Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Beast Commeth

 Washington Post Photo, Something tells me Morse is going to get some new nicknames while being a "good clubhouse guy"

Michael Morse, gonna be a Giant, for a year at least...

MLBTR Link and its either 5MM plus some incentives, "The Vogelsong" or its 1/6MM straight, which is "Half the Sabean Special".  You know what they say... there is no such thing as a bad 1/6MM contract...

Morse B/R Page

3 Negatives
Morse is not a good defender by any metric.  His dWAR scores give back his oWAR gains every year.  If you get hopped up about F/G's UZR/150, he's at -18.3 for LF in his career.  Morse F/G Page Morse has spent 1,114 innings in LF, 2nd to his stint in RF.  Hey, 14 assists!  The Giants are back to the Water Buffalo, its assumed that either Gregor Blanco or Juan Perez will be coming in for 8th and 9th inning duties.  For what its worth, Morse is worst off stat wise in RF than LF.  And LF is the easiest OF position to play by far in PacBell.

Second negative might be as important as the defense: Morse can't stay on the field consistently.  His games played highs by season: 146 (2011, his best year by far), 102, 98 and 88 last year.  He is a classic late bloomer, coming up through Seattle the hard way (Brett Pill fans don't dispair!)  This wrist injury that he suffered last year required surgery, the snip from the Balto Sun: "Doctors estimated that the outgrowth of the capitate bone that runs down through the hand was caused by trauma and probably occurred sometime in May, which likely affected his power and extension during his swing."

Third negative is that wrist.  I just start thinking immediately about Mark DeRosa. The Giants apparently had it vetted before the signing.  I'm not totally sold.  How old is Morse?  32 in time for next years hijinx.  If Morse can't recover his power, the whole point of signing him up is lost.

3 Positives
Take a look at F/G 3 Year FA Board real quick, hopefully it went to the ISO sort.  The names at the top, over 200 ISO: Granderson, Napoli, Corey Hart, Nelson Cruz, Cano, Mark Reynolds, Beltran, Salty, Raul Ibanez... and Morse.  11th?  Berkman, 12th Sizemore, 13th Luke Scott 14th McCann and 15th Jason Kubel.  The Giants did well to snag Morse's 205 ISO on the cheap.  You have a bunch of guys who take up years and cashish and the draft pick: (Granderson, Napoli, Cruz, Cano, Beltran), you have guys out of a position that will fit (Salty, McCann) and you have some bad mojo defense at a more important position (Reynolds) without getting into other flaws in the game.  Corey Hart and Morse are the two guys here, the Giants tried to get in on both.  Its hard to fight against a guy who drafted Hart (Jack Z), so they get the other version.  Then you have injury or retirees.  So getting power on the cheap is nice.  The Giants hit the fewest HRs in the majors from LF last year.

The second positive is the contract length.  One year, easily discarded if it doesn't work out.  To get him to sign, he gets the first crack at being the starter.  That is completely dependent on performance, he'll get shuffled on in July if it isn't working out.  1/6MM is better by a couple MM and an extra year.  I figured he'd get more in the market because of his power profile, but teams are scared off the wrist injury.  So is it a bargain?  Beyond Box Score Thinks So Looking a lot at BABIP info, that makes some sense to me.  Its pretty obvious the 2013 campaign was a wash-out due to the wrist.  This is a nice placeholder for Mac Williamson or anybody else if they want to start threatening the 25.  They are paying a 32 year old vet to go do what he did before.  They're not overpaying, the discipline on contract years is impeccable.  To quote Walter Sobchack: "What do you mean I brought it bowling, Dude.  I'm didn't rent its shoes, I didn't buy it a beer"... In MLB today a 1/6MM really is a drop in the bucket.  These are not the Gigantes of 8-10 years ago trying to win at all cost on a penny-pinching budget.  This is the Real McCoy.

Third positive is that elusive and mocked clubhouse thing.  Morse played for Bochy in Taiwan, Bochy obviously really likes him.  He appears to be the class clown in the joint.  Look forward to "Mikey" or Morsey" from Mean Bruce, and he had to throw in the dig that Morse might play some 1B as well (gotta keep that Brandon Belt on his toes).  I have to think the Giants will rest him 1 day a week, to keep Blanco fresh.  And there is the advantage: power off the bench.  HRs are absolute, and they are game changers.  Having a guy who can go do that with one swing of the bat, a proven out MLB hitter with a track record, that is the goods.  I remember not caring one bit what Juan Uribe was hitting or OBP'ing towards the end of 2010.  He was up there to influence the game.  That is why this contract got tendered, and its a worthy pursuit.  EDIT: Please note that I'm talking about a 6/7 hole hitter here, swinging for your heels in that circumstance is perfectly acceptable.  This is not your 3-4-5 guy, that's taken up by Belt-Posey-Pence.

3 Things This Isn't
Let's hammer out some steroeotypes.  I've been all Peter Finch up in this bitch lately, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.  This isn't an indictment of the Giants player evaluation skills.  They know full well his limitations.  They are paying him, in the accountant eyeshade viewpoint, to be a less than 1 WAR player (WAR is up to 6MM-7.5MM most likely the higher number).  He is projected for that number, he has achieved that number in the past, and that has been cooked into the equation.  He can easily exceed that number, and if the Giants know some tricks to minimize the damage in LF with the glove, he could crush it.

Further, when the Rays get James Loney to have a bounceback year, they're hailed for their precious analytic skills.  When the Giants get a bounceback year from Aubrey Huff, its dismissed as luck.  This goes on, and on, and I'm tired of it.  I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.  The Giants have an obvious strategy with their reclamation projects.  When they do not work, they are discarded.  They are a prove out organization, they do allow veterans chances to get to that career expectation.  Morse will get those chances.  The Giants have an excellent hitting core, they will supplement it on the cheap.  The successes of Ross, Burrell, Scutaro, Uribe, Torres outweigh the names that didn't work out in a big way.

Third thing, the Giants aren't being cheap here, they're being practical.  There is a good chance you'll get 90% the performance of the expensive years/moneys/draft picks production for 10% the cost.  That is playing moneyball fellas, the Giants just do it with their LF.  He's being paid just about what Vogelsong is getting, and a little more than those damn LOOGYs that everybody gets hopped up about.  I'd point out that a 275 BA is above league average now, that 325 OBP (yes, the Giants understand what OBP is) is about league average.  What isn't league average is the 481 SLG.  We'll see if it's there this year.

EDIT: To be more exact:
LF NL 2013: 263/328/417
7th Hole NL 2013: 249/307/381

Gigantes LF: 257/314/337
Gigantes 7th: 257/303/336

Michael Morse career slash: 281/334/473

The Giants are taking a shot at both, and kicking the ball around a little in the position best suited for kicking: LF.  The Bench becomes a bit deeper, because Blanco can get on base at a good clip and do some damage.   That looks like a solid plan to me.  END EDIT

Two warnings: he's not a pull power guy, he sprays all over the joint.  He might be in for a wakeup in the power alley and that 24 foot brick wall.  And as far as defense, when it counts, he makes me very nervous.  Playoff baseball has a habit of exposing compromises like this.

Overall, it should be fun.  He has some nicknames, apparently some crazy Samurai Cobra move for the batting circle warmup.  I'm sure if he hits there will be new ones coming.

Verdict: Good signing, especially considering the alternatives.  Giving up 2 big prospects for Mark Trumbo?  Chasing a bigger contract in years with Corey Hart (an overbid situation that might have/didn't happen)?  Trading a SP prospect for 1 year of Brett Gardner?  All this costs is a little cashish, and has some good upside, with a PLAN IN PLACE for dealing with his defensive shortcomings.

Contingency Plans: Its not perfect by any means, but if Pagan gets hurt again you send Blanco/Perez to platoon in CF.  If Morse gets hurt or folds, you have Blanco/Perez as the backup plan.  If Pence gets hurt you're screwed, because you don't have another 5/90MM Kale Krunching Ironman ready to go.  Blanco or Perez in CF would be able to sub in for Morse still if lightning strikes twice on Pagan.  Further, you still have all your AAA guys except for Peggs ready to give it a shot.  No team has a full time OF ready to step in for injury.  Not many teams have 3 full time OFs if you actually take the time to look around MLB.  Except for the Dodgers.  Those guys have a 60MM OF, all shiny and what not.  We'll see how this plays out, its not the worst solution to the markets problems.

EDIT: Giants fans have received the seal of approval.  Keith Law says its a bad signing and Morse can't play left field at all.  In my best Mr Burns voice: "Excellent..."


  1. "DeRo" (or as we would call him, Mark DeRosa) said the other day on MLBTV that he thought "Mikey Mo" was a great clubhouse guy. I'm guessing that will be his nickname.

    1. CLASSIC. Mikey Mo. Oh dear... And of course De Rosa had to be the guy. This is either the kiss of death or some sweet Luck of the Irish. Let's see how it rolls!

    2. Seems more like it should be "Mighty Mo" given his power.

  2. Jesus Shank, do you have a day job?

    Like the Morse signing. Upside he hits some timely bombs ala Pat the Bat/Uribe/Ross and doesn't stink up LF too bad. . Downside he's Huff 2011. The 1 year and $5M is a steal given the market, especially the 1 year.

    Like that it puts Blanco on a platoon that maximizes his proven positives and gives the Giants more OF depth all around.

    Like that it keeps Perez in a backup OF and pinch runner/speed role.

    Like me some bench power too. Ideal DH for interleague play too.

    And hey, De Rosa does owe us some karma points. Got to cash those in this year.

    1. Yep, I gotsa day job. And I'm a touch typist, I do most of this crap from memory btw. I'll look up stats but generally I'm pretty good with knowing them the first time I see em. Not that stats are a bible, they're a suggestion.

      For this to succeed, he has to mash. But its also a low-risk move, due to the batting order position.

    2. Low risk, yes. But, IF he can mash, then it could add that magical element that lifts up our average offense. For some reason, even with the dominate pitching in 10 and 12 we still needed that timely HR spark to carry us to the promised land.

      Note, still a hunt-n-peck guy myself. Slow and steady, I says.

    3. There's a lot of IF here, but I like him. My buddy and I talked a lot of trash back and forth about Morse, he drafted him and the early returns were excellent, until the injury.

      I like the dredge around, I thought the guy the Rockies got for Fowler has something, a profile that might be late blooming. That age/level bias creeps in, you're always looking for that Ben Zobrist guy who beats the odds. Giants came damn close with Schierholtz.

      This isn't stopping a mid-season trade. Signing up Choo (and losing the draft pick) would stop all in its tracks for 7 years - the lineup card for LF but also the lineup flex, because it'd be nothing but dumpster dives from then on to balance salary. That alternative is the scary one.

    4. Isnt Nate available? According to Calsnowskier, Rosin got picked from Phils in Rule 5 draft today as well. That Crazy Sabes....

    5. Nate is under contract to the Cubs, arb3 I believe. Rosin got picked by Mets, shipped to the Dodgers. We'll see our Minny farmboy in action most likely.

    6. Bochy noted that Morse is the starting LF and that Blanco is now the 4th OF, though probably coming in late games to improve the defense in LF. He also noted that Morse plays 1B well (heard from coach) and probably will see time there (don't see how with Belt supposedly getting 150+ games plus Posey playing there sometimes, unless Posey don't get any more starts at 1B). He also mentioned Morse at 3B (yikes!).

  3. Great post! As usual...

    Bochy said that he might mix Morse into the 3-4-5 spots, that someone not used to batting 7th will end up there sometimes. He did mention Belt against lefties moving down.

    I would also note that Morse actually has hit better on the road than he has at home (Nats stadium does play like pitchers if I recall right), plus his L/R splits is pretty close to each other, so he probably will see a lot of 3-4-5 hitting if he's healthy and productive, I would think.

    Also, I would note that the Giants appear to be miracle workers with the LF statues like Burrell and Huff, and even Pence in RF. They came in with negative defensive ratings and ended up being positive with the Giants. I assume that is part of the calculus that they included into their black decision making box, whereas most sabers would kill his value with a strong negative fielding value. So if they can change him from that horrible UZR to close to zero, or average, that is a huge gain for them assuming he hits like he did before, and BABIP was horrible last season, though I would note that he's never put together more than one full season, so I don't know that he has a BABIP that is considered statistically significant (most times I see sabers use last three seasons, so I have been assuming that).

    1. Bochy can't help himself. Morse in the 3-4-5 had better be after a month long rampage of wacking the ball around. In that F/G thread you had some guy trying to talk down to you about what Bochy says. He wasn't too nice about it, but it is true to some degree. Bochy does spout off a lot, but what he says and what he does are two different things. Despite being a big meany, somehow Brandon Belt got in most ballgames the past two years.

      Good point about the Water Buffalos. Here's PTB: and here's HUFF: and they both have neutral to slight positive in 2010 when that was the rage. Could it be an abberation? Sure. Could it be some pixie dust up in this bitch? Why not.

      I doubt Morse gets any time in the infield unless there are injuries. And really, this is about a depth signing. Blanco will start 1-2 days a week, despite the proclamation right now, and then you have a legit power threat ready to go.

      The Giants have limited areas to improve, and are getting to the outer boundaries of their budget. You take a shot at some risk/reward, I sure do like 30 HRs as a possible reward, with a good BA/OBP comped to league average (and when the hell are people going to notice how bad LF has become as a position in the majors?). Pence with his Hrs was among the league lead. Yes, Morse's defense will give back. But the Giants know that, and have a plan to mitigate it to some degree.

    2. Well, I think we all know by now that Bochy's statements are not binding to death. They are all in moment, and it could change after spring training, it could change after two weeks of the regular season. If that commenter wants to be mean about it, that's on him.

      And that's the thing with Belt, Bochy would pull Belt out when he was struggling and needed to sit down to clear his head, as he's clearly been an over thinker (like many of us are) and he would use the Posey rest excuse to sit Belt as well, but when Belt was on, Bochy was pretty good about giving him most of the starts while he was handling the bat well.

      And he's like that with a lot of his players, but if the players show change enough to Bochy to warrant a change in plans, Bochy will change his mind, and rightfully so, meanwhile fans get the grumbles because he didn't stick to what he said. I love the fact that Bochy has a short memory, he clearly understands baseball well enough to know when a player is doing well or not, and will pull the guy if he's struggling and put him back in once he gets better. Doghouses don't work in baseball, players do come back, they figure something out and can contribute, and Bochy creates the environment to enable that, whereas other managers doghouse guys, and they are useless after that, and that manager could have just shot himself in the foot doing that.

      I would also point out Pence defense too. He was a negative for a couple of years when the Giants traded for him, but he's been much more like his prior defensive rate with the Giants, which is significantly higher than the negative rate he had.

      I think Morse will see some time in the infield. Bochy likes to have options, so I can see Belt getting a break at 1B (Bochy only said 150+, so he'll miss around 5-10 games probably), like against Kershaw and others of his ilk. He also mentioned 3B, but I think that would be not likely, they probably would put Arias there. There is no real option other than Posey, and it sounds like Posey is going to be mainly a catcher if he wants to be in the lineup.

      Blanco will get starts, I agree, but I add that the 1-2 game a week will include Pagan in the mix there, and that gives Morse and Pagan 13-26 games off, or 136-149 starts, though it will probably lean more towards Morse than Pagan so that Angel will be closer to 150 starts, Morse closer to 140 starts. Plus Morse will probably see DH time as well (Posey too, I assume they will get the majority of those starts), which gives him 5-10 starts there probably. And maybe some of those 1B starts Belt don't get.

      Yeah, I was amazed at how bad LF has gotten, I guess that means that teams have focused more on defense there than offense in recent years.

    3. While I appreciate flexible options, I would definitely prefer for everybody to stay in their positions, mind their business, do their job. That's what Sabean is trying to establish. Of course, injuries or poor play have a way of changing the plan.

  4. OT: interesting info on Giants IFA rep:

    The Giants are viewed as being very, very serious about the international market. Two people familiar with the Jose Abreu negotiations told me they thought Abreu was going to end up with the Giants.

    “The Giants are players down there, pla-yers,” one of them said. “It’s only a matter of time before they get one of these guys.”

    Thought that would excite you a lot! Have a good one!

    1. OGC - if you dare go into the comments section there... And it does take some nerve sometimes... I actually posted about it! I'd like the beats to ask the Giants a little more in-depth about what's going on in the IFA waters.

    2. I went in there actually, left a few comments. Not that he wasn't rude, but he seemed ruder to your comments than mine, but maybe I missed the one you thought was rude to me. Yes, it does take some nerve sometimes, though I don't mind too much except when they get nasty, like at MCC. I just get tired saying the same things to the same people and they don't listen, and nobody seem to listen, that I get tired of. And that's fine, I can move on.

    3. Nobody's rude to me at Pav's. I'm talking about the trolly types that clutter up the good commentators. I think its improved a lot with the new commenting system actually, I try to participate a bit here and there.

    4. Sorry, turn out I was getting sick, under the weather today. I thought you meant Fangraphs.

      I do not bother to comment much at Pavs, for the reason you state, if it is improved, I will check out more, thanks!

  5. As a Nationals fan, I appreciated that we had to trade him last year, and I think the Nats did well in the trade. However, you Giants fans should know that we LOVE this guy, and we actually still miss him in spite of there still not being a spot for him. I saw a number of Facebook posts lobbying for him to come back. My point is that he is not only clubhouse-friendly, but fan friendly. Here's hoping he has a "beastly" year, except when SF is playing DC.

    1. Thanks for reading, thanks for the positive view! I'm expecting a big bounce back year from the Nats.

  6. Terrible signing, these guys who can't stay healthy are a waste on time, space and money regardless of whether its one year or not. For the rite return Brett Gardner cud be had and would make a heck of an OF with Pagan and Pence.

    1. I tend to agree with this viewpoint. I'd point to the A's with Jed Lowrie - that guy just could not stay on the field - he finally put up 154 games, 122 OPS+ and a shiny 2.3 WAR score that was battered by bad defensive ratings. I've never been as high on him because of his injuries.

      I was wrong about Lowrie. For this past year at least.

  7. All in all I guess we could have had a worse end to our LF search. Worse as in Blanco/Perez platoon. Lot of hoping going on here. Hoping that morse is healthy, hoping he isn't atrocious in defense, hoping that we don't see a Bumgarner vs Morse brawl when a dropped fly ball cost Madison a win.

    It's so classic Sabean. I guess I wish that there was some more creativity in the front office. I mean, we have no clear option internally for our LF coming up thought the system. And you can't count on a guy who is in high A (Williamson) to take the reigns in 2015. Would have loved to see a trade go down. We don't have many pieces that other teams want, at least major league ready, except one. "Hactor" Sanchez was rumored to be valued as a front line MLB catcher by multiple teams. The white sox being at the front of that list. Who can blame them, guy could easily hit .270+, not much OBP, but upside in power and at least average defensively....all at the age of 24/25 if I recall. Would have loved to see a Viciedo for Sanchez or De Aza for sanchez deal. Maybe ask for a RP to sweeten the deal. That would solve an OF position for years to come with younger players who could continue to blossom.

    1. The Giants are definitely very conservative. There won't be any big Texas style trades. Its a definite grouse about Sabean that has some teeth.

      I'm OK with Hector Sanchez, I used to sponsor his B/R page. I wasn't ok with him showing up out of shape though, I'll tell you that. The Giants appear to like him a lot. Its hard to gauge what teams are asking for him. I think Andrew Susac is going to change the catcher equation sometime around July of 2014 though.

      Thanks for commenting.