Tuesday, November 30, 2010
More Miggy Magic
So now he's going to replace our beloved Juan Uribe as the Giants' starting shortstop in 2011. For the amount of whine we're about to get, we're gonna need a damn big corkscrew (yeah, yeah).
The Tejada who we used to see in Oakland hitting home runs and crying over missed interference calls when he should have just kept freaking running is gone. Long live the slow, declining hitter who no longer has the range for shortstop and who was recently jettisoned by two of the worst teams in baseball. Giants pitchers will shudder at the prospect of a Tejada-Pablo left side of the infield, which features gaping holes that would make the Irish economy proud (sorry, Ireland, just know I love ye).
When I first caught wind of the deal, I was apoplectic, but at $6 million for one year, it isn't too bad, largely because the other shortstop options around are grim (moreso than Tejada, at least). I guess it was either overpay Uribe, trade for a guy like Jason Bartlett, or pin our noses and watch Emmanuel Burriss try to figure out major league pitching. Given these less appealing options, this signing is a little easier to take. Whatever keeps the Giants from a repeat of Bocock is fine in my book.
Just two years ago Tejada hit .313 in the National League. He didn't compliment that with much power or any kind of plate discipline, but heck, that production would have represented an above-average shortstop in 2010. It's not out of the question that he could do that again. He also put up some relatively good numbers while hitting in the Petco Park dead zone after being traded to the Padres. His upside for 2011 is probably 15 homers with a decent batting average. Remember that, despite his World Series heroics, Edgar Renteria was solidly below average with the bat in his two years here. Tejada would be an upgrade at the plate at the position.
It's the glove I'm more worried about. Tejada was always an overrated defensive player and now that he's gotten older he just really stinks. His status as a starter would merit a late-inning defensive replacement type, but the Giants already need one of those guys for Sandoval. Not to mention, where is that versatile glove guy going to come from? Mike Fontenot? Did you see him against the Phillies? Burriss? The data from his extended starting stints in 2008 and 2009 show that he was actually pretty crappy. Mark Derosa? He's got the power, but not the ability to play shortstop.
Tejada at this point is probably best utilized as a utility player in the Uribe mold, but I doubt that the Giants are paying him this much money to do anything other than start 150 games. I don't hate the deal in a baseball sense, because at one year even a poor performance isn't a long-term killer. I hate the deal because I have to root for this guy for an entire season.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Jazz Hands Waving Straight to Hell
Man, this has just been a really crappy year for the Dodgers, any way you look at it. They finished below .500, mired in fourth place and stuck in Manny-inspired drama for much of the season. They dropped the season series to the arch-rival Giants, including a couple of devastating late-inning losses aided by Don Mattingly buffoonery and all-too familiar Jonathan Broxton implosions. They then watched the Giants go on to win theWorld Series, beating the Phillies, the team that had eliminated LA from the playoffs two years in a row, along the way. Now they're going to give way too much money to Juan Uribe because they got caught in a ridiculous bidding war that probably didn't exist. It's all too funny.
Obviously, I'll never say anything bad about Juan Uribe ever again in these pages. The guy was plain awesome in a Giants uni. I'll love him 'til I die. Three years, though, for 21 million dollars? Give me a break. You can have him, Dodger fans. As a free-swinging, low-OBP guy whose range in the field is bound to diminish fairly quickly as he ages, Uribe just wasn't worth going crazy over. Luckily for those of us in need of a good punchline, the Dodgers did it anyway. Uribe's a nice player and he's probably going to kill the Giants with a big home run in the next year or so, but this deal has about a ninety percent chance of blowing up in Ned Colletti's face.
As for Uribe's tenure with the Giants, I'm not sure what I can add that hasn't been beaten to death repeatedly. He arrived amidst a sea of Giant fan skepticism as a non-roster invitee in 2009, then left a hero in 2010. He showed a grouchy OBP nazi like me that you can have tons of value even if you do swing at everything within a stone's throw of home plate. The Giants wouldn't have been hoisting the World Series trophy last month if Brian Sabean hadn't taken a small chance on him back when Emmanuel Burriss and (God forbid) Brian Bocock were found wanting. He was one hell of a Good Giant.
--My favorite Juan Uribe story from his time as a Giant comes from Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter in July of 2009. In that game, when Uribe muffed a grounder that would allow the only baserunner of the game to reach (thus robbing Sanchez of a perfect game), my friend sent me a text that was supposed to say "Damn Uribe". Instead, the autotext on his iPhone read it as "Damn Urine", and that's the message I received. Good thing I had my eyes glued to the game and knew exactly what was going on, because otherwise I would have been pretty worried at what kind of lurid crap my buddy was getting himself into.
Monday, November 22, 2010
The Best Damn Rookie, Period
The major Giants news of the offseason, of course, was that Buster Posey, the kid from Georgia who was drawing comparisons to Johnny freaking Bench by the end of the postseason, won the National League Rookie of the Year. He beat Jason Heyward in a surprising landslide, and became the first Giant to win the award since John Montefusco in 1975. Even though he was (controversially) kept in the minors until late May, he raked his way to the award with a .305/.357/.505 batting line and a Random-like throwing arm behind the plate (score one for the nerdy X-Factor reference). There's a debate somewhere that Heyward may have deserved it more, but damned if you're going to suck me into it.
The shocking thing about Posey wasn't that he'd be so good so fast, but that he was kind of the opposite of what fans had been expecting. The projections for Posey, based on the scouting reports from college and the minors, were that he'd be a sort of a line-drive, high-average type, a guy who would hit .300 annually, walk a ton, but also be lucky to top out at 15 homers in any given season. Even with the mediocre power numbers, the thinking went, he'd still be immensely valuable as a catcher due to his on-base skills. All hail the second coming of Darrell Porter, or something.
So, naturally, upon reaching the big leagues, Posey stopped drawing walks and started hitting the ball over the fence. He smashed 18 home runs in four months, while his walk rate sank fairly drastically from the solid minor league rates he had demonstrated (6.8% in the majors, down from 13.5% at AAA in 2010, and 11.3% in 2009). So, aside from the high average, were the scouts completely wrong? Was Posey just awesome in ways we never expected, like Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog?
Actually, there's a lot to get excited about from Posey's rookie season, aside from the obvious. Despite the decrease in total walks, he still saw 3.86 pitches per plate appearance, which is above the league average, pretty solid for a green rookie. His eye was still there, so you can imagine the walk totals will rise as pitchers start to approach him with more caution. Also, perhaps pitchers were more apt to challenge him early on because the scouting reports stated he wouldn't hit the ball over the fence.
The new power potential is drool-inducing, though, and since nearly half of his home runs were hit to right field or right-center, it's almost certainly legit. It's a far cry from the slappy line-drive hitter a lot of us thought we were getting. Plus, if he's belting home runs at this rate as a 23-year-old rook, it stands to reason that he could even add a little more. Add all this to his All-Star-caliber glove and suddenly you've got what could be a perennial MVP candidate (he even finished 11th in this year's voting) and face of the franchise for a decade. What a beautiful way to cap a magical year.
--You could forgive Giants fans for forgetting that the Rookie of the Year Award even existed, seeing as how the Giants hadn't put forth a legitimately good rookie position player since the mid-80's. Posey is the fifth Giant to win the award, but the first since way back in 1975. As a fun time-waster, I thought it'd be cool to check out how he rated when compared to the other guys to win the hardware in the Orange and Black. Here is a list of the five Giant ROYs, ranked by their Wins Above Replacement totals from that year (I'm using Baseball Reference's WAR calculations...non-dorks go here).
Buster Posey, 2010 (3.0)
Willie McCovey, 1959 (3.0)
Gary Matthews, 1973 (2.7)
Orlando Cepeda, 1958 (2.5)
John Montefusco, 1975 (6.8)
Cepeda and McCovey, of course, went on to have Hall of Fame careers. McCovey notoriously played in only 52 games in his rookie year, but he was so good in that limited timespan that he won the award anyway. Cepeda has the lowest WAR here because he played first base (the position with the least defensive value) and because of his relatively mediocre .342 OBP.
Matthews would go on to more fame with the Phillies (bonus points for destroying the Dodgers in the 1983 NLCS), but he was a very good player as a Giant, much better than I ever realized. He played a very good left field while drawing a good amount of walks and hitting for power. He's probably one of those guys who was underrated back in those days, especially since he was on some really bad Giants teams. For what it's worth, Bill James ranked him as the 46th-best left fielder in baseball history, and Ted Turner allegedly signed him to an extravagant contract while completely wasted.
I separated Montefusco from the others because it's clear WAR totals skew more toward pitchers, but Montefusco had one hell of a rookie season, striking out 215 batters and posting a 133 ERA+. Unfortunately, The Count threw nearly 500 innings in his first two seasons and quickly developed arm troubles. He was pretty mediocre for the entirety of his 13-year career, but he always had nasty things to say about the Dodgers, so he's okay in my book.
--Remember back in the 2007 draft, when a lot Giants fans were screaming for the team to draft Beau Mills, the power-hitting lefty out of Fresno State, to fill the drastic need for any kind of hitting talent in the farm system? Remember the outrage when the team took Madison Bumgarner instead? Yeah, flash forward three years. Bumgarner has just thrown a near-shutout in a pivotal World Series game, helping the Giants to their first ever championship in San Fran. Meanwhile, Mills has been nothing but awful in the minor leagues and the Indians have pretty much given up on him. Yes, I was one of those people hollering for the Giants to select Mills, and I think it's fair to say I didn't know more than the Giants' scouting department at the time. Yes, fueled by 20/20 hindsight, you can safely say that there's a word for people like me.
Anyway, good news! Mills is now eligible for the Rule V draft this offseason. So yeah, if the Giants are looking to bring in a AA washout who can't play any position on the field to placate us jerks who wanted him so badly three years ago, they're in luck.
Monday, November 01, 2010
Is This Heaven?
In the coming days and weeks there will be "analysis" about how the Giants won this series and how they got it done all year. Not tonight. I'm going to bask in this, and since I have to work tomorrow and can't get rip-roaring, falling-down wasted in celebration, I'm going to do the next best thing: Switch it to MLB Network and watch highlights and post-game interviews until I lose the capacity for coherent thought.
I went jogging after the game ended tonight and I felt like running my entire route with my fist raised in the air in triumph. I would have looked like a doofus and a jerk, but I wouldn't have cared. It's a weird feeling, being so proud of an achievement that you had absolutely nothing to do with and made no contribution to whatsoever, excepting rabid moral support. Yet it feels so damn good to be a Giants fan right now. What a team and what a season. This smile on my face isn't going to wear off any time soon. Go Giants, baby. Go Giants, indeed.
For Giants fans everywhere, say it loud! World Champions!