Thursday, December 31, 2009

With Uribe Back, The Pressure is on Renteria to Produce for the Giants

From Bleacher Report

With Juan Uribe on the verge of getting a new contract from the San Francisco Giants, the pressure is on for one current Giants player:

Edgar Renteria.

With Mark Derosa getting signed to a two-year, $12 million dollar deal, and the possibility of an Adam LaRoche acquisition still looming, Uribe most likely will be a platoon player heading into Spring Training.

That being said, despite his backup-status, he will bring a lot of heat and competition to Renteria, who most likely will be slated as the Giants' starting shortstop come Spring Training.

For starters, Renteria is coming off an atrocious year, while Uribe is coming off a pretty good one. Renteria struggled through injury and ended up batting .250, with a .307 OBP and only five home runs, his lowest home run total in his career since 1998 (he hit only three for Florida that year). Uribe hit 16 home runs, drove in 55 RBI, and sported a .329 OBP (which is his highest number in that category in his career).

Thus, it makes sense statistically why Giants fans are pining for Uribe to start at shortstop over the overpaid (he'll make nine million dollars next year) and underachieving Renteria. Couple that with a major difference in personality (Uribe is a fun-loving guy, while Renteria is known for his seriousness, though Renteria did score some points for being the first guy off the bench and getting in Russell Martin's face during a scuffle in August against the Dodgers), and it almost seems logical that the end could be very near for Renteria in San Francisco.

That being said, I don't think Giants fans should be so hasty in terms of giving up on Renteria completely. For starters, the bottom line is this: he was hurt last year. It was obvious he played through injury, and was not 100 percent considering his elbow and arms problems. Thus, Renteria needs to be judged when he is completely healthy, and chances are, he will be in 2010 after having a full off-season to recover.

Secondly, Renteria, despite his decline as a player over the last few years, is the kind of guy that responds well to bad seasons. After a poor season in Boston, Renteria came back to the National League and lit it up with the Braves in 2006, where he hit .293 and scored a 100 runs.

Granted, most people thought that would happen LAST year when he was coming off a mediocre season in Detroit, but I think the adjustment from the American to National League, coupled with his injury, made things tough for Renteria. Thus, with a full year of being reacquainted with National League behind him, and healthy (hopefully), Renteria is more likely to breakout this year than he was last year.

And to put things more in Renteria's favor, Renteria did have an advantage over Uribe in one category: his BB/K ratio. Renteria had a 0.57 BB/K ratio in comparison to Uribe, who had a 0.30 ratio. While this may be a minute stat, it may be a telling sign that a healthy Renteria may be what this Giants team needs. Renteria's patient, less-free-swinging approach may be more valued on a team that ranked last in walks and OBP in the National League in 2009. Will the Giants get more pop from Uribe? Most likely. However, if the Giants want to score more runs and be playoff contenders, the Giants may want to go with a guy who has never had a BB/K ratio under 0.42 in his career rather than a guy has never had a BB/K ratio over 0.44.

One of the big gripes many Giants fans (and baseball fans in general) have had with Renteria (in addition to his inability to pull anything other than 85 MPH fastballs) is his mediocre defensive skills. Surprisingly though, in terms of playing shortstop, Uribe is not a dramatic improvement. Uribe's career UZR/150 is 3.5. Renteria has a career UZR/150 of 1.0.

Is Uribe better? Obviously, but Giants fans shouldn't be thinking that Uribe is a tremendous upgrade. He's better than the iron-footed Renteria, but he won't be confusing Giants fans with Omar Vizquel anytime soon.

Granted, the Bay Area faithful should be happy Uribe is back, mainly because he can play three infield positions and has a solid, if inconsistent bat. That being said, I think Giants fans need to give Renteria a chance to start the season. While Renteria was an obvious flop last season, if healthy, he is more than capable of turning it around in San Francisco this second time around.

That being said, unfortunately for Renteria, the time span should, and most likely will be short. The Giants need to win now, and they need to build on their 88 win season a year ago. If Renteria does not put up major improvement within the first month of play, it would not be surprising if general manager Brian Sabean sends Renteria packing, especially with Renteria in the last year of his contract.

It's put up or shut up time Edgar. The job's yours for now, and I do believe there are some Giants fans willing to give you a second chance, but just remember: there's a pretty decent option behind you, and the option looks more enticing to Giants fans by the day.

Another .250/.307/.635 season in terms of batting average, OBP and OPS isn't going to cut it this time around.

Mark Derosa is officially a Giant, but does it makes sense for San Francisco?

For the first time since Freddy Sanchez's re-signing, Giants General Manager Brian Sabean finally made a major move this off-season (of course, unless you consider Tony Pena Jr. signing big news, which I necessarily don't). He signed Utility player Mark Derosa to a two year, $12 million dollar deal.

First off, this probably is a solid move, regardless of what some Giants fans may think. Is it sexy? Of course not, but it is a low risk acquisition, which is what the Giants need after years of high-risk, somewhat irresponsible free spending (see: Rowand, Aaron; Roberts, Dave; Zito, Barry). And besides, even if Sabean was willing to go back to his "gunslinger" (e.g. thoughtless and incomprehensible) ways, this isn't the year to do it. The only real players who would make sense in terms of being worth big money contracts would be Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, but Holliday is represented by Scott Boras (e.g. nothing is going to happen because Sabean and Boras get along as well as North and South Korea these days) and Bay has stated publicly that he doesn't want to play in San Francisco (he is on the verge of signing with the Mets anyways).

So, with so few options left now, Sabean made a conservative signing in terms of Derosa. Sure, Derosa is coming off an injury plagued season, had dramatic dips in terms of batting average, OBP and OPS, and will be 35 by next season. However, Derosa does add more power (he had 23 home runs last year), can play multiple positions (such as third base or left field) and did come relatively on the cheap if you look at his WAR converted to Dollars scale on Fangraphs.

Granted though, Derosa isn't a sure fire signing. As bad as this sounds, Derosa does somewhat reek of Aaron Rowand. He's coming off a big power year in a relatively homer-friendly park (e.g. Cleveland, which was the launching pad for Ryan Garko) and at his age, he's likely to decline, especially considering the wrist injury he's coming off of after getting traded to St. Louis. If Derosa isn't healthy (and I'd say the chances are 50-50 he isn't) then there is a high possibility that Derosa may suffer in San Francisco's spacious AT&T park like Edgar Renteria in 2009, or simply not see the field enough to justify his acquisition like Freddy Sanchez's second half last season.

If Derosa DOES stay healthy (and that's a big IF), and he is able to somewhat replicate what he did in Chicago in 2007 and 2008, I can see Derosa having an impact on this Giants team.

However, not as a third baseman.

If anything, manager Bruce Bochy needs to play Derosa in left field for this deal to have any credibility. First off, I don't think Pablo Sandoval going to first is the answer. Is Sandoval perhaps playing a little out of position? Maybe, but his problems have more to do with his arm rather than his glove. After a full year at third, I think Sandoval has learned what it takes to be a major league third baseman. This isn't the Miguel Cabrera situation where Cabrera couldn't make a move laterally. Sandoval is actually very nimble for his size, and to put him at first, in my mind, would be a waste of his surprisingly athletic ability.

Furthermore, moving Sandoval to first would be pretty much it for Travis Ishikawa, who I'm not ready to give up on. Is Ishikawa there yet? No, absolutely not, but he showed significant progress after a slow start in 2009. The guy does need to be able to hit on the road better, but I think a platoon of Ishikawa and Jesus Guzman would be sufficient enough for a Giants team looking to make the playoffs next year.

Where Derosa really needs to go for the Giants is in left field, simply because the left field position currently is so unproven. Eugenio Velez was a product of a hot month. While he did show better plate patience and had a better approach at the plate in the second half last season, Velez's history of poor starts in his career should be a caution for all those championing him to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. As for Torres, he has good speed and had an excellent year (his best season so far in the majors), but again, it is hard to determine whether or not he will be able to replicate the season he had last season. There is just so little history on the guy to fall back on, and it would just be too much of a risk for the Giants to make Torres an everyday starter. As a platoon guy he's great, but the Giants need more proof from him that he can play left field everyday for the Giants.

In additon, left field might actually be a better position for Derosa, especially defensively. First off, his UZR/150 numbers in terms of playing outfield last year are actually better in comparison to him playing third base (31.2 in 2009 when playing outfield, -8.7 when playing third base). Thus, defensively, he is not that much of an upgrade over Pablo Sandoval (Sandoval had a -6.7 UZR/150 last year). Sure, defensively, according to UZR/150, Derosa may be worse than Velez (who has a UZR/150 of 46.1 when playing left field last year), but what Derosa will offer offensively should efficiently supplant Velez despite the difference defensively. Derosa has a better history compared to Velez in terms of OBP and OPS, and those are two categories the Giants need to drastically improve after their offensive debacle in 2009.

So, Derosa should be solid player for San Francisco in 2009. I am confident enough (and optimistic enough) to make that statement. Will he reach that 23-homer mark again like he did last year? Probably not, simply because Cleveland Indians players have not transitioned well to AT&T Park recently (cough...Garko...cough). However, to think his OBP and OPS numbers will dip under .320 and .750 again may be far fetched. Sure, age will come up and creep up on Derosa (simply because it does at 35), but I think Derosa is capable of having a solid season where his numbers in those categories could fall in the .340-.360, and .780-.800 range in terms of OBP and OPS.

That being said, for this signing to really have an effect, Derosa must play left field. Even if the Giants make a big splash signing in the Adrian Beltre (which would move Sandoval to third, but probably won't happen) or Adam LaRoche (which would supplant Ishikawa, and could happen) mold, Derosa is better suited to being the starting left fielder on Opening Day for the Giants.

Because in all honesty, an Opening Day lineup with Eugenio Velez may not be the best idea. He is relatively unproven, and probably better suited as a utility player. Having him start everyday to begin the 2010 season most likely will expose his inability to be a starting player, and will hurt the Giants playoff chances early on.

Is that a little pessimistic? Perhaps, but just look at Emmanuel Burris last year and you'll understand my concern.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Uggla and Damon Are NOT The Answers to the Giants Playoff Hopes

Dan Uggla and Johnny Damon.

They do not make sense in Black and Orange, right?

After all, currently, the Giants have Freddy Sanchez at second base. In fact, he's implanted there, without compromise. The Giants traded their second-best pitching prospect for him last Trade Deadline, and they signed him to a two-year, six-million per year deal early this off-season, the first real deal GM Brian Sabean did after he was re-signed as general manager for the Giants.

Uggla is a second baseman. I can't see him as a type that can move anywhere else. He's doesn't have the range or fielding ability to play shortstop (though anyone at this point seems better than Edgar Renteria), and I can't seem him being an upgrade at third base over Pablo Sandoval (though everybody--except me of course--thinks moving him to first is the answer).

Sure, there is a lot to like about Uggla. He hits home runs (and in a pitcher's park like Dolphins Stadium mind you) and he does have a decent on-base percentage (.354 last year) despite his high strikeout numbers (150 whiffs last year). Those two positives of Uggla, though, are two things that nobody else in the Giants lineup can do except Pablo Sandoval, so it is easy to see why some Giants fans would be tempted by Sabean acquiring the Marlin.

But he doesn't fit on this Giants squad. He would be a guy without a position, and that is never good to have, especially when you have somebody who has played second base so regularly as Uggla has.

And yet, according to Jayson Stark, the Giants seem to have interest in acquiring the Marlins big-swinger.


And if that isn't enough, there seems to be some increasing opinion on the Web (on Giants blog El Lefty Malo) that Johnny Damon wouldn't be such a bad idea as the Giants left fielder.

I know Eugenio Velez probably isn't the answer for the Giants in left field (he was a product of a hot two weeks and that's it). I know that Andres Torres isn't a very attractive option either. I know Fred Lewis has burned so many bridges with his high strikeout numbers and bad fielding that Giants fans would riot and start the next San Francisco Fire if he started on Opening Day.

However, the fact of the matter is this: AT&T is NOT a home run hitter's park, and Yankees Stadium IS.

That should be enough for Sabean to steer away from Damon despite his gaudy run production numbers (24 home runs, 82 RBI).

If Damon is signed by the Giants for 2010, Giants faithful should be prepared to experience an "Edgar Renteria-esque" season from the former Yankees outfielder.

The Giants shouldn't stay completely pat this offseason. I agree that Nick Johnson would not be that bad of a signing, and I think the case is aptly made in this article.

However, Sabean should not be swinging for the fences with these two guys. They just reek of Renteria, Dave Roberts, Steve Finley and Ryan Klesko. I want the Giants to win next year, and I think with the right player(s), they are more than capable of doing so.

But anyone thinking that Damon or Uggla is going to be that missing piece for this San Francisco Giants squad has to be out of their minds.

(Unless of course, getting Uggla requires getting rid of Conor Gillaspie, which the McCovey Chronicles doesn't think is such a bad idea. You know what? I'm agreeing with them! Just by looking at his stats, maybe an Uggla for Gillaspie swap wouldn't be such a bad thing. Only that though. Nothing else. Like I said before, neither guy alone will take the Giants to the playoffs.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mariners Nab Cliff Lee, Giants Sign Tony Pena, Jr. Ex-MLB Shortstop

Like I said in the previous post, Brian Sabean is doing everything I wanted him to do this off-season so far. He re-signed Freddie Sanchez to a decent price. He didn't cave in and sign Bengie Molina and Juan Uribe. He let go of Ryan Garko (whom he should have never traded for in the first place, because he was the second coming of Ricky Ledee).

I should be happy.

But I'm not.

This Cliff Lee to Seattle trade is ticking me off

For starters, anything Seattle does is personal for me. I actually still have a soft spot for the Mariners because I lived in the state of Washington for almost half of my life (I lived in Spokane for six years as a kid, and went to Gonzaga University for four years). I watched Mariners game in the Kingdome. Hell, one of the best moments of my life was seeing Tino Martinez hit a game-winning home run of Dennis Eckersley in 1995, the Mariners' "Refuse to Lose" season.

I like the Mariners. Do I like them like the Giants? Hell no. But I still consider them a fun team to root for from time to time, and think of them like that friend of your girlfriend or wife you think is hot and very fun to be with, but you wouldn't take her over your girlfriend or wife out of loyalty (though if your girlfriend dumps you or wife divorces you, she's the first woman you hone in on).

That being said, despite my inclination toward the Mariners, I'm envious and not in a good way.

Because they got a Cy Young winner, a legitimate playoff-proven starter, and...they got it at a steal. The Mariners lost only three prospects: Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez (the rumored third player to be named later).

My reaction? Who the hell are those guys? I mean, maybe Tyson Gillies is okay, but he's only played at Single-A ball, so the jury is still out on him.

You think for a guy like Cliff Lee, the Mariners would lose somebody decent, or at least big in terms of whom the Mariners currently have on the active Major League roster. A Brandon Morrow for example. I mean, they lost Adam Jones, an All-Star Major League outfielder, for a Glorified No. 3 starter in Eric Bedard in 2008! They should lose something for Lee, right?

Fortunately for long-suffering M's fans, that doesn't seem to be the case, and the experts are harping right with them.

Rob Neyer from ESPN likes what they're doing. The U.S.S Mariner, a Seattle Mariners Blog, likes it even more.

My friend Luke Ricci even gloated about it on Facebook saying....


(That means he's happy, if you didn't get the hint from the Bold and Caps and exclamation marks).

And though I don't want to admit it (because I am a bitter Giants fan that doesn't want any other team to succeed), I like the trade. Even one year of Lee is worth the trade in my mind, especially considering the prospects they lost don't have high ceilings like Jones.

Just goes to show you what changing a GM will do for a team. (wink...wink...).

As for the Giants? Well, they signed Tony "shortstop turned starting pitcher because he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat" Pena, Jr. I've seen Tony Pena Jr. He stinks. He can't hit. Matt Cain can hit better than him, and Matt Cain swings at times like a high school pitcher that is forced to hit because all of the bench players on his team suck and no one can DH.

Is Pena a bad signing? No. It's a fun signing because he's going to generate money at the gate for the Minor League clubs. He's kind of going to be that freak show people will say "Hey, it's that shortstop that couldn't hit, so he switched to pitcher. Let's see how good a pitcher he can be! He has to be a better pitcher than a shortstop he batted .098 and had a .132 OBP last year for the Kansas City 'Destined to Be Last Every Year' Royals!"

Gosh. Seattle gets Cliff Lee. San Francisco gets Tony Pena Jr. Granted it could have been worse for the Giants. At least it wasn't the other "crappy, over hyped shortstop turned pitcher" Matt Bush.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brian Sabean Watch: So Far, So Good, But...

Okay, Brian Sabean is back for two more years. We know that for sure, Giants fans have to live with it.

But how's the GM doing so far? Well, I think you can look at a few things that have characterized this offseason for the Giants so far.

-Bengie Molina not offered arbitration
-Juan Uribe and Brad Penny turning down contracts to become Free Agents
-Ryan Garko being non-tendered

For the first thing, I really like this. Look, Molina has probably been the best catcher the Giants have had this decade. The only close competitor is Benito Santiago, and Santiago wasn't forced to bat cleanup, he was in a loaded lineup with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, and he was on steroids. The close third would be Bobby Estalella, but I only liked him because his at-bat song was The Rock's theme song (yes, the pro "do you smell what the Rock is cooking" wrestler).

However, the Giants have Buster Posey. Posey has proven he can play at Triple-A. He has nothing to prove except at the Major League level. If he may not be ready at the beginning of the year, he certainly would be ready by mid-season, and I think an arbitration contract would be too much for one half-year of Molina. Thus, just from what it looks like, the Giants probably will sign a low-tier veteran (in the Ryan Bard, Brian Schneider mold) to be an emergency just in case Posey doesn't have a good Spring Training or gets off to a slow start. Believe me Giants fans who love Bengie Molina, this is the right thing to do. Posey's upside is too much. The Giants can't supplant him in the minors for another year.

As for the second item, it's predictable, mainly because Edgar Renteria is going nowhere, and Sabean signed Freddie Sanchez to a two year, six-million per year deal. So, Uribe has nowhere to go, and is basically a utility infielder...again. The Giants got lucky with Uribe last year, who was coming off such a bad year. To be perfectly honest, I think the Giants could have gotten away with just signing Uribe and passing on Renteria. However, since Renteria is likely staying in a Giants uniform next year, Sabean needed to let Uribe go. Uribe is going to command some money. Some team like the Royals or Nationals is going to pay a decent buck for him. That being said, it was very fun to have Uribe for one season, even if it took Bochy half the season to realized that he was more capable of playing everyday than Matt Downs.

In terms of Penny, I was very relieved Sabean passed on him. First off, I want Madison Bumgarner in the rotation. The guy proved he could pitch last year. Did he have his best stuff? No, but he certainly proved that he could come in and not get shellacked, not to mention hold his own. When he has his best stuff, and is more under careful watch (he pitched his arm off in the minors) Bumgarner will be a lethal No. 5 starter behind Lincecum, Cain, Zito, and Sanchez. As for Penny? He had a great second half, but there were some alarming trends with the guy: low strikeout, high flyball, groundball out numbers. I guess in a park like AT&T you can get away with that, but I'm not willing to shell out big bucks for what was most likely a fluky, "F-you mode" second half with the Giants ("F-you mode" because almost everyone wrote off the pickup as a dumb move by Sabean originally, when in fact, it turned out to be Sabes' best trade deal that season).

And lastly, I just found this out today, but Ryan Garko will not be tendered a contract, according to the San Francisco Examiner Web site. Personally, I love this. One, I think Garko was a crappy pickup from the beginning. His home run numbers were incredibly slanted because he played in a home run hitter's park in Cleveland, and his choke up two-strike approach is the kind of crap you only see in Little League these days. I know Garko is a standup guy, but I'll take Travis Ishikawa, who while is more strikeout prone, gives you more bang for the buck in terms of power, and is a lot better defensively.

Of course, what could change this maneuver from a good decision by Sabean to a poor one is if he does one of two things: a.) he signs Adam LaRoche or Nick Johnson. b.) he moves Sandoval to first.

First off, I would hate Adam LaRoche to be in a Giants uniform. I know I actually campaigned for him before on Bleacher Report, but the guy stinks, and his swing is not tailor made for AT&T Park. Nick Johnson I do like though. He's a high OBP guy (which the Giants desperately need) and he's good defensively. Does he have power? Only if you consider eight home runs last year power, but I think his ability to draw walks is something that the Giants need in order to be contenders. My only concern is Johnson is injury prone, but with Ishikawa as back-up (along with Jesus Guzman, perhaps) I think that will be fine. I would rather have Johnson and Ishikawa and Guzman platooning than Johnson and Garko.

As for the move for Sandoval. I guess it makes sense (because the Giants' best offensive lineup [when they were forced to play Renteria] consisted of Uribe at third and Sandoval at first). However, I don't like the move. Sandoval has a glove, and a cannon, the problem is that his cannon is too wild. That will eventually be molded with more time. It's not the Miguel Cabrera problem with Sandoval where he doesn't have any range like Cabrera. He surprisingly has range for a guy his size. He just need to get his arm accuracy under control. I sincerely think he can do that, and when he does, he will be a solid third baseman for the Giants for years to come.

Okay, so those are the issues so far with Sabean. My analysis? I like what he's doing. He's giving Giants fans what we wanted when the season ended (passing on aging veterans, and being conservative with money). Now, are Giants fans out of the woods with him? Oh heavens no! There are plenty of moments for Sabes to be Sabes (Adam LaRoche would be the dagger). Yet for now, I think Giants can breathe easily, knowing that Bill Neukom wasn't a complete moron for re-signing Sabes so far.

Back from Break...A Few Updates

Okay, crap. I've been gone a long time. Anyways, I've been without Internet, TV or Newspaper for over a month, so I'm a little behind on things. My apologies. I will begin posting new things on Remember 51 as well as Bleacher Report starting today. Here are a couple of things I wanted to address that I missed before I start new posts.

Tim Lincecum wins second straight Cy Young
--All I can say, "Yay!" and "It was much deserved." Seriously, I'm glad that the Baseball Writers of America are finally starting to realize that being a good pitcher goes beyond Wins and Losses and ERA. I think Lincecum and the Royals' Zach Greinke, who won the AL Cy Young, are class examples of Baseball Writers starting to look at more and more stats to see who merits the Cy, which is good because we've seen guys get screwed in the past just because they have 20 wins on a good team like the Yankees.

"Brian Sabean Report" Nixed, Now "Brian Sabean Watch"
--The BSR is just too long, and I'm too behind and don't have that much time to do such an extensive study on everyone's "favorite" MLB General Manager. However, during this off-season, I will monitor Sabean periodically through a series of pieces called "The Brian Sabean Watch." First post today!

Okay, that's it for now. Glad to be break from the break, mainly because Sabean hasn't done anything bonehead (yet) and the Gonzaga Bulldogs are 8-2 and ranked 22nd in the nation, despite having only one returning starter back from last year's team. (That being said though, the 49ers are 5-7, and I'm in tears because they wasted such a good start. Sigh...Typical Niners).