Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Pete

Pedro Feliz gets the game-winning hit in the World Series for his new ballclub. Now that's a story. I don't want to write it, though.

Congrats to the Phils, deserving winners. I'm happy that a National League team won.

The season is over. 2008 is in the books.

Sharpen your pencils, lads, 2009 is just around the corner.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's our homer hitter?

The Phils hit 214 HRs this season, second to the ChiSox' 235. The TBR's tied with Yankees for 9th with 180. Our beloved team finished 30th with 94. This post-season, the Rays bashed their way past the defending champs in the ALCS with 16 HRs in 7 games. The Phils are on a homer-binge, and seem poised for the big prize.

Now I realize you can be a good team and not hit a lot of homers. The Angels, for example, were 18th in home runs with 159, yet had a terrific season. But 18th means they hit more bombs than 12 other teams. And you can hit homers and be el-stinko. The Padres hit 154, good for 20th place. It should be noted that the MLB average is 163 HRs in 162 games. (q.v. here)

Back to the question: who's our homer hitter?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

RIP Merl Saunders

The Chronicle had an obit today for Merl Saunders. I got to see Merl play at the old Keystone in Berkeley when he teamed with Jerry Garcia in Reconstruction. That was 1979, I was a college boy at Cal. The Giants had completed an improbable winning season in 1978, the "Little Orange Skateboard," led by Vida Blue and Jack Clark, had a long run in first place before the LAtriners crushed our vain hopes and we finished six out. We had even higher hopes in 1979, that spring we were probably giddy at the thought of another good run. Alas, Joe Altobelli's boys went down in flames, 71-91. Joe was gone before the season was over. Jerry was a big part of the soundtrack of my life then. I've always associated the Dead with the Giants. Living a couple of blocks from the Keystone on Francisco Street, I got to see Jerry and Merl together (with John Kahn, Ed Neumeister, Ron Stallings, Gaylord Birch in "Reconstruction") several times. I worked that summer at JC Penney, just a few blocks down Shattuck Avenue.

Merl was a unique and creative artist, a relaxed and gentle showman. He was as psychedelic as Jerry, and could take you places with his spacy solos, but his grooves were what I remember. Merl was the perfect foil for the mercurial hippie genius, keeping the tunes grounded, laying down the guts so Jerry could take off. They made a memorable pair.

The picture is a scan of an album cover, one of my treasures, a 1973 Fantasy double LP. It features a wonderful "Harder They Come," Merl's rolling, rippling organ spurring Garcia to anguished, bluesy heights, and Merl coming back with a driving lead to finish it out. Sublime stuff.

Merl Saunders was born in San Mateo in 1934. He was a fixture on the San Francisco music scene for forty years. Thanks, Merl, for giving this Giants fan some back beat!

Requiescat in pacem.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tim Is Much Cuter Than Ross Perot

From Henry Schulman in today's SF Chronicle:

In the Players Choice awards announced Monday by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Lincecum outpolled Arizona's Brandon Webb and Milwaukee's CC Sabathia for Outstanding Pitcher in the NL. Later Monday, the Sporting News announced that Lincecum won its player polling for NL Pitcher of the Year.
Cy so what? If the guys who actually have to stand in the box and face pitchers vote Mr. Lincecum the best pitcher in the National League, what possible rationale could there be for some old guy on the east coast to look at win totals and decide that a pitcher on some east coast team was "better"? We all know that, because there are various attributes involved, unlike, say, picking the home run leader, that the Cy Young award can be somewhat subjective. However, if you read various newspaper columns around the country written by people who actually get to vote, then you begin to wonder what criteria is really in use, if any. So I have two possible suggestions. One, relegate the Cy Young to a minor mention, call it the old writers pitching award, and make a big deal out of the player's choice awards. Or, let Chris at Bay City Ball, the guys at and Grant at McCovey Chronicles vote. At least they partly pay attention. Congratulations Tim! You deserve it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Giant Sucking Sound

Yes, the Grand Nagus himself! I think the Giants will woo more independents if we put HRP on the ticket. Maybe he can bust a move or two for us at first.

Yes, first base. In 2008, it was a chasm of Giant suckitude:

Bowker (71 games at 1B, 111 overall) .255/.300/.408 (84 OPS+)
Aurilia (82 games at 1B, 140 overall) .283/.332/.413 (95 OPS+)
Ortmeier (13 games at 1B, 38 overall) .219/.315/.313 (66 OPS+)
Ishikawa (29 games at 1B, 33 overall) .274/.337/.432 (100 OPS+)

Then one arrived who fit Monty Python's Shavian quip "you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark" . . .

(cue Metallica)


Yes, Pablo. Our adorable Pablito. Little Money.

Sucking sound? What sucking sound?

.345/.357/.490 in 41 games, 17 at first base. Good for a 120 OPS+!

Pablo sparkled at A+ and AA ball in 2008 before his call-up. He has a career .787 OPS in 452 games in the minors. He'll turn 23 in August of next year. No less than Brian Sabean declared "I think at this point we'll pencil in Sandoval as our first baseman."

Quite a ride for our free-swinging youngster from Venezuela. I think 1B is his best spot--with Molina our starter for 2009 and Posey in the wings, catcher is not in the works. If Sandoval is a major-league hitter, then let's keep him happy and healthy at the least demanding spot on the field. I was impressed by his grace and athleticism--he looked good at third and running the bases--so I imagine he could be an above-average fielder at first.

Can Pablo hit for a full season? He'll have to. Does he have what it takes to plug the hole and stop that goddamn sucking sound? He better. Because if we don't get Mark Texeira, there is no one else on the FA market. And unless Sabes suddenly becomes Billy Beane and plucks an unlikely under-valued blocked prospect or latent rookie star out of some other team's grasp, we have no one else.

I'm neither optimistic nor pessimisstic about Pablo Sandoval being our 2009 first baseman. I just know that he is our ONLY option at this point. There is no real competition for the job, other than Travis Ishikawa (a career .803 OPS in 708 minor league games), who certainly looked better than either Bowker or Ortmeier. But Ishikawa has never seemed to impress the brain trust until his spectacular effort at Fresno (38 XBH in 48 games, 1.107 OPS) last summer. Can the big lefty make a push for the job? Or is he doomed to a platoon/bench role for some other team?

More important than that--is Pablo the man? Heckle on, O My Brothers.

I ripped off the HRP image from somewhere.
I don't remember where.
I don't think Ross cares.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Supermassive black hole

That's what happens in my brain when I think about third base.

Fan Graphs has a breakdown of the available free-agent third basemen. It ain't pretty. The only one remotely interesting is big-stick no-glove recovering-from-injury Hank Blalock, but the Rangers have an option on him.

Tell me, buckos, who's on third? Pablo Sandoval? Kevin Frandsen? Ryan Rohlinger? Conor Gillaspie? Makes you miss Pedro Feliz, eh?

Help! I'm being sucked into a supermassive black hole!!


(NASA image: public domain)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who's on Second?

Travis Denker was waived and claimed by the Padres. Obviously he was not in the Giants plans for second base.

A quick look at his stats on B-R:

574 games in the minors (started as a 17-year old!), 556 hits, 124 doubles, 73 homers, 310 RBI, 320 walks, 391 strikeouts. An .830 career OPS with a .276/.376/.454 slash line. (Only 42 major-league plate appearances so I skipped that.)

In about half as many minor-league games, Kevin Frandsen sports an .849 OPS, his line is .327/.391/.458. This has translated into a .254/.318/.363 in the bigs, a .681 OPS, about 100 points lower than the league mean over the last three years. To be fair, he has yet to see a full season. He's 26--time to fish or cut bait. (Denker is 22.) The Giants have invested a lot of time and energy in Frandsen and seem poised to hand him the job in 2009. His competition, now whittled to just Eugenio Velez, who is also 26, a shit-or-get-off-the-pot number. Velez' main attribute seems to be his blazing speed. Let's look at his lines:

Minors: .295/.342/.450 (.792 OPS in over 400 games)
Majors: .262/.303/.392 (.695 OPS in 112 games)

I have to say I'm damn underwhelmed.

Maybe that's why there's a rumor the Giants are interested in Dan Uggla.

So, me buckos, who's on second for 2009?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Duke" Neukom

The new head honcho has a book. (The following is lifted from Ray Ratto's piece in the Comical:)

"We want to develop a Giants Way of playing baseball," the team's new managing general partner announced Tuesday. "My idea is that we adhere to it at the minor-league level and all the way up. It's how you play the game, conditioning, fundamentals, a rigorous spring training regimen, everything. We want the best talent, the best teachers, the best leaders, the best trainers, and we want to have better communication on what we want and how we want it done."

There's a well-known fellow who passed on a some years back by the name of W. Edwards Deming. He was a mangement/leadership guru, but a nuts-and-bolts guy, not some clown spouting woo-woo hippie bullshit. His first rule was, in short: create constancy of purpose.

Now, I've been squawking for years about this sort of thing. Ever since I learned about Branch Rickey and Walter Alston and their famous tomes on how to play baseball, and how their organization (during the O'Malley era) actually embraced a uniform approach to the game, I was astounded that they were the exception, not the rule. Of course, I learned this stuff way back when the LAtriners routinely thumped the Giants and routinely found themselves fighting for a post-season spot. It was obvious then that their organization was superior. Some day, I thought, the Giants will figure it out.

I therefore greet this news from El Jefe with optimism--guarded of course, because Sabean and Bochy will still be around. But optimism nonetheless, something I've had in short supply recently. After all, our starting shortstop next year has a .337 lifetime slugging percentage.

I'm about to head off for work right now, so I can't actually "raise a glass," but I call on all readers and hecklers to raise a glass to Bill "Duke" Neukom for making a fine first impression.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Post-season Blues

As in the Blue Horde from the Chavez LAtrine. Of course, if the CHCers had won, we'd be hearing interviews with Sarah Palin about how she's always been a Cubbies fan and only communists, liberals and terrorists like other teams. If I search my soul, I find I don't care that much. The LADoggs make me want to vom, especially with The Godfather at the helm, reaping in more praise about his managerial magic. Sort of like Rudy Googliani getting credit for "leadership" by going to Yankee Stadium after 9/11. Hell--a whole goddamn smell of Yankees fans went to the Bronx after 9/11. They just didn't get on TV. Nevermind. I hate the Smogsuckers, but I don't give enough of a shit to get upset about a playoff win, even a trip to the World Serious. I'm bummed because of the damn Giants. I knew they would stink this year. We all did. But they are going to stink next year, too. We will finally put up five straight losing seasons in 2009, a franchise record for futility.

Tell me I'm wrong.

Deliver me some Xanax for my baseball soul.