Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On What the Giants Need for 2012

What seems to make sense to me, rather than flying off the handle about what the Giants may or may not do, is to first look at what the Giants need. In that way, we can have a firm basis from which to fly off the handle. So let me start this conversation by saying that the Giants do not need anything in the way of fielders. We hear a lot about how the Giants need a center fielder or a shortstop. That is, in both cases, demonstrably untrue. We have a very talented young shortstop in Brandon Crawford, and several players that can play center field, Cody Ross, Nathan Schierholtz, and Andres Torres, two of whom are arbitration-eligible, and one of whom is a free agent. The reason that this is untrue is because a "shortstop" and a "center fielder" are descriptions of defensive positions. The Giants have adequate players at every defensive position. What the Giants need to upgrade is their offensive positions, which is why I choose to look at the types players that are necessary to compliment the offense, which, as has often been chronicled, was sorely lacking in 2011.

Mostly, the Giants lack an adequate lead-off batter, and lack the big bat that puts fear into opponents' hearts. As much as I relished the days when Barry Bonds would make a nation hold their collective breath during his at bats, I believe that what the Giants most lack is a lead-off batter. It would indeed be nice to have another powerful bat in the line-up. Pablo Sandoval may be a fearsome bat sometimes, and Buster Posey may become one, but neither are quite the kind of batter that opponents really shape their game around. The Giants have no one like an Albert Pujols or a Prince Fielder - guys that can absolutely change a game with one swing of the bat. And therein lies the argument for re-signing Carlos Beltran.

But with Posey, and Sandoval, and a hopefully rejuvenated Aubrey Huff, and some real contributions from Brandon Belt, I believe that the bigger need is a player to bat in the lead-off position that has some potential to get on base a lot. I'm not sure what the on base percentage from the lead-off spot was for the 2011 Giants, but I know that Rowand was less than .300, and Torres was only .312. That's not good enough. It would be great to have someone get on base a fair amount of time. Jose Reyes seems to do this fairly well, with a .341 lifetime obp and a .384 obp for 2011. Jimmy Rollins also has the perception of being valuable in this regard. His obp is not quite as good, .329 lifetime and .338 for 2011. Let's consider those numbers for a moment. In 600 at bats, a healthy Andres Torres would be expected to get on base 187 times in a season and Jose Reyes would get on base between 204 and 230 times. Mr. Rollins would be expected to get on base between 197 and 203 times. So, averaging the two and averaging their lifetime and 2011 totals, 208 times reaching base. That is 21 times more than Andres Torres, or once more every 7.7 games. Is that enough to make a difference? It is at this point where I wish I had enough access to existing baseball statistics and statistical accumen to be able to figure if it indeed would be a meaningful difference or not. It sure doesn't sound like much.

Which brings us back around to the main question. Based on your perception or on a numerical analysis, what do the Giants most need, a fearsome bat, or a dependable lead-off batter?


M.C. O'Connor said...

I think the Giants need to give Matt Cain an extension.

Anonymous said...

Fran(cisco)k thinks that the Giants just need to:

1. Keep Andres. Even if he never hits like he did in 2009 and 2010, his defense and speed are enough to warrant a spot on the team.

2. If you're going to let Belt play, don't bs it. Let him play everyday.

3. Let Cody walk and resign Beltran.

Let's not forget, the Giants were very hurt last year and still were not too far off. Had Pablo, Buster, and Andres played all year (instead of time going to Rowand, Tejada, Huff, and Cabrera), I believe we could have made it back to the postseason. However, that is all hypothetical. What is certain though is that there were players available that were not properly utilized. After two months of crapitude from Huff, Belt should have been given the everyday job. I still don't understand why Cabrera played over Crawford.

I think 2012 will be more telling of the true talent of our team. Go Giants!

P.S. Sorry for fibbing about that Matt Cain sketch. Been busy, bros. I'll get to finishing it one of these days.

Ron said...

The Giants need a lead-off hitter & a big bat. They need a lead-off hitter more, though.

A healthy Grady Sizemore with a realistic contract is the ideal situation. Coco Crisp does not represent a big improvement over Andres Torres. However, we have to be realistic about Andres Torres. Here are a few of my thoughts:

- Offensively, his 2010 season was passable, but not great. His fantastic defense made him an invaluable player.

- His 2011 season wasn't just bad, it was, by any standard, abysmal. Aside from the statistics, just watching the depth to which he struggled on a daily basis was painful. We all felt bad for the guy. He was (& still is) a great story of perseverance.

- Here's the other element - he's not very young. He's had one OK year as a reserve & one good year as a near-regular in a very long career, followed by a huge regression below the mean in the most recent year. What evidence is there to suggest that, even if he got focus & approach together, he wouldn't suffer the normal downgrade in skills associated with his age? We've seen that story so many times before (e.g. Ray Durham, Dave Roberts, Aaron Rowand, etc.).

I'm still looking for the miracle cure here, but I'm not seeing it amongst our current roster. Gary Brown is a nice thought for about 2 years from now. If we somehow manage to keep Beltran, I'm OK with Nate in CF & mostly Belt in LF, but who bats leadoff? Therefore, an acquisition is needed. The Grady Sizemore thing is the most intriguing - right-handed (with Belt & Schierholtz, we'll need a righty) & some nice skills. One-year deal, though.

Mark, back to your comment a few days ago about the rising cost of Baseball Reference sponsorship. I assume that the cost associated with each player varies according to performance & notoriety. So ... 'Raising Hector Sanchez' anyone?

Zo said...

I noticed that the prices to sponsor pages vary significantly. Of course, if no one sponsors a page, it exists anyway, but no one gets credit (or to put an ad) in the sponsor's space.

Grady Sizemore has played 104 games in the last two years. His obp has been significantly under .300 in that time, although he has a lifetime obp of .357 in 8 ML seasons. He has never had a batting average over .290. In the last two years, he has also stolen a total of four bases and been thrown out four times. A contract to Sizemore is a bet on a healthier season. Perhaps not a bad bet, depending on what his medical issues have been, but from the numbers alone, I think I would just as soon use Schierholtz. If Schierholtz (2011 obp .326, lifetime .318 could be taught to be a bit more selective at the plate, I would prefer him.

Zo said...

I guess a question is whether you want to spend a lot of money on an incremental upgrade. Of course, baseball is a game of small increments. Add to that the fact that no one (among us) really knows how much money the Giants are willing to commit to the team for next season. So do you want to chase a free agent at a significantly greater expense than a existing, inexpensive player for a marginal upgrade? (See Barry Zito for some thoughts on this.) I do not see the Giants chasing both a bat and a lead-off batter in the free agent market. That is based on Sabean's comments and he is famous for saying one thing and doing another.

I appreciate Francisco K. Anonymous's comments, and largely agree with him. More later.

Brother Bob said...

It just doesn't feel like Giants of our youth for there not to be big bats in the lineup. Yeah we always came in second, but we always had lots of great home run hitters.
But I vote for getting a great leadoff man.(Preferably one who plays a mean shortstop or center field.) The name of the game is run prevention vs. on base percentage.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I really don't think there is a FA solution. I'd like to see the Giants give LF to Belt and to re-sign Ross. He's a useful player, and has the speed and OF skills to be valuable to the club. With Schierholtz (arb) and Torres (arb) that's four guys for three spots. It could work. I could live with it. Would I like to have Beltran's bat? Sure. But I don't see that happening, he's going to want too many years. Even if they do sign him, with his injury history they will need a good 5th OF. Beltran, Belt, Schierholtz, Ross, Torres. I could live with that. Maybe Belt would wind up at 1B as Huff's time with the Giants comes to an end. Either way, he has to play. And if they have an OF logjam with Beltran, so much the better. It never hurts to have a surplus.

Shortstop is the key. I don't think they will let Crawford slog through an entire season if his bat is still iffy. They might have to get a patch job for a year. That would be ugly (Yuniesky Betancourt, Jamey Carroll, or Clint Barmes, anyone?), but at least BC would be there in a platoon role or somesuch.

I think they need to give Cain an extension. And keep JSanchez.

Zo said...

MOC, I think that your thought process is way too limited, as I will explain in my next post. I do agree that the number one priority is to sign Matt Cain to an extension if at all possible.

M.C. O'Connor said...

RIP Matty Alou.