Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remember '51 is Moving...

When I started this blog, I pretty much did it because I was getting frustrated with Bleacher Report and how they were heavily editing my writing. Yeah, it was nice to get the traffic from B/R, not to mention the comments, but when the editors started using "Rice-a-Roni" tag-lines for titles in my articles, I started to think that I was going to need a change of scenery.

It's been tough in a sense that this blog has gone through so many stages. It first started out to be "Simmons-esque" (blogging from the sports fans perspective) and then it more veered toward a "sabermetrics" lense (thanks to Moneyball and a slew of sabermetrics baseball blogs) and then it started to become a combo of both. Then worked happened, I found myself in South Dakota, I joined and left a Catholic religious order, and before I knew it, four months had passed and I had written a single post. With all the new Giants blogs out there (especially after the Giants won the World Series), I felt it was a little late and the Giants blogging thing just passed me by.

I started slews of new blogs. I started basketball ones, APBRmetrics ones, college basketball ones, even two fantasy sports blogs. All of them failed for two reasons: at the core, I like writing about baseball and sabermetrics. While I have extreme interests in the worlds of Henry Abbot, John Hollinger and Ken Pomeroy, I enjoy reading Rob Neyer, Chris Quick and Dave Cameron a lot more. Baseball and sabermetrics reading and writing just feels natural to me, and for some reason, I could never really embrace basketball stats as fully as I could baseball ones, and thus, I feel it would be unfair to those who do to try and start a blog. I still have a genuine interest in basketball and APBRmetrics. It's just that I don't think I'm ready to create and maintain a blog about it just yet.

And so, I wanted to get back in the Giants blogging scene. But it wouldn't have been right to just post again with R51. R51 represented a certain era, an era that was pre-World Series. I couldn't just go back. I needed to start over, with the same ambitions and style I had with R51, but concentrating on something specific about the Giants.

After some contemplation over the subject, I settled on Minor League baseball.

To be frank, I really love minor league baseball. Bull Durham is my favorite baseball movie (Hoop Dreams is my favorite sports movie), I grew up and lived in towns where Minor League baseball teams existed (Spokane, Portland, Sacramento and San Jose), and I love analyzing prospects. I really do. Something about prospects intrigues me, as I'm sure it intrigues most baseball fans. There's something about analyzing a young player and seeing how he does at one level and how that will transition to the next level, be it Double-A, Triple-A or the Majors. Why does Pablo Sandoval succeed at the Big League level, but Todd Linden didn't? What are certain characteristics good minor league players have that bode well for future success?

So, I'm concentrating on Minor League ball now at http://optionedtofresno.blogspot.com/. I'm not an expert at it yet, but I'm working on it. I'm reading all I can, and I'm doing more and more research to make my posts as comprehensive as the possibly can be. Hopefully, it'll get to where Remember 51 got and perhaps beyond. At this point though, it's just a project, a project that I will take time and effort to develop.

Sounds kind of like a GM running a minor league system, huh?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Buster Posey Winning the Rookie of the Year Feels So Right...

I hate to compare players or situations from different sports. I think you're really overreaching mainly because different sports have different aspects and qualities. It basically becomes comparing apples to oranges when you compare a Giants team with a Warriors team. Baseball isn't played with the same emotion or physicality of basketball. So why compare the two, right?

Well, in some ways, before they announced the Rookie of the Year winners today, I couldn't help but think of last year's NBA Rookie of the Year race when Tyreke Evans of the Kings beat out Stephen Curry of the Warriors. Evans had the neat stats (20-5-5), but Curry in my mind had the more impact. First off, when you watched them play, there was no contest. Curry was out in the transition making plays. Evans on the other hand was looking to score anyway possible and that was about it.

But the real clincher in my mind was there situations. Curry had a team of cast-offs (seriously, Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Williams?), selfish players (Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson) and a star player who basically didn't want to play with him because he felt threatened that he'd steal the spotlight (Monta Ellis). As for Evans, he had a promising team with promising young talent that was pretty much built for him after they shipped Kevin Martin (a good player mind you) out of town. And yet, Curry's team finished well, while Evans' teams, for lack of a better word, did not.

So what got Evans his Rookie of the Year award? His start and his stats. Curry didn't have the start Evans had and he never caught up.

I thought it was going to be the same thing with Jason Heyward and Buster Posey.

After Heyward's home run in his first at-bat against the Cubs, I just thought "That's it, no one else is coming close to this award." That wasn't to say Heyward wasn't deserving. Heyward posted a .376 wOBA, helped by 18 homers, 83 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Add that with solid defense (4.8 UZR) and a whole year of play, and you just felt that it was Heyward's award to lose.

But deep down, as a Giant fan, you just felt Posey had more impact.

Posey had to catch one of the best staffs in baseball, and not only did he handle them, but he made them better. He became the main offensive hitter in a team that was punch-less for offense in the beginning of the year and all of last year. He became "The Man" and made everyone forget about Bengie Molina, even though Molina was certainly an above-average Major League catcher for the Giants the past three-plus seasons.

You just can't equate that all into stats, same with how you couldn't measure Curry's impact into stats. Posey changed the team dynamic. He helped bring them up from pretenders to contenders. Heyward helped make them contenders the whole year, but he wasn't the centerpiece. He didn't have the pressure like Posey. It's no fault of his own. When you play outfield, you just don't have as much impact on a team like a catcher. You're not dealing with pitchers who are notoriously known as headcases. It's just the reality of baseball. To do what Posey did was nothing short of incredible, especially considering he was only 23 years old.

I'm glad the voters thought right here. I figured they'd do what the basketball writers did for Rookie of the Year last year and simply say "Well, he's got the numbers! So we gotta give it to him!"

Chalk this one up for the Bay Area. Maybe Posey will be better than Heyward and maybe he won't in terms of long term. But for now, Posey earned it with what he did on the field and in terms of wins, and that is why he deserved this just a little bit more than Heyward.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reactions to the Giants' 2010 FSR (Fans Scouting Reports)

One of the most interesting things I have stumbled upon in recent days is FSR (On the Web site Tangotier.net). For those who don't know, it is basically "Fans Scouting Reports." Basically, fans log on, submit their evaluations of certain players on a 1-100 scale. As predicted, 50 is the average. The FSR allows fans to evaluate instincts, fielding range, hands and throwing measurements on a 1-100 scale. I really love this evaluation system for two reasons:

A.) It's another way to help measure defense, and it does it in a good way (allowing people to judge players on what they see). After all, a lot of people's big problems with UZR is that they don't think it equally justifies what they see on the field. While this isn't fail safe, FSR does give a nice complement to UZR.

B.) It's relatively simple. 1-100 ratings in seven categories. Doesn't need much explanation when you see it.

Here are my reactions to some of the evaluations. (Remember 50 is average.)

The Expected (No surprises here, good or bad):

Andres Torres (76), Nate Schierholtz (77), Buster Posey (72), Freddy Sanchez (70), Travis Ishikawa (68), Juan Uribe (57), Eugenio Velez (28), Jose Guillen (27), Pat Burrell (36).

Not any surprises here. Schierholtz and Torres are plus-plus outfielders, Posey was a huge upgrade defensively over Bengie Molina (who was last in team FSR with a 26 rating), and Ishikawa is one of the better defensive first basemen in the game. Also, though Buster Olney would disagree, Uribe is above average defensively, and thankfully the fans evaluate him properly here.

In terms of the bad ones, also no surprises with Velez, Guillen and Burrell. Velez is an adventure in the outfield or infield (though I was a little surprised by his ZERO hands rating) and Guillen showed he was ill-equipped to cover right field at AT&T Park. As for Burrell, he wasn't the worst, but his 36 rating (a little below-average) is what I would rank him as well. I think Torres definitely made Burrell a lot more tolerable in left field (e.g. he was covering the ball Burrell couldn't get to).


The Good Surprises

Matt Downs (52), Cody Ross (53), Aubrey Huff (47).

Downs is no longer a member of the Giants, but he had a seven point improvement in the fans' mind from a year ago, so it was nice to see a guy get some love from the fans. As for Ross, I think it was mostly a surprise because A.) he was pretty solid offensively and B.) And he's above average defensively according to defensive metric and FSR. Thus, it makes you wonder why the Marlins were so ready to jettison him. (Then again, when you have Mike Stanton, I guess you gotta do something...but you're telling me Ross had no trade value at all?)

Now, most pundits would say Huff's below average FSR isn't good. But I found it considering this: he was a career DH prior to this season. Yes, he's not going to win a Gold Glove anytime soon, but he didn't kill the Giants defensively as much as I thought he would and his pop in the bat was more than enough to help him overcome the more stellar defender Ishikawa.

Brian Sabean definitely lucked out with Huff, not just offensively, but defensively as well in 2010.


The Bad Surprises

Pablo Sandoval (46), Aaron Rowand (46), Mark Derosa (48).

Sandoval's FSR is a little disheartening because it clashes with his UZR numbers from 2010. In 2009, Sandoval had a negative-3.6 UZR in 2009 and improved to a 1.2 UZR this season. However, FSR goes vice versa. In 2009, he had a 55 rating (above average). In 2010, his rating was 46 (below average). Arm accuracy and instincts are the two categories where he took huge hits. He fell 15 points in each category from the previous year (from 54 to 39 in AA and 65 to 50 in instincts). Hence, it's not just an athleticism thing that is hurting Sandoval defensively at third (since his weight seems to be the main beef with his defense).

Rowand didn't really have much of a tumble (he went from 48 to 46 from 2009 to 2010) but Rowand has already has had an MO as a solid defender. The same goes with Derosa (though I wonder how much his injury hindered him this year). However, as FSR points out, they are both seen by the fans as slightly below average. That's not a good sign for two guys who made just a shade under 20 millions dollars on the Giants payroll last season.


Conclusion

I'm late to the game in this, but FSR is definitely a good tool. I really didn't have any gross disagreements on some players with FSR (not quite the case with UZR on certain players). That being said, much like UZR, FSR shouldn't be viewed solely, but it gives us a more concrete way to look at players defensively in addition to usual sabermetric analysis. Definitely expect to see FSR used more often (along with UZR) on Remember '51.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Jesus Guzman the Second-Coming of John Bowker?

If anything, there was probably one guy who didn't like the Giants winning the World Series this year. I'm not saying he wasn't happy for the guys or the organization, but rather, he was probably disappointed because their win probably put the lid in terms of him playing next year with the Giants.

That person was Jesus Guzman.

Could Guzman be a good player? I don't know. His minor league numbers (.885 and .886 OPS; 16 home runs and 18 home runs in 2009 and 2010 in Fresno) aren't extremely impressive, but they're solid and he did show improvement from 2009 to 2010 in the Pacific Coast League (his K/9 rate dropped from 18.3 to 15.1 percent and his BB/K ratio improved from 0.45 to 0.56). Of course, Guzman has no Major League numbers to fall back on (.250 average, .500 OPS in 20 plate appearances) and his defense isn't exactly heralded (he played five different positions last year, and the best one for him was DH). Despite this, Guzman still remains an interesting player who is still young enough (he's 26 years old) to have some kind of career at the big league level.

But then again, we said the same thing about John Bowker and Todd Linden.

The comparison between Bowker and Guzman is very interesting. Granted, Guzman broke into professional ball earlier than Bowker (Bowker played college ball at Long Beach State; while Guzman was playing ball in Venezuela at 17 years old), but they are pretty similar career-wise in terms of minor league numbers.

Both had big seasons in Double-A ball (Bowker posted an .886 OPS in Connecticut in 2007; Guzman had a .948 OPS in 2008 for Midland, the A's Double-A affiliate). Both had down initial campaigns in Triple-A (Bowker struggled in his brief time in Fresno in 2008, though that was probably affected by the fact that he played most of the year in the Big Leagues; Guzman struggled down the stretch in 2008 with Sacramento, posting only a .649 OPS in 65 plate appearances). And both rebounded to have solid seasons in Triple-A the following year (Bowker had a ridiculous 1.047 OPS, while Guzman posted a very commendable .885 OPS).

So is Guzman on that Bowker track? (e.g. a prolonged stint in the minors without ever having a solid chance to prove himself at the Major League level?) Most likely. When your team wins the World Series, you don't rebuild and take a waiver on guys like Guzman. You re-load with free agents or stick with the guys who got you there (and the latter is a very strong possibility if I know Brian Sabean).

That being said, I think Guzman has a bit more upside than Bowker simply because he has had a better history in terms of plate patience. Guzman has only posted a BB/K ratio under 0.45 once in his career (his 2008 in Sacramento). As for Bowker, sans his ridiculous 1.16 BB/K ratio in 2009, plate patience was always an issue for him (he never had a BB/K ratio above 0.40 at any level prior to 2009). Yes, Bowker showed more power in the minors (only 11 less home runs than Guzman in almost 1000 fewer at-bats), but I'll take a guy with better plate discipline any day. Don't get me wrong. I liked Bowker. I rooted for him to succeed with the Giants hard. But, unlike Bowker, I think a decent Major League career isn't a stretch for Guzman.

It just won't be with the Giants.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Did Andres Torres Deserve a Gold Glove?

Shane Victorino. Michael Bourne. Carlos Gonzalez.

Your NL Gold Glove outfielders for the 2010 season.

Now, there's nothing wrong with those choices. If the writers gave  one to last year's winner (Matt Kemp), I would have had serious problems with the award (though the "legitimacy" of the award already is on shaky ground after Derek Jeter won the Gold Glove for AL shortstop and Orlando Hudson winning it last year).

But, as a Giants fan, it would have been nice to see a journeyman like Torres take away some hardware, especially when you look at his defensive numbers according to UZR (just freaking off the charts).

As Rob Neyer concluded, what probably killed Torres from earning a Gold Glove was him playing multiple positions throughout the year. Unlike Neyer, I think this is an asinine argument. Right field in San Francisco is one of the toughest places to play defensively. You have to give up considerable room on the foul line to protect Triple's Alley. There's a reason why Randy Winn started in right for so long though he didn't have a "typical" right fielder's arm: the guy could cover the necessary ground in right at AT&T. (Of course, so did Nate Schierholtz, but that is an argument for another day...this is 2010! The Giants are champs!)

So, if anything, that should have helped his chances, right? You had Torres able to not only play center, but play right in a park where the fielder needs to be athletic and apt enough to play center. You don't believe me? Ask Garrett Jones and Vlad Guerrero about playing right in AT&T. They'll tell you it ain't easy.

What do I believe killed Torres' chances this year?

He's not a name. And it's sad that baseball writers seem hesitant to think outside the box when it comes to this award. If the Academy Awards were ran like the Gold Glove awards, Tom Hanks would have beaten Robert Benigni that one year for best actor in 1997. Was Tom Hanks great in "Saving Private Ryan"? Yeah, he was. But Benigni was special, and the Academy actually had the guts to say "You know what, it isn't familiar, but let's do it because the under the radar guys need to be recognized."

The baseball writers had a chance to have a "Life is Beautiful" moment this year with Torres. Instead, like the Academy went safe with picking Sean Penn over Mickey Rourke for best actor, they did the same with the NL Gold Gloves. Completely safe, logical, but rather uninspiring choices. Look...I'm glad for Bourne, CarGo and Victorino. They're all likable players and they are certainly deserving. But, you can't question how much of an impact Torres had in terms of saving runs in the outfield (whether you are in the sabermetric or "I judge baseball with my eyes" camp). You can't question that Torres probably made Pat Burrell look better than he was, because he was chasing the balls Burrell probably should have gotten to. You think the baseball writers would take into consideration ballparks, especially considering how Coors and Citizens Bank are crackerboxes in comparison to AT&T.

But sigh...they didn't. Oh well, Andres. You're the Gold Glover in Giants' fans hearts, and the World Series trophy proves it.

I can't wait for the NL Rookie of the Year award to be presented.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comparing the Giants and Phillies Defensively

I just can't get over what Buster Olney said on Bill Simmons' MLB Playoff Podcast, which I listened to yesterday. Basically, I came away with four things:

1.) The Tampa Bay Rays Have the Best GM in baseball (probably true).
2.) The Red Sox are hurting in terms of the money they owe to contracts next year (true, but unnecessary considering the Red Sox aren't in the playoffs).
3.) The Mariners made a mistake by taking Justin Smoak from the Rangers instead of Jesus Montero in the Cliff Lee trade (very, very true when you consider Montero's a catcher).
4.) The Giants have no chance against the Phillies because of their offense (true) and defense.

(You can find the BS Report Podcast between Simmons and Olney here.)


The defense part kills me. Olney remarked to Simmons that the Giants had "one of the worst defenses in baseball." For a baseball writer, and one who likes to follow modern trends (e.g. some sabermetrics), I can't believe Olney would put his foot in his mouth like this.

So, to prove my point over Olney's, let's look and compare the Giants  position by position (on UZR and UZR/150 basis) to the Phillies who apparently are "better" defensively than the Giants.

Left Field: Pat Burrell vs. Raul Ibanez.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Burrell: 4.9 and 10.7.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Ibanez: minus-6.9 and minus-8.4.

The positive UZR and UZR/150 information is probably an aberration. Burrell is a career neagtive-39.7 outfielder defensively. This positive UZR and UZR/150 is the first instance in his career since 2004. That being said, Ibanez has been atrocious in the field this year and has been so in the past (career negative-20.4 UZR). At the very least, it's a wash, but I would give the benefit of the doubt to Burrell mainly because he has been better this year, while Ibanez has taken a dive after posting positive UZR numbers a season ago.

Edge: Giants.

Center Field: Andres Torres vs. Shane Victorino.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Torres:  21.2 and 24.8.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Victorino: 2.6 and 3.3.

Victorino has traditionally been a solid outfielder (career 30.5 UZR). But what Torres has done has been unbelievable. And it's not just a fluke either. Torres still posted very good UZR numbers a year ago (8.2) despite playing a sparing amount of games (his UZR/150 translated to 33). Torres can save runs and he can save runs in bunches, particularly helpful considering the Giants pitchers are primarily strikeout-flyball pitchers. You don't want to discredit Victorino and what he has done in his career, but the past two years, he can't hold a candle to what Torres has done defensively.

Edge: Giants

Right Field: Cody Ross vs. Jayson Werth.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Ross: 2.9 and 3.4.
2010 OF UZR and UZR/150 for Werth: negative-6.9 and negative-7.2.

This may be the toughest position to judge for both teams. Ross isn't incredible defensively, but at the very least he's average to above-average (career 3.5 UZR in OF). Werth has actually been great over his career (career 43.8 UZR in the OF), but has struggled this season. If you judge Werth against Jose Guillen (negative-23.1 UZR for his career in the OF), then the Phillies have this won outright. But then you consider Nate Schierholtz (6.4 UZR this year in RF), and suddenly the Giants have more depth (Ben Francisco, their backup right fielder posted negative UZR numbers). I'm just going to call this one a draw, mainly because I don't think Werth is as bad as his stats this year indicate, and Ross, while solid, is nothing special (though he certainly is a heck of a lot better defensively than Guillen).

Edge: Push.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval vs. Placido Polanco.
2010 3B UZR and UZR/150 for Sandoval: 1.2 and 1.5.
2010 3B UZR and UZR/150 for Polanco: 10 and 11.3.

No doubt the Phillies have the edge here. Polanco has been stellar this year, and has been over his career (21.8 career UZR at third). Sandoval performed much better this year (he had a negative-3.6 UZR last year), but he has regressed in the second half, and he still has problems with his throwing accuracy at times. Even if Mike Fontenot starts at third, the Phillies still have the advantage with Polanco. Fontenot's career UZR is negative-4.2 at third base.

Edge: Phillies.

Shortstop: Juan Uribe vs. Jimmy Rollins.
2010 SS UZR and UZR/150 for Uribe: 2.1 and 3.3.
2010 SS UZR and UZR/150 for Rollins: 6.9 and 12.3.

This one is another matchup that clearly favors the Phillies...though not as much as people would like to think. Olney was pretty clear in calling out Uribe as a poor defensive shortstop. Now is he a gold glove candidate? Probably not, but he is better than his pudgy frame would suggest (career 18.5 UZR). Rollins of course is a better athlete and hence, a better defensive player (career 44.5 UZR), and the Phillies have the advantage in this department because Rollins is so great. They don't have the advantage though because Uribe is so poor, like Olney would like to think.

Edge: Phillies.

Second base: Freddy Sanchez vs. Chase Utley.
2010 2B UZR and UZR/150 for Sanchez: 5.9 and 9.3.
2010 2B UZR and UZR/150 for Utley: 10.3 and 12.9.

The Phillies take it again here, but it's closer than one would like to believe, especially if you look at UZR/150. I think when you take into consideration that Sanchez has been hurt most of the year, Sanchez's UZR numbers look a whole lot better (hence, the drop in difference in UZR/150 between him and Utley). Utley is one of the top second basemen in the game both offensively and defensively, so on just position alone, Utley is the clear favorite. But Sanchez is no slouch, and Fontenot has proven to be a more than adequate backup at second as well (8.6 career UZR at 2B).

Edge: Phillies.

First base: Aubrey Huff vs. Ryan Howard.
2010 1B UZR and UZR/150 for Huff: 5.4 and 9.7.
2010 1B UZR and UZR/150 for Howard: negative-12.8 and negative-11.6.

Olney also said in the podcast that Huff "probably should be a DH." Well, Buster, you haven't been watching the Giants season that closely if you think that. First all, Huff is significantly better than Howard at first. Second, in addition to better UZR numbers than Howard, Huff has also played three positions this year (left field and right field) and held his own (he only posted negative numbers in right field, but his UZR/150 was only negative-7.2, which isn't bad considering how hard it is to play right in AT&T Park). Huff not only showed that he can field adequately at first, but he showed that he can be mixed in the field and not be a complete disaster.

Edge: Giants.

Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Carlos Ruiz.
2010 stats for Posey: six errors, one passed ball, 37.1 CS percentage.
2010 stats for Ruiz: six errors, four passed balls, 28.6 CS percentage.

No question Posey is a better athlete than Ruiz. However, Posey showed great defense behind the plate this year for the Giants. His 37.1 CS percentage was fourth in the National League this year, not bad considering it is his first year. Furthermore, he was tied with Ruiz in terms of errors committed (4th best in the NL). Sure, Ruiz isn't much worse, but I'm giving this one to Posey, mainly because he's done all this as a rookie, and he has the better CS percentage.

Edge: Giants.

Team UZR in 2010:
Giants: 56.4 (2nd in MLB).
Phillies: negative-5.8 (17th in MLB).

Edge: Giants.

Verdict:
The Giants have the better outfield and catcher. The Phillies have the better infield (sans first base). On terms of count alone in the breakdown, the Giants beat the Phillies 4-3-1 (with the one draw being right field). Are the Giants much better than the Phillies defensively, probably, but not by much. That being said, I think this effectively refutes Olney's point on Simmons' podcast that the Giants are a lousy defensive team. They're not, and the numbers back it up.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 2010 San Francisco Giants: NL West Champions

Those eight words haunt me. They give me shivers. In June, if you would have told me the Giants would be NL West Champs, I would have laughed. Not because I didn't believe, but because it just didn't seem possible. Not with Aaron Rowand patrolling center field. Not with Bengie Molina playing catcher. Not with Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list and Edgar Renteria rotating between shortstop and the disabled list.

But it happened...and what can I say. I couldn't be more shocked and happy as a Giants fan.

92-70. Four wins better than last year. You wonder what made this team different. Sure you could look at stuff like wRC and wRAA and say "The offense was better" and you certainly would be right. The offense was better this year, a whole lot better (over 10 points better in terms of wOBA). The Giants weren't a playoff team according to the numbers last year, and it made sense why the Rockies bounced them. You could argue that they aren't this year, but there would be an argument. Giants fans didn't have that luxury a season ago.

It was a funny regular season. The guy we expected to be money in the bank offensively (Pablo Sandoval) was far from it. The local guy we all had hope for (John Bowker) came manifested in another form (Burrell). The vets whom Bochy seemingly couldn't bench last year (Rowand and Renteria) were finally put on the bench when it mattered the most. And the guy we thought we wanted (Nick Johnson) tanked, while the guy we thought was a mistake (Aubrey Huff) proved to be everything we did want and more.

2009 was a great year. No doubt. But 2010 was special and special in a way that you just can't explain. How could you explain Sabean holding his guns at the trade deadline when everyone was telling him to trade Jonathan Sanchez for whatever bat he could? (Cough...Cody Ross...cough). How could you explain three washed up relievers (Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez) suddenly become late-inning studs? How could you explain a rookie catcher (Buster Posey) not only handle one of the league's best staffs, but help make them better?

No doubt about it. The Giants took risks in 2010. Much more risks than 2009. And you know what? It paid off. I didn't think they would. I'm a pessimist by nature when it comes to Giants baseball. Game 6 haunts me. Playing in Miami in October haunts me. Livan Hernandez haunts me. Steve Finley haunts me. And after the Giants dropped two in a row to start off this series, I was thinking "Great, these ghosts simply won't go away."

Yet the Giants believed, and helped pessimistic and agonizing fans like me believe. There hasn't been this kind of attitude about a Giants team in well...a long time. I don't even think 2002 had this kind of fan fervor. I went to a Giants-Dodgers game in September at Dodgers Stadium and the Giants fans were rowdier than the Dodgers fans. They owned the place and guess what? They won.

The Giants are onto something special, a special that is far and beyond what happened in 2009 (and you know what? That was pretty darn special).

We've seen teams play well one year and tank the other (ask Seattle fans about that). And the Giants had all the ingredients for a similar kind of collapse. And not only did they not, but they were better. Sabean, for all his faults, did the right things. Bochy, for all of his faults, stayed on the right track (though he could have played Jose Guillen a lot less). Brian Wilson, for every naysayer out there, slammed the door again and again. Tim Lincecum, enduring a down year, came up big when the Giants needed him the most in September. Juan Uribe proved that just because you look bad statistically, it doesn't mean you can't have impact (the 2005 Chicago White Sox can testify to this).

I could go on and on. The Giants are in the playoffs. And I still am in utter shock/disbelief/elation. I haven't wrote a post on this blog for almost three months. Work caught up with me, but the Giants started winning when I stopped posting and I didn't want to jinx them. That's how irrational I've become. For every post I write about how Andres Torres can't be judged on his past MLB numbers, I do things like not posting because I fear I might blow the Giants playoffs chances.

And now it's over. The Giants did it and I feel, as a fan, I can speak up again, now knowing that the tension is behind me...though only momentarily. After all, there is still the playoffs. I don't want this feeling to end.

Before the season in 2008, the Giants were actually being talked about as a candidate to break the '62 Mets record for most losses in a year. Eugenio Velez was heralded as one of their "Top" prospects. Rowand was expected to be their team leader and run producer after they signed him to a $60 million contract.

And look where they are now. 92-70, NL West Champs and in the playoffs for the first time in 2003.

Thank you God.

I can feel Bobby Thomson watching out over us as we speak.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Pros and Cons of the Jose Guillen Trade

Well, it's official. Jose Guillen is a Giant (I got the e-mail from the Giants' Web site, and usually, that seals the deal in terms of "officialness").

I can't explain my feelings in one or two tweets. This has been a long time coming, ever since June when the Royals were rumored to be in talks with the Giants in terms of trading Guillen.

So here are the pros and cons of the trade that went down today on a weird day for Bay Area Sports fans. (The Glen Coffee retirement was puzzling, but it's not a huge loss; as my friend Travis said on FB chat today "Coffee f******g sucked...I don't give a s*** about that...He was soft." I tend to agree with him for the most part.)


Pros of Acquiring Guillen

1.) People say Guillen doesn't provide much more offense than Aaron Rowand they're probably right. Let's look at some advanced numbers on the two players:

Guillen: .325 wOBA, 100 wRC+, 0.32 BB/K ratio, .174 ISO, 0.7 WAR.
Rowand: .307 wOBA, 89 wRC+, 0.24 BB/K ratio, .154 ISO, 0.9 WAR.

Now, I know fans will say "His WAR is Higher!" in defense of Rowand, but remember, Rowand is playing for the Giants (a team that is winning) and Guillen played for the Royals (a team that isn't). As you can see though, Guillen is a better option than Rowand. Is he much better? No. Is he a better clubhouse guy? Probably not. However, the Giants need offense, and Guillen provides a better upgrade than what they currently have on the bench, which is Rowand and Nate Schierholtz (who, from what I heard, could be the "PTBNL").

2.) The Giants starting pitching is shakier than it was at this point last year, especially Tim Lincecum. Guillen makes the team more offensively average, which they may need after watching yesterday's game against the Cubs (e.g. the bullpen blew a 7-3 lead). The days of them winning 1-0 games is a lot less likely than a year ago.

Speaking of Timmy, Lincecum doesn't look like 2008 or 2009 Tim Lincecum but more like...well...2010 Tim Lincecum. (He has only two full seasons prior to 2010 for chrissakes!) His FIP (3.31) is almost a full point higher than last year (2.31) and his K/BB ratio (2.76) is over a full point lower than last year (3.84). Granted, this isn't necessarily an alarming thing. Lincecum was so good his first two years that anything less would look bad in comparison.

3.) Guillen shouldn't cost any prospects of note. Furthermore, he'll be a free agent after this year, so if he doesn't work out, then the Giants will be off the hook after the season ends.


Cons of Acquiring Guillen

1.) Guillen's lackluster defensive skills don't help the Giants and hence, the Giants defense is probably the biggest concern of this trade. While Guillen has been pretty decent for the Royals this season in right field (2.6 UZR), Guillen for the most part, has been a sub-par defender in his career (minus-22.4 career UZR). An outfield with Burrell, Andres Torres and Guillen is shaky, mainly because you're putting two iron gloves out there (Burrell and Guillen) and that puts more pressure on Torres and the pitching staff. Furthermore, right field isn't easy to play in San Francisco. If you don't believe me, ask the Pirates' Garrett Jones, who got owned by the wall on Aubrey Huff's early-season "Inside the Park" home run.

The Giants have been successful this year because they have had one of the top defenses according to UZR. Guillen isn't going to bolster that UZR.

2.) He has power (career .171 ISO) but that's about it. Guillen doesn't draw walks (career 0.29 BB/K ratio) and he doesn't get on-base well either (career .322 OBP). In order to be worthwhile, Guillen is going to have hit dingers and fast. Granted, Burrell did that when he came over to Tampa, but can the Giants get lucky on three cast-offs in a row? (With Huff being the first.) That seems like a lot to ask and hope for.

3.) Guillen doesn't exactly have the most sterling clubhouse reputation. This year he openly complained about being benched and this year wasn't the first time something like that happened. He was suspended for the playoffs when he was with the Angels, and he was volatile his second year in Washington. Granted, Bruce Bochy is known for managing clubhouse knuckleheads well, but still...why risk it?

Granted, people will say that "chemistry" in baseball doesn't matter and to a point I would agree (just because baseball is such an "individual" sport). However, while good chemistry, in my opinion, won't bolster a team automatically, bad chemistry can certainly destroy a good team fast. If you don't believe me, look at what happened with the Giants when they acquired A.J. Pierzynski and Shea Hillenbrand.


Final Conclusion?

It's another low risk, potential high reward move by the Giants. They get a player with pop and they got him for "Fred Lewis to Toronto-esque" cheap. If Guillen doesn't work, the Giants can cut ties with him and there won't be much of a loss.

That being said, you have to like the way the Giants are playing. They're looking good and they're playing with confidence. So, you just have to ask, "Why mess with it if it isn't broken?"

Is it the worst deal of the year? No (Mark Derosa's

We have to wait and see, but I'm not optimistic. (Then again, I wasn't optimistic about Burrell either; I don't mind be wrong again if it results in the Giants winning.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Brian Sabean Finally Wising Up as Giants General Manager?

I hate to say it. I am as big a Sabean basher as the next McCoven commenter on McCovey Chronicles. For years, I felt he got too much credit as GM when the Giants were riding high and competing for the NL West Division title every year. I came to these feelings because of two things: A.) He had Barry Bonds, the best hitter alive, and B.) the NL West wasn't exactly flush with talented "management" (e.g. Sabes was the best of a mediocre bunch of GMs in the NL West at the time).

But, as I write this post, the Giants are 64-49, which is three wins better than where they were at last year after 113 games. They are one game back of the Padres in the NL West, which I never would have thought back in June when they looked like a dead lock for third or fourth in the division. They are one game up in the Wild Card race, and I like their chances considering Dusty Baker is managing the Reds (e.g. They are going to self-destruct at some point).

And, who deserves some credit?

Sabes. F'ing Sabes.

Those words don't come easy. However, just look at what he's done this year.

  • He signed an aging, "left for dead" ("I Spit on Your Grave"-style) Aubrey Huff to a one year deal worth three million dollars. Huff, a career DH prior to this season, was expected to play first base and provide the Giants with pop, though his projections were rather disheartening (Bill James projected a .338 wOBA and a 4.5 wRAA). What has Huff done? He has mashed (20 home runs), surpassing expectations offensively (his wOBA is .403 and his wRAA is 30) and defensively (he has played three positions and sports a cumulative 2.1 UZR). Huff has been the Giants MVP, and his WAR (4.2, which converts to about $16.9 million according to Fangraphs) proves it. And we all thought Nick Johnson (.330 wOBA; 0.1 WAR) was a better option in the off-season.
  • He passed on Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, more expensive free agent choices this off-season. Granted, some of it was out of his hands (Bay said straight up he didn't want to play in SF and Holliday was demanding too large a payday because his agent is Scott Boras), but Sabes made the right move by passing on the two, expensive sluggers. While Holliday looks to be worth his salt (4.4 WAR; .388 wOBA), Bay has been a tremendous disappointment (.144 ISO; .337 wOBA; 1.3 WAR).
  • He admitted he was wrong (not publicly, but in action), cut ties with Bengie Molina and by July 1st, Buster Posey was the everyday catcher, which every Giants fan wanted in the beginning of the year except the Molina family. And guess what? The move paid off. The Giants went 20-8 in July, the first time they won 20 games in July since 2000 and Posey has been a spark in the lineup (.387 wOBA; 2.4 WAR).
  • He signed Pat Burrell, though everyone thought (including myself) thought it was a dumb idea, that Burrell was done, and that he was just going to cause a logjam in the Giants lineup. I was totally wrong. Bruce Bochy finally decided that Aaron Rowand was benchable, Mark Derosa got surgery and sat out the rest of the year (a blessing in disguise; Derosa would have made the lineup situation worse), and Burrell came in rejuvenated and with a chip on his shoulder to prove the Tampa stint was a fluke. Burrell has posted a .377 wOBA as a Giant, has been a model teammate and has provided one of the best moments Giants fans have had against the Dodgers in quite a while.
  • And lastly, he stayed pat at the Trade Deadline, and didn't trade away any top prospects, even though everyone clamored that the Giants needed a bat. My argument for those pining for Jose Bautista or someone similar was this: Where would he play? I think Sabes realized that and decided to roll the dice on this offense, figuring that Pablo would turn it around at some point, which would cover the offense should Burrell and Posey cool (which sort of has happened). Second, the Giants have some special prospects, and I think Jonathan Sanchez is a special (not to mention affordable and under team control for two more years) pitcher, and to lose them for short-term gain would've been a travesty. If you don't believe me, look at how the Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez trades have turned out on the Giants end.


Granted, Sabes has made some blunders. Signing Molina was a bad decision. Signing Sanchez, despite his glowing recommendation from Mychael Urban (Urban said that Sanchez was a guaranteed for a .300 average and 10 home runs prior to the season and that we should "Book it." Not quite Urban. Not quite) was a bad decision (his .286 wOBA and 0.3 WAR echo that). Signing Derosa was a bad decision. Not doing enough medical research on Sanchez and Derosa in the off-season was a bad decision.

That being said, Sabes has improved on those mistakes (for the most part). He didn't stay hard-headed about improving the blunders he made earlier this year. In fact, we've seen Sabestradeable player" factory. He understands that they can help you win games NOW. I think Posey has showed him that, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some guys in the minors this year get shots at starting positions next year. A couple of years ago (last year even), we couldn't say that of Sabes. It would almost be guaranteed that a veteran would be starting on Opening Day, even if that veteran is a washed up Steve Finley.

Maybe this is all a flash in the pan. Maybe Sabes is just letting it ride because that's what he does: let things ride when they are working. Maybe he hasn't changed philosophies, but just ran out of options and got incredibly lucky with Huff, Posey and Andres Torres. Maybe this off-season, he'll fall into his same, dumb idiosyncrasies and re-sign Edgar Renteria to a one-year contract because he's been a "Great Giant" this season.

I don't know. I can't see the future. But in terms of the present, Sabes has finally earned my approval as the Giants general manager so far this season.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to use the rest room and throw up now.

So...Are You Alive?

Sorry for the long delay. I know. If you run a Giants blog, you shouldn't be having long "Freddy Sanchez Hitting a Home Run"-esque droughts in July and August, the heart of the season. But there have been a variety of factors I can't control (e.g. work, no internet access, etc.) that have prevented me from posting. That being said, new REGULAR posts will be coming back starting today. With so many Giants blogs out there, I'm sure you haven't missed out, but I just wanted to give a heads up.

Let's make it two in a row against the Cubbies. Who would've thought three years ago they would be this bad?