Giants’ Jigsaw Pieces

The Giants’ off-season resembles M.C. Escher’s Relativity lithograph. There’s a ton of steps spread out all over the place, each distorted by perspective, and a history dating back to 1953. Freddy Sanchez, Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, and Bengie Molina were all added on the positional player side, although three of those players were more of the re-signing variety.

The most notable trait amongst the signings is the flexibility. Huff and Molina withstanding, the rest can play multiple positions. That’s a nice thing to have. Especially if Edgar Renteria bombs again, or injuries start stacking up, or they move Buster Posey to first base while batting him eighth and blocking Nate Schierholtz by playing Huff in right and … uh, never mind that last one. It’s not just flexibility either, the Giants have seemingly upgraded their lineup with these moves.

Admittedly, the offense still looks a bit uninspiring. CHONE projects DeRosa (.335) and Huff (.334) to be slightly above league average and Sanchez slightly below (.318). If those three perform like that and were somehow warped to the 2009 Giants, then they would rank third, fourth, and seventh in wOBA amongst batters with at least 300 plate appearances. Assuming Uribe’s luck on balls in play didn’t make the trip back in time with him, those three would likely fare even better.

That analysis is incomplete because it ignores defense. Huff has played about 2,600 innings at first base throughout his career and has a -4 UZR/150 to show for it. He spent nearly 900 innings there last year (-2.3 UZR) which was more than the amount he played there since 2005. Sanchez is a solid defender. DeRosa, meanwhile, has looked pretty good in the corner outfield over the years.

DeRosa (or Uribe) could always slide in at second base if Sanchez is reinjured. That would leave Fred Lewis in left field. That’s better than how things were last season and that should be encouraging. Plus there’s the Posey card. The talk about him playing an infield position is a bit concerning if it means moving him away from the backstop before he ever gets the opportunity. It’s absolutely damning if such a move is made because Bruce Bochy doesn’t buy into Posey’s game-calling. Write your congressman if this happens.

Perhaps the most frustrating part about this team is the stars. Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval are lovable, enjoyable players. They also play on the west coast with the Barry Bonds-less Giants. That means no added exposure through home run watches or national games. The eastern part of the country should know how good these guys are, but they won’t get to experience it unless they make the post-season. They’ll have a fighting chance at making the playoffs, but it’s easier to see this team finishing in fourth than second.

For now, though, the Giants have options, and that’s progress.

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48 Responses to “Giants’ Jigsaw Pieces”

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  1. Free Bowker says:

    We should play Bowker full time or trade him.

    I’m not a fan of the middling group of bats that Sabean is collecting.
    Bowker would be a free upgrade in left.

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  2. AInquisition says:

    I always forget, was M.C. Escher east coast, or west coast?

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  3. Ashraf D. says:

    Re: writing the local congressperson

    I think Nancy Pelosi is the last person I want solving the Buster Posey problem.

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  4. B says:

    To be fair here, none of the rumors of Posey being moved to the infield seem to have any basis in truth.

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  5. recca says:

    Left Field, well that’s a different story

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  6. Please don’t speculate blindly if you are not following the situation closely enough. The Giants only brought that up while noting that they are viewing him as a starting catcher, this would only be so that he could get more ABs in the majors while Molina is starting, and not sit on the bench so much.

    As long as the pitching holds up, the Giants are in good shape for making the playoffs. When a team has a great pitching staff like the Giants did in 2009, they only need an average offense to win 90+ games (check the Pythag on that). With their additions, compared to what they got in 2009, they should be around average in 2010 offensively, and thus have a good chance of getting over 90 wins.

    Meanwhile, the Dodgers lost a great performance (Wolf) with no clear replacement and the Rockies lost a great performance (Marquis) hoping that Francis, who missed a whole season, will replace that. Plus the D-backs are hoping Webb is back to normal after missing a season as well. And while the Padres appear to be on the upswing, they have a large number of games to make up to reach 90 wins.

    Nice article overall, though, I agree that they are Escher-like.

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    • B says:

      We have a league average offense, eh? That’s a lot of kool-aid right there. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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      • Look at our projected lineup and pull up the projections that are provided here on Fangraphs. Compare that with what were the league average by defensive position and by lineup position. You would then find that we have approximately a league average lineup. Another way to do it would be to plug it into the lineup analyzer that Baseball Musing has (or better yet, use the data for that to create a lineup calculator so that you can create your own lineups and what the implications would be).

        There, no kool-aid needed, just some willingness to put in some actual work to see whether the statement you make has any validity or not, by whatever dimension you can see. I greatly prefer to back my opinions with some sense of what reality really is, not what my biases are telling me.

        The projections are all roughly around league average scoring for 2009. It also assumes that Panda would not be as good and revert to his former non-power hitting that his career previously showed to some degree. There is no assumption that any of our players would play better now that they are healthy, and does account for them being older and not as good. Plug in an average scoring team with a team that can get their runs allowed to below 3.8 RA, and you have a team who can win 90 games.

        Of course, projections don’t always work out and yes, we will have to wait and see. But the data is here for analysis and if you have a problem with them, I’m sure they would be willing to hear why you think the projections don’t do it for you, they are nice (and smart) people here and would take the projections off if you can make cogent arguments why they are not useful.

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      • B says:

        Ha, a lot of assumptions about my reasons for not buying we’re a 90 win team. First, why do you assume our run prevention will hold up to last year? A lot of measures seem to indicate we were lucky and should have allowed more runs. Plus, our pitching is more likely to regress than improve, and will our defense put up a 43.6 UZR like they did last year? Guys like Renteria, and Rowand are older. We have Huff at 1B now. Winn is gone. I think it’s a stretch to assume the 2010 Giants are the same as the 2009 Giants.

        Second, league average offense? Other than Pablo, the best we have are DeRosa and Huff – projected at marginally above average, and Schierholtz, a guy with a career .315 wOBA and 90 wRC+ who’s projected at 3.8 runs above average. The other guys are all projected as bad hitters, and they’re old, might see their talent level fall off a cliff entirely, and when they inevitibly get injured, we’re going to have backups hitting in their spot. Our 8 starters are projected at a total of 8.6 runs above average (assuming they get their projected PT), but that’s before taking everyone else who hits into account. This is a team that let Eugenio Velez get over 300 PA’s last season. Sanchez is already hurt, and it’s not like Juan Uribe, with his projected -5.3 runs below average in 14.7 replacement runs of PT is supposed to adequately fill his spot. Sure, maybe if this was a well managed team, and we had an incredibly healthy year (unlikely, even more so considering how old everyone is), maybe we would have a league average offense. Not seeing it as a realistic chance, though.

        I’ll note that while you can look at our lineup by lineup spot or position, I don’t see the point, it’s just extra work. Whether you look at it by position, by lineup spot, or just by league average, you should arrive at the same conclusion.

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      • Let’s tackle one by one.

        What measures say we were lucky? Assuming you mean xFIP or FIP, they basically say that the Giants have been lucky in the last 3 seasons, at which point you wonder if maybe they were not lucky, but just not measurable by our current analysis tools.

        Why should the pitching regress? We have a young pitching staff and most people say that youth gets better with age and experience. Plus, if we got Bumgarner pitching a large percentage of our #5 starts, I think right there is a huge improvement to the pitching staff. In addition, Sanchez looks like he is more likely to take the next step forward and not backward. I can accept Zito as a regression, but I think he’s as likely to do as well. And I think Lincecum and Cain should be able to do as well, no reason to think that they will both regress.

        The defense will be worse, just from Huff taking over from Ishikawa, but all the other positions should hold their own against their results from 2009, and DeRosa has been pretty good in the OF, so I would think that he’s an improvement over LF over Lewis/Velez/Etc. Plus, Velez was a horrible fielder, and just removing him should help improve team defense. Franchez is an improvement over the melage of 2B parading through in 2009, particularly with Burriss out of the picture.

        But I assume there will be improvements on the part of Sanchez putting together a full year of performance and having Romo and Runzler for the full season, so while I don’t expect the same overall RA, I think that there will be only a slight decline to the 3.8 range.

        Compared to the average hitter, yeah, I can see your point, but my point is to compare the Giants to a league average team, and that is why I suggest looking at how the Giants personnel compare by positions. Basically, I’m just saying plug their projections into the lineup calculator and you can see that they are roughly a league average producing team, on a RS basis (4.43 runs scored average in 2009), no matter whose projection you use, that is what I’m referring to.

        And regarding injuries, yes, that was a big problem with prior Giants teams, but we have good go-to backups in 2010 if anyone other than Sandoval is injured. DeRosa can play 2B and 3B. Bowker and maybe Neal could take over in LF, or RF if Schierholtz falters. Uribe is an OK replacement at 2B and SS. Posey can jump in if Molina is out for any reason. Ishikawa is around if Huff is injured or falters, and Bowker probably can handle that too. I think Lewis will be our backup OF in 2010 and he could cover any of the OF positions. And I still like Frandsen as a starting 2B.

        What people forget is that the Giants purpose for 2009 was not to win the division, though that would be a plus, but to see who is useful and who is not while pulling out a winning season. Plus, if the guys in there were doing the job, he would not have been given the opportunity to start so much. So they gave a lot of opportunity to Velez in 2009 to see whether he got it or not, plus maybe be the guy who holds the position (he wasn’t, he was hot initially, and of course, he played, but then his usage petered downward).

        Velez’s not going to get a lot of opportunity in 2010 (and I expect him to be gone, DFA/traded away). I think that they saw that he’s not worthy of starting and went out and got DeRosa, plus Bowker is there too (and Neal). They are letting him compete but he’s not expected to be the starter. He only got a lot of ABs because both Lewis and Schierholtz faltered as a regularly starting OF and Winn was not doing that well either, just better than the young guys.

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      • B says:

        “What measures say we were lucky?”

        In terms of outproducing our pitching + defense, I’ve seen a couple of different places suggest we were lucky and let up less runs than we should have, BtB would be an example.

        “Why should the pitching regress?”

        Sample error. It’s why we regress to the mean. It’s more likely that a players true talent level is closer to the mean as opposed to farther. Also, there’s a chance of injury. 225.1, 217.2, 192, 159.1 IP from Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Sanchez, respectively. No real room for Lincecum or Cain to move up, not much room for Zito, but lots of room for them all to pitch a lot less innings for some reason or another. Sanchez is probably much closer to the point where there’s an equal chance of him pitching more or less innings next year, but I’m unsure on where that point it. Plus, our bullpen was very good last year, again, it’s more likely they do worse than better, though that doesn’t really take additions/subtractions into account.

        “Plus, if we got Bumgarner pitching a large percentage of our #5 starts, I think right there is a huge improvement to the pitching staff.”

        What makes you think Bumgarner is ready? He’s still a good prospect, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a 20 year old kid with little to no offspeed stuff and a fastball that lost velocity, who couldn’t strike anyone out in AA last year. That doesn’t exactly scream “MLB ready starter”….

        “but all the other positions should hold their own against their results from 2009″

        Older players tend to get worse. I don’t see how you can make that assumption. Plus, if we start adding C defense in there (seems like Fangraphs might seeing how they include it in CHONE projections now?), that’s not a good thing for us….

        “maybe Neal could take over in LF”

        Bowker, sure, but let’s hold off on a guy who has yet to play above Class A being able to step in as a backup. If anything, that works for the argument that our backups will bring our performance down when they inevitibly play. Plus, while positional versatility is nice, take into account the effects that has on run prevention. If DeRosa plays any IF for us, that means we lose his good corner OF defense and get a bad IF glove instead (according to his career UZR’s). I think Frandsen is fine as a utility backup. for the record, and didn’t see a need for Uribe because of Frandsen (at least not taking the Sanchez injury into account, that makes seem more necessary). But again, who’s to say we don’t see more horrible lineups out of Bochy + Sabean? We were in the playoff hunt when Velez was getting at bats, everyone could see what a dumb move that was. It still happened. I guess I don’t have evidence it will happen again, so I won’t say we have to account for it, but I will say it’s something to watch for.

        “What people forget is that the Giants purpose for 2009 was not to win the division, though that would be a plus, but to see who is useful and who is not while pulling out a winning season.”

        And this is one of the biggest problems I have with our strategy over the last few years. We still don’t know what a lot of our players can do, except for some crappy ones like Velez/Burris/Bocock because we were left with no other alternative. We should have figured out this stuff by now by giving guys like Lewis, Bowker, Schierholtz, Frandsen, Ishikawa legitimate shots when we weren’t winning. This hasn’t happened. No, most of those guys don’t seem like very good players, but we needed to find out. We didn’t find out, we didn’t make the playoffs, and instead we found out Velez sucks (the most obvious thing ever) during a playoff run. Fantastic. It just doesn’t make sense. Our best hope is probably Buster coming up because Molina gets hurt and catching fire….at least until Molina cries about lack of respect and demands Bochy start playing him again.

        Overall, it looks to me like an awful lot has to go right for this team to get to 90 wins. I don’t see it as very likely, and have to go with what the projections seem to be saying about us – we’re more a low 80’s win team than anything.

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    • Jeff says:

      You heard the man. Don’t even try and speculate if your not an obsessive compulsive Giants fan.
      God! ..Idiots…

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      • I love discussions about anything and everything about the Giants. I know I’m not 100% correct on anything, but do think that I do read a lot on the Giants plus analyzed a lot and can bring that to any discussion.

        However, saying “no it isn’t” does not do much for discussion.

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      • Ivdown says:

        This is to OCGF

        You are wearing the cap of overly confident homer fan right now. The Dodgers lost Wolf, Hudson, and Mota. Hudson’s value can’t be fully replaced by Belliard and Dewitt, but I would be nowhere near shocked if the two combined put at about 2 WAR, about 1 less than Hudson last season. As for Wolf, a combo of Elbert, Mcdonald, Stults, Haegar, and a couple others will be going for the 5th spot with Padilla in the 4th spot. Wolf was slated to be the 4th starter last year, and played above his career norms. Yes, there will also be value lost there, but with good chunks of innings this year from Mcdonald/Elbert (I believe one of these 2 will win the 5th spot), it will make up for the poor effort from the 5th spot in the rotation last year filled by Schmidt, Milton, and spot starts from 6 different pitchers. I’d still account for a loss in WAR compared to Wolf, and as Wolf was a 3 WAR pitcher last year I’d expect a 1.5 WAR from the 5th spot and 2 WAR from the 4th spot, so that could account for 1 or 2 less wins maybe.

        What the Dodgers do gain this year, though is more games played by Manny, maybe by as much as 30 more games, James Loney is at the age where power matures, and this is very pivotal for his future as a Dodger and in the MLB, Martin and Furcal literally cannot get any worse, so I’d expect at least a little improvement, and everyone else should stay around the same level if not getting better. Matt Kemp is a prime candidate for a breakout season.

        I am certainly not expecting another 95 win season for the Dodgers, but I am expecting at least 91 or 92 wins, which is very reasonable. The Giants have done little to nothing to improve to win the NL West or Wild Card. The guy you were talking with before was right, the Giants were able to play over their head (much like the Dodgers underplayed their pythag) and are due for some regression (Matt Cain comes to mind).

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    • Ivdown says:

      Lol, yeah, they are definitely in good shape to make the playoffs when the Dodgers and Rockies clearly have a team team each than the Giants. Not to mention the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, and most likely Cubs (I don’t think they are really as bad as they were last year) they will have to compete with to fight for a playoff spot. Nothing is close to secure for the Giants.

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  7. Joe R says:

    I have to disagree on the Lincecum point. Anyone who knows anything knows Lincecum is a beast out on the East Coast. I would like to see him pitch more, to be fair.

    Kung Fu Panda is underrated, though. I hope he has a nice, long career, he has Ernie Lombardi written all over him.

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    • DL80 says:

      I would bet that many casual fans have heard of Lincecum but put him somewhere behind Scott Kazmir in ranking starting pitching. It’s ridiculous, I know. But a much-hyped east coast player with a name is more in the regular fans’ consciousness than an amazing west coast player who has not had major national exposure.

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      • Joe R says:

        I have not met anyone who holds that opinion, or at least holds it openly.

        If you have, I am sorry for your life situation. All kidding aside, wtf is all I can say.

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      • B says:

        Let’s remember Lincecum did win two consecutive Cy’s. He gets pletny of exposure…

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      • The Hit Dog says:

        There is just no way this is true. I live in NY and know plenty of idiot Yankees/Sox/Mets fans, and they all know Tim Lincecum is top 1or 2 in baseball.

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    • Yeah, that is why Panda needs to be on more TV screens: body bias.

      Yeah, he has a body like a bumble bee, but he defies nature. I wouldn’t have believed it either, accepting what others have fed me, but, not once, but twice, in just a week, I saw him score on close plays at home plate.

      The sleekest, fastest gazelles there are in the majors could not have made a more perfect slide in both instances, once he sprawled out and made a tag to score on the corner of the plate, just avoiding the catchers tag, the other time he leapt and dodged the catcher’s tag to score (awkwardly, admittedly).

      Ernie Lombardi comparison’s should go to Molina. Using Bill James Baserunning stats, he had Sandoval at a -2, which is below average (which I is meant to be 0 but is off slightly) but he’s not a turtle like Benjie (-17) and he did better than A-Rod (-7) and I-Rod (-7). Weiters didn’t play a full season and he was -18 and Ty Wigginton was a -24.

      And, FYI, the Giants as a team was +67 last season, good for a tie for 6th in the majors. Of course, Winn (+26), Velez (+13), Burriss (+11) and Torres (+16) accounted for all of that and they are probably not on the team in 2010, but Schierholtz had a +8 in limited play in 2009, DeRosa was +10, Ishikawa was +11, and Franchez was +3 with bad wheels, and Rowand, our leadoff hitter was +8. Huff, unfortunately, was worse than Molina (-22), but at least should have a much much better OBP. And Renteria has not been good at all the past two seasons, but was a +26 the season before that, not sure what happened there.

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  8. DrBGiantsfan says:

    The best part of the offseason for me is that the Giants held firm for the second year in a row on no long term contracts. With a nice core of young players(admittedly mostly on the pitching side), and an excellent farm system, the Giants are as well positioned for the future as any team in baseball.

    P.S. It looks like the Giants are serious about giving Nate Schierholtz a full on chance in RF. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he has a strong start to keep Bochy from being tempted to pull the plug after, oh, about 100 AB’s. I project Nate to be a .280/.320/.450 hitter with 15-20 HR’s and plus defense in RF once he gets his feet on the ground. He has an rocket launcher for a right arm, and enough speed to get to balls in Triples Alley.

    P.S. Watch Thomas Neal closely in the minors. I’m projecting him as the Giants starting lF in 2011 with an outside chance of making the majors this year.

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    • I have similar expectations for Schierholtz as the esteemed DrB. As I noted above, Nate is good on the bases. He’s stolen double bases in the minors. And he had a great UZR/150 in RF for his career.

      I like Neal as well and as much as DrB. But with DeRosa currently in LF, I’m not as sure Neal would be the starter in LF in 2011, but definitely battling for it in 2012 with perhaps Bowker, who might also be battling for 1B with Ishikawa, though that depends on how Ishikawa handles 2010.

      But long term he does seem to be our eventual solution in LF, I think, based on how well he has done at a much younger age than Bowker. Also, Neal has played at 1B before, so that is a possible avenue too, though I would think the Giants would want to keep him in the OF if possible because Sandoval and Villalona look like future 1B.

      An unlikely possibility, but I mention it because he has played there for maybe 20 games there and did OK there defensively, but Bowker has played in CF, and has really played more RF than LF in the minors, despite Sabean’s note that Bowker was not competing for RF against Schierholtz. Looks like the Giants are greasing the path for Nate to win RF in 2010, as he’s only competing against Velez and Torres, it seems like, and maybe Lewis. I think that’s because Bowker still has an option plus has really only had one great season, in 2009, and it would be nice to see him repeat it before we give the job to him with no backup if he fails.

      And, it is always possible that the Giants could try to trade Huff, DeRosa or Franchez (DeRosa can play 2B) if Bowker and/or Neal is pushing the issue in the minors. With options and youth, Neal I would think will rise one level at a time unless he’s totally clobbering AA and AAA pitching. And Bowker with a continuation of his 2009 season could make him a platoon buddy with DeRosa in 2010 while the Giants figure out what to do next.

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    • Paul says:

      Just as a quick rebuttal, I agree the Giants have had a really top-notch farm system, but a lot happened last year to completely decimate it. Keith Law ranked the Giants 20th this year. That’s not good.

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      • B says:

        Law isn’t the only one down on them, either. Forget who it was but someone else had them around 20, too. Sickels maybe?

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      • Scott says:

        Yeah, it’s weird that Baseball America would rank the Giants in the top 5 farm systems but other the KLaw would rank them so low. They’re both knowledgeable sources, so it’s tough to know where they actually fall. Somewhere in between, probably.

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  9. DL80 says:

    If Bumgarner’s velocity comes back, this team could easily have the best 1-4 rotation since the 1993 Braves (Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Avery, all in their prime). As a reminder that it was the pre-steroid era, those 4 guys allowed a total of 67 home runs in almost 1000 innings.

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    • B says:

      “As a reminder that it was the pre-steroid era”

      Um, steroids have been in baseball since the early ’70’s, at least. Not that the point is any less meaningful, of course. Maybe a reminder that it was the pre-juiced baseball era is appropriate?

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  10. If the Giants don’t like Posey’s game-calling, why don’t they just call the game from the dugout? Bochy was a catcher, after all.

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    • Joe R says:

      I’ve always wondered how much a catcher’s “game calling” skills actually affect proceedings.

      One case where game-calling may make sense is the difference between Jeff Mathis (2,791 PA, .256/.320/.408) vs. Mike Napoli (3,325 PA, .287/.353/.454). Of course, there’s a lot of room for sample bias in those statistics.

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      • Which brings on the argument of the validity of Catcher ERA, which, if I recall, isn’t very high.

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      • Check out the article on comparing catchers by the pitchers who form a battery with them in Fielding Bible II. Their conclusion is that there is something measurable, and they gave some data for the prior seasons for comparison of a number of current catchers.

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      • Joe R says:

        cERA is stupid, but mainly because the only way to actually compare cERA’s is catchers on the same team.

        And single season totals are prone to volatility and it’s rare that two catchers have a high enough sample to make any judgments. Not to mention sample bias.

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  11. says:

    I do think they have improved the offense, but it’s totally clear at what cost to run prevention. Their pitching was helped a lot in 2009 by outstanding defense, and it’s pretty obvious they won’t have the range they had a yea ago. Affeldt in particular had a lucky 2009 and is in line for a large regression. They have very very little speed, obviously. Plus, I have major concerns they will stay consisteny healthy, F. Sanchez in particular. Labrum surgery is very tricky, at least for pitchers. I think Panda will continue to hit for average and power. He’s so young and could develop more power. His final HR in 2009 was oppo and yet one of the longest ever hit in PETCO. I hate to say it, but it’s easiest to see them in 3rd in the NL West. I don’t see Arizona even with Webb improving that drastically. They were just dreadful fundamentally, something is just off in AZ.

    The Giants offseason grade should be a … TBD.

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  12. says:

    …it’s NOT totally clear at what cost to run prevention…

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  13. says:

    Lincecum isn’t a secret, east coast or any other place people watch baseball. He had the video game stuff (CGI Timmy), started the All-star game and has back to back Cy’s. Plus, an ESPN commercial is either out or forthcoming. People do deserve and I’m sure would love to see him pitch more often, though. Greinke too.

    Panda is definitely missing out on his fair shake, Evidenced by his absence in last years All-star game. The fans and the Phils skipper are to blame on that blunder.

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  14. Fergie348 says:

    If you believe in regression to the mean (which Sabean clearly doesn’t but people who peruse this site presumably do), Cain is due for a jump in ERA this year – his BABIP last year was freakishly low and he’s a fly ball pitcher. Now wouldn’t be the worst time to explore a trade for someone like, I don’t know, Prince Fielder? He’d be a good fit on this team for a couple of years, give us some pop from the left side. We could always replace Cainer with someone of the Kevin Pucetas variety for awhile until Zack Wheeler is ready..

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  15. says:

    I’ve long felt the Giants should move Cain for a proven bat, such as Fielder. I really would love to see Cain for Votto, but the Reds can’t be that stupid.

    Cain’s value is peaking right now and I do believe his ERA will rise in 2010. He is a solid no. 2 starter but can probably be sold now as a 1. He’s durable, has 2 years of Team control and is still relatively cheap being owed 10.25 mil over the next two seasons. A lot of teams would probably give up quite a lot for all that.

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  16. SharksRog says:

    Don’t trade John Bowker unless he brings a lot (which is unlikely now). John still has an option, so if he doesn’t play well enough in the spring, why not send to Fresno and bring him up and down as makes sense?

    That way Bowker gets fairly consistent at bats but also continued major league experience.

    Aubrey Huff is on a one-year contract. While Bowker is likely mostly a left fielder, he’s not a total loss at first. It would be nice if he were ready to take over for Huff in 2011.

    Moving him up and down as makes sense might give Bowker the best chance to develop into that player.

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    • B says:

      One of the problems is everyone seems to be in agreement that Bowker makes a pretty terrible 1B, while he’s actually passable as an OF…

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  17. SharksRog says:

    The Giants’ pitching — especially out of the bullpen — seems likely to fall back a bit. Their ERA improved by five-sixths of a run last season. That’s a LOT — and a lot to expect to maintain.

    I’m not saying the Giants will fall apart. It should still be several degrees better than their improved but still probably below-average hitting.

    But all four returning starters improved in 2009. Is it unreasonable to expect at least one or two to regress at least slightly? And while I have a lot of belief in 20-year-old Madison Bumgarner, don’t forget that 22-year-old Tim Lincecum forged only a 4.00 ERA as a rookie.

    As for the bullpen, almost everyone improved. Jeremy Affeldt will stun the nation if he maintains last season’s 1.68 ERA. Brian Wilson had a large ERA improvement. I think he has a good chance of maintaining most or all of that improvement, but it’s far from a sure thing.

    Sergio Romo has somewhat beset by injury. Brandon Medders has been a journeyman. Dan Runzler provides nice potential, but he also walks more than a batter every two innings.

    Justin Miller and Bobby Howry weren’t used successfully in a lot of key innings, but they did fashion ERA’s in the low three’s. Who will replace those low ERA’s?

    To me the question is will the offensive improvement be more than the decline in pitching. The success and utilization of youngsters Bumgarner and Buster Posey will likely make a difference in what otherwise seems to be a close equation perhaps slanting a bit to the downside.

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  18. SharksRog says:

    Obsessive Giants Compulsive is one of the more knowledgeable Giants observers around. As you can see from his screen name, he CARES!

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  19. SharksRog says:

    Matt Cain clearly improved last season, but the closest pitcher I could find to him numbers-wise was Randy Wolf, whose ERA was considerably higher.

    Matt cut his hit rate and especially his walk rate, but he also gave up a career high in home runs. His high strand rate is what got his ERA below three, and that isn’t likely to repeat himself.

    Matt’s ERA dropped by more than three-quarters of a run last season, similar to the drop in the Giants’ team ERA overall. How much of his ERA drop was due to true improvement and how much was due to luck. If we guessed half and half, we might not be TOO far off.

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    • B says:

      FIP seems to indicate Cain has basically been the exact same pitcher for his entire career so far. tERA agrees. xFIP doesn’t seem to peg him very accurately, as he’s maintained a low HR/FB rate for his entire career (AT&T maybe?), but he did pitch a litle better last year than his career xFIP, so maybe he improved a bit, but overall….pretty much the exact same pitcher he’s always been.

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  20. SharksRog says:

    Some moves with questions:

    . Why Freddy Sanchez instead of the shorter-term, less expensive Orlando Hudson? Or Felipe Lopez. Freddy is an average or above fielder and a great guy in the clubhouse, but not only does he not get on base or hit for power, he doesn’t make as many productive outs as one would expect. Perhaps worse, we don’t like station-to-station base runners, so we likely won’t like Freddy, whose lack of pop makes him a station-to-station hitter.

    . Why Mark DeRosa? Why not save the money and come up with some form of a Bowker/Lewis platoon with Andres Torres in left field? Likely little dropoff, if any, and $6 million saved. Torres has hit southpaws about as well as DeRosa and has a much better glove. Lewis has sligthly outhit Mark against righties. Bowker has the potential to be a small difference-maker.

    . Why Bengie Molina? He’s likely to continue his decline, and it might evan hasten. Yorvit Torrealba would have provided a solid backup who has also been a starter in many games over his career — at less than half the cost of Bengie. Possibly the worst thing about signing Bengie would be if it limited the conribution Buster Posey would likely make.

    . Ryan Garko stunk it up in his brief trial with the Giants last season, but he has been a reliable bat over his career. He’s not a great fielder, but neither is Aubrey Huff. Lefty-hitting, good-fielding Travis Ishikawa would certainly complement the righty-hitting Garko than the lefty-hitting Huff.

    I like the signing of Huff — but the Giants could have saved over $2 million and seemingly had better roster balance with Garko.

    The Giants could have saved significant money without hurting their team much if at all. They could likely have used those savings to further fortify their pitching, to save for the trade deadline, or simply to save for a rainy day or for 2011 and beyond — seasons in which they should be very good but will face increasing salary pressures.

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  21. recca says:

    the giants have mad some very nice minor league signings.

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