Monday, April 21, 2008


One for the Blunder Books

I was reading this writeup about our good friend Bocock! and the lack of shortstop alternatives on McCovey Chronicles today when I thought of a horrifying scenario. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Omar Vizquel comes back in the middle of May. He hits .300 the rest of the way, and the Giants have this miraculous season, at least when you take into account our expectations for them. They win 90 games, guys like Fred Lewis and John Bowker continue to produce, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain come through with awesome seasons, and the bullpen, anchored by Brian Wilson, stabilizes and turns into one of the best units in the game. All of this happens, we all dance in the streets, Brian Sabean is re-christened with the name Genius...and yet the Giants still fall two games short of a playoff berth. It's a successful season, no doubt, buuuuut...

Now, in this same scenario, realize that in the six weeks prior to Vizquel's return, Bocock! has been given just about all of the at-bats, and he's continued to hit just as atrociously as he is right at this moment (I think it's safe to say that his hitting won't improve exponentially because...I mean, just watch the guy bat ferchrissakes).

If this were to really happen, then 30 years from now, when Rob Neyer publishes a new or extended version of his wonderful Big Book of Baseball Blunders, the decision to give Bocock! 150 at-bats or whatever would be right up at the top of the new list. If the Giants do somehow manage to squeak their way into a pennant race this season (hey, I'm still optimistic or naive enough at this point to believe it), then giving so much playing time to a sub-replacement level bat is going to kill them. Over the course of two months, playing a guy who hits worse than a pitcher will do that.

This isn't an indictment of Bocock! I love the guy. I'm rooting for him harder than any Giant on the field at this point. He's a great defensive player and he at least has some semblance of plate patience and speed. As I said last week, it's not his fault that he's been put into a situation where he has virtually no chance of succeeding. Plucking him from A-ball and throwing him to the wolves in the majors is like dropping a slack-jawed yokel in the middle of Times Square.

No, all the blame lies on the shoulders of Mr. Sabean, for not coming up with an adequate backup. Worse, he didn't have an adequate backup ready even after re-signing a shortstop who was 40 years old! A scan of the Giants' farm system reveals nothing even close to major league-ready at the shortstop position. This is bad enough, but Sabean didn't even bring in a player from outside the organization who could fill in at a utility role. I guess there was always Rich Aurilia to count on...but wait! That's right, he's our starting first baseman (yes, I just died a little inside as those words flashed across my computer screen). That's a rant for another day though.

No word at all when Vizquel is going to come back, so now we're watching the Bocock!/Manny Burriss tandem hit weak ground balls everywhere. All this because the Giants found a Marco Scutaro-type wanting, I suppose. Sabean will already have a lot to answer for even if the Giants live up (err...down?) to expectations and have a crappy year. Crazily enough, though, if the Giants do somehow stay in competition, he may still have a ton of criticism shoveled on him for the Bocock! debacle. The Pierzynski trade needs company in the Blunder books, I guess.

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Friday, April 18, 2008


Friday Royal Nonesuch

Giants. Cards. Are you revved up? Well, you should be. The Cardinals still sport the second-best record in the league, and the Giants were one bullpen implosion away from taking three of four from them last weekend. Cardinal fans are already talking shit on Rob Neyer and Keith Law ESPN chats due to the fast start, apparently unable (or unwilling, more likely) to comprehend that a rotation anchored by Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Piniero probably couldn't carry you to a pennant even in the Pacific Coast League. I realize belligerent Internet denizens make up a very small sample of the St. Louis fanbase, but I'm still going to use it as extra motivation to root the Giants on to a sweep.

--Jim Baker thinks the Giants will have a historically bad offense this season, even comparing them to (gasp!) the 2003 Dodgers. That's just uncalled for. If anything, the threat of joining such dubious company should convince the Giants to continue playing Fred Lewis, Eugenio Velez, and John Bowker, and to...please, God...get Rich Aurilia out of the everyday lineup.

What I want to know, though, is what is Jim Baker, a respected former BP analyst...a smart guy...doing writing for Page 2? I thought that was just where the Skip Baylisses and Ralph Wileys of the world lurked. I guess if Baker starts peppering his articles with references to Teen Wolf Too, then he'll be past the point of no return.

--Luckily, I think I may have solved the Dave Bush Conundrum. Turns out he probably just plain sucks. After years of trying to figure out why his terrific peripheral numbers didn't translate into a low ERA, it seems as though all the time and energy I spent fretting over this (I even e-mailed a Brewers blogger to ask him if he knew what was going on) was all moot. Whereas before Bush never walked guys but struck out his fair share (166 to 38 K:BB ratio in 210 innings in 2006...drool), in 17 innings this year he's already walked ten batters. Small sample size, blah, blah, but that's still scary. Luckily, Bush is no longer anywhere to be seen on my fantasy team, so I guess I should stop caring.

--OK, not that anyone really cares, but I just got too busy to finish my division predictions, so here's a condensed list, with some off-color comments thrown in for good measure. Now, these predictions were written down like three weeks ago, and I haven't changed them to reflect how the season has gone so far. Honest.

NL Central

1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Houston Astros
5. St. Louis Cardinals
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Brewers are the sexy pick to win the NL Central this year, so I guess that means I've been seduced. They haven't made the playoffs since the year this piece of genius came out, so they're due. This division is just awful, though. The Dusty-fication of the Reds is going to be a grisly process, and they only rank this high because they're the best of a bad lot after the Brew Crew and the Cubs. Too bad this guy isn't a Reds fan. And no, I obviously don't think the Cardinals are for real.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins

If we're going by who I want to win this division, I'd pick the Royals. Too bad their offense is horrendous. I'd probably change my ranking of the Tigers nowadays due to how poorly they've played out of the gate, but they've got too much talent not to rebound and they should be okay.

On a related note, if you want a beautiful example of the difference between a great GM and one who is a miserable failure, read this.

NL East

1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins

I'm calling it now. The Phillies will sink into the depths of the division this year due solely to Pedro Feliz's abysmal bat, and Phillie phans will be calling for his head by August. If you think it's crazy talk to say that one bad player can destroy a team's playoff hopes, well, you don't know Pedro.

The Mets and Braves, I think, should battle it out right until the end. I thought the Johan Santana trade tipped the scales clearly in New York's favor at first, but they have some serious rotation problems and their outfield is a bit of a mess. The Nationals are going to suck, but at least they give us the joy of watching Manny Acta try to reign in not one, but two, out-of control malcontent outfielders. The Marlins, meanwhile, trot out a defensive unit that has about as much range as your local beer league softball team.

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles

I was watching the Sox-Yanks game last weekend when the unthinkable happened. I found myself rooting for the Yankees. That's right, it must be the end of the world. Cats and dogs living together, and so forth. It's gotten so bad that the formerly underdog (at least in this matchup) and somewhat charming Sox have now usurped the never-likable Yankees for title of Evil Empire. A blowhard, right wing starting pitcher and a drunken, obnoxious fanbase will do that, I guess.

The Blue Jays are probably better than the Rays, but I'm going to violate my own convoluted code here and pick Tampa Bay higher simply because I want to root for them. If even two-thirds of their hitting and pitching prospects pan out, they could be frightening, although some of that depends on how much cash their new ownership is willing to shell out to keep everybody around. The Orioles won't be good again until Peter Angelos sells the team, which ain't happening any time soon. Sorry, O's fans.

For what it's worth, the Yanks will win the AL Wild Card, and the Braves will take it in the NL. For World Series picks I'll go with the Red Sox versus the Brewers. Yeah, I'm all about the Brew Crew this year. If they fail to live up to my expectations, just picture me screaming "Brauuuuuuun" a la Captain Kirk, as the camera circles over my head.

--TGIF vid. Haven't done one of these for a while. Work and beer-swilling will do that. Here's a creepy-ass Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration. The music is great, but if you figure out the point of what is going on in the video, give me a call.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


This Things I Believe

This post is just going to be a series of observations and some rantings about the Giants' season so far, but I'm going to start off with a plea to Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and co. Please, please, continue to play the young guys. This weekend, with a Giants lineup filled with Fred Lewis, John Bowker, Eugenio Velez and, yes, even Bocock!, I got to listen to actual exciting Giants baseball on the radio for the first time since, like, 2004. Do you know how good that felt? All because I didn't have to listen to another inning of washed up veterans going down meekly against a fringe Cardinal pitcher.

If the Giants give these guys regular playing time, the team may not be good, but they'll be like ten times more interesting, and that's really all I ask for. I don't need another 200 Rich Aurilia at-bats to realize he's got a fork sticking out of his back. What I do need is an answer to whether or not Bowker is more Will Clark than J.R. Phillips. I want to know if Velez can handle major league pitching consistently and make use of his blinding speed. It's fun to find out, and I'm not sure Giants ownership understands that.

So please, oh wise (ahem) makers of the lineup card, continue to pencil in these unproven players every day, for the sake of us fans who are tired of watching the usual sad Ray Durham trek back to the dugout.

--This is going to sound awful, but the Dave Roberts injury is probably the best thing that could have happened to the Giants. Fred Lewis is now finally getting a shot to play every day and if he keeps hitting (like he always has throughout the minors and briefly in the majors), there will be no excuse to bench him when Roberts comes back. Lewis is a patient hitter with doubles pop, some speed, and in a good year he'll probably smack 15 homers. He's no franchise-turner, but he is a lot of fun, and I'll be savoring his playing time while it's here.

On the radio this weekend, Dave Flemming was saying something about how Giants management is just now realizing that, hey, Lewis just might be a decent option at the leadoff spot after all. Gee, ya think? If Bochy, et al are now just figuring this out, that's indefensible. Lewis should have been made a starter and leadoff man last year, and the team shouldn't have signed Roberts at all.

Speaking of which, Lewis's hitting is making the Roberts contract look more ridiculous by the day. You've heard me say it before, but I hated the signing then, and I hate it even more now, because the Giants are now stuck with way too many outfielders than they know what to do with. When Roberts does come back, he'll likely just take over for Lewis in left field, because it doesn't look good to have a player making $6 million sitting on the bench. Just ask the Dodgers.

Nothing against Roberts. Really, I hope he recovers fully and, who knows, if he does come back and play regularly, and play well, maybe he can build up some trade value. It's just a damn shame that his shitty contract is going to give him all the burn at the expense of a guy who deserves it way more.

--Jose Castillo isn't good, but if he can continue this freaky doubles thing and get his OBP over .300, at least we'll be able to give Sabean some credit for picking up a decent (and cheap) stopgap on the fly. Castillo is basically Pedro Feliz without the power, defense, or, most importantly, the $5 million being burned to a crisp. After the team was on the brink of a Joe Crede-for-something-living disaster, I'll take it.

--It's hip these days to rip on Barry Zito after his 0-4 start and the sad sight of his velocity sinking into Little League World Series territory. I like to see the lighter side of it, though. With Zito's ability to stay healthy, and the Giants' inability to score many runs and, well, win games, what are the chances that Zito loses 20 this year? Not that it's really anything to root for, but how many 20-game losers do you see these days? Like, none. Mike Maroth did it in 2003, but before him it hadn't happened in 23 years. This is Zito's chance to be unique.

If he does lose 20, he may unwittingly be doing a public service. He can be the perfect cautionary tale for those still-backwards GMs on the dangers of handing pitchers big money contracts. I can hear the Ned Collettis and Wayne Krivskys now: "Hey, look at Zito! He was given $126 million, and he lost 20 games in the second year of the deal! We had better not be doing anything like that!" It's doubly precautionary because Zito is a Boras client, and Boras always seems to con absurd contracts for his players (well, most of them). So the Giants could be doing the baseball world a favor. See, the Zito situation isn't all bad.

--I loved the whole Bocock! drawing walks thing in the first week of the season, but sadly the free passes have dried up since NL pitchers have realized that he can't hit the ball out of the infield. Omar Vizquel's rehab is going ever so slowly, so it looks like Bocock! will continue to flail away for a few more weeks.

I mean, I don't want to rip on the guy. Bocock! has been put into a situation where he is way over his head (kinda like me going on a date with Minka) and he is just overmatched, striking out a ton and going off too early when he gets to first base (yup, just like me on a date with Minka). As Lefty recounted today, if given a full season's worth of at-bats, he'd likely be the worst hitter to play regularly in history. But at least he'd be our historically awful hitter.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008


2008 AL West Predictions

With a little luck and a fire under my ass, I'll have all the divisions out before the end of the week. Here's my projected finish for MLB's short-stack division.

1. Los Angeles Angels

The funny thing about this year’s version of the Baseball Prospectus book is that in the section on the Angels, they just clearly were scratching for things to say. The Halos section is easily the shortest in the book, and their breakdown of the team basically boils down to: the Angels are good enough to make the playoffs, but need to make moves to take that next step to win the World Series.

Keep in mind, this is coming from a group of some of the same analysts who have repeatedly hammered in our brains that the playoffs themselves are a crapshoot and the only thing a front office can control is making the team good enough to get there. I guess it’s understandable that they didn’t have much else to say because the Angels are sort of a vanilla franchise, like the Spurs in basketball. They’re extremely well run, they’re good year after year, but they aren’t particularly exciting and in being good they come across as sort of blah. In a weak division, they should bore us right to another playoff berth.

2. Oakland Athletics

Damn Billy Beane for rendering my Nick Swisher A’s jersey obsolete. Damn him also for trading Dan Haren to one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, possibly screwing over my fantasy squad. Hey, Bill, my man, I loved you in Moneyball (especially the chair throwing part), but this jettisoning of my favorite red-ass and best fantasy pitcher, respectively, is a step towards breaking my A’s hatred cease-fire. I laid down arms on my childhood dislike of Oakland in 2001. You wouldn’t want me to rekindle my underground army would you?

Um, yeah. Back in reality, everybody is predicting the A’s will sink into a pre-Fremont hell this season, but I think they have enough walks-and-pop offense and pitching to at least make a run at .500. Guys like Travis Buck, Emil Brown, Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, and Mark Ellis aren’t stars, but collectively they can plate some runs and I think the A’s will shock everybody by winning 81 games. Which I guess still wouldn’t be too much of an accomplishment.

3. Seattle Mariners

Like the Diamondbacks, the Mariners grossly outperformed their Pythagorean Record to turn in a surprisingly competitive season. Unlike the Dbacks, the M’s are going to watch as Pythagoras opens a can of karma whoop-ass and they fall back to the pack behind an aging roster, some really awful regulars, and their usual trade deadline hand-wringing. Adding Erik Bedard helps, but they had to give up a future star to get him and Bedard is expensive and seems like a Tommy John surgery waiting to happen. I could be wrong, but good ol’ Pythagoras rarely lies, unless you’re Shaq.

4. Texas Rangers

Ah, another year, another comically fruitless search for starting pitching. Every offseason it seems the Rangers make it a priority to upgrade their starting pitching, but then every April there they are, throwing the Kason Gabbards and Vincente Padillas out to act as cannon fodder for drooling AL hitters looking to beef up the numbers on the backs of their baseball cards. At least they’ll be more exciting this season, with an offense that should be pretty good if Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley can stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Expect more 11-10 losses and added incentive for Mike Shropshire to write another book.



2008 NL West Predictions

I was going to toss up my old friend, the Bad Zito pic, up for this post, but Zito actually didn't pitch too terribly. He settled down after one bad inning and kept the Giants in the game, although that's relatively speaking considering their offense. Zito didn't look like the complete mess he was in the spring, but the barrage of 84-mph fastballs portends a loooooong Year 2 of 7.

As for the rest of Opening Day, let's just all agree that the Giants played like hraka and move on with our lives. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum go in the next two games, providing us with the morphine in what could be an otherwise unbearably painful season.

On with the hilariously inaccurate NL West projections!

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Dbacks gave all of us Pythagorean Record nazis the middle finger last year by rolling to the NL West title despite being outscored considerably by their opponents. They won’t be doing it again this year though, because they should be able to put up a positive run differential with all of the talent on hand and win the division without turning the sabermetric world on its head.

When you essentially swap Livan Hernandez for Dan Haren, brother, that’s an upgrade (and not just on the money saved from the post-game buffet…zing!). With the Webb-Haren one-two punch and a lineup full of still-developing young hitters (a couple of whom should break out this season…I’m looking at you Chris Young), they look to be the class of a very tough division for the second straight year.

2. San Diego Padres

I always consider the Padres an ally of sorts to Giants in the NL West, kind of like Great Britain to the Giants’ USA. The Dodgers are the Dodgers, the Dbacks still have that bitter rivalry aftertaste from the Schilling-Johnson years, and the Rockies permanently dropped out of the Giants’ good graces by going 0-15 against the Braves in 1993. The Padres, though, have always seemed kind of innocuous, and their GM, Kevin Towers, always seems to have something good to say about the Giant organization. They have a beautiful park, I had tons of fun rooting for them against the Red Sox at a game I attended in San Diego last year, and they’re one of the best-run organizations in the league. I guess if the Giants can’t win the West, here’s hoping the Padres do.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

It should be fun for all of us Giants fans watching Ned Colletti completely undermine all the good work Paul DePodesta did as the Dodger GM by squashing the young talent in favor of overpriced and awful veterans. While it sadly looks as though Juan Pierre will be rightly nailed to the bench to start the year, as long as he has his clueless defenders in the media, there’s still hope that he’ll get enough at-bats to crush the Dodgers' title hopes. And of course there’s always Nomar Garciaparra around to keep Andy Laroche from ever turning himself into something.

Truth be told, there’s far too much talent here and even Colletti can’t single-handedly run it all into the ground. The system is rich in pitching (Clayton Kershaw could be amazing) and they have an enviable collection of young, major league-ready position players. The Dodgers are probably the favorites to come out of the West if they just let the young guys play, but I have no confidence whatsoever that they’ll do so.

4. Colorado Rockies

On a strange little web site I created a few years ago (Geocities took down the page...grr) while watching my friend’s dog (yeah, long story), I went on a mini-rant while predicting the Rockies’ finish for the 2004 season. I stated that as long as they played in Colorado they’d never make the World Series. My thinking was that since they had to tailor their team to succeed in such an extreme hitting environment, that team would conversely not be able to compete in normal environments on the road. I was adamant, convinced of my own authority on the subject, and I used a lot of exclamation points.

Four years later, the Rockies are defending a pennant, and I look like an ass. In my defense, Coors Field is no longer the crazy hitters park that it used to be, and do you know why? They cut the grass! No joke. Maybe they hired one of those mystical lawnmower men from the Stephen King universe (er, not the virtual reality simpleton, though).

I’m not particularly impressed by the Rockies’ pitching compared to the rest of the division, but they have a wonderful defensive unit and a stud hitter in Matt Holliday, so who knows? The top four teams in the NL West are all so good that any of these picks could be flip-flopped, and any of these teams could make a serious claim as the best in the division. How’s that for writer ass-covering?

5. San Francisco Giants

You see what I’m doing here? Every time I’ve done predictions for the NL West on this blog, I’ve chosen the Giants to finish first, and each time they’ve finished down in the pack. So by using the Reverse Jinx Protocol, I’m going to ensure that the Giants do, in fact, win the division this season. After all, success in baseball doesn’t really come down to talent on the field. It really depends on the predictions of a tired blogger frantically churning out a season preview in his boxer shorts at 11:00 the night before the season starts.

Yes, the Giants will probably be horrible this year and hanging all hopes on the RJP is likely fruitless in the face of a front office that is woefully ill-suited to righting this nearly-sunken ship. I guess if we can’t have the delusions of competition that worked out so well in 1997, we still have…Bocock!

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