Monday, January 26, 2015

Unfinished Business

Vogey wasn't letting go of that trophy
So the Giants swooped in and got Ryan Vogelsong for one more year, a base salary around 4MM with incentives.  This is a great depth signing with the uncertainty swirling around the Gigante rotation.

Matt Cain is coming off surgery on his elbow and knee.
Tim Hudson is coming off surgery on his ankle.
Tim Lincecum is looking to rebound from a horrid second half that took him to the bullpen.
Yusmeiro Petit might be more of a long man, his finesse style best served in shorter doses to keep him a sharp weapon.
Jake Peavy was a horse in the season, didn't contribute much during the playoffs.

Vogey was the "Cained" member of the Giants staff in 2014, getting some truly horrid run support.  He hit a couple of big numbers, ones that sometimes get underrated by advanced stats: 32 starts!  That bested 2012 when he made 31.  He got close on IP, 2nd in his career with 184.2.  Strikeouts were the same, just falling short of 2012, he had 151 Ks.  He also had his best season in K/BB, with a 2.60. 

Vogey was damn happy after the World Series, he was out getting interviewed with Morse, Posey and Bumgarner - Vogey holding the trophy with both hands, nobody was taking that thing from him.  He said "I have unfinished business" - he wanted to come back, no doubt, and he knew he wouldn't be the Giants first or second priority. 

So its back for a 5th year.  Vogey has taken the bump 110 times for Los Gigantes in that stretch.  It is up in the air what will happen, but I would not bet against him.  Famously, he's taken the bump for the Giants 7 times in the postseason... they've won every game.

He's already got the Hollywood story to mist up the bi-focals, he now has a chance to add to the legend.  Good Giant for life, he famously told the Dodgers he couldn't sign with them even though there just wasn't any opportunity out there.  Now there is some noise about Houston, who flirted with signing him, and him backing away.  I have a very low opinion of that front office, I'd bet dollars to donuts they started chiseling on their offer for him.  He's much, much happier to be a Gigante than aboard that strange ship.

Ryan's wife Nicole is a epic twitterer, and a very enthusiastic and proud San Franciscan.  Just seeing her reaction, as well as other fans, it all seemed right.  There really is so little downside to a one year contract.  Bringing back the old warhorse.  Not a bad strategy at all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giants Designate The Blockbuster

Cool Cat That Marco photo: ESPN
A bittersweet day as the Giants do the obvious and designate Marco Scutaro for assignment today.  With Scutaro recovering from back surgery and owed over 6MM for 2015, there is no chance of him being claimed, he will remain in the organization and attempt a very long chance recovery.

Scutaro was a little trade back in July 27, 2012, the Giants gave up Charlie Culberson, a 2007 draft bonus baby, who has made a nice charming debut with a lot of focus on his pops and girlfriend, who was definitely charming as well.  The results soon became huge, as Scutaro turned out to be the best deadline addition in MLB.

He finished the year hitting 362/385/473, a 859 OPS, or a 144 OPS+. He then continued his rampage in the playoffs. 

I was at the game 2 where Matt Holiday took him out in a dirty slide.  It wasn't a baseball play, it was a football tackle, he went way beyond the base, and Scutaro went down.  I think there is a good chance that this play contributed directly to Scoots back issues that have led to the surgery.  Holiday was boo'd lustily the entire game, and the Baseball Gods exacted swift revenge: he booted Scutaro's drive to left, allowing a third run to score and the Giants took down the game behind Vogelsong's stellar efforts.  Later, Holiday popped the ball up in the rain, Scutaro making the final out for a enduring Gigante moment in history, Shawshank Redemption style. 

We were on the 1st base side, 20 rows up, we boo'd the hell out of Don Carlos for the hell of it as well.  Chemistry is a delicate thing, something that gets dismissed as unimportant next to winning.  All I can say is that I much preferred Scutaro (and Pence's) version of being a teammate to Don Carlos, who couldn't get off his throne to celebrate a walk off with the crew. 

With the Patriots being in the news, I am reminded that Brian Sabean has said the Giants are most like the Patriots.  Do they underinflate baseballs?  I know the Giants complained bitterly about Coors Field's humidor and got some things changed there... But like the Patriots where you know Tom Brady, and maybe their tight end Gronk, there is also a lot of low profile movement that only hard core fans really know.  Scutaro is one of these pieces.  You ride your franchise players, and you dunk and deek to fill in.  That's what the Patriots do, and that is also what the Giants do.

You can see this in the draft.  The Giants don't go for homerun picks.  They go for the singles, the doubles.  The guy with the major league ceiling, who might just be trade bait.  In the past six drafts, the following guys have fueled the big league club, with the 2014 guys not officially eligible to be traded yet: Zack Wheeler, Tommy Joseph, Jason Stoffel, Evan Crawford, Seth Rosin, Heath Hembree.  Additionally Ryan Verdugo, Edwin Escobar, Scott Barnes, Conor Gillaspie, Tim Alderson, Charlie Culberson as well as Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez have been traded off.  Not every trade goes the way of Blockbuster however.  That was a special one.

The farm as trading post is a very viable strategy.  Its hard to do in the game today, because teams hoard their home grown talent.  But as we've seen each year, the Giants make incremental moves that have really helped.  2010 acquiring Lopez and Ramirez at the deadline for Joe Martinez, John Bowker and Daniel Turpen.  As well as the more famous waiver claims of Pat Burrell and Cody Ross.  They also got much misunderstood Jose Guillen for PTBNL Kevin Pucetas.  2011 was a flurry of trades, getting Jeff Keppinger, Orlando Cabrera and eventually Don Carlos hisself for Henry Sosa, Stoffel, Thomas Neal and Wheeler.  2012 was Pence and Scutaro for Joseph, Rosin, Nate the Great and Culberson.  As well as Jose Mijares as another waiver claim.  (And hell, lets not forget Bill Hall the year before - these waiver claims aren't instant paydirt for sure).  2013 was... nothing.  Sabean doesn't sell off, and the Astros wanted a ton for Bud Norris.  2014... well, that's still fresh on the brain.

I always loved Scutaro's play, I wanted him on the Giants for years before the trade.  The fact it worked out the way it did...  Wowza.  I'm sure there is nothing quite as frustrating to a pro athlete as not being able to play.  Good luck on the rehab Marco!  May you beat those crazy, crazy odds to come back for one more ride.  You were absolutely magical in 2012 and nobody can ever take that away.  Don't forget he drove in The Riot for the run that won the world series.  Scutaro is a Good Giant. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ain't No Bad One Year Contract These Days - Aoki! To Los Gigantes!

My 7 year old will be thrilled.  Since the world series we've been playing strikeout as the Royals and Giants.   I get to be the Royals, naturally, and he's always the most amused by my Aoki stance.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm no Batting Stance Guy, but I can swing it a bit...

Ain't no bad one year deal, especially these days.  The Giants got a screaming deal on this particular one, especially if you go glance at the Nick Markakis deal and then start looking sideways at them there statistics.  Here is the MLBTR summary

Thoughts: 1 year 4MM with incentives and a 700K buyout, the max on the 2 year is 12.5MM aka the OLD Sabean Special.  Aoki just turned 33, he looks like he has something left in the tank.  He has been remarkably consistent all 3 years in MLB, he has a career 287/353/387 slash.  His SB/CS was excellent his rookie year, it has tailed off some, but he does give you speed on the basepaths, at the expense of power.  He's a slap/gap hitting dude.  Not a Michael Morse type.

He definitely took "creative" routes during the playoffs, and he had that rep in KC.  He isn't going to be manning the complicated RF at Pac Bell though, he's going to be a LF.  This puts Blanco into the 300-400 PA role (until Pagan gets hurt).  It also gets a bit more certainty than the past two years, where you've had Pence-Pagan-Blanco with Morse/Torres.  Pagan's injury woes have opened up cans of worms, and LF has become... interesting. 

Gut reaction: perfectly good depth signing.  A contact oriented hitter who doesn't strike out is getting into the sweet spot of Los Gigantes philosophy, one completely misunderstood or flat out missed by saber dorks who like their narrative simple.  Between Casey McG and Aoki, the ball will be put into play a bunch at the bottom of the order. 

Weaknesses: the fielding isn't great, the arm isn't great, but its LF.  Just like with Morse, its LF.  We can still have Juan Perez around to soak up late inning work.  The power of Morse WILL be missed though.  But its a cost effective depth signing that should help cover some of the injury woes, and it is super cheap in this day of play.  There is a good chance Aoki will outperform Markakis in the near term, and you don't worry about the long term.  (Ahem, Mac Williamson, you keep on raking baby!)

Happy birthday to Matt Duffy.  Like McG, Aoki is a placeholder.  Duffy wants to take a run at 3B, Williamson will take a run at LF.  They are buddies, and hopefully they will be a nice part of the future in the French Vanilla. 

These are the type of Sabean signings that win games.  Its always "where the hell do the Giants get these guys".  The other part of the equation, if it doesn't work... easily discarded.  That's a win-win.

Now I gotta go break the news to me boy tonight!  He'll have to work on his Aoki stance.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Comments Section Worth Reading; Back In Black

Hey now, don't believe those Dillon Gee rumors.

Dave Cameron has a nice piece up, and the comments section are a fun read.  I really enjoy posters talking about why they are fans.  Its one of the best fangraphs columns I've seen.  Check it out.

And there is a Gigante signing!  Travis Blackley via Instagram, coming back to the city by the bay.  Love them lefties I'll tell you what!

I really don't want to see Ryan Vogelsong in a Rockies uniform.  That would be weak sauce.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Giant Discipline With Contracts

Been light on posting lately, but I've been heavy on watching them there highlight videos of 2010, 2012 and 2014.  There are a few themes that are worth remembering for dreamers who might think that Ben Zobrist would really tie the room together...

Posey and Bumgarner.  The rocks of the franchise, without whom there are no rings, much less a big 3.  Heart and soul of the team, and somehow they are underrated.  Its very strange to me.

Heroes of 2012: Cain, Pagan and to some extent Belt should all put up numbers, although there are no certainties of complete rebounds.

Hunter Pence, the straw that stirs the drink.  Watching the 2012 and 2014 videos, you are struck by just how much Hunter Pence means to the club.  He's a 20/20 guy, he puts up good stats, but that doesn't really touch his real value.  Maximum Throttle, just a complete energizer bunny.  This is his team as well.  The Giants re-signing him before he hit the open market was a huge key to "extending the window". 

The homegrown middle infield, scouts before stats.  Crawford and Panik won't put up sexy numbers, but when the game is on the line, they are great hitters to have up.  Crawford in particular has the knack for the big hit.  A league average statistical middle infield with the great defense and intangibles they provide, while on the cheap side of the payroll conundrum, is a big team advantage. 

So lets look at statistics real quick.  280/335/426 with 14 HRs and 26 2Bs.  That's the average 3 year production of one Pablo Sandoval, who wanted to take his talents elsewhere.  That is part of the big fuss, and the Giants did match the offer, which might have been generous, and a bit outside of their current discipline on contracts.  That was a nod to two things: home grown retention and the fact the 3B market is a wasteland.  So the replacement Casey McGehee has a checkered past, its hard to get a 3 year average.  He had a Babip inflated 287/355/357 with a league leading gidp as well as 29 2Bs and 4 HRs himself.  This is an interesting placeholder to me, one that is very easily replaced if it doesn't work out.

Backing out of the weeds, you see there are few free agents truly worth pursuing.  If Pablo hadn't been a Gigante already, there is no way you would want to go chase the pedestrian numbers he puts up nor the fitness liability.  Jon Lester's market sprang from two factors: being a lefty and not having a QO draft pick penalty attached.  It soared, the Giants had everybody but the mascot making a pitch to the guy.  But beyond that?  You want nothing to do with Hanley Ramirez.  Or James Shields for that matter.  So you go to the lower cost, lower commitment plans.

In 2010 3 low cost gems in Huff, Uribe and Torres were supplemented by Burrell and Ross.  The home grown rotation was not traded off, and was able to stand on its own.

In 2011 injuries to Ross, Sanchez, a rush and then injury to Belt, Sandoval's hammate as well as Posey's blowup at the plate all contributed heavily to a world weary team that folded under pressure of August, with a home grown rotation that was not traded off.  In addition Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada had the 6th and 7th most PAs on the club, with 76 and 69 OPS+ scores to show. 

2012 brought Pagan and Cabrera, at the expense of Johnny Sanchez, Torres and RamRam (as well as Ryan Verdugo as a throw in).  Those were the low cost gems, and they were supplemented by Scutaro and Pence. 

2013 brought more injuries, the WBC extending an extended season.  Pablo showed up fat, Posey didn't have his usual 2nd half bounce.  But if you look at their hitting, they were remarkably above average: Belt at 140 OPS+, Posey at 136 and Pence at 134, as well as Pagan/Scutaro/Sandoval as above league average.  The only pitcher worth a damn was Bumgarner though. 

2014 brought two additions: Tim Hudson for Barry Zito and Michael Morse for Andres Torres.  Supplemented by Jake Peavy for Cain as well as the farmhands because of trade expense, Panik took over for "Blockbuster" and the Giants rolled.

So the question everybody has is has Sabean done enough?  We have McGehee for Sandoval, Maxwell for Morse and bringing back the band. 

I'd say you make lemonade with lemons.  Go big with a Lester, or go home.  Don't go chasing the middle market, that's how you acquire the Eduardo Alfonso's, the Matt Morris' and the Armando Benitiez' of the world.  Giants don't want that noise.  Stay flexible, because there is built in no-flex with 4 franchise players at this point: Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Madison Bumgarner.  Will Belt take a step forward to become another cornerstone?  Sandoval's stats have been close to met by Brandon Crawford, who plays a more valuable position to boot. 

But the need for starting pitching is a big deal, and it might be the area that sinks the Giants to the level of 2013, when the starters put up these #s: Bumgarner 31 starts, 124 OPS+, Timmy 32 starts, 79 ERA+, Cain 30 starts 86 ERA+, Barry Zito 25 starts, 60 ERA+, Vogey 19 starts, 60 ERA+. 

Can Timmy rebound, with help from his pops?  You have to think he has one more Zito-esque game in him when it counts.
Can Cain rebound?  Biggest question, with the biggest commitment from the Giants.
Can Hudson rebound from further surgeries?  39 years old, his last run coming up.
Can Peavy pitch like his 2nd half?  Red ass grit and duct tape.
Petit?  Or a Vogey signing as insurance? 

Giants are remarkably consistent, and they have had very few names take the bump over the past 5-6 years.  I'm looking for a Vogey signing in the next month as insurance against all the questions. 

Less worried about the position players.  There has been so much track record of getting guys to swing it, just watched Cliff Lee get unraveled with 2 outs and 2 strike hits by Ross, Huff and the boys.  The pitching staff is where the big questions lie.  Its an extended transition period, that's what the Peavy signing is all about.  Just don't forget to go watch Bumgarner a couple more times in that World Series video, it'll keep you warm til pitchers and catchers.  Giants are a great squad.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pedro Martinez Joins Juan Marichal In The Hall Of Fame

Pedro will be the 2nd (second) Dominican to enter.  That is a stunning statistic to me.

Pedro brings a smile to my face, his unique personality, his fire, his articulate statements, in his 2nd language (at least for me).  He's the real deal, and this is a richly deserved honor. 

That's me staying positive about all this HOF and BBWAA silliness.

Giants need to go find another great Dominican pitcher.  That would really tie the room together. 

In the mid 90s there was nothing like a Pedro start.  Nothing. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Giants Targeted FA Search; Best Remaining FAs; Zobrist rumors strike again

Don't trade Matt Duffy Greybeards... just don't do it.  The Zobrist rumors are coming in again, as the Giants are "out on James Shields"....  The rumor they are out on Shields makes me happy, the draft pick has a lot of value.  But if they can use that draft pick to knock a deal down to 4 years on Shields, I would consider that money well spent.  Six years of Shields and losing the pick, that stings some.

It would sting for Duffy to be included in a trade for Zobrist.  I think Duffy will hit as well as Zobrist.  That's a tall comp, I knows, but the bat is the bat.  You can't teach cold blooded baseball instincts, which Duffy has demonstrated under heavy pressure.  That's a ballplayer.  Value him accordingly.  HOLD.

Giants went after the guys they thought were top of the market: their very own Pablo Sandoval, who most likely had already made him decision as the world series was unfolding, and Jon Lester, who had his day in the sun with many suitors.  Besides that, they've been bunkered up in their Monk Cave.  I'd say at the end of the day that's the sign of a smart, savvy front office.  Free agent market is sort of a wasteland.

The Giants didn't chase the Headley, they made a sideways trade for Casey McG instead, a one year stopgap who should provide passable defense and some batting average.  The underrated part of this move?  Keeps your options open.  You sign Headley, that's your guy for the next 2-3 years for sure, while paying for 4.  That type of contract is virtually untradeable without eating major moneys.

That is the major advantage of these latest pitching contracts: Lincecum, Hudson, Vogelsong, Peavy.   They are over quick, and they can be shuffled if it isn't working (as the smart savvy Bruce Bochy eventually did with Timmy, resulting in the Giants getting enough in the tank to get to the wild card).

Who are the best remaining FAs?  Aoki?  I think if he batted right he would already be a Giant, they have a similar player with better defense in Blanco though.  How about Rafael Soriano?  Giants have a pretty full pen.  Sometimes its hard to find a fit.  The need for a LF is just about all the Giants need, and they already have Juan Perez and Gary Brown.  Its actually harder than you think to get better, once you bring in defensive and baserunning factors into the equation.  Harang?  I'd rather have Vogelsong. Stephen Drew?  No thanks. 

I'm glad Alex Rios isn't a Gigante.  Nick Markakis?  It was a pretty steep price.  Marlon Byrd wasn't a bad trade for the Reds, but I really like who they gave up, Ben Lively, I was hoping the Giants would take a chance on him in the draft.  I'm very happy that Sergio Romo is a Giant, and not a Dodger.  Peavy I'm a bit lukewarm on following the playoffs, but he is relatively young, should be able to eat innings, and seems to get along with everybody very well.  Don't underestimate chemistry.

I'm surprised that the Giants couldn't beat the Rays 1/8MM offer on Asdrubal Cabrera.  They have a) a better chance to win than the Rays, b) about the same type of park that doesn't really build offensive value and c) seem to value the switch hitting position versatility. 

You look up LF stats in the majors last year though... that is a positional wasteland.  Its hard to fill in.  Tyler Colvin put up 223/268/381 and a -0.3 WAR score.  On the other hand, a guy getting paid big nine figures put up 263/331/414 and a 1.5 WAR score.  Is there that much difference?  Josh Hamilton would have been a great trade or signing... six years ago. 

I would have liked to see the Giants in on Michael Saunders.  That looks like a nice trade, a guy who put up 791 OPS hitting in a pitchers park with the ability to at least fake CF.  Saunders was the 11th best LF last year, another sign that it just isn't what it used to be at the position. 

So its Blanco, Perez, Brown and newcomer Justin Maxwell.  And another year of sweating Angel Pagan's health.  2 rings in 3 years with Pence, Pagan, Blanco and some band aids.  I like them chances.  LF is Sabean's farthest priority, and that is the correct call, once you go look at a sort of LF production in the majors last year.  Don't go trading cost controlled yoots who can hit chasing some one year dream of a better LF option, please.  Monk it up, figure a Plan C out.  I'll bet that is what they will end up doing actually, because its not just Duffy for Zobrist, its a big pitching name, and another hitter or pitcher to boot.  He's 34 and a one year rental.  In demand, so there's the rub.  Hold fast Greybeards, hold fast.

Happy New Year.  Baseball starts next month!