Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Blow Your House Down, Man

Aubrey Huff. Slugger. Stud. Water buffalo. Way back in January in the Year of Our Lord 2010, I had some uncomplimentary things to say in this post about our friend Aubrey. I mainly focused on his miserable 2009, his poor defense, and his having a Christian name that is typically designated for girls. I'm sure there was some profanity involved, too. Well, now it's six months later and Huff is only the best damn hitter on the team. To blatantly rip off a joke from Bill Maher, I must be wearing orthopedic shoes, because I stand corrected.

For the purposes of defending my own crass pessimism, it's fair to ask just where exactly this hitting binge came from. No one expected him to even reach 11 home runs for the entire season, let alone by mid-June. Huff now sports a line of .305/.396/.541, which is MVP-level. If he sustains this production he'll be the best Giants first baseman (if he logs the most innings there, I guess) since Will Clark. He's walked more than he's struck out, extremely rare for a slugger, and he's in the middle of what is becoming the best season of his career. Unless he flies over and plugs the hole in the Gulf, I don't think this signing could have worked out any better.

All this after the baseball world had written him off after he didn't hit a lick in '09. In fact, before this season, Huff had been pretty unremarkable since 2004. After breaking in as one of Tampa Bay's few early prospects, Huff had three seasons from 2002 to 2004 that were All-Star-worthy. Starting in 2005, though, he came down with a bout of ordinariness, and in 2006 Tampa traded him to Houston for Ben Zobrist, in a swap that looked pointless then and seems absolutely horrific for the Astros now.

After being dealt, other than a very fluky-looking 2008 season, Huff basically became a 15-homer, bad-fielding first baseman, i.e. not a good player. So when Brian Sabean picked him up for a song and proclaimed him the middle-of-the-order home run machine of our dreams, we told him to pull the other one. Silly us.

Remember, the Huff pickup came only after Sabean tried and failed to sign first Nick Johnson and then Adam Laroche. Even compared to those guys, Huff seemed like a pretty poor solution. Well, let's take a look at what both Laroche and Johnson are doing this season.

Laroche: He spurned a two-year offer from the Giants to go rot in the desert heat, and he's having a decent year so far, with nine homers and a 109 OPS+. Not bad, but he's no Aubrey. Hey, Adam, how's the view from all the way down there in last place? Yeah, that's what you get for turning your nose at us, ya bum.

Johnson: He also turned down a more lucrative offer from San Francisco to go play around in New York for a year. After a month of drawing walks and doing nothing else, he's back in his natural habitat, the disabled list. His injury isn't supposed to be a major setback, but knowing this guy, he's probably done until 2012. Consider him a bullet dodged (as I whistle my way past the final comment here).

So sometimes you just never know. It's looking more and more like Huff's 2009 was the outlier and that the Giants got the deal of the decade. Fears that he'll regress run high, but taking into account his ability to work counts, hit lefties, and hit to the opposite field, I'd be bloody shocked if he doesn't continue to mash for the rest of the year (if not quite at his current pace). We all love beating Sabean like a Brit on St. Paddy's Day, but Huff ranks as one of his best moves in a while.

With Huff, Andres Torres, Juan Uribe, Santiago Casilla, and Guillermo Mota all coming up gold, these low budget pickups threaten to restore some of our faith in our fearless leader, God forbid. Let's just hope he doesn't become obsessed with the World Cup, like some others we know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Let's Just Say We Were Beaten By the Best

After watching last night's game, I made a snarky comment to myself about how atrocious the Orioles are this year. I mean, they're bad. This year's Oriole team channels the hopeless 1988 squad, who lost 107 games and had Billy Ripken as their second baseman, 20 years before he'd become a bald studio analyst for the MLB Network. The 2010 squad provides a similar mix of inept hitting and bad pitching that can only be tolerated with lots of liquor and small amounts of self-hatred. It's the kind of team that makes you really feel for a fanbase. Hey, Oriole fans, if it's any consolation to you, at least most of you don't live in South Carolina.

Of course, naturally, after I ripped on them like a frat boy on an AV dweeb, tonight the Orioles beat the Giants, 4-1, behind Jake Arrieta, a fresh-faced rook with all of one major league start under his belt. To be fair, Arrieta is a decent prospect with some pretty good minor league numbers, but...yuck. This is a series you expect the Giants to sweep. Yes, take nothing for granted, blah blah blah, but subconsciously we all figured the Giants would roll through these three games before heading off to Toronto. Now they go into a rubber match against Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore's most consistent pitcher, and a soft-tosser who you just know is going to give the Giants fits. I'm scared.

A few random notes...

-If Denny Bautista didn't walk every other batter, he could be something along the lines of Felix Rodriguez circa 2000-01. His stuff is just filthy. I'd read the old scouting reports, but I never imagined how great his fastball was until I actually watched players get blown away by it time and again. Every Bautista appearance is an exercise in chain-smoking due to his wildness, but if he ever gains even a modicum of control, he'd be a major asset. Of course, six other franchises already lost their patience waiting for that talent to manifest, so ration out the optimism in tiny doses.

-I'd like to take the time to gush about Andres Torres. He's the leadoff hitter the Giants have been waiting for essentially since Kenny Lofton appeared for two months in 2002. He's got the speed, the plate patience, the alley power, and the great defense. He's effectively enabled the Giants to kick Aaron Rowand to the curb. He showed this kind of talent last season by slugging .533 as a backup, but no one believed he could hold his own as a regular, given his uninspiring minor league track record.

Oops. As it stands now, Torres is literally one of the best players in the league. What are the chances that Torres sustains this incredible hitting display? Let's not speak of such things. Let's just hope and pray to whatever god (or lizard person) you believe in that he's the once-in-a-blue moon player who just suddenly gets it in the second half of his career and starts playing like an All-Star. Maybe something like this guy.

-Baseball Reference, aka the most awesome website in the history of the world, has now features old mug shots on each player's page, which is bad news if you decide to check out how Don Mossi's career went. This, of course, leads me to this absolutely hilarious article by Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods, on an old baseball card of Mossi's.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


The Pros and Cons of Pat the Bat

See what happens when you drop a couple of competent hitters into the lineup? Good things tend to occur. More runs are scored, there's less of a burden on the pitchers, and I don't have to grind my teeth to a nub after the umpteenth double play ball. Okay, so I still have to do that, but at least it seems like it's not happening as often. Ever since Andres Torres and Buster Posey were inserted into the batting order as regular it just seems like the Giants have been scoring more. I'm too lazy to check the numbers to see if that's true, but I'll take a placebo over watching Bengie Molina bat any day.

Of course, the sane thing to do, if the Giants want to keep winning, would be to bench Aaron Rowand once and for all and jettison Molina now. This crazy dream that Rowand will get going again only lives on in the minds of baseball salts who aren't aware that mediocre 30-somethings with zero plate awareness rarely just "get it back". Molina's early season walk binge was fun and all, but those walks have now dried up, and he isn't even hitting for power now, which means he's just a horrible player. Maybe, you say, he'll straighten things out given some more time. Ahem, I refer you back to the Rowand example.

Rowand is making big money and Molina has some Randall Flagg-type magic spell placed on Giants management, so neither are going anywhere. That's a bummer for us, and Nate Schierholtz, who now looks to be in serious peril of falling into the dustbin of forgotten and misused players, along with Fred Lewis and Kevin Frandsen. At least the Giants aren't being complete idiots in their willingness to keep Posey in the majors for good; they're just being idiots by making him play out of position, thus also necessitating Aubrey Huff's move to the outfield, which promises all kinds of fun...if your idea of fun is a defensive nightmare. Which brings me to...

Pat Burrell. In desperate need of a power bat, the Giants added Burrell to the already hopelessly muddled outfield mix. Burrell has been decent enough in a few starts so far, but I'm confused as to what happens when (or if, I suppose) Mark Derosa comes back. What good is a super-utility guy when he has no place to play? You can't bench Juan Uribe and Freddy Sanchez right now. If Burrell hits like he's consuming Philly cheese steaks again, you won't want to bench him. This is quite the conundrum.

Anyway, about Burrell. What he brings to the table, obviously, is a big stick and an ability to take walks. Well, that would be the case if it were 2008. Once the Phillies recorded the last out of the '08 World Series, Burrell morphed into a big blob of suck, and his bat hasn't been seen since. Perhaps a return to the National League will help cure what ails his weak stick (yes, I know there's a Viagra joke there...lay off). Maybe, but Burrell has those much-dreaded "old player skills", which means he's likely fallen off of a cliff that can't be re-scaled.

Burrell's fielding at this point is an embarrassment about on par with Ronny Cedeno's eyeblack mustache (that was a fail if I've ever seen one). In fact, the Rays thought they were getting the deal of a lifetime by signing Burrell as a DH so they wouldn't have to witness him clomping around cluelessly in the outfield. Well, the joke is on them; they didn't have to watch him field and he still turned into an albatross.

So Burrell is a defensive liability and his bat may never wake up (and he's also possibly a bit of a creep). Hey, he's 33, so he fits right in with the organizational philosophy! The reward here is reasonably high if Burrell can regain some of his former mojo. The risk is low because he can be dumped like a bottle of Mezcal if he stinks it up. I just can't help wondering if this isn't a huge redundancy when Schierholtz could provide 3/4 of the bat and twice the defense, rendering this whole Pat the Bat experiment redundant.

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