Westwood Blues

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Bargain Hunting

Billy Beane has made a name for himself by acquiring players that are undervalued by the market. Here are some potential Giants acquisitions whose value may be understated by using traditional methods of statistical evaluation.

* Derrek Lee

When evaluating a player who plays his home games in a pitcher’s park, one should take a note of his park adjusted statistics and his home/road splits. Lee’s park adjusted numbers are excellent. In 2003 he posted an OPS+ of 135 and an EqA of .307. His home/road splits are dramatic. Home: .242/.371/.419 with 11 HRs. Road: .297/.388/.591 with 20 HRs. That’s an OPS differential of nearly 200 points. His three year home/road OPS split of .828/.887 is far less dramatic, but Lee’s raw numbers are undoubtedly hurt by playing in Pro Player Stadium. Pac Bell Park, on the other hand, has a reputation of being a pretty fair park for right-handed power hitters.

Incidentally, I contend that Derrek Lee is just as good as Richie Sexson and is probably even a shade better. Here are the two player’s park adjusted numbers over the last two years.

DL 2003: 135 OPS+, .307 EqA. DL 2002: 131 OPS+, .302 EqA
RS 2003: 136 OPS+, .306 EqA. RS 2002: 130 OPS+, .297 EqA

Lee gets the tie breaker because he is a gold glove fielder and a faster runner.

I’m holding out hope that Lee isn’t traded and that the Giants can sign him to a contract if he is non-tendered by the Marlins. In an effort to jinx the much rumored Derrek Lee to Baltimore trade, I’ll point out that Lee is an absolute LOCK to be traded to the Orioles.

* Mike Cameron

Cameron is a bit of a paradox in that his offensive value is hurt by the cavernous Safeco outfield, while his defensive value is maximized by playing spectacular defense in said cavernous outfield as only a few major league center fielders can.

His talents would be maximized by playing in a park that is a) fair to right-handed hitters, yet b) has a spacious outfield to patrol. In other words, he’d be a great fit with the Giants.

* JT Snow

Snow embodies the Moneyball principle – a player whose primary skill, getting on base at an above average rate, is undervalued by the market. Also, Snow has also said that he wants to stay with the Giants and would therefore give the Giants a hometown discount. A one year deal for $1.5MM or less would be a great value.

* Miguel Batista

As I pointed out in my post on starting pitching, Batista’s raw numbers are hurt by playing in a hitter’s park. His ERA+ of 132 ranked him 10th in the NL. Over the last three years his road ERA has been about a half run better than his home ERA.

* Steve Reed, Kerry Lightenberg, Curtis Leskanic

By definition, a reliever’s statistics are accumulated in a small sample size. One shouldn’t read too much into these pitchers’ numbers, but it’s worth pointing out that they’ve been successful despite pitching in hitter friendly parks.

In the next post, I’ll offer the long awaited Westwood Blues official 2004 Giants roster. Hint: You may see a few names from this post on said roster. Unfortunately, it probably won’t include the Orioles 2004 Opening Day 1B, Derrek Lee, because he will undoubtedly be traded in the next few days.

Pedro Feliz

While reading my off season ramblings, you may have noticed that I kind of glossed over the Pedro Feliz possibility at 1B or RF. This was not an accident. The only scenario in which Pedro Feliz is any sort of answer is if the Giants are selecting from the Jeopardy! category “Paquettepurri.”

Pedro Feliz had a decent year in 2003 going .247/.278/.515 with 16 HRs in about 250 plate appearances. His OPS+ was 102 and his EqA was .266, meaning he was a tiny bit above league average. The question is – is this level of mediocre performance sustainable or will he regress to the below average player he was at nearly every level of professional baseball prior to this season? Well, that’s certainly a loaded question if I ever seen one.

In most cases, a player’s minor league stats are a good predictor of his future major league performance. Feliz’s minor league stats are farily unimpressive. His career minor league line was .267/.274/.428. Yes, that’s an isolated OBP (.274-.267) of just .007! Live and Let Hack? You Only Walk Twice?

Breaking his minor league career down by year, there is only one year, 2000 at Fresno, that stands out. That year he hit .298 with 33 HR, had 105 RBI, and had 69 XBHs. 2000 was an excellent year for Feliz, but I discount it a bit because the PCL is a notorious hitters league, and he put up those numbers against competition which was a bit younger than he was.

On to a more subjective analysis - anyone who watches the Giants can tell you that Feliz struggles against major league breaking pitches and still lacks plate discipline.

I’m probably guilty of gross over-analyzation, but anecdotally Feliz had a good share of his 2003 success against one speeded, late inning relievers. He hit HRs against Justin Speier, Jay Witascik, Adam Bernero, Billy Wagner, and Guilermo Mota. Facing pitchers who throw only hard stuff is a good match for his strength (he can turn around a fastball as well as anyone), while also hiding his weakness (hitting breaking pitches). Facing starters with a more complete repertoire of pitches on an everyday basis is not a good match for Feliz’s skill set.

So, is Pedro Feliz worth keeping around to be a spot starter and to provide some pop off the bench? Sure. Is it a good move to put him in the starting lineup everyday and give him 600+ plate appearances? No.

Three Dots

Yorvit Torrealba, you’re star is officially fading. You’ve gone from Opening Day catcher, to a backup in a New York minute. Now you’ve hit a new low. You’re Venezuelan winter ball line of .167/.200/.288 means you are now only the second best catcher in winter ball named Torrealba...
…Have I mentioned that it is a stone cold, lead pipe lock that Derrek Lee will be traded and will NOT be playing for the Giants next year?...
…In case anyone is looking to brush up on their MLB transaction rules minutia, I recommend Rob Neyer’s Transaction Primer and Brewerfan.net’s Roster Management. Both are valuable resources that help provide the framework necessary for effective off season speculation…


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The Bullpen

Having already dealt Joe Nathan, and facing the possibility of losing Tim Worrell and/or Felix Rodriguez, the Giants have at least one hole in the bullpen to fill.

* Kerry Lightenberg

Beatagan made an odd move when they declined to pick up Lightenberg’s $1.2MM option for 2004 and paid him a 200K buyout instead. This is really one heck of a market adjustment if a reliever coming off a solid season and possessing a career ERA of 3.09 and a career ERA+ of 140 is worth less than a million dollars.

* Tim Worrell

Like fellow free agents JT Snow and Rich Aurillia, Worrell is worth keeping around but not worth getting into a bidding war over. Giants beat writers have speculated that Worrell could be out of the Giants’ price range because he may command “closer’s money” on the free agent market. I really don’t see that happening, but if some team wants to give Worrell three years and $15 million dollars, then God bless them. Bring him back, but only for one year (maybe two) and only if the price is right.

* Curtis Leskanic

Since leaving Colorado, Leskanic has been a very useful pitcher. This year he had a 2.22 ERA while league hit just .204 against him.

* Tim Rattay


* Rod Beck

This probably won’t happen, considering Beck’s stated desire to be a full time closer, but maybe he could be a mid-season acquisition...in a van down by the cove…

* The Scrap Heap

There is one school of thought that says it’s foolish to spend big bucks on a reliever when cheaper alternatives may be nearly as effective. Collect a bunch of guys via minor league free agency and the waiver wire and then turn Spring Training into an episode of “Antiques Roadshow.”

Brian Sabean: How about this bottle of Sturtze that I found on eBay. Is it worth anything?
The Baseball Gods, Department of Reclamations: Ehh. We’ll give you about a 4.00 ERA, a lot of walks, and a bunch of homeruns allowed.

Ned Colletti: I have an actual antique. You probably get this a lot, but do you think this Orosco is worth anything?
The Baseball Gods, Department of Reclamations: Bwahaaahaaaaaa!

Dick Tidrow: How about this?
The Baseball Gods, Department of Reclamations: Um, what is it?
Dick Tidrow: I found it in a trash dumpster behind Hooters. It’s an Aneudy.
The Baseball Gods, Department of Reclamations: Nice try.

Brian Sabean: Ok, how about this discarded Matos that I found a garage sale in Lodi?
The Baseball Gods, Department of Reclamations: Now, we’re talking. We’ll give you a sub 3.50 ERA.
Brian Sabean: Woo-hoo!

With a tight budget, going the bargain route might be the best way to go.

The Nest Egg?

Here is a juicy bit of Richie Sexson/Giants gossip from TSN’s Ken Rosenthal:

“Brewers G.M. Doug Melvin, targeting young pitching, pursued RHPs Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser, two of the three pitchers the Giants traded to the Twins for C A.J. Pierzynski. The Giants parted with two other pitching prospects for RHP Sidney Ponson last July, but they still could build a Sexson deal around reliever Felix Rodriguez, Class AAA OF Todd Linden and C Yorvit Torrealba.”

Sexson for Felix, Linden, Torrealba, and prospect(s)? Where do I sign up? The difference in salary means the Giants would only be taking on a net of $5.5MM in payroll for 2004, which is within their budget constraints.

That package really doesn’t seem like enough to get a star like Sexson. However, it sure beats the hell out of the hodge-podge of overpaid mediocrity the sixteenandahalfbacks reportedly offered for Sexson.


Congrats to Barry Bonds for his third consecutive and sixth overall MVP Award. 2003 marks the fourth consecutive year that a member of the Giants has won the NL MVP award. All of them well deserved.


Saturday, November 15, 2003

Pierzynski, P-I-E-R-Z-Y-N-S-K-I. Pierzynski.

Oh, that wacky Brian Sabean. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out, just when you think you can predict his next move, he throws you for a loop. In this case a left handed catching loop that is difficult for me to spell.

The other night, Assistant GM Ned Coletti took to the airwaves of KNBR and declared that the Giants were in serious trade talks. This set the wheels in my head into a frenzy. Richie Sexson? Nick Johnson? Javier Vazquez? As is usually the case with Brian Sabean, the correct answer was None of the Above.

* The Deal: AJ Perrzynski and PTBNL/cash considerations for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Francisco Liriano.

* The Good:

- Peirzynski is a pretty damn good player. His raw stat line from 2003 is .312/.360/.464, .824 OPS, 11 HR, 74 RBI. His park adjusted numbers are very good as well: 114 OPS+, .285 EqA.

His 22 win shares ranked him second in the AL among catchers, and he lead the entire Twins team in win shares. To put that in a different perspective, 22 win shares would’ve tied him with Jason Schmidt and Marquis Grissom for second on the Giants.

- Persynski is young and under the Giants’ control for the next two years. He has also improved in each of his first 3 full seasons. His career probably hasn’t peaked yet.

- Adding a lefthanded bat to the lineup goes a long way to addressing the Giants struggles against right handed pitching. His 2003 split against righties was .324/.370/.469.

- AJ didn’t go to San Diego. The quickly improving Pod People were rumored to be interested in acquiring Mr. Pierzynsky’s services. Now, they must turn to Plan B. I’m hoping its Plan “B,” as in Benito or Brad.

- Let’s play a logic game. 1) What do these names have in common? 2) Which one of these is not like the others?

Kevin Joesph, Ryan Vogelsong, Erasma Ramirez, Scott Linebrink, Chris Van Rossom, Jason Grilli, Joe Fontenot, Nate Bump, Mike Pageler, Mike Villano, Darin Blood, Jim Stoops, Jason Brester, Jamie Brewington, Jesus Ibarra, Carlos Valdez, Brandon Rector, Keith Foulke, Bobby Leese, Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Ken Vining, Brian Manning, Chris Singleton, Alberto Castillo, Ryan Meaux, Felix Diaz, and my personal favorite, Fausto Macey.*

* The Bad:

- Obviously, in order to get value, one must give up value. Joe Nathan is a valuable commodity because he’s a) good and b) inexpensive. I wish Joe Nathan nothing but the best in Minnesota.

- Nathan’s departure will likely mean a larger role for FiFi LaPuke. Memo to Felix: It’s called a changeup. Look into it. Thanks.

- I hope Brian Sabean at least explored the possibility of acquiring uber catching prospect Kevin Oudeis, the Greek God of Clutch, from the Phillies. Then again, even offering all of the mediocre relievers in the world wouldn’t have pried the untouchable Oudeis from Ed Wade’s grasp.

- The catcher position wasn’t really in need of an upgrade. Torrealba could’ve provided league average offense (for the catching position, that is) and solid defense at a position where defense is a premium. He also could’ve done so for the league minimum, allowing valuable resources to be spent on RF, 1B, and SP upgrades.

- Alas, my Giants barbecue apron will continue to collect dust. Start fitting yourself for pinstripes, Sheff.

* The Ugly

* The Verdict:

Good deal. As long as Superman is ringless, I will continue to be extremely short sighted when evaluating these types of deals. Win. Now. I don’t mind giving up pitchers who may or may not be good in 2006. Peirsinski gives the Giants a good left handed bat, youthful exuberance, and one of the better offensive catchers in the league for at least the next couple of years.

What out of the blue deal will Sabes come up with next? Freddy Garcia? Chuck Finley? Jim Edmonds? Richard Hidalgo? I’m going with None of the Above.

* Before you e-mail me: Yes, I realized some of these guys were just throw ins and were never really touted by anyone; they were included in the list for dramatic effect. I also realize that the jury is still out on some of those players. The point remains, the overwhelming majority of the young players that Brian Sabean has traded away have gone on to have very unspectacular careers. In Sabes we trust.


Monday, November 10, 2003

SF Giants Sign Maddux

There is a headline you probably will not be seeing this winter, unless, of course, the Maddux in question is Mike Maddux. The Giants have at least one open rotation spot and they need to fill it relatively cheaply. Let’s look at some starters who won’t break the bank.

* Freddy Garcia

Ah, screw it, budget be damned. According to Peter Gammons, the arbitration eligible Garcia could be moved this winter. Both of Garcia’s main weaknesses, giving up gopher balls and struggling against lefties, would be neutralized by pitching in Pac Bell Park. Certainly all pitchers benefit from the pitching friendly confines of Pac Bell, but Garcia would prosper more so than others.

* Pet Hentgen

Hentgen could be a good risk to take, as he was a pretty good pitcher in the second half of the season. Also, the rule of thumb for pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery is that it takes them two full years after the surgery to return to normal. Of course “normal” for a 35-year-old might not be that great, but I still think Hentgen could be above average next year. Also, Ken Rosenthal reports that a few other teams are interested in Hentgen.

* Jason Johnson

Per Peter Gammons, the Giants wanted to acquire Johnson at the trading deadline as part of a larger deal with Baltimore. Johnson is arbitration eligible and could be non-tendered. His numbers are very bland (10-10, 4.18 ERA, 104 ERA+), but they’re bland in an Andy Benes kind of way, and not in an Alan Benes kind of way.

* Scott Erickson

Apparently, Erickson wants to play for the Giants. He’d be a non-roster invitee and would likely start the year in the minors. I can’t wait for the black hightops giveaway day.

* Kurt Ainsworth

While we’re at it, the Giants may as well acquire the entire Orioles rotation…

* Damian Moss

…Or maybe not.

* Miguel Batista

Batista quietly put together a very solid year: 3.54 ERA, .706 OPSA. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the fact the Batista pitched in a hitters park. Let’s look at his park adjusted numbers: his ERA+ was 132 (100 being park adjusted league average), which ranked him 10th in the NL. He’d be a good pick up.

* Juan Cruz

I see the Cubs dealing Cruz this winter. The Cubs brain trust will likely place themselves in the same trap they put themselves in this past offseason. With four righthanders in the rotation, they will pursue a lefty to round out the rotation because, well, you have to have a lefty in your rotation because you just do, ok?

* Cory Lidle

He’s streakier than Soy Bomb man and he’s coming off a poor year. However, Lidle has shown flashes of great pitching (post ASB 2001, post ASB 2002). He’d be a decent gamble to take if he would come cheaply.

* Dustin Hermanson

Why not? He pitched well in limited action with the Giants (3.00 ERA in 39 IP). Let him fight for a spot in Spring Training.

If Jim Brower is promoted to the rotation, Hermanson could be the new long man out of the bullpen. In the next post we'll look at other bullpen possibilities.

A Pitcher’s Paradise?

Interestingly enough, Pacific Bell Park, which is considered to be an extreme pitchers park, played neutrally this year. Per Baseball Reference, PBP’s park factor for 2003 was 99 for Batters and 100 for pitchers (100 being neutral). Here is the home/road OPS differential of select Giants players. The first number is the players’ home OPS, the second is his road OPS, and the last number is the difference.

Ray Durham .875/.736 +.139
JT Snow .732/.894 -.162
Marquis Grissom .809/.772 +.037
Homerun Jesus 1.374/1.177 +.197
Edgardo Alfonzo .722/.728 -.006
Rich Aurilia .800/.671 +.129
Benito Santiago .705/.795 -.090
Jose Cruz, Jr. .808/.752 +.056
Neifi Perez ..560/.693 -.133
Andres Galarraga .838/.843 -.005
Pedro Feliz .734/.855 -.121

Three Dots

…The Baseball Gods’ Department of Irony really, really outdid themselves this time. Now the story of game three will be: Jose Cruz, Jr., who won a Gold Glove for his defensive play in the regular season, dropped a routine fly ball in the eleventh inning which lead to the Marlins’ winning run…
…I was a little surprised to read this blurb on mlb.com, which reports that the Braves will be cutting payroll by “close to $30 million.” Yes, $30 million. Does this take the Braves out of the Sheffield sweepstakes?…
…Lastly, on this Veteran’s Day, let’s take a moment to pay tribute to the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our Armed Forces. We salute you for everything you’ve done to fight for freedom and protect our way of life.


Saturday, November 01, 2003

The Shortstops

Will Rich Aurilia re-sign with the Giants? Will Neifarious post an OPS over .650? If Neifi is the starter, who will be his backup? Will Cody Ransom get a shot? The Giants 2004 SS situation is full of question marks. Fortunately for Giants fans, I have all the answers. In no particular order the answers to these questions, and most every set of questions for that matter, are yes, no, no, and drugs killed Laura Palmer, ya dummy.

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ve probably guessed that I am not the biggest Neifi Perez fan. This site didn’t exist when the Giants brain trust flushed over four million bucks down the toilet last winter in the form of the Neifarious signing, so lets take a moment to criticize the Giants front office.

Trying to defend his indefensible signing of Neifi, Brian Sabean uttered one of the silliest things he, or any GM, has ever been quoted as saying.

"When you have a switch-hitter who plays shortstop and second base, it's almost like you have four players."

Ok…you can stop laughing…now take a deep breath and let that statement sink in…signing Neifi Perez is like signing four players? Well, sure. Unfortunately for the Giants and their fans, those four players are Duane Kuiper, Jody Reed, Steve Jeltz, and Shooty Babitt.

Let’s take a look at some other candidates who will could potentially save us from the unspeakable horrors of watching Neifi hack away for 500+ ABs next year.

* Rich Aurilia

Aurilia could be the Brad Fullmer of 2004. Like Fullmer, Aurilia is a decent, but not spectacular player. In last year’s free agent market, Fullmer discovered that there weren’t any teams willing to shell out $4MM for his skills, so he opted to re-signed with the Angels and took an enormous pay cut to do so. Similarly, I can’t imagine that teams will be lining up to throw multi-year contracts Rich Aurilia’s way.

In his SS post, Waiting for Boof, explained the possibility of Aurilia re-signing with the G-men much better than I can. So check out his take on the SS market, complete with a chart, an Aunt Augustina Aurilia anecdote, and more.

* Alex Gonzalez

Yeah, but which Alex Gonzalez - the one on the Cubs or the one on the Marlins? It doesn’t matter. They’re both better than Neifi.

* David Eckstein

The pickings are officially slim. In this case, they’re slim and short.

Eckstein’s days with the Halos could be numbered as Anaheim’s new owner could be looking at making a splash free agent signing such as Miguel Tejada or Kaz Matsui. Eckstein hits for a fairly decent average, but he doesn’t walk much and, of course, doesn’t hit for power. He also has just slightly more defensive range than the Rock of Gibralter. However, he is a friend of Superman and he might come cheap.

* Carlos Guillen

If the Mariners are able to sign Kaz Matsui, they could non-tender Guillen. Guillen is a switch hitter who has played shortstop, second base, and third base. So, signing Guillen would be like signing six players!

Seriously, I’m a fan of Guillen and he’d be a decent fit with the Giants if he isn’t too expensive. His raw numbers (career .264/.335/.383) are fairly bland, but Guillen was above league average (.274 EqA) in 2003. Also, Guillen has improved in each of the last four seasons.

* Rey Ordonez

Ok, that just wasn’t funny.

* Jose Uribe

Now that would be funny.

* Orlando Cabrera

He was a fairly mediocre offensive player before having a very productive 2003 season. At age 28, he posted an EqA of .276, despite having a career EqA of .244 (.260 being league average). He’s also regarded as a solid defensive player. He’d be a bit of a risk for a multiyear deal, in the event that 2003 was just a flash in the pan, but I think some other team (the Dodgers?) will give him just that.

Ok, I don’t have all the answers. With a gun at my head, I’d guess that Aurilia will re-sign with the Giants, only because the Neifi alternative is so frightening, but that may just be wishful thinking on my part. Who knows? Maybe Neifi will get the gig full time and post a .850 OPS. If he does, then the four players Brian Sabean referred to will undoubtedly be the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

It’s Easy as…

Elias Sports’ free agent compensation classifications are out:

Type A Free Agents – Sidney Ponson, Benito Santiago, Rich Aurilia, Tim Worrell
Type B Free Agents – Jose Cruz, Eric Young
Type C Free Agents – JT Snow, Andres Galarraga

Hmm…I’m not sure where I wanted to go with this, other than to point out that the Giants will likely net themselves an extra draft pick or two.

The scenarios are endless given the fact that we don’t know who the Giants will offer salary arbitration, what free agents they’ll be targeting and if those free agents will be offered arbitration, not to mention which free agents will arrive and depart before December 7. But, given their large number of free agents and their tight budget which limits their ability to sign multiple, quality free agents, its tough to envision a scenario in which the Giants don’t come out ahead at least one draft pick.

That’s my story.

Three Dots, Two Bad Jokes

I wanted to dress up as Neifi Perez for Halloween but I decided against it because I couldn’t decide what type of fabric could best simulate a black hole…errr, I mean four black holes…
…Hey, the 49ers are looking for someone who can boot a ball in a late game, pressure situation. Nah, too easy...
…Lastly, everyone check out Bryan Smith’s “Wait ‘Til Next Year” site (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite hot stove reads, by the way) for his take on the 2004 Giants. Bryan, and a cast of thousands, including Matthew Durham of the excellent Southpaw blog, have some insightful comments on the Giants potential off season moves.