Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Pitchers and Catchers have officially reported and Spring Training is in full swing. Hallelujah! It's time once again to take a seat at the Wait Until Next Year Bar and Grill; a place where all rookies are future stars, all backups are on the cusp of a break out year, and all injury prone players are perfectly healthy.
Here are some of the big stories out of Scottsdale. And remember, today's post is sponsored by the word "optimism," the official word of all things Spring Training.
* El Magico Valdez. He hasn't even done anything yet, save a bullpen session, but El Magico is already the talk of camp. Felipe Alou raved about Valdez' "exploding" fastball. Brian Sabean also had high praise for the organization's 2003 player of the year, calling him the "real deal."
* Jason Schmidt is healthy. So far. Under the watchful eye of the Giants brass, Jason Schmidt threw an uneventful bullpen session. Schmidt believes he will be ready by Opening Day.
Remember that public spat between Schmidt and Felipe Alou? Well, all is forgiven. Heart shaped balloons, cute stuffed animals, and hugs were exchanged, and now there are no hard feelings between the two.
* Robb Nen has been throwing off a mound and hasn't encountered any setbacks. So far so good. Nen has also added a changeup to his repertoire.
* Ryan Jensen is on the comeback trail. Rich Draper, the official propaganda minister of sfgiants.com, offers this puff piece on the former 13 game winner. At age 28, Jensen has decided that it's probably a good idea for a professional athlete to be in shape. He has been riding a bike this off season and has lost 10-15 pounds.
Dustan Mohr Rocks!
While I was looking up something completely unrelated to the Giants, I stumbled across a bit of unexpected good news - Dustan Mohr is a pretty damn good defensive player. Well, based upon my limited understanding of defensive metrics, I think he is.
In order to avoid sample size issues usually associated with part-time players, I'm evaluating Mohr based on his career defensive numbers, rather than just his 2003 statistics. Although, it's worth pointing out that David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range rated Mohr as the top defensive RF in all of baseball for 2003!
Weighted UZR (a weighted average of UZR from 2000-2003) rates Mohr 13 UZR runs per 162 games. This ranks him 8th in all of baseball among right fielders for this time period.
As a RF, Mohr's career range factor is 2.55 and his zone rating is .881. Both numbers are well above league average for a corner outfielder. In fact, a range factor of 2.55 is outstanding for a right fielder. I should point out that a number of Twins outfielders rated highly in range factor and zone rating. It could be that all of them are exceptional defensive players. More likely, there is some sort of ballpark and/or pitching staff bias that inflates these stats. Nevertheless, Mohr's stats are still impressive.
Baseball Prospectus' defensive stats aren't quite as generous in their praise for Mohr, but they still show Mohr to be an above average defender.
I don't fully comprehend the methodology of all of the various defensive metrics, so I'm not in a position to trust one metric more than another (with the exception of defensive win shares, which I do not particularly trust). The bottom line is that Mohr is, at worst, an above average defender and, at best, a very productive right fielder.
Upon arriving at Spring Training, Barry Bonds gave his annual address to the media.
Not surprisingly Bonds was questioned about BALCO, steroids, and BALCO. Also, very predictably, the press conference turned into a theater of the absurd.
Reporter: So, Barry, are you a juiced up fraud?
Bonds: No. They can test me every day if they chose to.
Reporter: Can you comment on the ongoing criminal investigation involving BALCO?
Rick Rielly: Mr. Bonds, are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?
Bob Klapisch: Here in my right hand I hold the names of known Communists who are still employed by the San Francisco Giants.
Bonds: Dude, you're stepping on my kid.
moveon.org: Mr. Bonds, can you confirm that the BALCO scandal is actually a ploy by the Bush administration and the Ashcroft justice department to divert media attention away from its failed war on Iraq, the fruitless tax cuts for the rich, and their ongoing campaign to systematically disenfranchise, oppress, and impoverish minorities, women, children, and the elderly?
Bonds: See, I don't even know what that means.
Reverend John Hale: I have seen too many frightful proofs in court - the Devil is alive in Scottsdale, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!
Bonds: Whatever, dude. Well, time for me to take some batting practice.
Edit: For the record, I did post this entry before this thread was posted at Primer. I have never been a member of the Copycat Party ;)
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
After spurning the Giants contract offer and signing an overpriced deal with the Cubs, Greg Maddux will not be headed to SF next season. So, let's turn our attention to the remaining big name on the market - Ugueth Urbina.
Urbina had a very strong year last season, posting an ERA+ (park adjusted, league adjusted ERA, where 100 is league average) of 160. He also limited opponents to a .637 OPS. There is no doubt that Urbina is in the top tier of relievers in baseball.
He also amassed a bunch of nifty saves. The mainstream baseball world tends to overrate (and overpay) Proven Closers® because of the gaudy save totals they collect. But just because Urbina was overpaid and his role of Proven Closer® is overrated does not mean that Urbina himself is a bad player. For the right price, maybe $2.5MM, he would be a great addition to the Giants bullpen. If his price on the free agent market is more along the lines of $5-6MM then let him go elsewhere.
How will Urbina perform in 2004? Here are the stathead projections, before park and defensive adjustments:
ZiPS: 3.39 ERA
PECOTA: 3.21 ERA, 15.1 VORP
RotoTimes: 4.61 ERA*
* This projection seems a little high considering 1) it's over 1 full run higher than his career ERA 2) he hasn't posted an ERA this high since 1995.
Other Urbina thoughts
* I didn't know this until I looked up his stats, but Urbina began his big league career as a starter. Just wrecklessly thinking out loud here - could he be the fifth starter?
* Urbina is totally signing with us becuase of Felipe! That's why we hired Felipe - to recruit free agents like Vlad and Urbina!
* This off season, Urbina was arrested for allegedly firing gun shots out of a window in his SUV. Hey, nobody's perfect. The charges were later dropped.
* Seriously, Urbina's attitude has always been the biggest knock on him. Earlier this winter, Urbina said he'd be willing to sit out the entire year if he doesn't receive a contract offer to his liking. That's not the kind of attitude I'd want on my team. But, then again, his attitude certainly didn't stop the Marlins from winning the World Series.
The Westwood Blues Guide to Dressing Yourself, Part 2
The Lunatic Fringe fashion movement is sweeping the nation. Last week I linked to this shirt. While the designer of the shirt gets points for a great idea, said designer shouldn't be forwarding their resume to Donna Karan any time soon.
Kudos to Waiting for Boof for introducing me to this collection of lunatic fringe gear. This design looks snazzy.
Also, here in LaLa land, the boutiques on Rodeo Drive can't keep this shirt stocked fast enough (link credit goes to Dodger Blues). Winona Ryder liked the design so much that she stole two of them. *rim shot*
Neifi Phone Home
Alas, the Internet revolution let us down. Despite my best efforts at utilizing the Internet to drum up a grass roots campaign to bring Neifi to the Rockies, Neifi will not be playing for the Rocks next year.
Well, we're gonna have to use some good old fashion 19th century technology to send Neifi out of town.
From LA Times columnist TJ Simers:
"...so I called the Dodger Stadium switchboard and asked to speak to Frank McCourt. The phone rang several times, and then Frank McCourt answered. I should have known he couldn't afford a secretary or caller ID."
Simers was able to dial the Dodgers at 323-224-1500 and speak to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. So, in other words, if you dial 323-224-1500 and ask to speak with anyone in the Dodgers organization, the switchboard operator will put you right through. In theory, we can influence the LA powers that be just by dialing 323-224-1500. That's 323-224-1500.
Hmmm...Mr. DePodesta, my name is Doug and I have an important message for you. Remember that baseball team hazing ritual in college where you ran through the streets of Cambridge naked? Well, I've come across a video of your late night stroll. I'm planning on including this compromising and very embarassing video in my upcoming GMs Gone Wild video.
You can prevent your inclusion in the GMs Gone Wild video by trading Edwin Jackson to the Giants for Neifi Perez. And, um, leaving $2,000 in cash at the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Blvd. tommorrow morning at exactly 6:18 AM.
And, um, are you hiring? Hello?
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Daddy Mags, I want that one. Can we get him?
In a matter of days, pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training and a first ballot Hall of Famer is still looking for work. Admittedly, there isn't much hope that the Mad Dog will sign with SF, so I'm pretty much wasting my time writing about this. In other words, from the world of forcedcomparamania®, blogging about the Giants signing Greg Maddux is like someone from blogforamerica planning the parade route for Howard Dean's Presidential Innauguration.
Nevertheless, we march on and present 3 great reasons to sign the latest Westwood Blues Holy Grail of the Month, Greg Maddux.
1) Greg Maddux is Good
No one expects Maddux to duplicate his early 90s dominance at age 38, but it is a pretty good bet that Maddux will still be an effective pitcher in 2004. Courtesy of our favorite stathead projection tools, let's see how the Professor is expected to perform next season.
ZiPS: 3.62 ERA, 17-8, 209 IP
PECOTA: 3.56 ERA
RotoTimes: 3.58 ERA, 15-10, 210 IP
Keep in mind that these numbers are calculated before park and defensive adjustments. Those numbers will look even better if Pac Bell and the Giants defense are taken into consideration (and they'll look worse if Wrigley, Aramis Ramirez, and Todd Walker are taken into consideration).
2) Maddux Could Be a Bargain
Do I want the Giants to sign Maddux for 3 years and $34MM? No. Fortunately, the market for Maddux is nowhere near that expensive. As of now, the only known offer that Maddux has on the table is 2 years and $10-12MM from the Cubs. 30+ starts, 200 innings, a pretty good ERA, about 15 wins, and great defense for about $6MM per year - where do I sign up?
3) "Pitching and Defense"
Throughout the offseason, Brian Sabean has repeated the mantra that the team is built on "pitching and defense." It's really tough to take that statement seriously considering 1) Brett Tomko and Dustin Hermanson comprise 2/5 of the starting rotation, and 2) SF's ace starter and ace reliever are coming off surgeries.
Signing a pitcher that you can pencil in for over 30 starts, 200 innings, and a sub 4.00 ERA would go a long way toward actually building the team on pitching and defense.
I do realize that Maddux is no great bet to put up good numbers in 2006 or maybe even 2005, but I don't care. As long as Homerun Jesus is without a ring, I'll continue to maintain an extremely shortsighted view of the Giants. Now is the time to go for broke. If that means that Maddux may earn a salary in 2006 that is not commensurate with his performance that season, then so be it.
The Westwood Blues Guide to Dressing Yourself
Why, no, I'm not running out of topics to write about or anything...As a hip resident of trendy West LA (insert eye roll), I'm taking it upon myself to correct some of the awful displays of fashion at the ballpark. When you're heading out to the park, follow these rules or put yourself at risk of an appearance on Extreme Makeover.
* Know What Sporting Event You're Attending
Hey, I like the 49ers too, but they don't play their games at Pac Bell. Here's a good rule of thumb to follow - when you're at a Giants game, wear your Giants jersey. When you're at a 49ers game, wear your 49ers jersey. Get it?
This rule is particularly important if you're at a visiting stadium. It's your duty to show off your teams' threads. A couple of years ago, I attended a Giants-Pirates game and I saw a handful of Pirates fans who were all decked out in Steelers jerseys. What, no terrible towels?
* Know What Teams Are Playing
You've got tickets to a Giants-Padres game. So, very logically, you're dressed head to toe in Toronto Blue Jays apparel. We're looking at you funny because you're Canadian. That's it.
* "I See Orange People" T-Shirts
You may see orange people, but I see Joan Rivers panting into a paper bag, downing tablets of anti-depressants while readying herself for years of post-traumatic stress therapy.
* Turn Ahead the Clock
In the winter of 2002, the Giants front office was able to travel to a parallel universe where Neifi Perez was an above average shortstop worthy of a multiyear contract. In that universe all of the cool kids were wearing Neifi Perez Turn Ahead the Clock jerseys. Coincidence?
I dig the recent throwbacks trend. My favorites are the Willie Mays NY Giants jersey and the Jack Clark early 80s jersey. It's tough to go wrong with a throwback.
* Matching T-Shirts
Hey honey, why don't we wear matching T-Shirts to the game tomorrow. Even better, we can make T-Shirts ourselves! I have some orange and black sequins and we can write "Giants" in orange glitter paint. Come on, it'll be sooo cute.
* SF's Next Top Model
The design isn't the greatest, but you'll be my personal hero if I see you parading around San Francisco showing off this.
Three Dots, Three Cool Links
...A big welcome to the newest Giants blogs: Jay's Giants Blog and Fog Ball. Also, congrats to John of Only Baseball Matters on his new digs...
...I haven't received hatemail from an A's fans in almost two months, so I'm no longer soliciting hatemail (although you're welcome to send some in anyway). My A's fan census will have to go unfinished, although I'm happy to report that I heard from over half of all living A's fans...
* * *
...Oops. Maybe I jumped the gun a bit on writing off the 2004 Dodgers. LA and their new owner Frank McCourt have reportedly entered the Maddux sweepstakes and may even be the favorites to land the Professor. Maddux certainly won't aid LA's anemic offense (particularly if they have to trade Adrian Beltre to make room for Maddux), but adding a first ballot HOFer certainly won't hurt the Fodgers.
Also, LA is searching for a new GM and they've been granted permission to interview Oakland A's Assistant GM
Sunday, February 01, 2004
I've been sending out some mixed signals in the last few posts, so just to clear things up:
1) I believe the 2004 Giants will be a very good team. In fact, they're a good bet to win the division.
2) That said, this off season has been awful.
This winter has been an odd kind of awful. Let me explain. Other than overpaying for Michael Tucker and forfeiting a draft pick in the process, I don't think the Giants made any bad moves this winter. In Dustan Mohr, SF basically got a decent fourth outfielder for free. If Brett Tomko can be somewhere around league average and pitch 200+ innings, he'll be a good pick up at 500k. Brian Sabean filled the catching void with a young, talented player. For the most part, the players that re-upped with the Giants were re-signed to reasonable contracts.
The problem is not what the Giants did. Rather, the problem is what the Giants didn't do. They didn't add a needed power hitter to the lineup. They didn't even attempt to re-sign Tim Worrell; a strategy that could backfire if Robb Nen is on the shelf. They failed to acquire a real shortstop. They didn't spend money on free agents in one of the most buyer friendly free agent markets ever.*
If there was ever a time to go for the jugular, it is now. You have the greatest hitter since Ted Williams on your team, 40,000 fans loyally passing through the turnstiles night after night, a very good team coming off a 100 win season, and the team could be just a good player or two away from another World Series run. Just a couple more parts could put the Giants over the top to finally win that elusive World Series Championship.
So, what do they do? Cut payroll, raise ticket prices, and field a less talented team.
The lunatic fringe rests its case.
* I'll add the usual disclaimer that the winter isn't over yet and SF may very well sign one more player. If it's Greg Maddux, then I'll take back just about all of the negativity that I've posted this winter (except the stuff about Neifi). If it's Antonio Osuna, then my off season ranting stands.
One of the only good subplots to the offseason is that the Giants two main rivals in the past few years, the Dodgers and the D-Backs, have also taken a step back this off season. Arizona traded away Curt Schilling and lost Miguel Batista to free agency. However, Arizona's troubles pale in comparison to the train wreck that is the LA Dodgers off season.
With the ownership in limbo this off season, Dodgers GM Dan Evans didn't really do much of anything. Actually, the inactivity is all part of new owner Frank McCourt's (hilariously referred to as "McDebt," "Mc Bankrupt," or "McCarpetbeggar" by LA fans) "A-B-C" plan, with the accronym apparently standing for Anything But Championships.
So far this winter, the Dodgers downgraded their pitching staff by trading Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver. In an attempt to bolster their feeble offense, they've added Juan Encarnacion, Jeremy Giambi, Jose Hernandez, and...well, that's about it. Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis, Dave Roberts, et al. will live to hack another day.
If the Giants off season can be described as awful, then the Dodgers off season could be described as a complete failure. It's as if the Dodgers are trying to be bad. The Producers, Frank and Jaime McCourt, present "Springtime for Neifis, A Hacktastic Romp with Cesar and Alex at Chavez Ravine."
Things will eventually get better for the Fodgers. They have a strong farm system and will likely be major players in next winter's free agent bonanza. In the meantime, would it be wrong to sadistically take pleasure in yet another season of mediocrity from the Dodgers? I didn't think so.
...Ahhhhhhhhh!! Sweet merciful Randy Myers! Robb Nen may not pitch in 2004! His career might be over! Just kidding. Nen's rehab is actually on track. He's likely to pitch in 2004. No, wait. We're not sure yet and we won't know until Spring Training. Will the real Robb Nen's right shoulder please stand up?
There are no certainties regarding the health of Robb Nen. In fact, the only thing that can be said for certain is this - with all of the waffling, backtracking, and vaugeness coming out of Stan Conte's mouth this past week, it's abundantly clear that Conte has a very bright future in politics.
What we know about Robb Nen's health: 1) He's throwing off a mound without any pain. 2) That's it. We won't know anything else until Spring Training. Let's keep our fingers crossed...
...The regular seasons in the winter ball leagues have wrapped up. Let's see how some of our favorite Giants did. (Warning: Don't make too much of winter ball numbers)
Jason Ellison....283/.338/.317 in 60 ABs
Yorvit Torrealba....256/.310/.363 in 168 ABs
Neifi Perez....315/.368/.426 in 108 ABs
Pedro Feliz....342/.371/.534 with 7 HRs in 161 ABs
...Brian Sabean chatted with fans this past Friday. I submitted a question, but it was screened out. So I've learned an important lesson - when submitting a question to an online chat with a GM, be careful that your question doesn't read something like: "why on earth did you give a two year contract to someone who hits like Chico Lind with a rolling pin?" Nevertheless, among other things, Sabean revealed that Edgardo Alfonzo will not be traded to the Yankees. Check out the chat transcript here.