Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Blow Your House Down, Man
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.
For me, the thing about signing Huff is not that it was potentially a terrible idea, but that it was still a response to a terrible idea.
Trading away a (apparently) decent pitching prospect for the use of a first baseman they weren't going to keep, to replace a first baseman they lost faith in, only to be replaced by an aging veteran, seemingly in decline.
Combine that with the Posey Problem, their Due Dilligence Med Staff (though to be fair, the staff probably did find and report the various injuries), the Fat and Fatter Twins, and the Wellemeyer Solution... Well, eventually you might find something buried in that big pile of garbage that still has value.
Throw enough darts at the board and you'll get a bullseye eventually.