Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Base Number III: The Search For Adequacy

As I try to overcome the post-celebratory hangover following the departure of Pedro Feliz to the Phillies, I guess I should pause and acknowledge that Philadelphia is probably the most ideal fit for our old friend Happy Pete. The Phillies had a gaping hole at third base, and they have a lineup good enough to hide Feliz's many weaknesses with the bat. As amazing as it seems, Phillies third basemen last year were collectively worse than Pedro. Much worse. As bad as Feliz was, at least the Giants weren't giving 287 plate appearances to Abraham Nunez.

Now that Feliz is hitting at the bottom of a great lineup and is now moving into a very homer-friendly ballpark, I'd be willing to bet that he smacks 30 homers and knocks in 110 runs. This wouldn't mean he would be any better, obviously, as his OBP would still surely suck. However, I'd bet that if Feliz does bust out those artificially good counting stats, myriad sportswriters who don't understand Park Factors and lineup context will ream the Giants for letting Feliz go. Meanwhile, us Giants fans who know better will just lean back and chuckle softly to ourselves.

So it seems that this deal works out for all involved. Feliz gets to go to greener pastures playing for a contending team, and the Giants get to be rid of Pedro Feliz. All is well. Meanwhile, the Phils get the best fielding third baseman in the majors, and his horrid plate discipline will be sort of hidden by all the runs being produced by guys like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. I'm not sure why they felt they had to tack on a second year for the honor, though.

So with Feliz gone, the Giants would seem to have a hole at third base. Or do they? The in-house option is Kevin Frandsen, who used to be regarded as the heir apparent to Ray Durham at second base, but who is now stuck between a rock and a hard place after the Giants re-upped Durham after the 2006 season. I used to be a big disbeliever in Frandsen's usefulness at third, but now that I think about it...why not?

Frandsen's defense isn't going to match Pedro's, but his ability to get on base is almost certain to be light years better. Frandsen is also criticized for being a slap hitter without much power, but, as I've mentioned on this blog before, his career slugging percentage in the minors is .458. That might not translate to a .450 slugging rate in the majors, but for the sake of comparison, Feliz hasn't topped .430 since 2004, and he'll be 33. Frandsen will be 26 and has room for improvement. Frandsen also turned it on in a big way at the end of last year, posting a .906 OPS in September in 73 at-bats.

So, really, it's worth the Giants' time to see what Frandsen can do, especially since 2008 should be regarded as a learning year, of sorts. I think a reasonable expectation would be for Frandsen to turn into Bill Mueller, and we all loved Mueller for a very long time. I'd much rather give Frandsen 300 at-bats, find out he can't play, and then move on to something else rather than go out and pick up some crappy veteran who we know can't play, and then watch Brian Sabean bitch some more when the guy sucks and the fans get testy.

Speaking of crappy veterans, here are some other third base options, in order of the level of rumor buzz surrounding them and the Giants:

Joe Crede: Word was abuzz this morning that the Giants had a deal in place for Crede, the White Sox third baseman, to be made when Crede proves he's healthy in the spring. If the Giants give up anything valuable (like, say, Jonathan Sanchez) for Crede they should be ashamed of themselves. Crede is a terrific fielder, but he's also a terrible hitter who has had one good full season (2006) in his entire career, and even then he put up a poor .323 OBP.

So the equation becomes good glove + bad bat= Feliz part deux? Kind of, but what's scarier is that from 2003-2005 Crede was putting up sub-Felizian numbers while playing in a hitter's park. At least Feliz had the excuse that Mays Field squashes home run numbers. Add in the fact that Crede missed almost all of last year with a back injury, and back injuries for players turning 30 tend to not really go away, and this just seems like the worst possible solution. Why let the cure for third base be worse than the disease?

OT Stupid Side Note: Did you realize that Crede won the Silver Slugger Award in 2006...ahead of ARod? Yeah, that's right. I mean, Crede had a pretty good year, hitting .283/.323/.506 with 30 home runs. ARod hit .290/.392/.523, though, with 35 homers. Yes, that's a bad year by ARod standards, but that still beats Crede's production, especially in OBP. I doubt anybody pays attention to Silver Sluggers anyway, and nor should they, so I guess I shouldn't get too worked up, but sheesh.

Also, did you know that Crede has a cousin who closed for a short period of time in the late-60's? Add that to your collection of useless info to bore people at parties with.

Morgan Ensberg: I love the huge 2005 and I love the 101 walks in 2006, but at this point he's pretty much a train wreck. He'll still draw a walk, but his power seems to be completely gone and a lot of that may have been aided by Houston's short left field porch. As a cheap one-year flyer, he's a better option than Crede, but that's not saying much.

Dallas McPherson: He's completely dropped off of the face of the rumor planet, which is interesting because he'd seem to garner a lot of interest from young, rebuilding teams. Or teams that should be rebuilding, like, say, the Giants. McPherson put up monster numbers in the minor leagues, but his performance in the majors has left a lot to be desired, and now he's an injury-riddled former phenom trying to find his way again. As a spring training invitee battling for a job, he'd be a wonderful guy to give a shot to, because the power potential that made the Angels go gaga once upon a time is likely still there.

Sadly, his agent is Scott Boras, which probably means he's looking for a major league deal, perhaps even for more than one year. Guaranteed money for a guy who is coming off back surgery and who couldn't break a .300 OBP in three major league tryouts? No thanks.

Justin Leone: I've been curious to see what this guy could do if given a real chance in the majors, but it looks like he's destined to go the way of Roberto Petagine. He hit .269/.383/.498 at AAA Fresno last year and the Giants threw him a spring training invite for 2008. He'll be 30 and his ZiPS projections (.233/.319/.375) are totally uninspiring, but he's never been given a good chance and he'd cost virtually nothing to take up a roster spot. His career batting line in the minors is .260/.363/.480, so it seems like he's got something to offer. If the Giants aren't going to give Frandsen a shot, then Leone is my guy.

--It's probably a sad attempt at patting myself on the back, but at least give me some credit for correctly predicting where Feliz would go, sort of.

--One more thing. Bold prediction for 2008: Feliz leads the majors in GIDPs. It would seem to make sense with Pedro's lack of patience and all of the runners he'll have on base for him. You heard it here first.

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