Westwood Blues

Saturday, April 30, 2005


How 'Bout Them Apples!

Matt Cain's numbers on the season for Fresno:

25 2/3 IP
10 H
5 ER
11 BB
29 Ks
0.82 WHIP
1.75 ERA

And of course, the most impressive number of them all: 20. Coming into the season, I was hoping that the 20 year-old Matt Cain would be able to hold his own at Fresno this year. Well, he's done more than hold his own this year. If he keeps dominating AAA hitters, he is going to force his way onto the major league roster this season.

Neifi Sucks

Just sayin'.

In his years with the Giants, Neifarious was a favorite punching bag of the Giants blogosphere, but now that he is no longer with SF, I wondered if the Cubs blog army would carry on the tradition of lambasting El Malo at every available opportunity.

Boy, have they ever. Check out this hilarious spoof of Nomah's Sports Illustrated Cover. I love it. It's uproariously funny and extremely disturbing at the same time.

In fact, that same blog has an entire collection of great photoshop humor. Check out this and this. View the entire gallery while you're at it.

Link hat tip to McCovey Chronicles.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Benitez Out 4 Months

Link

Begin gratuitous swearing now.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Giants Prospect Roundtable Part 6: The Hitters

The bloggers roundtable discussion concludes with a look at some of the position players in the Giants farm system.

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Friday, April 22, 2005


Giants Prospect Roundtable Part 5: Matt Cain

Part 5 of the Giants Prospect Roundtable is now posted at Biased Giants Fanatic.

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Monday, April 18, 2005


Prospect Roundtable, Part 4: Merkin Valdez

Yes, his name really is Merkin ... must resist urge to make lame joke ...

This is part four of the Giants bloggers prospect roundtable. This installment features a discussion on Giants minor league hurler Merkin Valez.

Once again, the roundtable participants are Tom and Rob from Fogball, Steve from Giants News Diary, Alex from El Lefty Malo, Martin from Biased Giants Fanatic, Grant from McCovey Chronicles, and yours truly.

Part 1: David Aardsma is posted at Fogball.
Part 2: Brad Hennessey is posted at El Lefty Malo.
Part 3: Pat Misch is posted at McCovey Chronicles.

Steve: So far, we have discussed David Aardsma, Brad Hennessey and Pat Misch. We are now moving the discussion to Merkin Valdez. Along with Aardsma and Hennessey, Valdez is one of the Giants pitching prospects who has seen a little time in the majors. I think almost every talent evaluator regards him as the Giants #2 prospect. He has a mid-90s fastball. When used as a reliever, the fastball often reaches the upper 90s. His mid-80s power slider is his second best pitch. His changeup is still a work in progress. It is uncertain whether Valdez's future is as a starter or a reliever. He'll need the changeup to remain a starter. As a reliever, he would not need the changeup, and so he could reach the majors faster. What is Valdez's future with the Giants this year and beyond?

Alex: Merkin hasn't pitched well in his ever-so-brief forays above double-A. He has to prove himself first at Fresno and show that he's more than a one-pitch pitcher. Has anyone here witnessed this "mid-80s power slider"? I'm paranoid that it lives just a few caves down from Sasquatch and the next hill over from Jesse Foppert's "high-90s fastball" that scouts allegedly saw in the minors.

It certainly couldn't be a Frankie Rodriguez type slider, or else Merkin would be in the Giants bullpen already. But if it's a pretty good one, then Merkin is already light years ahead of *Felix* Rodriguez, who didn't become a successful major leaguer until 1999 -- the year he turned 27. As far as we know, Merkin turns 24 in November.

By the way, It is only valid from here on out to compare Merkin to pitchers named Rodriguez. In fact, it will soon be revealed that his real name is Rutherford Nigel Harrington "Tinkles" Rodriguez, or R-Ni-Ha-"T"-Rod.

Grant: Of all the names in the world worse than "Tinkles" Rodriguez, "Crotch Wig" Valdez has to be right up there.

I'm conviced that the Giants were trying to go to the pound and find a Yhency Brazoban of their own when they called up Merkin. It was, at the time, a pretty good move. The fastball was excellent, and that's all he would have needed for some limited short-relief success. The command was awful, though. Who knows if that was due to big-league butterflies or not, but it was dissapointing. I remember reading that Merkin's command of his fastball is what made him such a nice prospect. Hopefully, that Merkin comes out of the gates this season.

I do think he'll end up in the bullpen, if only because that will be where the immediate hole will be. He'll help out in the 'pen, do well, and stay there. I can't say if that's a bad thing or not, because I have no idea what his fastball looks like after 100 pitches. If the velocity is still there, it is worth giving him every chance in the world to start.

Tom:
Stop -- K/9 -- BB/9 -- K/BB
------------------------
LowA--9.58-- 2.83--3.36
HiA --11.1-- 1.26--4.91
AA --6.70-- 3.24--2.07
AAA --9.00-- 7.20--1.25
MLB --10.8-- 16.2--0.67

Merkin is a prospect on the basis of his 156.0 IP in Hagerstown when his K/BB was 166/49. At the time we thought his name was Manuel Mateo and that he was a couple years younger.

He's still got electric stuff, and the chart above is a little misleading because the sample sizes aren't even close to fair (156--35.2--41.2--5.0--1.2). He's still got a filthy fastball and an equally filthy slider and it's really a matter of locating both. The HR rate has always been good and I think he's got a good chance to be successful in the majors as a reliever. It really all depends on his command and it's hard to say what will happen there. In the Sally League he was great on this front. Last year the wheels fell of the wagon.

Who knows what 2005 holds?

BTW: In Dominican Winter ball he had a 3.91 ERA in 25.1 IP with 21 K / 14 BB. In Cactus League games this spring he posted a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 IP with 3 K / 3 BB.

Steve: The Giants knew about Merkin Valdez's real name and real age before the 2003 minor league season began. The Baseball America 2003 Prospect Handbook lists him as "Merkin Valdez," not as "Manuel Mateo." When the Giants acquired Valdez in mid-December 2002, he was still known as Manuel Mateo, although I suspect the Giants already knew about the name and age change when the trade was completed. That is a small correction to what Tom said above. Additionally, I think the change in age may have been closer to nine months than two years.

I would note that Valdez's one start in Fresno last year was under somewhat special circumstances in case any one was wondering why he had just one start in Fresno. To keep Merkin Valdez on a regular pitching schedule during the Cal League's all-star break, the Giants had him make a spot start at Fresno on June 28. Valdez did not make his Double-A debut until July 18, three weeks later. Also, according to Baseball Prospectus, Merkin Valdez faced an unusually high quality of hitter while in the majors. The average hitter he faced batted .260/.341/.466. There were only nine others pitchers in baseball last year who faced hitters with a higher average OPS (minimum 12 TBF).

Alex: Has this filthy slider actually been recorded on videotape? Has anyone here seen it?

Those Dominican walks don't sit well with me. Yes, small sample size, but it seems as if he's been pressing, or nibbling, ever since his promotion to AA. Which makes me wonder if the slider isn't as good as the Giants scouting machine told us, or that it's gotten worse since Hagerstown, and that more advanced batters are laying off.

I'm almost more excited for the season to start in Fresno than in S.F., to see how Misch/Cain/Valdez hold up.

BTW, did you guys catch this gem from Henry Schulman on Tuesday March 22nd: "On Monday, camp was reduced to 37 players with four cuts. One was outfielder Todd Linden, who is good enough to make a lot of major-league rosters." As a batboy?

Martin: I like Linden but I never knew that there was a great need for .179 spring hitters in the majors. Learn something new every day! That explains why Neifi got a job, he can honestly say that he can hit .179, though not easily. Thanks for the laugh!

I am with you Lefty, I'm looking forward to seeing how Fresno turns out, with the pitchers and even some of the batters on the cusp, though Norwich and San Jose will probably be better viewing for hitters nearing the cusp, with Lewis, EME, Ortmeier, Buscher, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, maybe Timpner, Bowker playing for those two teams. Then there's Sanders and Mooney, whom BA has touted, whereever they end up playing.

Steve: I saw Valdez's final start of the year when Valdez had this line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 0 HR. I made some notes about the game, and here is part of what I wrote then about Bowie's 6-1 win over Norwich: "The difference in the game was that Bowie got the timely hits with runners in scoring position.... The weather in Bowie was wet. Valdez began the game with a 90-91 mph fastball (on the stadium gun). By the 3rd inning his fastball was generally 92-93 mph. By the end of his performance he was generally around 94 mph. I did see him touch 96 mph once. I think he did pitch better than his line score would indicate. A few hits were bloops fisted hard enough to reach the outfield. Valdez's off-speed pitches seemed to improve over the course of the game."

I don't know why Alex is so skeptical that Foppert never pitched in the upper-90s in the minors. But it does illustrate how fans may distort what they hear in scouting reports. To quote what Baseball America said entering the 2003 season, "Foppert has a mid-90s fastball that was clocked as high as 99 mph." Fans would do a better job of remembering the emphasis is on the mid-90s fastball, not the upper-90s fastball.

I was thinking of comparing Merkin Valdez and David Aardsma directly. From what I understand, it seems to me that Valdez currently has the better fastball and the better slider. Aardsma may have the better changeup. On command, I might give a slight edge to Valdez. I agree with Grant that Valdez seems more likely to end up in the bullpen than in the rotation. In that case, Valdez could be the closer, with Aardsma setting him up.

Alex: I'm skeptical of Foppert's minor-league gun readings for two reasons:
1) up in the bigs, he never came close to a mid-90s fastball that touched 99. Folks have said that's because his elbow was already injured, but....
2) I suspect the Giants make a habit of inflating their prospects' talents now and again. Perhaps all teams do this on a selective basis. Perhaps I'm just being paranoid. But I don't believe "filthy slider" until I see it with my own eyes.

Doug: John Sickels witnessed Foppert pitch at both AA and AAA where Foppert's fastball was clocked at "94-96" on the gun. He further states that others had seen Foppert top out at 99. I trust Sickels, as he has no incentive to make this up. The real issue here is Foppert's mysterious loss in velocity. I'm more concerned about that than I am about the Giants overhyping their prospects.

Martin: From reports this off-season and interviews with Foppert, it doesn't sound so mysterious or am I missing something? He has stated in a few interviews that his arm was hurting even as early as Spring Training 2003 but he wanted to make it so bad that he gutted out everything. Well, we saw the result of that - he blew out his arm and required Tommy John surgery. The encouraging thing, if there is anything, is that even with his arm problems, he was at least useful so hopefully he would do a lot better once he is healthy.

The key question now to me is whether he gets back the velocity and pitching form that made him so dominant in his short stint in the minors. From what I recall, the history of Tommy John surgeries is that pitchers not only recover their past abilities, but some pitch even better. I would settle for the same as before.

Steve: I agree with Martin's basic conclusion. To reinforce Doug's comment, I would note that scouts who worked for other organizations recorded Foppert throwing mid-90s mph fastballs. What incentive would they have to hype Foppert's velocity? The following is obviously hyperbole, but if you see a report in Baseball America about a Giants' prospect, you know the report is not coming directly from the Giants because they refuse to talk to Baseball America. That said, I am a bit more skeptical of what Giants' beatwriters say about Giants prospects as most of their information is filtered through Giants' brass. FWIW, I saw one of Foppert's early rehab appearances last summer, and he touched 90 mph only once.

Grant: In the limited time I have watched Merkin, I did not see the slider. When you say his breaking pitches improved during the course of the game, Steve, was the end result impressive? Meaning, would you consider his slider -- his best slider, to be exact -- to be a major-league out pitch right now? His fastball looks like it will miss a lot of bats, but the difference between Felix Rodriguez and Robb Nen was the compliment to the fastball.

Steve: Grant, thanks for bringing us back to discussing Valdez. I am hesitant to say too much about the four Norwich games I saw last year. It was the final weekend of the minor league season, and I think some arms were tired. That weekend, Matt Cain could not get an out in the 4th inning, and Pat Misch did not take his regular turn in the rotation. I also am not sure how well I remember the events of those games. I saw in the notes I quoted earlier details that I did not otherwise recall. My best recollection, though, about his off-speed pitches is that I think he had better command of the pitches. Even if he was not getting swingthroughs from his slider, he probably was able to keep opposing hitters off-balance and to induce some groundball outs. A half year later, I can't recall any pitches being particularly "filthy."

Alex: Though it must be said that even with one pitch -- the mid-nineties heater on the outside corner -- Felix dominated for two years ('00-'01) and has been pretty good since. And Billy Wagner has gotten by with one pitch (that happens to travel at 100 MPH). So all this hand-wringing (my own included) over Merkin's off-speed stuff could be overdone if the kid has a howling fastball and good control of it.

Steve: I think this about wraps it up for discussing Merkin Valdez. Let's now move the discussion to Matt Cain. (Coming soon ...)

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Friday, April 15, 2005


Prospect Roundtable Part 3

The blue ribbon panel of experts is back with Part 3 of the Giants prospect roundtable. A discussion centering around Patrick Misch is now posted over at Sons of Scott Servais.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005


WARNING! Extremely Flammable Contents
Benitez (ben-ee-tez)

v.
Benitezed, Benitezing, Benitezes
v. tr.

Baseball To spectacularly blow one team's lead during a stint of relief pitching.

A friend of mine from college who is a Met fan began using the word "Benitez" as a verb. Whenever a closer (usually Benitez himself) suffered a spectacular meltdown, he would say that said pitcher "Benitezed" the save.

Well, Benitez was in rare form today as he "Benitezed" the save this afternoon.

Hmmm...I wonder where today's implosion would rank among the Top 10 Benitez meltdowns.

Munter and Foppert Watch

As the Giants blowpen continues to invent new and exciting ways to suck, we'll take an occasional look at how Jesse Foppert and my boy Scott Munter are progressing in Fresno. Stats are through 4/11:

Munter: 2 IP, 0 ER
Foppert: 5 IP, 0 ERs, 9 Ks

And on that note, check out the second part of the Giants bloggers prospects roundtable which is now posted at El Lefty Malo.

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Monday, April 11, 2005


Fever Pitch

Hated it.

Ok, to be fair, I haven't actually seen this movie. But I still hate it. Is there any chance at all that this film is anything other than a bland, predictable, romantic comedy trainwreck?

And I'll admit that I'm sick sick sick of the effing Red Sox.

I haven't seen a movie in a theater since The Aviator, (though I've rented lots in the meantime) and the only reason I wanted to see that movie was for the novelty of seeing a movie about Howard Hughes at the Howard Hughes Center. I'm not going to break my streak to see Fever Pitch, even if it is ostensibly a baseball movie.

Now that I got that out of my system, this film critic will review the Giants opening homestand in all its three dotted joy...

...Two big thumbs up to Edgardo Alfonzo for tearing the cover off the ball through the first six games of the season: .455/.519/.773 with 2 HRs! This is the Fonzie we were all hoping to see when the Giants signed him as a free agent before the 2003 season.

It's no secret that Fonzie had been a disappointment in his first two years with the Giants. In fact, Fonzie had been such a disappointment that one could've said that Fonzie jumped the shark after he signed with the Giants. That is until you realized that the phrase "jumped the shark" had itself jumped the shark and been replaced in pop culture lexicon by the term "signed as a free agent by Brian Sabean..."

...This critic awards zero hats to the absolutely ghastly Giants bullpen. As Only Baseball Matters notes, the league is hitting a collective .370/.429/.516 against the Giants pen. Moreover, Giants relievers have a collective ERA of 10.90.

The problem with the Giants pen is that they essentially have four mop-up/middle inning guys (Walker, Fassero, Herges, and Christiansen). While I wouldn't mind one of these guys on the team to handle garbage innings, I do mind having all four of them on the team.

In a related story, Jesse Foppert outdueled King Felix by going five scoreless innings and striking out 9 in a Grizzlies victory on Friday night...

...Five stars are awarded to Rockies manager Clint Hurdle for managing Saturday's game as if he was trying to lose the game. With the bases loaded in the 8th, the game on the line, and Byung-Hyun Kim warmed and ready to go, Hurdle decided to leave Scott Dohmann in the game to face Michael Tucker. Prior to Saturday's game Dohmann had recorded 4 outs on the season and given up 3 HRs.

By the time the inning was over, Dohmann had recorded 5 outs on the season and given up 4 HRs. All the while, the guy who is probably the Rockies best reliever sat rotting in the bullpen. What was the point of even warming up Kim if you're not going to bring him into the game? Not that I'm complaining...

...An empty chair to Felipe Alou and Dave Righetti for skipping Jerome Williams' turn in the rotation. Facing two off days in the second week of the season, the Giants should've set their rotation out of the gate so that their weakest starter, Kirk Rueter, would miss a turn.

Unfortunately the Giants are so blinded by veteran presence and cliches like "he knows how to win" and "he's a fierce competitor" that they not only don't believe Rueter is their poorest starter, they believe Rueter is their #2 starter...

...The little man jumps out of his chair in admiration for Giants ace Jason Schmidt. How about this line for Jason Schmidt through his first two starts: 2-0, 13 IP, 2 ERs, 1.38 ERA, and 16 Ks...

...Lastly, two big thumbs up to the Giants for hosting the second annual Gauchos Go Giant. Come out to the ballpark on July 8th, meet over 200 UCSB alumni, family, and friends, and then watch the Giants take on the Cardinals at 7:15. Gauchos certainly know how to throw a party, so a good time will be had by all.

Interested Gauchos can go here to buy your discounted tickets for the game...

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Friday, April 08, 2005


A Couple of Links

Our friends at Mays Field are having a get-together at The Brickhouse during and after Saturday's game against the Rockies. The particulars:

The Brickhouse
426 Brannan (between 3rd and 4th)
San Francisco
415-369-0222

As always, don't forget to wow the San Francisco fashionista by sporting your Mays Field apparel!

***

A bunch of us Giants bloggers got together for a roundtable discussion on the Giants farm system. Part 1 of the discussion featuring David Aardsma is now posted at FogBall.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Happy Opening Day!

I'm legitimately sick today, which gave me the opportunity to watch my first Opening Day since 2002. While it probably raised a red flag at the office that I just happened to take my first sick day in 7 months on Opening Day, no one will question my honesty when I return to the office in tears over missing U2 at Staples. Now I'm only seeing them twice on this leg of the tour. Life isn't fair. I did resell my Staples tickets for three times face value, so I can't complain too much.

Anyway, now is a perfect time to reveal baseball predictions for the year. If my predictions are right, then it's because I'm the prognisticating clutch god. If they're way off, then I can just trot out the old stand-by excuse -- "I wasn't thinking clearly. It's the Dayquil!"

NL West

1) Giants
2) Los Angeles
3) San Diego
4) Arizona
5) Colorado

NL Central Champ: St. Louis
NL East Champ: Atlanta
NL Wild Card: Chicago

NL Champ: St. Louis

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
NL Cy Young: Tim Hudson, Atlanta
NL Rookie of the Year: Jeff Fassero, Giants

AL Stuff: Who cares?

Other random predictions:

* Barry's first game back: May 6th, at home against the Nationals

* Brett Tomko wins 15 games

* Jason Schmidt throws a no-hitter

* Mike Matheny will suck

* Giants 2005 All-Stars: Bonds, Schmidt, Benitez

Add your own 2005 predictions.

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Friday, April 01, 2005


EXCLUSIVE: GIANTS TO TRADE FOR VLAD GUERRERO

*** WORLD EXCLUSIVE ***
*** MUST CREDIT WESTWOOD BLUES ***



Westwood Blues has learned that the San Francisco Giants have agreed in principle with the LA Angels on a trade that will send outfielder Vladimir Guerrero to the Giants in exchange for outfielder Marquis Grissom, infielders Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz, minor leaguer pitchers Matt Cain, David Aardsma, and Patrick Misch and an undisclosed amount of cash. The deal could be finalized as soon as today, April 1st.

Multiple sources within the Giants organization reported that the idea to trade for Guerrero originated from a post entitled "oMg, sabeen + Mcgowen we shoulda sined VLAD!!!11" on the fan forum of sfgiants.com.

"We honestly didn't consider signing Vlad last off season," explained a source in the Giants front office who spoke to Westwood Blues on the condition of annonymity. "But after reading this suggestion from one of our fans, Brian (Sabean) picked up the phone and within minutes he worked out a deal to bring Vlad Guerrero to the Giants. It was that easy."

Former Giant Chris Brown Returns from Iraq, Buys Diamondbacks

Former Giants infielder and former Halliburton contractor Chris Brown has reached an agreement to buy a minority stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise. In exchange for 10% ownership of the franchise, Brown will pay $6 million, with $5.8 million of the payment deferred over the next 58 years.

"Adding Chris Brown to our organization brings this franchise one step closer to realizing our goal of eventually employing every member of every Giants team in the 1980s." Diamondbacks CEO Jeff Moorad said referring to Will Clark, Bob Melvin, Brett Butler, Matt Williams and Bob Brenly at a press conference announcing Brown's purchase of the franchise.

Furthermore, an internal front office memo obtained by Westwood Blues reveals that the Diamondbacks' new management team has established a three part business plan in order for the cash strapped organization to be successful. The memo reads:
"Step 1) Hire former players of the 1980s Giants

Step 2) ?????

Step 3) Profits!"
Brown, in a Phoenix area hospital recovering from an eyelid injury, was not present at the press conference and could not be reached for comment.

Giants Sound System to Intimidate Opposing Closers with "Wuss" Entrance Music

When an opposing closer enters a game against the Giants at SBC Park they will be greeted with "wuss" music blaring from the SBC Park sound system, the Giants announced today.

"It'll be sorta like a reverse 'Hells Bells' or a reverse 'Welcome to the Jungle,'" explained Giants Senior Vice President Larry Baer.

"Imagine Trevor Hoffman jogging to the SBC Park mound from the bullpen. Now imagine Trevor Hoffman jogging to the SBC Park mound from the bullpen as Julie Andrews' "The Sound of Music" is booming from the loudspeakers.

If you're an opposing hitter are you intimidated by some pussy closer who just came into the game to a Julie Andrews song?"

Greg Aquino of the Diamondbacks will take the field at SBC to "It's Rainin' Men" by The Weather Girls. The Giants don't have plans to intimidate Rockies closer Chin-hui Tsao with entrance music because the Rockies are not expected to ever take a lead into the ninth inning at SBC Park.

The Giants have a special trick up their sleeves for Eric Gagne of the rival Dodgers. When Gagne jogs to the mound at SBC Park he will be greeted with John Cage's 4'33"

"The very antithesis of the loud, raucous 'Welcome to the Jungle' is complete silence," explained Giants managing general partner Peter Magowan referring to Cage's 4'33", a musical piece in which the performer plays nothing.

Asked if he was concerned if other organizations would retaliate by serenading Giants closer Armando Benitez with "wuss" entrance music, Magowan responded that he wasn't worried.

"Armando Benitez is a proven closer and I would be shocked if his entrance music affected his performance at all. I mean, he's Armando Benitez -- we all know that he'll have a meltdown in the big games no matter what."

Editor's Note: Happy April 1st everyone!

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