him as a late-inning defensive replacement or as a once-in-a-while starter and you've got a useful ballplayer, like he was in 2003. As an everyday player, though, even with the D, Feliz is a miserable option. Baseball Prospectus has Feliz at a VORP of 0.0. That means he's the very definition of a guy who should be replaced.

Hopefully Brian Sabean doesn't read Joe Posnanski, because come free agent time that little snippet may be enough to make our fearless GM wet his pants and award Feliz with a multi-year deal.

-Brief Plug: I meant to plug this earlier, but it slipped my mind. Matt Johanson, co-author of the book Giants: Where Have You Gone?, has a new book coming out titled Game Of My Life, a collection of stories involving some of the most beloved past Giants players. My favorite part, though, is the chapter on Brian Dallimore, the obscure journeyman who had one shining moment in the bigs when he hit a grand slam off of Dontrelle Willis in 2004.

All information regarding the book and how to order it can be found here.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007


Dogs and Cats Living Together

Okay, I can't find a link for this anywhere, but apparently the Giants have traded Mark Sweeney to the Dodgers for a player to be named later. Talk about making a deal with the devil. I suddenly feel very sick. If this is true, it must be the first trade between these two teams since...when? I can't remember off the top of my head, and I'm too lazy to look. Did the Giants trade Trenidad Hubbard to the Bums in '98? Sounds sorta familiar.

Given the way Sweeney has hit this season, perhaps this is just a nifty sabotage job being carried out by Brian Sabean. Maybe get a potentially useful player from our arch-rivals for a little-used pinch hitter who will probably end up hurting them in the end? Brilliant!

To be fair, Sweeney did take over second place on the all-time pinch hit list this season, which was kinda cool, and he hasn't been horrible as a Giant by any means. I guess he just sort of symbolizes the utter failure of Sabean to net an impact first baseman over the years, when there were a few floating out there begging to be picked up (cough Carlos Pena cough). I'd wish him good luck,'s the Dodgers, after all.

Update: All right, here's that link we were all so worried about. Ahhh, so nice and warm and it feels so good, I...uh, I mean...turn that camera off!

And to answer my previous query, the last time the Giants and Dodgers made a trade was in 1985, when the Giants got our old buddy Candy Maldonado for Alex Trevino.

Also, Trenidad Hubbard was actually sent to the Indians as part of the Matt Williams/Jeff Kent trade. Wow, see what three seconds of research will do for you?

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#756...and Beyond

When Barry Bonds connected for home run number 755, the one that brought him even with Hank Aaron, was I there, cheering him on, acknowledging a great moment in baseball history?

Well, no. I wasn't watching and, in fact, I had no idea that he had actually hit it until the next morning. You know the old adage about clueless people being described as "living in a cave"? Well, that's basically where I was on Saturday (at least probably near some bear caves), as I spent the entire day in Yosemite National Park, hiking up Halfdome with some friends. I was literally awake for 24 hours, 12 of which were spent hiking up and down the mountain (just thinking about it makes my knees scream in pain). I jumped into bed once I got home and didn't even bother checking scores, and it wasn't until I opened the newspaper in the morning that I found out.

Luckily, on Tuesday I was watching when Bonds connected for his record-breaking blast off of Mike Bacsik. To be honest, going into the moment when he hit the home run, I was totally expecting to feel nothing but apathy. The way I see it, the record isn't diluted because of steroids or whathaveyou, but because in this era of heightened offensive numbers, it just seems inevitable that in less than ten years somebody else is going to break this record. Then somebody will come along and break that record...and so on. It's sort of how I felt about Bonds breaking the single season home run record in 2001: an awesome achievement, but the impact is watered down a little because people are hitting home runs all over and we had already gone through that whole thing three years before.

When Bonds hit number 756, though, it was as exciting a moment as I've ever witnessed. I was watching the game in one of my favorite restaurant/bars, and I threw my hands up in the air and yelled. I'm sure I looked like a jackass. For that moment, you could forget about all of the other junk surrounding Bonds and his record chase and just savor watching one of the greatest players ever take down perhaps the most iconic record in all of sports. Hank Aaron's tactful video tribute was icing on the cake. It was a tremendous baseball moment.

What I'm seeing a lot of now, and this isn't unexpected, obviously, is a lot of vitriol from media-types condemning Bonds for cheating his way to the home run record. I hear a lot of writers refering to the home run record as "sacred", as if Bonds is pissing on the Bible or something. All of this self-righteous rage over Bonds is insane

My take is this: it's really not important. It was an amazing moment, one I'm glad I witnessed, even if it was in a booth at Woody's chomping down mozarella sticks. I'll never forget it, and I'm sure I'll be telling my kids one day where I was when Bonds surpassed Aaron. But it's just a dumb counting stat, one geared to appeal to our basest instincts as humans ("wow, he hit that ball realllly far!").

We invest far too much emotion into the game of baseball than we should. We're all guilty of it. Hell, when the Giants lost that one-game playoff to the Cubs in 1998, I went home and cried. Seriously fucking cried. When they blew the World Series I became so devoid of emotion that I was probably frightening to be around. Soon, though, I was ready to turn the page and start anew with the next season. That's why I love the game so much. The lows are incredibly low, but the highs are oh so magnificently high (Brian Johnson, anyone?).

In the end though, it all comes down to perspective. Baseball is just a silly game, one run by greedy, bloodsucking billionaires and played by greedy millionaires with more biceps than personality. It isn't a microcosm of life or some shit like Ken Burns may have you believe; it's a piece of entertainment and should be treated as such. It's not life and death, even though it may sometimes feel that way. So whenever I read someone like Jay Mariotti or Pedro Gomez wax on about how this whole thing is a shame for our country and this great sport, I find it pathetic. I know it's a writer's job to churn up as much moral outrage as possible to get more people reading, but if you really get boiled up in a rage and start raving about the degradation of society because Bonds broke a dumb record, then you seriously need professional help.

As far as the debate over how much Bonds's achievement really is tainted, I just don't know. There is so little information about how much steroids and whatnot really aid an athlete that it's hard to make any true condemnations. And, again, I don't think it's important enough to get my panties in a bunch over the issue either way. There are so many well-thought-out pieces about the subject floating through the internet that I'm not going to bother even putting up links. Just do a few Google searches and see the thousands of hits that come up.

Congrats, Barry. In 40 years you'll be the recipient of a well-deserved, teary tribute to your greatness, a la Ted Williams in 1999.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Don't Let the Door Hit You...

Matt Morris is gone, traded to the Pirates for outfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named later. Personally, I'm ecstatic about the trade (though Morris is certainly none too pleased). Even though Morris's value plummeted to the point where Brian Sabean was essentially begging teams to take him, just the fact that the Giants won't have to pay him the remaining $12 million or so on his contract as he gives up run-scoring double after run-scoring double is enough to make me a happy camper.

It's hard to see what the Pirates want in Morris (they agreed to pay all of Morris' remaining salary...suckerssssss). Then again, why do the Pirates do anything they do? They're a team going nowhere and if they want Morris around to teach the young pitchers, well, $9.5 million seems like a lot for veteran know-how.

Morris finishes his Giants career with a 17-22 record and a 4.73 ERA in 344.1 innings. He also gave up a ridiculous 380 hits in those same innings. His contract looked silly when it was signed, and I know of a lot of fans who can shout out a big, fat "told ya so."

As for Davis, from what I've read on some Pirates blogs, he's nothing to write home about. In fact, when I was in Anaheim attending an Angels-Pirates game last month, I distinctly remember seeing Davis's name in the leadoff spot in Pittsburgh's lineup and saying, aloud, "Jesus, the Pirates suck." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Corey Humes at MVN calls Davis basically a Quad-A player who can't hit major league pitching. Beautiful. Looking at his minor league numbers, he looks like a powerless speed guy who can take a walk, and apparently he's a very good defensive center fielder. If everything pans out, he looks like a good fourth outfielder. Sound familiar? The Giants' entire system is chock full of these guys.

Don't take that as a complaint though. Again, I'm just happy to be rid of Morris and his salary. Now the question is who will take his spot in the rotation. I'd love to see Jonathan Sanchez get another crack at starting, but unfortunately I think we're in for the next installment of Russ Ortiz. The Giants can also still make moves until the end of this month, as long as they pass a player through waivers. I certainly expect to see Dave Roberts gone, and maybe (if there's justice in the world) Pedro Feliz.

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