Friday, November 30, 2007
Friday Night Links
--The latest Giant-related rumor is that the team is in talks with the Indians regarding their young third base prospect Andy Marte, or the guy formerly known as Baseball Prospectus’s number one prospect in 2005. The shine has rubbed off of Marte's blue chip status quite a bit after some regression at AAA and a hideous major league showing in 2006, but he’s just the sort of player the Giants should be targeting, a guy who still has tons of upside and who can be had at a lower price.
Marte probably won’t be the superstar many envisioned at first, but he’s still just 24, and wouldn’t it be neat to see him bust out in the black and orange after disappointing so many franchises for so long? Best of all, it would reduce Pedro Feliz to being merely a bad three-year-long dream. Or perhaps a nightmare.
--The Tigers today DFA’d first baseman Chris Shelton, who had a rocky career in Detroit, to say the least. Shelton was the flavor of the month in April 2006 when he hit 10 home runs to start the season, then completely crapped out and ended up wasting away in AAA while the Tigers rolled to the World Series. Jim Leyland was so down on him that he spent all of last season in the minors while Sean freaking Casey provided a .393 slugging percentage and all kinds of non-productive-y goodness.
Shelton now joins ranks of those souls known in these parts as the Easily Obtainable First Base Talent, a group from whence the likes of Carlos Pena and Jack Cust came last season. Shelton would be worth a minor league invite or something on the off chance that he can produce. His power slumped in AAA this year, but he’s shown good power in the majors before (Tyler Walker knows all about it) and I don’t really think he was given a fair chance in Detroit. Best of all, the risk involved is zero, because he’d probably cost pennies on the dollar, and therefore could just be tossed back into the muck if he didn’t pan out.
--Thought I'd talk a bit about the Hall of Fame ballot that came out this week. The two big Giant names on the newcomer list are Robb Nen and Rod Beck, who, as great as they were for the Giants, really have no business garnering even one vote. In my humble opinion, in order for a reliever to make the Hall of Fame, he has to be on another planet compared to his peers. Mariano Rivera, I'll buy. Bruce Sutter? Possibly. Nen and Beck? No way in hell.
Nen had two absolutely dominant years while Beck had one, and you need to be the best of the best for a stretch of close to a decade if you're a closer, at least in my mind. In these modern times when closers only generally pitch one inning per game, it's becoming even harder to make a Hall of Fame case for them. We'll just have to honor them ourselves and remember them as two pitcher who probably killed their arms trying to get the Giants to the World Series.
--As for the deserving Hall of Fame candidates, Tim Raines is the only one of the newcomers who really merits selection. Reading all of the arguments for Raines, you realize how awesome he was, and for a stretch of about five years in the 1980's he may have legitimately been the best player in the National League. Just check it out. Unfortunately, he had his best seasons while playing in obscurity in Montreal, and that might be enough to keep him out of the Hall.
The other guys I'd vote for if I had a ballot (someday, dammit) would be Bert Blyleven and Alan Trammell. The case for Blyleven has been made over and over again by statheads, but at this point it looks like he's doomed to fall victim to a historical misintepretation of park factors and win-loss record. Trammell, meanwhile, was probably the second-best shortstop of his era, but sadly he was overshadowed by the number one shortstop, Cal Ripken, and that might prevent him from ever being recognized.
--Random video, a quickie...
Thursday, November 29, 2007
For the Love of Bengie
Catcher Bengie Molina seems to be the Giant most likely (or at least most-rumored) to be peddled, most likely to a contender looking for a decent bat from behind the plate. The Mets were the sexy pick to land Molina, and even though they picked up Johnny Estrada from the Brewers, they still might non-tender him and go looking for somebody better. The Mets have a number of solid prospects (Keith Law nearly blew a gasket in a chat today while defending the Mets' farm system), and might be willing to send one the Giants' way in order to get a catcher with possible 20-homer pop.
In my mind, Sabean should be trying to trade Molina like crazy, but sadly Bengie's value is probably being overhyped by a lot of fellow Giants fans. Molina had a fine year in '07, and should continue to hit for decent power, but he never walks, which means his offensive value tends to be very batting average-dependent. If he loses an ounce of bat speed, his OBP will plummet to even more unacceptable levels and he'll just be another abysmal Giants hitter. Also, he just logged a career high in games played, never a good sign for a 32-year-old catcher, and it's fair to question how much those knees have left in them. Enough to keep him productive throughout the remainder of his deal? The Giants can only hope.
Of course, you don't need me to tell you any of this. You already know that hitters with zero plate discipline tend to fall apart in a hurry, and that catchers often don't last too far into their 30's, at least not without a position change. Herein lies the problem: just about every other GM in the major leagues knows this too. The bad part about living in the post-Moneyball information age is that everybody is getting smarter in regards to how they value players. Sure, there will always be the Krivdas and Littlefields of the world, but the number of patsies who will overpay for veteran know-how is dwindling by the second.
The "win-now" mindset might still have enough pull to persuade some contender to give up a juicy bit of talent for Molina, but I have my doubts. Maybe I'm underrating Bengie's value, but if I'm a rival owner and my GM trades a player with any kind of potential for a player of Molina's caliber, I'd be livid.
This shouldn't take away from the larger point, though. If there's a good offer for Molina, do it. An Elizier Alfonzo/Guillermo Rodriguez offense/defense platoon wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, and it would free up money to use to upgrade other positions. Plus, the odds on Bengie's bat going into the tank, as I discussed above, are all too high. The Bengie rumors seem to have died down a bit, but keep a close watch next week as the meetings go on.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Tryptophan-Induced Free Agent Signings
The shocking part of the Hunter signing isn't the fact that he was overpaid (hell, I'm surprised he only got five years), but who did the overpaying. The Angels signed Hunter to play center field when they already have a grossly overpaid center fielder of their own and a glut of other outfielders on the 40-man roster. It seems like kind of a redundant PR move. I love Hunter and all, and he's fun to watch, but he's also entering his 30's and likely will start to decline both offensively and defensively pretty soon, and his bat isn't all that good in the first place. I'll echo this guy's sentiments.
Cordero, though...where do I begin? The Giants were actually rumored to be interested in Cordero at one point, but if they'd paid Cordero the $46 million over four years that he got from the Reds I'd have pulled a Terminator and gone back in time to off Brian Sabean's mom before he was even conceived. How do you justify handing out nearly $12 million a year to a reliever who will only give you like 70 innings max? Cordero is good, yes, but he's not Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne circa 2003, and guys like him tend to be hanging cheaply around baseball, if you just know where to look. Do you think it's a fluke that the Padres came up with Heath Bell, Scott Linebrink, and Cla Meredith?
I can just picture Reds GM Wayne Krivsky this morning, leaning back in his chair, high on turducken leftovers, cackling in joy at his new gem. Hey, they solved their closer problem, right? Too bad the rest of their roster is a bloody mess. I guess the moral of the story here is that, as much as we Giants fans bitch about our GM and his oft-puzzling moves, it could be much, much worse. So let's all stop and belatedly give thanks to the GMs who may have saved the Giants from themselves this offseason.
-Speaking of the Reds, there was a small rumor that they might be open to trading Josh Hamilton in order to clear out some of the crowd in the outfield. I'm going to say it right now: Noah Lowry for Hamilton. Hamilton's history of injury and personal problems make him a risk, but he can flat out rake (.292/.368/.554 in his rookie season) and the Giants need some young power hitters. He's a 35-homer guy if he can stay out of the trainer's room and out of the back of a squad car.
The question is, would the Reds do it? I'm not so sure. Any baseball front office-type should be able to look at Lowry's numbers and see that a lot of his good fortune last season came because he was very stingy with the home run ball. Now take him out of Mays Field and put him in Great American Ballpark, a much more homer-friendly ballpark, and it's not hard to see Lowry's ERA ballooning. Suddenly, you've traded a young, All-Star-caliber slugger for a cheaper, marginally less-shitty version of Eric Milton.
I'd take the risk if I were the Giants, mostly because I'm very down on Lowry at this point, but I really can't see the Reds willing to go for it, especially when they have two near-frontline starting pitchers already and a couple of other potential aces on the horizon. Of course, the Reds aren't exactly the paragon of intelligent baseball decision-making, so stay tuned.
-TGIF Random Video...
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
From the Files of WTF!: MVP Voting Hijinks
The only questionable pick was probably Jimmy Rollins for NL MVP. David Wright seemed like a more deserving pick, as he was a better player and put up better numbers in a much tougher park on hitters, and you can make the argument that Rollins wasn't even the MVP of his own team. Wright was also unquestionably hurt by the Mets' late-season choke job (a couple of tards even left Wright completely off the ballot), but Rollins did have a monster year and his selection certainly wasn't an outrage. Plus, he gets bonus points for his brash playoff guarantee way back in the spring, channeling Kirk Gibson's 1988 pre-season tantrum that basically got him a totally undeserved MVP (somewhere Darryl Strawberry cries).
No, the only real bit of idiocy from this season's award vote came out of the AL MVP race. Alex Rodriguez, of course, was far and away the most deserving winner. No question about that. No one could touch him, and yet two misguided souls somehow found a way to give Magglio Ordonez their first place votes. Now, don't get me wrong, Magglio was awesome this season, but how could anybody be so frigging blind to the simple numbers? Just check it out, and we don't even need those fancy-pants BP stats to demonstrate why A-Rod was so superior.
A-Rod: .314/.422/.645 177 OPS+
Magglio: .363 /.434 /.595 167 OPS+
Rodriguez has ten points of OPS+ on Ordonez, he bombed 26 more homers, knocked in 17 more runs, scored 26 more runs, played a somewhat tougher position, and even threw in 24 stolen bases, for what that's worth. And this is before breaking out the VORPs and WARPs and MLVRs that we dorks all cherish. Trust me, you adle-brained Magglio voters, you don't want to go there.
The two writers who voted for Ordonez were from Detroit, which I guess explains it. Maybe they also held the typical "unclutch A-Rod" grudge and thought he was putting up empty numbers, or maybe they just had some sort of brain lesion that prevents a person from determining what makes one player more valuable than another. I guess you could justify their vote by saying that Rodriguez had better hitters around him, and thus got better pitches to hit, or that he's won too many MVPs already, or...um...
Nah, they just fucked up.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Friday Rumors and Indictments
Everybody keeps saying Bonds's career is over, but imagine this scenario. Let's say that he gets put on trial, beats the rap after a long two- or three- year ordeal, and then decides to make a comeback like at age 46. Can you imagine? An old, cranky, weak-kneed Bonds coming back out of retirement for one last hurrah, a sort of huge "eff you" to all those who tried to bring him down. Now that would be a story worth following.
--According to this article, the Giants have been the most aggressive team so far at pursuing Florida's Miguel Cabrera. I'm a tad torn on whether or not the Giants should try to trade for Cabrera. Obviously the Giants need an impact bat, and Cabrera is theoretically the kind of franchise-player kind of talent they should go after. However, it's going to take either Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum, at the least, to get him, and I'm not sure if I'd be willing to part with one of those two at this point. The idea of that two-headed monster at the top of the rotation for years to come is appealing.
The positives with Cabrera are pretty obvious. He's only 24 and is already one of the best hitters in the league. He'd no doubt fit in nicely as the new face of the franchise after Bonds's departure. The negatives are that he's a horrible defensive player and, if you look at the guy, he's just a blimp. If he's fat and immobile at age 24, what does that say about his conditioning habits going into his later seasons? If the Giants do get him, they'd better sign him to a long-term deal, because they'd be giving up too much for a two-year rental, but his weight issues are a little scary.
--For your TGIF video, a badass scene from a badass movie. Have a great weekend!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Searching For the Last Expo
One position the Giants have been lacking in since seemingly forever is first base. They haven't had adequate production from the position since 2004, and that was only due to a fluke season from J.T. Snow. So they actually haven't had adequate production from first base since 1997...which was, um, another fluke season from Snow.
In a free agent market rife with mediocrity bound to be overpaid, one guy catches my eye: Brad Wilkerson, formerly of the Rangers. Wilkerson used to be a star-caliber talent with the Expos, but injuries and whathaveyou have brought his career to a standstill. It didn't help that his manager couldn't figure out what to do with him last year, either. I mean, it must be rough to be basically one of the best hitters on your team and yet still constantly lose at-bats to guys like Nelson Cruz and Victor Diaz, as Wilkerson did in Texas last year.
Wilkerson is intriguing because he's got a lot of pop (20 homers in 339 at-bats in 2007), he can take walks, and he can play both first base and the outfield, and he probably wouldn't embarrass himself in center if the need arose. The low batting average and the plethora of whiffs might turn people off, but the Giants need to look at guys like this if they want to take steps to improve. He'll be 31, so it's not likely that Wilkerson will go back to his 2004 self, but there's definitely the potential for solid production at a reduced cost.
I'm not sure what the market will be for Wilkerson's services this winter. He's injury-prone and coming off three down years, and all those strikeouts tend to make GMs cringe. Still, I like to look at what he can do, and what he can do is hit home runs and get on base. If everything breaks right, he could be a poor man's Adam Dunn, only with a plus glove at three (maybe four) positions and at a quarter of the cost.
Marc Normandin wrote a profile on Brad Wilkerson at Baseball Prospectus and tried to figure out just when and how he lost his way. Normandin speculated that Wilkerson might look to sign a cheaper one-year deal so he can put up some numbers and then re-enter the market in order to get something more lucrative in 2009. I would love to see the Giants go after him if they can get him for one year, with perhaps an option for a second, at less than $5 million. The team needs power, desperately, and Wilkerson is low-risk, high reward.
Unfortunately, if I had to bet, I'd say Wilkerson ends up with the Indians and helps them win the AL Central again, while the Giants end up with a nightmare Rich Aurilia/Dan Ortmeier/Dancing Bears first base scenario for us to throw hot dog wrappers at all season.
Labels: brad wilkerson
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Basically, the way it works, if this studly and very handsome center fielder named Paul Rice is expected, based on several factors picked from play-by-play data, to make 150 outs on the season, and he makes 200, he's a pretty damn good fielder, because he's made way more plays than you'd have any right to predict. If he makes only 100 out of 150 predicted outs, he'll grow a creepy mustache and call himself "Benard".
Pinto puts the difference into a ratio. If a player is over 100 (i.e. a 1:1 ratio), he's a pretty good fielder. If he's under 100, he isn't making as many outs as he "should" be making, and thus probably lacks range or just sucks in some general fashion. The metric can work for teams as well as individual players.
Let's check out the 2007 rankings for shortstops, right on the heels of the Omar Vizquel signing. Vizquel ranks tenth among all shortstops with a rating of 101.25, meaning that he was pretty good, but not too far above average. You can sort of argue that this might be Omar's reputation in a nutshell. Many statheads have argued that Vizquel, while he makes the eye-popping highlight reel plays all the time, is merely good at making the routine plays, not great. Thus, while awesome to watch, the numbers would seem to say that he's merely a pretty good shortstop as opposed to a frabulous, grabulous, zip-zoop-zabulous one.
If Vizquel really isn't as great as he seems, then it only gives more weight to the naysayers who are ripping his new contract. If you're paying for a no-hit defensive specialist who isn't that fantastic with the glove after all, then what are you getting? A black hole?
The rank is a little disappointing, I suppose, but I'm not really worried too much. Vizquel's rating is still pretty darn good, and he is fun to watch. And hey, it's not like he's Derek Jeter out there or anything (bottom of the list...yikes!). Christina Kahrl of BP defended the Vizquel signing here, essentially saying that $5 mil isn't much to pay for one or two years of solid defense that could make those quality young arms the Giants have that much better. Plus, you never know, Vizquel could bring that bat back to respectability and then no one would be bitching about the Giants bringing him back.
I guess my original opinion on the matter is the same. I'm always of the "offense first, worry about defense second" philosophy, and this signing would seem to conflict with that, but this is not going to be an albatross contract, so if he sucks it's not going to hamstring the team. I would also have loved to see the team be a little more creative in filling that shortstop gap, but there really aren't many appealing options elsewhere and Brian Sabean hasn't done anything imaginative in years. Hell, if Omar can continue to help keep Noah Lowry's horrid peripheral stats from eating him alive, who can argue?
-Also check out the ratings on Baseball Musings for third basemen and second basemen. Pinto's results show that Pedro Feliz was indeed one of the best (if not the best) as I'd talked about last week. They also show Ray Durham to be one of the worst fielders in the majors at second base, which, if accurate, probably makes poor Ray-Ray the worst everyday player in baseball in '07, except maybe for the lovably execrable Nick Punto.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Say It Ain't So, Matty
Fear not, Giants fans and fellow Matty lovers, because this is a non-story, and I'm sure Matty is still an OK guy. HGH wasn't banned until 2005 (Williams ordered it in 2002), and he used it under the supervision of a doctor to treat an injury. If Williams did intend to use these drugs to help his performance, it hardly worked, as he was pretty mediocre in 2002 and 2003, the last two years of his career.
No, this whole thing is yet another phony "out" piece done by the same jackholes who wrote Game Of Shadows in their continued attempts to make big names for themselves. Lance Williams and Mark Fainu-Whateverhisnameis seem to fancy themselves the next Woodward and Bernstein, but I think most people just wish they would go away.
It's pretty much been proven that HGH does nothing to improve athletic performance, Williams obtained the stuff when it was not banned by MLB, and it clearly didn't affect his performance at all. There are no reports that he used anything in his peak years. So, then...who gives a shit? This is only a story because HGH is labeled as evil by a bunch of people who don't know anything about it. If there's something that can actually help a ballplayer stay healthy, i.e. make it so you can watch your favorite players, isn't that a good thing?
The answer: I don't know, it's Friday, I'm tired, and here's a random video. Have a good weekend!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The One They Call Dreamy
The Giants seemingly can't contain themselves when it comes to old, helpless players, as they've brought back Omar Vizquel on a one year/$5.5 million contract with a possible second year that vests if Vizquel plays in 140 games. Judging from Vizquel's history of health, and the Giants' abysmal group of infielders in the minor leagues, there's a high likelihood that Vizquel will reach that plateau fairly easily. Basically, we're looking at a two-year deal here, folks. As Mr. Horse would say: no sir, I don't like it.
Here's what we know about Vizquel:
-He'll be 41 next season.
-Last year he was one of the worst hitters in all of baseball.
-He's still one of the best defensive shortstops in the NL, probably in the top three.
-Fans love him because he makes a least one highlight reel play per week.
Judging from the latter point, this signing is probably mostly for PR. Vizquel has a lot of flash to his game, and it's fun to watch. Sadly, at this point, the substance is rapidly fading from the style. Vizquel is definitely one of the better defensive players, but at his age, how long can he maintain his range? I understand he keeps himself in great condition, but a 41-year-old is a 41-year-old. If his defense slips at all he'll be totally worthless, because his bat can't carry the light of day.
Oh, that bat. Last season Vizquel hit .246/.305/.316. By Baseball Prospectus's VORP, he was easily the worst hitting shortstop in the NL. Players who see their bat go in the tank at age 40 rarely recover, so those expecting a rebound best not hold their breath. In fact, there's every reason he could be even worse.
This isn't a horrible signing, I guess, since the commitment isn't too long and the Giants don't have any immediate viable replacements (Kevin Frandsen at short is not the answer). It's just that it'd be nice to see the Giants explore some other options, try to bring in some unknowns with breakout potential. This team is going to suck with or without Vizquel, so why not use the $5.5 million on something that has the chance to be better?
It just seemed like Sabean and co. were chomping at the bit to get Vizquel re-signed when there was no plausible reason to be so hasty. Couldn't they at least have considered looking around for other talent, wherever that may have been? Plus, this whole thing about giving Vizquel a raise after he just killed the Giants last year...well, God bless America, I suppose.
This move isn't the worst, but it's just the same old, same old from front office people who can't seem to get it into their heads that loading up on old retreads perhaps isn't the best course. Now the ultimate nightmare scenario becomes if the Giants really do re-sign Pedro Feliz, which would mean that the Giants could very possibly have the two absolute worst hitters in the league at their respective positions. Ladies and gentleman, your 2008 Giants! Geez, if that happens, this'll be me with the oar.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Yesterday the Gold Gloves winners were announced in each league, with the usual spate of horrid picks mixed in with some deserving winners. Rob Neyer breaks it down succinctly here. Truthfully, I stopped giving a crap about this award several years ago. Nobody knows who to vote for, and if the voters on these things don't care enough to do even a cursory bit of research (at least enough to realize that Derek Jeter isn't anywhere near the top fielding shortstop), then why should we care who wins?
Generally, the coaches and managers just give the awards to star players or players who have won several times before. No-hit/all glove types on bad teams rarely get any love, even though they're often the most deserving. The past few years, Houston's Adam Everett has been the best fielding shortstop in the majors, and it hasn't even been close, and yet he hasn't even gotten a sniff from the voters, who decided that since Omar Vizquel had won it a bunch of times he must still be the best (sorry, Omar). Kansas City's Tony Pena could make a great case for the best fielding AL shortstop this year, but nobody's ever heard of him and he can't hit, so TS, Tony.
That brings us to Feliz, a horrible hitter on a bad Giants team, but yet who in 2007 was a fantastic fielder. As I noted here a few months ago, Feliz ranks as the very best third baseman by any metric. Usually all of the fielding numbers, both old school and newfangled, tend to disagree, but when they all point conclusively to one outcome, that Feliz is the man, chances are the stats aren't playing tricks with you. Sadly, he lost out to David Wright, who I'm sure can pick it, but the numbers say it all. Hell, even my eyes could see it. Feliz looked stellar this year.
So a big giant whiff for the Gold Glove voters, but it's nothing new. Again, I stopped caring about this a while ago, but it really would be nice to see a guy who is so clearly head and shoulders above everybody else at least get some recognition from the people who are supposedly watching him day in, day out..
Feliz takes a lot of shit on this blog, and deservedly so, but I also believe in a sense of fairness, and this is just not right. Some people still do take the Gold Gloves seriously, so let history show that poor Pedro got snubbed.
--I should point out that, no, Mr. Sabean, I am not campaigning for Feliz to be brought back, and this talk I hear of a 2 year/$8 million deal gives me the urge to run and bow before the porcelain god. I appreciate Feliz's glove, really I do, but it's not enough to make up for his hideous bat. Nothing is.
See, I ended this post on a Feliz-bashing note. I'm not getting soft after all.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Let me come out and say that I'm not in the "Lincecum-as-untouchable" camp. I think that the Giants should certainly be open to trading him, if the right deal comes along. If it takes Lincecum to get a potential star-quality bat, a guy who can turn into a franchise player, it's worth strongly considering. After all, I still believe that a team can return to contention quicker by rebuilding the offense than by focusing more on pitching, as the Giants have, for the simple reason that hitters are just less likely to get injured. Pitchers are just unpredictable animals, especially pitchers built like high school A/V geeks, and sometimes you just have to hold your breath and take some risks in order to improve (okay, at least risks that have some chance in hell of working out).
Lincecum, of course, looks like he might be one of the best pitchers in the league very soon, and he's under the Giants' control for the next five years or so. All of this means that if he's going to be traded, the Giants need to just demand the hills. I mean, go crazy. Screw it, ask for Carl Crawford and Reid Brignac. It might make the DRay front office harumph, but that's what it's going to take, baby.
No, the problem here isn't the idea that Lincecum might be used as trade bait; it's the idea that Brian Sabean is using him as trade bait. Look, I don't mean to keep knocking the poor guy (well, yeah I do), but I just have no confidence whatsoever that Sabean can get a good enough return if he does choose to put Timmy on the table. This is the guy, after all, who traded Francisco Liriano, a Lincecum-caliber talent, for a middling catcher, all the while feeling the need to throw in an All-Star closer and...well, let's not bring back those old sordid memories.
Another scary bit is this nebulous "quality bat" that Ringolsby talks about. Is he talking "Evan Longoria" quality or "Miguel Cabrera" quality? Or is it far, far worse? Once again, Sabean's definition of "quality" is sketchy at best, but I'd like to think he hasn't fallen so far from his pre-2002 trade acumen that he'd entertain an offer of anything less than a player who is one step away from being a superstar. If the article had said "potential franchise cornerstone", then maybe I'd feel a little safer. Maybe.
All in all, it's probably completely irrelevant. While it is a little scary that BP has picked up the rumor (with Carl Crawford potentially coming this way...meh), I still think this is probably just a bit of goofy Internet speculation churned out by a bored writer with too much writing space and way too much JD. The hysteria will probably wear off, just like it did when those crazy rumors of a Mike Matheny signing floated around a few years back.