Westwood Blues

Saturday, June 26, 2004

June Boom

"With selective help from the minor league system, he (Brian Sabean) should be able to rebuild the Giants into a contender again. Just don't expect any miracles this season."

-- Glenn Dickey, "Giants Should Prepare for Big Purge" 5/20

"This year is starting to have a not-meant-to-be feel, and this team generally isn't mentally (or physically) strong enough to fight through it."

-- Skip Bayless, "Another Day of Giants' Bloopers" 5/17

"It's been a good run in San Francisco, but unless Sabean finds some greater fool to overpay for mediocre prospects and save his bacon, it's over."

-- Joe Sheehan, "Brian Sabean Has No Clothes" 5/14

Ho hum. Following a four game sweep of the Dodgers, the Giants have reclaimed their rightful spot atop the NL West. It's becoming clearer by the day that the Giants will indeed be buyers at the July trade deadline. So, let's spread some more unsubstantiated rumors and speculate as to whom the Giants might try to acquire.

* Freddy Garcia

Canwegethim canwegethim canwegethim canwegethim? Freddy Garcia is my trade deadline Holy Grail. As I pointed out in the off season when there was speculation that he could be available, Garcia would be a great fit with the Giants. His two main weaknesses - gopherballitis and an abnormally large platoon split will be neutralized a bit by Pac Bell Park.

From 2001-2003 lefties hit .259/.325/.436 against Garcia while right handers hit just .231/.278/.348.

The wild card in any potential trade with Seattle is Mariners GM Bill Bavasi. Bavasi made a series of stupid moves in the off season, leading to the M's suckiness this season. Bavasi has made almost nothing but poor decisions in his time with Seattle, and I see no reason for him to all of a sudden start making shrewd moves in July. Sabean (or any other GM for that matter) could very well fleece him.

* Jaime Moyer

Yes, he's older than dirt, but Moyer is still an effective pitcher. Besides, a rotation with Kirk Rueter and Jaime Moyer would just be wicked cool. Is Scott Sanderson available too?

* Shawn Chacon

Chacon has pitched poorly this year (7.84 ERA, .206 WHIP), but he's really being misused as a closer. Chacon was one of the few reasonably successful starters the Rockies have had in recent memory, so, very logically, he was removed from the rotation and is now used to pitch the ninth inning.

In a kinda sorta related story The Denver Post reports that the Rockies are scouting Fresno reliever Dave Veres and are "intrigued" by the possibility of trading for him. Obviously, the Giants would have to include someone else in a package with Veres to get an arm like Chacon's. Maybe Darryl Hamilton?

* Mike Sweeney

This is a bit of a stretch, as Sweeney has some health problems, not to mention the fact that he'll get a raise of $1.5MM if he's traded. It's worth pointing out that the Giants are one of the eight teams that Sweeney can be traded to. Also, per Joe Roderick, the Royals director of scouting has been tracking Merkin Valdez.

For all intents and purposes, the Giants may have gotten Mike Sweeney already. As I've pointed out here more than a few times, in terms of RCAA, replacing Neifarious Perez with a merely league average SS has the same effect on the offense as replacing JT Snow with Mike Sweeney. Thank you, Deivi Cruz.

* Russ Ortiz

As the Braves Dynasty is beginning to crumble, Atlanta may actually be sellers this July. Both the White Sox and Yankees have expressed interest in Russ, and the Braves are apparently scouting the Yankees' minor league system.

* John Smoltz

Admittedly, this is probably more of a fantasy than anything, but can you imagine a 1-2 punch of Schmidt and Smoltz? It's not exactly a secret that Smoltz wants back into a starting rotation; he's even hinted that he'd waive his no-trade clause if another team is willing to give him an opportunity to start. Citing health concerns, the Braves have relegated him to the role of closer.

Oh by the way, here are Smoltz's post season stats:

13-4, 2.77 ERA in 194 IP.

* Ugueth Urbina

Peter Gammons' recent article entitled "Six trades that Make Sense Were Cooked Up By My Intern During a Meth Binge" proposes that the Giants send Matt Cain and Lance Niekro to the Tigers in exchange for UUU and Mike Maroth.

Remind me again why is it absolutely necessary for someone with gaudy career save totals to pitch the ninth inning? Oh, nevermind. Don't get me wrong, I certainly wouldn't mind having a talented reliever like Urbina on my team, but is it such a necessity to have a proven closer® pitch the ninth that the Giants should give up one of their few legitimate trading chips?

* Kris Benson


* The Field

El Lefty Malo probably hit the nail on the head when he guessed that Sabean will probably pick up a reliever on the cheap. Last year Sabean acquired Matt Herges for a fringe prospect, the year before he acquired Scott Eyre off waivers...which brings me to my next point...

* Who to give up?

Here's Peter Magowan on who the Giants could possibly give up in a trade:
"Everybody is asking for the same thing," Magowan said. "They want Pedro Feliz and Yorvit Torrealba, (Merkin) Valdez and Matthew Cain. Both of those guys pitched well over the weekend. They also want (Todd) Linden and (Lance) Niekro. We are reluctant to give up these guys. We did it once last year for Ponson, and that was special circumstances because we felt he was capable of getting us to the World Series. We gave up three pretty good prospects (Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss and Ryan Hannaman). We're not going to give up the core of what we feel we need here for the future."
So, if the Giants aren't going to give up any of the inexpensive players on their current roster, nor either of their top prospects, then don't expect too much in return.

Personally, all things equal, I don't want to see Linden, Foppert, or Aardsma go. I want Linden and Foppert to stick around for purely fanboy reasons. Aardsma is a farmhand who can pay dividends as early as this season, so he fits into the win now mode and should be kept.

I won't kick and scream if Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez are traded. (That is, assuming the Giants get someone useful in return. If they trade Matt Cain for BJ Surhoff, I'll go completely apeshit.) Pitching prospects can get injured, become ineffective, injure their shoulders, struggle to develop, injure their elbows, tear their labrums, tear their rotator cuffs...Anyway the odds are stacked against young pitchers ever making an impact at the major league level. Merkin and Cain's trade value may never be higher.

I'll defer to the Sabean administration's judgement on which minor leaguer to trade and which to keep. Sabean's track record in this regard is outstanding. Now, get to work, Sabes!


Thursday, June 17, 2004

The 7 Dwarves: Reloaded

If I told you that the Giants have the best offense in the league, would you believe me? With a team EqA of .274, the Giants were tied with the Phillies for the best offense in the NL, entering play on Thursday.

After a sluggish start to the season, Giants fans and, ahem, certain Giants bloggers were bemoaning SF's feeble offense. Since then, there has been widespread improvement from nearly everyone on the team (except, of course, for Neifarious, who is trapped in a state of perpetual suck). Check out these apples:

Bonds .483 (!)
Tucker .302
Minor .294
Grissom .286
Feliz .272

Even Gidrah is getting in on the action - Giants RF are hitting a collective .254/.367/.448 with 11 HRs.

It's probably not a coincidence that the Giants have been racking up offensive stats while the in the midst of a 25 game stretch against the subpar Expos, nineandahalfbacks, Rockies, Rays, O's, and Blue Jays; a stretch in which they went 18-7. A look at the schedule for the next two weeks shows the Giants playing the Red Sox, Dodgers, and A's. We'll check back in early July to see if the Giants are still among the league leaders in offense.

Nen News is Good News

It remains unlikely that Robb Nen will pitch this season, but Nen and the Giants are doing everything they can to try and get him healthy. Nen, who now has more comeback attempts than Mickey Rooney, was re-evaluated (again) by doctors this week.

Injury guru Will Carroll (subscription required) offered the following comments on Nen:
Nen's shoulder is likely able to pitch effectively once he gets it back into "game condition." Where he's had the problem is in recovery the next day. Instead of normal soreness, Nen has pain. Depending on Nen's effectiveness, he could be used as something like a "last resort reliever," saved for only the highest of high leverage innings--or for show.
For arguments sake, let's just say that come August, Nen is available to pitch about one inning a week. Would you activate him? I probably would. In a perfect world, I wouldn't waste a roster spot like that. However, knowing that Felipe Alou reads from the Dusty Baker School of Managing and has a reliever in his bullpen who is used only in case of a biblical plague (Wayne Franklin), why not use this roster spot on someone who is actually good?

Nen has been quoted as saying he wants no part of an experiment like this, nor does he want to trot out to the mound one more time just to get an ovation. Nen wants to be able to pitch like he did pre-surgery - pitch on back to back days and more than one inning if need be. However, Nen may have no other choice than to accept a limited role in the bullpen, that is, if he is able to pitch at all.

News, Notes, and Gossip

...Spreading unsubstantiated rumors is fun! Supposedly, Allard Baird, GM of the Royals, was allegedly in Sacramento tonight to watch the Grizzlies-A's game in person, presumably to scout A's prospects*...
...One of my favorite writers, Michael Wolverton, profiles some California League farmhands in this piece (subscription required) for Baseball Prospectus. Amongst the profiles of Matt Cain and Freddie Lewis, he mentions Giants fringe prospect, James Garcia. Garcia is one of my favorite Giants farmhands for the sole reason that he attended UCSB at the same time I did.

Garcia has made a name for himself amongst obscure Giants minor leaguers because of his outstanding K/IP ratio (105 Ks in 71.1 IP) for San Jose last season. He's certainly made a fan out of Wolverton who called Garcia one his "favorite pitchers to watch in all of baseball." Wolverton concluded that "Garcia has a good chance of helping a major league bullpen in the near future."

Garcia doesn't have a drool inducing fastball, but he does have a dominating slider, which helps him rack up mass quantities of strikeouts. Keep an eye on this kid...
...A question for LA readers: anyone know of any good sports bars (preferably one where Giants/49ers fans hangout) in the Hermosa/Redondo/Manhattan Beach area? Let me know (westwoodblues[at]yahoo[dot]com). I may even be willing to go into Lawndale. Maybe. I'm moving to Redondo Beach in a few weeks and I need to know where all the cool kids hang out.

Incidentally, it may not have been the best idea to name my site after a neighborhood, given my nomadic moving patterns - this is my third move in three years. This site will still be Westwood Blues, as Redondo Blues doesn't have quite the same ring to it...

*Edited to add that John Shea confirms that Allard Baird did attend last night's Grizzlies-Rivercats game. Shea floats some possible Carlos Beltran to the A's scenarios. The Giants are unlikely to land Beltran, but could they be in the running for Jason Grimsley and/or Mike Sweeney? Commence rumor spreading now...


Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Sun Rises in the West and Sets in the East

Grass grows on the south side of a tree. There is no traffic on the 405. Brian Sabean drafted three hitters with his first three picks! Wow!

The Giants' first pick was Eddy Martinez-Esteve a DH/LF/RF/3B from Florida State. He hit .399/.464/.737 this season for the Seminoles.

To put college statistics into some sort of context, Craig Burley of the Hardball Times developed a metric which adjusts collegiate raw stats for park factors and strength of schedule. Burley's Top 250 collegiate position players of 2004 can be found here.

So where does Martinez-Esteve rank on the list? Drumroll please...Martinez-Esteve ranks as the 7th best position player in the collegiate ranks this season by Burley's linear weights metric. It's important to note that this stat adjusts for quality of competition faced. The ACC was stacked this season as 6 teams from that conference made the College World Series.

What's more, Baseball America even invoked the name Manny Ramirez in their profile of Martinez-Esteve. Oh wait. Unfortunately, they were referring to his defense. For those who are unfamiliar with Manny's "defense," let's just say that it's probably a shade under Glenallian. BA also reports that Martinez-Esteve is apparently "uninterested" in improving his outfield defense.

With their next pick the Giants selected John Bowker, a Sacramento native and an OF from Long Beach State. I don't know anything about him, but this quote from Bowker has made me a fan of his already:
"It's unbelievable and a dream come true. I'm in shock right now. Being from Sacramento, I've always wanted to be drafted by the Giants."
The Most "Interesting" Signing of the Offseason Revisted

Well, now that I've mentioned the 2004 draft, it's only natural that I point out Michael Tucker's pathetic numbers:

.287/.387/.482, .868 OPS, .308 EqA

Hey, what the hell? Michael Tucker is useful?? How did this happen?

This is only through 164 ABs and Tucker is such a streaky hitter that he should have the phrase "soy bomb" tatooed across his chest, so I'm not quite ready to eat a serving of crow. But I'll gladly begin cleansing my palate if he has these numbers come August. In fact, if Tucker has an EqA over .300 at the end of the year, I'll personally send Rob Neyer a red flannel bedecked crow for him to feast on.

News and Notes

...With the Giants' first round pick, the Royals selected Matt Campbell, a left-handed hurler from the University of South Carolina. Would the Giants have picked Campbell had they not shitcanned their first round pick? Who knows? An interesting option at pick #28 for the Giants would've been Texas reliever Huston Street. He's in the David Aardsma mold, in that he is a college reliever who is not too far from being ready for the bigs. In the Giants win now mode of thinking, he would've been a great fit with SF. Oh well...
...The College World Series provides Giants fans with an opportunity to see their top picks on ESPN this Friday. Eddy Martinez-Esteve and the Florida State Seminoles will play on ESPN Friday at 1:00PM Pacific. The LBSU Dirtbags game on Friday at 7:00 will be televised on ESPN2. For the rest of the weekend games check your local listings as ESPN is apparently providing regional/whiparound coverage on Saturday and Sunday.
...While perusing some of the Giants minor league numbers I came across Lance Niekro's stats: .290 MLEqA, .364/.388/.701. The knock on Niekro has always been his lack of power (among other things), but so far this year he has 16 XBHs (4 HRs) in just 77 ABs. Now this may be just a small sample size fluke and nothing to get too excited about. However, considering that a bushel of poison ivy is a cash crop compared to the crop of recent Giants hitting prospects, we'll take any ounce of good news that we can get...


Saturday, June 05, 2004

Gidrah Gets a New Head

Jeffrey Hammonds - you're fired!

Yep, *that's* the problem with the Giants - a platoon outfielder with an EqA of .258.

Hammonds was pretty much producing what was expected of him. PECOTA predicted an EqA of .254 vs. an actual EqA of .258. His .694 OPS was only a shade under the forecasts of .720 (PECOTA) and .716 (ZiPS).

So, why was he cut? Could it be that the SABES projection system predicted another .850 OPS out of Hammonds? If the Giants expected Hammonds to duplicate his success of last year, then the problem is with the Giants' unrealistic expectations, not Hammonds' performance.

Meanwhile, although he doesn't appear to be ready to be called up to the big leagues, Todd Linden and his .217 MLEqA are headed to the show.

Linden's sluggish performance in the minors could be a little misleading, though. The Giants claim that Linden is major league ready as a right hander, but needs some work from the left side. They also believe his numbers are skewed a bit because there is supposedly a lower proportion of left-handed pitchers in the PCL than in the majors.

Whatever the case may be, I'm not convinced that Linden will be a big upgrade over Hammonds.

Hype! Hype! Hype!

When it comes to their minor leaguers, the Giants MO is very clear: hype them up, wait for them to have a successful stretch and then trade them. As a Giants fan, I'm happy to be part of the hype machine. Let's look at some standout farmhands:

* Cody Ransom - .316/.404/.610, 10 HRs, 8 SB, 0 CS

Ransom's hot hitting in AAA earned him a call up to the big leagues. A lifetime .231 hitter in the minor leagues going on a tear usually isn't something to get too excited about, as this is probably just a blip on the statistical radar.

But, part of me wants to believe that Ransom has turned the corner and could be a decent utility player at the big league level. As has been mentioned by Kruk and Kuip, when Ransom was with the Giants earlier in the year, he spent a lot of time picking the brain of He Who Knows All About Hitting. Todd Linden was quoted as saying that Ransom made a mechanical adjustment to his swing and, voila, Ransom went on a tear.

Hey, he can't be any worse than Neifarious:

Ransom: .280 MLEqA
Nifty: .201 EqA

* Merkin Valdez: 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BBs

After rehabbing his sore shoulder in extended spring training, El Magico's first start of the season was a dandy. According to the Giants, Valdez allegedly hit 99 on the gun.

So, when's he gonna get to SF? I want instant merkin gratification and I want it now. Here's what prospect guru John Sickels says about Merkin's progress:

"I imagine that they'll go slowly with him at first, but he should hit Double-A later this year. A major league appearance late in the season is still possible if he remains healthy and maintains his command."

* Noah Lowry - 54 IP, 4.33 ERA, 39 Ks, 17 BBs

The Giants 2001 first round pick tossed a shutout for the Grizzlies this past week. I've never been particularly high on Lowry. Noah's changeup is a major league ready pitch, but his lack of another quality pitch has kept him out of the top tier of Giants prospects.

In spring training, Lowry got a number of swing throughs on his changeup, but he was consistently beat on his other pitches.

Hopefully, he can follow up his shutout with some more impressive performances. I would love to see him prove me wrong.

* Matt Cain - 62.2 IP, 1.72 ERA, 76 Ks, 17 BBs

Cain has been dominating A hitters this season and will likely be promoted soon. So, when will he get to SF?

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Matthew Pouliot has a nice profile of Cain (among others) on rotoworld.com; here's what he says about Cain's future:
"Because the Giants have traded several young pitchers, they won't be afraid to be aggressive with Cain. Valdez, who also pitched at Hagerstown last year, was talked about as a candidate for the rotation this spring. Cain is three years younger than Valdez, but he's not nearly that far behind him in pitching years. If he can stay off the DL and continue to put up quality numbers, he could make it to San Francisco in the first half of 2005."

Hits and Misses

...The major league draft is coming up this Monday. I'm having trouble building up excitement for this year's draft because Tucker the Giants don't Tucker have a pick in the first round. Tucker.

Allow me to save the suspense for everyone and announce that the Giants will draft a pitcher with their first pick. Really.

I'll also keep an eye on who the Royals draft with their gift wrapped first rounder from the Giants. Of course, it's completely unfair to follow this pick and dream about what he would've done if he were a Giant, but I'm going to do it nonetheless. I'm not one to guarantee predictions, but mark my words, whomever the Royals draft with the Giants' first round pick will turn into a star. That's just the way it works...
Q: What's more fun than watching the Dodgers lose to the Brewers at Dodger Stadium?

A: Watching the Dodgers lose to the Brewers at Dodger Stadium and watching problem child Milton Bradley go completely apeshit. He launched a bag of balls onto the field, threw a ball to the warning track, and then sprinted to LF to retrieve the ball and then throw the ball into the stands. Good times...
...Lastly, check out Swingin' Amiss - a cool new Giants blog authored by Primate extraordinaire, Bangkok9...