Westwood Blues

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Random Thoughts from Spring Training

I'm back from my vacation in Scottsdale and I've brought some random thoughts home with me.

* Spring Training stats can be very misleading and are often the victim of gross misinterpretation. So, when evaluating players based on their Spring Training stats try to avoid these dangerous pitfalls:

1) The University of Kentucky syndrome: You watch UK blowout Florida in the SEC championship game, and you're very impressed, so you pick Kentucky to go to the National Championship game. After the first round you realize that Florida really wasn't all that good and then Kentucky loses to UAB and then your brackets look like crap.

When evaluating stats, always keep in mind the context that these stats are accumulated in. One shouldn't judge Kentucky based solely on their win over a far inferior Florida team. Likewise, don't get too excited if a 30 year-old minor leaguer gets all kinds of hits against 19 year-old A ballers.

2) The Ruben Rivera syndrome: Ruben Rivera had a great spring last year and that level of success should have carried over into the regular season, right? What a player does in 1800 career big league PAs is a much better predictor of future performance than what a player does in 50 PAs in exibition games.

* Cody Ransom continues his bizarre pattern of playing well whenever I see him, but being awful in the rest of his games. On Saturday, he had two hits in the ninth inning, including a long homerun to left-center field. This is pretty much a roundabout way of asking for free tickets to Giants games. So, if you're reading this Cody, can I get some tickets?

* I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on the Giants farm system, but I do make a point to follow the major prospects (i.e. the Lindens, Aardsmas, Cains, and Merkins of the world). I've decided to add 3B prospect Nate Schierholtz to my list of minor leaguers that I have more than a passing interest in. In Friday's game against the Mariners, Schierholtz delivered a towering homerun off Shiggy Hasegawa that landed just beyond the 410 marker in right centerfield. Not bad for a 20 year old.

Schierholtz caught my eye last season when he was drafted unexpectedly high and went on to hit .400 in the Arizona Fall League.

Update: Steve Shelby points out that Schierholtz played in the Arizona Rookie League, not the Arizona Fall League.

* Another farm hand who impressed me was David Aardsma. He has a lot of zip on his fastball and his knuckle curve is a thing of beauty. He just needs to learn to not try to sneak a high fastball past Edgar Martinez. Look for Aardsma to be a member of the big league squad at some point in the season.

* I don't care what anyone else says, The Pink Pony in Scottsdale is the coolest baseball hangout ever. Here is a great article about Scottsdale's mecca for Northern California baseball fans. Half the fun of Spring Training is being able to meet and hang out with other Giants fans. There is no place better to do that than the Pink Pony.

* Some people wonder what would happen if two black holes of the same size and gravitational pull are facing each other. Would there be zero gravity at the midpoint between them? Thanks to Brian Sabean's recent signing of Deivi Cruz, this question will be answered when Cruz and Neifi take pregame infield practice before tomorrow's game.

In addition to being a poor hitter, Deivi Cruz is also a subpar defender. UZR and range factor both rate him to be below average for a shortstop. Of course, it's just a minor league contract, so signing Deivi Cruz is nothing to lose sleep over.

* With Jason Schmidt opening the year on the DL, the Giants are looking for another starter. One player mentioned as a trade possibility is Kevin Jarvis. Jarvis has a career ERA of 5.83, a lengthy injury history, and a contract that is as movable as a three ton boulder. Um, thanks, but no thanks. Between Chad Zerbe, Tyler Walker, Brian Cooper, et al. the Giants have plenty of internal options who can be equally as ineffective as Jarvis.

Also, after careful consideration, I've determined that it is impossible for Mariners GM Bill Bavasi to fleece anyone, let alone Brian Sabean. I'm not too concerned about this one happening.

* Another rotation possibility is Scott Erickson. Joe Roderick points out that Erickson can become a free agent if he does not make the Mets starting rotation. Erickson had previously expressed interest in coming to the Giants. Signing Erickson to a minor league deal would be a typical Sabean low cost/medium reward type of deal. Look for the Giants to attempt to sign Erickson if Erickson becomes a free agent this weekend.

Edited to add: Nevermind. The Giants acquired Wayne Franklin from the Brewers. Franklin will likely fill in for the injured Schmidt.

* Everybody else is doing lame countdowns so I'm doing some too:

Giants Opening Day - 6 Days!
Giants Home Opener - 13 Days!
July Trade Deadline - 130 Days!
Neifi Contract Freedom Day - about 220 Days!


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The 2004 Preview, Part 4 - The Bullpen

* Closer - Robb Nen

ZiPS: 2.49 ERA, 1.01 WHIP
PECOTA: 3.13 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
RotoTimes: 2.62 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

I haven't mentioned Nen's health status much this off season. This is mainly because of the incredible uncertainty surrounding Nen's right arm. One day he is on track and feeling good, a few days later he experiences discomfort in his shoulder. Other than worrying, there isn't much we can do about Nen's health.

No wait, we can help Robb Nen!

Send Robb Nen your good luck charms! Send him rabbit's feet, four leaf clovers, wishbones, a good luck Care Bear, a horseshoe, a Good Luck from Storm Lake, Iowa Postcard, or maybe a Witch Doctor Spell Kit. Better yet, allow Nen to channel Kirk Rueter by sending Nen this talking Woody action figure.

This is all a silly way of saying that we have very little knowledge of Robb Nen's health. Predicting Robb Nen's 2004 is a pointless exercise.

* Relief Pitcher - Matt Herges

ZiPS: 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.00 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
RotoTimes: 2.93 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

The optimists' guide to Spring Training: every positive outcome that occurs in Spring Training games is a sign of things to come in the regular season, while everything negative can be easily written off as "just Spring Training." In six innings this spring, Matt Herges has yet to give up a hit. Woo-hoo!

He doesn't get much notoriety, but Herges was very effective for the Giants last season. He had an ERA+ of 156; posting an ERA that was one and a half runs better than the park adjusted league average. In fact Herges has been better than league average in each of his seasons in the big leagues.

Oh, and he hates the Dodgers too.

* Relief Pitcher - Scott Eyre

ZiPS: 3.96 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.35 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
RotoTimes: 4.20 ERA, 1.53 WHIP

From the Complaint Department: I mentioned this a few times throughout the season, but it bears repeating - I don't like the way Felipe Alou uses his situational lefty, Scott Eyre. Eyre is very effective against left-handed batters and very ineffective against righties. Last season, southpaws hit a paltry .219/.280/.271 against him, while righties hit a whopping .305/.383/.422 against Eyre.

Despite this enormous platoon split, Alou let Eyre face more right-handed batters than lefties.

* Relief Pitcher - Jason Christiansen

ZiPS: 4.50 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.79 ERA, 1.78 WHIP
RotoTimes: 4.63 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

The rule of thumb with a player who is recovering from Tommy John surgery is that it usually takes two full years to return to normal. "Normal" for a 34 year-old with a career ERA of 4.17 may not be anything to get excited about, but we'll take good news whenever we can get it.

One of the things I like about Christiansen is that he doesn't have an enormous Myersian platoon split that so many LOOGYs possess. For his career, Christiansen has a 1.45 WHIP and a .251 BAA against righties. He has a 1.33 WHIP and a .229 BAA in his career against fellow southpaws.

* Relief Pitcher - Felix Rodriguez

ZiPS: 3.57 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.12 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
RotoTimes: 2.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Felix Rodriguez Pitching Chart 1995-2003: Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball.

Felix Rodriguez Pitching Chart 2004: Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Fastball. Slider! Fastball. Split Finger! Sinker! Eephus Pitch! Knuckleball!

During winterball, Felix Rodriguez allegedly developed some new pitches. Earlier in his career, Rodriguez relied exclusively on a four seam fastball to retire batters. He's lost some of the zip on that fastball and needs other pitches to compensate for his loss in velocity.

If he can throw his new pitches effectively and with confidence, look for F-Rod to have a nice year.

* Jim Brower

ZiPS: 4.24 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.03 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
RotoTimes: 4.14 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

Jim Brower will be called on to fill the Brian Boehringer/long man/occasional starter roster spot.

Hmm...If Ryan Jensen is "the truck driver," what does that make Brower? The machinist? The longshoremen? The forklift driver? Brower is the latest in a long line of blue collar heroes to man the Giants bullpen. Hell, between Brower, Jensen, John Johnstone, and Chad Zerbe one could conceivably cast extras in a John Cougar Mellencamp music video by just picking from a pool of recent Giants relievers.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Jim Brower. Outlook for 2004: He'll pitch a few mediocre innings in all of the blowouts. He'll make a few mediocre starts when Jason Schmidt is a game time scratch. And he'll spend his down time toiling away at his day job at the Hunter's Point Shipyard. Ain't that America.

Next time: I'm headed to Spring Training. If I can find an internet connection and some free time, I may post some rambling thoughts from the desert.


Friday, March 19, 2004

The 2004 Preview, Part 3 - The Rotation

* Starting Pitcher - Jason Schmidt

ZiPS: 3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
PECOTA: 3.41 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
RotoTimes: 2.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

The ZiPS projection system comes with a disclaimer: "As with all projections, specific knowledge of non-statistical attributes of the player should temper what the computer says."

Judging Jason Schmidt by his stats alone would lead one to believe that 2003 was a fluke and that he would likely regress to his previous level of performance. Let's look at his ERA+ the last few seasons:

1997 93
1998 106
1999 109
2000 85
2001 103
2002 110
2003 185

Which one of these is not like the others?

On a more subjective level, Schmidt's 2003 looks more like a break out year than a fluke. Anyone who has watched Schmidt pitch on a regular basis knows he has dynamite stuff. As Mike Krukow would say, "it's just a matter of putting everything together." At age 30, Schmidt finally put everything together and became one of the elite starters in the league. 2003 was not a fluke.

* Starting Pitcher - Kirk Rueter

ZiPS: 4.63 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
PECOTA: 9-12, 4.96 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
RotoTimes: 4.08 ERA, 1.41 WHIP

A few years ago, stathead savant Voros McCracken introduced a pioneering method to evaluate hurlers: Defense Independent Pitching statistics (DIPS). For a full explanation of DIPS, go here and here. In a nutshell, DIPS evaluates pitchers based on the outcomes of ABs that are not affected by the defense (homeruns allowed, strikeouts, and walks allowed) as opposed to outcomes of ABs that are affected by the defense behind the pitcher. These defensive independent outcomes are the main inputs used to calculate DIPS ERA (dERA). To make a long story short: a pitcher's dERA is a better predictor of his future ERA than ERA itself.

I was initially skeptical of DIPS (and still am to some extent) in part because of Kirk Rueter's remarkable knack for outperforming his dERA. Rueter has always had a ridiculously low strikeout rate and he allows HRs at an above average rate, yet he is still relatively successful. Let's compare Rueter's dERA with his actual ERA:


Note: Thanks to Replacement Level Yankee Weblog for providing a DIPS calculator. Also, park factors for 1997 and 1998 weren't available, so I used the "quick and dirty" method of calculating dERA for both of those years.

Year after year, Rueter is more successful than his peripherals would suggest. His dERA has been remarkably consistent; it's about 5.00 every year. With the exception of 1999, Rueter has easily outperformed his dERA in his years with the Giants. Look for this pattern to continue.

* Starting Pitcher - Jerome Williams

ZiPS: 3.92 ERA, 163 IP, 1.27 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.15 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
RotoTimes: 3.46 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

At this time last year, the drool inducing trioka of Foppert, Ainsworth, Williams LLP left Giants fans gushing at the prospect of seeing three amazingly talented hurlers in the Giants rotation for years to come. Prospect guru John Sickels rated Foppert as the best pitching prospect in baseball, with Williams and Ainsworth 4th and 5th, respectively.

A year later, reality has set in - Kurt Ainsworth is an Oriole and Jesse Foppert is out for the season, leaving Jerome Williams as the lone 2004 representative of the jaw dropping triumvirate.

With a limited statistical history, it's tough to project what type of year Williams will have. From the Westwood Blues Hunch Department: I think Williams will be just fine in his second season. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I'm at ease whenever Williams takes the mound. Even if he is flustered and nervous at times, Williams just looks like he knows what he's doing.

* Starting Pitcher - Brett Tomko

ZiPS: 4.68 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.68 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
RotoTimes: 4.64 ERA, 1.44 WHIP

I was impressed with Tomko after listening to him in this interview on the Giants Hot Stove show. He has a good attitude, a solid work ethic, and the fact that he is a painter will provide me with an absolutely endless supply of lame art history jokes to use throughout the season.

The glass half full crowd makes a big deal about Tomko's post-all star break success last season - he was 8-3 with a 4.57 ERA after the mid summer classic. However, Tomko's post-ASB peripherals were still fairly ugly. The league hit .293 against him and he allowed 13 HRs in 84 post-ASB innings. I'll stand by my earlier comments that I will gladly take a league average year from Tomko. Anything better than that is gravy.

* Starting Pitcher - Dustin Hermanson

ZiPS: 5.01 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.78 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
RotoTimes: 4.35 ERA, 1.43 WHIP

Spring Training 2004 has about as much suspense as the St. Joe's-Liberty game. The only position battle for the Giants is the fifth starter spot and even that isn't exactly an edge of your seat who-killed-Laura-Palmer type cliffhanger.

Dustin Hermanson is the clear front runner to open the season as the Giants #5 starter. Hermanson started throwing a split-fingered fastball last season and he attributes some of his success with the Giants to his new pitch. He logged a 2.97 ERA in very limited action with the Giants last season.

* Starting Pitcher - Kevin Correia

ZiPS: 3.70 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
PECOTA: 4.53 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
RotoTimes: 3.60 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

Beyond the 5 man rotation, teams should have at least two other options (or 9 other options if you're the Yankees) to make starts. A long man in the bullpen who can make spot starts and a AAA hurler ready to step in when a member of the rotation visits the DL are both necessary components of a starting staff. At some point in the long season at least one of the starters will go down (or be deemed ineffective) for a period of time and Kevin Correia will likely be the Giants' first line of defense.

As I've stated before, I like the idea of Correia opening the year in Fresno because I feel he should not be rushed into a full time starting role just yet. Let's keep in mind that Correia was just drafted in 2002 and has all of 181 career innings pitched in his professional career.

Next time: The bullpen


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The 2004 Preview, Part 2 - The Outfield

The 2004 Preview rolls along with a look at the Outfield and the Catchers for the Giants.

* Outfield - Michael Tucker

ZiPS: .250/.330/.414
PECOTA: .242/.328/.379
RotoTimes: .256/.331/.412

Where have you gone, Ellis Burks? The Lunatic Fringe turns its lonely eyes to you.

Relying on the Tuckammondohr® clusterfuck of passability to patrol right field at 4 Com Park is one of the reasons that the Lunatic Fringe has spent much of the off season strapped to its collective high chair, lobbing heaps of apple sauce at the Giants front office.

Rather than rehashing why the Michael Tucker signing was a bad idea (well, if you're interested, go here), let's focus on the one good thing Michael Tucker brings to the table: as a left-handed hitter with a career OPS over .800 against righties, Tucker will address the Giants' struggles against right-handed pitching.

Last season the Giants' regulars against righties (Durham, Snow, Aurilia, Bonds, Alfonzo, Grissom, Santiago, and Cruz) combined to hit .273/.360/.431 against northpaws. Once you remove the Bonds outlier from the equation, they hit just .267/.336/.400 against righties. In other words, the Giants lineup against right handed pitching was basically Barry Bonds and seven Joe Credes (OPS .741).

Using Tucker and his career OPS of .816 against righties to spell Marquis Grissom (career OPS of .705 against righties) will address this platoon split weakness.

* Outfield - Jeffrey Hammonds

ZiPS: .245/.327/.389
PECOTA: .251/.325/.395
RotoTimes: .254/.329/.403

No, really...where have you gone, Ellis Burks? Please come back.

Already? It's only a week and a half into the Spring Training schedule and the Giants' brittle outfielder is already injured. Hammonds suffered a broken thumb when he was hit with a pitch in last Tuesday's game. This will be the 3,827th trip to the DL in Hammonds' career. Hmmm...The Boy in the Bubble?

If he's healthy, Hammonds will be a good option as a fourth outfielder. The problem is, he is never, ever healthy.

* Outfielder - Dustan Mohr

ZiPS: .277/.344/.417
PECOTA: .261/.326/.434
RotoTimes: .265/.324/.417

I've been enjoying the springtime Pollyana kool aid, so I'll look past his hacktastic strikeout totals and low OBP for now and present some reasons why Mohr may be a pleasant surprise:

- Career Home/Road Splits:
Home: .231/.299/.349 .648 OPS
Road: .286/.339/.467 .806 OPS

Could a move away from the Metrodome jumpstart his career?

- After acquiring Mohr, Brian Sabean noted that Mohr is a good a fastball hitter. The fastball happy National League is a better fit for his skills than the AL. Hey, it sounds good in theory.

- As I discussed here, I believe Mohr is a good defensive player. It's particularly important to have a skilled defender patrolling the vast expanses of the Pac Bell outfield.

* Center field - Marquis Grissom

ZiPS: .271/.302/.430
PECOTA: .268/.306/.441
RotoTimes: .280/.309/.434

I know that I'm in the vast minority of Giants fans, but I'm really not that concerned about a big drop off from Grissom. Keep in mind that 2003 makes two years in a row that Grissom's park adjusted rate stats were above league average.

Grissom has a big platoon split (career .705 OPS vs. righties and career .800 OPS vs. lefties). He should make every start against lefties, but his starts against righties should be reduced. The decreased playing time means Grissom's counting stats will likely fall, but his proper usage will mask a potential decline and allow his rate stats to be about the same as last season.

* Left field - Superman

ZiPS: .309/.504/.638
PECOTA: .343/.519/.772
RotoTimes: .336/.528/.754

Barry Bonds is good. Do I really need to say more?

Obviously, Bonds is the key to the Giants season. If he is healthy and putting up his usual mind boggling numbers, the Giants should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. If he is injured for a considerable period of time, the Giants can go ahead and begin scheduling their respective tee times for October.

Just how big of a drop off is it from Bonds to his replacement? Let's see how the other left fielders did last season. In 2003, left-fielders for the Giants not named Barry Bonds hit a collective .173/.237/.370. Yikes. Bonds' slugging percentage was higher than his replacements' OPS.

Pray for Bonds to be healthy.

* Catcher - AJ Pierzynski

ZiPS: .315/.361/.466
PECOTA: .289/.339/.430
RotoTimes: .297/.335/.428

Lost in all of the Pierzynski-is-a-trash-talker hot stove articles is the fact that AJ is a pretty damn good player. Left-handed hitting catchers, who hit .300 and are entering the prime of their careers don't come along too often, so I was glad to see the Giants pick him up.

We all know about Pierzynski's offensive talents, but what about his defense? If there is anything that I trust less than defensive metrics, it's defensive metrics for a catcher. But I'll give it a shot anyway.

Baseball Prospectus' rate 2 stat shows Pierzynski to have been 4 runs above average per 100 games last season. Incidentally, Benito Santiago was 10 runs below average per 100 games in 2003. Also, Yorvit Torrealba was 21(!) runs above average per 100 games (sample size fluke?).

On to more traditional stats - Pierzynski had only 5 passed balls last season. I was surprised to see that Santiago had only 8 passed balls last season. I swear that all 8 of them came in critical situations.

Tempering defensive stats with my own subjective judgment, I feel comfortable saying that Pierzynski will be better defensively than Santiago but not as good as Torrealba.

* Catcher - Yorvit Torrealba

ZiPS: .270/.318/.386
PECOTA: .264/.320/.404
RotoTimes: .273/.322/.410

From Torrealba's baseball-reference page:

From Yorvit Torrealba Increases in Seriousness, by H. Melville: "The next moment, the waning light expired, and with it the waning flames of the horned altar, and the waning halo round Yorvit Torrealba's brow..."

Hmmm...I think what he's trying to say is that he agrees with Baseball Prospectus' assertion that, in terms of VORP, AJ Pierzynski does not represent a significant upgrade over Vorvit Torrealba; certainly not enough of an upgrade to warrant trading Joe Nathan and two other arms, while also justifying the $3.2MM salary differential. Or something like that. Well, at least that's the way I interpreted that passage.

Next time: The starting rotation.


Sunday, March 07, 2004

I Still Don't Give a Fuck About BALCO

...must..resist..urge..to..mock..the avalanche of knee jerk steroid hysteria by the mainstream media. That was a close one.

Not surprisingly, the blogosphere's coverage of the BALCO story is far more objective and reasoned than the knee jerking frenzy found in other sectors of the media. Our friend John Perricone of Only Baseball Matters has the most comprehensive and insightful coverage of the BALCO story. For some other good reads on the steroid mess go here, here, here, and here. I may chime in with my thoughts at a later date.

Westwood Blues marches on with Part 1 of our 2004 Preview.

The 2004 Preview, Part 1 - The Infield

A few words before I begin - first and foremost, head on over to Batter's Box and read a Giants preview that will put this one to shame.

With a little help from ZiPS, PECOTA, and RotoTimes, I'll be evaluating the 2004 Giants on a position by position basis. I'm only including rate stats (BA, OBP, SLG) and looking over counting stats (HR, RBI, etc.). Counting stats are based largely on playing time and, as has been discussed by Tom Gorman at Fog Ball, predicting playing time is a tricky proposition. Also, the RotoTimes calculations for OBP are a bit off because they do not include HBPs or SFs. We begin our look at the 2004 Giants with a preview of the infield.

* Third Base - Edgardo Alfonzo

ZiPS: .271/.357/.410
PECOTA: .278/.356/.425
RotoTimes: .279/.358/.426

Alfonzo had a poor season last year and getting a bounce back year from Fonzie will be one of the keys to the Giants' success. Whenever a good player struggles many are to quick to ask why. Is he injured? Is this the beginning of a decline? Is he pressing? Is he having difficulty adjusting to a new team? I think the answer is some combination of these factors, but I'd put particular emphasis on the question of whether or not he was pressing.

Alfonzo himself believes that he was trying to do too much and that was part of the reason for his struggles. It's tough to evaluate this question from a statistical standpoint. The only stat that I can think of that may shed some light on the issue is number of pitches per plate appearance. If Alfonzo was pressing, then he would be swinging at pitches he wouldn't normally chase and would therefore see fewer pitches per plate appearance than normal. Let's take a look at how many pitches Fonzie has seen per plate appearance throughout his career:

1995 3.40
1996 3.80
1997 3.80
1998 4.11
1999 4.06
2000 4.05
2001 4.09
2002 3.88
2003 3.48

Last season Alfonzo saw the fewest number of pitches per plate appearance since his rookie season. Now, correlation certainly does not equal causation. This fact alone is not responsible for his poor year and it may have little or next to nothing to do with it. But it's worth pointing out that a normally patient hitter, a type of hitter who waits for his pitch, was much less selective last season.

* Shortstop - You know who

ZiPS: .238/.269/.316
PECOTA: .251/.284/.329
RotoTimes: .253/.283/.350

Everyone in the world, save the Giants front office, knows that Neifi's offense sucks more than 10,000 simultaneously collapsing galaxies, but what about the Sultan of Suck's defense? While Win Shares, Baseball Prospectus, and range factor tend to rate him highly, UZR does not. Weighted UZR rates Neifi as 0 UZR runs.

As I've stated before, I don't fully comprehend the methodology of some of these defensive metrics, so I'm in no position to endorse one over the other.

* Shortstop - Cody Ransom

ZiPS: .210/.280/.327
PECOTA: .226/.299/.376
RotoTimes: .231/.262/.371

This is why I'm not a scout. The few times I've seen Ransom play, he has impressed me. I attended this game where he went 2-4 with a long homerun. While severely lacking in the plate discipline department, he has a nice, fluid swing and some pop in his bat. His minor league numbers, however, are ugly. As in Linda Tripp ugly.

While there aren't any reliable defensive stats for minor leaguers, I don't know that anyone who has seen him field would dispute the notion that Ransom is a slick fielder.

* Shortstop - Orlando Cabrera

ZiPS: .286/.343/.430
PECOTA: .291/.347/.443
RotoTimes: .283/.335/.437

Yeah, like the Giants aren't gonna trade for him at the deadline or something. It's never too early to start speculating about mid season trades.

* Second Base - Ray Durham

ZiPS: .275/.360/.430
PECOTA: .281/.363/.436
RotoTimes: .282/.359/.445

Injuries plagued much of the 2003 season for Ray Durham but his 2003 rate stats of .285/.366/.441 were pretty much in line with his career averages of .279/.353/.431. In fact, Durham's offensive stats have been remarkably consistent throughout the years.

Year EqA OPS+
1995 .248 82
1996 .268 95
1997 .260 91
1998 .288 114
1999 .279 109
2000 .271 100
2001 .275 107
2002 .306 116
2003 .282 111

After a few growing pains in his first couple of years, Durham has established himself as a consistently good hitter. There are no certainties in baseball, but if Durham can avoid the flukey injuries that limited his playing time in 2003, he's a good bet to be a solid contributor to the 2004 Giants.

* First Base - JT Snow

ZiPS: .246/.361/.386
PECOTA: .245/.352/.373
RotoTimes: .264/.363/.406

Snow will be an important member of the lineup because he will likely hit second, directly in front of Barry Bonds (I'm assuming the Michael Tucker hitting third experiment won't make it out of Spring Training). Snow would be as good as option as any on the team to hit in front of Bonds because he gets on base at an above average rate.

Considering Snow will be the Giants Opening Day first baseman for the eighth consecutive season, most Giants fans are very familiar with him so I really don't need to provide any further analysis. In other words, I'm rushing to wrap up tonight's entry before The Sopranos comes on.

* First Base - Pedro Feliz

ZiPS: .245/.282/.454
PECOTA: .247/.294/.416
RotoTimes: .260/.291/.469

When Pedro Feliz connects with a belt high fastball it's a thing of beauty. The crack of the bat has a Bondsian sound to it and Feliz has enough power to hit a fastball out to any field. Just ask Billy Wagner.

Hitting anything that spins is another story altogether. If I were Feliz I'd hire a personal batting practice pitcher to throw nothing but curveballs. Shawn Estes, I think we've found your calling. Feliz' lack of plate discipline and his inability to hit off speed pitches have kept him from being a full time starter.

As the right handed half of the first base platoon, Feliz has some big shoes to fill. The Big Cat had an excellent year last season, hitting over .300 and posting an OPS of .841. More impressively, Galarraga ranked 7th among NL first baseman in VORP, an impressive feat for a platoon player/pinch hitter.

Next time: The outfielders and catchers.


Monday, March 01, 2004

Knott's Razzie Farm

In the spirit of last week's Razzie Awards, I want to honor this steaming pile of crap with a Westwood Blues Reilly Award for shitty journalism (thanks to Across the Seams for the link). Congratulations to Tom Knott of the Washington Times for writing a column so devoid of intelligence, tact, and writing talent that my IQ dropped 5 points after I read it.

Don't worry, I'll save you the trouble of reading this tripe by summarizing it: Barry Bonds is a jerk.

The bullwer-lyttonesque opening line is a doozy:

"Barry Bonds should just shut his fat trap and not pretend to be outraged by the well-founded suspicions of others."

I smell a Pulitzer. By revealing his intense hatred of Bonds the person in the opening sentence of the column, Knott exposes the fact that he is far too biased to write anything meaningful or objective on the subject. The Washington Times could've saved all sorts of newsprint, not to mention the collective sanity of their readers, if they would've just ended the column right there.

But, alas, Knott's claptrap continues on. Knott also wins the Westwood Blues Reilly Award for strawman of the year award for this bit of journalistic brilliance:

"Wendell hardly comes across as a tough guy. He was asked a question. He delivered an answer, which is his constitutional right, in case Bonds missed that particular lesson in school."

Umm, yes, that was Bonds' point exactly. Here is Bonds' quote:

"You got something to say, you come to my face and say it and we'll deal with each other. Don't talk through the media like you're some tough guy...Furthermore, Turk Wendell's Constitutional rights should be suspended."

*Bangs head against desk*

Bonds is actually encouraging Wendell to speak his mind. Barry just prefers that outlandish attacks be made to his face rather than through the media.

Dr. Phil Knott ends this trainwreck of a column by dispensing valuable life strategies advice.

"If anything, given that it is his name being dragged through the mud, he should be pleading his case to anyone with an ear each day."

Hello? Knott just spent an entire column ripping Bonds for having the audacity to open "his fat trap" and defend himself, now he criticizes Bonds for not defending himself. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And you're really damned if you wasted three minutes of your life reading Knott's dreck.

In the eyes of Knott, Rick Reilly, Tom Verducci, and other miscreants masquerading as journalists, Barry Bonds' biggest crime is that he is Barry Bonds. By most accounts, the reticent Bonds is a relatively private person who shuns media attention. Bonds doesn't fuck every camera, microphone, and notepad in sight. This behavior, of course, is unacceptable to soundbite hungry newspaper hacks. If Bonds doesn't live his life in a manner of the media's choosing then Bonds is branded a jackass.

So, congrats on your Westwood Blues Reilly awards, Tom Knott. I'd ask you to give an acceptance speech, but I'd prefer it if you would just shut your fat trap.

Batting Order Blues

Various stathead studies have shown that the exact order of a lineup isn't nearly as important as most fans think it is. The difference between an optimal batting order and a suboptimal one is only about couple of wins per year at the very most. However, by hitting Michael Tucker third in the Giants lineup, directly in front of Barry Bonds, Felipe Alou is giving this stathead maxim its most stringent test to date.

Even with the knowledge that an optimal batting order doesn't make *that* much of a difference, there really isn't a good reason to not use your lineup efficiently.

Michael Tucker should not be hitting directly in front of Barry Bonds. The person hitting in front of Bonds should be good at getting on base. At the very least, this player should get on base at an above average rate. Michael Tucker has a career OBP of .338, a few points less than the park adjusted league average of .347. Let's see how the OBP of the other players in the lineup compare with their park adjusted, league average OBP. The following numbers are the difference between the player's career OBP and their park adjusted, league average OBP.


In terms of OBP, Ray Durham, JT Snow, Edgardo Alfonzo, and AJ Pierzynski would all be better options to hit in front of Bonds than Michael Tucker. Granted, throughout the course of the year, Felipe Alou will use just about everyone on the team in each batting order slot. Let's just hope that the Michael Tucker hitting third idea is nothing more than a Spring Training experiment that isn't used much in the regular season.

News and Notes

...Now that I've spent a good deal of this entry ripping the baseball media, I thought I'd take a minute to praise a member of the media. I've linked to this before, but anyone who is new to this site or has yet to read this piece, check out Dan LeBatard's eloquent article on Barry Bonds. And check out his brilliant (but lengthy) piece on Vladimir Guerrero...
...Pedro Feliz has "looked sharp" in his defensive workouts at shortstop. Would it be too much to ask the baseball gods for passable defense at short and a breakout offensive year from Feliz? Please save us from Neifi...
...Congrats to legendary Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons, this year's recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. The Simmons era was a bit before my time but there are many, many Giants fans who grew up on Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons. Now Lon and his good friend Russ are immortalized forever in Cooperstown, thus adding another chapter to the rich history of Giants baseball...