Thursday, February 28, 2013

The power of Pence's ping pong

I am a nut for alliteration, for sure. Andrew Baggarly has a nice story for CSNBay Area about how Hunter Pence played a lot of ping pong during the offseason to prep for 2013. Here's part --


“Sounds crazy, right?” said Pence, his eyes intense as always. “It works your fast-twitch muscles. You react. I just got a bunch of different friends and we didn’t play games. It was just rallies, as hard and as long as we could.”
Pence’s brother, Howie, mentioned something to him a few months ago: The more ping-pong he played in the winter, the better his seasons turned out to be. While not the most scientific observation in the world, it struck a chord with Pence.
And so the paddles came out, and no need to rally for service.
“It might be a coincidence,” he said, “but it was worth a try.”
Pence didn’t just spend all winter slamming and side-spinning shots. He overhauled the rest of his training regimen, too – and it involved a Superman-like exercise that was as much about clearing mental hurdles as physical ones.
His trainer stacked a bunch of metal footstools until they were nearly 5 feet tall. Then he told Pence to get a running start and jump to the top.
“The first time, I fell flat on my back – I mean as hard as you can fall,” Pence said. “I thought there was no way I could do that. I’d only risk getting hurt.”
Then he watched as his trainer, a 275-pound bodybuilder, leapt to the top in his first attempt. Something in that moment clicked for Pence: He just needed to see it could be done. From then on, his mind wouldn’t limit what his body could do.
Pence tried it again, and this time he wasn’t tentative. By the end, Pence was doing three sets of 15 jumps each. He was leaping tall buildings in a single bound. He felt like a man of steel, too.
“That changed everything,” he said. “Hitting is the exact same thing. It’s about strength and skill, but my belief is it’s the mind that’s most important. That’s the mindset I’m going to have all season – I won’t tell myself I can’t do something.”
That includes hitting at AT&T Park, a mental barrier some hitters never clear. Pence might have reasons to doubt, too, after hitting .219 in 59 games as a Giant following the July 31 trade that brought him from Philadelphia. His historic triple-hit double aside, Pence wasn’t a huge force in the postseason, either. With sliders away his bane, he struck out 17 times and walked just twice in 65 plate appearances in the playoffs.
Yet Pence also drove in 45 runs in his 59 regular-season games as a Giant, he cracked 100 RBIs for the first time in his career, and he provided adequate lineup protection for NL MVP Buster Posey.

Is it really all about the money?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Giants 8, Angels 8

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Giants 8, Dodgers 8

Tim's 2013 debut = not horrible

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nerves of steel

Get well, Garv

Barry Bonds = nice guy

Cole Gillespie, who's trying to make the Orange and Black, tells the SF Chronicle of a chance encounter with Barry Bonds in 2006 in which Bonds was both polite and helpful to a group of Pepperdine players -- 

Gillespie said that in the parking lot, Bonds spent about 20 minutes giving the Pepperdine players hitting tips.
Bonds taught them a drill that he relayed to Giants teammates as well to track a pitch and imagine catching it with your back hand. That supposedly helps you with timing.
“It was a fun moment for me. I didn’t know what to expect. You obviously hear things in the media. But he was great to us, nice and polite.”

Well, it looks like Gillespie has some decent social skills. He was pretty awful in 50 games with the Dbacks in 2009 and 2010 with a .236./.292/.365 slash line, racking up a -0.7 WAR 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It could have been a lot worse

"Right where we left off"

That's Bruce Bochy quote by Bruce Jenkins of the SF Chronicle on the Giants' first run of the spring on a single by Angel Pagan, a sac grounder by Scutaro and a single by Pablo Sandoval. 

The Giants went on to win, 4-1. Gary Brown doubled. 

The run was scored off a pitcher named Billy Buckner, per the story on the Giants web site. 

Aside from being named the same as the well-known Dodger-Bosoxer, Buckner has the distinction of being traded in 2010 for Dontrelle Willis, who started 5 games for after the trade for the Dbacks, was released and spent the rest of the season at Fresno.
  

Buckner racked up 138 innings between 2007 and 2010 for KC and the Dbacks.He's been on four teams since but hasn't made it back to the bigs -- 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Adios, Conor Gillaspie

The inevitable happened with the Giants trading away Conor Gillaspie -- who was out of options-- to the Chisox for a guy who sounds like a decent pitching prospect, per Andrew Baggarly at CSN Bay Area. 

The new guys is Jeff Soptic, who will be 22 in April. Baggarly reports he's been clocked in the upper 90s.  

Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune says that the Giants front office (Dick Tidrow) and coaching staff may be able to improve Soptic's mechanics-- 

Tidrow's specialty is pitching, and he also lives not far from where Soptic drew the attention of scouts and became the Sox's third round pick in the 2011 draft. Tidrow evaluates potential high draft picks as well as major league players the Giants have interest in acquiring, so it wouldn't be surprising if Tidrow saw Soptic pitch at least once.
The Giants, like the Sox, tend to prefer power arms that they can sculpt into better pitchers by improving their control with the help of their instructors.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The 2012 Zito of it all

Thursday, February 21, 2013

This means WAR

ESPN's Sam Miller explains all you need to know about WAR. Here's the second paragraph from the end -- 

Yet baseball's front offices, the people in charge of $100 million payrolls and all your hope for the 2013 season, side overwhelmingly with data. For team executives, the basic framework of WAR -- measuring players' total performance against a consistent baseline -- is commonplace, used by nearly every front office, according to insiders. The writers who helped guide the creation of WAR over the decades -- including Bill James, Sean Smith and Keith Woolner -- work for teams now. As James told me, the war over WAR has ceased where it matters. "There's a practical necessity for measurements like that in a front office that make it irrelevant whether you like them or you don't."

The slow Orange and Black pen

Henry Schulman of the SF Chronicle discusses how the Giants don't have a flamethrower in the bullpen and delivers a stat that shows the pen's average speed on their throws is among the slowest in MLB.

Team speed

League rankings for average fastball velocity for playoff teams in 2012:
Rk Team MPH
1 Nationals 93.6
2 Tigers 93.2
4 Cardinals 93.0
5 Reds 92.8
7 Rangers 92.5
14 Yankees 91.8
19 Orioles 91.5
25A's91.1
26 Braves 90.8
29 Giants 90.3
Note: Mets were last at 90.1.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Joe Torre is a dingbat

Looks like being affiliated with the most evil organization in the MLB, the los angeles dodgers, has made Joe Torre into a dingbat idiot when it comes to changing the rules on home plate collisions. Because it's obviously important to let dingbat sociopaths like Scott Cousins ruin careers by pretending their in the NFL.

I would bet that it's going to take another Scott Cousins collision ending a player's season to change the stupid rule -- which simply should be enforced as it is at the other three bases, and no longer allow runners the right to try to knock the ball loose.

Wendy Thurm at Fangraphs notes that Stupid Torre is insisting that no change should be made that would "affect the way the game is played."  --

Even if a rule change would make the game safer, it shouldn’t be pursued because it would “affect the way the game is played.”
Hmm. Seems we’ve heard a variation of this argument before. “Baseball is a game of history and tradition. You mess with that, and you mess with the very fabric, the very core of the game.”
“That’s why we can’t have black players in the game.”
“That’s why we can’t have instant replay.”
“That’s why we can’t have female umpires.”
“That’s why we must have a ban on PEDs and HGH.”
The integrity of the game. Or, rather, an idealized version of the integrity of the game, that must be preserved at all costs.
Nonsense.
Baseball is a sport steeped in tradition but shouldn’t allow itself to be suffocated by it. Times change. Knowledge evolves. Batters wear helmets. Catchers wear masks. Runners on first can’t leave the baseline for the sole purpose of taking out the second baseman or shortstop on a slide. The league is investigating protective headgear for pitchers, after Brandon McCarthy took a line-drive off his head last season and needed emergency brain surgery to save his life.

More than 30 HRs at home in 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"They all knew I was going to get it done"

Jeez, I know it's just spring training, where everyone is everyone's best buddy. But here's a story by Henry Schulman of the SF Chron that took me back 4 months. I still get a bit choked up thinking about the 9th inning of Game 5 of the NLDS -- particularly Sergio Romo's 12-pitch at bat to Jay Bruce. We kept waiting for the roof to cave in. Instead, Romo closed the Reds out. Here's the end of it --

  "I used to pitch with some attitude written on my forehead," he said. "I feel I became that much of a better pitcher not having that out there. My teammates made me feel I didn't need that to be good, to get the job done. In all reality, I feel it made me a better pitcher. I grew a little bit."
Romo cited a specific moment: his victorious, 12-pitch encounter with Reds right fielder Jay Bruce in the ninth inning of the decisive fifth game of the Division Series, which Cincinnati would have won had Bruce hit one out.
"There were little comments thrown at me by the infielders, and just watching the faces from the dugout," he said. "They all had my back. They all knew I was going to get it done. I was not going to let them down. I couldn't let them down. It's one of those things I'll never forget."

Monday, February 18, 2013

The return of Boof

Cain vs. Kershaw on April 1

Not an April Fool's Day joke -- that's how the season will start at Chavez Latrine.Henry Schulman of the SF Chronicle has fun with it -- 

In the most stunning development since the sun rose earlier in the day, manager Bruce Bochy has just said that Matt Cain will get his first career Opening Day start, facing Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles on April 1.
This ends four consecutive seasons in which Tim Lincecum started the opener.
Manager Bruce Bochy revealed the choice after this afternoon’s workout. He did not announce the rotation after Cain, though he did say that Ryan Vogelsong will start Saturday’s Cactus League opener against the Angels.
The Opening Day start had to go to Cain, who established himself as the staff ace not only with the six-year, $112.5 million extension he signed last year, but also his clubhouse leadership and his performance in 2012, when he finished 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA, threw a perfect game and started all three postseason series clinchers.
Bochy was asked if the choice was that easy.
“Yes,” he said, “but at the same time every one of them could be considered to be an Opening Day guy. I really feel that way. I’m not just saying it. Look at all of them, what they’ve done in the past. Zito has done it before. Timmy has done it before. That’s why I don’t get caught up in the numbers of the rotation. We don’t look at guys as “four” or “five” guys. That’s a compliment to who they are.”
When asked who might start the home opener four days later, against St. Louis, Bochy joked, “I’m going to bring Cain back on early rest.”

Kyle Crick is No. 1

At least he is according to Chris Quick at Bay City Ball. Chris has a nice post from a week ago about the top 5 Giants prospects. Gary Brown is number 2. 

Here's Chris's take on Crick, who's all of 20 -- If you were to construct a pitcher in a lab, he might look an awful lot like Kyle Crick, who possesses both the characteristic build of a power pitcher with the stuff to match. Crick showcases some of the best pure stuff in the Giants’ system — he throws a fastball in the mid-90s, and has been clocked at 99, and his hard-breaking curveball was rated best in the SAL. Crick used his combination of size, strength, and stuff to overpower hitters in his first full season of pro ball. His strikeout percentage (27.1) led the SAL among starters (100 IP). Like a lot of developing power pitchers, Crick’s command, or lack of, is his biggest drawback — his walk percentage (14.1) was the worst among starters in the SAL. He offers true front-line starter potential. And, you guessed it, he should start 2013 in San Jose’s rotation.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The 3rd year of Scutaro in the Orange and Black

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBay Area has an interesting post about Marco Scutaro agreeing to go with the Giants instead of the Cards because the Giants offered him a 3rd year -- three for $20 mil instead of two for $18 mil -- when he will be 40. It's a gamble for sure but he's been quite good in his time in a Giants uni. 

Matt Holliday of all people was part of the Cards pitch.I stilll believe that Holliday should have been thrown out of the game for that take out slide in the NLCS.

Marco started pulling in the big bucks -- $5 million plus per year -- back in 2010 as Bosox.  He's racked up 18 in wins above replacement over the past five years. Here's part of the story --

He hit .362 in 61 regular-season games and will carry a 20-game hitting streak into 2013.
Yes, his .366 average on balls in play might be unsustainable. But his 94 percent contact percentage on swings taken was the best in the majors, and his skill set makes him a perfect hit-and-run man in the No.2 slot for a club that thrived despite hitting the fewest home runs in the major leagues.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crawford moving out of Belanger territory

Weight, weight

Friday, February 15, 2013

83-79?

That's what Baseball Prospectus says the Giants will do this year, finishing 6 games behind the Evil Ones. 

The Giants are projected at 83.4 wins for the 2013 season with an 18.4% chance of winning the division and 24.9% chance of getting one of the two wild cards, for a total of a 43.3% chance of making the playoffs.

This is the same team that won two of the last three World Series, by the way

My guess is that the figuring is that Scutaro, Posey, Cain and Pagan will all regress. (when I click through, it just goes to an "under construction" page)

"The hardest thrower in camp"

Nice to have a guy with pure heat in camp, I say. 

Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury-News says it's Heath Hembree out of the 37 pitchers that are the Orange and Black spring training right now. Here's most of the post -- 

Once he gets on the mound, however, there’s no mistaking Hembree for anybody else. He’s likely the hardest thrower in camp, and you can hear the fastballs popping when Hembree lets it loose. He said his arm feels as good as it ever has.
“I feel strong,” he told me. “I feel really good right now. My arm feels great.”
Hembree is stationed in the middle of a long row of clubhouse lockers. On one side, he sees mostly minor leaguers. On the other side: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and George Kontos. It’s an appropriate spot for a player who likely would have made his big league debut a year ago if not for an arm injury. Hembree was briefly shelved in July because of a strain in his flexor tendon.
“It was a little bit of a disappointing experience,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever dealt with something like that, but I think last year was good for me mentally. I had to learn to get mentally stronger.”
After a strong 2011 season, Hembree had a 4.19 ERA at two stops last season, but much of the damage was done right before he was shut down (he gave up five earned runs in his final appearance before going on the DL). After returning to the mound in August, Hembree gave up just one run in 11 outings.
Hembree is working on a slider and changeup to mix in with his explosive fastball, and he’ll get a long look this spring. Five Giants relievers are scheduled to participate in the World Baseball Classic, although Javier Lopez may pull out. Either way, Hembree will get plenty of innings this spring.

The other Angel returns

Well, this is intriguing for sure. 

Angel Villalona, who had been one of the brightest offensive prospects for the Orange and Black way back in 2009, is back.

I'd pretty much written him off after a murder charge in the Dominican Republic and forgotten about him as Brandon Belt became a legit MLB player. Here's part of the story from the Giants' web site -- 

Asked to address what happened on the night of the shooting, Villalona said, "I'd rather not talk about it. I'd rather just concentrate on playing baseball."
Villalona said that he trimmed 40 pounds, from 290 to 250, to prepare for Major League camp. His most recent baseball activity was a 44-game stint in the Dominican Summer League last year, when he hit .303 with seven homers and 34 RBIs in 44 games.
"I played very hard, but I am aware that here is a totally different type of baseball," Villalona said. "I know I have to work double because of the competition."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Andres Torres in Dodger blue?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Belt's turning point -- July 23

This Fangraphs article is a bit wonky but it makes a good point that Brandon Belt began to hit much better last season when he concentrated on hitting line drives, which he did at an astounding 33.3% rate. Eno Sarris explains -- 


It looks like Brandon Belt knows what he’s talking about. He certainly found a line drive swing in the second half — 33.3% is an elite number. He hit fewer fly balls, the ball didn’t go as far, and he didn’t hit as many home runs as he might have with a more fly-ball heavy approach, but he certainly found the frozen ropes.
Now the difficult part, at least for Giants fans: A 33.3% line drive rate is not sustainable, most likely. For batters with more than 1500 plate appearances over the last three years, Joey Votto leads baseball in that statistic with a 25.5% number. And Votto himself defies the findings that suggest that line drive rate is one of the flakiest stats — its year-to-year correlation was the worst among the most common hitting metrics. Even though it was great that Belt found a line drive stroke that worked for him in the second half, he probably also was doing something that he’ll find difficult to replicate exactly the same way again.
But maybe he doesn’t have to. His line drive rate for the year (25.6%) is not as much of an outlier. And all of Belt’s seven home runs came in June and September. Perhaps a year full of this newfound approach will lead to more power outbursts as he gets comfortable in his role as the starting first baseman of the Giants. It’s certainly preferable to the funk he found himself in on July 22nd, 2012.

Matt Cain is the man

Tim Lincecum says so. He tells Andrew Baggarly of CSNBay Area that Matt should be the opening day starter at Chavez Latrine (my choice of words, not Tim's), after his first spring training pitching session -- 

. “You want to get off to a good start and I feel Matt Cain is the one guy to get us off on the right foot. I feel like any of our guys could. But with his success the last couple years and his consistency, it’s led to that feeling, like, `When Matt goes out there, we’ve got a great chance to win.’ That’s what it’s like on his day to pitch.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

21 of 25

They're almost all back -- the guys who won the World Series 4 months ago. That's what a Ricahrd Justice story notes on mlb.com. I had not heard previously  that Andres Torres wanted to come back (Boldface is mine)  ...

 
In the wake of winning two championships in three years, the Giants did something championship teams don't always do.
That is, Sabean left it alone. He looked at how his mix of players changed in the previous 12 months, and he liked what he had put together. He thought that instead of changing the group, the best strategy would be to give them another ride together.
So they're back, 21 of the 25 World Series players. One of the new Giants is anything but. He's Andres Torres, who spent three seasons in San Francisco before being traded to the Mets for Pagan last winter.
He attended one of the Giants' postseason games against the Cardinals, and when the season ended, began lobbying to return.
"It's not like the group has been together for four or five years," Sabean said. "Pagan's been here a year. Pence and Scutaro a half-year or less. We've got four young players in Belt, Crawford, [Hector] Sanchez and [George] Kontos. In a lot of ways, it's comforting for everybody to have the same group you ended the season with. It's not like it was a group that was at the end of a cycle or end of a run. It started a run, and hopefully we can continue it."
Sabean's worries are the usual ones -- health and organizational depth. This camp will be about sorting out depth behind the 25-man roster. That's why 24-year-old right-hander Chris Heston, who was dominant at Double-A last season, will get some important innings.
Complacency is not an issue. The Giants simply have gone about their business the way the best professionals usually do. As reliever Jeremy Affeldt said, "We enjoyed winning the World Series again, but then we had to get back to business. We're the champions of last season."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lousy contracts = Dodgers

That's what Jonah Keri writes on the Grantland site. He has a long story about the 15 worst contracts in the game -- Brandon League (13th), Juan Uribe (8th), Carl Crawford (2nd) and Adrian Gonzalez (14th). 

Barry Zito is 6th. Here's Jonah on Crawford -- When a player goes from a signature offseason pickup to a poison pill tacked onto a massive, multi-player deal in a span of less than two years, something has clearly gone terribly wrong. That the Dodgers willingly took on more than five years and $100 million worth of Crawford, when an elbow injury had already knocked him out for the year and raised questions about his future health, was bad enough. Another major drawback can be filed under opportunity cost. With Guggenheim Partners at the helm, the Dodgers have been delighted to overspend on all manner of players — you'll note that Crawford is the fourth Dodger on this list, and that L.A. gladly forked over another $147 million to reel in Zack Greinke. Problem is, a baseball team only has so many lineup spots available to be filled. I

Closer by committee for the Orange and Black

You are a true Giants fan if you know how many saves the team had last year -- 53. Casilla led with 25, followed by 14 for Romo, 7 for Lopez, three each for Affeldt and Hemsley and one for Brian Wilson.  


In his spring training preview, Henry Schulman of the San  Francisco Chronicle says it's going to be closer by committee this season. I think it's a good idea.Here's what Henry said -- 


3. Can manager Bruce Bochy win again with a mix-and-match bullpen? Despite Sergio Romo's shutdown performance in the postseason, Bochy is not naming Romo his sole closer for 2013 and has said different pitchers will throw the ninth inning.
After 2012, the fans need to surrender any doubt and concede that Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti know what they are doing. More important, all the relievers are accustomed to being used this way.
The question within the question is whether hard-throwing prospect Heath Hembree can debut in 2013 and try to wrest the job from Romo and others.

Meanwhile in Miami ...

While the Giants Fan Fest appears to have been a major success and lots of fun, the Marlins didn't have quite the same response, according to Marc Townsend at Yahoo Sports. 

A story about the line for tickets in Miami shows that there's only 4 people in line and deserted concession stands.Here's part -- 

The Marlins have used up all of the goodwill a new taxpayer-funded stadium gave them just a year ago. They've made many missteps, but the massive giveaway with the Blue Jays turned even hardcore Fish fans against them. And it has left them with a line for tickets that's four people long. That's not including this guy, who wore a Blue Jays cap to the event in protest.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dollars and sense for Romo

Here's how I know that I am a serious Giants fan -- because it really is fun to look at Romo's page on Baseball Reference. Five seasons of WAR worth 6.3 doesn't quite tell the story. Here are the number that jumps out at me -- 

Three saves in the 2012 World Series.277 strikeouts and 48 walks in 233 innings.

Lefty Malo does a great analysis on why Sergio Romo's deal makes sense/cents. The bodface is mine.

Let's never go back to the lies old-fashioned baseball people told us about guys like Scott Munter, that sometimes you really need to bring in that guy who can get a ground ball. No. When baserunners are wiggling around in the late innings, and the game is in the balance, we want strikeouts, dammit. We don't care if they come from a 99-MPH fastball, a 78-MPH no-dot slider, or a 56-MPH knuckle-eephus. Grounders have eyes that see. Bloopers tuck themselves into fair territory just beyond third base. Swinging bunts stay fair. But keep the ball out of play, and runners will not score.

As long as opponents don't reverse-engineer the here-it-comes slider, Sergio Romo is worth the contract he just signed, and more. His elbow is a joint of concern, of course, and a long spell of bad health will make the two-year commitment look ill-advised. But them's the risks; and them's that got the two World Series trophies and the $140 upper deck nosebleed seats for Opening Day can afford the risks. The outlay is still below market value. Romo is not a fungible reliever. A young minimum-wage fella isn't likely to fill Romo's roster spot at one-fifth the price and three-fifths the production.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Last game at the Stick?

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the Giants should play one last exhibition at Candlestick before the place gets blown up next year

I'm not sure what to think.Here's part of the Wikipedia entry -- 

The stadium is situated at Candlestick Point on the western shore of the San Francisco Bay. Due to its location next to the bay, strong winds often swirl down into the stadium, creating unusual playing conditions. At the time of its construction in the late 1950s, the stadium site was one of the few pieces of land available in the city that was suitable for a sports stadium and had space for the 10,000 parking spaces promised to the Giants.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Hasta la vista, Theriot

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBay Area is reporting that Ryan Theriot is not coming back to the Orange and Black. The team can't seem to find him. It seems that he didn't like being a part-timer last year.

He will always hold a bright place in the hearts of Giants fans for scoring the last run of 2012. 

  Sounds like someone else will have to throw handfuls of sunflower seeds, chuck protein bars and stop clubhouse traffic with their fashion risks.
The Giants have “lost contact” with Ryan Theriot, said GM Brian Sabean.
Sabean said the club “made an overture” to the veteran infielder around the winter meetings in December, but his agent wanted more time to explore other opportunities. Since then, the two sides have not talked.
The club has Wilson Valdez, Tony Abreu and Kensuke Tanake to compete for a backup infield job. Don’t count out minor leaguer Nick Noonan, who had a much improved season at Triple-A Fresno last season.
Theriot, from what I understand, was looking for more playing time. That’s going to be hard for the Giants to pledge now that Marco Scutaro is back on a three-year contract.
Theriot lost the second base job to Scutaro in late July, but was the DH in Game 4 of the World Series and scored the tiebreaking run as the Giants completed a sweep of the Detroit Tigers.
Now he’s being described like a satellite on the fritz.
“We’ve lost contact,” Sabean said.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Orange and Black campers

Chris Haft of mlb.com does a nice job of discussing how the Giants look as camp opens Tuesday. The key guys are the prospects and the rebound guys. Gary Brown and Heath Hembree seem the most probable to wind up in San Francisco this year -- 

 Prospects to watch
CF Gary Brown: This will be Brown's third trip to big league camp since the Giants selected him in the first round (24th overall) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Brown's speed is electrifying, but he must prove that he can contend with right-handed pitching consistently. Batting .313 in 17 Arizona Fall League games should bolster Brown's confidence as he enters this spring.
INF Nick Noonan: The 23-year-old has come full circle since he entered the organization as a highly touted prospect in 2007. Noonan never hit higher than .279 after that year -- that is, until last season, when he batted .296 for Triple-A Fresno. Noonan probably won't make San Francisco's Opening Day roster, but he can position himself for an in-season promotion with a strong spring.
OF Francisco Peguero: Gifted with impressive tools, Peguero received his first big league action in seven professional seasons last year, hitting .188 (3-for-16) in 17 games. He'll almost surely return to Fresno, though he'll join Blanco and Torres in competing for the left-field job.
RHP Heath Hembree: Widely considered the Giants' closer of the future after amassing 38 saves in two classifications in 2011, Hembree struggled with the transition to Triple-A, where he posted a 4.74 ERA last year. But he demonstrated enough talent to suggest that the Major Leagues still could be in his future. Opponents hit only .207 off Hembree, who struck out 36 in 38 innings.
RHP Chris Heston: Consistency has separated Heston from his peers, and the Giants are intrigued to see whether he can maintain that quality against Cactus League competition. In the past two seasons, Heston is 21-12 with 266 strikeouts and only 80 walks in 299 2/3 innings. Since Cain and Bumgarner are San Francisco's only two starters under contract for 2014, the Giants will continue to scrutinize Heston for a possible role in the rotation.
On the rebound
LHP Eric Surkamp: The 25-year-old is still recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, which he underwent on July 24. Though he could resume pitching competitively before the end of this season, the Giants won't rush him. Since Surkamp wasn't an overpowering thrower before his injury, he should be able to regain a groove with relative ease.
LHP Dan Runzler: A strained lat muscle that Runzler sustained in the 2011 season finale continued to bother him last year. It's easy to forget that Runzler ascended from low-Class A to the Majors in 2009, stopping at every classification along the way, before making the Opening Day roster in 2010 and '11. At 27, Runzler still has ample time to realize his considerable potential.

Giants avoid Romo arbitration

I think that last moment of baseball in 2012 -- called strike three from Sergio Romo to Buster Posey as Miguel Cabrera looks on in disbelief that the Tigers have been swept -- pretty much sealed this deal.

The Giants web site has a replay via this story about Romo's deal. When the clouds gather and the vexations mount, I plan to look at it.   

Had Sandoval not hit his homers in the Series, a strong case could have been made for Romo being the MVP of the Series. Here's part of the story -- 

Romo, who turns 30 on March 4, has helped San Francisco's staff join the ranks of the elite. He's 20-9 with a 2.20 ERA in 276 games over five seasons. In that stretch, Romo has struck out 277 and walked just 48 in 233 1/3 innings.
Thrust into the closer's role last year after Brian Wilson sustained an elbow injury and Santiago Casilla was demoted, Romo converted 14 saves in 15 opportunities while finishing 4-2 with a 1.79 ERA in 69 regular-season appearances.
Romo was even more effective in the postseason, allowing one earned run in 10 2/3 innings spanning 10 outings. He totaled four saves, including three in San Francisco's four-game sweep of Detroit in the World Series. Those three saves matched Romo's regular-season career total entering 2012.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ramon Ramirez back in the Orange and Black

I'm not sure what to think. The San Jose Mercury-News has the news --


Ramirez, 31, was an effective set-up reliever in his year-plus with the Giants. He was 4-3 with a 2.07 ERA and compiled five of his career nine saves with San Francisco. He initially came to the Giants in July, 2010, in a trade with the Boston Red Sox and helped them win the World Series.
Ramirez struggled last season in New York, going 3-4 with a 4.24 ERA. He has a lifetime ERA of 3.32.
According to Comcast Sports Net, the Ramirez deal will be a minor-league contract, meaning the pitcher will not come to spring training as a member of the 40-man roster. 

He gave up 2 earned runs in 27 innings in 2010 as a Giant. That's an 0.67 ERA. Then he gave up 6 runs in 4 postseason innings for an 18.00 ERA.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The other Abreu on the Dodgers

One of the many compensations of watching the Dodgers last year was how often they turned to guys who were no damn good anymore. Case in point -- Bobby Abreu, who used to be an elite player. In fact, between 1998 and 2004, he racked up Wins Above Replacement scores of over 5.0 for seven straight seasons with the Phils. Had he kept that up for two or three more years, we would be talking about a legitimate Hall of Famer. But he began declining in 2005 and was racking up very average WAR scores by 2010.

And he was lousy last year, so bad that the Angels ate nearly all of his $9 million salary and released him in April so that Mike Trout could play every day. Despite all the evidence that Bobby didn't have much left other than the ability to draw walks, he still logged 230 plate appearances with the Dodgers for a strange slash line of .240/.361/.344 -- with his power gone, his WAR for the season was -0.4.

He really was a walking machine -- 22nd on the all-time list. 

Abreu in the Orange and Black

Sports Illustrated gives the Giants a "C"

Jay Jaffe isn't overly impressed with the Giants' offseason. He likes the Pagan signing and the lack of a deal for Brian Wilson and he's not a fan of  Hector Sanchez -- 


Unfinished business: Backing Buster Bouncing back from a season-ending ankle injury, Posey enjoyed a remarkable season in 2012, hitting .336/.408/.549 with 24 homers in 610 PA, good enough not only for a batting title but NL MVP honors. Bochy was able to get the most out of him by giving him 29 starts at first base, which kept his bat in the lineup but cost them the services of Belt and usually subjected the team to the presence of Sanchez, who hit .280/.295/.390 with an appalling 52/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 227 PA. Bochy started him batting fourth, fifth or sixth in 27 of his 49 starts, creating a significant drag on the offense, and it’s not as though his defense was much to write home about, either. In addition to pitch-framing tendencies that left much to be desired, he nabbed just 23 percent of opposing base stealers (the league average was 27 percent) and ranked fourth in the majors in missed pitches (wild pitches plus passed balls) per nine innings among all catchers with at least 400 innings behind the plate at 0.55. By comparison, Posey nailed 30 percent of runners and missed just 0.26 pitches per nine.
In addition to his major league experience, the 23-year-old Sanchez had just 50 games under his belt at Double-A and Triple-A. If the Giants are serious about developing him as a longer-term alternative to Posey, he’d be better off going back to Triple-A to work on his approach at the plate and behind it on a regular basis while a more experienced catcher wiles away time on the bench waiting for Posey’s days off. At this point, that would require Sabean to make a deal given how picked over the free agent ranks are, which isn’t to say that it should be terribly difficult to do so.
Preliminary grade: C. The Giants certainly haven’t done anything radical this offseason. The money they’ve spent has been to keep together a team that just won a world championship, and while that generally doesn’t yield high dividends — no team has repeated as World Series winners since then 1998-2000 Yankees — the largest risks they took aren’t exorbitant ones. They bypassed the easy temptation of overpaying the high-profile Wilson, didn’t overcommit to Pence and don’t have any glaring weaknesses as spring training nears. Whether that will be enough to keep up with the overhauled Dodgers and Diamondbacks remains to be seen.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Conor Gillaspie in the Orange and Black?

I've never understood why the Giants keep bringing this guy up. He looks overmatched and hasn't shown any ability to hit MLB pitching. He's gone 9 for 48 with a slash line of .205/.271/.295.

DrB at the very solid When the Giants Come to Town blog calls Gillaspie the 42nd best Giants prospect. In other words, he's not impressed either. And it looks like he's out of options -- 

Because of an apparent signing promise by the Giants to add him to the MLB roster in Sept of 2008, Conor will be out of options this spring.   The Giants will have to either keep him on the 25 man active roster or expose him to waivers.  Barring some unexpected developments in spring training, it does not appear that there is a place for him on the active roster, so we'll see what happens.
His main strength is a consistent ability to control the strike zone which should allow him to achieve a respectable BA in the majors.  It's just that it comes with marginal power at best, no speed and pedestrian defense with no positional flexibility.  It seems to me that his best bet at this point is to hope to be claimed off waivers or traded to a rebuilding team like the Astros or Marlins who can afford to give him the opportunity to play at the MLB level.

Here's what caused the Super Bowl power outage

The overvaluation of veterans and batting average

Mark Texeira admits he's overpaid in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, now that he's on the downside of his career and still getting better than $20 million per season. The story places way too much import on batting average -- 


When he arrived in New York in 2009 on an eight-year deal, Teixeira immediately delivered the season the fans expected: a masterpiece of .292, 39 home runs, 122 RBIs.
Then he passed 30. Things got a little harder, nagging injuries added up, heavy weightlifting took a greater daily toll. Teams began to defend him differently, shifting extra infielders to the area between first and second bases to neutralize his dead-pull stroke. Teixeira's batting average fell, from its traditional .290 perch to .256 in 2010, and then .248 in 2011. The power was still there, but the base hits were disappearing.
He spent the winter before the 2012 season changing his swing, hoping it would make him a .290 hitter again, despite the defensive shifts and the effects of age. He was hoping for that magic formula that would snap him back to what everyone expected of him.
It didn't work. His new approach, coupled with a persistent bronchial infection, had Teixeira on track for career lows two months into the season. Halfway through 2012, he decided that he was focusing on the wrong things. In working to please others, he was trying to be something he might no longer be able to be. His production spiked before a calf injury shortened his season.
"You can't make everybody happy no matter what. I need to concentrate on what I do well. And what I do well is hitting home runs, driving in a lot of runs, and playing great defense," Teixeira said.
That mindset has pleased the Yankees, at least. General Manager Brian Cashman says that as long as Teixeira is hitting 30 homers, 100 RBI, and putting up a mid-.800s on-base plus slugging percentage, that's more than enough.
"Whatever he was working on before clearly didn't work. So I think you should stay with your strengths, no doubt about it," Cashman said.
Cashman has accepted that the .290 averages are probably a thing of the past. "You always want more," Cashman said. "But it's a pretty long sample now of three years in the .248-to-.256 range, for three straight years. So I think that's the new norm for him."
It may sound odd in the context of a lower average, but Teixeira comes off as a man brimming with confidence. He has accepted what he is, and what he is not—and that is enough.
"I want to be the player who hits home runs, drives in runs," Teixeira said. "I'd love to get back to the player that I've always been, but if I hit .250, .260, instead of .280, so be it." 

MY COMMENT -- He's a damn good player with a WAR of over 43. Since he became a Yank, he's had solid seasons with  5.1, 3.9, 3.0 and 3.6. 

Friday, February 01, 2013

The murky Wilson future

Lefty Malo believes that the Brian Wilson isn't going to get an MLB deal with another team, not with a second Tommy John surgery. He speculates that Wilson might sign a minor league deal with the Giants. There's also a Gif in the post showing Wilson's last and only save last year.  

It happened on April 12 and Marco Scutaro made the last out.  

Anyhow, here's part of the verbiage --  If Wilson shows signs before Opening Day that he might be back within a couple months, the Giants could really use him. It's not just a nostalgia trip or a marketing ploy. The Giants have spent handsomely this winter on Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and -- coming soon -- Sergio Romo, but it feels more and more likely that Wilson will be very affordable. And frankly, having another bullpenner with closing experience would be an excellent thing. Romo showed doubters he could handle regular closer duties down the stretch. He might well prove he can do it an entire year. But if Wilson agrees to play mainly for incentives, or to re-build his value for 2014, he'd provide a nice security blanket. An itchy, sweaty, dyed-black security blanket.

It would make for some awkwardness, but far less so with the Giants than with other teams who aren't used to his smarmy -- er, hilarious -- antics. A looming Brian Wilson who might or might not be the closer is not going to make Sergio Romo bristle about potentially losing his closer mantle. Bruce Bochy has proven he can handle a bullpen with unsettled roles; the guys coming back shouldn't have a problem with it, either.