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5.30.2005

Too Much Too Young 

Finally. The Giants have a wealth of good young pitchers, and for a year and a half we've cried out for Brian Sabean to trade one or more of them for help.

But trading both Jerome Williams and David Aardsma for LaTroy Hawkins? Isn't that a little excessive just for some middle relief guy whose middle name on the North side of Chicago is "Boo"?

First, a LaLook at LaTroy:

Since he put it all together in 2002 with the Twins, he's been an excellent middle reliever:

259.2 IP
222 hits
23 HRs
51 BB
221 K

Since 2002, he's issued the fourth-lowest number of walks per nine innings (1.8) among major-league relievers. (Thanks to David Pinto's day by day database.) His 7.7 strikeouts per 9 isn't stratospheric, but it's solid. He can get a strikeout when needed. In the same period, batters have reached base less than 30% of the time and have slugged somewhere in the mid .300s against him. Since 2002, it's as if he's faced a whole league full of Neifi Perez and Mike Matheny.

What's more, the Giants don't have to pay him this year; the Cubs are picking up most of his salary. That means the Giants have the payroll flexibility to add more players in the next couple months. (However, the Giants will almost certainly have to pay Hawkins the $4M+ option he has for 2006.)

Don't listen to the Wrigley boo-birds; the Giants have just obtained one of the best relief pitchers in the National League for roughly $2.5 M a year, for two years. And they did it with their backs against a wall, with everyone knowing they were desperate for relief help. When Sabean makes phone calls these days, the caller ID at the other end says "EASY MARK."

You still think Sabean gave up too much? If Aardsma and Williams join the Cubs this year and throw well for years, I guess we'll have to say Sabean got burned. But forget the crystal ball. Right now, he got an excellent relief pitcher for two players with promise but diminished value. Williams is so out of whack he can't get AAA hitters out; Aardsma in a year's time has fallen from the major leagues to AA to work because it turned out he graduated from college and couldn't throw a decent major-league breaking pitch.

This isn't to blame or heap scorn upon either player; pitching is a fine art that combines pointillist precision, a cool head, and brute stamina. Pitching well in the major leagues is a mind-blowing feat for nine innings, let alone an entire season. Aardsma and Williams may never succeed at the major league level again. LaTroy Hawkins most likely will.

If Sabean could have gotten Hawkins (or someone of similar caliber) for Williams OR Aardsma, instead of both, don't you think he would have? Under the circumstances, it was just what the Giants needed: instant quality in the bullpen, no immediate payroll zap, and plenty of time to go get more help.

Best of all, the Cubs didn't get anyone named Cain.

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