Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This guy was a Giant*

Herman Franks lived to be 95! I wish we could all be so lucky. He played pro ball, scouted and coached, and managed the San Francsico Giants and their pantheon of Hall of Famers. He was--reportedly--a well-liked, happy guy, who was also a shrewd investor and thus a "man of means." What more do any of us want from life?

My earliest baseball memory is the 1967 World Series between the Red Sox and Cardinals. My mom's from Boston, and "The Impossible Dream" team with Yastrzemski, Lonborg, Petrocelli and the like have a permanent place in my mind. I would say the 1968 and 1969 seasons (when Willie McCovey was god and a young hotshot named Bonds was dazzling everyone) were the beginning of my lifelong love affair with the Giants. My mom--the real ball fan in the family--always had the radio on, KSFO 560 with Lon Simmons, Russ Hodges and Bill Thompson. Lon also did the 49ers games with Hugh McElhenny as the "color man." Thus were my brothers and I indoctrinated into SF-fandom. Herman Franks was my first Giants manager. Clyde King took us to the playoffs in 1971 (my dad took us to this game--I remember Willie Mac's HR). Then we had that long, long haul until Roger Craig (and Will Clark) got us back in 1987. Along the way I met my RMC compadres, and we've spent a large part of the last 25-30 years feeding each other's Giants addictions. RIP, Mr. Franks. Thanks for the memories.

"This guy was a Giant. Some guys are Dodgers. Other guys are Cubs, like (Ernie) Banks. This guy was a Giant," said friend Joey Amalfitano, who played for the Giants in the '50s and '60s and now is in spring training with the Giants' minor-leaguers as a special assistant. (John Shea, Chronicle, 31 Mar)

Monday, March 30, 2009

The History Boys of Summer 4

"History is just one fookin' thing after another."
from "The History Boys, " by Allen Bennett, 2004

The Giants' First Superstar

Buck Ewing is considered by many to be the greatest ballplayer of the 19th century. One of the players who came from Troy to form the original Gothams/Giants, he captained the team during its championship years of 1888 and 1889.
Writing in the 1938 Spalding Guide, John Foster said of him, "As a thrower to bases Ewing never had a superior, and there are not to exceed ten men who could come anywhere near being equal to him. Ewing was the man of whom it was said, "He handed the ball to the second baseman from the batter's box."
His offensive career numbers include a .303 batting average, 354 stolen bases and 178 triples.

The keystone corner

Chris Haft (q.v. his blog Haft-Baked Ideas) seems to think young Emmanuel Burriss is the front-runner at second base:

. . . the Giants' apparent interest in seeing what Frandsen can do at other positions creates the appearance that Burriss will secure the second base job.

I have been assuming all along that Frandsen was the second baseman, that is, it was his job to lose. Burriss has speed, and I know the Giants like that, but his lifetime minor-league slugging percentage is .337. (Frandsen's is .458, though you wouldn't call him a slugger.) Frandsen might be expected to handle backup at third base, thus freeing Aurilia from that task. In my ideal universe, Guzman is our backup first baseman, but we will break camp with Richie and hope Jesus learns to use the mitt at AAA.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The History Boys of Summer 3

Moses Fleetwood Walker

The first African-American major leaguer was not Jackie Robinson but was Moses Walker.
He was a catcher, back in the days where they used no equipment, not even gloves.
Playing for the Toronto Blue Stockings of the American Association, his MLB debut was May 1, 1884 against the Louisville Eclipse. (Don't you love the names of those old teams?)
Walker's teammate and star pitcher, Tony Mullane, stated Walker "was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him I used to pitch anything I wanted without looking at his signals."
Unfortunately he suffered a season-ending injury in July and never made it back to the majors. He played 42 games and batted .261.
Shortly thereafter baseball entered into its "Gentleman's Agreement" to exclude blacks, which lasted until 1947.
I'm sure Jackie Robinson was a brave and swell guy, but he was a Dogger, so fuck him.

Meet your newest Giant

Hector Correa, RHP.

According to the Comical, the Special Agent was our longest-tenured guy on the 40-man roster. Note that the article was up before the second trade that netted young Correa.
(q.v. BCB for details)

Friday, March 27, 2009

The History Boys of Summer 2


Major league baseball began either in 1869 with the founding of the first pro team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, or in 1871 with the establishment of the NABBP, National Association of Base Ball Players, or in 1876 with the establishment of the National League, which replaced the failed NABBP. Some say it really began in 1903 with the "National Agreement" between the NL and the AL (founded 1901).
Giants history begins in 1883 with the New York Gothams, founded by John B. Day and Jim Muthrie. Most of the Gothams players came from the disbanded Troy Trojans, whom the Gothams replaced in the NL.
After a particularly satisfying win against the Phillies, Muthrie, who was also the manager, came into the locker room and exclaimed, "My big fellows! My Giants!" And that was their name henceforth.
The Giants won their first pennant in 1888 then beat the St Louis Browns in an early version of the World Series. They repeated the following year, beating the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
(The picture above is NOT the Giants. I have no idea who they are. I just wanted an illustration.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Of arms and the man I sing*

The man, of course, being Bruce Bochy. And the singing is metaphorical, have no fear. Let's see what the team muse, Chris Haft, has to say:

Until then, the Giants have three bullpen openings for seven contenders: left-handers Alex Hinshaw and Jack Taschner and right-handers Osiris Matos, Brandon Medders, Justin Miller, Luis Perdomo and Merkin Valdez.

He goes on to say that Valdez is out of options. Perdomo is a Rule V guy, which means we have to give him back (to St.L.) if we don't keep him on the ML squad. We all know JCP has a serious man-crush on Merkin, and who doesn't like a 6-5, 230-lb. flamethrowing Dominincan? He's a strapping, manly fellow, but his downside is injury risk. He's out of options (see Rob Neyer's primer; MV has been on the club since '05), so he makes it. As far as Perdomo goes, I can't fathom the minds of the Briantrust (thanks, Theo, I'm using that from now on), so I don't know if they care enough to keep him. I think the Rule V status will not make a difference. If so, I think the Medders-Miller pair is more likely to stick. We'll need another lefty, like Hinshaw or Taschner, but the vibe on Special Agent Jack is not good. So I'm putting my money on Hinshaw. At this point, the permutations are too mind-boggling to sort out, and I have to go to work some time this morning. So, I leave it to you guys--11 or 12? We know who'll be starting (the Big Five) and we've got the Relief Triumvirate (Wilson, Affeldt, Howry), but the rest is up for grabs. Be The Man for today and tell me who you'd keep.

*Arma virumque cano

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The History Boys of Summer

I want to attempt to share tidbits of baseball history, just for the heck of it.
Lesson One:
The Knickerbocker Rules
The New York Knickerbockers were formed in 1845 by Alexander Joy Cartwright. A set of 20 rules was written, perhaps the first formalized list of baseball rules.
  1. Members must strictly observe the time agreed upon for exercise, and be punctual in their attendance.
  2. When assembled for exercise, the President, or in his absence, the Vice-President, shall appoint an umpire, who shall keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the By-Laws and Rules during the time of exercise.
  3. The presiding officer shall designate two members as Captains, who shall retire and make the match to be played, observing at the same time that the players opposite to each other should be as nearly equal as possible, the choice of sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand to be decided in like manner.
  4. The bases shall be from "home" to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base, forty-two paces, equidistant.
  5. No stump match shall be played on a regular day of exercise.
  6. If there should not be a sufficient number of members of the Club present at the time agreed upon to commence exercise, gentlemen not members may be chosen in to make up the match, which shall not be broken up to take in members that may afterwards appear; but in all cases, members shall have the preference, when present, at the making of a match.
  7. If members appear after the game is commenced, they may be chosen in if mutually agreed upon.
  8. The game to consist of twenty-one counts, or aces; but at the conclusion an equal number of hands must be played.
  9. The ball must be pitched, not thrown, for the bat.
  10. A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.
  11. Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.
  12. If a ball be struck, or tipped, and caught, either flying or on the first bound, it is a hand out.
  13. A player running the bases shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.
  14. A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base, is a hand out.
  15. Three hands out, all out.
  16. Players must take their strike in regular turn.
  17. All disputes and differences relative to the game, to be decided by the Umpire, from which there is no appeal.
  18. No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.
  19. A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.
  20. But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck. (thanks to Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Put some lead in yer pencils, mates, and . . .


If it is true (q.v. Baggs via ELM) that Emmanuel Burriss is staying with the big club and NOT starting the year in AAA, then that is bad news for Ay-You-Hay-Knee-Oh Velez. Here's how it shakes out (JCP and I spent an hour on this last night):

C--Señor Slow, and his backup, the world's luckiest man, Steve Holm.

That's SIX guys.

Four outfielders are set:

RF--that RF-guy
4th OF--Schierholtz

This Andres Torres fellow is showing some mad skills in center, and our hilarious joke of a $60 million CF who can't hit or field or apparently play a full season will need lots of subbing. I think we need a real OF glove coming off the bench. Our park demands fast OFs with range. We give the #5 slot to him.

That makes ELEVEN.

With 12 pitchers, we keep 2 more guys, with 11 pitchers we keep 3 more. Let's go with 11 arms, at least to start, that seems to be the buzz from camp. If Burriss backs up at 2B and SS, and Uribe backs up at 3B and SS, and Aurilia backs up at 1B and 3B, then we have a full roster. This also allows for Sandoval to get a break from the hot corner. Uribe and Aurilia give me no joy, but Velez can't play first or third, and we've got two (possibly three with Uribe) second basemen, and two backup outfielders, so there's no role for Eugenio. His only chance was to be the last OF spot and I suspect Torres' glove is too good to let that happen. Also, Torres is fast and he's a switch-hitter. (The one wild-card is Jesus Guzman. He's earned a spot with his stick, but they have no faith in his glove. In a Sabean-Bochy universe, that means Uribe.)

So that's the 25-man roster without having to do the hard work of picking relievers. We'll do that later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Problems I like to have

That fellow with the finger in his mouth has played 332 minor league games--154 at first base, 142 at catcher, 21 at third base, and 15 as a DH. As a member of the 2008 Giants, he logged 41 games--17 as a first baseman, 12 as a third baseman, and 11 as catcher. We've good reasons to try him at third, despite the weirdness of the whole thing:

1. Apparently we have no one else. Unless the resuscitated corpses of Juan Uribe and Rich Aurilia excite you, we've got no one else.

2. We have a catcher. His cup runneth over with Veteran Savvy Clutchness (hat tip to the blogger I stole that from, wish I could remember who you are). This is the stuff gamers are made from, and Señor Slow's stock in the organization is high because of it. Bosses like it. Fans like it. Reporters like it.

3. Gerald Demp Posey III. Yep. That's his real moniker. Now you know why he goes by "Buster." A truly great baseball name by the way, also a great name for border collies. To stretch the analogy to the breaking point, think of catchers as the herders and drovers of the ballclub, rounding up strays, barking orders, generally taking charge due to superior intelligence and athleticism.

Which brings me to our Catcher in the Wings. Check out the item on Extra Baggs from this morning, "More on Posey." Andrew Baggarly passes on some complimentary quotes from Jeremy Affeldt, but also speaks highly of the kid's demeanor. All the news about our young star is good so far this spring. He hits. He hits with power. He has plate discipline. He's athletic, strong, and showing good skills with his glove and arm. Now he's calling games. It is starting to freak me out, all this Buster press, I keep waiting to hear something critical, for someone to point out his shortcomings. The Giants know that no. 1's contract is up this year. I really, really, really, really hope that the organization will part ways with him. We've got young Sandoval, who has actual minor and major league experience as a catcher, and we like him so much we'll shoehorn him in almost any place on the diamond just to get his bat in the lineup. And we've got this rising star, this number one draft pick, this sure-thing-can't-miss otherworldly talent a heartbeat from the bigs. Buster wil get his call-up in September, and we'll be pencilling him in to start behind the plate in 2010. Unless Pablito & the Brain Trust's Travelling Infield Show dazzles fans and big shots alike this spring at The Hot Corner, we could have a problem. But I think I like this problem. What do you guys think?

p.s. Japan 6, USA 2 after six. I like the idea of the WBC, but I must admit I've spent far more time following Six Nations Rugby these last few weeks. Way to go, Ireland! I think they should move it to the fall, after the World Series. So, second thread--your thoughts on the WBC now that Jonathan Sanchez is back home with the team.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Love This Man

From the Giants Website:

One day after a bad-hop grounder struck him on the kisser and knocked his lips into his braces, Sandoval said he actually liked the experience.

Asked if being bashed in the mouth scared him at all, he replied, "Why? That happens. That's the game. I'm not afraid of anything. That's the way I play."

* * *

By the way he's batting .450 so far.

I may be nuts but I think he'll have a legitimate shot at hitting .400 this season. He just has "it." He plays the game with joy and it's a joy to watch him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Off Topic Topic

I am choosing not to comment at all on today's spring training game that featured Tim Lincecum. If you want to know about it, you can check this recap.

My rationale: I do not want to practice writing posts describing that type of performance. When, or if, Tim ever really truly tanks it, blows chow, coughs blood, etc. in a meaningful game, I want my written reaction to be fresh and unplanned. So, you see, I am really doing this for you, gentle reader. I just want to be the best dang blogger out there!

Anyway, here's my off topic question: How do you pick a cap for the new season? Same one until it decomposes? New one every year? Rotating stable of favorites? There must be dozens of answers to this very simple question. Share some with me. It is officially spring on Friday. I need to pick my cap before then in order to be ready for Opening Day. Don't you?

photo link

US Gets Even With PR

Jonathan Sanchez had a weak showing in his final start for Team Puerto Rico, going 2.2 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 earned runs. He wasn't the reason PR lost though. USA scored 3 in the 9th to pull out a 6-5 victory and advance to the final round at Dogger Stadium.
Let's hope the tournament was a positive experience for the Giants' young lefty.

Monday, March 16, 2009

We have met the enemy (and he is us).

Walt Kelly also said that in another way:

‘There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.’

After my frequent cajoling you ought to be a fan of FanGraphs by now. If not, have no fear, I will bring FanGraphs to you. Dave Cameron has a series going right now where he evaluates each franchise (in his words) "on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future." Today he wrote about the Giants. To backtrack a little, you should know that not all the teams have been ranked. The list--nos. 30 through 20--goes from worst to first. That is, number 30 is least likely to contend, number 1 most likely. Here are the rankings so far:

#30: Washington Nationals
#29: Florida Marlins
#28: Houston Astros
#27: Kansas City Royals
#26: Pittsburgh Pirates
#25: San Diego Padres
#24: Cincinnati Reds
#23: Colorado Rockies
#22: Detroit Tigers
#21: St. Louis Cardinals
#20: Toronto Blue Jays

Surely it is obvious to even the most casual reader by this point that our beloved San Francisco Giants come in at number ninenteen. Thus, there are 18 clubs, yet to be ranked by Mr. Cameron, who are more likely to contend for a World Series title than us. To quote Cameron again: "We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward." I know, you want me to summarize. You aren't going to read the links, you just want me to serve up the meat. OK, here it is:

The Giants have strong ownership, a fantastic ballpark in a high earning market, a major league team with legitimate playoff hopes, and a farm system that has several premium talents on the way to the Bay Area. With a less manic front office, they’d probably be one of the premier organizations in the game. The unpredictability of Sabean’s moves, along with the organizational plan of acquiring only 30+ players in free agency, has left them as an underachiever. But things are looking up in San Francisco, and as long as they can keep Lincecum’s arm attached to his body, they’ll have some hope. (Dave Cameron, 16 Mar, emphasis added by M.C.)

So we have met the enemy and he is us. We have a great everything but we fuck it all up. We know Brian Sabean should be sent to management re-training seminars at a field camp in Taleban-occupied Pakistan, but that ain't gonna happen. We got a guy with a bow tie and we got great announcers. And we got the Holy Trinity. So there's reason for hope. Victor Wang at The Hardball Times has a series where he rates farm systems. In Part 2 he discusses the Giants, giving them the no. 6 slot (behind the Marlins, A's, Braves, Rays and no. 1 Rangers). Here's the meat:

The Giants drastically improved their farm system from the beginning of 2008. They continue to be one of the top teams, if not the top, with drafting and developing pitchers. Normally I'm against investing so many top picks in pitchers, but it's hard to argue with the Giants' results. (Victor Wang, 13 Mar)

The Giants, in his list of Top 100 prospects, get MadBum (no. 3), Buster (no. 10), Tim2 (no. 40) and Angel Villalona (no. 41). That's the Holy Trinity with St. Patrick thrown in for good measure! And tomorrow's the feast for that fine fellow! God and Mary and Patrick be with you, my brothers!

FG http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/category/daily-graphs/
THT http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/farm-system-value-rankings-part-2/

(n.b. My source for the Kelly quote is Marilynn White's "I Go Pogo" site, and is from The Best of Pogo, edited by Mrs. Walt Kelly and Bill Crouch Jr.)

***St. Patrick's Day UPDATE: This is a great story. A wink and a nod to Big D at Giants Win for the tip. Who needs the Holy Trinity when Jesus is already in camp? (http://www.insidebayarea.com/giants/ci_11928979?source=rss)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mercy! PR Crushes God's Team

The World Baseball Classic utilizes the same rule as Little League- if a team is ahead by 10 or more runs the game is stopped after 7 innings. This is what happened to Team USA Saturday in Miami with final score of 11-1. Ouch!
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez continued his great WBC play by going 3 for 4. The Giants denied rumors that they are interested in signing Pudge to be their 1st baseman. Travis Ishikawa is the clear front-runner for the job, as he homered Saturday in Scottsdale in a loss to the A's.

Good things come in threes

The Giants Holy Trinity were all on display yesterday. Giants Jottings had the scoop and the photos, as always. Buster, MadBum & Tim2 are the Father, Son & Holy Ghost of the club's future.

Buster is the old man of the group, turning 22 on the 27th of March. Marc Hulet on FanGraphs had this to say about him earlier this month:

. . . the athletic catcher could reach the Majors within two years despite playing in only 10 regular season games after signing.

I think Buster's timetable is shorter than that. He'll be on the team in September when the rosters expand and will be in line to start in 2010. That's assuming we don't do anything idiotic like this (see OBM for the heads-up and discussion). Too much has been written about our golden boy, but take a look at the list of Golden Spikes winners--that award usually means you are going to make it in The Show.

MadBum turns 20 in August. I'll say that another way--he's nineteen freakin' years old. Here's Hulet's take on him:

Bumgarner posted a 1.46 ERA (1.71 FIP) with 111 hits allowed in 141.2 innings. He also posted rates of 1.33 BB/9 and 10.42 K/9. Bumgarner was especially good in the final month of the season when he allowed a batting average against of .186 and posted a strikeout rate of 13.36 K/9.

This kid--supposedly--hits 97 on the radar gun. Yow-za!!! He'll pitch in AA this year most likely, and it wouldn't hurt to see him spend a year at AAA. I expect to see him competing for a starting spot in the spring of 2011. He'll be 21, going on 22. Matt Cain got a call-up at the end of 2005 and made 7 starts--he was the youngest player in the NL that season, turning 20 that August. He had fewer than 400 IP in the minors, so we might see something similar with MadBum.

Tim2 made this impression on Giantfan9:

Although he is 9 months older than Bumgarner (still a pup) he doesn't seem to be as well developed, physically, and did not seem to throw the ball quite as hard.

Hulet describes MadBum as "the crown jewel" of the system and "one of the best pitching prospects in baseball" but also rates Tim2 highly:

Tim Alderson is another impressive pitching prospect, who was also drafted out of high school in 2007. Alderson was so advanced for a prep player, in fact, that the Giants jumped him all the way to High-A ball for his first full pro season (which is almost unheard of these days). Despite the challenge, the right-hander did not skip a beat and he allowed 125 hits in 145.1 innings, with a 2.79 ERA (2.64 FIP).

Even if we push Tim2 back a year we'll see him seeking a rotation spot in 2012. So--Buster in 2010, MadBum in 2011, Tim2 in 2012? What say, mates? Does the Holy Trinity give you faith and hope? Nos. 33 and 75 will still be getting paychecks, so that damps my enthusiasm a wee bit, and the bats seem to be well behind the arms in this outfit. But the three youngsters on display yesterday was very exciting no matter how you slice it. And as far as 2009 goes, it wouldn't hurt to get a little religion. Now y'all bow your heads and repeat after me:

In nomine Patris
et filii
et Spiritus Sancti

And pray for some fookin' hits!!!

(FanGraphs link: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2009-prospect-mine-san-francisco-giants)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

I was born on a Friday the 13th (November, MCMLIX), and I have an irrational fondness for the number thirteen and for Fridays. It was great when Omar wore number 13--watching him play the field was one of those special things that I know all of us appreciated. The new no. 13 is Brian Bocock (see story), who is a longshot to make the team, or even get another call-up (Lefty Malo has a nice piece about his chances). I was thinking that all of our youngsters, no matter how hard they work, still need a little good luck to make it. Friday the 13th is supposed to be a bad luck day, but we thirteeners never bought any of that crap. So here's something we all know (from Lerner and Loewe) for our youthful job-seekers:

He doesn't have a tuppence in his pocket.
The poorest bloke you'll ever hope to meet.
He doesn't have a tuppence in his pocket-
but With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
He'll be movin' up to easy street.

With a little bit...with a little bit...
With a little bit of luck, He's movin' up.
With a little bit...with a little bit...
With a little bit of bloomin luck!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sanchez to Start for P.R. Against Surprising Dutch Team

Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez takes the mound in a few hours at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico in the final game of group D in the World Baseball Classic. He takes on the Netherlands, who upset the favored team from the Dominican Republic, eliminating them.
The Puerto Rican team features Ivan Rodriguez, or "Pudge,"undoubtedly one of the greatest catchers who ever played the game. Yadier Molina, brother of Giants Bengie, is the team's other catcher.
For some reason I'm more interested in the WBC than in Cactus League play.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Giants trying to cut down on walks

Giants website, Chris Haft, 3/09/09

I had this freaky hallucination that this was another article about Fred Lewis and Carney Lansford. I was gonna go flippo.

Then I saw that it was about pitchers.


Monday, March 9, 2009

To Fred or not to Fred

Moving Lewis to the third spot will free him to swing with abandon.

From Chris Haft's 3/8/09 piece "Lewis ready to slug from third spot" on the team website.

Lewis did what was required from him last season, ranking fourth in the National League by averaging 4.23 pitches per plate appearance.

Does the number of pitches per plate appearance correlate with hitting? That is, do guys who see a lot of pitches have higher batting averages, slugging percentages, and on-base percentages? When I see a stat like that I think (1) who is ahead of him? and (2) what is the league rate?

Intuitively, it would seem that good hitters see more pitches. In order to get a walk, you have to see 4 pitches, which is higher than the league average (3.81 in 2008 for the NL--stat from THT team pages). We all watched Bonds take pitches, and many of the big sluggers (McGwire, Frank Thomas, Jack Clark) also walked a lot.

But is there are correlation? The Giants seem to believe that taking pitches is good in the leadoff spot and bad in the three-hole. Is that the case? Certainly Fred Lewis struck out a lot last year. It would be nice to see more hits and fewer called third strikes. But patience and selectivity seem like important qualities in your "best hitter" (Lansfordian for no. 3 guy).

. . . if he's going to hit third, we need him to hit home runs . . .

I can't argue with that, Carney. But what made Lewis a guy to get excited about last year, at least for me, was his cerebral approach. He seemed to make a conscious effort to learn the strike zone and learn the umpires. It seemed like he was taking the long view--that he would be a better hitter down the road if he took a few more pitches. I guess the road has come to an end in 2009. He's "da man" now, and will have to provide our dink-dink-dink lineup with some pop. I'm confident he will show improvement and continue to impress. He's a bona fide major-league starter now, and the team expects a lot from him. I hope he continues to be Fred, though. We've already got Bengie "how-quickly-can-I-get-this-AB-over-with" Molina. I'd like to at least get a sip of brew in when my "big hitters" come to the plate.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Other Spring Training

My boy looks good in any uniform. The following is cut&pasted from March 4:

The way Puerto Rico is pitching and hitting, manager Jose Oquendo likes his club’s chances of making a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic.

Jonathan Sanchez worked three scoreless innings, Alex Rios went 2-for-3 with a double and triple, and Ivan Rodriguez and Ramon Vazquez each drove in a run Wednesday night to pace a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sanchez allowed one hit and struck out two before being replaced by Nelson Figueroa, who yielded a run in the fifth when Adam Kennedy’s two-out bunt single scored Fernando Perez from third base.

“Sanchez did a good job. I think he threw seven first-pitch strikes out of 10 batters,” Oquendo said. “That’s the key in this tournament. You have to throw strikes.”

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Three strong frames

Don't you love baseball writers' lingo? M.C. "continued to progress" today (according to Chris Haft). Uh, OK. Regardless of the outcome, everyone on the fookin' ballclub continues to progress unless they are dead. A quibble, I know.

Fan Graphs recently added updated Bill James projections. (This is another one of those sites that makes ESPN, SF Gate and just about every other "mainstream" source pointless. Between Fan Graphs, Baseball-Reference, The Baseball Analysts--just to name a few--and the many excellent Giants blogs, the old sources of information are just there for nostalgia purposes.)

Here's his take on the 2009 Matt Cain model:

32 GS 213 IP 185 H 92 BB 192 SO

13-11 W-L 3.55 ERA

3.87 FIP**

I've touched on FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) before. Think of it as a more accurate way to express ERA. Last year, you-know-who was the ML leader in FIP, at 2.62. Among those with 150 or more IP, Dan Haren was 4th (3.01), Brandon Webb was 8th (3.28), Johan Santana was 16th (3.51), Jake Peavy 21st (3.60), Cole Hamels 25th (3.72), Jonathan Sanchez 35th (3.85), and Matt Cain 39th (3.91).

Sorting just for the NL, Matt comes in at number twenty-one. There are 30 ML teams, 16 in the NL. That should give you some idea of the relative value of a fellow like young Mr. Cain. Baseball-Reference uses ERA+, the pitching equivalent of OPS+, one of the stats I throw around all the time. These are more like the traditional stats but weighted against the league average and adjusted for park effects. A score of "100" is "league average."

Matt had an ERA+ of 116 last year, basically saying he was 16% better than average. The Franchise led the league of course, with an eye-popping 167. Check out the career leaders (min 1000 IP and 100 decisions) for a sense of perspective on this metric. For the record, the last not-named-Barry Giants hitter to be at least 16% better than average for a full season was the 2006 Ray Durham (127 OPS+). The last full-time starters to give us over 116 ERA+ were the 2007 Cain (122) and the 2006 Jason Schmidt (125).

Matt pitched well today. For the season, I'd like to see him face fewer batters and throw fewer pitches. Five guys (in the NL) faced over 900 batters in 2008: Santana/964, Webb/944, Cain/933, Lincecum/928, Hamels/914. ALL of them pitched more innings than Matt (217-2/3): Santana (234-1/3), Hamels (227-1/3), Lincecum (227), Webb (226-2/3). Cain, Santana, and Webb tied for 8th in the league in hits allowed, 206, but Matt had far more walks, 91, than all but Tim, 84 (Webb-65, Santana-63, Hamels-53). Dan Haren, to throw in another NL ace, had only 40 walks to go along with 206 Ks. I think this is why Matt has not quite broken through the upper echelon. He's young, tough, big, strong, athletic, healthy, and talented. But he puts a few too many guys on base and and doesn't quite get as many outs as the rest of the bunch. Only 13 guys threw over 3300 pitches in the NL last year, and Tim and Matt were 1-2 with 3682 and 3606. Santana was 3rd/3598, Hamels 5th/3427, Webb 8th/3358, and Haren 11th/3339.

I'm not concerned about fatigue or over-use. I think it is a mental thing, and I expect him to mature and improve. I'd like to see him attack more hitters and make them put the ball in play rather than nibble and give up walks. I'd like to see him get guys out earlier in the count, but still have the strikeout weapon. Maybe he needs another pitch, a good sinker/split-finger to induce more ground balls. With increased confidence, better coaching (yikes!), and veteran-star-mentoring (Unit?), the sky's the limit for our 2002 1st-Round draft pick.

What he really needs, of course, is RUN SUPPORT.

Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.
(link: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/statpages/glossary/#fip)

Matt Cain B-R page.
Matt Cain FanGraphs page.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Early Spring Tim

Hey there, it's JCP, the resident Freak freak. In other words, I was the RMC author that got the honor of covering young Tim Lincecum's first full year in the bigs. Tough gig, huh? Anyway, I was figuring on dogging it this spring - that's what all the savvy veterans do - but then Tim has to go all mid season dominating form on me. Sheesh, does this kid have any lower gears?

Today our boy went three nearly perfect innings, one walk, 3 strikeouts. The photo is, of course, courtesy of the incomparable Giants Jottings. Shall we start a pool as to when/if he cuts his hair?

He has given up one hit so far this spring, something like seven innings. In other words, everything is normal. I wonder what he has to work on? Last year brought the incredible plus change to counter his "electric heater," (UL Approved). Is there something new in the "Master Plan"? You know Tim and his Dad have a "Master Plan."

Let's talk Tim, shall we? Projections, adulations, etc., etc. Let me start: This is Tim's team. Everybody else is pretty much fluff, some have some really good potential, but nothing that could not be replaced. Anyone care to contest that?

Well that does it for me. I'm clearly out of shape. I better get some more work in before the season starts or my assignment will leave me in the dust. Oh well, I guess that's what spring is for...unless you are Tim.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


That was going to be my secret name for ol' no. 10. Alas, they cut him loose. An overdue move after a stupid contract.

The Giants have money. Bags and bags o'money. They can overspend on no. 16 (Rental) and no. 33 (Gomer) and still have gobs to play with. They just tossed six million or so out the fookin' window with no apparent strain on the budget. The Barry Zito, whoops I mean "The No. 75" budget alone could bankrupt some teams. (There were 12 ML teams averaging payrolls over $100 million per year from 2006-2008, Giants were 13th at $94 million.)

Barry Zito is owed over one hundred million dollars through 2014. The Marlins spent about $90 million in payroll over the last three years. Total. The Rays? $120 million.

Makes you wonder. Are the Giants a bunch of bumbling fools throwing money around with no apparent purpose? Do they have a business plan? A baseball plan? If I was rich, I'd throw money at silly things like a fleet of Jaguars and attendants who kept them clean, polished, and ready to rumble. And I'd treat them like the toys they were. If I wanted a new one I'd go get it and come up with the reason later. And I'd get rid of ones I didn't like any more.

But I wouldn't run a ballclub like that, no sir.

q.v. "MLB Payroll Efficiency" (Baseball Analysts), Rich Lederer's Baseball Beat (2 March 09)
and the always interesting
Cot's Contracts.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm a happy guy

Look at the hitting stars today:

SANDOVAL 3-for-3 with a HR

GUZMAN 2-out, 2-run HR

ISHIKAWA 2 hits, run scored, RBI

BURRISS 2 hits, run scored, RBI

LEWIS with a hit and a run

and . . .

wait for it . . .

BUSTER POSEY 2 1 2 1 !!!!!

We beat the Dodgers. A meaningless Spring Training game you say? A pox on your house.

Romo no mo'?

I was going to write about my enthusiasm for young Mr. Romo and my anguish over his injury, but Bay City Ball and El Lefty Malo were all over the story well before me.

I'll just open the thread here as well--what we gonna do? Build me a bullpen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The New Gods




These are the young titans that will bring us joy in 2009!

I can speak their names!!!

Coping strategy

I should write a damn book. I mean, you go into any bookstore in the U-S-of-A and you find a wall, a fookin' WALL of books about how to cope. How to deal with meanies, how to be a meanie, how to get well, how to be sick, how to die, how to live, how to eat, love, screw, believe, un-believe, win friends, lose friends, make money, get over money, reach your potential, have a child, be a child, get old, blah-blah-fookin' BLAH.

I'm a Giants fan. If no-rings-since-Moses hasn't taught me how to cope, then I should just let Phillipine jihadists kidnap me so I can have a comparable hardship to learn from. Jose Oquendo? The FloMars? Scott Spezio? Can it get any worse?

Yes, it can. Case in point: Barry Zito. And the guy who hired him, Brian Sabean. To pile doom upon doom, Ol' Sabes zito-ed Aaron Rowand to play CF because he'd pre-zito-ed Dave Roberts to play CF also and that didn't work nearly as well as the actual Zito-ing. Uh, I mean, uh, that, like, we got a lot of guys. And they are old and cost a lot. So, I have to cope.

Here's my coping strategy: anyone NOT named Sandoval, Lewis, Frandsen, Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Guzman, Velez, Bowker, Burriss, Grizzlie, Defender, GreenJacket, or Buster Posey will henceforth be referred to by uniform number. As in "number 33 then batted after Fred Lewis' spectacular awe-inspiring triple and a run was scored."

Now THAT'S cutting edge blogging. I oughta write a fookin' book. Right after number 10 takes some hacks away from Nate.