Monday, November 30, 2009


Bengie the Hunted

When we look back on Bengie Molina's time as a Giant I think it's clear that we can safely consider him a member of the exclusive club of Good Giants. Yes, the horrid OBPs in two of his three seasons here made him much less valuable than he appeared at first glance, and his RBI totals are likely to make him extremely overrated in the view of the casual fan. Having said that, a catcher averaging 18 homers a year is nothing to sneeze at, and it also helps that he had a reputation as a lovable rolly-polly guy, even when he wasn't. So, yes, flaws and all, I think we'll all remember him pretty fondly.

Which brings us to his looming free agency. The casual fan amongst us who remembers with a tear in his eye some of Bengie's big hits and his deathly slow gait around the bases will probably want to see him back with the team for at least another year. Me? I want him outta here. He served his purpose well, but now it's time to move on to better things, namely Buster Posey. The deadline for teams to offer impending free agents arbitration is tomorrow, and the Giants have a decision as to what to do about their erstwhile glacially slow-footed catcher.

Well, to be honest, it's really no decision at all. It should be a given that the Giants will offer Bengie arbitration, then watch him decline and hit the market in search of a multi-year deal. The Giants will gladly wish him adieu, scoop up the draft picks his departure will bring forth, and install Posey as the starting catcher for 2010. The nightmare scenario where Molina accepts arbitration is unlikely because 1) he feels, however deluded he may be, that some team out there will give him a multi-year deal and 2) he'd have to accept knowing full well that he'd be part of a time share, at best, if he came back to the Giants. Since he's already stated that he doesn't want a one-year deal, this is about the safest arbitration decision possible.

I guess there is a chance that Molina will have whacked-out flashbacks to the winter of 2005, when he hit the market coming off of a solid year, only to find that the demand for his services was completely dry. He openly contemplated playing a year in the independant leagues before finally landing a low-ball one-year deal in Spring Training with Toronto. Of course, the very next winter he found a team desperate enough for a catcher to throw a three-year deal at him. Thanks, Sabes.

The fear of that sort of disinterest recurring may be enough to drive Molina to accept a possible arb offer, but again, it's not likely. While the baseball industry as a whole has gotten exponentially smarter in valuing players, I'm sure there's still a front office out there dumb enough to believe that his RBI totals are indicative of his actual value. It's highly likely that whoever does sign Bengie is going to be appearing on snarky "Worst Offseason Moves" lists.

-Just because I like to post random clips on here for no purpose other than sheer awesomeness, here is Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary concert. When I saw it the first time, my jaw hit the floor. Two of my favorite guitarists, rocking out to a badass song.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Lincecum Enlists the Nerds For Second Cy Win

Tim Lincecum won his second Cy Young last Thursday, cementing his position as a Giants legend in just his third season as a major leaguer, while also making himself a nightmare arbitration case for team management. Lincecum stands to make record dollars in his first arbitration go-round, and most deservedly so. Meanwhile, Brian Sabean and company are cringing at how much money they're going to have to fork over now that Lincecum has a near flawless arb argument.

If you're the front office, and you can't come to terms with the Lincecum camp on an amount, how in the hell do you argue your case in front of an arbitrator? "Well, sir, he was the most unhittable pitcher in the NL the past two years and he's already established himself as one of the best pitchers in Giants history...but he didn't raise the dead or bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so we can't help but conclude that he's not worth the $15 million he's asking for." Perhaps it's better to avoid the ill-will these hearings can often bring about by just giving Lincecum a pen and a contract with a blank spot where the salary figure should go, and then just walking away. Since arbitration figures are seen as market-setters, the MLBPA is probably going to be salivating like a wild dog watching Lincecum's arbitration case.

So Lincecum won his second Cy, and we Giants fans are ecstatic. It's always fun when a guy from your team gains national acclaim. The real story here, though, was the vote itself, which instantly caused a violent uproar that resulted in one of the loudest and most venomous baseball debates* you'll ever see. This Cy Young ballot was seriously the most controversial of any award vote I've ever seen, and boy was it ever fun.

*(Well, by debate I mean: "bout of childish name-calling".)

To recap: Lincecum didn't even garner the majority of the first-place votes in winning the award. That was Adam Wainwright, who earned 12 first place votes to Lincecum's 11. Of course, those votes weren't even enough to get Wainwright second place, as he finished still behind teammate Chris Carpenter. The national consensus was that this was a three-dog race between the aforementioned pitchers. To vote for anyone else would just be stupid, the common wisdom went.

Well, two "stat nerds", Keith Law and Will Carroll did just that, voting for Javier Vasquez and Dan Haren, respectively, and leaving Carpenter completely off their ballots. This immediately triggered a backlash against the two writers, as "traditionalists" accused them of ruining baseball as we know it and using their ballots to make a statement instead of an informed vote. Cardinal fans absolutely blew a gasket, accusing the two of geeking up the proceedings and purposely slighting their boys. They demanded that the pair be stripped of their voting privileges post haste. From the comments in articles such as this, you'd think Law and Carroll were Leopold and Loeb, not baseball analysts making an honest opinion in their first BBWAA vote (some asshole even tried to hunt down Law's phone number and home address...scary).

The outrage behind the vote was asinine for two reasons. First, if you're going to rail against two hardcore stat dweebs, these guys aren't it. Carroll, of course, is best known for his work at Baseball Prospectus, but his area of expertise is in the injury realm; he is not a big number cruncher. Law himself, while he used FIP and WAR to justify his vote or Vasquez, is an actual, no-foolin' scout who sits in the stands with a notepad and a radar gun and looks for the guys who can sell jeans the best (I'm not sure if he chews tobacco and carries a spitoon around with him, but if he does my respect for him just shot up a thousandfold).

The second reason the vitriol over this is so silly is because even if the two writers had put Carpenter on their ballot, he still wouldn't have won. In fact, he still wouldn't have even been close. So saying that two saber-jerks cost Carpenter anything is just idiotic. Lincecum won the award fair and square, and he didn't get any extra help from a stat nerd conspiracy. So in conclusion: who gives a shit if two writers left Carpenter off their ballots? It didn't change anything, except to possibly make a large portion of the Cardinal fanbase out to be a bunch of butt-hurt crybabies.

I did stop to consider how I would feel if Lincecum had lost because some stupid voters had given Carpenter the award because of "grittiness" or "toughness in his eyes" or something else I didn't understand or agree with (or for a ridiculously convoluted reason like Ken Rosenthal did). I would feel pretty angry. Yes, there is a large amount of homerism that comes along with these awards, and that loyalty can often intrude upon logic and common sense. So I do try my best to feel some compassion for the Cardinal fans who are wasting away so many hours in a foamy rage, plotting ways to assault Keith Law. After all, they're only showing love for their team.

Then I read stupid shit like this, and any shred of compassion runs away screaming. What a bunch of dumbasses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Brian Wilson Serves Crow

Perhaps this past season's unsung hero was the bullpen. While most viewers raved about the starting pitching and defense, and rightly so, it was the dramatic improvement in the Giant bullpen that also factored into the charge to 87 wins. It was a bullpen shrewdly constructed from bits of surprisingly effective cast-offs like Brandon Medders and Justin Miller and low-risk free agent signings like Jeremy Affeldt. For all the crap that Brian Sabean took for the Edgar Renteria signing, you've got to give the man credit for piecing this bullpen together from basically nothing.

Of course, anchoring the group was Brian Wilson, who I had voiced skepticism over before the season. In 2008, Wilson saved 41 games, which looks sexy to the unenlightened folk, but he just wasn't a very good pitcher, and I predicted he'd lose his closer job to Sergio Romo by June. Let's face it, I just didn't like him. He had that ridiculous mohawk, the obligatory flame tattoo, and he'd stalk in from the bullpen to loud heavy metal, which only works when you're Trevor Hoffman or somebody good. I figured he wasn't long for the major league world. Silly me.

Wilson, of course, had a terrific year, lowering his ERA by almost two full runs, upping his strikeout rate, and pitching ten more innings than he did the year before, many of them in higher-leverage situations. Wilson had eight saves that required him to get more than three outs, and he was utilized more often in non-save, extra inning situations, in which he performed very well (1.85 ERA in 24 innings...stay away sample-size nazis!). In 2008, he had only pitched 14 non-save innings and was atrocious.

Bruce Bochy has been criticized from all sides for a plethora of reasons, and much of the criticism is merited, but at least give him credit for using Wilson, who by now has that glittery "Closer" tag patched onto his chest, in a more creative way than your typical three-out reliever. It stands to reason that you'd want your best reliever pitching as many innings as possible (though you could argue that Jeremy Affeldt was the Giants' best out of the pen), and Bochy utilized Wilson in a role that better maximized his value.

Of course, we will probably most remember Wilson's high-profile flameouts, like the gopher ball he surrendered to Jeff Baker (one of just four homers Baker would hit all year...groan) or his blowup in Arizona the day after he was supposedly tweeting about jock douchebags in a club at one in the morning. However, his improvement across the board as a pitcher was pretty impressive, and despite his drop in save totals he was simply a more valuable pitcher. So due to all the crap I talked about his seeming impending washout and his obnoxious mohawk, this is my sad little apologia.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Cy Lincecum Deux?

The National League Cy Young Award will be announced on Thursday, with our hemp-loving friend Tim Lincecum looking to defend the award he won last season. Lincecum's case this year rests in his 2.48 ERA and 176 ERA+, both good for second in the NL. He also led the league in strikeouts for the second straight year, fanning 261. For what it's worth, Lincecum's 2009 season was even better than his immaculate 2008 that brought him his first Cy. In '09, Lincecum slashed his walk rate (while maintaining exactly the same strikeout rate) and increased his ground ball rate, meaning few balls even had the chance to leave the yard.

We know how these award votes used to go, as the pitcher with the shiniest win total usually took home the hardware as more deserving pitchers with lower ERAs and whatnot hung their heads. However, it's starting to look like a lot of voters are seeing the light. Last season, Lincecum beat out Brandon Webb despite having four fewer wins. In the AL vote this season, Zach Greinke seems to be the clear favorite despite an underwhelming 16 victories, and most ESPN "experts" picked him in a mock vote (though Jon Miller voted for Justin Verlander. Come on, Jonny!).

This year, though, Lincecum has some stiff competition, and it's not just because voters are going to be googly-eyed over win totals. If he's going to lose out to someone, it'll be to one of St. Louis's two-headed monster of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, who both had excellent seasons of their own. So was Lincecum better than these guys? His relatively meager win total of 15 might still hurt him, but let's look a little deeper to see if he really does deserve to take home Cy number two.

Wainwright had 19 wins and threw a few more innings than Lincecum, but he had a higher ERA and wasn't even in Lincecum's world when it came to the strikeout ability. He just may walk away with the award because of the wins, but he shouldn't. Carpenter has Lincecum beat in both ERA and ERA+ (he led the league in both), and also had two more wins, so does that mean the deal is sealed in Carpenter's favor?

Not so fast, slick. Carpenter pitched about 30 fewer innings than Lincecum did. That might not seem like a lot, but it makes a big difference over the course of a season. Don't believe me? Check it out. Fangraphs calculates that Lincecum produced more than two whole wins better than Carpenter, and that's largely attributable to that difference in innings. Not only does Lincecum boast a big lead over Carpenter in WAR, he kicks the crap out of pretty much everybody else in the National League. That speaks volumes.

Also adding to Lincecum's argument are the strikeout totals. They aren't just pretty numbers designed to leave us cackling as the latest Dodger batter wails away feebly at another low changeup; they're very important. Essentially, if the batter isn't even able to put the ball in play, he's not going to be able to hurt you in any way, shape, or form.* He won't be reaching on any bloopers that your slow outfielder couldn't get to and he won't be legging out any infield bleeders.

Lincecum was the absolute best in the NL when it came to factors he can control, namely being simply freaking unhittable. If that isn't enough for him to ride off with his second Cy Young in his car (along with, um, other supplies), I don't really know what is.

*Yes, I am aware that he can reach on a dropped third strike, you literalist bastards, you, but my general point still stands.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


You Go, Randy

The Giants have politely told Randy Winn that his services won't be needed for 2010, making Winn a free agent and sending him to the scary waters of the unemployment line. Winn is surely going to get a pay cut from the $8 million he was getting yearly from the Giants, but it'd be nice to see him land on a playoff contender. Winn is the longest tenured player in MLB never to have made a playoff appearance, and it'd be a shame if he turns into the baseball equivalent of Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Winn is lumped in a lot with Brian Sabean's other bad contracts, but was his really an egg? Over the life of the deal, from 2006-2009, Winn put up two plus years with the bat and two stinkers, but he always played terrific defense, very important for a pitching staff that relied so much on fly ball outs (Don't believe me? Go here and check out those fly ball rates). Winn's defensive brilliance most likely explains why Bruce Bochy kept pencilling him in the lineup every day when most of us were clamoring for a good benching. Don't think the Giant front office didn't take Winn's glove into consideration when they were looking for an offensive upgrade at the trade deadline.

According to Fangraphs' "WAR Dollars" (sigh...just go here), Winn was worth roughly $44 million in the four seasons of the contract extension given to him after his insane second act of 2005. He got paid $25 mil. Even if you don't follow the fancy-schmancy dollar numbers religiously, I don't see how anyone can argue that Winn wasn't worth his salary. Even when he wasn't hitting, his fielding was so good that he was still a valuable player. Obviously letting him go here is the right move, but it's worth pointing out that Winn was a pretty damn good player for the Giants when all is said and done.

As far as a replacement goes, look for more of Nate Schierholtz or Andres Torres as opposed to a substantial offensive upgrade. I'm guessing Sabean and co. realize just how important a good outfield defense (in the Giants' case, perhaps the league's best) is to this pitching staff and are loathe to mess around too much. Schierholtz and Torres are both very good fielders, so we're probably headed for some sort of platoon for those guys, or maybe a low cost, good glove free agent signing. Anyone hoping to bring in Jermaine Dye or Adam Dunn is going to be very disappointed. (Speaking of Dye, read this and then tell me if you want him anywhere near right field.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Tim Lincecum as Jeff Spicoli

Tim Lincecum today was busted for being in possession of marijuana after being pulled over for speeding in his home state of Washington. Lincecum, a long-haired, laid-back guy from the Pacific Northwest, a pot smoker? I'm shocked...shocked, I tell you!

All I can say is, what a dumbass. Going 75 in a 60 zone down those desolate Washington highways, where bored cops are just aching to nab somebody, with a bag of weed in tow and a car reeking of freshly smoked wacky tobaccy, is just begging to get nailed. Now we Giants fans have to endure Tim Lincecum pothead chants, much like we did with Barry Bonds and steroids. Thanks a lot, Timmy.

This is pretty much a non-story, outside of pure facepalm value in realizing that Lincecum could have such bad judgement. Marijuana offenses don't merit suspensions in baseball, just fines, so Lincecum won't be missing any starts. So take heart, fellow fans. Our star pitcher may have been high as shit, driving fast as hell, and possibly endangering lives, but hey, he's not going to miss a turn.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Found a Job

Once upon a time, in the late-80's, I had Hensley Meulens's Upper Deck card. I had no idea if he was any good or not, but I thought his name was pretty cool, so I always remebered him. Later on, when it turned out that he really wasn't any good, I somehow came into possession of his minor league card, with him playing for the AAA affiliate of the Expos or something, a card that is now buried in a storage bin somewhere with no value whatsoever. Now Meulens is the Giants' new hitting instructor. I'm sure seven-year-old me would be blown away by this series of events.

Meulens takes over for the recently shit-canned Carney Lansford in the hopes that he can turn water into wine improve the Giants' hitters. Meulens is getting all the credit for supposedly being the mastermind behind John Bowker's star turn at Fresno this season, and is also being lauded for getting Eugenio Velez to be more patient (though I challenge you to look here and tell me where this reawakening took place). In taking over what was arguably the worst offense in baseball last season, Meulens has his work cut out for him, to say the least.

I'm always curious as to how much difference a hitting coach can really make. Obviously he can have guys tweak their stances or shorten their swing, but if you can't hit, then you can't hit. What is Meulens going to do, instruct Aaron Rowand to stop swinging at sliders in different time zones? Yeah, that worked so well for Carney.

One reason this move might work is that a lot of times the best managers and coaches were mediocre players in their day, simply because they essentially have a better idea of what they were doing wrong. Star players tend to make bad coaches because they were so naturally gifted and they just don't understand why the crappy utility infielder can't hit a breaking ball like they could. It's probably the reason Tommy Lasorda and Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan made such great managers and coaches, and why Ted Williams was a miserable manager and hitting coach.

Lansford was a good hitter in his day, so maybe he just couldn't relate. Meulens was pretty bad, so maybe it follows that he'll be the next Charlie Lau. First up on his list will be to mentor Buster Posey, get Fred Lewis to cut down on his strikeouts, and leave Pablo Sandoval the hell alone. As for getting his hitters to take more walks, apparently Lansford already tried, and found the task to be positively Sysiphusian.

--The baseball season ended today in nauseating fashion with the Yankees winning it all. I was able to switch the TV off just before the last out was recorded so I didn't have to watch the Yanks celebrate. Beware in the coming weeks brainless articles arguing that baseball needs a salary cap because the evil big market team won and no one can compete with them and blah blah blah.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Where Have You Gone, Tim Alderson?

As expected, the Giants brought back second baseman Freddy Sanchez, though instead of exercising his $8 million 2010 option, they're going to give him two years for $6 million per. It provides a little more payroll flexibility for 2010 as well as the knowledge that second base is going to be manned by someone reasonably competent for the forseeable future. As nice as it would be to bring in a bunch of mashers, just filling the major suck holes at most positions with league-average guys would go a long way toward improving the lineup. Sanchez theoretically fills one of those voids, although you could have said the same about Edgar Renteria last season, I guess.

Regardless of how you feel about this signing, this is a move the Giants had to make, and it was cemented the second the Giants coughed up prospect Tim Alderson in order to bring Sanchez over. You don't give up one of your better prospects for 100 largely irrelevant Freddy Sanchez at-bats down the stretch drive and get nothing else to show for it. The Giants were essentially trading for the last two months of Sanchez and the exclusive negotiating window they had with him this offseason. Trading for Sanchez was questionable in the first place (it hasn't helped that he's been an injured mess for the majority of his tenure in the Orange and Black), but re-signing him was really a no-brainer.

Next up on the re-sign docket was Juan Uribe, who decided he'd rather test the free agent waters than settle for the one-year deal the Giants were apparently offering. Look, I love what Uribe did last year, but woe be the team who lavishes him with a multi-year deal. Anyone foolish enough to not be able to see his career year for what it was probably deserves the disappointing disaster they're bound to be stuck with. I would have Uribe back on the Giants next year, but if he wants anything more than a very cheap two-year deal, then bah!

Lastly, there are some whispers going around about a Milton Bradley-for-Aaron Rowand bad contract swap. I don't know if these rumors are legitimate or if they're just the extremely optimistic ramblings of Internet chat board dwellers, but hell, I'd be for it. Despite his status as an anger management counselor's worst nightmare, I've always liked Bradley. He can still hit, last year's horror show notwithstanding. It's just a matter of staying healthy and out if the insane asylum.

Most importantly of all, even if he stinks it up and proceeds to bludgeon an entire group of rafters in McCovery Cove with an oar, he's cheaper than Aaron Rowand, his contract runs out before Aaron Rowand's, and he's not as crappy as Aaron Rowand. With Andres Torres probably just as worthy of starting as Rowand is, it doesn't make much sense to keep carrying Rowand around if there's a deal that can be made, even if said deal involves bringing in a maniac. Again, this could be a total non-story, but keep an ear open nonetheless.

--In Giants blogger news, Nick Cannata-Bowman (whom I collaborated with for a time at Giants Cove) has started his own, brand new site called Croix De Candlestick. Add it to your reading list of Giants blogs and go check it out!

--Not for nothing, I thought I'd post a clip of a video I shot from a recent U2 concert I went to in Las Vegas, for those interested. For their current tour, the band is romping around on a gigantic stage that is supposed to represent a giant spaceship or something. We were able to get position on the field like four rows from the B stage. It was friggin' amazing. This clip I shot is the very end of a song from Achtung, Baby! called "Until the End of the World", with Bono and The Edge hopping around on these rotating catwalks that connected the main stage to the B stage. Awesome stuff. Enjoy!

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