Saturday, December 31, 2011

Twelve for 2012: Brian Wilson

The Giants landed Jonathan Sanchez in the 2004 June draft. He was the next-to-last (29th) pick of the 27th round, making him the 820th player chosen. Only four other players of the forty-nine chosen that year by the Giants have played in the majors: John Bowker, Clay Timpner, Geno Espineli, and Kevin Frandsen. The highest pick (#70, round 2) was Eddy Martinez-Esteve. The Giants forfeited their first-round pick in compensation for Michael Tucker. Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver were first-rounders that year and Dustin Pedroia and Hunter Pence second-rounders. In 2003, the Giants had a compensation pick in the first round from the loss of Jeff Kent. They selected David Aardsma (#22) out of Rice University, two spots ahead of a high-schooler, also from Texas, named Chad Billingsley. The Giants later bundled Aardsma with Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins. So much for the budding aces! Aardsma seemed like a smart choice at the time--his Owls had just won the CWS with him earning two wins and two saves. That's the way the ball bounces, eh? Nate Schierholtz showed up on the Giants radar in the 2nd round (#63), and picked after Billy Sadler, Pat Misch, and Ryan Sadowski in the 24th round (#723) was The Bearded One himself, Brian Wilson. Notables from the 2003 draft class include Rickie Weeks, John Danks, Nick Markakis, and Aaron Hill.

Bruce Bochy calls him "Willie" and he debuted in 2006 and was given the closer's job in 2008. He started to shine in 2009, cutting down the hits, homers, and walks, and in 2010 he put it all together, whiffing 93 of 311 batters and nailing down 48 saves (leading the NL). In 11-2/3 innings in the post-season he allowed five hits, four walks, one run, and struck out 16, garnering a win and six saves. FanGraphs called it a 2.6 WAR season. 2011 was not so kind to Willie, with an oblique injury derailing his spring. His walks and hits went up and his strikeouts went down. He made 57 appearances, fewest since 2007, finishing 45 games with 36 saves. FanGraphs said it was worth only 0.6 WAR. His two-year $15M deal pays him $8.5M for 2012. His fourth and final arb year is 2013 and he's a free agent in 2014. Tim Lincecum and Santiago Casilla are in the same boat.

You have to figure the organization is going to expect a lot more than 0.6 WAR from Willie and His Beard this coming season. It was clear he was not up to snuff this past season. Wilson is almost two years younger (he turns 30 in March) than Jonathan Papelbon, who was chosen in the 2003 draft as well (4th round), and the new Phillie sets the standard for closers not named Mariano Rivera. Craig Kimbrel, the Braves 23-year old rookie, was the best in the NL in 2011, with guys like John Axford (29 in April) and J.J. Putz (35 in June) a tad lower in the rankings but playing big roles on playoff teams nonetheless. The Giants need Willie to recapture that 2010 magic and be one of the elites again. I'm thinking that a nice, long off-season with lots of healing will be just the ticket.

Fear the Beard!

--M.C.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Twelve for 2012: Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo was the only bright spot of the 2005 June draft. The Giants had forfeited the first three rounds in free agent compensation (Armando Benitez, Mike Matheny, and Omar Vizquel) and didn't get a shot until they selected Ben Copeland with the 132nd pick. The laundry list of nobodies that followed is impressive: Dan Griffin, Brad Cuthbertson, Joseph Dyche, Scotty Bridges, and so on. The 372nd pick netted Joe Martinez and the 462nd pick Alex Hinshaw. But the gem came in the 28th round, the 852nd pick from the Mesa State College Mavericks, Sergio Romo. Just for fun, check out the first-rounders from 2005: Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the like. Wow.

Speaking of wow, that's what I like about Romo--the "wow" factor. He throws that goddamn impossible pitch I call a "fascist groove thang." I get some funny looks when I yell "throw that fascist groove thang, Sergio!" It looks like a fat one right over the middle until it gets some legs a hairsbreadth in front of the strike zone and whoosh it dives outside by a foot and a half and the poor sucker in the box looks like he's trying to take a shit and coax a butterfly to land on the end of the bat at the same time. (Think Aaron Rowand.) Man, this guy is a beast. In the minors he was 17-3 as a starter before becoming a full-time reliever at San Jose in 2007. He struck out 106 of the 247 batters he faced that season and hasn't slowed down since he debuted in the bigs in 2008. Last year was beyond ridiculous as he whiffed 70 of the 175 guys he faced and only allowed 6 walks and 29 hits. His K/9 rate in the minors was 10.1 and it is 10.8 in The Show. He'll be 29 in March and is arb-eligible for the first time. He's a free agent in 2015. The Giants have closer talent in the setup role--how many teams can say that?

--M.C.


p.s. Take a look. The Angels had the foresight to draft a very promising youngster from Lee County HS in Leesburg, Georgia in the final (50th) round with the 1496th pick. Fortunately the lad--a certain Buster Posey--chose college instead. You see? More proof that kids should go to college.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twelve for 2012: The Freak

Tim Lincecum was the tenth player taken in the 2006 June amateur draft and took the hill for the Giants in 2007 after only 13 minor-league starts. Since he'd struck out 104 of the 236 batters he'd faced and allowed only 26 hits in the 62-2/3 IP, it seemed like a wise move. FanGraphs says that Evan Longoria (the #3 pick) has racked up a career total of 26.9 WAR for the Rays since his debut in 2008. The only other player from that draft class remotely close is Clayton Kershaw (#7) with 17.1 WAR. He also made The Show in 2008. Tim comes in at 27.9 WAR. Baseball-Reference has its own Wins Above Replacement metric, and it rates Longoria a hair ahead of Tim (24.1 to 22.5), with Kershaw third (16.7), but that's a quibble. He's a great player on a team that's seen three post-seasons in the last four years so I don't begrudge the rankings. Three superstars from the Top 10, with a few other good ballplayers like Drew Stubbs (#8) and Brandon Morrow (#5) to round things out, you'd have to say it was quite a group. Toss in Max Scherzer (#11), Ian Kennedy (#21), Daniel Bard (#28), Joba Chamberlain (#41), and Chris Perez (#42) you've got some serious talent. Oh, and don't forget Emmanuel Burriss (#33)! He was a supplemental pick for the loss of Scott Eyre, another of Sabes' beloved LOOGYs. You have to pity the poor Orioles who took Billy Rowell, a high school third baseman, with the ninth pick. He's one of only two in the first 21 picks who has yet to see ML time.

When I'm on holiday I spend way too much time looking at B-R pages. Sorry about that. The point is that Tim is an über-stud and picking him was the best move the Brian Trust ever made. There was hand-wringing aplenty last season with Tim's drop in strikeouts and increase in walks, but I don't fret about that sort of thing too much. The lack of run support was appalling, something he had never really experienced (unlike Matt Cain!), and overall the team's fielders performed worse than in 2010. Things took their toll. The rest of baseball was gunning for the champs--as they should--and the barrage of injuries was a death blow to the title defense. Still, Tim finished sixth in the Cy Young vote despite a sub-.500 record. He was a beast, just not the best. When you are at the top and slip a little, it seems like a much greater fall. Unfair, sure, but reality. Guys like Tim are used to slugging it out for the big prizes, and I don't see how that's going to be different in 2012. I fully expect him to be at or near the top of the leaderboards once again.

The $100M question, of course, is what will happen with the contract talks. Rumor has it that Tim's agent was looking for an eight-year deal, and I would imagine he was thinking CC Sabathia money (7/161 in 2009, now 5/122), somewhere in the ballpark of $25M per season. The Giants will probably have to pay close to that in arbitration in one of these next two years, and I'm sure would love to settle on a four-year deal of about $100M that would buy out the two remaining arb years and the first two (2014-15) free agent years. But I get the feeling that's it's an "all-or-nothing" gambit on the Lincecum side: if he is indeed The Franchise, he ought to be treated like one. Aaron Rowand's salary comes off the books in 2013, and Barry Zito can be bought out in 2014. I think the Giants would rather go to arb again this season than commit to a "franchise" type deal yet. And who knows? They may never again after Zito. But some money will be freed up in case they decide to go that way. One thing is for sure, they won't want a bidding war like the recent situation with Albert Pujols. Those don't end well. If they are going to keep him around, they'll have one more chance--next off-season--to make that happen. The Cain situation is actually more urgent, and will tell us a lot about the restructured ownership group and The Reign of Larry Baer. I still think he looks a little too much like Maximilien Robespierre.

--M.C.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Twelve for 2012: MadBum

Clayton Kershaw was the King of the Southpaws in the NL West this past season, and one of the best in baseball. But I think the Giants have a young lefty that's equally as talented who will seize the throne next year and serve notice to the rest of baseball. You win a World Series game on Halloween and you'd think you'd get some bounce, but Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum cast big shadows. That's all about to change. Madison Bumgarner has yet to show us how good he can really be. The 22-year old from North Carolina was 34-6 in 63 games in the minors (355-2/3 IP), 62 of them starts. Those are ridiculous numbers at any level. He struck out 164 guys in his first year in A-ball (141-2/3 IP) when he was 18 years old. He was the 10th selection--straight out of high school--in the 2007 June draft, behind #1 David Price (Vanderbilt) and #5 Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech). Last season FanGraphs rated MadBum 11th in WAR among all pitchers (5.5), just ahead of Cain (5.2). Lincecum was 22nd (4.4), just behind the aforementioned Price (4.7). Speaking of aforementioneds, Kershaw was 4th (6.8), trailing Justin Verlander (7.0), CC Sabathia (7.1) and Roy Halladay (8.2). If you sort the same list by FIP, MadBum is 4th (2.67), Cain 7th (2.91), and Lincecum 18th (3.17). The top thee spots are no surprise: Halladay (2.20), Kershaw (2.47), and Cliff Lee (2.60).

I told myself I wasn't going to go all number-y, and here I am a-numbering. Besides, who can trust metrics that dis on The Franchise? The Freak walked a few more guys than usual, but he was still better than a dozen guys ahead of him on both those lists. But that's another post. This one is about the kid who struck out 191 and walked only 56 in 204-2/3 IP. Whoops, there I go again. It's hard to stop. MadBum won the clincher in Atlanta in the 2010 LDS in his maiden post-season start. When he got his cup of coffee in 2009 he was the youngest player in the NL. (Cain earned the same distinction in 2005.) He's still the youngest guy on the staff, even younger than Eric Surkamp. The sky is the limit on this guy. He is one of the main reasons I'm so excited about next season--I really believe he is only beginning to develop his game. We got a taste this past season of what a three-headed beast the rotation can be when Tim, Matt, and MadBum all threw 33 starts and 200+ innings. I expect no less this coming season.

--M.C.



p.s. Tim Alderson was also a 1st round pick (#22, a compensation pick from the Dodgers for Jason Schmidt). Like MadBum he came straight from HS, but has yet to see ML time. The Giants lost him in the Freddy Sanchez trade. The only other notables from that draft were Dan Runzler (9th round, #284), and Joe Paterson (10th round, #314) who the Diamondbacks obtained via Rule V. He pitched 1/3 of an inning in the NLDS against Milwaukee (strikeout). Steve Edlefsen was the 494th pick (16th round). Farmhands Wendell Fairley, Nick Noonan, Jackson Williams, and Charlie Culberson were also taken in the same draft in the first round. Fairley (#29) and Noonan (#32) were compensation for Moises Alou, and Williams (#43) was part of the Schmidt deal. Culberson (#51) was, believe it or not, from the loss of Mike Stanton. He was a Giant in 2006 (Sabes loves a LOOGY) after signing a free agent deal with Washington and then being traded for Shairon Martis. Help me, I'm stuck in a B-R trivia quagmire!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Twelve for 2012: Buster

We talked about the draft class of 2008 and the jewel of that group: the one and only Buster Posey. He's a guy that doesn't need a last name. "Buster" is enough. He came to the Giants fully formed: ready to play, ready to win, ready to have microphone in his face. I'm still in awe of his sangfroid during the 2010 stretch run and post-season. He was so collected and self-contained and always managed to find the right words and the perfect tone in those endless stupid TV interviews. I imagine he'll be a Senator one day, an unfortunate waste of his talent, but a perfect capstone to his All-American Boy career. It doesn't take much of a stretch to say that he was the difference-maker. The 2009 team and the 2011 team did not get to have their full allotment of Posey and both teams fell short of the NL West title. Once he was ensconced as the everyday catcher the 2010 team was complete and they ran the table and grabbed the ring. If there was ever a player that should be called Team Captain and have a goddamn 'C' stitched on his uniform, it's Gerald Demp. I can't wait to see him back on the field every day next season. The baseball brass really ought to change that stupid rule about home-plate collisions. Hell, they did for second baseman! But I don't expect that to happen. Can't let people think the game is for sissies, can we?

Buster will be 25 in March. Four players were selected ahead of him in the June draft: Tim Beckham, Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, and Brian Matusz. Hosmer is only 21 and was drafted out of high school. Jonathan Sanchez will be his teammate this season. Beckham, also 21 and a HS pick, has not seen ML time. Alvarez is from Vanderbilt, Matusz from the University of San Diego, and Buster from Florida State.

Hope you are all enjoying the Twelve Days of Christmas. GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twelve for 2012: The Brandons

OK, I'm cheating. There will be thirteen Giants on my 2012 radar. It's a devil's dozen--perfect for Christmas. Besides I'm a 13 kind of guy, being born on Friday the 13th and all. Brandon Crawford gets the first nod as he was drafted in 2008, a year before Brandon Belt. The most famous and accomplished of the 2008 class is Buster Posey, the 5th pick that year. Crawford was a 4th-rounder, #117 overall, behind Conor Gillaspie (#37, 1st-suppplemental) and Roger Kieschnick (#82, 3rd round). Edwin Quirarte came in the 5th round (#147) and Eric Surkamp in the 6th (#177). The Giants selected 50 players in that draft.

Crawford comes to the Giants from UCLA (my brother's alma mater), the same school that produced the likes of Chase Utley, Eric Byrnes, Troy Glaus, Dave Roberts, and Eric Karros. He sports a .266/.331/.403 line in 1107 minor league plate appearances and a .204/.288/.296 line for The Show (220 PA). The Giants say they are going to start the kid at shortstop in 2012. It is a bold move. Or, it is a crazy, desperation move for a team that wouldn't spend an extra nickel in the off-season and gave Orlando "44 OPS+" Cabrera 39 games and 133 PA in 2011. Which one do you like? I like the ballsy, savvy, counter-intuitive, anti-B&S-veteran-fixation kinda thing. He certainly has a big-league glove, better than any Giants infielder since Omar Vizquel, and better than any Giants-bred SS since Chris Speier. FanGraphs gives him a positive WAR (0.5), pretty tough to do with a 66 OPS+, so they think he's got some serious game on the defensive side as well. Mark Belanger had a career 68 OPS+ over 18 seasons. There was a time when shortstops weren't expected to hit, especially on a pitching-dependent team. I wonder if you can still play that kind of ball in the NL today! Crawford will be 25 on January 21st.

Speaking of hitting, Brandon Belt is the best minor league hitter the Giants have produced in a long time, even topping Buster's numbers. Belt--he with the perfect name for a slugger--has a ridiculous .343/.457/.596 track record and 399 total bases in 189 games for San Jose, Richmond, and Fresno. The dude can rake. We all know about the yo-yo treatment he got last season, and we are all expecting some of the same this season, what with Ten Million Dollar Man Aubrey Huff getting all the VSC love from Big Head. Belt will likely see some time in the outfield, too, this despite the fact that both FNGs are OFs and Nate Schierholtz is still around. Alas, the youngster is going to have to impress the brass--again. There were times last year when he looked absolutely lost at the plate, yet he still managed to post a league-average 101 OPS+ (.225/.306/.412) which was better than many sporting the orange-and-black did in 2011 (including Huff). Belt is clearly the first baseman of the future. Even if Huff repeats his stellar 2010 I think it is safe to assume they'll send the 35-year old on his way (the 2013 club option has a $2M buyout). Belt will be the Man with the Mitt for the next several seasons, and that's pretty damn exciting. Young, talented, and cost-controlled, the three best things a player can be in the modern game. I'm supposed to talk about 2012, though, and it is hard to figure what will happen. Bill James projects him as a full-time starter with an eye-popping .266/.358/.482 and 25 HR. Hey, I'll take it. I think it is more likely he'll be platooning as I imagine his struggles last season were more about maturity than skill. I'm actually not worried about Belt. He'll get his chances and I think we'll get to see some great stuff. He'll be 24 on April 20th.

Happy St. Stephen's Day!

--M.C.



p.s. Belt was a 5th-rounder in 2009, the 147th pick overall, from the University of Texas. That was Zack Wheeler's class (he was #6 overall). Tommy Joseph (2nd, #55), Chris Dominguez (3rd, #86), and Jason Stoffel (4th, #117) filled out the rest of the top five of the fifty players chosen. Much-hyped Stephen Strasburg was number one that year, and Dustin Ackley number two. Giants fans may remember Mike Minor (#7, Braves) and Mike Leake (#8, Reds) throwing zeros and picking up wins against the 2011 team.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twelve for 2012: Ángel Pagán

The FNGs may not be sexy, but they are important. And who can have Christmas without an angel? Or a pagan, for that matter. All that tree stuff, gifts, holly, mistletoe, yule logs, and egg nogs are thoroughly pre-Christian. Like you think they had fecking snow in Bethlehem? But we'll let other folks fight the Xmas Wars. Over here at RMC we like parties and happy times and could give a farthing's heap o'gobshite which godly or godless time you prefer. Speaking of happy times, I think 2012 will be some happy times for Giants fans. I think the team is loaded with talent. Angel Pagan, like the man he's replacing, was a part time player until 2010. Andres Torres (I'll miss you, lad) won everyone's hearts, and deservedly so. Here's a career snapshot:

Year    Age   Tm   G   PA   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+  TB
2009     31  SFG  75  170  30  41  6  8  6  23  6  1  16  45 .270 .343 .533 .876  126  81
2010     32  SFG 139  570  84 136 43  8 16  63 26  7  56 128 .268 .343 .479 .823  122 243
2011     33  SFG 112  398  50  77 24  1  4  19 19  6  42  95 .221 .312 .330 .643   82 115
7 Seasons        415 1423 197 308 79 21 27 118 60 21 131 325 .244 .318 .403 .721   97 510
162 Game Avg.    162  555  77 120 31  8 11  46 23  8  51 127 .244 .318 .403 .721   97 199

And now the FNG:

Year    Age   Tm   G   PA   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+  TB
2009     27  NYM  88  376  54 105  22 11  6  32 14  7  25  56 .306 .350 .487 .837  122 167
2010     28  NYM 151  633  80 168  31  7 11  69 37  9  44  97 .290 .340 .425 .765  108 246
2011     29  NYM 123  532  68 125  24  4  7  56 32  7  44  62 .262 .322 .372 .694   93 178
6 Seasons        541 1994 263 504 100 27 33 209 95 26 149 293 .279 .331 .418 .750  101 757
162 Game Avg.    162  597  79 151  30  8 10  63 28  8  45  88 .279 .331 .418 .750  101 227

Both men have played all three OF positions in the last three years, but it is the 8-spot that matters. B-R keeps track of games played, starts, and complete games per position. Torres has a 227/163/144 total (1584 innings) for CF while Pagan's line is 276/266/249 (2343-2/3 innings). Torres was the best I've ever seen out there, with the possible exception of Darren Lewis. DLew won a Gold Glove in 1994, not bad for a guy sporting an 87 OPS+. Pagan will probably be a drop-off from Torres, but not enough for concern. He'll be a solid presence with speed and good range. He's younger, too. He doesn't have to be a star, just a steady contributor. He'll probably walk a little less than Torres, but hit a little better and not strike out as much. He won't have Andres' pop, but he'll be a better base runner. The Giants are gambling that Andres' best days are behind him and that Angel has some more left in the tank. I putting my money with the shooter on this roll.

Eleven more to go!

--M.C.


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/25/2011.
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/25/2011.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas, mates

So you've picked up the story by now about Bud & His Billionaires giving the nod to the Athletics moving from Oakland to San Jose. I'm sure LarryB & The Consortium will fargle something about "territorial rights" and demand deceased presidents by the pallet-full, but I've no sense about money-making or corporate voodoo. If I did I'd be in The Marketplace making markets or something, fingering my filthy lucre. But you don't come to Raising Matt Cain for sober analysis. I assume Lewie & The Wolffs will have to make some kind of payoff, maybe they'll bungle it and scandals will ensue. That might make the thing exciting. I think the Giants should move their San Jose farm club to Oakland--that'll show 'em!

But it's Christmas Eve and all, don't want no Grinchitude spoiling things. I'll be posting a series over the next two weeks I'll call "Twelve for 2012." I'll look at twelve 2012 Giants and get excited about watching them play this upcoming season. It's the Twelve Days of Christmas, after all.

We'll have an epiphany at the end.

--M.C.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eli Whiteside ... Really?

I assume that the collective lack of activity on the blog during the last few days is because we have all been reeling from the stunning news that the Giants have signed Eli Whiteside to a major league contract. Not a minor league contract, like the Marlins gave Aaron Rowand, but a major league, occupy a 40-man roster spot & block a perhaps legit player, contract. Let's mull this one over:

- Eli Whiteside's biggest claim to fame is his silly hairdo.
- In 2010, Eli Whiteside was the ultimate in 'right place at the right time'. He earned a lot of money, a trip to White House, & multiple valuable prizes for not playing a single inning of the NLDS, NLCS, & WS.
- In 2011, in a career high 236 AB's, he hit .197.
- In 2011, he was the worst hitter in baseball from July onward (when the Giants really needed him).
- His career OBP is .274.
- Hitting is his strong suit.

To put it plainly, if Buster Posey were to have some sort of setback (or merely needed a few days off), is Eli Whiteside a person you would want in-the-mix to pick up the pieces?

Having said that, here is my take on the catching situation:

Chris Stewart

- As I've mentioned, ever since the days of Tim McCarver & Steve Carlton, I've detested the notion of a 'personal Catcher'. Therefore, I detest the notion that Chris Stewart is Tim Lincecum's personal Catcher. The Manager has to put the best lineup on the field every day, & it is his decision based upon lots of factors. It should not the Pitcher's decision, & every Pitcher should be ready to pitch to every Catcher.
- Chris Stewart is almost as anemic a hitter as Eli Whiteside.
- Chris Stewart has a reputation as a great defensive Catcher, but that reputation seems to be based upon a handful of flashy throws. I remember an equal number of disastrously wild & ill-timed throws. I don't buy that Chris Stewart is a great Catcher.
- Chris Stewart is not the answer.

Hector Sanchez

- Hector Sanchez appears to be able to hit, so that offers hope.
- Hector Sanchez apparently is an OK Catcher, but nothing great.

There are no compelling reasons to keep either Whiteside or Stewart. If I were calling the shots, I would be finding a reliable veteran backup, plus sticking with Sanchez. If we go with 3 Catchers, Sanchez stays up. If we don't, Sanchez goes to Fresno.

Of course, now we have committed $600,000/$175,000 &, more importantly, a 40-man roster spot, to Whiteside, so, once again, we have tied up some resources on a player with little to offer.

(Affeldt $ + Fontenot $ + Mota $ + Whiteside $ almost gets you a Beltran ... would you rather have Beltran/Runzler/Burriss/Hembree on the ML Roster or Whiteside/Affeldt/Fontenot/Mota? This is a question in all seriousness, because we are already going to be paying Runzler, Burriss, & Hembree anyway. In my opinion, that trio is almost as good as Affeldt, Fontenot, & Mota, while Beltran obviously represents a significant upgrade over Whiteside.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Proud Sponsor!

Raising Matt Cain is now the proud sponsor of Conor Gillaspie! At least his page on Baseball-Reference. I used to sponsor Matt Cain, but he got a little expensive. Conor Michael Gillaspie was a bit more in my price range. (That means I'm cheap.) So, check out Conor Gillaspie.

Gillaspie was a first-round pick the same year as Buster Posey (Gerald was fifth overall). CMG was a "supplemental pick," compensation for Pedro Feliz, and was the 37th man chosen. I have a soft spot for the lad and hope he becomes Freddy Sanchez' backup. I mean the guy they use other than Mike Fontenot (I prefer him over Jeff Keppinger) and (gulp) Emmanuel Burriss. Not to dog on Manny, but I think they are dreaming. Of course, he was a first-rounder (no. 33), the same year (2006) Tim Lincecum was picked tenth.

You want a Youth Movement? We got a Youth Movement. Go, C.M.!

--M.C.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ángel in the outfield

The Giants just don't like guys from Puerto Rico. That's got to be it. No Jonathan Sanchez, no Andrés Torres, and probably no Carlos Beltrán. Maybe if the island became the 51st state things might change. But for now I see a clear institutional bias, and I think an exposé will launch my investigative reporting career. But that's for later. Right now I have to say "adios" to a truly beloved Giant, Andrés Torres. He was the best CF in baseball in 2010 and a huge part of the championship team. Even as a mere 5th OF he won the hearts of fans with acrobatic catches, timely bombs, and pesky steals. We loved his athleticism, enthusiasm, and humility. I cried when he was given his richly-deserved Willie Mac Award. His long career, bouncing around the minors and majors before finally finding success in San Francisco, is storybook stuff. Losing JSanchez was definitely an "ouch" moment. He was a true Giant, and part of the Youth Corps that led us all to the land of milk and honey. But losing Torres is a gut punch. I loved that guy. It was impossible not to! When Aaron Rowand would stink, I'd grumble and moan and holler "get rid of the bum!" When Torres struggled I winced in silent pain and prayed that he'd look better the next time he was up. So long, Andrés, I wish you well. (You know he will go 11-17 with 2 HR, 4 SB, and 3 impossible catches when the Mets come to town next season. You just know he will.)

The Giants also gave up Ramón Ramírez in the trade. He pitched in 66 games last year and is a pretty solid guy to have in the bullpen. In 2010 he allowed only TWO earned runs in 27 IP during the stretch run after some rather rocky times in Boston (21 ER in 42 IP). That World Series roster is getting whittled down: JSanchez, Torres, Ramirez, Burrell, Ishikawa, Rowand, Uribe, and Rentería are all gone. There's a good chance that Mike Fontenot and Cody Ross will not return in 2012. Guillermo Mota is also on the bubble, maybe he'll be back with the open spot in the 'pen.

Ángel Pagán projects to be the Opening Day CF and that will likely move newcomer Melky Cabrera to LF. The UZR crowd will be happy (how can anyone trust a metric that rates Nate Schierholtz as a poor defender?). He looks like a good acquisition. We'll lose a little on defense (nobody fields the 8-spot like Torres) but probably gain a bit on offense. He turned 30 in July. A quick check of his B-R page shows he's from--wait for it--Puerto Rico!! So much for my thesis.

--M.C.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Isn't One of the Benefits of Winning Supposed to the Ability to Sustain Winning?

The Giants' behavior this off-season continues to mostly depress me, with occasional rays of hope quickly dashed by official or unofficial statements. We are a cash-rich team, fresh off the paraphanelia-sellling, 81-game consecutive sellout aftermath of our first Championship in the SF era. This Championship was primarily built upon a fantastic young Starting Pitching staff & Closer, all of whom were paid much less than their true value, due to their relative youth. Unlike some other recent winning teams (e.g. both of the Florida Marlin winners), they were not a group of mercenaries, quickly assembled for instant glory, off to better pastures in the free agent market. When a Team is already pretty wealthy & is blessed with this type of good fortune, there should be solid motivation to do whatever it takes to keep winning, including investing some of the windfall into the sustained winning. The word ‘dynasty’ rightfully crops up.

Instead, we are treated to occasional news about contact between the Team & Agents for Lincecum & Cain & lukewarm crap about maybe trying to re-sign Carlos Beltran, along with endless links between the Giants & a cavalcade of marginal second or third-tier players. We don't deserve this. We have been long-suffering, but loyal, for years. We got the Championship, & we deserve a sustained effort to continue competing for the Championship. Yet, the Team has retreated back into poor-boy incrementalism. The Giants can afford much, much more.

The level to which this has degenerated was illustrated by how excited I got yesterday morning to hear that the Giants were going in for a Japanese SS who was a complete mystery to me. At least it was someone out-of-the-box, a SS with a bit of pop who could platoon with Crawford. Mostly, it was because it wasn’t some 38-year old guy with a lifetime OBP of less than .300. If a success at the ML level, maybe Nakajima could slide over to take over from F. Sanchez at some point in the future. The Crawford/Nakajima double-play combo was going to be an anchor of the franchise … my mind was racing. That hope was dashed in about 5 seconds, when I immediately read that it had been reported that the Giants had denied the report. Later in the day, just to squash my hopes entirely, a credible source confirmed that the Giants had denied the report.

The Pujols/Fielder thing should have never been 'out of the question', but I will accept that it is. One has to draw the line somewhere, I suppose.

The Reyes/Rollins thing should have never been 'out of the question', & I am quite peeved that the Team won't go there. Reyes signed a contract that was in the realm of possibility for the Giants, meaning that Rollins will sign a contract that is definitely something that the Giants could afford.

The re-sign Beltran thing is a 100% no-brainer - we should be in that one with both feet. As I've said before, I can't think of a hitter whose swing is more perfectly tailored to our ballpark. The kind of money being talked about for Beltran is well within our capability to pay & much less disruptive to our salary structure than a Pujols / Fielder / Reyes / Rollins move. He instantly makes our lineup legitimate, & that should be our goal - a legitimate lineup to go with our superior pitching.

The long-term deals with Cain & Lincecum will probably happen, although I'm a bit worried about Lincecum's desire for an 8-year deal. Having gone through the Zito episode, the Giants are going to be hesitant to go there. Still, somewhere in my heart, I have to believe that the Giants know that they must secure Cain, Lincecum, &, eventually, Bumgarner for the long haul. Sandoval is a probable future long-term deal that must be made, although I am looking for confirmation that he is serious about year-to-year conditioning & that his right-handed swing has returned to normal.

I live in Portland, Oregon. Giants’ gear is all around me, easily surpassing any other Team’s gear, including the ‘local’ Mariners. I root for one of the richest, most recognizable Teams in MLB. The Giants need to sign Beltran to a nice 3-year deal, while continuing to push for the Cain & Lincecum deals. That is my agenda. That should be the Team’s agenda. I will not listen to any economic reasons not to do that. They owe us this. They owe us a legitimate lineup.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bochy, Sabean, and news

The 2.5-headed duo of Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean have had their contracts extended through 2013 with an option for 2014!!! OK, anyone surprised by that statement isn't going to be surprised by me printing it here. After all, it's late November. Only baseball nerds would read this site at this time of year, and baseball nerds already know this.

This morning, however, I read that the newly fiscally-secure Brian Sabean wants to trade Ramon Ramirez or Jeremy Affeldt. Didn't we just sign half of those guys? Actually, the idea makes sense. Sabean signed these guys because there is a dearth of lefty relievers around (Ramirez is a righty). Because of that, lefty releivers are valuable commodities to many teams, inlcuding the Giants. In addition to Affeldt, we have Dan Runzler and Javier Lopez to fill that role. If Barry Zito starts, Eric Surkamp may be another. Oh, and don't forget our stengths of Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla from the right, in addition to Ramirez. I'm just saying that if you want a good player in a trade, you have to have something good to give. And lefty relievers may be just that valuable of a trade bait so that Mr. Sabean can fish up something worthwhile in return. Names anyone?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Name dropping

I've been wondering why there has been so little interest in the big-name free agents this off-season. After all, there are some seriously big names in the pool. Albert Pujols is arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of all time, and he's hardly managed a sniff. Prince Fielder, all of 27, is every bit as good as fellow first basemen Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira and Adrián González, all who have signed mega-deals in the last few years. I suppose that might just be the problem. The big spenders have already got their 3-position locked up. The Phils have Howard until at least 2016 ($25M/yr), same for the Yanks and Teixeira ($22.5M/yr), and the Sawx have González until 2018 ($21.5M/yr). The three clubs who toss around the most money are not interested. I imagine Pujols will wind up back in St. Louis. The Dodgers were supposedly interested in Fielder, but that organization is in a mess and it seems unlikely they can think about another long-term deal until the ownership question is settled. Jimmy Rollins and José Reyes are some other big names who can't seem to generate excitement. I wonder if the poor market will continue. The new CBA is in place, and the Winter Meetings are just around the corner, so perhaps things will pick up. If not, a guy like Carlos Beltrán could be had for much less (money and years) than most expected at the end of the season. That might make the Giants pursue him a little more seriously. I get the feeling--and I certainly hope--that they are lukewarm on him until the Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum negotiations are completed. The Freak may not bother and simply let the arbitration process decide things, but I expect Cain and the Giants will work something out. In the meantime, I'm content to watch. And I'm happy that we know we will have five more years of uninterrupted baseball.

--M.C.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The price of success

Only Baseball Matters has a post that echoes what we've talked about here, namely that Clayton Kershaw ought to thank the Giants for his newly-minted CYA. He had a sensational season, and was a deserving winner, but if I were a Phillies fan I'd feel like Roy Halladay was robbed. After all, Halladay led all pitchers with 8.2 WAR (Kershaw was 2nd in the NL with 6.8 but 4th overall behind C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander) and with a 2.20 FIP, and lead the NL with a 164 ERA+. He completed 8 of his 32 starts and only walked 35 guys and gave up 10 HR in 233-2/3 IP. However you slice it, the guy was a beast, and pitched in a little tougher park to boot. But I don't get too excited about the BBWAA these days. I don't really care who gets what trophy. The only one that matters is the shiny one with all the flags on it. What I find interesting is that young Mr. Kershaw (he'll be 24 in March) is still under the Dodgers control. He goes to arbitration for the first time this off-season and won't be a free agent until 2015. Mr. Halladay makes $20M/year. That brings me to the Giants "co-aces." Matt Cain needs an extension (FA 2013) and would not be unreasonable asking for more than the $15M he'll make this season. Four years, $70M? Tim Lincecum is looking at two more seasons of arbitration (FA 2014) and will no doubt get a raise ($14M in 2011). Could they get him to sign for four years and $85M? The Giants still have the cost-controlled studliness of Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey, a nice little core of young talent any team would envy. The Dodgers just pulled a stunner, locking up superstar Matt Kemp for EIGHT years (reputedly worth $160M). He'll be in Dodger blue until he is 34! I don't see the Giants doing that after the Barry Zito fiasco. Barry Bonds signed a 7-year deal in 1993, but that was so long ago no one remembers. Bob Quinn was the GM at the time in case you forgot. Speaking of team leadership, Larry Baer is the New Sheriff in Town, having just gotten the nod from the Owner's Cabal to be the team's vote-caster. It is hard to say what that means. I expect things won't change a whole lot, but there is a sort of Robespierre-like mien to him, wouldn't you say? As long as his Reign of Terror nets more shiny trophies, I'll look the other way when the guillotine falls.

--M.C.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oh Boy ... More Inter-League Play!

Here's some fun news ... apparently, the Astros are moving to the AL in 2013. As part of the proposed new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement, there will now be six 5-team divisions, with an even number of teams in each league. That means that every single day of every single season, someone will be playing an inter-league game. In fact, according to the story I just read, there will be 'considerably more inter-league play'. Somehow, I have a feeling that this means that we'll end up playing the A's more than anyone else. Overall, it sounds like a scheduling debacle. Let's enjoy our final season of even numbers of teams in each league, the way that God intended it to be.

Oh ... and sign C-L-B (Cain, Lincecum, & Beltran)!

And, Ryan Doumit is a decent player, but wants a lot of money to be a back-up Catcher. Is Hector Sanchez not the answer? Well, no, he may not be, but I don't know about that kind of money for Doumit. He is a switch-hitter & plays 1B & OF, too, so those are plusses.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You Get to Do the Lightning-in-a-Bottle Thing Once

You get to do the Lightning-in-a-Bottle thing once. Our time was 2010. I am very happy about that & don't expect it to happen again. The odds are worse than 1 in 30. Probably, 3 years out of 4, a really good team wins it all. The other year is the lightning-in-a-bottle year. Therefore, the odds of lightning-in-a-bottle are about 1 in 120.

You build consistent success by investing in sizable improvements. When you have the resources to do so, there is no excuse for not doing so. Otherwise, you will sink back into the mediocre mire.

The 2011 Texas Rangers provide a great example of how to run an MLB Team. As Mark pointed out a couple of weeks ago, reaching the World Series in consecutive seasons is an amazing feat. As happy as I am that the Cardinals won, I still give the Rangers credit for getting there again, & getting there in the way that they did.

Between the 2010 & 2011 seasons, Texas acquired Adrian Beltre to, effectively, replace an aging Vlad Guerrero. And, in one of the less-noticed, but substantial moves of the off-season, they acquired Mike Napoli to replace the retiring & chronically ineffective Bengie Molina. This transformed their lineup from powerful to over-the-top powerful. That 3 through 7 of Hamilton, Young, Beltre, Cruz, & Napoli was a core 5 right up there with any team in recent memory. They also found some fine pitching, both in-house & via the trade market. Picking up Mike Adams was the best move that they made in mid-season. They knew that Cliff Lee was going to be gone, but they knew that they had the arms to replace him (besides, he lost both games in the World Series!).

Meanwhile, after a cruddy 2011 season (although not cruddy at the box office or in sales of merchandise), we are tossing around lightweight moves (e.g. Bloomquist, Carroll, now Barmes). Our team should be thinking much bigger than that, or we will be back in the mediocre mire.

I am only OK with turing SS over to Crawford, if we sign Beltran. Otherwise, Crawford needs to go to Fresno. Signing a Rollins for 2 years (first year as a starter, second year as a part-time starter & mentor) makes sense to me. Getting a real 5th starter (Mark Buehrle is my latest favorite, but others would work out well), so that we are not trotting Barry Zito out there & praying, should be on our list.

We need to decide whether we are going for consistent success, or just waiting for our next turn at lightning-in-a-bottle, which may take 30 to 120 years. I'm for trying to guarantee continued success.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Youth, the final frontier

John Shea recently made the point that the Giants are getting younger. Jonathan Sanchez (Nov '82) was the oldest member of the vaunted Youth Starting Corps that led the club to the title in 2010. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and the barely-legal Madison Bumgarner are all younger than JS. The rest of the ro' is filled out with old guys Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito, but Eric Surkamp, all of 23, is knocking on the door. It is a different story in the 'pen, filled with the likes of Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Guillermo Mota, and Santiago Casilla, but no one is complaining about gray hair in that bunch, and we may have seen the last of WillyMo, The Great Old One. Sergio Romo, Dan Runzler, Steve Edlefsen, and Waldis Joaquin are all younger than JS, with Brian Wilson (Mar '82) just ahead. Like I said, no one is complaining about the bullpen, and we all know how much Boch-n-Rags value experience. What's interesting to me is what the lineup will look like next season. Other than oldsters Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff on the right side of the infield, the rest of the club is 28 years old or younger. Not-quite-a-rookie-anymore Brandon Crawford looks like he'll get the nod at short. Pablo Sandoval is still absurdly young, as is Buster Posey. Nate Schierholtz (Feb '84) is the senior member of the outfield, edging newcomer Melky Cabrera (Aug '84) and lapping Baby Giraffe Brandon Belt (Apr '88). WHEN'S THE LAST TIME THE GIANTS FIELDED A TEAM LIKE THIS ONE?

I'm ready to take my chances with this bunch of kids. We know the pitching is there. We know the offense is a question mark. But all I see is upside. LOTS of upside. Who is ready to embrace The Youth Movement with me?

--M.C.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sanchez Out / Melky In

So SF Giants.com just reported the trade of Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera. All my hard work in the previous posts went for naught. The Giants also threw in minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo.

Melky "Leche" Cabrera is 27 years old. That's a good thing. You can view his stats here. This is what this tells me:

1) The Giants have given up on Andres Torres and are do not intend to make more than a cursory pass at Carlos Beltran. Probably not even that.
2) The Giants have given up on Jonathan Sanchez. Too bad, for those of you who might mention that we would not have to see him (as a Giant) in the post season again, I would remind you that the Giants would not have been in the 2010 postseason without his efforts.
3) Maybe that means they will explore a shortstop, ignoring the excellent glove work of Brandon Crawford. Mabye not.
4) Ladies and Gentlemen, your starting pitcher, Barry Zito.

Last year Leche hit .305, which is significantly better than his 2010 season with Atlanta, in which he hit .255 (a post-rookie season low). His OBP is not too impressive, .331 lifetime and .339 last year. He also can steal bases, 20 last year, although he was caught stealing 10 times. Last year he also had career highs in doubles and home runs. Lets hope he is maturing with some power. He will undoubtedly be playing center field and batting lead off.

The first time he does something good, the headlines will be "Dulce de Leche." I should have been in advertising.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Whether the Giants Can Afford Carlos Beltran

OK, that is probably not the best title for this post. “Afford” implies that I have some knowledge of the Giants finances, and I don’t. Perhaps a better title would be “On Whether the Giants Are Likely to be Able to Produce a Successful Bid for Free Agent Carlos Beltran. The answer to that question is, in my view, “Yes.”

The conventional wisdom says the Carlos Beltran will demand (and receive) a fiver year contract. The conventional wisdom also asserts that the Giants will be able to be outbid by other teams that either have deeper financial resources or that have fewer sunk costs, meaning existing salary commitments. But let's examine how valuable Carlos Beltran would be and who would be the likely bidders for him.

I have observed is that there are two levels of superstars. The upper level tends to get a lot of money. Their contracts, even in today’s recession-limited market, are stratospheric (and remember, from the Giants’ attendance figures in 2011, their market is decidedly not recession-limited). But then you see a drop off, and superstar free agents who are not the very cream of a given year’s crop tend not to have the high profile interest that the tippy-top guys get. Carlos Beltran is not the premier free agent on the market. That would be Albert Pujols, followed closely by Prince Fielder. Elias Sports Bureau has a ranking system of the most desirable free agents and you can find a copy of it on MLB Trade Rumors, here. Carlos Beltran ranks #7. MLB Trade Rumors also has a list of the top 50 free agents, here, and which team they guess each one is likely to sign with. With the addition of Yu Darvish, Carlos Beltran is addressed in the #9 position. There are several free agents that are pitchers, including starters CJ Wilson, Yu Darvish, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle and relievers Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon (he wouldn’t really pull a Damon, would he?), and Ryan Madson.

In any year, the tippy-top only goes so deep. There are always a couple of high profile signings, and then a lot that make you wonder if the high profile guys are really worth their money compared to the rest. I just don't think Carlos Beltran will be one of the top top guys. Age is one reason.
Here are some pretty good hitters that may be higher on wish lists than Carlos Beltran: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Aramis Ramirez. Carlos Beltran will be 35 when the 2012 season starts. Albert Pujols will be 32; Fielder, 27; Reyes, 28; and Rollins and Ramirez, 33. So I don't think five years is a given for Carlos, considering that their are a number of other, younger players out there to soak up the highest offers.

The Yankees need pitching, pitching and more pitching. They have enough hitting. The Red Sox need to replace Big Papi, and need to replace or re-sign Papelbon, although they may be interested in Carlos, they have other priorities. The Phillies need to replace or re-sign Madson and Rollins, the Mets already did Beltran, and the Cardinals need to re-sign the big A at all costs, and then shop for relief, although it held up well enough in the playoffs. Texas needs to re-sign or replace Wilson. The Cubs with their new GM might be a likely bidder, so might Washington. There is always a surprise team, of course, but the Giants have the advantage of being a team that is known to contend, and that carries weight with players who are looking to get into the post-season. Always remember, that Brian Sabean, for all the ire that he has engendered in the lunatic fringes, somehow managed to wind up with a stable of pitching that is unmatched and few needs except to upgrade the offense.

So I believe the Giants are in the driver's seat to sign Carlos if they want to, and I also think it will not take five years nor Albert Pujols money to do so. What is more, I think they should. Carlos left/right, Nate center/right, Brandon Belt left/first, and Andres as the fourth outfielder at center works for me.

Oh. Apparently, the Giants may be open to trading Jonathan Sanchez.