I’m With PoPo: Molina Returns to the Giants

The embattled executive liked the older performer. He’d done well for them in the past. Sure, the “critics” were getting sick of the older guy’s schtick, but the executive appreciated all that he’d done for the organization. Still, it was clearly time to move on. After all, they had a much more talented younger guy waiting in the wings as a replacement.

Once the younger guy did get his chance, onlookers (and the younger guy himself) probably thought it was a permanent arrangement. The older guy seemed resigned to his fate and was moving on. Sure, his new spot seemed like it was going to be a total disaster, but you take what you can get, and the money certainly didn’t look too bad. While some older fans might have wanted to old guy back, the younger, hipper crowd certainly understood that the younger performer was the wave of the future. Maybe the executive, who had squandered his resources so often in the past, was finally getting it.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the executive decided to bring the older guy back in a way that could only mean a demotion for the younger guy. And the hipper crowd was understandably up in arms. The once-proud organization quickly became a laughingstock (again).

At least NBC and Jeff Zucker could point to the ratings. What is Brian Sabean’s excuse?

While the rough analogy to the Late Night situation could apply to the Giant’ whole Ryan GarkoAdam LaRocheAubrey Huff fiasco, it is more apt with regard to the decision to bring catcher Bengie Molina back for a reported one-year, $4.5 million, months after Giants General Manager announced that the ‘ship has sailed‘,” thus (apparently) paving the way for the promising young catching prospect Buster Posey to be the starter in 2010. It was not to be.

It’s not as if Molina is without his uses. CHONE’s context-neutral projection for Molina is .259/.286/.419, or 15 runs below average per 150 games in context-neutral linear-weights. That seems to be the general consensus: ZiPS projects Molina at .271/.298/.424, and I have him at .259/.287/.417. The line is ugly, but not that unusual for a catcher. CHONE’s projection for Molina’s defense is also below average at -3. Altogether: -15 offense -3 defense + 12 positional adjustment +20/150 replacement = 1.4 WAR, adjusted for 130 games to account for a catcher’s playing time, we get 1.2 WAR. After removing the replacement salary (about $400,000), the contract implies about $3.5 million per marginal win, pretty much in line with the market this off-season. So, in a vacuum, this is a decent signing.

The problem is, of course, that Molina is projected to be worth the money… but only if he gets about 130 starts in 2010. And the Giants already have someone in the 11:30 slot: Buster Posey, the fifth overall pick of the 2008 draft. Based on impressive minor league performances, CHONE‘s 2010 projection for Posey at is .265/.341/.402 (ZiPS has Posey roughly the same at .263/.343/.398), or -5/150. Defensively, CHONE projects him at -1. Over the same 130 games as Molina: -5 offense, -1 defense + 12 position +20/150 positional = 2.6 WAR, over 130 games that’s about 2.3 WAR.

In other words, San Francisco can get their (projected) money’s worth out of Bengie Molina, but only at the cost of giving him the majority of starts and blocking the younger, more talented, and, yes, less expensive player.

Maybe this makes sense of a level I haven’t explored: given the average age of the 2010 Giants’ starting position players, perhaps Brian Sabean simply prefers Jay Leno’s demographic.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

110 Responses to “I’m With PoPo: Molina Returns to the Giants”

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  1. giantsfansince1981 says:

    I hate Brian Sabean this offseason.

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    • Viliphied says:

      I hate Brian Sabean this offseason


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      • giantsfansince1981 says:

        Ha! I was trying to be optimistic earlier in the offseason, actually defending him at times. Unless he proves me wrong by dealing Derosa, Huff and Molina mid-season and allows Lewis/Bowker, Ishikawa/Guzman and Posey to play, I may start just hating him.

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  2. payday0023 says:

    You guys just embarrass any other kind of sports writing, or writing in general, on The Web. Really good article, well done.

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    • Joe R says:

      Sorry, Matt Klaassen will give you some Plaschke-graph style.

      Forgot that every blog post on the internets is held to the standard of “Death of a Racehorse”.

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  3. Joe R says:

    Brian Sabean: lol

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  4. Charlie says:

    “I have him at .289/.287/.417.”

    that would be QUITE the line…

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Argh. Fixed. Thanks.

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      • Charlie says:

        Actually kind of funny, it being Bengie Molina I almost had myself convinced it was possible.

        Also, Sabean may be going with a two catcher defense on days Lincecum pitches, just have one sit behind the other to stop past balls on Molina. Go with two outfielders, no one hits it out there against Lince anway.

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      • astrostl says:

        It’s possible, a fact I think I discovered last year at a point when B Molina’s OBP was actually lower than his AVG. If you have enough sac flies and not enough walks/HBPs, it can happen!

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        It is possible, as long as you have more SFs than BBs+HBPs.

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      • DL says:

        And considering Bengie didn’t get his first walk until the summer (from what I remember), it’s actually likely

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      • astrostl says:

        How did my response get two downvotes? :-/

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    • oldjacket says:

      he could totally do that

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  5. Mo Wang says:

    Conan is getting the shaft. NBC is run by a bunch of morons.

    Make sure to watch Conan’s 0.6th anniversary show this week.

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  6. Nate says:

    Do you really have his OBP lower than his AVG? I know it that was the case for a while last year and he’s been somewhat close in the past, but that’s hard to imagine over a full season.

    My guess is typing erro or you have a pretty low estimate for his PT which you point out may not be the case due to his salary.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Yeah, it was a typo. My own projection “system” (just a modified Marcels) is .259/.287/.417 — pretty close to CHONE’s. I just put it in there for fun — I’d take CHONE or ZiPS over mine any day.

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    • Nate says:

      Ah. My question was addressed as I was typing it. But I still say it could happen if his playing time was limited enough.

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    • SteveM says:

      I have his SLG lower than his Avg. Try THAT one on!

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  7. Steve says:

    The only reason I don’t like this move is because it could keep the Giants from signing a fifth starter. l couldn’t tell whether Buster looked ready for the bigs. However, despite Bumgarner’s performance I really don’t think he is ready.

    In the end this move could end up saving the Giants money by pushing back Posey’s arb clock. And it’s not like he absolutely destroyed AAA pitching (a 900 OPS in 150 or so PA)

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  8. hamandcheese says:

    A few months into the season in 2009, Bengie Molina’s batting average was higher than his OBP.

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  9. Brian says:

    Are they going to keep Posey in AAA? At least long enough to delay arb/FA by a year? There’s value there that the Giants are picking up.

    He only has 3 weeks of service time. If they held him back until around June, they’d put off arbitration and free agency both by one year (big potential value there), plus they’d have a stopgap should Posey not live up to the expectations.

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    • giantsfansince1981 says:

      A valid point, but that assumes that Sabean is thinking that far ahead. I’m not sure I believe that. That also is somewhat questionable, as the Giants could contend in the West this year, so every win will count. Since Posey would likely be a better offensive player than Molina, wins in the first half could be huge for the Giants.

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      • Brian says:

        The decision to bring Lincecum up in early May, 2007 and not later in May that year is costing them a TON with Timmy being a Super-two this year. Maybe he’s adjusting his approach in reaction to that.

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      • giantsfansince1981 says:

        Perhaps. In that case, perhaps a midseason trade is in order. If Sabean deals Molina mid-season then brings up Posey, I will retract all criticism and acknowledge a wise signing. I have to admit not offering Molina arbitration turned out to be a good move.

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      • Brian says:

        Quick and dirty:

        Not signing Molina, and assuming Posey is a 2.0 WAR player in 2010 and progresses by +0.5 per year, he’s looking at salaries conservatively of $4M in 2013, $6M in 2014, and $8M in 2015 before hitting free agency in 2016.

        Signing Molina, bringing up Posey in June, he makes $3.5M LESS in 2013 as he wouldn’t be eligible for arb and would make around $500K, maybe $1.5-$2M less in 2014 and 2015, then you’d also have the value of 2016 being his third year or arbitration rather than being a free agent. That’s $7M+ in value for having him in AAA for 2 months in 2010. And you only lose maybe 0.5 WAR in 2010 by having Molina as your starter for 2 months rather than Posey.

        Feel free to tear my numbers apart. I’m sure I’m missing something, and these are big assumptions on a huge unknown in Posey.

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      • jponrye says:

        A trade of Bengie seems unlikely, in my opinion. There was almost no interest in him this offseason to begin with and I doubt there would be much more when it will cost actual players in order to acquire him.

        Also, in order for another team to be interested in him, I would guess that Bengie will have to be playing fairly well, in which case the Giants probably wouldn’t want to trade him.

        Man, being a Giants fan is frustrating.

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      • giantsfansince1981 says:

        You’re probably right, jponrye. About the possibility of the Giants trading Molina and about being a Giants fan. These signings actually make me wonder if the Giants would be better off this year if they had played worse last year. Sabean wouldn’t feel like he had to go for it with used veterans and the Giants might field a better team than they will now.

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    • jponrye says:

      See, the trouble with this thinking is that it does make sense for a competent organization (of course, a competent organization never would have called Posey up last September in the first place, when there was a perfectly okay backup catcher type like Steve Holm that didn’t have any service time issues and would not cause any tears to be shed if he was DFA’d after the season.) It makes sense to keep Posey down to save his service time and I’m perfectly okay with that.

      The trouble is that there is very little chance that the Giants bench Molina in the second half of the season, especially now that it has come out that his contract includes incentives for games started. If he’s performing reasonably well (to the Giants standards – and consider that they thought his batting line from last year was not just reasonably good, but OUTSTANDING and BEST PLAYER ON THE TEAM caliber), they have a built-in excuse ready, “Well, we can’t bench Bengie and call up Buster, it wouldn’t be fair to Bengie and his playing time incentives!”

      In addition, Bengie was looking for a 2-3 year deal this offseason, ostensibly to start for a team for that period of time. I strongly doubt he would be at all happy with an arrangement where he plays part-time in the second half of the season. He sulked and whined last year when Buster was brought up as simply a third catcher! He has complained to the press whenever it has begun to seem like something is happening to take away his regular starts (ie, there was a short time when it looked as though Pablo Sandoval would become the personal catcher for Zito, but Molina complained and the thought was quickly abolished. Same thing for Eli Whiteside starting any games that weren’t on Bengie’s normal day off.)

      So, saying that Bengie will make a fine caddy for Buster until June or July makes sense in a vacuum, but I don’t think it’s a very likely scenario for the Giants. Now, they aren’t totally stupid – they didn’t want to give Bengie more than a 1 year deal this offseason probably entirely because of Buster Posey, so there is that, but for 2010, I doubt Buster gets significant playing time in the majors unless Bengie gets so injured he has to go on the disabled list (and even then…)

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      • DL says:

        There’s also the factor that Bochy simply will play Molina over Posey because he’s Bruce Bochy.

        As I’ve written on the Golden State Warriors, sometimes taking away a coach’s ability to make bad decisions is as good as giving him better players so he can make good decisions.

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      • durs836 says:

        You fogot to mention one thing and his the reason why this deal may work out to the Giants benefit… when Begie is 100% (or close to it) he’s a productive ball player. But come late May, early June his legs are not going to be fresh and his numbers will plmmet like they did the last two years. Most likely since he’s a year older and has never shown any sign of conditioning, he WILL spend some time on the bench due to a strained quad (maybe even the DL). Once that happens be sure Posey is called up and Whiteside released.

        I dont care what the projections are, the fact of the matter is Posey is not ready to take the job full time. He may be with the bat but behind the plate there is a lot more to learn. Not saying 2 months in Fresno is going to be THAT much help, it will help and may keep Posey from the super-2 status. If we can get 2 productive months out of Bengie and from there on out play them 60/40 or 50/50, we keep both of them fresh and hopefully that translates to productive.

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      • jponrye says:

        It’s certainly possible that Bengie breaks down in the second half, facilitating Buster’s ascent to the majors, but it’s not as though he hasn’t shown a propensity to stubbornly play through injuries before and it’s not as though the Giants haven’t shown a willingness to let him do so before.

        As I said many times, I am fine with Buster staying down for a couple months for more seasoning and to delay his arb clock. What I am not fine with is the fact that I find it hard to believe that the Giants will really bench Bengie down the stretch, based on past behavior.

        Maybe this year will be different, but the team is going to have to show me that it’s the case before I give them any credit for it.

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      • JoeR43 says:

        Sabean and Bochy, observationally, are one in the same imo. Small sample size, RBI loving fools w/ a veteran fetish.

        Inexcuseable to waste a month of Posey’s service time the way Bochy did, especially in the middle of a pennant hunt and your catchers giving you nothing offensively.

        Molina / Whiteside had a combined 654 PA in 2009 and combined for 17 walks.

        Good for a .257/.281/.421 line.

        That’s just…not that good.

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  10. deckholm says:

    Assuming Molina was batting in the middle of the order as in years past, it would be very possible he could hit a few sacrifice flies and have an OBP lower than his batting average – since we walks about twice a month (or at least it seems like it).

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  11. Logan says:

    I think Fangraphs needs to have thumbs up/thumbs down on the articles. This one was hilarious.

    Kudos for the metsblog link. God, we could use a SABR infusion on that site.

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  12. Bret says:

    I’m pretty sure he literally walks about twice a month – he ended last year with 13 walks. Thirteen. One-three. He had more GIDP’s than walks last year.

    To me, Bengie is the poster child for the argument that walks are not worse than other outs. He only struck out 38 times last year – but honestly I wish that when he made an out, he struck out. He’s so goddamned slow.

    This signing makes it crystal clear to me that Sabes has no clue what he’s doing.

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    • giantsfansince1981 says:

      I think you meant strike outs are not worse than other outs? If so, a fair point indeed. Molina makes frozen butter look fast. Unless of course he eats it. Oh now that was just a fat joke, and that’s not nice of me.

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    • Yes, I agree, what was he thinking about that pitching staff, it is sooo horrible, he has nooo clue what he’s doing.

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      • jponrye says:

        When was the last time Sabean put together a league average offense without Bonds again? Remind me.

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      • giantsfansince1981 says:

        I see no evidene that the Giants staff will be any better with Molina catching than it would be with Posey catching. Is Posey such a terrible game-caller that he’ll ruin games? Posey’s defense is probably better, so that’s a point in his favor for helping the pitchers.

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      • Steve says:

        i don’t really have a dog in this fight, but this argument “my GM is good b/c he only sucks at HALF his job” seems a little odd to me.

        the fact that his pitching staff is so good and all he needs is an average-ish offense to make the playoffs, yet is incapable of assembling one, is not really a great argument. he only has so many cheap, prime years of his young pitchers and he is wasting them by fielding a terrible lineup.

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  13. Eric says:

    The last day Molina had a higher BA than OBP in 2009: May 11th. Through May 11th, he had a .287/.286/.539 line. He was 33 for 115, with 6 2B, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 0 BB and 14 K.

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    • Not David says:

      Delmon Young is jealous.

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    • giantsfansince1981 says:

      I’d actually take that line from him if he could keep his slugging that high. Of course he won’t because he’ll get tired at some point. Yet Bochy will continue to start him.

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  14. Fans: this was mailed BEFORE the Molina news. Please consider writing to our front office in similar spirit. …Am just not sure what else to do. Additionally, please respect that I HAD to craft the letter in a somewhat polite and civil manner (for instance, the “thank you,” not bringing up Sanchez/Alderson accountability, etc.). Otherwise the hard copy gets thrown in the trash immediately.

    Moreover, I am not saying this is a good letter by any means. I am not being “self-important” here. The only goal is to get folks like you to start writing/flooding our front office with outrage.

    Mr. Neukom,

    Many fans, like me, are pleased to have you as Managing General Partner. We owe you thanks and congratulations for both your undertaking and the surprising success of the 2009 club.

    Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge two things. First, I do realize the organization is not a publicly-traded corporation. Second, there exists, of course, a significant informational asymmetry between myself and the organization’s front office.

    A number of minds within the “statistical community” have come to the same conclusion: the San Francisco front office is well behind the curve in its evaluation of veteran talent, defense, and the trade value of younger players under team control. The constant theme seems to be over-paying for aging players who clearly do not project well going forward (whether paying in dollars or prospects). For every promising young arm signed by Mr. Tidrow’s staff, there have been several unsuccessful personnel decisions made over the past decade. As you do not bear responsibility for these past mistakes, I believe you have a terrific opportunity to set the organization on a different course.

    In this day and age, advanced player projection systems are critical. Please consider adding necessary personnel and valuation methodologies to the front office in order to balance out “old” ways of thinking. (It should be noted that fans could not be happier right now with the scouting department’s success.)

    Based on run differential, it is undeniable that San Francisco outperformed its expected record in 2009. While that outperformance was banked for 2009, I do fear a reversion – one which the club may not have considered proportionately this offseason when addressing its needs. Four weak bats have indeed been removed from the regular lineup, but we must do more to contend for a championship.

    Best regards and best wishes,

    John Patrick Tener

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  15. A real concern is the “championship window.” Consider the players we have under team control:

    Tim Lincecum (4)
    Jonathan Sanchez (3)
    Pablo Sandoval (5)
    Matt Cain (2)
    Brian Wilson (4)
    Posey, Bumgarner, Neal, Wheeler, etc. (6)

    Cain is NOT a superstar-level talent, but when he’s gone, things become VERY difficult. We need to get our talent on the field within a certain window (i.e. Posey).

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  16. Jacob Jackson says:

    Next year will be Posey’s age-23 season. This signing probably preserves Posey’s 2016 season in a Giants’ uniform, when he will be 29 years old. Assuming he stays in the minor leagues for a few months this season, Posey will reach six years of service time after that 2016 season.

    I know some fans’ eyes glaze over when I write paragraphs like the previous one, but I guess as an A’s fan I’m conditioned to think that way.

    To me, the calculus is a little bit more complicated than simply comparing the projected CHONE/ZiPS for Molina and Posey; it’s “Would you rather have Posey at the major league level at age 23 in 2010 and allow him to reach free agency at 28 after 2015, or would you rather have his 2016 season under cost control?”

    Typical aging curves would suggest that Posey’s age-23 season in 2010 will not be nearly as valuable as his age-29 season in 2016.

    Given that information, and that they were able to sign Molina to a one-year deal, at a price that was allegedly $1M less than what he was offered by the Mets, I see no reason to be very upset.

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    • jponrye says:

      Well, for one thing, the Giants window of opportunity is not necessarily limitless. It’s unlikely the Giants will still have Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez in 2016 and the pitching depth currently in the system is not particularly strong past Bumgarner (who seems fairly risky with the velocity drop and lack of secondary pitches) and Wheeler (who has yet to throw a professional pitch.) Obviously things change and maybe the Giants find some way to re-sign all three or they find some guys who are just as good or whatever, but at the moment, I would rather see them try to put the best team they possibly can on the field for the next three years while they still have that trio of pitchers rather than think too hard about 2016.

      Second, and this is, admittedly, the irrational part of being a fan, I’m just really, really sick of Bengie Molina. I just really don’t want to see him on the team anymore. I can’t stand watching him play, between his horrible plate approach, his running, his defense and I’m sick of his attitude. I was never particularly against the Giants signing someone to hold the team over until Buster was deemed truly ready, but I just really didn’t want it to be Bengie.

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      • Jacob Jackson says:

        Hmm. I understand your point, but I tend to think that their window of opportunity is nearly limitless. Their beautiful ballpark can help them sustain a $90-100M payroll, and they play in a division that is winnable year in and year out.

        I don’t think the Giants need to operate in any fashion similar to the A’s/Marlins, “punt on these next two years, gear up for the following three!” model.

        The Giants scout high school pitching exceptionally well, and they’ll always be able to afford a few high-profile FAs. I think they will be perenially competitive.

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      • jponrye says:

        See, the trouble is that I don’t see the Giants going with players like Posey, Ishikawa/Garko, Lewis, etc over the 30+ veterans they’ve signed instead counts as punting. I don’t have the exact numbers, but the “upgrades” they’ve signed his offseason project to be worth only 0.7 WAR over what they already had in place for something like $16 million more dollars.

        I’m not saying the Giants should be run like the A’s, but there’s no reason to throw all the payroll space around on mediocrities just for the sake of saying that you’ve spent some money. The Giants don’t have any potential major league ready superstar position players (other than Sandoval and Posey) at the moment, but they do have several guys who can probably put up 1-2 WAR at league minimum. Instead, they are signing veterans who are likely to have similar production for millions.

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  17. Projections are just projections. If Posey were guaranteed to do as well as projected, then yeah, the Giants were morons. But people are not taking into account a lot of different factors.

    Where do you think we are with defensive projections today? We’re probably still in the early 20th Century as compared to where we are today with hitters. We like UZR and Plus/Minus, but while I believe that they are best available now as well as pretty good, I don’t think that we are at the point where we can definitively say that these are the be-all and end-all in defensive metrics. There are critics of both.

    Now add another level of difficulty: projecting major league defensive effectiveness based on minimal minor league defensive stats. Heck, we are lucky to find minor league hitting and pitching split stats, imagine how unrobust and not state-of-the-art the defensive stats and collection techniques are.

    Need I say more?

    Maybe the defensive projection is -1, but the Giants scouting staff has come to the decision that he still needs more seasoning. People may forget, but it was not that long ago that Posey was having the “oopsies” handling pitches and allowing a lot of passed balls in the Hawaiian Winter Leagues, which from what I last heard, is not the toughest league in the world. And I haven’t heard that the scouts were raving about his defense in the minors, though I haven’t gotten my copy of Baseball Americal’s 2010 prospect book yet, so perhaps I’m missing something there.

    For a cautionary tale on projections, here is what was projected for last year’s Posey would do in 2009 (Matt Weiters):

    Bill James: .311/.407/.526/.932
    Ron Shandler: .293/.393/.495/.888
    BB Prospectus: .311/.395/.544/.939
    ZIPS: .291/.361/.467/.828
    THT: .286/.396/.491/.887
    CHONE: .274/.352/.439/.791
    Oliver: .294/.373/.487/.860

    Here is his actual 2009:
    Weiters: .288/.340/.412/.753

    No one was even close and the vast majority was over by a significant amount. What do all these projectors say if the Orioles relied on their projections for what they would get from Weiters? Whoops?

    Not that I hate projections or don’t trust them, but rather I don’t think we can say that the numbers are a fait accompli or that the state of art is even close to foolproof yet, else we would not be listing 4-6 different projections on this great site. And given that Posey is the Weiters of 2010, I think it’s a valid point regarding projections.

    Add to that, as noted above, Posey only hit .321/.391/.511/.902 in AAA, which is great if you are in the majors, it is not that outstanding in even AAA. If he had qualified, he would have been tied for 23rd in the PCL with Adam Heether. In 2008, he would have been 47th. In 2007, 39th.

    The MLE for his AAA numbers is .274/.331/.415/.746. For his overall 2009 minors (including Advanced A) hitting: .248/.312/.386/.698. (this is from Minor League Splits) This is another warning sign that perhaps he is not as ready for the majors as people think he is.

    Chone, the one who was the closest and most reasonable of the Weiters projections has Posey at .265/.341/.402/.743, which is pretty close to the MLE for his AAA stats. He has Molina at .259/.286/.419/.705. However, if he was as wrong with Posey as he was with Weiters, that would put Posey at .279/.329/.375/.704, which basically is the same as Molina. As we saw above with Weiters, the bell curve on any projection is pretty wide.

    I would also note that Weiters was considering the better hitting prospect than Posey and he was only able to acheive a .753 OPS.

    Add to that, Molina knows how to handle the staff, which had the second best ERA in the majors: apparently his overall defense is not affecting it greatly or at minimum, they are great with him. So what is wrong with the Giants bringing up Posey sometime in July or August so that he can start learning about handling our staff from Molina, and adjusting to major league life so that he’s fully ready in 2011 to take over the starting catching position? That is a perfectly legit way to go.

    Another valid reason to pay Molina now vs. playing Posey now is that this pushes back the years they control him. It is not like they need a catcher this year who will hit in the low 700 OPS and is learning to catch. It is an investment so that Posey will get more starts in the minors working on both his catching as well as his hitting, and if he’s ready later in the year, bring him up both to acclimate himself and to learn from Molina, but if for some reason he is not ready, he can complete a full season in AAA, get called up in September (or maybe the last week of August to be playoff eligible), and get some lessons in then. Signing a veteran catcher to do such a scenario is perfectly logical.

    In addition, our pitching stars will carry the team over the next 4-5 years, but what happens after that? Maybe we can sign them to extensions, but maybe not. At least we would have another (hopefully) good season of Posey hitting for us in that last season of arb-control.

    And, with Molina catching, then the Giants are that much more likely to allow Schierholtz and Bowker to battle for the RF starting job. They have been saving spots for their prospects who have shown some possibility of becoming a major league starter the past few years, and now they are down to RF, so both should get a chance this year, the Giants understand that they are rebuilding and need to give their good prospects opportunities to prove themselves. They have both hit much better in AAA than Posey did as well.

    Heck, how far is the state of art in prospect scouting and projection? Posey might be highly rated by, say, Baseball America, but they (and many other of their peers, so it was not just them) totally missed out on Pablo Sandoval before the 2008 season. They are not infallible either and while I would not call them morons for making that mistake, I also acknowledge that they are not going to pick up on every prospect either.

    So, while I can understand that this move would make people scratch their heads and wonder what is up, there are a lot of factors and circumstances that goes into such a decision and I don’t think anybody complaining vehemently about this signing is taking these into account.

    And just to be clear were I stand, I would have been fine with Posey as the starting catcher, but given how Weiters turned out last season and his relative inexperience behind the plate, I would have been crossing my fingers as well. And between signing a new catcher to a $2-3M contract or shelling out an additional $1.5-3M for Molina, I think his experience with our pitching staff is worth that small extra amount.

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    • jponrye says:

      I don’t really see the logic in assuming that because projection systems went over by Wieters by a certain amount, they will necessarily be over on Posey by a certain amount.

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      • My point is that projections are not gospel, Weiters is an example, sorry I didn’t make that clear.

        FYI, I found another Posey projection, by Graphical Player 2010 (you need to buy the book) and they listed this for Posey:


        I also chose Weiters because 1) he was considered a better hitter than Posey; 2) he hit much better in the minors than Posey; and 3) he struggled in the majors just last season, and “only” hit .753 OPS. These suggests that any forecast projecting Posey to hit better than Weiters is not very realistic.

        And I realize that every hitter is different, so it is not a guarantee that Posey will struggle similarly. Just as you all should realize that just because all the projections for Posey say that he’s going to hit better than Molina doesn’t mean that he is either. And I provide good points to consider why Posey might not hit as well.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Thanks for comenting. Interesting points in a long reply, just few things

      1) Neither CHONE nor ZiPS projections are as optimistic as ZiPS or PECOTA was about Wieters, no one is saying he’s Wieters, just that he’s better than Molina.

      2) Leaving defensive metrics aside (and catcher defense is admittedly tough to measure), I wasn’t able to find a lot on Posey’s defense, but from what I’ve read, the scouting reports are fairly positive. Oh, and Molina’s not exactly a defensive whiz either.

      3) as for “handling a pitching staff,” I guess I need to post these links every time I write about a veteran catcher:




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      • When I post, I include everything I feel should be discussed regarding the topic. McCovey Chronicles vets know me by my posts. :^)

        My point is that forecasting system are not infallible, particularly with regards to converting minor league stats into MLE, and as I noted above in my follow-up comment, another source has Posey under 700 OPS.

        I know that Chone’s was shown to be the most accurate among the publicly available sources for overall MLB projections, and I like Shandler’s MLE, but use Minor League Splits because it’s readily available.

        That does not mean that they will be right with their projection on any specific player, it’s a numbers game overall.

        My point, which I probably didn’t make clear above, is that with a vet forecast, you can be pretty sure he’s going to be around whatever the projection system says he might be, but with a unproven minor leaguer, you really don’t have a great idea what he might do. Prior examples help, and I like Shandler’s because he takes leagues and age into account, but I would not call it a science at this moment. Yet you are willing to bet a team’s season that it is accurate enough.

        Posey at .750-ish would be a great addition over Molina. Posey at .700-ish, then the answer becomes more squishy and then it depends on whether you think you can still compete for the division title with Posey hitting at .700 OPS or below.

        I don’t know. The lineup is fine if Huff, DeRosa, Sanchez, and Renteria hits about what they are projected to do. But with two players new to AT&T and two who did poorly there in 2009, it is possible that anywhere from one to three of them could end up doing poorly in 2010. Add to that, the Giants are probably going with Schierholtz or Bowker in RF, they are bigger question marks because of their inexperience and their lack of performance thus far in the majors. Plus, is Pablo Sandoval for real? I think so, but there has been so many hitters in major league history who don’t hit as well in their second season as their first that I wouldn’t say that it’s a gimmee either that he will meet or beat what he did in 2009. Then you have Posey too, if he were starting. In other words, it is no guarantee that they will all hit as well as expected, but they need to improve the offense to capitalize on the pitching.

        Luckily, the bar is set low by last year’s offense, so I think it’s a pretty good chance that the Giants will improve their offense. Still, with all the variables, I like that the Giants made it less variable by adding Molina plus I like that they hopefully extended their control of Posey out another year.

        So why not spend $5-6M on a proven vet, because even if they miss slightly on Posey, suddenly his value is below Molina’s, plus why not give Posey another year of experience behind the plate while also pushing out the Giants control over him another year?

        And, are you really going to quote me 10 year old research? I’ll do you much better. There is an article in the Fielding Bible Volume II (good book, I highly recommend it), out just last year, chapter titled, “Molina is to Pudge as Pudge is to Inge” where the author devised a methodology to measure how good a catcher really is by comparing how similar pitchers are handled by other catchers (simplification, but that’s generally it). He also makes mention of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009, where “Craig Wright comes up with some data and his own method that shows Mike Piazza was an above-average handler of pitchers.” Which his methodology showed similarly too (I recommend reading that article).

        The Fielding Bible noted that with this technique, Bengie was 15th among all catchers (total of 35) with a +4 Adjusted Earned Runs Saved for the 6 year period 2003-2008 and he was 12th among all catchers (total of 35) with a +4 (which means he was 0 for the 3 years before that) for the 3 year period 2006-2008.

        He’s not the top, but he does save runs, particularly recently, so he is definitely above average or at worse average if you want to tack on age. Can you definitively say that about Posey? Are you willing to bet your team’s chances on that?

        FYI, Jose Molina won with +6 in the 3 year period and Yadier won with a +9 for the 6 year period, among the Molina brothers. Jason Kendall was first both periods with +23, far and away the best for the 3 year, slightly ahead of Paul Lo Duca and I-Rod for the 6 year.

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      • B says:

        Good info, though I will note, for me, I don’t hate the Bengie move in a vacuum (though I do think we overpaid) – I think some of the points you’ve laid out make the case for that. But it’s not in a vacuum.

        “So why not spend $5-6M on a proven vet”

        It’s that we’re doing this on Huff, Uribe, Renteria, Sanchez, DeRosa, Molina. We can’t afford Holliday (just like we “couldn’t afford” Vlad) because we’re spending way too much money on those vets, who on average, aren’t going to give us that much more than what we already have. Huff’s projection is awful – worse than Ishikawa’s (same offensively, and he’s a worse defender). DeRosa is projected to basically equal Lewis offensively. Renteria is projected to be a .317 wOBA hitter. Uribe is a backup – even if he’s better than Frandsen, given limited PT, he really will barely outproduce Frandsen. Sanchez isn’t projected very well – .318 wOBA and a not very good fielder (seems to me he’s likely to outperform his projected defense). We could have paid the minimum to guys like Ishikawa, Lewis, Frandsen, Bowker/Schierholtz, and gotten almost the same production. Maybe a little less, but very close. Meanwhile we could have spent for a real upgrade, and given ourselves a real shot at the playoffs. So that’s my problem with the whole thing. Years ago we found out this strategy is a failure when we didn’t sign Vlad. We’re still doing it. It’s still not working.

        So that’s my problem with the Molina signing (that and I’m sick of terrible OBP hackers). Without the guys I mentioned we’d definitely need a middle infielder, maybe even a corner outfield (if their name is Matt Holliday), maybe sign a quality 1B….whatever, it gives us flexibility and much better options than what Sabean is currently giving us.

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      • B, hey, I’m with you there about Vlad. But there is no Vlad in the free agent pool this year, and Teixiera made it clear he wanted to play on the East Coast, near home.

        Holliday? I expect him to become the Card’s Rowand. I applaud his hitting with the Cards in 2009, but I see that as his version of Adrian Beltre’s miraculous season before going free agent (hmmm, Boras is both their agents…).

        Look at his career splits: .284/.353/.454/.808 on the road. His glorious career numbers is puffed up by his home numbers, like Colorado and even in St. Louis, which is a pitchers park. And his BB/K is about 50% while he strikes out 20% of the time on the road, hardly numbers a top hitter does, unless he’s Vlad-type hitter or something.

        And Bay didn’t want to come here.

        Huff, I agree, except that if he can return to his former goodness, he would be much better and a good bargain. It is a risk worth taking and, assuming they will play Ishikawa enough to give him 200-300 AB in 2010 to get a better feel for his hitting abilities, I’m OK with it.

        For the rest, you assume there are better, but I don’t think that one can conclusively say that.

        Uribe: well, OK, I would have rather played Frandsen, but he was a feel-good story who did well for us in 2009. I don’t expect a repeat but he’s good insurance in case Renteria does flame out.

        Renteria: with a huge mass removed from his elbow, hopefully he can return to his former goodness that we signed him for. And after he said that his arm was feeling better, in early August, he hit .274/.344/.416/.760 for about a month before fading again. That is what we were hoping to get for our money.

        Sanchez: Do you really think Burriss is a better alternative at this moment, particularly since he was out half the season? His poor hitting is what eventually drove the Giants to trade for Sanchez. Frandsen I would have been OK with, cause I like his minors numbers, but I think Sanchez is a better bet to give a certain level of production.

        DeRosa: I discuss him against Lewis somewhere below, and he has a better batting line for the past 4 seasons plus UZR implies that he’s much better than Lewis defensively in the OF.

        Molina: well, if you really think that MLE projections is that good, and that Posey is therefore that good, then you are missing your calling, you should start up a blog on MLE and produce projections and many of us would flock to you. I mean, if Posey was projected to hit .900 OPS or something, then yeah, I could buy that you can say that Molina is most likely worse than Posey as an alternative. When it is basically what Molina has produced over the past three seasons with the Giants, plus there are still question marks about his defense (really, nobody is worried about 14 passed balls in the minors? It is not like the pitchers there are as good as major leaguers with their changeups, curves, and sliders, or as fast fastballs.)

        The problem with your assumption about the young players is that none of them has proven to be good MLB hitters, unlike the vets. Yeah, based on their minor league numbers they have potential, but even the MLEs of our young prospects, except for Sandoval and Ishiakwa in 2008 and Bowker in 2009, are pretty pedesdrian.

        And really, that is the problem with many Giants fans: they think their young hitters are so good, but really, none of them have really compiled good stats in the minors, and part of that is because of the Giants focus on their pitching, which, I have to repeat again, is one of the best of the majors.

        Rebuilds don’t happen just like that. You promote the young who deserves it or happen to get the opportunity because of a vet being injured or poorly performing, and fill in the gaps with all these vets whose bell curve of possible results is much more tightly around their average, whereas the young prospects have huge bell curves where maybe they are good or maybe they don’t deserve to even step foot on a major league baseball field.

        That is huge risk that nobody talks about but me, sure on average those young players probably is about the same as the vets, but when the offense is borderline as it is, we need the smaller bell curves of risk. Again, as I’ve been saying, are you willing to bet your chance at making the playoffs on it.

        Of course, that assumes you think we can make it and be competitive for the title. If you don’t, then these deals are ludicrous.

        I think the Giants not only will be competitive but could win in the mid-90’s with one or two hitters coming through or our #5 starter coming through or Sanchez pitching like that for a full season.

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    • zenbitz says:

      What makes you think Molina’s projections will more more accurate than Posey’s?

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      • He has a history in the major leagues, Posey doesn’t. That is why Andy Marte and Sean Burroughs aren’t in the majors right now.

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      • zenbitz says:

        I guess we can only go 3 deep on replyies here…
        but OCG – “Molina has more ML experience is NOT a scientific answer”. It’ a pat answer. Your Marte and Burroughs arguments are pure ancedotes. You think I can’t find 2 catchers who put up a .720 OPS at age 34 and were out of baseball at age 35?

        I don’t think that it’s be demonstrated that projections on 24-y-o Catchers are any worse than 35-y-o Catchers. Of course one would assume that having more data on a player would lead to better projections… but systems like Marcel don’t even go further back than 3 years.

        A null prediction for either of these players would be to just reproduce their numbers from last year. This is not even Marcel the monkey, no age correction, no regression to the mean no noting. This is something of a worse-case prediction for Posey, which would be the MLE numbers of his combined stats: .698 OPS.

        Bengie hit .727 OPS last year, which is basically his career numbers.

        So that means – in a very favorable situation for Molina – we are paying 4-6M more for maybe 30 points of OPS.

        On a team that looks like a 90-odd win on paper I could see “playing it safe” … but see the current giants as a 82-win team that is going to need a lot of luck to get the wild-card or pass the dodgers. So Molina redux seems a little silly to me.

        Plus, as many others have mentioned – why bring Posey up last year and sit him? The lack of planning and direction on this team kills me.

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      • B says:

        “Molina has more ML experience is NOT a scientific answer”

        Molina having a longer record, and a record at the MLB level, are definitely correct in this context. Statistical forecasting works on the same principles of probability distribution that all statistics come from – bigger sample sizes lead to smaller error terms, and introducing additional variables adds an increase to the error term (but hopefully the additional explanatory power from that variable more than offsets this increase). So Molina’s larger track record, and being at the MLB level (as opposed to introducing MLE concepts – doing this conversion is essentially adding another variable, the conversion itself, that adds to the error term) do have smaller errors in statistical forecasting. So while I may not often agree with OGC, he is correct that Molina’s projections, on average, because of the playing time and the fact that it comes in MLB, will be more accurate than Posey’s….

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      • If you want a scientific answer, here is my answer in that format: projections system for minor league stats are not as robust as those for major league players. MLE is still an art, not a science, else I think Fangraphs would be showing all the MLEs for the prospects. Given all the interest in prospects, don’t you think that if MLE was robust enough for primetime that there would be more sites providing tools and information related to MLEs?

        So while I agree with you that “I don’t think that it’s be demonstrated that projections on 24-y-o Catchers are any worse than 35-y-o Catchers”, I would argue vehemently if you are saying that MLE projections are more accurate than MLB projections, which is the proper, scientific way to compare Posey with Molina.

        We are not paying $4-6M more. Even if Posey were starting the Giants were looking for someone like a Yorvit as backup in case Posey proves to not be as ready as everyone here thinks he is, and he should get paid $2-3M, so Molina is only costing the Giants an additional $2-4M.

        I think that is a small price to pay for relatively more likelihood of getting a certain level of offense, plus I would hope that the plan is to bring Posey up mid-season, July-August, to play backup, give Molina more rest, and to learn some tips of the trade. And given that the Molina brothers are among the top catchers in the majors, based on the analysis of the Fielding Bible, I would think that he would have some good things to pass on.

        And it is not just for 30 points of OPS, as I noted above, Molina’s defense is considered by the latest in catcher defense analysis to have provided value to his pitchers in the recent past. What makes you so absolutely sure that he will get over all the passed balls he gave up last season? Don’t you think that would affect the staff’s confidence in him? And I’ve seen no word that his defense is ready, all I’ve been seeing is that his bat is ready.

        And I still don’t get why people don’t understand why Posey was brought up and then sat. One is to give him a taste of the good life as a major leaguer and give him more motivation to do more to get up here faster. Two, look again at Weiters, he struggled for many months before he finally started hitting like we expected in September. If you made Posey the starter, suddenly he is put under huge pressures to replace a respected starting catcher, plus hit, and if he fails at any of that, his confidence would have took a hit. Why risk your star prospects confidence?

        Third, at the time you would have took out Molina, he had been hitting .276/.333/.539/.873 during the month of August. Fourth, you bring him up so that he can get used to the rhythm of life in the majors. Earl Weaver used to bring up his starting pitchers prospects as a reliever so that 1) the pitcher can get used to MLB life; 2) Weaver could put him in positions where he can succeed and build up his confidence; and 3) so that he is not put in a high pressure situations immediately, Weaver would like low pressure spots to use him then adjust accordingly.

        This team is not an 82-win team. Teams with great defense – pitching and fielding – don’t need to score much to win. I have shown this on my blog using Pythagorean, plus THT did a study which showed that mathematically teams with good defense need a little less offense to win the same amount of games (basically for each 0.1 drop in RA, RS needed to maintain winning percentage drops 0.11). I think the 2009 Giants showed the validity of that. How do you like that science?

        And speaking of which, very nice to call me out for a non-scientific answer then go ahead with your own non-scientific answer with “this is not an 82-win team”. Unless you are predicting that someone’s arm is falling off or that Sanchez is going to regress, which, BTW, would not be a scientific answer, this offensive team is clearly improved over last season, which scored runs at a 4.06 pace but only allowed them at a 3.77 pace, so you are basically saying that the defense will be at least 0.3 if not 0.4-0.5 runs worse. Lay some of that science on me, babaloo!

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      • zenbitz says:

        Theoretically, having more data on Molina will make his projection more accurate than Poseys. But that assumes that a player’s true talent level is constant. At at ages 24 and 35 it mostly certainly is NOT constant. And I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to which direction each age cohort is moving (relative to his career stats).

        I will ceed that it’s possible – even probable that Molina’s projection(s) are considered more accurate… but it has not been DEMONSTRATED that this is the case.

        This is kind of a weak argument to authority, but Bill James sez “MLEs, properly adjusted, are just as accurate as MLB stats”. I am not taking this as gospel – but I consider it it “working knowledge” – I will be happy to review any analysis indicating that MLEs are worse.

        There are many arguments – both scouting and statistical that argue both sides of the Molina defense coin. (That is a big ass coin). I don’t claim to know which are correct, or whether Molina is a good MLB catcher (defensivly) or whether Posey is better or worse. I tend to think catcher defense is overrated… but there are lots of unknowns here.

        The Giants were an 82-win team last year that got lucky in terms of the runs they scored (relative to their component stats – yes, 6 wins lucky). They are, on paper, no better than the 3rd best team in the DIVISION – let alone the NL. Their offense is probably a little better (assuming we don’t get too much Velez), but not much. Their pitching/defense is probably a little worse (due to regression to the mean).

        They need to put up roughly _100_ more (expected) runs than last year to have an average offense.

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      • B says:


        “Theoretically, having more data on Molina will make his projection more accurate than Poseys. But that assumes that a player’s true talent level is constant.”

        No – projections taking aging curves into account, both on young guys getting better and old guys getting worse.

        “MLEs, properly adjusted, are just as accurate as MLB stats”

        I don’t believe that’s true, but even if it is – we’re still looking at 3-5 years of data for Molina (the amount the projection system uses) vs. 1 year for Posey. More data = more accuracy.


        “And I still don’t get why people don’t understand why Posey was brought up and then sat.”

        Because that touchy feely crap is bogus. I don’t care if Posey gets a “taste” of mlb time – I care about his service clock. Look, I’m with you on the leave Posey in AAA for now – I’ve established I think he has too small a sample to be really confident in, beyond just service time requirements, and I do think playing every day, even at the triple A level helps. I just don’t see what sitting on the bench accomplishes. He sat and watched other people play – he’s not getting any better doing that.

        “he struggled for many months before he finally started hitting like we expected in September”

        And this part is fine – it might take some time to adjust to the majors. It’s a higher competition level. If Posey was playing instead of Eli fucking Whiteside, that’s fine, but he wasn’t. He was just watching from the bench. How does that make him better? How does that help him adjust to what real MLB pitchers actually throw? Why risk Posey’s confidence? I don’t know, leave him in AAA if you don’t want him to play, if you want to bring him up to the MLB club, he’s going to have to get playing time eventually, you can’t avoid it forever. The bringing Posey up bit is all well and fine if he plays. I don’t mind any of those points if he’s actually getting a real taste of the bigs – playing into September, facing MLB pitchers, playing in front of crowds, catching MLB pitchers, etc. We brought him up and didn’t play him. That’s the issue. We’re wasting service time so he can accomplish nothing. Just dumb. Also, making decisions based on hot streaks is poor decisions making. It will make you worse in the long run.

        So basically your risk mitigation strategy you’ve laid out that Sabean is executing has us spending tons of money on backups who likely won’t play very much just in case someone fails, or starters we think will fail, so the backups can take over (making the former starters backups). I don’t get how that makes sense. Our team is barely better overall, there’s a limited number of roster spots so we’re gonna lose Lewis (who should be starting for us)….ugh. We aren’t getting the marginal value of a win we should be. If we spent all that money well, instead, sure – it might result in Frandsen playing 2B and playing terribly or Ishikawa playing 1B and being terrible (slightly sub-replacement level) – but the thing is, our team is still better off on the whole. The real upgrade we get from adding 4 WAR with $16-18M more than offsets losing 2 WAR from a guy like Frandsen playing as poorly as possible. So again, sure, it sounds less risky having guys to take over in case someone else fails, but our team is worse off for it.

        We were lucky to win 88 games last year, our pitching has nowhere to go but down (not that it should go down substantially or anything), relying on old guys to maintain their defense generally doesn’t work out too well, we know injuries are going to happen (especially with so many old guys)….we’re going to be hard pressed to come up with 90 wins. I strongly doubt the forecasting systems peg us higher than 86 or so, because I just don’t see any way this team is a legitimate playoff team as currently constructed. Another year of horrible OBP and hitting in general. Likely another year of lineups from Bochy that substantially hurt the team. Another year of “we’re in this thing to the very end”. And ultimately, another year of vacation for our guys in October, and their old bodies will probably be happy on vacation with their families, because they’re being paid more than they’re worth, their old bodies will be hurting by that time, and they’re old enough to have families. But that’s good enough for Giants management.

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      • B, most of the projection systems had the Giants around .500 last year too. They are not as accurate when you are amassing huge amounts of data and processing it, as one might be who is closer to the situation and aware of circumstances the Giants face.

        And if you think touchy-feelie stuff that is crap, I would love to see you tell Earl Weaver that, he would give you a brand new spanking orifice.

        About bringing up Posey, I guess you didn’t realize that the AAA season had ended so Posey was just sitting around doing nothing until the Giants called him up. And it might not mean anything to you, but I would have to think that Posey appreciate the opportunity to get into a major league uniform, even if it was to do the grunt work stuff. He also got his first start.

        And I have read so many times of prospects who got a taste of major league life, even just a week or two, and it gave them more motivation to do better.

        It is not a matter of thinking that the vets will fail, it is a matter of thinking that the prospects will fail. Then we have the prospects as backup should the vets fail, and as we know from our past, they do fail at times or oftimes. We are now covered in a multitude of different ways of shifting players around. Hopefully the vets will come through, but if not, we have a sufficient replacement, instead of hoping that Brian Bocock is somehow become a major league hitter.

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    • giantsfansince1981 says:

      This is a really interesting reply, and you raise several valid points.

      One of my concerns with this signing is that it shows me that Sabean is not good at recognizing the talent of veterans compared to young players. I would take Fred Lewis in left field over Mark Derosa in an instant, particularly for the money the Giants will pay Derosa. I would also take Ishikawa/Guzman over Huff at first because Huff was so poor last year. He may be a good gamble at only $3 million. I just do not trust that Sabean will change that mindset next year or in the years after. I understand that Bowker/Lewis are not all-stars, but will someone like Derosa get to play over the Giants top position prospects?

      I understand your point about holding off Posey’s arbitration. I just do not think that’s a good way to run the Giants. That may make sense with other teams, but the Giants do have the payroll to sign at least some of their starters and position players (assuming no more Zito-type deals). I see little risk in bringing Posey up now. In fact, I think he’d be better in 2011 if he played at the big league level now. I think the Giants should advance prospects when they’re ready to contribute at the major league level.

      And finally, I still think 2010 Posey would be better than 2010 Molina. And I see no reason to believe that Molina’s handling of the Giants’ pitchers makes any difference in their performance.

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      • durs836 says:

        I’ll assume you never got to see Guzman man 1B in Fresno. The kid can hit but belongs no where near any position in the field. Even at 1B which traditionally doesn’t have to be that great defensively, he looks like a lost puppy. It still blows my mind that for as athletic as he is, he made it this far without actually learning to play any one position. If he could hit for power like Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder than maybe his defense could be forgiven but he can’t.

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      • DeRosa is not only proven to be a better hitter than Lewis, but he is probably also better defensively. In roughly the same number of starts in the OF, Lewis’s UZR/150 is much lower than DeRosa’s. He is admittedly better than DeRosa in LF, but DeRosa hasn’t played that much in LF and he was superior in RF, which is a harder position to field than LF. And his OBP is OK while he is a homerun hitter, which our lineup needs, whereas Lewis refuses to bat leadoff, which is the only position he is suited for in the lineup because he has no HR power but do have a lot of speed. He thinks he should be batting 3rd.

        I admit I’m an Ishikawa fan but also am not sure what he’s going to do if given the starting job. I’m looking at it as a $3M gamble: if Huff returns to his former goodness, which is a good possibility because he had a horrible BABIP last season, his K% and BB/K was still OK, and he’s only 33 this season, we got a 20-30 HR hitter in the lineup with OK defense at 1B (I was suprised by that when I looked at his UZR).

        Meanwhile, since the Giants are saying they are keeping Ishikawa, that to me means that they see potential in him but want to make the odds greater that they do in 2010, and I think he is partly being kept as insurance in case Huff did go into his career decline, which brings us to the other scenario: Huff is now as sucky as 2009. They dump him, install Ishikawa back at 1B.

        But if Huff is still good, if you’ll remember they want Ishikawa to take balls in LF to give them more flexibility to play him, so he could take some of DeRosa’s PA against RHP, plus the Giants could also play Huff in LF and Ishikawa at 1B, though they might prefer to keep Huff at 1B, as Bochy seems like like to allow starters that luxury, but defensively, it makes a lot more sense with Ishikawa at 1B and Huff in LF because Ish is sooo good at 1B.

        $3M is really not that much to gamble on a 30 HR hitter like Huff and you can always go back to Ishikawa if that risk fails.

        And that is all these moves are all about managing risks in hopes of mitigating the odds of a poor performance somewhere on the field by a starter. The Giants want to win the NL West Title. Getting these vets reduce the risks that Lewis turns out to be as sucky as he looked in May/June 2009, Ishikawa turns out to be as bad as he was on the road in 2009, and Posey turns out not to be ready to start in the majors, then you got the embarassment of sending him back down, which WILL hurt his confidence, and having a second rate catcher like Yorvit as your catcher this year and maybe next.

        About Molina’s handling, please see my post above about research by The Fielding Bible. Remember, Posey had a LOT of passed balls in the minors just last year, 10 in 80 games in SJ, then 4 in 28 in AAA, at that rate, if he started 130 games, he would allow 17 passed balls. Molina allowed 16 his first year with the Giants but only 4 and 5 the last two seasons. Are you absolutely sure Posey is ready defensively? Are you willing to bet the team’s chances at the division title?

        I’m not.

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      • B says:

        “DeRosa is not only proven to be a better hitter than Lewis”

        Lewis has a career 109 wRC+ compared to DeRosa’s 102, and Lewis is at the age where he’s likely to either get better or stay the same, whereas DeRosa is at the age where he’s likely to get worse. To be fair, more recent performance is more important, so CHONE does project DeRosa to be better…but by a pretty negligible amount. When it comes to fielding, on average LF = RF, so the best thing to do is just combine the UZR/150 for both of them and weight it by innings.

        “Lewis refuses to bat leadoff, which is the only position he is suited for in the lineup”

        He doesn’t refuse to bat leadoff, I bet if you asked him he’d bat anywhere just to get a chance to play at this point. He had a small sample bad stretch at leadoff (that doesn’t actually mean he’s a worse hitter there), but overall, he’s been an above average hitter for his career. We should bat him wherever we like, and he should deal with it. It’s not that hard. And I know you know there’s more to hitting than HR’s, and more to power than HR’s. 2B’s and 3B’s count, too, and Lewis hits enough of those (especially since AT&T fits his hitting abilities extremely well).

        “if Huff returns to his former goodness, which is a good possibility because he had a horrible BABIP last season”

        While it’s true we should probably expect a bounceback in BABIP and that will help his hitting, he’s never been particularly high in that category (.296 career BABIP), and it’s probably likely that he should be below his career at this point on average, simply because he’s slower now that he’s older (IFH% seems to back this up, the effect is probably small, though). The thing is, Huff was awful last year. Truly awful. That’s why he’s only projected to barely crack average this year – which suggests that it’s not actually very likely he returns to 2008 form, or even anywhere close to that. Being old sucks like that. The loss of power isn’t a good sign, either, especially when you account for the fact that he’s a dead pull HR hitter, and he’s not going to get those HR’s often at AT&T. C’mon, we can do better than calling him a 30 HR hitter. All the information we have points to him being an ok hitter, which given he’s a 1B and bad at that…isn’t very good for us, especially when we have Ishikawa and are paying Huff $3M. Wasted money, as I said in a previous comment.

        “And that is all these moves are all about managing risks”

        I buy that to a small degree.

        “Getting these vets reduce the risks”

        I’m just not sure it’s very significant. The vets all come with risks they’re basically done as useful players, too. Sure, your points seem valid, that our younger guys carry risk – they certainly do, but I don’t know that it’s much more than our older guys. I’ll give you it’s probably a bit, but we’re spending a lot of money on “managing risk” as opposed to “raising our talent level”….and I fail to see the point. If you decrease your risk a small amount, barely raise your average return, but have to spend a ton of money to do it (huge opportunity cost, I have no doubt we could have spent it much better), and don’t find out if your young guys are viable….I just don’t see any plausible scenario where the return even comes close to the opportunity cost.

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      • giantsfansince1981 says:

        But Durs, the Giants have opted for Aubrey Huff at first base. He’s not exactly a defensive wizard, and he’s unlikely to come close to an offensive powerhouse. Guzman’s defense may be horrible, but then why sign a horrible defensive first baseman who may very well not even hit league average?

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      • OK, B, proven is too strong, but DeRosa when healthy has been an above .800 OPS hitter whereas Lewis has not. And just cause a guy is young does not mean that he’ll improve. Lewis is now 29 years old, hardly young, past his physical peak that most research pegs around 26-28, and anybody who has observed him in the majors know that he doesn’t learn very well, and thus not enough to make up for his physical losses.

        Also, if you do that for defense, Lewis’s UZR/150 is around 5 while DeRosa’s is over 10, so by this measure, DeRosa is much better defensively, making up for whatever shortcomings you see offensively. I also like that DeRosa is a RHH, and our two most promising young OF are LHH (Schierholtz and Bowker).

        Bochy reported last season that Lewis refused to bat leadoff. After the season has ended is a little too late to be apologizing to your boss with your tail between your leg. And spring training is really late.

        I only mention the HR because most commenters talk about the Giants lack of HR hitting power. I’m aware of other forms of power and that Lewis is one particularly suited for AT&T.

        About the young players, which do not have huge question marks? Bowker had a season unlike any other, can he duplicate it? Schierholtz swings and misses a lot at pitches that makes him look silly plus don’t take walks and his HR power hasn’t shown up yet, will it ever? Lewis goes hot and cold both offensively and defensively, and looks horrible in the field to most Giants fans. Ishikawa was extraordinarily good at AT&T, particularly for a LHH while he was extraordinarily bad on the road, as much as I would play him over Huff, I don’t know what we would get if we started him. Posey I went over already.

        I realize that this is the same road we went over in the Bonds era, but the difference now is that we do have young replacements around if the vet fails, so that reduces the risk as we have a potential solution then a backup who could theoretically take over if necessary. That is also reducing the risk, having the vet is not the only way risk is reduced.

        The problem, the huge risk, is that if the young players fail, you have no backup and you are screwed. Now, we have the vets but if they fail, then we got our young guys to take over. That improves the chances that our offense can deliver enough to get to 90 wins (if they are around 3.8 RA, they need to get to 4.3 RS; and they were 4.06 last season, plus had 4.22 RS in Aug/Sep/Oct, with basically the same guys or improvements, so all we need is a bit more improvement and similar pitching/fielding, and we should get to 90 wins and be competitive for the title.

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    • durs836 says:

      Nice post brother… some very good points

      I’d add to it the fact that Molina WILL break down and if Posey is actually ready he will be brought up. I dont think the question of Posey being ready is all game calling but also being able to handle the wear and tear of being a full time catcher. I think situation where they eventually split time could be huge in keeping both fresh and hopefully both productive.

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    • B says:

      “the Giants scouting staff has come to the decision that he still needs more seasoning”

      Or at least that’s what Brian says. The problem is, Brian has repeatedly shown he’s full of crap. He plays guys like Velez over Fred Lewis, continues to sign a boatload of bad veterans who aren’t significantly better than the not very good young guys we already have (for cheaper) instead of getting a real upgrade, continues to not place any value on OBP at all, continues to overpay compared to what the rest of the market is doing, continues to tell the fanbase about RBI’s and gamers and handling the staff and other crap that just flat out does not win baseball games. Maybe Posey does need more seasoning, but based on Brian’s history of running this ballclub, excuse me if I’m a little wary of trusting his judgment when it comes to these decisions. He’s flat out wrong quite often, especially when it comes to his decisionmaking process, which ignores the things that win baseball games and relies on garbage marketing that doesn’t win us anything.

      “No one was even close and the vast majority was over by a significant amount. What do all these projectors say if the Orioles relied on their projections for what they would get from Weiters? Whoops?”

      They were off on one projection. It happened to be a big time C prospect. It happens. You’re right a little later in your comment about the bell curve – that’s all the projection really is, a probability distribution of what we should expect out of a player. That one guy fell way under his projection isn’t too meaningful – it’s expected that some guys will underperform, the question is – on average, is the projection accurate? If so (which based on what I’ve seen they tend to be pretty good), you tell them you got that one wrong, but in the long run, making decisions based on projections will lead to higher returns (in this case those returns being better decisions that result in better team performance).

      “Molina knows how to handle the staff, which had the second best ERA in the majors: apparently his overall defense is not affecting it greatly or at minimum, they are great with him”

      More of the last part. They’re good. The question is – are they better or worse with Molina? The change is probably pretty minimal, and it’s unclear whether it’s even positive or negative.

      “So what is wrong with the Giants bringing up Posey sometime in July or August so that he can start learning about handling our staff from Molina”

      If he’s accruing MLB service time, he needs to be playing pretty much every day. And I don’t want Molina’s influence anywhere near Posey. Molina’s a little whiner hacker who overvalues his own use and gets his feelings hurt at even the slightest perceived insult….

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      • giantsfansince1981 says:

        Yes. Exactly what I wanted to say. Only with better words, and sentences, and paragraphs.

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      • Well, B, that’s just your view about the whole thing, most of your complaints I see another way.

        Velez over Lewis: as Bochy noted, Lewis didn’t want to lead-off so that was part of the decision. Another part of the decision was that Lewis was in a horrible slump from April 12-June 11, two months long, hitting .232/.315/.354/.669 during that period, and all the Giants fans supporting Lewis could say is “look at his OBP, its so high! Bochy is an idiot!” He contributed mightily hitting that poorly from the 1, 3, and 5 positions in the lineup for the most part. As of when Velez came back up, Lewis was hitting .260/.327/.420/.747, which is hardly worthy of a starting position.

        About OBP, you can only buy what is on the market and who is willing to come to you. Besides, since you like OBP so much, DeRosa from 2006-2009 has a batting line of .281/.356/.448/.803 which is better than Lewis’s .277/.355/.420/.775, so that means that DeRosa has a better OBP than all the Giants except for Sandoval, plus he’s a RHH which mixes better with all the LHH prospects we got among Schierholtz, Bowker, Ishikawa, and even Lewis.

        About your complaint that Sabean don’t know how to put together a winning team, last I checked Baseball-Reference.com, the Giants won 88 games last year, so he must be doing something right to win games. And the pitching staff was superlative.

        The problem I’ve seen with the Giants fanbase is that they were (basically still are) unhappy with a rebuilding process that requires losing and playing players in order to balance winning with development. It takes a number of years to rebuild a team properly, you cannot just turn that around in just a year or two, besides Sabean in 1997, I don’t recall any GM taking over a team and changing it from a loser to a winner. It takes a number of years of good draft position (meaning losing to get a top 5-10 pick) to plant the seeds of the next winning team. So, of course it’s all marketing B.S.: they are a business that needs to sell tickets while their team is reasonably expected to be losing but has to keep a good face for the public. Would you buy tickets from a team that says, “Yeah, we suck, we’re losers, we’re going to be losers next year, but HEY, buy a lot of our season tickets!”

        And look at the results: he has put together one of the best starting rotations and pitching staffs in the majors. And they won 88 games with one of the worse offenses in the majors and is working to upgrade it. I can understand the complaining before, but I thought winning would get people to see that he has a plan and that it’s working.

        About B.S. contracts, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs and no team is immune to that (I’m still laughing about Beane’s Loaiza contract and nobody seems to get on him that he gave Chavez a horrible contract but let Tejada et al get away for nothing) and none of the Yankee fans seem to mind all the useless contracts (Igawa, Pavano, etc.) when you are winning. Also, most teams sign a number of supporting players to fill gaps in the talent pool, no re-build is done without signing free agents.

        As much as you hate Rowand, do you really rather see Lewis in CF? After a month of his misadventures there, the fans would be saying that Sabean is an idiot and why didn’t he go out and sign Rowand or somebody to play CF for us. And as overpaid Zito is, ignoring the money, our rotation was for the better with him pitching in it than, say, Sadowski or Martinez.

        In any case, the Giants are turning the corner on re-building now. If you have a problem with his decisions, then you have a problem with a 88 win team with one of the best rotations in the majors. To me, that is your problem.

        My problems with the projections is that MLE projection is still in its infancy and you all are acting like it’s a science. I can name a lot more prospects who failed to meet the expectations heaped upon them. I can understand questioning the Giants actions by signing Molina or wanting to see Posey play, but to call the Giants and Sabean moronic or to mock the decision, I don’t think the methodology of MLE projections is robust enough to make such statements.

        And it’s funny that you back projections but then labast the Giants signings: most projections of the players they got were way above what they produced for us, if they only produced what they were projected to produce, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

        How can you say that having Molina is a question mark? Having Posey is a question mark. We have a history of what Molina has produced, with some recent research showing that he had a positive effect on the pitching staff. I think it is pretty clear that having Molina would mean that we would get about the same as last year. People forget when mentioning age that catchers have a different aging pattern, some hit their stride in their mid-30’s.

        Posey on the other hand is a huge question mark, particularly defensively, for 2010. Who is better in the long-run? Clearly Posey, but I think good arguments can be made that the Giants are better off in 2010 with Molina as the catcher. And I would caveat that by saying that if Sabean don’t bring up Posey sometime in the second half (assuming he does as well as we expect), to get some mentoring from Molina to Posey going, then I would agree that Sabean is making a mistake.

        I agree with you about Molina’s attitude and behavior. Hopefully Posey is mature enough to figure out what is just Molina’s personality and simply just pick up the baseball knowledge from Molina, like how he handles the staff, watching how he guides the pitchers in tackling the opposition, and perhaps some catching techniques as well, there must be some of those for a single family to turn our three MLB catchers who are all good defensively. From all indications I have read about him, Posey has a great head on his shoulder and is mature for his age, so I don’t think he’ll pick up Molina’s bad traits.

        And last I saw, I didn’t see anybody who played with Barry Bonds pick up his attitude and behavior. Most were mature enough to figure out for themselves what is right and what was wrong.

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  18. Jake says:

    Maybe real baseball games are decided by more than WAR ratings. Anyone watching the Giants the last few years had to have seen that Bengie, with all of his flaws, had more heart and clutch hits than any other player on the team. He deserves another year and Posey deserves the proper time to develop.
    The Giants will begin the rebuilding of their offense next year. Posey, Crawford, Pill and perhaps Neal or Kieshnick will be ready to play. The team will lose more games but they will be younger. You should all be sooo happy.
    Ishikawa, Lewis, Bowker etc are not prospects they are backups. Watch the games!

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    • jponrye says:

      I watched or listened to probably 85% of the Giants games last year and I don’t agree with your assessment on Bengie, Ishikawa, Lewis or Bowker at all.

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    • Steve says:

      if we’re going by mass and counting the stuff inside his arteries, i’d have to agree that Molina has more heart than anyone in MLB.

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    • B says:

      “Maybe real baseball games are decided by more than WAR ratings”

      I like how you call it a rating, which completely misportrays it. WAR isn’t a rating – it’s a count of things that actually happen in games…

      You know what real baseball games are actually decided by? Runs. The team with the most runs wins. It’s that simple. We record the events that lead up to those runs, and try to figure out how to credit each individual for those events. Bengie performed worse with RISP than he did normally, by the way. Just saying, I would rather watch a winning team than a whiner like Bengie any day.

      “The Giants will begin the rebuilding of their offense next year. Posey, Crawford, Pill and perhaps Neal or Kieshnick will be ready to play. The team will lose more games but they will be younger.”

      That’s the thing, we can be younger right now without losing more games. We can actually do it while winning more games. Well, not anymore, but going into the offseason we could have.

      “Ishikawa, Lewis, Bowker etc are not prospects they are backups.”

      Ishikawa….yeah, probably a backup. The problem is so is Aubrey Huff. Why spend money on a guy just as bad as Ishikawa? Lewis is a legitimate starter, sorry you can’t realize that. Bowker? Hmm…big question mark – his approach did change in AAA, so maybe he can really hit MLB pitching now, maybe not. We aren’t making the playoffs anyways, I’d rather find out if he’s a legitimate player than watch a bunch of old, overpaid piles of garbage keep us out of the playoffs again (Uribe, Renteria, Sanchez, Huff, DeRosa…).

      And what makes you think people so interested in baseball we avoid being productive at work to talk about baseball instead don’t watch the games?

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  19. David says:

    Score one for Minaya!
    Maybe the man has realized that the only way to win that game he was playing with Dayton Moore is not to play?

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  20. teddy says:

    I’m still in shock that he didn’t sign with my Metsies for 2 years with an easily attainable option for the third year. Jeff Wilpon must really be the GM now.

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  21. SharksRog says:

    Other than Buster Posey being better, less expensive and having almost infinitely more future, I really like the signing.

    An above-average 200-inning pitcher such as Doug Davis couldn’t be worth more at $4.5 million than Bengie and his .285 OBP, could he?

    The Brewers not only signed the catcher the Giants should have signed (Gregg Zaun), they also signed Davis for the money the Giants paid Molina and the money they likely could have saved by signing Orlando Hudson instead of re-signing Freddy Sanchez.

    Regarding Hudson, the only argument I have seen for him is that he has injury risks — but since Sanchez became a starter, the two have played an almost identical number of games. And Orlando played many more last season than Freddy.

    Regarding Bengie over Buster, the argument has been that Bengie will be better handling the staff. Thoughts, opinions and concerns?

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    • B says:

      Concerns. Many of them.

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    • giantsfansince1981 says:

      I see no reason to believe Molina will call better games. To steal from a post at McCovey Chronicles, is Molina going to invent pitches that Lincecum and Cain had not thought of or something? “Hey guys, try this pitch, I call it a ‘curve ball’.” I give credit to the pitchers, not Molina.

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      • Fergie348 says:

        Well, if Posey was to be the starting catcher in April I can guarantee you he wouldn’t be calling the games – that would be Bochy’s job, at least for a couple of months. And it has been reported that a certain set up lefty and a 2 time cy young winner were ‘relieved’ that Benji signed. Not surprising – pitchers like consistency in whatever form it takes. My prediction is that the Poser gets the call up sometime in July and assumes the starters role the minute the Giants are officially out of the playoff hunt.

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      • I noted a study above by The Fielding Bible regarding how Molina is one of the better catchers over the recent seasons in handling pitchers, is that good enough for you?

        And yeah, apparently there is a difference because there are catchers who are clearly better than the others.

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    • I think it is arguable that Molina is better than Posey for 2010. And I think that Posey will do some cheap learning in AAA that will pay off in 2011.

      Still, I like much of your post. I wouldn’t have minded getting Davis so that Bumgarner would get a year in AAA. And he probably wouldn’t have minded coming back to the area he grew up in. It would have been nice if the Giants had bend the budget to get him.

      I was also advocating Zaun as well, so I would have been much happier had they signed him over Molina. The only problem with that is that the Brewers offered Zaun the starting job while in SF he would have simply been the seat warmer for Posey, a job he did last season for Baltimore for Weiters. Unless the Giants are breaking the bank for him (in which case then we would be way overpaying him), for equivalent salaries, he is going to pick the team that allows him to start. And this is a quote from him: “It was an opportunity to play every day and I’m excited about that.”

      One thing that Sanchez can do that Hudson can’t is play a good 3B. The Giants wanted the flexibility so that they could get a 2B, 3B, or 1B, as the market dictated, but wanted to set one of the positions by signing Sanchez. And Hudson was so good last season that the Dodgers felt the need to trade for Ron Belliard and start him at 2B for 10 games in September. I think Hudson is very overrated.

      I posted above about The Fielding Bible’s research into catching and that found that Bengie was one of the better catchers in the league, slightly above average. That is the bar Posey would have been trying to reach in 2010 with only one season’s worth of minor league play. As the other poster noted, most of the great catchers in the game played at least double the number of games in the minors than Posey has. Even Charles Johnson, considered one of the better defensive catchers in recent times, played 267 games before being called up permanently. And one could argue that Weiters probably could have used another year in the minors given how he hit for most of the year, until September.

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  22. bench 265
    fisk 262
    I rod 234

    Posey 103

    Three Hall of fame catchers and the amount of games they played in the minors. It’s not going to hurt Posey or the Giants to give him 75- 100 more games at AAA working with Steve Decker. Giants save the arb money and come September when Molina’s wiped out Posey can take over.

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  23. B says:

    As someone else has mentioned, the article doesn’t acknowledge the incentive clause in Bengie’s contract. If Bengie gets enough PT to be worth his contract…well, his contract gets bigger so it’s still an overpay. No surprise there. Brian loves to overpay.

    I honestly want to keep Posey in the minors for a while. There’s no point in him accruing service time if he isn’t playing every day. I’d rather let him get a little better for another year and get something like 1 average year and 5 good years out of him than 2 average years and 4 good years out of him. As long as we aren’t making the playoffs (which this year we’re not with him or without him), I don’t see a reason to bring him up. How quickly we all forget how small a sample ~150 PA’s is when we’re talking about a prospect (I do think Buster is ready to contribute, but still, it’s not a big enough sample to be as confident as I’d like), and it’s not like his MLE’s were THAT good.

    So in a vacuum, this move isn’t bad. Overpay, but that’s a given with the Giants. However, the more I think about it, the sicker I get knowing I’m going to have to watch Bengie another year, listen to him whine about some crap again, watch Bochy’s irrational love for not very good players/hitters like Bengie…ugh. I don’t know if I can take it. Our team OBP is going to suck, and even when Pablo gets on base, it’s just GIDP for Bengie. Not to mention the fact that this might prevent us from signing a 5th starter – and if we bring Bumgarner up (who I think is much less ready than Posey), it completely and utterly defeats the purpose of keeping Posey down.

    But what really bothers me is all the money we’re spending on veterans this offseason, again. It’s a failing strategy, and we know this because we’ve already tried it and failed. Yet we’re still spending money on guys like DeRosa, Sanchez, Uribe, Huff, Bengie who give us such small upgrades, instead of packaging that money together for a legitimate upgrade (why not make a competitive offer to Holliday?)…just like when we didn’t offer Vlad. Sabean even acknowledged that was a mistake! And he’s doing it again. And we’re not good enough to compete for the playoffs (barring the collapse of the rest of the NL West) this year because of it. Sigh…this franchise isn’t going anywhere until Sabean is gone. We’ve already wasted the opportunity we had with Bonds, now we’re going to do it with Lincecum while he’s cost controlled and playing out of his mind, too…

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    • giantsfansince1981 says:

      I’ve also come to the conclusion that Sabean has to go. Bochy too. I honestly don’t think there were significant free agents available – I doubt Holliday would have come to San Francisco, and I’d be worried about committing that much money to him. So yeah, let’s play the equally as good, perhaps slightly less good players we have instead of wasting money on veterans who just are not that good. Yeah, they’ve proven themselves, just not in the good way.

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