Más Blogues 

A quick note to point out a few more Giants blogs...and apologies to Jefferson of Skaldheim, whose site I used to link to, but it was excised from the list somewhere down the line. Whoops.

And a slightly less quick note, in the spirit of Señor Pantalones, who questions all the negativity amongst the Giants' online peanut gallery. Just when you think Brian Sabean has the market cornered on idiocy, my friends, play a little game: Name a general manager, any G.M., and count the number of bad deals (either trades or free-agent signings) he has made. Now compare them to Sabean. Then watch as the Tigers outbid themselves to sign the bum-kneed Magglio Ordonez to a five-year, $70 million contract. Or click your heels three times and whisper, "Chan Ho Park." Yes, Sabean has made some mid-cap blunders, but nothing Giambian in nature.

I don't have time now, but I'd love to go through the track records of all current MLB GMs with at least five years of experience and count the crappy deals. My thesis is that Sabean would not fare badly in comparison. If someone else wants to take on this task before I get to it, be my guest.



I Called Suicide Prevention And They Put Me On Hold 

This guy apparently wants Giants' bloggers to hold hands and sing "Matheny's catching my Lord, Kum-Ba-Yah."



2005 Giants Pre-Preview: The Relievers 

Or, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Bullpen

by E.L. Mallo

Among 55,000 Dodger fans,
The most moving thing
Was Finley flapping Octoberly around the bases.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree from which hangs the body of Wayne Franklin,
Eaten by blackbirds.

The front office whirled in the autumn winds.
Pitching and defense was the new pantomime.

Sabean and Colletti were one.
Sabean and Colletti and Benitez
Are $21.5 million.

I do not know which to prefer,
The slider of a Nen
Or the splitter of a Benitez,
Their fastballs whistling;
Or just after. Dude,
It's all good.

Relievers filled the summer
With barbaric loss.
The shadow of a ball leaving Coors
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in patterns of facial hair,
An indecipherable rune.

O set-up men of China Basin,
Dare we soon imagine you holding wins?
Brower of nine straight games, do you not see how the trainer
Gently squeezes your right arm
hoping it does not fall off?

I know noble Herges and
Christiansen, and often, Eyre,
inescapably bad last year;
But I know, too (and have said),
That each has potential
To pitch better.

OK, perhaps not Christiansen.
Unless Dr. Andrews reinserts
His elbow tendon
From 1998.

At the sight of Wayne Franklin
Jogging across green grass,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode in from, well, not far.
Home is here.
Now and again, wildness shook him,
In that he mistook
Jay Payton
For a hitter
And would not throw a strike.

Bring him back, I say,
And one named Correia to mop up messes.

It was April all winter.
The relievers in their places.
Aardsma and Foppert in Fresno,
Learning, strengthening.
The lunatic fringe sat
In the bleachers.



Beane Poll 

If you haven't seen, Athletics Nation scored a long interview with A's GM Billy Beane. Part 2 was posted today. The questioner slobbers on Beane's shoes a bit, but the interview lends good insight into the more emotional aspects of being a GM, like calling Mark Mulder's mom to tell Mark he's been traded. (Beane also calls Daric Barton, the young catcher obtained in the Mulder deal, "the best pure bat in the minor leagues" and says he'll be moved to 1B.)


Elbo: Brush with disaster, 1988 division 

The great Steve Goldman reports stumbling upon a 17-year-old news item suggesting that Giants GM Al Rosen nearly traded Will the Thrill plus two pitchers to the Yankees for Don Mattingly. Wow.

It wouldn't have been Bagwell-for-Andersen, not quite. But can we conceive of the Giants making the Series in 1989 with Donnie Baseball at 1B instead of Clark? Mattingly's OPS was 828; Clark's was 953. Clark came in second in the MVP voting that year, and nabbed the NLCS MVP trophy too. Meanwhile, Mattingly enjoyed the company of Mike Pagliarulo, Alvaro Espinoza, Mel Hall and Steve Balboni, all of whom posted OBPs under .301. His team finished fifth and the Boss fired the manager midseason. And in 1990, the Yanks finished last for the first time since 1966.



Overpaid-ro Pt. 2 

Steve Shelby has compiled the latest Giants payroll figures. I'll take the liberty of slightly altering the list he published Wednesday. Instead of listing salary and signing bonus separately, I'll add the figures together and subtract deferred salary to represent how much the Giants are paying each player in calendar 2005:

Starting rotation: Schmidt $8.75 M, Rueter $7 M, Tomko $2.65 M, Williams $0.4 M, Lowry $0.33 M

Bullpen: Benitez $4.1 M, Herges $1.5 M, Eyre $1.425 M, Brower $1.125 M, Christiansen $1 M, Franklin $0.38 M, Walker $0.35 M

C: Matheny $1.5 M, Torrealba $0.7 M

IF: Alfonzo $7.5 M, Durham $7.5 M, Vizquel $2.5 M, Feliz $2.45 M, Snow $2 M, Cruz $0.8 M

OF: Bonds $15 M, Alou $4.75 M, Grissom $2.5 M, Tucker $2 M, Ellison $0.31 M>

According to Steve, salaries total $77.25 M, and signing bonuses $9.25 M more. Bonds has $5 M deferred, and Alou $2.5 M. There is a also pro-rated way to figure signing bonuses as a means of calculating payroll, but because it doesn't represent actual dollars paid out in the calendar year, I'll skip it. (However, as Steve writes, "The common definition of payroll is 'salaries plus pro-rated signing bonuses,' making the Giants’ payroll about $89 M." Duly noted.)

Again, for the purposes of the following discussion, I'll use the actual dollars the player will receive in calendar 2005, because for me, what's really behind the discussion about who's underpaid or overpaid is whether the Giants are allocating their money wisely in the time frame under consideration: this year.

Let's start with the rotation. Jason Schmidt at less than $9 M is a bargain. Any arguments? Jerome Williams and Noah Lowry are making minimum or nearly so; if they improve only marginally, that's bargain basement. $2.65 M for Brett Tomko looked like a disaster back in June 2004, but with his encouraging performance in the second half and the nutty cash thrown at Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano and others this winter, it looks like a big bargain. Kirk Rueter at $7 M seems vastly overpaid, but let's look at a couple other pitchers who recently commanded contracts that average $7 M a year.

Wright: other than his excellent 2004, it's hard to argue that Wright is as good a pitcher as Rueter. It may not be his fault, as he's battled injury since his early 20s, but that's the breaks, kid. Rueter's thrown at least 184 innings six of the last seven years, he's had good years (1997, 2002) and bad years (1999, 2004). His K-to-BB ratio has slipped under 1:1 the last two years. That should matter a bit less with Vizquel at shortstop and a trimmer Alfonzo at third this year, but it's still disturbing. Is Rueter fading fast, or with a better infield D will he rebound?

Jon Lieber: Lieber is probably a better comparison point. Same age as Rueter, same career ERA, roughly the same career innings pitched (quick: guess who has more?). Lieber strikes out more batters than Rueter, as does my grandmother; and although I don't pretend to really grok the calculations, his defense-independent-ERA (dERA, as in Voros McCracken's DIPS system, which has been carried forth by folks like Jay Jaffe since McCracken went to work for The Man) is consistently *better* than his real ERA, while Rueter's is consistently worse. A lot worse. Even in his strong 2002 campaign (14-8, 3.23 ERA, 203.2 IP), Rueter's dERA is nearly 5. So the statheads don't think much of Rueter. Does that mean, if he were a free agent this winter, he'd command less than $7 M? Given he's had two straight rough seasons even by traditional measurements, I'd say yes. Verdict: Rueter is overpaid but probably not by too much.

Moving on to the bullpen: I'll limit my discussion to Armando Benitez. If Benitez pitches in 2005 as he did in 2004, I'll kick in an extra million (metaphorically). Remember, he's only making $4.1 M in 2005. For a top-line closer, that's cheap. Closers are fungible commodities, you say? The A's and Red Sox said that, too, but they've both changed their tunes. Arthur Rhodes' tune was changed all the way to Cleveland, and Boston's Song of the Bullpen-by-Committee was cut short by the arrival of Keith Foulke, who was 2004 post-season MVP in my book. Foulke's contract calls for up to $26.5 M over four years; Benitez $21.5 M over three. Not much difference there. Hopefully Benitez will be able to prove his worth in the post-season this year.

Omar Vizquel: I've addressed his pay scale here. (I've also taken a stab at calculating Edgardo Alfonzo's true worth here.)

Mike Matheny: Making only $1.5 million this year, it's not that he's overpaid but that the Giants shouldn't be paying him at all. We all agree that this was a bonehead contract and that Yorvit should be the Giants starting catcher. (By the way, did anyone notice how the Giants mouthpiece Rich Draper slagged Yorvit in his article on the team's young players and prospects? "Sporadic defensively" in 2004? "Must compete with Justin Knoedler for the No. 2 role"? Do you see how the propaganda works, my friends? Let's heave a big sigh and move on to the other big free-agent catch...

Moises Alou: Tough call. With the deferred cash, he's on the books this year for $4.75 M but eventually he'll make $7.25 M, so let's use that figure to compare him to the three other big RF signings this winter: Hidalgo, Dye and Drew. Hidalgo and Dye are making $5 M each in 2005; Drew will pull in $11 M. Here are win shares (offensive + defensive) for the past three years:

Drew 62
Alou 55
Hidalgo 34
Dye 27

Based on those numbers, the relative salaries in 2005 don't seem too out of whack. With Moises's advanced age -- he'll be 39 on July 3 -- one can argue that his potential for injury or natural decline is much higher and should be a cost factor. Fair enough -- thus the deferred salary. It doesn't take the Giants completely off the hook, but in case of injury, at least it allows them some wiggle room in the '05 budget if they need to shop for a mid-season replacement.

Moises has been a top-flight hitter for a long time. His career-high 39 homers last year is a bit deceptive, given that Wrigley was a very good hitter's park in '04, but his career OPS, relative to the rest of the league and adjusted for park factor, is 127, just a hair under J.D. Drew's 133 and well above Hidalgo's 114 and Dye's 103. Again, it seems worth paying Moises more than Dye and Hidalgo. 50% more? Tough call. But with the deferred salary, I'll say that he's not overpaid.

Which Giants do you think are overpaid? Underpaid?



Elbo: Off topic in Texas 

Memo to Carlos Delgado: They're not going to like your politics down there in Arlington.

Sorry, couldn't resist.



Let's pull a thread out of our...er...out of this week's comments. Appended to the previous post, "gdog," which I believe is a Serbian name pronounced "guh-dozhe," bemoans the $6.1 million, two-year contract the Giants have given to Pedro Feliz as yet another instance of the team overpaying this winter.

First, here's the breakdown on Feliz: $2,225,000 M in 2005, $3,625,000 in 2006, a $200,000 signing bonus and nearly a half-mil in incentives.

Let's focus on 2005 for a moment: it's a raise from $850,000 to $2.22 M, or about 150%. For someone who hit 22 home runs last year, that's not exorbitant, especially with the arbitration-related increases we've seen so far. Example: Pirates super-utility guy Rob Mackowiak is in line for a nearly 400% raise if he loses arbitration, more if he wins. Orlando Cabrera, a similar hitter to Feliz who plays a more valuable defensive position, got $32 million for four years (!!).

Now let's focus on 2006 for a moment, only to acknowledge that we can't. It's folly. We don't know how Feliz will perform in 2005, and we don't know how salaries may escalate in the next 12 months. If he hits 30 homers (quite possible) and gets on base 33% of the time (not quite as possible) in 2005, suddenly that $3.6 million in 2006 looks reasonable. If he trips over Nikolai Bonds, breaks his femur in three places (knock on wood), and never heals properly, that $3.6 million looks like a big bummer (for us and the Giants, not for Feliz).

But I think it's safe to say that Feliz, who can play short, too, as well as a few other positions, might have asked for and easily received $3 million in arbitration this year, and, if he posted 2005 numbers consistent with 2004, could then have asked for $5 million or more in 2006.

Feliz may drive us crazy and swing at lots of bad pitches; he may be a miserable failure at protecting Barry Bonds; he may be a stathead's nightmare; but by today's standards, he's not overpaid. Put it this way: $2.2 million is pretty darn cheap for a guy likely to hit 20-25 home runs and play good defense at two positions. I'd rather that money go to Carlos Beltran, or better yet, 40 public school teachers, but the way teams are spending this winter, that's not too rich for the likes of a Pedro Feliz.

I have to run, but in my next post I'll hem and haw over the question of whether other Giants, especially the newcomers, are overpaid.



Two More Happy Years 

The Giants have signed Pedro Feliz to a two-year, $6.1 million contract, the AP is reporting. They've also signed Yorvit to a $700,000 deal.



Two From Alou 

Two quotes of note from Felipe in an AP piece that ran yesterday:

"To become a major league manager is a dream that many men have in the world of baseball and only 30 have the honor to do this job," he said. "I waited a long time to get this job and I would consider retirement a betrayal to my family and my country."

Felipe speaks English with more verve and heft than any American-born baseball player or manager I can think of. He's the Lawrence Olivier of the greensward.

Here's his second quote:

"It's a blessing of life to have Moises close to me again," Alou said. "The Giants will be better with him. I'm going to use him to bat cleanup behind Barry Bonds."

I was away for the Moises signing, but is that the first time Felipe has stated that Barry will hit third and Moises fourth? I'm a bit surprised; I thought Snow might sneak up to third against RHP, given how often he gets on base. So that puts the prospective opening day lineup somewhere around here:

2b Durham
ss Vizquel
lf Bonds
rf Alou
1b Snow/Feliz
3b Alfonzo
cf Grissom/Tucker
c Matheny

I drove past the Caltrain station today, and the sight of a quiet early morning Pac Bell Park made me think of the park's wide open spaces, which made me think of the old guys in the Giants outfield, which made me realize that unless Jason Ellison and his sorry-ass major-league equivalent average of .167 becomes the defensive-replacement fifth outfielder, their best outfielder will be Marquis Grissom... which made me pray that if Sabean makes any kind of trade between now and April, it has to be Grissom and at least one of the young pitching prospects for someone who can cover a lot of ground in centerfield and ably replace Grissom's bat. Reports were flying before I left for vacation that the Giants were seriously interested in Dave Roberts, Scott (Silent-D) Podsednik, and other annoying little men. Thank goodness nothing of the sort was consummated.

Question: If you were J.P. Ricciardi, what would it take to pry Vernon Wells loose from your roster?




adj., Not subject to decay.

If you want to read the only sports column ever to use this word, click here. (Thanks, Elbo, for the pointer.) Said column also references the much-referenced, Alan Schwarz-moderated "Great Debate" between statheads and scoutheads, it references overrated classic rock, and it makes dadaist bilingual hash of John Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." That's what happens when you let the college boys take over the front office. All that smart talk trickles down, and soon the sportswriters are drinking herbal tea, speaking Frog and worrying about their iambs, ferchrissake!



Clash of Civilizations 

I'm still catching up on all the readings I missed in India, where sportswriters have yet to turn their sabermetric attention to the national sport, cricket. One image I'll remember forever: in the ancient city of Varanasi, just a few hundred yards from the spot on the steps (ghats) where bodies are cremated 24 hours a day along the Ganges River, kids were playing cricket. As we rowed past in our hired boat, one kid unintentionally swatted a bowled ball -- in this case a tennis ball -- right at us. It bounced off my hands (It was early! I hadn't had my coffee!), off the prow of the boat, and into the Ganges. I wouldn't have reached in if you paid me a million rupees.

Back to the readings. Here's something I missed, and perhaps you did, too:

Baseball America last week posted a fascinating roundtable discussion between two old-fashioned scouts (Gary Hughes, Cubs, and Eddie Bane, Angels) and two new-fashioned statheads (Gary Huckabay, Baseball Prospectus, and Voros McCracken, father of DIPS and Red Sox consultant). The ubiquitous Alan Schwarz -- an excellent writer who has brought a breath of post-1950's baseball analysis to the sports pages of the New York Times -- moderates the discussion. If you haven't read it, please do so. It's a lot of fun and very telling about the blind spots and prejudices of each side (but especially the scouts, in my opinion).

And once you've read it, click here to see how "flat-out great" the minor-league stats of Steve Andrade really are.

Another note: in the wake of the Giants' signings of Matheny and Alou (not to mention the minor-league contract for Jeff Fassero), it's worth revisiting this Hardball Times article by Studes about Brian Sabean's predilection for old guys, written in November just after Sabean signed Omar Vizquel.



Soft Sells and Big Shifts 

I'm back from India and fighting the evil forces of jet lag (no relation to Jet Li), brought on by forty straight hours of airplanes and airports. At least I have an excuse for saying dumb things; not so for Howard Simon, Jeromy Burnitz's agent, who gave the free agent's skills a less-than-ringing endorsement:

"He (Burnitz) was very proud of the fact he has the capability to play center field," said Simon. "He may not be as good in center field as some of the pure center fielders, but everybody who's seen him patrol center field in Coors is convinced he does at least, if not better than, an adequate job."

Can you imagine Scott Boras showing up at negotiations and saying, "My client is perfectly adequate, if not better than adequate, for the job"?

I came home yesterday to find the tectonic plates of the NL West greatly shifted; I'd like to expand upon Elbo's discussion of the realigned division with a look at a possible permutation of each team's lineup and pitching staff.


2b Durham
ss Vizquel
1b Snow/Feliz
lf Bonds
rf Alou
3b Alfonzo
cf Grissom/Tucker
c Matheny

sp Schmidt
sp Williams
sp Tomko
sp Lowry
sp Rueter

cl Benitez

Muchas pixels have been spilled about the advanced age of the Giants lineup and the screaming hole of existential pain brought about by the Mike Matheny contract, so I'll turn to the pitching staff. Jason Schmidt is a perennial Cy Young contender and the best starter in the division. Jerome Williams has all the tools necessary for a breakout year. Tomko might finally have his head together to complement his 93-MPH fastball. That's a potentially strong top three, but not a given, and certainly no better on paper than the rotation troikas of Dodgers' Penny-Perez-Weaver, the Pads' Peavy-Eaton-Williams or even the D-Backs' Vazquez-Ortiz-Webb. More question marks: Lowry is in for an adjustment period as smart teams figure out the change-up; that learning curve will likely determine whether he's long-term major-leaguer or one-year wonder. Rueter could be replaced in the rotation by the All-Star break by Jesse Foppert, Brad Hennessey, Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez.


ss Izturis
lf Werth
2b Kent
rf Drew
cf Bradley
3b Valentin
1b Choi
c Ross/Bako

sp O. Perez
sp Penny
sp Lowe
sp Weaver
sp Ishii

cl Gagne

In India, Shiva is the Lord of both creation and destruction. In Los Angeles, he is known as DePodesta. This is not your father's Dodgers, or even last year's season ticket holders' Dodgers. The only other place to find this much turnover is the glass dessert case at your local Bakers Square.

Just as it's fair to ask why anyone would eat coconut cream pie, one must wonder: $9 million a year for Derek Lowe? If Rob Neyer can give his homey DePo the benefit of the doubt, perhaps I should, too....naaah. Still, the horrid nagging little voices tell me, if Neyer's right, the rotation is probably the best in the division. And the closer is the best in baseball. And the lineup could be very, very good if Drew plays up to expectations, Kent has a solid year, Werth continues to improve and enrage the denizens of the 1-3-8, and Milton "Mindhead" Bradley learns to K-I-T keep it together. Curse ye, Ducking Fodgers!


cf Roberts
2b Loretta
rf Giles
1b Nevin
lf Klesko
3b Burroughs
ss Greene
c Hernandez

sp Peavy
sp W. Williams
sp Eaton
sp Lawrence
sp D. May

cl Hoffman

Not many moves so far this winter. Not many needed. With Greene good and getting better, Hernandez a solid young catcher, and Loretta a potential batting champ, the Pads have a strong lineup that only lacks surefire power. Sean Burroughs has shown zero and doesn't have enough OBP to compensate; Klesko's pop melted away last year like Jason Giambi's musculature (blame it on Petco, Ryan?), so Nady may step in. I like the starting rotation: Peavy is the next Kevin Brown without the giant bug up his ass; Eaton could be ready for a breakout; Lawrence is steady if not spectacular. The rotation only needs to get a lead to the bullpen (Linebrink-Otsuka-Hoffman), one of the best trios in the bigs.


2b Counsell
ss Clayton
lf Gonzalez
3b Glaus
rf Green
1b Tracy
c Hammock?
cf ?

sp Ortiz
sp Vazquez
sp Webb
sp Estes
sp Fossum/Halsey?

cl Valverde

Lots of big acquisitions, lots of big holes. Still no center fielder (Luis Terrero didn't wow anyone last year). The offensive output of Craig Counsell and Royce Clayton will make Az. fans long for the thunderous lumber of Alex Cintron and Matt Kata. And the big three in the lineup -- Glaus, Lu-Go and Green -- all have injury question marks. If Vazquez returns to form, the Unit-less rotation will still be quite good at the top. Like Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb pitched much better last year than stats indicate.


2b Miles
c Closser
1b Helton
cf Wilson?
lf Holliday
rf Mohr
3b Atkins
ss Barmes

sp Francis
sp Cook
sp Jennings
sp Kennedy
sp Wright

cl Chacon

The Fourth Immutable Lefty Law of Non-Tenders: This summer Dustan Mohr will hit at least one game-winning home run off Matt Herges in Coors Field, one half-inning after Shawn Chacon walks the bases loaded then strikes out Marquis Grissom on three chin-high fastballs. It will be the bright spot of the Rockies' year. Todd Helton, how do you like that long-term contract now?

As of January 12, I don't quite understand all the hubbub about the Giants being the favorite in the West. The Dodgers have five potential 25-HR guys, good young starting pitchers and the best closer in baseball. The Padres have excellent young talent. No doubt rosters will continue to shift between now and April, but as things stand, the key question for me is the Giants' bench. With the advanced age of their lineup, will Michael Tucker, Deivi Cruz, Pedro Feliz and the Unknown Fifth Outfielder Who Should Have Been Dustan Mohr fill in capably?



Elbo: Division and conquering 

I'm happy to report that El Lefty safely avoided the tsunami tragedy in his travels, and that he'll be back and blogging soon. But in the meantime, I'd like to build on some thoughts left in the comments section, most recently by RustedRobot.

Last year's NL West was projected to be a weak division. To the surprise of most onlookers, the division produced two 90-game winners and a third contender, the Padres, who won 87 games. Those three teams won just one game fewer than the three contenders in the fiercely competitive AL West, which nearly everyone agrees is a good division. Of course, the Giants, Dodgers and Padres all enjoyed 19 games apiece with the lowly Diamondbacks, who barely deserved their 51 wins, and an equal number with the generally stinky Rockies.

Will the NL West improve, as a whole, in 2005?

Incoming talent
J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent, Javier Vazquez, Russ Ortiz, Woody Williams (plus Alou, Benitez, Vizquel)

Outgoing talent
Randy Johnson, Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, David Wells, Jeromy Burnitz, Jay Payton, Vinny Castilla (plus A.J. Pierzynski, freshly inked by the White Sox to -- shocker! -- a one-year deal)

It does seem like more "impact" players have left the West than have arrived, and that the Giants have gained more than they've lost. Several more marginal players have arrived (Darrell May, Craig Counsell, Eric Young, Geoff Blum) and left (Terrence Long, Jose Lima, Hideo Nomo, Shawn Estes) as well.

Has the competitive balance shifted toward parity? The Diamondbacks have to get better. They'll still lose 95 contests even if they gain 16 games over last year's performance, but that could mean stealing a few wins apiece from the contenders too. The Rockies have lost some significant bats, and haven't repaired most of their massive problems (though they did -- sniff! -- sign Dustan Mohr to a one-year deal). The Dodgers don't figure to win quite as many games, especially without the help of role players like Steve Finley and Dave Roberts. The Padres really are the team to watch, I think: their 3B and SS are both very good players under 25, their young pitching staff could mature at the same or faster rate as the Giants' young arms, and they haven't rocked the boat too much this off-season.

Still, the Giants filled their biggest holes, and they did finish four games ahead of the Padres last year. A talented but aging team can fall apart like a tasty burrito in a cheap tortilla, though. Their slow outfield defense and several questionable bats (plus a downright poor new one in Matheny) could make it a long, cold summer, but we could just as likely see an exciting three-team race for the West crown, just like 2004.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com