Monday, March 31, 2008


Last Minute Tweaks and Some Predictions

Last night I watched meaningful baseball for the first time in like five months and it was a big breath of fresh air after a sordid winter. It's been too long. The new Nationals park looks nice, but it's hard to differentiate it from all of the other new, retro-looking parks that have opened since 2000. The Braves-Nats contest turned into a thriller, though watching Nick Johnson slide feet first trying to leg out a double, after missing all of last year to a broken leg, had me covering my eyes. He's one of the key players on my fantasy team and I won't be able to watch Nationals games without cringing every time the injury-prone NJ takes two steps.

In Giants news, the team set their 25-man roster, with a couple of surprises. Keiichi Yabu made the team as a swingman, and little-known minor league vet Steve Holm beat out Eliezer Alfonzo and Guillermo Rodriguez for the backup catcher job. Merkin "pubic wig" Valdez and Erick Threets also earned spots in the bullpen, with Steve Kline getting a long-deserved jettison.

Yabu was a non-roster invitee whose only major league experience came in 2005 with the A's, when he served as a mop-up man and performed at about league average. He's around to serve in the same role again, and to toss some innings in case the young guys falter. Plus, he's 39, so he'll surely fit right in with this Giants team. There might be the potential for something more, and you know how much I love those CHUBs.

Holm impressed the Giants with his defense behind the plate and that enabled him to steal the backup job in the wake of Alfonzo's horrendous spring training performance. Holm's minor league hitting numbers don't look too impressive (.719 career OPS), but at the very least it seems as though he can take a walk and knock one out of the park once in a while, so he shouldn't be a complete loss at the plate. Any time an organizational soldier like Holm gets a shot in the Show it's fun, so he should be an easy player to root for. Plus, he's a Sactown boy, so I have to give him extra props for that.

Valdez (otherwise known as "Not Damian Moss") has had a tumultuous, injury-laden career, but he still throws hard as hell and the Giants had to stick him on the 25-man roster because he'd have been snapped up off of waivers in a nanosecond by some other team. If he ever learns where home plate is, he could be special, though it'll be interesting to see what his fate is once Vinnie Chulk comes off the DL this month.

Dumping Kline was the right thing to do because 1) he sucks and 2) it enabled the Giants to keep Threets as a left-handed reliever. Threets throws hard and is a bit of a project, but if he straightens out his control, he could be a good LOOGY. Kline's performance had deteriorated substantially in the past few years and his main contribution last season was providing me with a belly-laugh after he got dissed by Yorvit Torrealba in the press. Since he can't even get lefties out anymore, his role has gone from "LOOGY" to "worthless".

--We're almost at first pitch. Here's what the Giants' Opening Day lineup is going to be:

LF Roberts
1B Aurilia
RF Winn
C Molina
2B Durham
CF Rowand
3B Castillo
SS Bocock
P Zito

I'd make with the snide comments, but we've been down that road one too many times. Let's just root for a little upset city down in L.A., and for Bocock! to go Mike Benjamin '95 on the Dodgers over this three-game set. I won't jinx the Giants by predicting a score, but I will say that Rich Aurilia will hit the team's only home run today. No reason for it really, just the goatee love.

Here are some quick predictions for the Giants' 2008 team leaders, so when the season ends we can all come back to this post and bask in the glow of my genius. Or something like that.

BA: Randy Winn, .295
R: Winn, 80
2B: Winn, 36
3B: Dave Roberts, 9
HR: Aaron Rowand, 17
RBI: Rowand, 71
SB: Roberts, 43
BB: Ray Durham, 61
OPS: Durham, .825

Yeah, I obviously don't expect much offense from this group, and even those projections could be considered optimistic. Durham's team-leading OPS is more wishful thinking than intelligent prognostication, and if Eugenio Velez ever hits his way into the starting lineup he'll easily lead the team in steals.

W: Tim Lincecum, 12
K: Lincecum, 205
IP: Matt Cain, 223
ERA: Lincecum, 3.12
SV: Brian Wilson, 23

Lincecum's projection is probably a tad unrealistic, but I do think he'll be the best pitcher on the staff, with Cain coming into his own as the team's resident workhorse. There won't be a lot of wins for Wilson to save, but any Giants victory will probably be low-scoring, so if he can handle the closer's role, a 30-save season isn't out of the question.

I'm going to get my projected standings for all of baseball up in the next few days, so until then, Go Giants!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008



The news that Kevin Frandsen may miss the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon just plain sucks. In 2008, when the Giants come to bat, it's likely to be one of the most interminable things to watch since Inland Empire, but at least we could look forward to seeing if Frandsen's .300-hitting stick in the minors could survive in the Show. Now I don't even have that, and with the Giants also refusing to give guys like Dan Ortmeier and Fred Lewis everyday jobs in lieu of the usual overpaid fogies, it's going to give me all the more reason to just pop in GTA IV* this April instead of watching on the days Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain don't pitch.

It's just another sad speed bump in Frandsen's short career. After 2006, when it seemed as though Ray Durham's impending free agency might open up a starting job for him, the Giants went ahead and re-signed Durham to a two-year contract, a move that proved to be a disaster on several fronts (though I defended it at the time, so no bitching from these quarters). Frandsen spent most of April in the minors, but proved he didn't belong there by smoking the ball, as he always has.

Upon his return to the majors, Frandsen settled into a utility role, then took most of Durham's at bats after the latter's Lemaster impersonations finally wore on the Giants. Frandsen had a scorching September and seemed to have an inside track on a starting job in 2008, whether at the newly vacated third base or at second in case of a Durham trade. Unfortunately, the Giants found no takers for Durham and just inexplicably never seemed to really consider Frandsen an option at third. He was given an aborted audition at shortstop, but he wasn't going to be spending much time there anyway with Vizquel returning soon.

For whatever reason, the Giants just don't seem to want to give Frandsen a chance. He essentially got screwed over in the battle for third base. You know your organization doesn't take you seriously when they'd consider offering a good pitching prospect for one year of Joe fucking Crede over letting you play.

Now this happens. Make no mistake, this is a terrible injury, and drives another stake into whatever "youth movement" the Giants think they have going. Here's hoping for the speediest of recoveries for Frandsen, and hopefully we'll get to see him on the diamond in '08.

*That is, if there isn't another mission as maddeningly difficult as that gawdawful "Supply Lines" level in GTA San Andreas. All of my friends have heard me bitch on and on about this at one point, so now you readers get the honor.

I have never, ever gotten angrier at a freaking video game than I did when I was trying to beat this level. Whoever thought that flying a crappy little RC plane (which is impossible to control) around a city and trying to kill a bunch of nerds in vans, on a limited gas tank, would be fun should have his nose broken. It's frigging impossible, and I was on the verge of throwing my controller into the TV screen trying to beat it. And I'm a mellow guy! I distinctly remember yelling, "This isn't fucking fun!" in my room at four in the morning as my plane crashed into the street for the gazillionth time.

The worst part? The worst part? The level is optional. But did I know that? Of course not. So when I finally beat it and then found out it wasn't even mandatory to move on in the game, I wanted to scream. Needless to say, if there's another one of these ridiculous side levels in the new GTA, my sanity will not be the better for it. OK, end rant.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Giants Solve Third Base Problem (/sarcasm off)

This weekend the Giants grabbed Pirates and Marlins cast-off Jose Castillo off of waivers. Castillo once hit a game-tying home run off of Armando Benitez (but hey, who hasn't?) that led to a loss that essentially derailed the Giants' 2006 season. Unfortunately, that's one of the very few bright spots in his career, as he has hit only two more dingers since and has offered very little in other areas that would keep a player in the major leagues, such as patience, speed, and defense. His career .256/.297/.380 batting line is atrocious, but if you're into silver linings, that'll fit right in with the Giants' lineup this year.

So this is hardly the most exciting pick up in the world, but if it prevents the Giants from trading a pitching prospect for Joe Crede or Brandon Inge, then it has its merits. Better to throw Castillo out there and hold your nose as he stinks up the joint for pennies than trade another Francisco Liriano for a veteran who won't make much of a difference in the standings, anyway.

Sadly, with Frandsen now likely done for the season, there's still the danger of the Giants just having Castillo settle in as a utility infielder and then still going out and trading for one of those crap third sackers. Since Rich Aurilia is likely penciled in as the regular first baseman, and given Brian Sabean's penchant for veteran acquisitions that make no sense, I don't think we Giants fans should believe for a second that we're out of the woods on this ridiculous scenario.

I guess I shouldn't sign off without at least being fair to Castillo. In his defense, he was rushed to the majors and the Pirates, the team that drafted him, are perhaps the worst organization in the world when it comes to developing young players. Last year he was also jerked around from position to position and never got consistent playing time, although the whole argument for positional switches being a hindrance to plate production has never seemed to hold much water (see Pedro Feliz, 2005).

Also, perhaps in dissing on Castillo's paltry major league production, I'm not staying true to my own bizarre free-talent obsession. As you know, I'm all about filling in roster holes with low-cost, reasonably high-upside players. At $850,000, Castillo is about as low-cost as you can get. As for the upside, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for Castillo to become a good player, but if he does, it'll look like a brilliant little signing. Castillo once upon a time was showing up on Top Prospect lists, so maybe he's just a late bloomer. Maybe he's got some Jose Guillen in him. Er, the home run-hitting part, not the 'roided-up clubhouse cancer.

--Lest we forget, at the news of the Castillo signing, somewhere Justin Leone looks around and wonders what in the hell he and his .363 career minor league OBP did to piss off Sabean and co.




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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Insert Off-Color Male Anatomy Joke Here

I guess the Giants' Opening Day shortstop is going to be this kid named Brian Bocock. Yeah, you read that right. No, I've never heard of him, either, but at least his name is hilarious. Apparently he's wowed Bruce Bochy with his exceptional defense at shortstop, as well as his hustle and grit and all that other stuff that bad baseball analysts fawn over.

Naturally, we Giants fans would like to check out what Bocock's hitting ability consists of to see if maybe we've got a sleeper on our hands. Sadly, upon further investigation it seems as though said hitting ability would best be described as "nonexistent". Bocock's minor league line is .241/.311/.334. He's struck out 152 times in 611 at-bats, while drawing 63 walks. Now consider that none of this has taken place above A-ball. I think it's safe to say he's not a star in the making.

His defense had better be pretty damned amazing if he can even sniff the major leagues with those kinds of numbers. Can you just imagine one of those Quadruple-A players who have mashed in the minors all their career seeing this? Calvin Pickering must be having a coronary.

So in a Giants lineup filled with mediocre hitters, here comes a guy who'd have trouble hitting a wiffle ball with a tree trunk. Your 2008 San Francisco Giants! At least watching Bocock will be interesting, and it'll have immature bloggers like me licking their chops at the opportunity to pepper their posts with increasingly obscene puns.

--Actually, I think I have something that can provide an accurate depiction of Bocock's pending major league experience. Go here, and imagine that Pyro is Bocock, and the rest of the X-Men represent National League pitchers. At least let him finish his entry line, you bastards!



Burning With the Fires of Ort

Let's flash back to the beginning of the 1959 season. The Giants were in a bit of a predicament. Just the season prior, a 20-year-old first baseman named Orlando Cepeda had come into the league and hit .312/.342 /.512. Obviously, stardom was in the cards for this kid, and the Giants looked to have their first base situation locked up for a decade or so.

Except for one problem. They also had this kid named Willie McCovey, who was the same age as Cepeda, who also played first base, and who just might have been an even better hitter. McCovey had nothing to prove in the minors, so the Giants were faced with the not-so-simple task of getting both of these guys in the lineup on an everyday basis. McCovey would actually only get into 52 games that season, and in the games that he played, Cepeda moved to left field in a bit of inspired lineup juggling (although he wasn't any good out there). In his limited playing time in 1959, McCovey absolutely murdered National League pitching, ending the season with a ridiculous .354/.429/.656 line. As you well know, both of these guys went on to have Hall of Fame careers.

But it doesn't end there. On top of all this, the Giants had another young first baseman who, while not quite the prospect that Willie Mac and the Baby Bull were, was still considered to have a bright future ahead. Bill White had hit 22 home runs in his rookie season in 1956, but he missed almost all of the next two seasons due to military service and by the time he returned, he was one of three first baseman fighting for one position. As talented as he was (he went on to have a fine career with the Cardinals), he couldn't hold a candle to Cepeda and McCovey and he was traded away in the spring of '59 for Sad Sam Jones.

What's the point of this little history lesson? Well, I think any Giants fan would kill for the team to have this problem right now. The Giants' inability to find adequate production at first base has gone on so long now that it is bordering on the absurd. Around the league, guys like Carlos Pena and Chris Shelton keep getting swept up by other teams for cheap while the Giants putz around with the Mark Sweeneys and Lance Neikros of the world. It really does make one yearn for the Cepeda/McCovey/White conundrum days of yore.

Right now, the Giants don't really seem to be out there looking for somebody good, they just appear to be engaged in a quest to find the least reprehensible in-house option. The latest news on that front has Rich Aurilia, he of the . 252/.304/.368 line in 2007, winning the starting first base job by default because Dan Ortmeier is having a miserable spring. I'll just express my disgust by quoting John Shea from the article in the above link: "...The organization's thinking is beginning to change, and the stated preference is a youth movement, though it's not exactly playing out before our eyes."

Ya think? Instead of Fred Lewis, we get to watch Dave Roberts. Instead of Kevin Frandsen, it's Ray Durham. Now, based on a ridiculously small sample size of bad Ortmeier at-bats, Aurilia gets another chance to show us that he's washed up. Yay!

Look, I love Richie, I really do. He's probably my favorite Giant of all time. I even grew a (terrible-looking) goatee when I was a senior in high school just to honor him. He'll go down in the annals of beloved Giants players, and rightfully so.

The problem is, this isn't 2001. Based on his age and the fact that he's had one good season since 2003, we can safely assume that he's going to be just miserable as an everyday player, especially at first base. He just can't hit anymore, and it pains me to say it. His defense is solid, yes, but he's better used in a utility role if you have to use him at all, not as a starter at the easiest position to put offense at.

It's also reasonable to assume that Ortmeier won't be great because he was never too far above average in the minor leagues, and average in the minors usually translates into stinky in the majors. However, 45 spring at-bats just is not enough to gauge whether he belongs or not. In 157 at-bats last season, which is a considerably larger sample, his walk rate was miserable but he also slugged .497. Hey, it's a start, and doesn't he get bonus points for hitting a game-ending bomb off of Dodger behemoth Jonathan Broxton?

I'm a senior member of the Board of Dan Ortmeier Skeptics, but that's sort of beside the point. The point is, if the Giants are really committed to rebuilding, it means giving young guys like the Ort a real, no foolin' shot at sticking. That doesn't entail having Giants management watch him suck for 45 at-bats and then throw up their hands and say, "Welp, we tried! Let's go back to old, reliable Richie!" It means giving him until at least June to prove he isn't better than Aurilia. If he can't hang, then yeah, send him off and try something else. Until this happens with Ortmeier and some of the other young guys, this so-called youth movement will be more like a farce than an actual strategy.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


No Lineup For Young Men

Well, it seems as though Kevin Frandsen is not guaranteed to be the club's starting shortstop in Omar Vizquel's absence. Apparently, Bruce Bochy has been so horrified by Frandsen's defense that he's looking for other options, something not too surprising for those of us who remember watching Frandsen fumble around at the position last season.

The Giants' infield situation is now a complete mess with Vizquel out, and the team is reduced to the unenviable position of gagging through a Frandsen/Eugenio Velez/Rich Aurilia dogfight at third base and shortstop. Here's a (very, very) tentative projected Opening Day lineup, updated to fit the void left by Vizquel. People with heart conditions may want to leave the room now.

LF: Roberts
RF: Winn
CF: Rowand
C: Molina
2B: Durham
SS: Aurilia
1B Ortmeier
3B: Frandsen

I'm not sure what's more disgusting: the fact that any team would be content to trot this out on Opening Day, or the fact that this actually represents an upgrade over the Giants' ideal lineup with Vizquel gone. Obviously, it's a huge defensive dropoff with Vizquel out, but in any case, if we're using movie analogies, this lineup is pure Manos: Hands of Fate territory.

If Frandsen doesn't win the third base job, or moves to second in the event that the Giants can unload Durham, it'd likely mean that either a Joe Crede trade becomes a sure thing, or Velez gets a shot. Since it's probably a bad idea to give up a good pitcher for the honor of watching Crede star in Feliz II: Electric Boogaloo, it seems best to see what Velez has to offer.

Velez opened some eyes after putting up a .318/.373/.560 line at single A in 2006, with 64 stolen bases in 80 attempts. Unfortunately, he was way older than most of the competition and was playing in the hitter-happy Sally League. He's another of these slap-happy guys who can't work a walk to save his life, and I'm sure he'd just be a nightmare at the major league level. Then again, he's young enough to possibly make good on those minor league numbers, so why the hell not at least give him a chance to exceed my Neifi-level expectations?

Of course, there's a better option sitting in front of everybody's face, and yet no one (well, almost no one) gives him a mention. Justin Leone is now batting .571 in the Spring and is practically begging for someone to notice him. I've said it before and I'll say it again: give the guy a @#&$! chance! His career OPS in the minors is .846, so he clearly has something in his bat. He's likely a better option than the unholy Frandsen/Aurila/Velez troika and if he does end up stinking he can be discarded because he isn't getting paid much. It makes no sense, I tells ya.

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Friday, March 07, 2008


Friday Quickie (or Impending Trade Debacle Hastened by Inevitable Veteran Injury)

Omar Vizquel's injury may turn into a disaster of larger proportions than first thought, because it may quicken the seemingly impending (and ill-conceived) trade for White Sox third baseman Joe Crede. Why would a shortstop going down affect the third base slot?

Simple. With Vizquel out for at least the first few weeks, Kevin Frandsen is now the favorite to get much of the playing time at shortstop. Frandsen was seemingly the top third base option going into the season, so now that he is filling in at another position, it creates a gaping hole at that spot. Thus, it would behoove the Giants to snap up a major league-ready third baseman, post-haste.

Just not Joe Crede. As I mentioned a while back, Crede is just not any kind of answer at third base. Imagine a crappier facsimile of Pedro Feliz, if that can be believed. Unfortunately, the Giants have been rumored to be on the cusp of acquiring him all winter, apparently spurred on by Aaron Rowand's non-stop praise of Crede's intangibles (the Giants still have "character" and "grit" listed higher than "performance", I guess).

Crede may surprise us and turn in a good year that nets the team a draft pick, but more likely he repeats his usual combination of injured and sucky, and we have the same unwatchable mess at third base that we've come to know so well. Knowing Brian Sabean, he'll probably find a way to give up something of value for a player Sox GM Kenny Williams is desperate to get rid of.

-Into the blog arena steps The Bay Area Sports Machine, written by a Mr. Lomez (no Bob Sacamano as a co-author, though). It discusses all Bay Area sports, all the time, with more focus lately on the Giants, obviously, as Spring Training has arrived. Check it out, and take a gander at my personal favorite post for starters.

-Now for the really nerdy stuff. If any of you readers also happen to be fans of the movie Blade Runner, mosey on over to this weird website that I update once in a blue moon. In celebration of me finally being able to watch the BR: Final Cut Five-Disc Special Edition that I got for Christmas, I've been posting some stuff about the movie and some of the neat add-ons contained in the new DVD set. If you think this site charts new waters of dorky obsessiveness, you ain't seen nothing yet.

--This looks awesome...

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Thursday, March 06, 2008


Spring Disasters

The first KNBR Giants broadcast of spring training has always brought with it good feelings and memories, none better than three years ago, when I was hobbled with a severe ankle sprain and could do nothing but sit in my room and listen to Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper. The dulcet sounds of The Great Ones made the pain go away.

On Saturday, I flipped on the radio expecting a similar sense of euphoria. I thought, as with every March, the sounds of baseball would be music to my ears after a depressing winter of steroid allegations and miserable superstar trade returns. No such luck. The sounds of birds chirping, fans chattering, vendors hocking, and bats connecting- indeed, lots of bats connecting- were all there. Unfortunately, there would be no fond memories to be had from this sunny Spring Training day.

I turned the game on in the third inning, and upon hearing the score, the first thing I could think of was my dear old friend...

Zito was a disaster in his Spring debut, as the A's got up 13-0 after three innings and walloped the Giants to the tune of 23-5. Not exactly the kind of start we Giants fans wanted out of the gate for Zito, a guy for whom we're still holding out a sliver of hope that he can sort of, kind of justify that contract after a poor 2007. Luckily, Zito was much better in his second outing against the Royals on Wednesday, so perhaps it was jitters, or maybe he's still secretly on the A's payroll (he did get beat down by them twice last season).

Then there's Noah Lowry. Yeah, we were all concerned about his declining peripheral numbers, but where the hell did this come from? In his start against the Rangers on Monday, Lowry walked nine batters in an inning-plus, but that's only the beginning of the story. Many of his offerings had the fans behind home plate thanking their lucky stars for the protective screens in front of them. Lowry's performance more resembled an RPG attack than a pitcher trying to get outs, as he threw several pitches over the catcher's head, endangering fans, birds, UFOs and many other low-flying creatures. It would have been easier to believe that Lowry were out there doing some sort of comedy routine, because this manner of wildness is almost unheard of.

It was later revealed that Lowry had a case of exertional compartmental syndrome in his forearm (yeah, I'm as confused as you are. Try this), as opposed to some mental breakdown. Lowry also bristled when reporters compared his mound antics to Rick Ankiel's famous 2000 playoff meltdown. He's expected to miss at least a month, and hopefully this injury is the cause of the wildness, so that Lowry can go back to being an effective pitcher upon his return.

The problem is that Lowry is still no sure thing to still be anything close to good even if he can fully recover. As we all know, his 14-8 record and 3.92 ERA were both the product of unbelievable luck, luck that in a just world would have gone to Matt Cain. Lowry's K:BB ratio was an awful 87:87 in 156 innings, and his ability to keep the ball in the yard was probably all that kept his ERA from ballooning up to 5.00.

Lowry has now gone from a cost-controlled young pitching asset to a major question mark in less than six months, and he isn't even a guarantee to make the rotation anymore if Kevin Correia or Jonathan Sanchez can establish themselves. All of the trade value we Giants fans were hyping up for Lowry is now gone, as he's now an injury-riddled potential head case who can't even be described as an innings-eater (he hasn't broken 160 innings since his terrific 2005 season, and he probably won't touch it this year). It looks like Dave Righetti may have his work cut out for him putting this once-promising lefty back together again.

The battle for Lowry's spot in the rotation is now on. Correia likely seems entrenched now after his strong showing in eight 2007 starts. If it were up to me, I'd give Sanchez a month in the rotation and give him a chance to fail. He has the stuff to excel and he has nothing to prove in the minors anymore. He's been jerked around by the Giants for too long, and it's time to just leave him alone and see what he's got. If the Giants decide to ignore him for more veteran mediocrity goodness like, say, Victor Santos, I think I'm going to throw up all over my keyboard.

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