Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Enigma That Is Denny Bautista

Quick. I'll give you three guesses as to why Denny Bautista, an obscure pitcher just given a spring training invite by the Giants, is famous amongst statheads. Give up? It's because, a few years ago, Bautista was involved in a trade that sent the saber community into a complete uproar, while many others wondered just what the fuss was about.

Once upon a time, Bautista was a fairly hot prospect in the Orioles system, a guy who threw hard as hell, with lots of movement, but, as is the case with many of his ilk, no bloody idea where the ball was going. Still, that arm had a lot of analysts from both camps drooling. There seemed to be star potential hidden away, if only someone could tame the wild beast he called a right arm.

Of course, in a move typical of the brainlessness shown by the Baltimore front office in the past decade, the team traded Bautista for, wait for it...Jason Grimsley. Did the Orioles need relief help? Well, I guess, among many other things. Were they in a pennant race? Um, no. Did they give away a potentially useful arm to get an interchangeable reliever who'd later gain notoriety for ratting out several steroid users? Bingo!

Bautista has never for a second had any success in the major leagues (the trade was made in 2004), so the Orioles' idiocy hasn't really come back to bite them. Back then, though, I remember sabermetric fans, and a couple of Baseball Prospectus writers, being simply aghast that a legitimate power arm was acquired by the Royals for essentially nothing. It was a great trade for the Royals, albeit one that didn't work out in the end. Hell, it even had some writers fooled into thinking somebody smart was running the Kansas City show. Outside of that community, I don't think anybody really gave a damn. Denny who?

So I remember those days as Bautista shows up in Arizona in a Giants uniform, lugging with him a 6.26 career ERA and a 4.9 BB/9 rate. The chances that Bautista becomes a good pitcher are probably zero, as are the chances that we'll even hear anything about him after mid-March. I guess he serves as a lesson in the combustibility of pitching prospects, or as a testament to the righteousness of TINSTAPP. He's 29 and worth a flyer, but we stat geeks will always remember him for the one heist Allard Baird pulled off in the Royal front office (note: it didn't make up for Dye-for-Neifi).

Monday, January 25, 2010


Bengie, Bengie...Bengie Is Back

The San Francisco Giants re-sign Bengie Molina to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. When I first read this headline, it was on my phone while on lunch break at work. I distinctly remember letting out a loud, "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" in the middle of line at the lunch stand, before continuing to stand there, jaw agape, refusing to believe what I was reading. I'm sure the people around me thought I was receiving news that a family member had died or something.

Well, here we are, and the seemingly unthinkable has happened. Molina is back, ensuring more first-pitch ground balls to the shortstop than we'll know what to do with. This of course means that Molina will be the Opening Day catcher, with Buster Posey heading to AAA. Get ready for more sub-.300 OBP fun and photo finish races to beat the center fielder's throw to first base on a single.

Ok, so I was absolutely aghast when I first caught wind of this, but with some time to think it over, this signing isn't really all bad. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Posey really isn't ready. Well, that means that the Giants need a one-year stopgap to hold the fort while their catching phenom gets more seasoning in the minors. Who is that guy going to be?

It'd be nice to just be able reach out and grab a catcher who can draw walks, play good defense, and hit for a modicum of power, but sadly that's the farthest thing from reality. The alternatives to Molina look something like this: Signing Yorvit Torrealba to be a regular (no thanks), signing Rod Barajas, who is like a B-movie remake of Bengie (double no thanks), or making Eli Whiteside the starter (eeeek!). When you look at it that way, the Molina option doesn't seem half bad. For all of his faults, his power and still decent glove give him a leg up over the other guys' nothing.

Plus, Molina comes back to the Giants basically with hat in hand, having tested the free agent market and found out that no one sees him as a long-term regular. If Posey tears up Spring Training, tears up AAA, and forces himself into the starting role, Molina can't complain. Having re-signed he most likely understands his role as a placeholder at this point.

So as much as I never wanted to see Bengie back, this is an okay deal. Yeah, I realize that's going 100 mph in the opposite direction of my initial opinion on the signing, but really, it's not that bad. I still think that the Giants are going to screw this up somehow and ruin Posey's career while Molina returns for 2011 and beyond, but for now, I can deal with this.

Monday, January 18, 2010


War at Home

Well, let's hope the looming arbitration battle between Tim Lincecum and the Giants doesn't get as ugly as the Late Night mudslinging affair between NBC and its two stars, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno. What's the Lincecum equivalent of the "I'm With Coco!" movement? "I'm With Freak Boy?" "I'm With Pothead?" If things get heated, let's at least pray that someone trots out Vomiting Kermit to lighten the mood.

Of course, everybody in Giants-land (and all of baseball, for that matter) is waiting on pins and needles to see what kind of arbitration payday Lincecum stands to haul in. Even if it isn't the $20 million cash bonanza some are envisioning, it'll still be an unprecedented sum. As such, you can bet that the MLBPA and other GMs around the league are watching this very closely. By refusing to take a long-term contract from the team, Lincecum has brought himself to this point, standing to make a crapload of money on a year-to-year basis at the risk of losing money down the road in the case of a career-altering injury (yes, knock on wood).

For a nice rundown of what to possibly expect out of these proceedings, check out Jeff Euston's writeup for BP. According to the article, the largest raise ever given to a first-year arbitration-eligible was to Dontrelle Willis in 2005. Willis earned an increase in salary of over 1000 percent, to $4.35 million. An equivalent raise would get Lincecum to about $7.5 million, which is laughably low. In fact, I can't imagine the Giants even submitting a figure under $9 million, taking Lincecum's two Cys into account and all. Let's just hope Lincecum's post-arbitration career is more successful than Dontrelle's. Yuck.

I've touched on this before, but my amatuerish guess is that the two sides settle somewhere around $12 million. Even with the special provision regarding "special accomplishment" is very much in play, the fact that there's no precedent for any first-year arb player getting star free agent money is likely to work against Timmy.

-A beautiful tribute to a heroic man. Happy Martin Luther King Day, Giants fans!

Monday, January 11, 2010


Off In a Huff

As I sit here and mull over the fact that, in their search for a left-handed power hitter, the best the Giants could muster was Aubrey mother-effing Huff, I start to ask myself: when was the last time the Giants signed a free agent that actually got me excited? Like, a free agent signing that made me legitimately happy and optimistic about the coming season? We all know about the recent lurid track record, and the 2006-07 winter of mayhem, but when was time the team made a really substantial, and good, free agent pickup? Well, this is where things get depressing.

As crazy as it is to say it, I think you have to go back pre-Sabean to find a free agent signing worth giving a hoot about. Yeah, all the way back to Barry Bonds. Most of Sabean's success came from trades and pilfering underrated players for the junk in his farm system, but his free agent track record has been mediocre-to-terrible, even in his 1997-2002 "genius" years. Perusing the list of signings during his tenure (not counting re-signings and extensions, a lot of which were terrible also), only Ray Durham looks like an out-and-out success, though I guess you can maybe count Omar Vizquel or Bengie Molina. Otherwise, there are a whole lot of Barry Zitos and Aaron Rowands in there.

Obviously, this latest move is hardly a blockbuster. Huff, is an iron glove who has had exactly one above-average year since 2004, and his big 2008 screams inexplicable, late-career fluke (think J.T. Snow's 2004). Huff has old player skills (no speed, poor glove, limited athleticism), which means a sudden decline into uselessness is a distinct possibility, if it hasn't started already. In fact, that probably explains why he stopped being an All-Star-caliber hitter after he turned 28. So, the Giants sign a mediocre, 30-something slugger whose best days were five years ago? Yeah, that sounds about right.

What doesn't make any sense about this at all is that the team felt the need to non-tender Ryan Garko to make this move. Garko is younger, better, probably cheaper, and retaining him would have saved the Giants the humiliation of knowing they traded Scott Barnes away for two craptastic months of small sample sized slumping. Instead they bring in a lesser player who is more likely to fade completely. Yep, makes perfect sense to me. It also means they've lost faith in Travis Ishikawa, who is probably relegated to the dustbin that is Fresno.

The signing is a one-year deal, and one-year deals never kill teams, so for all the eye-rolling this isn't something to start scraping knives over (and it's sure as hell better than bringing in Adam Laroche). It's just...uninspiring, and not well thought out. Then again, that's sort of the norm for the Giants these days when it comes to playing the free agent market.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Revisiting Resolutions

In the first post of the new decade, I thought I'd revisit some New Year's resolutions I made last year, when I was writing for Bugs and Cranks. As 2009 dawned, I ticked off four things I vowed to do to make myself a better Giants fan, and a better baseball fan in general. How did I do? Let's find out.

1. Go to more games. Let's see, in 2008, I attended just one lousy game, and I pushed it as far as I could take it, since it was the very last game of the season. In 2009, I made it to three Giants games at Mays Field, so check this one off in the victory column. I attended the games on Memorial Day and Labor Day, both exhilarating wins, and also sat through one stinker, a late season drubbing at the hands of the Dodgers.

Since I live in Sacramento, making it to Giants games tends to be an expensive ordeal, which, coupled with a general lack of time and money, makes attending more than a handful of games each year unlikely. This year, though, I discovered the wonders of the Vallejo ferry, which takes you straight from the Vallejo docks to Mays Field, and right back after last pitch. For a man who has blown many a blood vessel screaming at the infuriating San Francisco traffic over the years, finally utilizing this was a total epiphany. Instead of having to deal with the traffic, the Bay Bridge, and the incompetent, overpriced fiasco known as stadium parking, we just drove the 45 minutes to Vallejo, paid for ferry tickets, and sat on our asses as the boat rolled across the bay. Pure money.

2. Stick out the tough games. There were some blowout games where I came home, sat on my couch, fell asleep, and woke up just as the games were ending, which sort of counts, I guess. For the first time in my life I finally got cable this year, which would theoretically make it easier to see every minute of every game, no matter how unwatchable. However, usually when the Giants were getting their butts handed to them, it was just so much more interesting to flip the channel and see the latest bad stock Jim Cramer was calling a can't-miss or check out whatever was making Glenn Beck cry on a given day. I probably didn't stick through as many hard losses as I should have, but I sat through every single minute of this one, dammit, so I'm calling this a break-even.

3. Listen to less sports talk radio. Done and done. I don't think I listened to a second of KNBR or any other sports talk show this season (much less the gawdawful KHTK 1140 that pollutes Sacramento), which is a minor miracle when you really think about it. I got my fill of mindless fan blather by reading the ESPN user comments, thank you very much. Seriously, I think I saved several thousand brain cells by going cold turkey from sports talk this year.

4. Update Stankeye more. This one I had trouble with, and continue to do so. Here's the problem. I get home from work dead tired, and want to do nothing but sit down, relax, and not think. After tending to stuff around the house, by the time I actually have a second to write anything, it's late and I'm torn between reading all the other great baseball stuff on the Internet, watching my Netflix, reading the stack of books on my reading list, or playing Guitar Hero. This problem is exacerbated when it's actually baseball season and the majority of weekday games don't end until like 10:00. Sometimes I have a legit excuse for not posting for like a week, other times it's just because I'm being a lazy bastard watching Firefly over and over again. I promise nothing, but I hope to ramp up the activity on this blog for the new decade, hopefully at one point writing a raving post following a Giants championship.

Here's for a great 2010, and a great Giant decade!

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