Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wishes for '010


I love this time of year, and specifically this day, for a couple of reasons (besides the obvious one). Although the calendar doesn't agree, Spring begins today. One look out my window confirms that; its a gorgeous day after a big storm. A day full of fresh life and promise. The other great thing about today is (again "official" sources will contest this, but I "know" it to be true) that Baseball starts! As I'm sure no one (except MOC) noticed, I took the off-season OFF. No posts; few comments. I take my breaks seriously. However, today is when I re-enter the fray. The day when "it" all starts, perhaps the big "it" in '02 with the almost big "it."

In honor of this occasion, I have bestowed upon myself THREE BIRTHDAY WISHES (baseball related):

1) As I am the resident Freak-aholic, my first wish is Tim related (big surprise). This wish is simple and probably unnecessary. I wish that nothing derail him from his continuing growth and domination of the league. How will that manifest itself? That's the beauty of Lincecum; you never quite know what he is capable of. Another Cy? Hell, that seems easy. What about an MVP? How about a new pitch? There's already talk about his curveball. In other words, I wish that Tim keep right on being Tim... and I get to watch.

2) My ever-loving wife always helps with my posts. At this point she said "You need some offense, I'm just sayin'." So true, so true. Therefore, my second wish is for every young guy on the team have a great offensive year. (Sorry all you savvy veterans, no birthday wish can help you, so I won't waste it on you. You are on your own.) It looks like Nate is getting his chance in right, which is exciting as all hell. Let's not stop about Bowker taking over for an inevitably lame Huff at first after about two months? Or, if you prefer, you can substitute Lewis and DeRosa in the last sentence. And, of course, Mister Posey will displace Bengie well before the fun days of September.

Which brings me to #3. How about a little help out there? Maybe some of you slackers, notorious for no comments on the weekends, can do it for the birthday boy. Which brings me to the following question...

What do you wish for the 2010 S.F. Giants?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The San Francisco Orange Sox

Bill Neukom is a "retro" kind of guy, it seems. After all, how many chaps these days sport the bow tie? Now he's imparting his sartorial sense to the ballclub. The orange jerseys are back, as well as the orange-billed caps. I wore the orange-billed cap with pride "back in the day," and there wasn't much to be proud of, as I'm sure we all remember. The orange jerseys? I played for a slo-pitch softball team in 1981 that wore orange jerseys with black lettering, and I loved that we had Giants colors, but somehow orange looked better on beer-bellied guys with aluminum bats who threw underhand. I'm not buying it for the big squad. But the innovation that's got some internet buzz is the striped stockings. Yes, we are going to see black hose with orange stripes! That I can get behind. Once Barry went to the full-length trousers look, that became the fashion all over baseball. A few guys did the high socks thing, like JT Snow and Marquis Grissom, but the cool, young dudes all wanted to be like Barry and went with his no-socks-showing style. Tim Lincecum is a good example, it's hard to imagine him with stirrups. Matt Cain, on the other hand, country boy that he is, shows off the black lycra, and that's just how he rolls, dawg. I think he'll look great in stripes.
-- -.-.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

1-2 punch

Giants fans were pretty happy last year with their "1-2 punch" of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Funny thing, it was a syncopated 1-2 as Barry Zito and/or Randy Johnson got the "no. 2" call with Matty stuck at "no. 3" for much of the season. Be that as it may, baseball fans love a good 1-2, and we have many intriguing combos this year, like Halladay-Hamels in Philly, Carpenter-Wainwright in St. Louis, Beckett-Lackey in Boston, Kershaw-Billingsley in LA, and, the one that has most observers salivating, Lee-Hernandez in Seattle. The Mariners are one of those teams--like the Giants--who seem on the verge of "putting it all together" despite obvious holes in the roster. When you have genuine superstar aces like Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez it is easy to get excited about your team, much like Giants fans feel about Tim and Matt. M's fans perhaps have a little more going for them as they've recently revamped the front office with a new GM (Jack Zduriencik) and seem ready to embrace a new approach to finding and acquiring talent. Alas, Giants fans can take some solace in the the improvements in our scouting and drafting under John Barr, but the hope we will get new upper management seems like a fantasy at this point. I bring up the M's because one of my favorite baseball writers, Dave Cameron (USS Mariner and FanGraphs) was interviewed at The Baseball Analysts and he says some things that I think fit the 2010 Giants:

It's certainly a risk to put your eggs in the basket of two pitchers, and an extended DL stint for either one probably takes the Mariners out of contention. But, these two are legitimately among the top arms in baseball, and the Mariners will be the favorite in every game where they take the hill. If they can get 65 starts out of that pair, there's a good chance they'll get 45+ wins in those games, and they could then play below .500 ball the rest of the season and still be a playoff contender. That's the blueprint, essentially - win early and often when Felix and Lee are on the hill, try not to get pummeled when the other guys start.

The Giants are perhaps more of a 1-3-3 punch than a genuine 1-2, with JSanchez emerging last season, and we are counting on some starting depth (hell, even Zito was effective), so the comparison is not entirely accurate. Still, worth a look.

So, let me just throw this out there - this team very well might not win. They've bet big on a few guys staying healthy and productive, and they're counting on guys playing better than they have in the recent past in order to score enough runs to contend. There are a ton of risks in this roster, and it could all go horribly wrong. There are plausible scenarios where this team loses 90 games, and they have nothing to do with defense being overrated. (emphasis mine)

The M's have made a push to improve their fielding, not something the Giants can say, but I think the Giants FO believes they have improved the offense, and the assumption is the same by both clubs. That is, a weakness was addressed and thus the team will do better.

Here's the good part, one that Giants fans like to fantasize about:

Will it work? I don't know. But if it does, and the Mariners end up making the post-season, that duo makes them a nightmare to face in a short series. The Mariners certainly aren't as good as the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays, but in a 7 game series where Felix and Lee take the hill four times, the differences are minimized. With these two guys, the Mariners have a roster built for October. Whether the surrounding pieces are good enough to get them there, we'll see, but there are certainly two cornerstones in place for a post-season run that ends with a parade.

Just my usual scouring of the 'net for interesting tidbits while we all twiddle our thumbs until the season starts.

-- -.-.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Slow news day

Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports talks about Tim Lincecum losing some oomph on his fastball in "Lincecum is no speed Freak." Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk references that article in his "Lincecum's velocity is down and it probably doesn't matter." He's The Franchise, as we well know, and if he has a pimple we'll want it on the front page. Even the Giants website wants to talk about off-speed stuff ("Lincecum shakes rust off curveball"). Like I said, it's a slow news day.

p.s. Reader and commenter "Anonymous from Jersey" sent a very cool sketch of Matt Cain! T'anks, mate!

-- -.-.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

M.C. love

I mentioned recently in a post that Matt Cain was the longest-tenured Giant. Seems like that tidbit finally got noticed by Giants MLB-flak Chris Haft, who penned "Young Cain is Giants' elder statesman" for the website this weekend. (I note that RMC was not credited as a source. "No Respect!") Nonetheless the piece talked about Cain's contract status--signed through this season and with a $6.25M team option for 2011, which the Giants, according to Mr. Haft, "will almost surely exercise." That seems a pretty safe bet, and good news for fans. Maybe by 2011 we can have a real offense.

Couple of nice Cain-quotes worth posting, one on being a Giant and the other on living in San Francisco (with his wife Chelsea):

I've gone through the system, I came up in the black and orange and I love it.

We love it. We feel very, very comfortable being in the city now. We really love the San Francisco area and all that it has to offer.

Even a crusty old cynic like me needs a puff piece now and then. Matt Cain is my favorite Giant and it makes me happy that he (for now) wants to stay a Giant. The best thing about the club (besides Pablo Sandoval) is obviously the young pitchers, and Matt has given us a lot of quality starts these last 4+ seasons. I expect he'll give us many more in the next two years. I'm a hard-bitten skeptic these days, I don't believe in our Front Office, I think our lineup is a joke, and "regression to the mean" and "lurking crash potential" stream endlessly through my forebrain. But when Matt & Tim & Jonathan and perhaps even Madison take the hill, all will be right with the world for a few hours!

Other notes: we've haven't heard from GiantFan9 and Giants Jottings yet this Spring. Anyone out there know anything? I love that site--nothing is better for Spring Fever than close-up shots of the guys working out and playing, and the eye-witness commentary is always thoughtful and entertaining. Let's hope he's back on track soon. Also, take a look below the Matt pin (above the "subscribe" boxes) for some new links to pages I've added to the site. One includes tips on how to make links in the comments--you need HTML, but it is quite easy. The links make the comments look better and will likely get more readers to follow them.
-- -.-.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Best news of the spring

Bengie Molina is cool with more time off.

Here's an idea: Bengie is benched at the ASB and Buster Posey is given the starting job (after learning how to "call a good game" from Steve Decker in Fresno).

If the Giants want to seriously compete for the playoffs, they have to stop relying on past-their-prime, injury-prone re-treads who have no "upside."

Check out Matthew Pouliot's 2010 projections of "catcher OPS." (Molina's lifetime OPS is .727, good for an OPS+ of 88. Do you think Buster can do that?)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Right for right

Nate "The Olympian" Schierholtz has the inside track on the RF job, or so we've been told. And I like young Nate--he should have been given more of a chance last season, but Ol' Boch's devotion to an obviously aging Randy Winn kept him out of the lineup. We all know he's a fine outfielder and has a major-league cannon. We also know he likes to swing the bat, even if the pitch is going to hit him. He's exactly the sort of guy the Giants should be helping along. We know what Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff can do: all of that is in the record books. We don't yet know what Schierholtz' ceiling is, and we need to figure out what this guy can contribute, even if he is a flawed or incomplete ballplayer. His minor league line is .308/.355/.516 over 7 seasons and 2600 PAs. That's a long stretch in the farm system, and it gets one thinking that he's the epitome of an "AAAA-player." CHONE projects a respectable 107 wRC+ (.286/.325/.457) for about 400 PAs. That makes him at least a useful role player, especially when compared to a guy like Aaron Rowand (2009 line .261/.319/.419, 2010 projection 96 wRC+). Another fellow who should be pushing the old guys off the field and on to the bench is John "Dirtbag" Bowker. His minor league line (.301/.369/.489) is over 6 seasons and almost 2400 PAs, and includes an impressive 1.047 OPS last year in Fresno. CHONE says he's a .276/.349/.456 guy (115 wRC+)! I like those numbers more and more everyday, and I don't give a damn who we are paying millions to. The youngsters need to be on the field. The 2010 Giants aren't going anywhere unless kids like Olympic Nate and Dirtbag Bowker force Ol' Boch to bench the greybeards.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fun with math

I've been re-reading Baseball Between the Numbers, a collection of intriguing and challenging essays on our favorite game by a group of Baseball Prospectus writers (ed. Jonah Keri). In "Is Alex Rodriguez Overpaid?", Nate Silver discusses the probability of a team making the playoffs based on its number of wins. Looking at the 1996-2005 seasons, Silver found that winning exactly 80 games gave a team only a 0.8% chance to make the playoffs. Exactly 85 wins bumped it to 9.3%, but exactly 90 wins jumped that to 56.5%. Winning exactly 95 games was a sure bet (94.3%), and winning exactly 100 was a near-certainty (99.5%). Mr. Silver calls the range between 86-93 wins "the sweet spot," as a graph of the playoff probabilities shows a sharply-increasing slope in that region. He points out that "winning 90 games rather than 89, for example, improves a team's chances of making the playoffs by about 13 percent."

If winning 90 games gives us a greater than 50-50 shot at reaching the post-season, what are the chances that we will win 90 games? I figure we have about a 1-in-10 probability of winning 90, and if I multiply 0.1 times 0.5 or 0.6, I get only a 5-6% chance of an October opportunity. I do give us a 50% chance of landing in Mr. Silver's "sweet spot," which is encouraging if you think the West will be wide open and no one club will run away with it (which I believe to be the case). If I stretch my limited optimism to 2-in-10 or 20%, that doubles the result to 10-12% which still seems reasonable when I imagine Aubrey Huff and Bengie Molina chugging down the line. If you think we have a 50-50 chance of winning 90 (like JCP) that improves the chances to (0.5 x 0.5 and 0.5 x 0.6) about 25-30%. Again, this is just based on the idea that 90 wins gives you a 50-60% (actually 56.5%) chance of making the playoffs. Winning more than 90, of course, improves your chances dramatically.

Here's your homework assignment: think about the 2010 Giants chances to win 90 games and multiply that by .565 (or just cheat like me and use a range from 0.5 to 0.6). What do you think about those odds?

Monday, February 15, 2010


Ol' Boch is cuttin' loose. "We'll try anything" is the new m.o. in GiantsLand! That being the case--WHAT SHOULD BOCHY DO?

Let's hear it. Bonehead is on record saying he's going to "look at all the options." What options do you think he should consider?


Sunday, February 14, 2010


A few minor tweaks to the site--streamlining the look, mostly. Send me ideas for the sidebar, you can see there is quite a bit more space. Any feeds or widgets you'd like to have on the page?


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Prognostication, pt. 2

I had a dream last night that the 2010 season was played 10 times. I don't remember any of the seasons individually, only the aggregate results. I have attempted to summarize those results in a spreadsheet below. I am new to GoogleDocs and whatnot, so if it comes across a bit amateurish, well, that's because I'm an amateur.

Nonetheless, here it is. You can see that AZ does better than SF--I can only assume it was a case of having more youth in the lineup. I do think the Giants have a shot, but it would take the following scenario: Huff and Molina both cede playing time to Ishikawa and Posey, who both contribute positively. Schierholtz and/or Bowker emerge as ML-capable players. Sandoval repeats his impressive 2009 or comes damn close. The team pitches as well as last season, that is, if someone has a drop-off, someone else steps up to close the gap. A mid-season acquisition makes a big contribution. A veteran has a career year.

I think that is a lot of "ifs" so I am skeptical of this team improving on last year's performance. If that makes me a naysayer or a Negative Nancy, that's cool. I have no fear of being wrong. After all, wrong is right in this situation. If the Giants are a real contender, 2010 will be hell of a lot of fun, and what I squawked about in November or February will be irrelevant. And if someone wants to go "neener-neener, I was right" I'll be so happy about the Giants winning that I won't give a shit.

Have at it, ya wankers.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Great Race

What do I have to do to get a rise out of you guys?

Here are a set of betting lines for the NL pennant.

What do you think of the Giants chances this year? Predict, project, guess, fantasize, wish, dream, whatever.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Prognostication, pt. 1

I've never been good at sports predictions. I picked the Colts to win Super Bowl III while my older brother picked the Jets, and that started me off on a long lifetime of losing bets. Curse you, Joe Namath. Now, where were we? Ah yes, the NL West. I'm rating the teams on a simple High-Medium-Low scale of probability in four areas: Eat My Dust Index (EMDI), Just Short of the Prize Coefficient (JSPC), Lurking Crash Potential (LCP), and Bottom Dweller Factor (BDF).

Not since the 1991-92-93 seasons, before the NL was re-configured, has any team won the NL West three years in a row. That team was the Atlanta Braves, of course. Even going all the way back to 1969, the year that brought us divisions, there have been no other three-peats. The Rockies came aboard in 1993, the Braves, Reds, and Astros moved in 1994, and the Diamondbacks joined in 1998.


EMDI: high
JSPC: high
LCP: low
BDF: low

This looks like the best all-around squad to me. Underrated pitching, solid lineup, recent success. I think they are the team to beat. At worst, they'll fall just short.


EMDI: medium
JSPC: high
LCP: medium
BDF: low

The defending champs have a great lineup and some impressive arms, but the "three-peat curse" is sure to show itself. The ownership group is a soap opera disaster, but it's OK because Ned "I am in control here" Colletti has the reins. Falling short this year, I think, but I'm biased against teams with funny names who wear creepy blue caps. I almost gave them a "high" for LCP, I'm getting a real stink-o vibe the more I think about this club.


EMDI: low
JSPC: high
LCP: medium
BDF: low

Ah, the Giants. Snappy-looking orange and black caps, lovely French vanilla home duds, gorgeous park. Plucky and gritty and overflowing with VSC, but no sticks to back up the fine pitching. 500+ PAs by the likes of Molina, Huff, Rowand, etc. only raises the LCP--if Posey or another youngster can get some playing time the LCP drops to "low."


EMDI: medium
JSPC: high
LCP: medium
BDF: low

This is the "dark horse" team from where I sit. The X-factor is Brandon Webb, of course. They are young and play in a hitter's park. They've cornered the NL West market on improbability over the last few seasons--not as good as their record when winning and not as bad as their record when losing. I'd keep an eye on them.


EMDI: low
JSPC: low
LCP: medium
BDF: high

How do you rate "crash potential" when no one expects anything of you? I suppose if they have a hot start then they have a solid chance of crashing back to earth. Lack of depth and talent dooms this club to last place. Beware the spoiler role--they were 39-35 in the 2nd half last year, same as the Giants, and 42-39 at home. Their cavernous yard gives them a chance to use their "death by a thousand paper cuts" offense.

What say, mates?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pitching, uncertainty, and the NL West

Starting pitching will be interesting in the division this season. The Giants, as we know, have a stellar group, and expectations for their continued excellence are very high. Last year's champs, the Dodgers, have two young bucks that most teams should be coveting. Southpaw Clayton Kershaw and righty Chad Billingsley form an impressive 1-2 punch. Kershaw turns 22 in May and has fewer than 300 ML innings under his belt. His 185 K in 171 IP and his miniscule 3.08 FIP turned a lot of heads and his season rated 4.2 WAR. The Dodgers will be expecting a lot from their young phenom, but he'll have to show he can go a full season without shoulder trouble, and he'll have to cut down on walks (91). He's shown the ability to get people out (only 119 hits allowed) and has tremendous upside. Bill James and CHONE, however, say his FIP will go up almost half a run. That ought to have the fans seething, after all, we project our youngsters to keep improving, right? The righty half of this promising duo saw his ERA+ plunge last year to 98 from his excellent 133 in 2008. He also walks too many guys (86 in 196-1/3 IP), but his all-around Cain-like numbers (173 H, 17 HR, 179 K) make the 25-year old a valuable (3.1 WAR) asset. Bill James and CHONE see him improving slightly on his 3.82 FIP. Free agent Randy Wolf was not resigned, and the Dodgers will have to replace his team-leading 214 IP and his fine 122 ERA+. Expecting something similar from 31-year old journeyman Vicente Padilla is probably a reach (career 100 ERA+). Hiroshima Carp veteran Hiroki Kuroda gave them 20 serviceable starts (105 ERA+) and is probably good for two dozen or so this season as well. This team hits very well and has tremendous talent in the 'pen, so perhaps they are willing to live with some uncertainty at the back end of the rotation.

Speaking of uncertainty, the Diamondbacks have a big question mark with former ace Brandon Webb. The 2006 Cy Young winner and 2007-2008 runner-up pitched only four innings in 2009 after throwing over 1300 in his first six seasons. If he can give Arizona anything close to his previous greatness they would possess two sensational arms. Under-appreciated Dan Haren is the best pitcher in the West not named Tim Lincecum. He had an amazing 1.003 WHIP last season, and career-highs in IP (229-1/3), ERA+ (146), and strikeouts (223), while being worth an outstanding 6.1 WAR. This guy not only has an impressive array of pitches but ridiculous control (78 walks total in his last two seasons, 435-1/3 IP!). His only weakness seems to be homers. This team generated some controversy with a bizarre 3-way trade that saw them lose young, high-upside, JSanchez-like K-machine Max Scherzer, but gain solid mid-level starter (and former Dodger) Edwin Jackson, and young control-artist (and Yankee prospect) Ian Kennedy. Those two will round out the rotation. GM Josh Byrnes talks about the deal--among other things--on the SB Nation blog AZ Snakepit. Can you imagine our haughty and inaccessible GM being this refreshing and candid with anyone, particularly a bloody-fookin' blogger? Kudos to 'pit-meister Jim McLennan for pulling it off.

The Rockies have never been known for pitching, but Dan O'Dowd and The Humidor are building a new type of Colorado team. Their 2007 World Series squad had a 111 ERA+ and their 2009 Wild Card team had a 108 ERA+. Obviously they are biased toward the run-scoring part of the equation, but improved pitching has clearly turned the club around from their long stretch (2001-2006) of sub-.500 baseball. 26-year old Ubaldo Jimenez emerged as the team ace, throwing a fastball that tops out at 100 mph, and a filthy slider and splitter that induce lots K's and ground balls. Bill James and CHONE say his impressive 3.38 FIP will rise by more than half a run in 2010. (What regression-istas they are!) He walks a lot of guys (103 in '08 and 85 in '09), but that's nothing new to fans of teams with young flamethrowers. Keep an eye on Jimenez--remember he beat Tim head-to-head last August. Reliable-but-not-flashy 31-year old Aaron Cook has been with the Rockies for 8 seasons, and has a career 111 ERA+ and 4.36 FIP, and projects about that for next season. DL-time hurt his WAR--his 1.9 was quite a drop from 2008's 4.7, and it is reasonable to think that a healthy Cook is at least a 2.5-3.0 guy. 27-year old Jason Hammel came over from Tampa Bay last season and became a starter, producing 3.8 WAR in 30 starts. He throws strikes and has a good repertoire, but the word is he lacks a true out pitch. Time will tell, and he projects about a 4.20 FIP. Journeyman lefty Jorge de la Rosa struck out 192 in 185 IP last season, with career highs in wins (16), ERA+ (104) and WAR (3.7) for either a "breakout" or an "outlier" season, depending on whether you are Rockies fan, I suppose. Ground-ball specialist Jason Marquis took the free-agent route and signed a fat deal with Washington. That's a lot of starts (33) and innings (216) to make up, adding some uncertainty to the otherwise-solid 2010 rotation, one of 2009's quiet success stories (5th in the NL in team FIP, just behind the Giants).

Down in San Diego they have little to get excited about and will likely be content with a spoiler's role down the stretch. They did play .527 ball in the second half of last season (39-35, same as the Giants), so all is not entirely bleak. Talented-but-mercurial Chris Young heads the depth chart, and the huge righty is just as huge a question mark for 2010. He's known for being a flyball pitcher (good for PetCo) and teams don't have a high average against him, but he's historically bad at holding runners, and given his injury history, doesn't project well. Veteran Jon Garland should give them 30+ starts and 200+ IP, he's a career 104 ERA+ and 4.72 FIP pitcher. Ex-Giant Kevin Correia was worth 2.4 WAR in his 33 starts--only a 94 ERA+ but a solid 3.81 FIP. I thought we should have kept Correia as a 5th starter, but I doubt the 29-year old has much upside. Young Mat Latos and lefty Clayton Richard round out the starting staff.

That's my look at the rest of the ro's in our division. We look good by comparison, eh? I'm not going to talk about 'pens or benches I'm sorry to say, as all this internet-research time is wearing out po' little ol' me. But I will be putting together my take on the West race as a whole sometime soon, certainly before Spring Training. By Opening Day the rosters will shake out and I'll have to update things. In the meantime, you might be curious about Baseball Propectus' PECOTA projections, they ought to fire up some debate.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rotation, rotation, rotation

I'm tired of writing about teams that have better players than us. Let's face it, our lineup--other than Pablo Sandoval--is not going to be much fun to watch. But when our youngsters take the hill, things will be different. We've got some serious talent on our club! Much of the blog-talk about the Giants (my own included) assumes the lads will not pitch quite as well as last year's historically awesome staff. That's a reasonable assumption--excellence is diffcult to maintain, especially in the ultra-competitive world of professional baseball. And there's that pesky fact of life called "normal variation" that even the finest ballplayers are subject to. Finally, a pitching staff is an aggregate of many individuals and many performances. Predicting and projecting almost two dozen guys (Giants used 21 pitchers last year) over the course of a season is fraught with uncertainty.

That being said, we have the best pitcher in the universe. I have no reason to expect our 2006 number one draft pick to do anything but pitch Cy Young-level baseball. After all, he did that last year. And the previous year as well. In fact, his 2009 was better than his 2008! He's going to be something to see this season. We also have a fellow that's only 25 but has logged 130 major-league starts in his last four seasons. His ERA+ for those seasons? 108, 123, 118, 151. And he's our second-best pitcher! Factoid: Matt Cain is the longest-serving Giant--he's been on the big squad since the end of the 2005 season. He was the 2002 number one draft pick and made his debut in Arizona when he was 17! I like it. We've got a another young fellow who's got 429 strikeouts in 413-1/3 innings in his career, and threw a no-hitter last season. And we have still one more very young fellow who's also a number one draft pick (2006). This 20-year old is one of the hottest prospects in baseball, and the Giants are going to give him a job next year.

Barry Zito, it should be noted, was also a number one draft pick. He, unfortunately, makes more money--way more money--than he's worth. This isn't a problem until you try to sign Tim Lincecum. You can't, because you have one guy already on a high-dollar long-term deal and that means you won't make another until that one is done. Zito was a reasonably effective starter (108 ERA+) in 192 IP last season, so you can expect a positive contribution (2.2 WAR in 2009) from him. But $18.5 M this season, $18.5 M in 2011, $19 M in 2012, and $20 M in 2013 means $76 M you can't give to Tim.

But that's only a problem for 2011. The rotation looks pretty damn formidable for 2010. The only realy question mark is MadBum--ready? Not ready? Alternatives?

I think the 'pen deserves a separate post, don't you?

Speak, O My Brothers. What are your thoughts on the 2010 rotation?

UPDATE (Monday 0650): A couple of items I gleaned from the indispensable Baseball Musings: Justin Verlander just signed a long-term deal. The negotiations with Lincecum are (perhaps) complicated by the ownership group's links to Silicon Valley. The first story tells me it is possible to make a deal for an elite pitcher. Let's hope the Giants are paying attention. The second story (from Extra Baggs) is great for fueling Tim-panic. It has a sort of DaVinci Code vibe--convoluted and bizarre but strangely believable! (Good God, I need the season to start so I can read and write about ACTUAL BASEBALL.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


In 2002, 18-year old Miguel Montero of the Arizona Diamondbacks made his professional debut with the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League, and 19-year old Russell Martin of the Los Angeles Dodgers made his debut for Vero Beach in the Gulf Coast League. That same year, 27-year old Bengie Molina racked up a .596 OPS in 122 games for the Anaheim Angels. His line was .245/.275/.322 for a 58 OPS+.

In 2004, 21-year old Chris Iannetta of the Colorado Rockies made his debut with the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League. That same year, 29-year old Bengie Molina spent some time on the DL, only appearing in 97 games on his way to a .276/.313/.404 line (88 OPS+).

In 2005, 21-year old Nick Hundley of the San Diego Padres made his debut with the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. That same year, 30-year old Bengie Molina put up a 108 OPS+ (.295/.336/.446) for the newly re-named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Despite only appearing in 119 games (449 PA) he had a career-high 27 walks!

CHONE projects Montero to produce 2.1 WAR for the Snakes (114 wRC+), while ZiPS says .275/.342/.451 (100 OPS+).

CHONE projects Martin to produce 3.9 WAR for the LAtriners (111 wRC+), while ZiPS says .272/.367/.392 (106 OPS+).

CHONE projects Iannetta to produce 3.0 WAR for the Crockies (125 wRC+), while ZiPS says .241/.353/.437 (105 OPS+).

CHONE projects Hundley to produce 0.6 WAR (83 wRC+) for the Puds, while ZiPS says .230/.288/.370 (87 OPS+).

All four of these fellows were born in 1983. Bengie Molina was born in 1974. He made his debut as an 18-year old in the Arizona League for the California Angels rookie team. CHONE says he's a 1.6 WAR player for 2010 (84 wRC+), and ZiPS says he'll produce a .271/.298/.424 (87 OPS+) line. I'll give Ol' Bengie credit--he's stuck around a looooong time. That's no mean feat. And he's racked up over 1600 PAs in the last three seasons, the most sustained stretch of his career.

Meanwhile, there's a fellow named Buster Posey who was born in 1987 and made his debut as a 21-year old in the Arizona League with the Giants rookie team. CHONE says 2.3 WAR and 100 wRC+. ZiPS says .263/.343/.398 (95 OPS+). Let's hope the Giants find a way to get him some playing time.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Each team's MLB website has a nice feature called "Depth Chart." I decided to start there. Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory has ZiPS projections for all the NL West clubs and I've relied on much of that material for this post. You must check out those links--the ZiPS material is really fun, it's got more personality than you'd think. I've included noteable CHONE projections from FanGraphs as well, as that system tends to be less optimistic than the Bill James stuff. In a Brian Sabean-position player world it is always smart to plan on injuries, age-related declines, and substandard performances. We'll go by order of finish in 2009: LA, CO, SF, SD, AZ.

But before we begin, here's a pithy quote from Dave Cameron of FanGraphs:

However, we need to make a distinction: projections are not predictions. Projections are information about what we think we currently know, while predictions are speculation about things that we probably cannot know.

One of our favorite things about being baseball fans is making predictions. And if you've got predictions, RMC wants to hear 'em. These, lads, are projections. They are cold, cruel things, based on rational minds and empirical data sets. They are not romantic or fanciful. There's enough romantic fantasy in baseball, wouldn't you say? Think about it--would you even be a Giants fan if you had no capacity for dreaming the impossible dream?

(Depth Chart: ZiPS. I have 4 OF for some and 5 for others.)

LAtriners: Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jason Repko.
This is a scary bunch. Kemp and Ethier are two players any club would kill to have. Both young and both studly. CHONE says Manny will only play 114 games and get fewer than 500 PAs but that he will still rake (.280/.374/.511). His age and fielding drop his WAR to 2.8 but he still puts up a 139 wRC+. Add in 130 OPS+ each for the other two and that is a formidable trio.

Crockies: Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Brad Hawpe, Dexter Fowler, Ryan Spilborghs.
A solid if unspectacular bunch, but with depth and flexibility. OPS+ projections are 117, 104, 116, 90, 97 across the board. CHONE sees Smith as a 130 wRC+ and 2.3 WAR player and Hawpe as a 129 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR player.

GIANTS: Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker.
Note that I've dropped Fred Lewis and Eugenio Velez. CHONE and ZiPS project Fred as a 103 wRC+ (1.3 WAR) and 104 OPS+ guy (.274/.352/.427) but he's persona non grata in the Bochy-verse so I've "cut him loose." Schierholtz (.289/.325/.459, 103 OPS+) and Bowker (.269/.338/.434, 102 OPS+) have similar ZiPS lines, but CHONE likes the Dirtbag (115 wRC+, 2.1 WAR) better than the Olympian (107 wRC+, 1.6 WAR). We need one of our youngsters to step up and deliver--we know what Rowand will do, he's consistently Mr. Average (96 wRC+), and DeRosa is consistently Mr. Slightly-Above-Average (105 wRC+). Boring. They are really boring. Sure, there's a 1-in-5 shot that they'll exceed "average" and reach "very good," but I'm not banking on that. Let's hope we get some flash and sparkle from the youth brigade.

Puds: Kyle Blanks, Scott Hairston, Will Venable, Aaron Cunningham, Anthony Gwynn.
The ZiPS stuff is out-of-date--it still has Brian Giles on the roster. The only thing notable about this bunch is that Will Venable's dad, Max, was a Giant. Oh, and the Gwynn kid. Seriously, San Diego is hurting. That has to help the Giants. Of course, we were 8-10 against them last season.

Snakes: Conor Jackson, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra.
CHONE says Justin Upton is a 3.8 WAR player (138 wRC+). Mr. Upside! This guy is the real deal and he is only 22. Live by the youngsters and die by the youngsters is the motto in AZ. The mercurial Chris Young was demoted last year, and cannot seem to live up to the organization's expectations. CHONE says he'll put up an 89 wRC+ but Bill James sees more (110 wRC+). Conor Jackson, the old man of the group, put up fine seasons in 2007 (115 wRC+) and 2008 (118 wRC+, 3.4 WAR!), but illness and injury devastated his 2009. ZiPS sees a .278/.357/.441, 103 OPS+. Obviously the D-backs will rely on the number one pick of the 2005 draft and hope the rest of the youngsters can deliver Rowandesque or DeRosean quality in much younger bodies.

That's my quick-and-dirty survey of the men patrolling the vast greenswards of the NL West. "Greensward" is a Miller-ism, he pops that one out in many a broadcast, perhaps that's the sort of thing that helped his Frick case. Congrats to Jon M. regardless! He's a silver-tongued one, to be sure, and we are lucky to have him manning the booth.