Monday, May 31, 2010

What Pat Burrell's Signing Means to the Giants Lineup

I can understand the logic behind Giants management giving Pat Burrell a minor league contract. The Giants need offense (though that certainly hasn't been the case the last two games; though you have to remember it was against Arizona). He's a free agent. He comes at little cost. He's only two seasons removed from a monster season in Philadelphia (though "monster season in Philadelphia" should always be taken with a grain of salt). And he's a Bay Area kid. What more would you want, right? It's win-win on paper.

And yet, you can't help but feel nauseated by this latest deal. In all honesty, out of all of Brian Sabean's moves this season, this one makes the least sense.

Mark Derosa "allegedly" is due back in a week. Edgar Renteria is due back in a couple. So, the Giants have this dilemma going:

Derosa, Aubrey Huff, Aaron Rowand, John Bowker, Buster Posey, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, and Andres Torres are all going to be fighting for playing time at first base and in the outfield.

Who's Burrell going to replace?

First off, I'm guessing Bowker is the first odd man out. I can get that, especially considering he has an option. Ishikawa is probably another guy out, most likely going to be designated for assignment soon. At the very least, the Giants could get some return. His numbers look good after two big pinch hits (In 22 at-bats, he has a .273 average, a .360 OBP and a .951 OPS) and he has tremendous defensive value (career 10.3 UZR), so it's totally possible that the Giants could get something of value for him. (A low-end prospect or cash perhaps?)

Even with those two guys out of the picture though, the Giants still have to deal with seven players (including Burrell) vying for two spots.

You can't take out Torres because Torres is the best Giants leadoff hitter since Kenny Lofton in 2002 (I's been that long folks). You can't take out Huff because Huff's approach has been very refreshing (high OBP, 0.95 BB/K ratio), even if it's not "Classic Huff" (1.11 GB/FB ratio, 8.8 HR/FB percentage). The Giants shouldn't take out Schierholtz because he's one of the Giants' best defensive outfielders (career 19.4 UZR), and he has been a spark at the plate this year in terms of plate patience (0.77 BB/K ratio), even if the power hasn't come around as expected (.405 slugging, 3.3 HR/FB percentage).

And lastly, the Giants shouldn't take out Posey, mainly because he has six hits in two games and needs more playing time to prove he is a Giants franchise player and worth the $6.25 million signing bonus he signed in 2008.

The most logical thing to do in order to make room for Burrell would be to bench Derosa (who doesn't seem a 100 percent anyway after wrist surgery) and Rowand (who has been tremendously ineffective this year). However, what makes that scenario tough is their contracts. Derosa and Rowand are due $19.6 million dollars this season. Brian Sabean would look awfully foolish with those two players on the bench considering how much cash he threw at them in the 2008 and 2010 offseasons.

Now, I know some people will think Burrell might just be a platoon player, maybe a pinch hitter ala Jim Thome in Los Angeles last season (Bobby Evans mentioned that on the Giants pregame show with Mycheal Urban on Saturday). I don't see that. Burrell had a choice between San Diego and San Francisco and I don't think he signed with the Giants to sit the bench, and I don't think Sabean signed him to pinch hit either. Burrell may or may not finish the season with the Giants, but Burrell's a big-name with a big pedigree. When he gets called up, he will play, and play regularly.

Because Burrell is a detriment to the Giants defensively (career minus-44.6 UZR in LF), the Giants would need to maximize their defense in order to shadow Burrell's inadequacies with the glove. Here would be the best lineup should Burrell be starting:

Starting pitcher

I definitely think this lineup could be effective. Torres and Schierholtz can cover massive ground in center and right, so that puts less pressure on Burrell. Furthermore, Burrell is put in a spot in the lineup currently manned by Rowand, and I don't think Burrell could be any worse offensively.

There are problems of course with my proposed lineup:

1.) It is highly unlikely that Posey will ever catch for Molina (because Bengie is "so good" at calling games, apparently).
2.) Uribe will get shafted when Renteria comes back healthy.
3.) Derosa needs to be in the lineup (because he's a "vet" and he is being paid to play).

So, the chances of my lineup actually happening I would think would be maybe 10 percent (and even that is generous). What most likely would happen is that Burrell would rotate with Derosa, with Torres in right and Nate on the bench. Not only is this going to hurt the Giants defensively, but overall, the lineup will suffer and somebody effective is not going to get at-bats (be it Schierholtz or Posey), which in the end, is going to cost the Giants wins.

The best scenario, of course, for the Giants would have been to lay off Burrell in the first place. Yet leave it to Giants management to sign a "big name" to confuse Bruce Bochy. I hate to be pessimistic, but in the end, Burrell's acquisition will cost the Giants some games.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Posey Diary: A Recap of Buster Posey's 2010 Debut With the Giants

Sometimes you just get lucky. In 1995, I was able to see Tino Martinez hit the game winning home run for the Seattle Mariners at the Kingdome off Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth. In 2005, I saw Adam Morrison bank in the game winning shot against Oklahoma State in Seattle.

You don't really anticipate great moments. They just happen.

Tonight was one of those moments.

When my Dad got tickets to tonight's game a few days ago, he didn't know Buster Posey was going to make his debut against the Diamondbacks on May 29th. I didn't know either. Heck, nobody except Brian Sabean and his management team knew really.

Nonetheless, Posey was making his debut and my Mom, Dad and I were lucky to see it.

Here is a breakdown of Posey's debut, "diary" style.

Lineup announcements

I like the lineup announcements at AT&T Park for some reason. They always have cool music. Juan Uribe always has a "money" look on his face when he turns to the camera. Bruce Bochy always looks awkward. And this year, they had these special effects where it looked like some kind of "techno" thing (more on this later).

Anyways, the lineup announcements went as usual. With the big guys (e.g. Pablo Sandoval and Uribe) getting the big cheers and the other (e.g. Aaron Rowand and Eli Whiteside) getting slightly better than golf clap support.

When Posey's name was announced in the sixth spot, however, the crowd roared. Last year, I attended Ryan Garko's first game as a Giant (not exactly witnessing greatness there), and he didn't get close to the response Posey received. You knew it was going to be a special day judging by the crowd's response to Posey. Even a guy who had been subdued thirty minutes before the game, seemingly drained from having to chaperon his daughter and their two friends, went ballistic when Posey was announced.

Top of the first inning, first batter

Kelly Johnson hits a bullet down the first base line. Posey makes a dive, but he's too off the line to make a play. You can hear some worry in the crowd after the play, as if everyone is thinking "Oh crap, maybe putting Buster at first wasn't the best idea." Thankfully, nothing comes out of it, as Jonathan Sanchez pitches his characteristic "20- plus pitch, but without any damage" inning.

Bottom of the first, Posey's first at-bat

There are runners on first and second when Posey gets up to the plate. The whole place gives him a huge standing ovation. Seriously, I don't think I have seen any Giant this young have this much anticipation. Sure, Lincecum was hyped, but he looked good down the stretch in 2007, so you knew he was going to bring good things in 2008. Pablo Sandoval was a relative surprise, so we didn't have the anticipation time. Posey blows this out of the water. He's probably the third most exciting player to Giants fans behind Lincecum and Sandoval. And yes, he hasn't taken an at-bat this year until today.

Posey works the count to 1-1, looking calm and collected at the plate. On the next pitch, he stays behind the ball and laces a line drive single up the middle. Sanchez scores from second and the crowd goes ballistic. You couldn't have asked for more from Posey in his first at-bat this year. Patient, makes good contact, easy swing, and drives in a run. Can't say we've seen that a lot from other Giants hitters this year (cough...Bengie Molina...cough).

(Notice I have to say this year after everything; it's funny, because it feels like a Major League debut when it really isn't considering he had a wee bit of playing time last September. I am also the 100th person to make this observation.)

Bottom of the third, Posey's second at-bat

It's "kid announces the lineup" inning, and he does a good job for the first couple of batters. Nails the "UUUURIBBE" and everything. However, Uribe knocks in a home run and it throws the kid in a loop and he isn't able to announce Posey's name, which ruins the moment of his second at-bat. Ironically, the only time they don't announce his name at the plate, Posey flies out to right.

Surprisingly, it is one of the most exciting pop ups all day. Considering the hype after his first hit, along with the Uribe home run on the previous at-bat, the crowd is ready to explode. As soon as the ball in the air, people get up immediately thinking it has a shot of going out. Whiteside hits that ball and people are thinking about heading to the Doggie Diner to stand in line for a nine dollar beer.

Bottom of the fifth, Posey's third at-bat

Posey's best at-bat of the day. With the bases load, he takes two pitches and milks the count to 2-0. He gets a fastball but he shrugs it off to make the count 2-1. On the next pitch he sees a breaking ball and drives it up the middle for a single. The crowd goes ballistic again. Posey is making this look so easy, as if he is playing pepper with the Arizona pitching staff. A.J. Hinch changes pitchers after Posey's single makes it five to zero.

Posey's already earned Player of the Game honors and the game isn't even over. That's how big he has been today. In three at-bats at this point, he has two hits and two RBI. All in his 2010 debut. I guess Triple-A stats mean something, right Sabes?

Top of the Sixth

In the beginning of the sixth, Stephen Drew hits a groundball to Posey. Posey fields it cleanly, but kind of does a "should I toss or run to the bag" thing. The action kind of throws off Romo, who runs to the bag anyways. Posey at the last minutes tosses the ball to the covering Romo. They make the out, but Drew steps on Romo's foot in the process. Romo is pissed and yells as he walks it off. Two interesting things happen:

1.) Posey says nothing to Romo, as if he knows Romo is pissed off at him for waiting so long to make up his mind (Posey says this in the postgame on KNBR) and he doesn't want to invoke anything else and 2.) no training staff sees Romo after the out, though it's obvious he was stepped on. Seriously, I thought training staffs were supposed to look at every little thing?

The more important moment of the inning? The Giants have on the video a "Pump your first" inning. What makes it better is the clips from "Jersey Shore" mixed in with shots of fans pumping their fists to a song "Pump your fist" around the stadium. Ironically, this isn't the first "Jersey Shore" reference at AT&T Park today (Lincecum says Mark Derosa would be the best teammate to be on "Shore"). I find it amazing how this MTV show has penetrated Major League Baseball this year, from The Situation's Vitamin Water commercial with David Wright to the "Pump your fist" inning at AT&T Park.

Oh, I'm not complaining about any of this by the way.

Bottom of the seventh, Posey's fourth at-bat

Runners on second and third and Posey is up again. After taking a first called strike, Posey laces the next pitch between the third baseman and shortstop for a single. Sandoval scores and Posey has his third hit of the day. As Posey takes off his gloves at first base, he is greeted again by first base coach Roberto Kelly who has a look on his face that says "And we kept you HOW LONG in Fresno?" This Kelly face however is topped later in the inning after Denny Bautista's hit. After Bautista's "swing from your shoes and pray to God the ball hits your bat" hit, Kelly greets the reliever at first with a look that says "You have to give Rowand a hard time when you get back in the dugout."

Overall, you couldn't be happier with Posey's debut. Three hits, three RBI and some solid defense at first. Granted, I still want him to catcher, but Posey is athletic enough to play the position for the time being. Then again, I'm not worried about Posey's defense right now. He is hitting, and if he can spark the Giants offense like he did tonight, then well...the Giants will be thankful they called up Posey sooner than they wanted to.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Buster Posey Up From Fresno! At-Bat Analysis Later Tonight

Being a fan who has resided in two different areas out of the Giants area for the past five years (four years in Spokane and one year so far in Los Angeles), I don't get to go to many games at AT&T Park. I long for the day when I finally am able to reside in the Bay Area and get season tickets or get enough money to purchase MLB.TV or MLB Extra Innings annually. For the time being though, I have to deal with this reality of following the team from afar.

Well, in my first game of the 2010 season at AT&T Park, I will be able to see the player I have pined for all season: Buster Posey.

According to Andrew Baggarly's blog Extra Baggs, Posey is slated to start at first base tonight with Aubrey Huff moving to left. Now, I'm not so keen about this move on paper. First off, Bengie Molina is not a serviceable Major League catcher anymore (as I have noted in a post yesterday), so I don't know why the Giants cut ties with him or somehow work out a trade. I mean, Molina is poor defensively, has no power and kills the team with his lack of speed. Sure, Timmy is comfortable with him, but you know what? You're going to have to get used to Posey at some point. Why not start sooner than later?

Furthermore, I'm not sure about Huff in left. Huff has only played nine total games in his career in left field, so I wonder if he's going to be able to make the adjustment to the outfield after getting comfortable at first base this season (Huff's 0.5 UZR/150 has been a surprise, especially considering his career UZR at first base is minus-11.8). What makes the situation worse is the fact that Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker are going to be the odd men out. Because of Bruce Bochy's love for Aaron Rowand (and his .286 wOBA), Schierholtz is going to lose playing time because the Giants can't afford to bench Andres Torres, who has become the Giants' leadoff hitter. It's tough to stomach because Schierholtz has been so good defensively in his career and offensively he has stepped up nicely this year (his .340 wOBA and 0.77 BB/K ratio show that).

As for Bowker, he has struggled this year, no doubt (.276 wOBA). However, Bowker needs more playing time and has shown at time that he is on the cusp of turning it around should he be given more at-bats. With Posey up and Pat Burrell apparently on the move to the Bay Area, it almost seems like a given that Bowker is destined for Fresno real soon.

Overall, I'm happy Brian Sabean decided to suck it up and call up Posey. I hope soon enough the Giants management will come to their senses and either bench or designate Molina for assignment and put Posey behind the plate, which will keep Torres and Schierholtz in the outfield, and give the Giants their best lineup overall (both offensively and defensively).

It will definitely be interesting in the long-run. For the short term now, I'm just excited to see Posey play in person for the first time. Expect an at-bat analysis for Posey later tonight or early tomorrow after I come back home from AT&T Park.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bengie Molina Making It Hard for the Giants to Keep Down Buster Posey

Bengie Molina is a fan favorite of the Giants. I admit that. When you have been as solid behind the backstop as he has been from 2007 through now, you have to like the guy a little bit.

Unfortunately, as likable as Molina is, this is certain: he doesn't offer much anymore as a starting Major League catcher.

This is amplified by the fact that Buster Posey, the Giants' No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America, is tearing up the Pacific Coast League with a .349 batting average and .955 OPS in Fresno.

Now, I know people will point to a few factors in defense of Molina. Here are a few things Molina supporters will bring up about the veteran catcher.

1.) Molina is still a good hitting catcher, and he has become more patient at the plate.
2.) Molina has traditionally been one of the better defensive catchers in the game.
3.) The Giants pitching staff feels comfortable with Molina behind the plate.

Those points are all nice, but they are refutable.

In terms of point number one, yes, Molina isn't a bad hitting catcher when you compare him to Jason Kendall or Eli Whiteside. However, when you look at he number overall, Molina really hasn't been that impressive this year.

For starters, his slugging percentage is way down, which accordingly, has affected his OPS numbers. If you look at his slugging numbers from 2007-2009, Molina posted percentages of .433, .445 and .442. This season? The number sits at a paltry .353, which has also resulted in a .691 OPS (the last time his OPS was under .700 was in 2002 with the Angels when it was .596).

In terms of his OBP numbers (.338 so far this year, which is a 29 point improvement over his .308 career OBP), while they are nice, there are two problems:

1.) They most likely aren't sustainable considering his track record.
2.) Getting on-base doesn't make much of a difference in Molina's value.

Point number one is easy. We're already starting to see a dramatic drop off in May (.292 OBP) from the crazy numbers he posted in April (.402 OBP). Sure, he's swinging at less pitches outside the strike zone (32.8 percent) than in years past (he had O-swing percentages over 40 percent the past two years), but it is still a high number nonetheless. Case in point, his O-swing percentage was 33.7 percent in 2007. What was his OBP?  .298.

Now, is he going to dip under .300? Maybe not, but I think Giants fans should be prepared for Molina's OBP totals to be around, if not below the ZiPS rest of the season projection of .310.

Then again, even if Molina beats history and sustains this high OBP, it is a rather dubious honor for him. Why is that? Because even though he may get on-base, his severe lack of speed is an absolute killer in terms of scoring runs. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if pitchers are more aggressive with Molina this year, knowing that even if he gets on base by walk, his slow-as-molasses base running won't hurt them in the runs department. Molina is strictly a station to station baserunner, and even that's putting it nicely.

Lastly in terms of offense, look at the pre-season ZiPS projections on Posey, and Molina's rest of the season ZiPS projections.

Posey: .282 average, .741 OPS, 64.8 wRC, 1.8 wRAA, .333 wOBA.
Molina: .272 average, .724 OPS, 36.7 wRC, minus-1.7 wRAA, .320 wOBA.

As you can see, Posey not only would be a serviceable replacement for Molina offensively, he might actually be an upgrade. Posey, if promoted and given the starting job, would add runs to a team that needs offense. Molina, at this point, only seems to be a detriment to the Giants offense when he is in the lineup.

In terms of point number two, Molina isn't a good defensive catcher anymore. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. Check out this article from Beyond the Box Score, a sabermetrics blog, that ranks every catcher defensively according to various metrics.

Where does Bengie Molina rank? 74th. The only catchers of note that he is better than are Mike Napoli and Ryan Doumit, and nobody has pined in the past for those guys to win Gold Gloves. To make matters worse, Whiteside is ranked 28th, which only puts more salt in the wound of the "Molina is a serviceable Major League catcher" argument.

If you don't like the advanced defensive metrics of Beyond the Box Score (and believe me, it did take me a while to comprehend the rankings), just look at the steal rate between Molina and Posey. Baserunners have stolen 34 bases out of 39 attempts this season (a 12.8 percent CS rate). Baserunners have only stolen 15 bases out of 27 attempts on Posey this year (a 44 percent CS rate).

Sure, Molina is in the Majors and Posey is in the PCL. However, the difference is so disparaging that Posey couldn't be any worse than Molina in the Majors.

Lastly, I understand the pitching staff may like Molina. However, it's not as if Molina plays every day. Eli Whiteside has played in 21 games this year, and is usually the regular catcher for Jonathan Sanchez and sometimes Barry Zito. So, it's not as if EVERY member of the pitching staff needs Molina. Furthermore, with Molina's declining athleticism, how dependable do you think a pitcher like Tim Lincecum thinks Molina is when his control is off?  I guarantee you the confidence Lincecum has in Molina now, isn't quite at the same level it was when Timmy started pitching full-time in 2008.

I understand the financial commitment that will be required if the Giants bring up Posey. I understand the financial loss the Giants would incur should they designate Molina for assignment. I'm not completely blind to the situation the Giants management have at hand.

However, Posey is a very special catcher, much like Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer before him. With those guys, when they were ready, the Orioles and Twins, respectively brought them up and took a chance on them, regardless of their status and who was holding the job before them. Sure, the Giants could move up Posey and have him split time at first and catcher, but Molina doesn't want to share the job, and Posey is a franchise-caliber player. He deserves to be playing in his future position, not messing around at other positions. This is the Major Leagues, not a high school summer league.

Who knows what Brian Sabean will do when he brings up Posey. This is certain though: Posey is an upgrade over Molina at this point, and if you don't believe me, just look at the numbers. Posey beats the pants off of Molina in every category.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Can Denny Bautista and Santiago Casilla Invigorate the Giants Bullpen?

After coming back and beating the Nationals today 5-4, the Giants remained over .500 for the season at 24-22. While the record is still promising, the Giants have struggled in the month of May, alarming considering many of the teams in the NL West who flopped in April are starting to turn it around this month (e.g. Colorado, Los Angeles).

Now, the Giants have offensive problems. No doubt about it. Furthermore, there are concerns with Tim Lincecum as well, especially after his latest six hit, six run, five walk performance in 4.2 IP on Wednesday against the Nationals.

Yet one of the big concerns that has Giants fans up in arms is this: can the bullpen hold up and keep the Giants competitive?

The bullpen can mean the difference between a rebuilding season and a playoff run, and the Giants have experienced this first-hand. In 2008, during their 72-90 season, the Giants bullpen was one of the worst in baseball, sporting a 4.45 ERA (24th in the Majors). In 2009, when the Giants went 88-74 and just missed out on the NL Wild Card, the bullpen posted an ERA of 3.49, second-best in baseball (behind only the Dodgers, who had a bullpen ERA of 3.14).

How are the Giants relievers doing this season? Well, the results have been mixed. Brian Wilson is off to a solid start having converted 12 out of his first 13 saves, and sporting an ERA of 2.45. Furthermore, the Giants have gotten solid performances out of journeyman and former Dodger (God I hate saying that) Guillermo Mota, who has appeared in 18 games this season and holds an ERA of 1.13 and a WHIP of 0.94.

However, after ranking second last year in the Majors, the Giants bullpen currently ranks 10th in the league with a 3.68 team ERA. Furthermore, many Giants relievers who were expected to have an impact this year haven't necessarily gotten off to the best of starts.

Brandon Medders, who is currently on the disabled list, has been a train wreck, as evidenced by his 7.20 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in 14 appearances (granted, his 5.83 FIP suggests that he isn't as bad as his ERA says, but nonetheless, a 5.83 FIP isn't necessarily a sterling number either).

Fireballer Dan Runzler, who burst on the scene in September last year hasn't been much better. While Runzler's strikeout numbers continue to impress (20 strikeouts in 18 IP), his 1.54 BB/K ratio and 83.7 percent contact rate suggests that Runzler may have some command issues that he may need to sort out. Much like Medders, Runzler's FIP (3.77) suggests that he's better than his ERA (5.00), and he does induce a lot of groundballs (1.75 GB/FB ratio). However, considering Runzler is a two pitch pitcher (he throws his fastball 73.8 percent of the time and his slider 25.5 percent of the time) and his velocity has dropped (the average velocity on his fastball has dropped from 94.7 MPH in 2009 to 93.6 MPH this year), Runzler may be regulated to middle relief or mop up duty in the Giants bullpen and may see some time in Fresno to boot.

So, with Medders and Runzler struggling, Sergio Romo going through his usual fits of inconsistency (Romo has a solid BB/K ratio at 3.80 and WHIP at 0.89, but his FIP is unusually high at 4.04 as his HR/FB ratio at 9.4 percent), and with Jeremey Affeldt struggling with his control (5.19 BB/9; 1.40 BB/K ratio), is there anybody in the Giants bullpen of worth other than Mota and Wilson?

There are two candidates who could spark the Giants bullpen:

Denny Bautista and Santiago Casilla.

Now, Bautista and Casilla aren't exactly young and they don't necessarily have track records of success. Both Bautista and Casilla are turning 30 this season and both relievers struggled mightily with their respective teams (Bautista the Pirates; Casilla the A's) last season.

However, Bautista and Casilla throw serious heat and can strike guys out. This year, Bautista is averaging 95.3 MPH on his fastball. Casilla has been even better, averaging 96.7 MPH on his fastball.

If you don't believe me on Casilla, check out his velocity charts from today's game.

That is some serious gas, and can explain why Casilla has six strikeouts in 2.2 IP in 2010.

Bautista has been solid as well in terms of striking guys out. In 7.1 IP, Bautista has 11 strikeouts. Furthermore, he is sporting a contact rate of 74 percent and a swinging strike percentage of 10.3 percent (the league average swinging strike percentage is 8.3 percent).

That being said, it is not as if Bautista and Casilla are perfect. Both have issues with their control. Bautista has a career 5.12 BB/9 and 1.31 BB/K ratio, which isn't exactly comforting. Casilla also has suffered with the same problems, as evidenced by his career 4.49 BB/9 and 1.77 BB/K ratio.

Bautista has suffered in terms of finding the strike zone at times in 2010. This year, Bautista has walked eight batters in 7.1 IP and spots a WHIP of 1.91. Casilla has been solid with only one walk and a WHIP of 0.36. Despite these sterling numbers, Giants fans have to take it with a grain of salt, mainly because it is such a small sample (case in point, his WHIP was 1.78 last year and his BB/K ratio was 1.40 with the Oakland A's).

Are Bautista and Casilla saviors to this Giants bullpen? Probably not. However, both guys throw serious heat and can strike guys out, which is what you want from relievers in your bullpen. With Affeldt's health and effectiveness in question, and Medders' 2009 looking like a fluke, both Bautista and Casilla will be greatly needed to have breakout seasons in 2010.

At this point, I think it's totally possible for both Dominican-born pitchers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scarce Six: A Look at the African-American Players in the Giants Organization

I just realized this fact after I saw Emmanuel Burriss get transferred to the 60-day Disabled List on May 22 to make room for Santiago Casilla: the Giants haven't had one African-American player take the field for them this year. Burriss has been hurt and on the disabled list all season, and Fred Lewis, the only other African-American player on the 25-man active roster this Spring, was traded away to Toronto shortly after the season began.

In my mind, this is incredible, and may be the first year in a long time that the Giants have not had an African-American player take the field in a Giants uniform. I mean, this is a franchise that has housed great African-American players like Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Hank Thompson, Willie McCovey, Bobby Bonds, Jeffrey Leonard, Kevin Mitchell, Ellis Burks, Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton (for a half-season anyways), Ray Durham, and of course, Barry Bonds.

Now, I don't think you can blame this one on the Giants organization or use the racism card on Bill Neukom or Brian Sabean (though I wish we could because it would get Sabean fired). The lack of African-American ballplayers on the Giants roster is simply a reality of the game nowadays. It's not just the Giants that lack African-American players, a lot of teams are. Last year, in a tweet, Bill Simmons joked that the Red Sox "had more Jewish guys on their team than African-Americans." Hence, anybody claiming the Giants as a "racist" organization  may have a hard argument to make.

That being said, the organization isn't completely bare of talented African American players. Let's take a look at the African-American players in the Giants organization and how soon (or if) they will see playing time in a San Francisco Giants uniform.

Emmanuel Burriss, 2B/SS

Stats this season: None (Has been on Disabled List all year due to a foot injury).

Burriss has plenty of experience on this Giants team and may be the only African-American player in the Giants organization that could play for the Giants this year. Burriss is coming off a foot injury this Spring, which is disheartening mainly because the strongest aspect of his game is his speed (he stole 11 bases last year in 61 games). Burriss doesn't have much power (.046 and .030 ISO the past two seasons), but he had a very strong BB/K ratio in 2008 (0.96) and he has a strong propensity to make contact at the plate (career 87.6 percent contact rate in the Majors). Burriss isn't a bad defender, but his UZR suggests that he may not be as good as advertised (minus-17.7 UZR/150 at shortstop in 2008; minus-3.9 UZR/150 at second base last year).

The biggest roadblock to Burriss' path in the Majors this year (other than his injury) may be the crowded Giants infield. With Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Edgar Renteria, and Matt Downs all vying for playing position at second base and shortstop, there just may not be any room for Burriss at the Major League level this season. In all likelihood, when he comes back, Burris will be playing most (if not all) of the year in Fresno, which isn't necessarily a bad thing considering he's only played 21 total games above the Advanced Single-A level.

Darren Ford, OF
Stats this season: .247 average, .319 OBP, .673 OPS, 19 R, 14 SB in 38 games in Richmond (Double-A).

Darren Ford turned some heads after a strong year in San Jose in 2009 (.384 wOBA, 81 runs scored, 35 stolen bases) and a surprising Spring Training (11 hits, 11 runs scored in 22 at-bats). While Ford did not make the active, 25-man roster (tough to justify that one when the highest level he played before Spring Training was Advanced Single-A), it was safe to say that Ford earned his spot on the Giants' 40-man roster after Spring Training ended.

So far in 2010, the results have been mixed for Ford. While he has stolen 14 bases, Ford hasn't hit particularly well in the Eastern League for the Flying Squirrels. Granted, this isn't necessarily too big a deal (the Eastern League is known to be a pitcher's league), but the 23.3 percent strikeout percentage and 9.1 walk percentage (he also sports a 0.42 BB/K ratio; almost a ten point dip from 2009) certainly don't make you as a Giants fan feel particularly hopeful that he will get a callup anytime soon.

Ford's speed definitely is attractive, especially considering the Giants' only legitimate stolen base threat is Andres Torres at this point. However, unless he's able to really turn it around, it's safe to say that the soonest Ford will be up with the Giants will be in 2011.

Thomas Neal, OF
Stats this season: .263 average, .332 OBP, .706 OPS, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 15 R, 5 SB in 44 games in Richmond (Double-A).

The hype around Thomas Neal amplified after a breakout year in San Jose last season. In the California League last year, Neal hit 22 HR, scored 102 runs and posted an OPS 1.010 and a wOBA .444 in 129 games. The performance had such an impact on the Giants brass and media that it earned him a non-roster invite to Spring Training, and a spot in the Top-Five of every Giants Prospect Rankings publication, blog or Web site.

However, this year has been anything but kind to Neal. After a disappointing, short Spring Training stint (Neal has only two hits in 11 at-bats), Neal hasn't necessarily been showing the power he displayed in the California League in 2009. This year, he has hit only three home runs and his slugging percentage sits at .374 (his slugging hasn't been under .444 since his first stint in the Northwest League).

The biggest concern with Neal though has to be his plate patience, which has been a bit questionable this season. After posting walk percentages over 9.5 percent the last three years, Neal currently has a walk percentage of 7.1 percent. This has affected his BB/K ratio, which currently sits at 0.37 (last year in San Jose it was 0.66).

Neal eventually is going to see more balls drop for hits. That's just the reality of the game and playing in the Eastern League. However, he has to improve his plate patience if he wants to live up to that billing of being a Top-Five prospect in the Giants organization.

Wendell Fairley, OF
Stats this season: .283 average, .367 OBP, .677 OPS, 15 RBI, 2 SB in 33 games in San Jose (Advanced Single-A).

Fairley was a first-round pick for the Giants in the 2007 first-year player draft. However, despite his draft position, many draft experts felt he was picked in the first round for cost reasons rather than his talent (the Giants had four first round picks in 2007).

Like many experts have predicted, Fairley has disappointed in his tenure in the Giants organization. While he posted a solid wOBA (.363) and BB/K ratio in (0.70) in Arizona Rookie League in 2008, he tumbled greatly in his first season in the South Atlantic League with the Greenjackets in 2009. Fairley went down in wOBA (.307), average (.243), stolen bases (only two stolen bases in six attempts), and BB/K ratio (0.35). And he did this with an improvement in BABIP (it jumped from .308 in 2008 to .338 in 2009).

However, things have turned around a little bit for Fairley in 2010. He started the year off well, holding his own in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee (he had two hits in five at-bats).  He has transitioned that strong impression to a pretty solid year so far in San Jose. While he may not hit for power (his slugging is very underwhelming at .310), his ability to get on-base (.367 OBP) has some Giants fans and management people turning their heads a little bit.

Fairley could use some more refinement at the plate (his BB/K ratio is 0.33). That being said, considering how well he has played lately (he is hitting .324 in his last 10 games), it isn't out of the question to think that Fairley can continue to progress in the California League, and improve in his power and plate patience categories. If he is able to build upon this recent hot streak, it will definitely help him shed that "Tumbler" label he's been tagged with since 2008.

James Simmons, OF
Stats this season: .227 average, .299 OBP, .670 OPS, 7 SB, 9 RBI in 33 games in San Jose (Advanced Single-A).

I really don't know much about Simmons, and I don't think many Giants fans do either. Simmons was a 24th round draft pick in the 2005 MLB amateur draft and came out of Vernon Junior College in Texas. He hasn't been listed in any of the Giants Top Prospects lists, and he has only played in the Arizona Rookie League and the South Atlantic League in addition to the California League (where he currently plays).

What can I tell you about Simmons? He has some athleticism, and has the ability to steal a base. In 2008, he stole 25 bases for Augusta. Last year, he stole 15 bases while doing another tour of duty for the Greenjackets, but he only got caught once. This year, he has been similarly effective, with seven stolen bases on eight tries.

Despite that solid baserunning ability however, Simmons hasn't showed much with the bat. This year he is hitting .227 in San Jose, and the same has been true throughout his four years in the minors. He really jumped onto the scene in 2006, posting a .360 wOBA in Rookie League, but for the next two years he didn't have a wOBA over .292 at any level (he bounced around from Augusta to San Jose). In 2009, he picked it up and posted a wOBA of .343, but considering that it was his third go-around in Augusta, those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt.

So, what kind of hopes can Giants fans have for a guy like Simmons? Not much, really. But then again, he was a 24th round draft pick, so it makes sense why you can't expect too much from the guy.

Evan Crawford, OF
Stats this season: .273 average, .355 OBP, .718 OPS, 22 R, 9 SB in 42 games in San Jose (Single-A).

Crawford was the Giants' ninth round pick in the 2009 first year player draft. For some reason, I have a lot of hope for this kid (he seems to have a good head on his shoulders). He played three seasons at Indiana University, and had a solid campaign in 2009, posting an .847 OPS and 27 stolen bases. Immediately after he was drafted, Crawford head to Arizona Rookie League, where he hit .273, scored 14 runs and stole nine bases in 16 games. When he was promoted Salem Keizer of the Northwest League, Crawford played even better, posting a .316 average and a wOBA of .381.

Now, it's tough to tell how good Crawford's Volcanoes campaign really was. While his wOBA was high, as was his OBP (.375), there were some concerning numbers. For starters, his BABIP was .412, which is extremely high and probably means he was extremely luck when it came to finding hits (which isn't sustainable, especially as you advance through the minor league system). Second, his BB/K ratio wasn't exactly impressive at 0.30. A high strikeout percentage (26.3 percent) most likely happened to be the culprit of his mediocre BB/K ratio, though he seems to be a player that strikes out a lot in general (he had a 22.7 percent strikeout rate in Arizona Rookie League).

This year, he began the year in Augusta and for the most part, it has been solid.  He hasn't showed much power (.364 slugging), but that's been true since his college days (he hit only four home runs total at Indiana). Additionally, while he still shows a lot of speed (nine stolen bases) and he certainly can get on-base (.355 OBP), the strikeouts (37 in 165 at-bats, which is a 22.7 percent strikeout rate) still are a bit of a concern. To look at it on the bright side, at least Crawford is now getting better at drawing walks. This year, he has drawn 18 walks (9.8 percent walk percentage) and has a BB/K ratio of 0.49 (which is 19 points higher than his BB/K ratio in Salem-Keizer).

Crawford may be a year or two away from even sniffing the Giants roster. However, this kid certainly has under-the-radar talent, and considering his improvement in plate discipline this year with Greenjackets, I wouldn't be surprised if he continues to progress and surprise as a ballplayer as he moves up through the Giants farm system.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bad Month or Bad Overall? A Look at the Giants' Offensive Numbers

The San Francisco Giants are currently 22-21 after the Oakland A's completed a three-game sweep at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium (God I hate writing the whole name...I'll just call it the OAC from now on). Panic mode has officially reared its ugly head with Giants fans, and I hate to admit it, but I've hopped on that bandwagon somewhat as well.

However, as a baseball fan, I try to be objective. I look at the numbers and try to keep things in context. I understand Bengie Molina currently has an OBP of .361 and a 0.85 BB/K ratio. That being said, Molina has a career 0.43 BB/K ratio and OBP of .309, so to think he's going to maintain those levels over the full course of a season in my mind is unrealistic.

The same thinking goes with this entire Giants offense. I know. They are coming off two straight sweeps to two, average ballclubs (Arizona and Oakland). Injuries and ineffectiveness have hit this Giants roster hard, and there seems to be increasing pressure on general manager Brian Sabean to make a move, especially with guys like Pat Burrell available. (I'm sure Sabes is "working around the clock" on this; I can picture his reaction if you ask him if he's working on getting an offensive player.)

But how bad has the Giants offense been? Well...let's take a look at the more advanced numbers.

OPS: .722 (19th in MLB).
wOBA (weighted on base average): .319 (19th in MLB).
wRC (runs created based on wOBA): 179 (tied for 21st in MLB).
wRAA (runs above average based on wOBA): minus-9 (19th in MLB).
BABIP (batting average of balls put in play): .299 (tied for 19th in MLB).
ISO (Isolated Power): .136 (21st in MLB).

As you can see, the Giants during the first two months haven't been just below league average. They have had trouble scoring runs (like last year), which hasn't been helped by their relative lack of power (the ISO number I think is the particular killer) or their lineup choices (batting Aaron Rowand at leadoff for so long was a mistake, especially considering his minus-1.7 wRAA is third worst of Giants hitters with 50 or more plate appearances).

However, while the numbers after 43 games certainly isn't in the Giants hitters' favor, you have to look at the month of May specifically. Some interesting numbers pop up.

OPS: .670 (25th in MLB).
wOBA: .298 (25th in MLB).
wRC: 72 (27th in MLB).
wRAA: minus-18 (25th in MLB).
BABIP: .275 (26th in MLB).
ISO: .130 (20th in MLB).

The Giants have been tremendously worse in May, with the only category better than their overall season averages being the ISO, which actually isn't too bad (or at least for Giants standards). The wOBA, wRC and wRAA numbers are particularly disheartening, but I think Giants fans can take comfort in one stat:

The .275 BABIP.

Now, BABIP can mean a variety of things. The Giants could be unlucky (which most certainly has been the case considering their 19.1 percent line drive percentage in May is 12th best in the league) or they just have bumped into very good defensive teams (the Padres, Diamondbacks and Mets, three teams the Giants have played in May, all have solid UZR/150 numbers this year).

However, in all likelihood the BABIP is going to rise or at the very least, fluctuate (the Giants had a .317 BABIP in April) as the season progresses, which will in turn, affect the Giants' offensive numbers. I don't think the Giants are going to top the Majors in offense in a given month anytime soon, but at the same time, I don't think the Giants are going to have as bad a month offensively as they have had this May.

Granted, how is that BABIP going to change? Who knows. The Giants will get luckier, they will face "clunkier" defensive teams (the Dodgers and Rockies have negative UZR/150 numbers, with the Dodgers having the worst UZR/150 in the Majors at negative-15.4) and guys will turn it around and bust out of their respective slumps (crossing my fingers now for Pablo Sandoval). I think those are the best (if only) things Giants fans, management and players can hope for at this point.

Now, Giants fans have to keep things in perspective. The Giants are not a well-built team offensively. Mark Derosa has been a major disappointment (he has a team-worst .243 wOBA), and Molina and Rowand have been deceivingly tolerable (Molina's wOBA at .328 proves that he isn't much better from last season; Rowand's wRAA says it all). And, while Freddy Sanchez has just gotten back from the disabled list, I'm not optimistic about him living up to that $12 million contract if he has more performances like the one he had today (0-for-4, 2 SO).

The Giants have some good pieces though (Andres Torres, who has a .383 wOBA and Aubrey Huff and his .354 wOBA has been a surprise as well), and the offense can still be good enough to remain competitive in the NL West (especially considering their pitching, which has still remained solid...sans the middle relief).

After all, if you look at the division-leading Padres, they rank below the Giants in nearly every offensive category in May, but their BABIP still hovers at .300. When the Padres hit a bad stretch of luck (which they will), it is likely that they will free fall in the standings as well.

It has been a disappointing start to the season, especially when you factor in the poor starts Colorado and Los Angeles got off to. However, the Giants have an opportunity to stay in it, and I think the numbers above show that the Giants have suffered some bad luck and poor management decisions, which I don't think (or at least hope) will happen again. With manager Bruce Bochy mixing up the lineup (and in a good way too), I think there is potential for the Giants to improve those offensive categories a little bit come June.

Will the improvement offensively in the long run by the Giants hitters be enough to win a World Series or NL Pennant? Most likely not. Will it be enough to win the NL West or earn a playoff spot? Maybe. Will it be enough to stay competitive in the NL West?

When you got pitchers like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez in the starting rotation...absolutely.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Available Players the Giants Should Pass On

It's official. After today's 1-0 loss to the Oakland A's, the Giants should be in panic mode when it comes to upgrading the offense. Aaron Rowand isn't cutting it at leadoff (though this isn't exactly "surprising" news) and for whatever reason, Pablo Sandoval has suddenly transformed from budding-Vlad Guerrero to budding-Randall Simon. Add that with Bengie Molina starting to cool off and things don't look good for the Giants and their playoff aspirations.

That being said, despite the Giants desperate (and I mean, "Elizabeth Berkley needing an actress role" desperate) need for offense, they should pass on the following five players who are available and could come at low-cost, but are too much of a risk to acquire.

Number Five: Kaz Matsui, Infielder

Why Matsui is enticing

After hitting .141 and posting a wOBA of .167 to start off the year, the Houston Astros released Matsui on May 19th, deciding to go with Jeff Keppinger at second base for the remainder of the season.

While Matsui seems to be a better fit with the Colorado Rockies (who are in need of a second baseman due to Clint Barmes' slow start), Matsui could be of some use to the Giants. Edgar Renteria has struggled with injuries all year, and Freddy Sanchez's health is also in question after just coming off the disabled list. Matt Downs is a nice option and has performed well, but after falling back to earth recently, one has to wonder if he can contribute to the Giants over the course of a full season. Additionally, Juan Uribe, who also got off to a hot start, has cooled in the month of May (.242 average and .343 wOBA in May; compared to his .313 average and .358 wOBA in April).

Matsui may not be a regular starter, but he could be much needed insurance for a Giants infield that has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency so far this season.

Why Matsui is frightening

Matsui the past couple of years has really declined as a player, and it's hard to see why ESPN Magazine tagged him as the "Next" athlete in their 2004 "Next" issue.

Since 2008, Matsui's slugging numbers have dipped from .427 (in 2008) to .357 (2009) to .155 (this season). The same goes with his OBP (.354 to .302 to .197) and wOBA (.349 to .297 to .167) numbers. Granted, Matsui is not exactly young (34 years old), but it's surprising to see him take such a dive this past few years.

Add that with very questionable defense (he has had negative UZR numbers two out of the past three seasons), and Matsui proves to be a very risky option. Sure, he could be an upgrade over Renteria or Sanchez, but he could also be tremendously worse, which is very hard to stomach for Giants fans.

Why the Giants should pass

Matsui is too much of a risk and has been to much of an underachiever to take a flier on. His career wOBA is .314, and he pretty much has been living off his 2007 season in Colorado when he had a .341 wOBA and stole 32 bases. The Giants are not going to get that 2007 Matsui, or even the slightly decent 2008 version. If acquired, the Giants would get a declining infielder who won't be an upgrade over Sanchez, Renteria, Uribe, or even Downs.

Number Four: Jermaine Dye, Outfielder

Why Dye is enticing

Though he hasn't played since last year, Dye is still available and still apparently in game shape (or at least that's what he says). While last year he declined in a lot of offensive categories (his wOBA dropped from .376 in 2008 to .344 last year), he still hit 27 home runs. Considering the Giants are in dire need of a power threat (sorry...Molina in the cleanup spot for a third straight year isn't cutting it), Dye does fill in a need, and the Giants don't have to give up any prospects in return.

Why Dye is frightening

Do I really need to go through the list? Okay...I will.
  1. He's 36 years old.
  2. His UZR/150 has been in the minus-20 range three of the past four seasons (and when it wasn't, it was minus-18.9 in 2008).
  3. He has suffered massive drop in offensive categories such as batting average (from .292 in 2008 to .250 in 2009), slugging (.541 to .453) and OPS (.885 to .793).
  4. He was actually detrimental to his team last year (according to WAR values, he cost the White Sox $1.7 million dollars).
  5. $1.5 million dollars isn't enough for Dye. (He's entering Latrell Sprewell territory at this point.)
Why the Giants should pass

Did you not read anything above? If you still want to sign him after reading that, then...well...I don't know what to tell you.

Number Three: Eric Byrnes, Outfielder

Why Byrnes is enticing

Well...he hustles. And he can hit bombs. Don't believe me? Check this out:

Dang. That was parked.

Why Byrnes is frightening

Well, he has had sub-.300 wOBA numbers the past three seasons, he tanked in his short stint with the Mariners this season and defensively and he isn't the Byrnes fans are accustomed to (he had a minus-8.1 UZR/150 this year with the Mariners and a minus-7.0 UZR/150 with the D'Backs in 2008).

Oh, and this is Major League baseball, not club softball.

Why the Giants should pass

Would you rather have John Bowker and Nate Schierholtz in left and right field? Or an injured Mark Derosa and Byrnes? Yeah....I think Giants fans know the answer to that one.

Number two: Carlos Lee, outfielder

Why Lee is enticing

Though he says he won't waive his no-trade clause, the clock seems to be ticking for Lee's tenure in Houston. While Lee does have a massive contract ($18.5 million per year), he does have a history of hitting for power and run production, something you can't really say out of any other players in the Giants lineup. Last year, Lee hit 26 home runs and drove in 102 RBI. Furthermore, Lee has a history of tremendous plate discipline. From 2006-2009, Lee's wOBA ranged from .355 to .396 and his BB/K ratio didn't dip below 0.76.

Those are the kinds of qualities the Giants could use in a cleanup hitter.

Why Lee is frightening

Not only has Lee gone through an awful season so far (.199 average, .250 wOBA), but he hasn't exactly won any awards for "Teammate of the Year" recently. On May 14th, Lee got in a spat with Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, and Lee wasn't exactly gracious about it either. While Lee isn't a Barry Bonds, one has to wonder if getting a guy like Lee would be the best thing for a team that is so well-known for their clubhouse chemistry.

I mean, ask Seattle Mariners fans what it's like when you bring in a guy with "questionable character issues."

Why the Giants should pass

Lee is a big bopper, but overall, he's too expensive and is too much of a clubhouse risk for the Giants to acquire. Then again, Lee has to waive his no-trade clause in order for anything to be a possibility, but even if he does, Lee certainly isn't worth dealing for considering where he's at in his career (hint: on the decline).

Number one: Pat Burrell, outfielder

Why Burrell is enticing

Burrell is the hottest name right now on the market. Already, we have seen two Giants beat writers (Hank "I love Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy" Schulman of the Chronicle and Mychel Urban of CSN Bay Area) kibosh the rumors of the Giants having interest in Burrell, and one (Andrew Baggarly) say that the Giants could pursue him.

You can't blame the Giants having some interest. After all, Burrell won't cost the Giants anything, he is a Bay Area kid (he went to Bellarmine Prep in San Jose), he's got some nice chest hair, and he has a proven track record.

From 2005 to 2008, the lowest wOBA he posted was .374, and the lowest BB/K ratio he had in that time span was 0.62. Add that with an average of 31 home runs a year in those four seasons, and you can see why the Rays were willing to shell out some cash for him when he became a free agent after the 2008 season.

Why Burrell is frightening

The Burrell in Tampa Bay experiment really went horribly wrong for general manager Andrew Friedman and the Rays. Last year, Burrell's home run total dipped to 14 (his HR/FB ratio in 2009 was 9.8 percent; the lowest it was before that was in 2003 when it was 12.3 percent) and his wOBA plummeted to .304.

Burrell last year, for a lack of a better word, stunk. And, if you need more evidence of his mediocrity, check out his minus-9.6 wRAA (runs above average based on wOBA) and minus-0.5 WAR (which accumulated to negative-$2.3 dollars in value; Burrell was signed to a two-year, $16 million contract before 2009).

This year hasn't been much better. His HR/FB has actually gone down (to 7.4 percent) and his wOBA is even worse at .284. Furthermore, Burrell's strong plate discipline has been absent this year as well. He sports a BB/K ratio of 0.36 (the lowest of his career so far) and he has swung at 25.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone (another career high).

Burrell just isn't the same player baseball fans saw from 2005-2008, and you can't blame Friedman and the Rays cutting ties with him so early in the season.

Why the Giants should pass

I would like to believe that Burrell is more comfortable in the National League than the American League East, and if he makes the transition, would kill like Brad Penny when Penny was traded from Boston to San Francisco late last year. He would make a great comeback story, and his Bay Area roots would resonate with the Giants faithful and media.

Yet, I just don't trust Burrell. His decline offensively the past two years has been eye-popping (especially the BB/K ratio and ISO drop), and he isn't good enough defensively (minus-44.6 career UZR in the outfield) to handle the dimensions of AT&T Park (not to mention make up for this offensive decline).

Burrell sounds good on paper, but Giants fans and management should be warned. He isn't worth the playing time he would take away from Andres Torres, John Bowker or Nate Schierholtz (Aaron Rowand would go unaffected because Bochy has a man-crush on Rowand, which explains why he still bats him leadoff though Rowand has an OBP under .300 and is 0-for-2 in stolen bases).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Bay Bridge Series: A Worthwhile Interleague Rivalry That Needs to Continue

(First off, before I start this post, what an awful game to watch today against the Diamondbacks. The Giants had it, lost it, had it again and then lost it again.'s going to be a long season for Giants fans.)

Starting Friday, the Giants will play their first Interleague series of the year against the Oakland A's at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.

There should be no excuse for Bay Area Baseball fans to miss out on this one. Sure, the A's stadium stinks. Sure, the A's don't have the marquee names they once used to.

Nonetheless, this is a great rivalry, and should be further reason why the A's should stay in Northern California (preferably the Bay Area).

Last year, I went to my first Giants-A's game in Oakland. First off, you can't beat the ticket prices. I got a pair of tickets in the lower section for $26 bucks. $26! You can't beat that, even if Oakland's stadium isn't the greatest place in the Majors. Major League Baseball and Giants baseball is still baseball.

Secondly, there is a unique environment at a Giants-A's game. There is a special kind of environment that you just don't get when the Giants or A's play other teams. Last year, the stadium was half-full with Giants fans (and this was an A's home game mind you!) and after Nate Schierholtz hit a home run over the right field wall, you would have thought you were at AT&T Park by the roars of the crowd. Throughout the game fans alternated between "Let's go Giants" and "Let's go A's" chants, and exchanged playful trash talk, which happened to be delightful to eavesdrop on.

Early in the game, A's third baseman Chad Pennington made an error, bobbling a slow roller. A few rows in front of me, a Giants fan in a Barry Bonds jersey (a rather large one to be frank) stood up and looked to his right at two, younger Oakland fans. He cupped his hands together and said this:

"Walt Weiss would have made that play! You hear me? He is no Walt Weiss!"

Really? The one home run per year Walt Weiss? I gave the guy kudos for the retro reference, even if the two younger fans probably didn't know Weiss played for the A's.

The Giants won the game 6-3. However, I learned something more important after the Giants win: Bay Area fans need this rivalry. Sure, there is the Giants-Dodgers and nothing can top that, but the A's-Giants is a close second. You can't beat that half-and-half split at AT&T Park and Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. You can't beat the coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle or San Jose Mercury. You can't beat that inevitable trash talk at bars after games when guys are decked out in black and orange or green and yellow after games.

Because these two franchises are so close yet so different. Look at the way the Giants have run their organization the last decade and look at how the A's have run things. Look at the difference between Brian Sabean and Billy Beane. Look at the difference between Bruce Bochy and Bob Geren. Heck, look at the difference between Athletics Nation and the McCovey Chronicles, the two main fan blogs for each team.

These two franchises are meant to continue this rivalry. They are meant to continue this rivalry in such close proximity. It would be a shame if the A's not only left Oakland, but left Northern California altogether. Bay Area baseball would not die, but it would be a little less interesting because the rivalry would lessen, if not die altogether. I mean, you think anybody cares about the Toronto Blue Jays playing the Washington Nationals, even though the Nationals used to be the Montreal Expos? No, because the Nationals are not in Canada anymore. The Blue Jays don't have that great "Battle of Canada" rivalry anymore, and baseball has suffered in Canada because of it.

I do not hate the A's. I actually like watching them. I really like players like Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton and I really respect Billy Beane as a general manager after reading "Moneyball." However, when they play the Giants, all bets our off. I not only want the Giants to win the series, but I want them to win as many as possible, so I can gloat to my fellow friends who happen to be A's fanatics. That luxury would not exist anymore if the A's were gone.

The A's can move to Fremont or San Jose. Or they can stay in Oakland. It doesn't matter in my mind. However, the "Bay Bridge Series" needs to stay in Northern California. It's a series of pride for baseball fans in Northern California, a series the Northern faithful can call their own in the midst of the more popular "Subway Series" and "Chicago Series" that seem to dominate all the headlines come Interleague time. As a matter of fact, it's rivalries like the "Bay Bridge Series" that make me continue to pine for Interleague baseball each and every year.

Let's hope the Giants can bounce back and take this series from the Athletics after a painful sweep by the Diamondbacks. With Zito, Cain and Sanchez going on the hill for the Giants, they certainly have a chance.

That being said, Giants fans should have that soft spot for the A's. We will be sorry if they are no longer in Northern California.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Writing Is On the Wall for Eugenio Velez

Two days after getting re-called to the Giants when Mark Derosa headed to the Disabled List, Eugenio Velez is heading back to Fresno after the Giants activated Freddy Sanchez for today's game against the Diamondbacks.

The move is both surprising and predictable. While Velez still has an option left for the Giants (which makes it easier for the Giants to send him up and down between Triple-A and the Majors), so did other guys like Ryan Rohlinger and Matt Downs. Some Giants fans figured with Velez's ability to play multiple positions, and the Giants' injury woes with Edgar Renteria and Derosa, Velez might be given a chance to redeem himself after a slow start to the 2010 season.

(Note: Here is an explanation of how Minor League options work on River Avenue Blues, a NY Yankees blog. Basically options work in years, and if you have an option year, you can be sent up and down as much as possible as long as you have that option year. There isn't a "set" number of options in a given year.)

That doesn't seem to be the case. After Velez got demoted, manager Bruce Bochy said this about Downs, who is currently hitting .269 with a home run and six RBI:

"We'll have Downsie take some ground balls at third," Bochy said. "He'll take some fly balls in the outfield. We'll move him around. The way he's swinging we'll use him as a right-handed pinch-hitter coming off the bench."

Two thoughts come to mind after hearing Bochy's quote:

1.) Bochy really likes to add "ey or ie" to guys' last names. (e.g. Whitey, Downsie, Rowsie...okay, I made the last one up.)

2.) Downs is the third guy Bochy has talked about moving to the outfield.

In the beginning of the year it was Travis Ishikawa. A few days ago it was Aubrey Huff. Now, it's Downs.

It makes you wonder: "Does Bochy even realize he still has Velez on the 40-man roster?"

My answer to that: yes, but he no longer has confidence in playing him anymore.

Guys with futures on Major League teams don't get called up and demoted again in less than two days. Guys with futures on the team don't regularly get demoted to Fresno after the first month of play (which has happened to Velez the past three seasons).

Thus, it's easy to determine Velez's future with the Giants: it is only a matter of time before he's playing for another Major or Minor League team.

It's tough for Velez. He hasn't exactly had it easy while being in San Francisco. In addition to Bochy's disenchantment with playing young players (which has affected Velez in addition to John Bowker), Velez simply has had a hard time finding a position in San Francisco.

Going into Spring Training in 2009, he was expected to be in the running for the second baseman job after Ray Durham was traded away to Milwaukee in 2008. Unfortunately, he never was up to the task offensively (career .306 wOBA) or defensively (minus-16.1 UZR/150 at second base for his career).

Velez provided the Giants some versatility when he began playing more regularly in the outfield in 2009. However, despite his above-average athleticism (he has a career 13.9 UZR/150 in the outfield), his lackluster instincts (he has a minus UZR in center and right) and big time blunders (I don't think I have to remind people about the Philadelphia game) seemed to bury any reputation that he can be a regular fixture in the Giants outfield.

And what has been the nail in the coffin for Velez's future in San Francisco? Two players: Andres Torres and Fred Lewis, who is now a Blue Jay.

Look at what Torres is doing for the Giants this year. Sure, he isn't young (32 years old to be exact), but he can hit (.397 wOBA going into today's game against Arizona), run (five stolen bases) and has tremendous defensive skills (he has a UZR/150 of 49.3 this year in the outfield).

As for Lewis? He has tore it up since moving to Toronto. A lot of fans claimed that Lewis wasn't needed because Velez was just as good an option in left field, if not better.

It's funny because the "Velez is better than Lewis" claim was a moot argument to begin with. Lewis is hitting .298 and has a wOBA of .349 entering today's game. Furthermore, look at what Scott from The Crazy Crabbers said in a post after Lewis was traded to Toronto:

"Let's do a quick comparison of some triple slash lines (AVG/OBP/SLG) to see where he comes down here:

Player A: .281/.339/.449
Player B: .228/.290/.365
Player C: .277/.355/.420
Player D: .265/.306/.401
Player E: .274/.343/.423
Player F: .284/.316/.415
Player G: .245/.292/.403

These are the career numbers of Fred Lewis and the other Giants outfielders. Would it surprise you if I told you that Lewis is player C and has arguably the second best triple slash line for his career.

Here are the identities of each:

Player A: Aaron Rowand
Player B: Andres Torres
Player C: Fred Lewis
Player D: Eugenio Velez
Player E: Mark DeRosa
Player F: Nate Schierholtz
Player G: John Bowker"

Take a long gander at Velez's career slash line: .265, .306 and .401. That's worse than Lewis in every category. And yet, people at the time of Lewis' departure claimed Velez was a better option.

They seem to look foolish now, don't they?

Overall, maybe it was never meant to work out for Velez in San Francisco. After all, he was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005, and those kinds of players usually aren't expected to have great Major League careers.

Nonetheless, Giants fans got their hopes up about Velez during Spring Training before the 2008 season when Jon Miller pointed him out as a player to watch at a team banquet in Scottsdale. Giants fans got their hopes about Velez when he went on that tear in late July and early August, which parlayed him into being the Giants' leadoff hitter for the remainder of the year. Giants fans got their hopes about Velez because he had cool nicknames like "The Pharaoh" or "Genie" (because he kind of looked like one to be frank).

Well...after this latest demotion for Velez, I think it's safe to say that Giants fans may have gotten their hopes up for nothing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Giants Should Wait A Little Longer To Call Up Madison Bumgarner

I really, really like Madison Bumgarner. Despite the rough Spring Training, I felt talent-wise, he was the best person to pitch in the fifth spot in the rotation over Todd Wellemeyer and Kevin Pucetas. Furthermore, I was impressed by his numbers last year in his short September callup. Was he throwing gas? Not really (he only averaged 89.2 MPH on his fastball last year in his callup), but he had 10 strikeouts in 10 IP, only walked three guys and posted an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 1.10. That's impressive in my book.

This year, Bumgarner started off the season miserably. He struggled in Spring Training and his first two starts were disastrous, with his fastball still hovering in the mid to high 80's (Bumgarner was known for his 90-plus stuff). However, look at what 22 Gigantes said today in a blog post about Bumgarner's return to form:

"Since April 14, "MadBum" has compiled the following statistics, through six starts:

35 IP / 1.54 ERA / 0.943 WHIP / 26 K / 11 BB"

Those are impressive numbers, especially when you look at Bumgarner's current line for the season (eight games started, 42 IP, 3.64 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 32 K, 13 BB; it's shuddering to think how bad those two starts were when you put it together).

What has made Bumgarner such a success in the Pacific Coast League after such an awful start? According to Frisco Fastball, Bumgarner has added a cutter to his arsenal. One of the big knocks on Bumgarner last year was that he primarily was a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his fastball and slider. That was evident in his callup last season, as he threw his fastball 64.5 percent of the time and his slider 29.7 percent of the time (he also threw a changeup 5.9 percent of the time).

Having a cutter to the mix should make Bumgarner more valuable and effective as a starting pitcher. And, with his fastball velocity apparently back, Bumgarner seems to be even more ready to make the move from Fresno to San Francisco.

That being said, the Giants should wait to pull the trigger.

If you know my stance on Buster Posey, this may come as a surprise (since I believe that not only Posey should be up, but Bengie Molina or Eli Whiteside should be dealt in order to make room for him) to some Giants fans.

However, Bumgarner is in a different situation than Posey. Additionally, Bumgarner plays a different position from Posey as well.

The latter makes all the difference.

For starters, Bumgarner is only 20 years old. He is still fresh from high school and is still learning how to pitch at the professional level. Yes, he is doing well in Fresno now, but how will he adjust when he has bad nights? It's one thing to go on a roll like this when the going is good, but what happens when that BABIP rises? What happens when he isn't striking out the house? Does Bumgarner step up to the challenge or does he fall apart?

Bumgarner has time to learn this in Triple-A because he's so young. Posey on the other hand is 23 years old and has played college baseball and 35 games in Fresno prior to this season. Posey is more developed and MLB ready than the younger, fresher Bumgarner. Sure, Posey needs more catching experience, but how's he going to learn about the Giants pitching staff if he is in Fresno?

Hence, Bumgarner and Posey are in different boats, and shouldn't be compared to each other.

Secondly, I believe the Giants should hesitate to pull the trigger on Bumgarner for another reason: the fifth spot in the rotation.

Honestly, I don't believe he is ready to handle that spot in the rotation now. Look at the difference between Jonathan Sanchez this year and Sanchez last year. Sanchez is pitching fourth and looks immensely more comfortable going against opposing teams' three, four and five starters. Last year, he struggled holding the end of the rotation, occasionally going against opposing teams' aces.

Granted, Bumgarner isn't Sanchez, but you can't risk Bumgarner losing his confidence early. Sure, he could flourish and break out, and show that the Giants have another budding ace behind the four-headed monster of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and Sanchez, but he could also blow up, go back to Fresno with shattered confidence and never be the same again.

As a Giants fan who understands how much the Giants have invested in Bumgarner, I just don't think it's worth it, especially considering he's not extremely needed right now. The Giants problem is not starting pitching. It's offense, and that's another reason why the Giants need Posey and can afford to keep Bumgarner in Fresno for the time being.

Now, Wellemeyer isn't gong to hold the fifth spot all year. I understand that. However, the Giants have options and should exhaust those options before they thrust Bumgarner into the rotation. Eric Hacker has had a great year, as evidenced by his 6-1 record, 2.61 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Joe Martinez spent some time in the fifth spot last year, and could use a second go-around as well. And as for Pucetas? Well, I don't think he has much to offer, but you gotta see what he can do at the Majors at some point, right?

It's easy for Giants fans right now to say "Call up Bumgarner! He's killing now, like Posey, so let's bring him up while he's hot!" In my opinion, the Giants don't need to be in a rush. They have plenty of options to fill Wellemeyer's eventual spot, and the fifth spot in the rotation is not going to make the difference in a playoff berth (the difference is whether or not the Giants offense can get some consistency).

At the earliest, the Giants should callup Bumgarner in August, which would allow him to continue to develop his newly found, and effective pitch repertoire.

Giants fans will be thankful Brian Sabean and his management team waited on Bumgarner when it is all said and done (though I think the opposite will be true with Posey).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giants 2010 Draft Prospect Spotlight: Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS

With less than a month remaining until the MLB Amateur Draft 2010, I figured it would be nice to take a look at who the Giants could be looking at taking in this year's MLB Draft.

The past few years, the Giants have really made a splash in terms of picks. In 2007, they selected Madison Bumgarner (10th overall), Tim Alderson (22nd overall) and Wendell Fairley (29th overall) in the first round. In 2008, the Giants selected Buster Posey fifth overall (and gave him the largest signing bonus in club history at $6.2 million). Last year, Zach Wheeler went to the Giants at sixth overall.

How are those guys doing? Well, Alderson is gone and Fairley isn't doing so hot (though rumor has it he was drafted in the first round simply because he wasn't going to cost a lot to sign in comparison to other first rounders), but for the most part, General Manager Brian Sabean has done well these past few drafts. Bumgarner and Posey are close to MLB-ready, and Wheeler has shown some promise in Augusta (though he has been a little inconsistent...but that's to be expected from a kid right out of high school).

So what about this year's draft? Who is Sabean and the Giants scouting department looking at? The Giants have a much lower draft pick than in years past (No. 24), so it won't be as easy for the Giants to nab a Posey or Bumgarner considering their draft position. However, draft position isn't everything, and it isn't impossible to think that the Giants can nab a diamond in the rough this year.

In the coming weeks, I'll take some time to look at prospects whom the Giants may select with the 24th pick this season. The first guy I'm going to look at is Austin Wilson, an outfielder from Harvard Westlake High School in Los Angeles. Wilson, according to the blog MLB Bonus Baby, an MLB draft blog, has the Giants taking Wilson in their latest mock draft. (If you haven't checked out MLB Bonus Baby, definitely do so. It's probably the best MLB Draft blog out there.)

Why Giants Fans Should Know About Wilson

Wilson is immensely talented and considering the Giants need for offense in their system, he fits the bill nicely. Sure, the Giants are stacked at Double-A with guys like Thomas Neal, Roger Kieschnick, Darren Ford, Nick Noonan, Conor Gillaspie, Brandon Crawford and Tyler LaTorre, but when you look beyond that, things get a little more dicey.

Brandon Belt, Juan Perez and Francisco Peguero look promising in San Jose, and Ehire Adrianza sure has talent (though it is yet to be seen at the plate), but other than that, there isn't a lot of offensive power or potential going on in the Giants' California League club. In the South Atlantic League, Sharlon Schoop and Luke Anders have been solid this year, but bigger names like Chris Dominguez, Hector Sanchez, Tommy Joseph, and Evan Crawford haven't been as spectacular as Giants fans hoped going into the 2010 season.

Wilson, an outfielder who has made a commitment to Stanford University, not only will get an opportunity to shine in the Giants system, but certainly could have an impact as early as his rookie season.

Much like Neal, Ford and even Fairley, the prep prospect from Los Angeles has a lot of tools and skills as a player. Wilson's plus qualities seem to be his arm and his power. Last year, in 23 games as a junior at Harvard-Westlake, he hit .543 with five home runs, 29 RBI and scored 33 runs. His impact as a junior was so immense that he was the subject of a profile piece on ESPN Rise in February.

Keith Law has also jumped on the Wilson bandwagon, calling Wilson "probably the best prospect" in attendance at the Southern California Invitational in February. Why would Law say that? Watch him hit and you can see the reason behind Law's vote of confidence.

Physically, Wilson is a specimen. Currently, he is listed at  6'4 200 pounds, and he plays in a very competitive baseball environment in Southern California. However, it is not just all brawn with this kid. Wilson apparently has great personality and is very coachable according to scouts. Additionally, he has a strong GPA at Harvard-Westlake, which happens to be a very competitive academic school, and he was accepted to Stanford. Even for athletes, that is not an easy feat to do.

According to his scouting report on, Wilson draw comparisons to Michael Taylor, Vlad Guerrero and John Mayberry Jr. According to MLB Fantasy Prospects writer Lawrence Dushenski, Wilson seems to be comparable to Moises Alou (a former Giant).

Whatever player you want to compare him to, this is certain: Wilson certainly has the mold of a future MLB player.

Why Giants Fans Should Be Skeptical of Wilson

First off, players with lots of tools in the Wilson-mold are very hit or miss. For the most part, they take a lot of time to develop and, as we have seen from guys like Fairely, rarely live up to as advertised. Wilson, despite his athleticism and strength, suffers from the same problems a lot of "tools" prospects suffer from: lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition, and a lot of his skills are still in need of refinement.

The biggest concern though may simply be his draft status. A smart kid with educated parents, Wilson isn't a lock to sign even if he is drafted in the first round. After all, Wilson could be playing for a very sturdy baseball program in Stanford, and he could use the college coaching and the time to better refine his skills. Hence, considering Wilson's signing status is so uncertain, the Giants may pass on him, simply because they do not want to get burned by wasting a first round pick on a guy who is dead set on playing college baseball.

Verdict on Wilson

Personally, I really like what I see from Wilson. The guy is an incredible physical specimen and can seriously hit for power. Just watching him slam that home run at Wrigley with a wooden bat was a sight to be seen. Also, he seems to have a good, level head on his shoulders, which I think can go a long way.

Yes, he needs to polish up his skills. Yes, he is still far away from being MLB-ready, but the Giants have a good history of drafting guys with tools (Fred Lewis for example). If Wilson is serious in terms of progressing to the Major League level, then I would have no problem with Sabean and the Giants pulling the trigger on him if he is available at No. 24.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Aaron Rowand No Longer A Viable Leadoff Option for the Giants

Aaron Rowand may have a good year and capitalize on that "Great every three years" cycle a lot of Giants fans have bought into. Baseball fans saw it in 2004 in Chicago (.388 wOBA) and in 2007 in Philadelphia (.382 wOBA). Maybe Giants fans will see something similar from Rowand in 2010.

He's off to a good, though not great start so far. While Rowand has hit four home runs this year in 95 plate appearances, his batting average dipped to .266 after tonight's 8-2 win over the Houston Astros and his OBP fell to .310.

Rowand may still have a breakout year for the Giants. That being said, I don't believe that "big" season will happen with him batting leadoff for this team.

First off, Rowand isn't and never was a leadoff hitter. The Giants panicked and gave him the spot because, after Spring Training ended, they had no other reasonable options at leadoff. As Giants fans, we could live with Rowand batting first simply because nobody else looked better in comparison. (Seriously, Edgar Renteria and his .307 OBP in 2009 was perhaps the second best option to bat leadoff on Opening Day).

However, this isn't Opening Day anymore. The Giants have just finished game 26 of the season. Is it the midway point? No, but it certainly has been long enough to tell what has been working and what hasn't this year for the Giants.

Rowand certainly fits in the latter category.

First off, leadoff hitters need to have one of two things in order to be effective:

1.) Tremendous speed or base stealing ability.
2.) A high propensity to draw walks or get on-base.

In terms of point number one, speed can make up for a hitter's poor plate discipline. Look at Willy Taveras, who has a career OBP of .320 and a career walk percentage of 5.1 percent. Why did he bat leadoff for every team he played for in his career until this season? Because Taveras stole over 30 bases from 2005-2008, and 25 bases in 2009 (and to put it in perspective, he had a .275 OBP for the Reds in 2009).

Rowand doesn't have that speed. Rowand has only 60 stolen bases in his career. Taveras had 68 stolen bases in 2008 ALONE.

So, if Rowand can't steal bases, he must be a good on-base guy, right? A "milk the pitcher and draw some walks" guy in the mold of Kosuke Fukudome?

Not exactly either.

Rowand has a career average walk percentage of 5.7 percent. This season, he has been below his career average, as evidenced by his 3.2 percent walk percentage so far in 2010. Now, while his strikeout rate is 17.8 percent, the first time it has been under 20 percent since 2007, his BB/K ratio is still far from impressive at 0.19. Rowand's BB/K ratios the past two years in San Francisco haven't been much better either, as it was 0.24 last year and 0.35 in 2008 (the league average is usually around 0.50).

Also, the big knock on Rowand has been his plate discipline, and this year he has showed more of the same. After swinging at 32.7 percent of pitches outside the strike zone last season (seven points more than the league average), he has been even worse this year, swinging at 42.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone.

Therefore, Rowand does not fit either category in terms of being a successful leadoff hitter. I know manager Bruce Bochy likes Rowand, and wants Rowand to get comfortable at a spot in the lineup, but leadoff simply isn't it. The more Rowand bats leadoff for the Giants, the less chance they have of making the playoffs. I do not think any Giants fan can argue with that sentiment.

So who do the Giants bat at leadoff?

I suggest two scenarios.

1.) Andres Torres (the main one).
2.) Nate Schierholtz (the secondary one).

In terms of the first option, it makes the most sense. Torres, who has stepped up this year and proved that 2009 wasn't a fluke so far, fits both categories of a successful leadoff hitter. He has good speed (he has four stolen bases this year) and he has shown a strong ability to draw walks and get on base as well (he has a 14.8 percent walk percentage, a 1.00 BB/K ratio and a .398 OBP). Furthermore, unlike Rowand, Torres has proven to be patient in the batter's box. While Torres has cut down on his swings at the plate this year (42.8 percent swing percentage), he has swung at less pitches outside the strike zone (20.6 percent).

Torres not only deserves to be batting leadoff whenever he is in the lineup, but he deserves more playing time as well. While taking playing time away from Rowand will be a challenge, if unrealistic (simply because of his contract and clout with Bochy and Sabean), he certainly deserves to be playing more games in left field, especially if Mark Derosa's wrist doesn't fully recover this year.

However, while I agree that he deserves to be playing MORE, I do not think he should be the permanent left fielder for the remainder of the year. If anything, some kind of platoon needs to be worked out with John Bowker in left field. Bowker still has potential. His walk rate is the highest its been in his Major League career (9.2 percent) and his HR/FB rate (15.4 percent) shows that he has power potential. BowkerwOBA and 27.6 percent strikeout percentage don't help), but with Derosa hurt, this should be an opportunity for Giants management to give Bowker more at-bats.

The best scenario, in my mind, would be for some kind of 60-40 split (or at the very least, 70-30) between Torres and Bowker in terms of playing time in left field with Derosa out and likely heading to the DL. If they don't do it now, they might as well just send Bowker to Fresno because he isn't going to get any other opportunities considering how crowded this outfield is.

If Bowker does get the opportunity of playing every few days (and that's a big IF), then Schierholtz (who has earned the starting right field job after a great start) should bat leadoff for the Giants when Bowker is starting in left.

Schierholtz isn't a typical leadoff hitter. Unlike Rowand though, he has shown improvement this year in drawing walks and being more patient at the plate. His walk percentage is 7.4 percent this year and his BB/K ratio is 0.70 (it was 0.28 last year and 0.38 in 2008). Additionally, he has been more efficient at the plate, swinging at less pitches outside the strikezone (26 percent, a nine point drop from the previous season), while making better contact to boot (85.9 percent contact rate; an 8.2 percent improvement from 2009).

Surprisingly, Schierholtz has some speed as well. This year he has stolen three bases in four attempts. (He had only three stolen bases all of last year!) It wouldn't be surprising to see Schierholtz to steal 10-15 bases this year if given regular playing time. Is that Taveras base stealing ability? No, but it's efficient, and certainly better than what Rowand has to offer.

The Giants solution at leadoff? Drop Rowand in the lineup (six or seven would be a great fit), make Torres the leadoff when he's in the lineup, and when Bowker is replacing him in left field every few days or so, move Schierholtz up to the one spot.

It sounds easy enough, and there is a prime opportunity to instill this plan with Derosa going to be on the shelf.

The main question though is whether or not Bochy and Sabean will have the moxie to make the move. (Knowing Bochy and his history as Giants manager, my gut says no...unfortunately.)