Friday, November 30, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Nationals Trade for Gregor Blanco Clone

The Hot Stove got a bit warmer yesterday as the Washington Nationals  and Minnesota Twins made a significant trade with the Nats sending pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for OF Denard Span.  I have to say I'm still trying to figure out who I like in this trade.

Span is an OF I've liked for awhile now.  He's a former Twins first round draft pick in a long line of toolsy HS OF's.  He's taken his time progressing through the Twins' farm system and acclimation to the majors.  He bats left and throws left.  His game is defense, getting on base and speed in that order.  He has some gap power but HR's have not been part of his game so far.  Here are his stat lines for 2012, career and 2013 Bill James projection:

2012                  .283/.342/.395, 4 HR, 17 SB, 8.3% BB, 10.9% K in 568 PA.
Career                .284/.357/.389, 23 HR, 90 SB, 9.5%BB, 12%K in 2671 PA.
2013 Bill James  .281/.350/.379, 5 HR, 19 SB, 9.3% BB, 12% K in 593 PA.

There are some things to like in those lines.  Decent BA, more than acceptable OBP, solid BB and K rates.  He's 28 yo so could still find some upside in the future.  What I don't like is he does not compensate for his lack of power with the number of SB's you'd like to see from a top-of-the-order hitter.  As I got to looking at Span's stat line, it struck me that the closest comp to what the Nats were getting might be right here in our own backyard.  Here's the same 3 stat lines for Gregor Blanco:

2012                  .244/.333/344, 5 HR, 26 SB, 11.3% BB, 23% K, 10.1 Fld, 3.6 BsR in 453 PA
Career                .253/.346/.328, 7 HR, 52 SB, 12/3% BB, 20.3% K, 9.4 Fld, 8.2 BsR in 1289 PA
2013 Bill James  .246/.346/.328, 2 HR, 11 SB, 12.9% BB, 19.5% K in 210 PA.

Blanco has a higher BB%, but also a higher K% which could limit him going forward.  Otherwise, note that if you normalize PA for both players, their key numbers are almost identical with Blanco a bit better stealing bases.

The difference?  The Giants picked up Blanco for free last year while Washington just traded a good pitching prospect for Span.

Alex Meyer is a big RHP out of Kentucky who throws in the mid-upper 90's.  He played at A and A+ levels in his first professional experience last year and the numbers look promising as he struck out 139 while walking 45 in 129 IP at the two levels. He would be an asset in any organization, but the Twins are almost desperate for more of his type of pitching prospect.  Minnesota will now commit for Ben Revere as their CF/leadoff hitter with Aaron Hicks coming along in the system.

The fallout in Washington is that the Nats will now probably not re-sign Adam LaRoche, will likely move Michael Morse to 1B and move Wonderboy to a corner OF slot with Span taking CF.  While their OF defense will improve significantly, trading LaRoche's bat for Span's will hurt the lineup.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs proclaimed this trade a steal for the Nationals.  Keith Law at ESPN was less enthusiastic.  My first reaction was closer to Dave Cameron's, but after studying the stat lines and thinking through the fallout, I have to say I'm now leaning more toward Keith Law's take.

I'm more impressed now by the Blanco pickup by the Giants last year and more convinced that worse things could happen than for him to be the starting CF and leadoff hitter for the Giants next year.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hot Stove Update: All Quiet on the Western Front

Sorry for the slowness in getting a post up.  The hot stove is so cold right now, it might have to be re-lit altogether.  Hopefully the Upton signing gets things going.

The biggest news potentially affecting the Giants is a report that the Dodgers new TV deal will likely be for, get this, $6 BILLION over 25 years.  In other words, the deal allows them to cover the highest payroll in MLB by a healthy margin without selling one ticket to Dodger Stadium!  Come to think of it, that may be necessary for them as they are going to have to keep ticket prices low to get anybody to go to that place!

The Dodgers seem to be the assumed frontrunners for Zack Grienke.  Grienke is a good pitcher and a darling of the sabermetric crowd, but he also has never quite performed up to his peripheral stats.  Estimates have him getting  in the vicinity of 6 years/$150 M which seems a bit rich for him to me, but pitching is in short supply on the FA market and the Dodgers need pitching badly.

The Angels seem to be conceding Grienke to the Dodgers or some other team out there which will put them in a world of hurt as they do not currently have anything past their top 2 starters Weaver and Wilson.  Speaking of the Angels, they signed Ryan Madson to an incentive laden deal coming off TJ.  They are reportedly shopping Jordan Walden.

Speaking of BJ Upton, here's a progression of his HR's over the last 5 seasons:  2008- 9, 2009- 11, 2010- 18, 2011- 23, 2012- 28.  He's maintained a high K rate so he will probably remain BA challenged and that will cause his HR's to plateau, but he will probably remain a 25/30 guy over most of his contract which is worth something, especially to fantasy players.

It seems all but assured that the Giants will not tender Brian Wilson a contract so as to avoid the arbitration process which would guarantee him over $6 M.   That is the right decision.  I would say there is less than a 50% chance of Wilson re-upping with the Giants after that.  We'll see, but it's the right call for the Giants to non-tender him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Free Agent Smackdown- Shane Victorino vs Angel Pagan

On one of the prior posts, the discussion took a turn toward debating the relative merits of two FA OF's on the market, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino.  Now, considering that Angel Pagan is coming off a season in which he was a major player leading the Giants to a World Series Championship while Shane Victorino has a long history of doing and saying things that Giants fans have come to despise him for, it might be hard to come up with any semblance of a rational discussion here, but it might be fun to try.

Victorino and Pagan are actually very similar players.  They are both switch-hitting CF's with modest power and speed to steal bases.  Victorino, who turns 32 yo in a few days is shorter at 5'9", 190 lbs. Pagan turns 32 yo next mid-season and stands 6'2", 200 lbs.  

I'm going to post 3 stat lines for each player here, 2012, Career and Bill James 3013 Projection:


2012:                  .288/.338/.440, 659 PA, .329 BABIP, 7.3% BB, 14.7% K, 29 SB.
Career:                .281/.333/.424, 2653 PA, .318 BABIP, 7.4% BB, 14.7 % K.
2013 Bill James:   .277/.332/.403, 605 PA, .319 BABIP, 7.6% BB, 14.9% K, 27 SB.


2012:                 .255/.321/.383, 666 PA, .278 BABIP, 8% BB, 12% K, 39 SB.
Career:               .275/.341/.430, 4295 PA, .296 BABIP, 7.8% BB, 11.6% K.
2013 Bill James:  .269/.338/.418, 624 PA, .291 BABIP, 8.3% BB, 12.3% K, 29 SB.

Notice that Pagan had a 2012 BABIP about .010 higher than his career while Victorino's was about .020 below his career number.  Now, I'm someone who believes that BABIP is a widely misunderstood, and misused statistic, but in this case, I think it is essential to the evaluation of these two players.  BABIP does tend to regress to around .300 for most players.  I have not done the exact calculations due to the constraints of time, but it appears to me from eyeballing it that the only difference between these two players last year is that one had a career low BABIP and the other's was above their career average.  If you normalize these two player's BABIP's, which is a statistically sound thing to do, they are essentially the same player! Admittedly, Pagan has a career BABIP that is .022 higher than Victorino's.  My answer to that is there is no obvious reason why Pagan would be expected to have a significantly higher BABIP than Victorino.  They are both fast, so should beat out a similar number of IF hits. Pagan has a higher FB%, but that should, if anything, suppress his BABIP.  Pagan has just a bit over half the career PA's and has had a couple of unusually high BABIP seasons.  It is a reasonable bet that if Pagan had over 4000 PA's under his belt, he would be within .010 BABIP points of Victorino.

Conclusion:  Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan should carry the same value in free agency.  Whichever players can be signed for less is the better deal for the signing team.  At the same signing price, one could be substituted for the other.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fantasy Focus Prospect Edition: Dylan Bundy

Dylan Bundy was the 4'th overall draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles in the strong 2011 draft out of HS on Oklahoma.  He worked his way through 3 minor league levels last year and became the 4'th player from his draft class to reach the majors and just the 4'th 19 year old to pitch in the majors in the last decade.

Bundy's size is not all that impressive at 6'1", 195 lbs., but he throws hard, touching triple digits in short stints and already has advanced command of several pitches.  When he's starting, his fastball goes 92-96 MPH.  He added a 2 seamer to a relatively straight 4-seamer during the season.  His best pitch in the minors was a cut fastball, but the Orioles asked him to stop throwing it so he could work on his breaking ball.  He already has an advanced changeup.  Personally, I'm not sure why he needs to waste his time on a breaking ball if he can throw all 3 fastballs with command to go with a plus changeup, but I guess it doesn't hurt to add an extra pitch in there.  Here are Bundy's stat lines from last season:

Low A  1-0, 0.00, 30 IP, 2 BB, 40 K's.
Hi A     6-3, 2.84, 57 IP, 18 BB, 66 K's.
AA       2-0, 3.24, 17 IP, 8 BB, 13 K's.
MLB     0-0, 0.00, 2 IP, 1 BB, 0 K's.

The Orioles could decide to give him a little more salt in AAA but it seems all but certain that he will be pitching in the majors before 2013 is out.  Again, it seems like he is probably a significant upgrade on whatever the Orioles can put out there on opening day, so why not let him work develop his game while he's helping the team in the majors?

Again from a fantasy perspective, if you are like me and carry 10 starters in a H2H league, you will want to consider rostering him from the get-go. He's a no-brainer in deeper keeper leagues.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Tyler Horan

The Giants have openly said that they believe they have to draft and develop their own power because the won't be able to attract FA's with power to play in AT&T Park.  While they continue to look for up the middle talent in the first round of the draft, in recent years, they have drafted at least 1 hitter with raw power in rounds 2 or 3 of each draft.  If that is the case again this year, I think I've found just the guy they are looking for, Tyler Horan out of Virginia Tech.

Horan is a redshirt junior so is a bit on the old side for a college junior.  He's has a big body at 6'2", 220 lbs, but does have some speed and athleticism enough to profile as an average to above average corner OF.  He throws R but bats L.  Here are his college and summer league stats:

2011 NCAA  .396/.434/.771 with 3 HR in 48 AB
2011 NECBL .341/.410/.651 with 7 HR in 129 AB.

2012 NCAA  .282/.400/.585 with 15 HR in 188 AB.
2012 CCBL   .342/.410/.717 with 16 HR in 152 AB.

Horan appears to be a patient, selective hitter, but that gets him into 2 strike counts where he is vulnerable to the called third strike.  His K rates are in the 20-25% range.  His offensive production in the Cape Cod League was actually better than league MVP Phil Ervin although Ervin can play CF which will get him drafted higher.

Horan could move up in the draft, but I don't find his name in any first round mock drafts or top 50 draft prospect lists, so as of right now, he looks to be available in round 2 or even round 3 and certainly fits the profile of what the Giants are looking for there.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thoughts on Gregor Blanco

One of the more interesting card games being played out this offseason is one with multiple players and seemingly endless permutations of possible plays, the CF position.  The options in the deck of cards range from one of the elite players in the game, Josh Hamilton all the way down to the likely non-tender of former Giant Andres Torres.  As Giants GM Brian Sabean ponders his moves, he has a nice little hole card sitting in his back pocket named Gregor Blanco.

It's a bit mystifying how a guy who is capable of providing plus defense in CF and 30+ SB's with a MLB career OBP of close to .350 was sitting out there amongst the flotsam of minor league free agents last offseason, but his signing by the Giants had as much to do with their championship run as any they made.  Of course, almost every decision Brian Sabean made last year turned out close to sensational and he also made a great trade of the aforementioned Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan and here's where it gets interesting this offseason.

There are certain code words in hot stove conversation that generally mean your favorite free agent player on your team is not coming back.  When a player who is already being paid several $ million says he "has a family to think about", the translation into plain english is that he is probably going to sign with whoever offers the most money.  "Testing the market" is generally another sign that he's looking for, and will probably get, more money than his current team is willing to pay.  Now comes word via MLBTR(Buster Olney) that the Giants are uncomfortable with the number of years Pagan is looking for.  Now, I'm not ready to bid good-bye to Angel Pagan just yet, but the tide definitely seems to be carrying him farther out to sea so to speak.

Brian Sabean is a guy who likes to get his ducks in a row early and he has a long history of being willing to overpay in order to accomplish that goal.  So, why isn't he opening the checkbook for Pagan?  Well, for one thing,  CF's are not exactly flying off the shelves like discounted HDTV's on Black Friday.  Josh Hamilton has the talent and track record for a massive 9 figure deal, but there's that pesky issue of his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction which keep re-surfacing that make teams hesitant to make that kind of commitment.  Michael Bourn and BJ Upton are in the next tier, but they are both expecting contracts in the high 8 figures and they both have their warts too.  In that market, Angel Pagan is seen by several teams as being a possible value option, which perversely raises his price out of the "value" range, especially with the evil visage of Shane Victorino lurking in the shadows. Add in Denard Span, Peter Bourjos and Dexter Fowler who may be on the trading block, as well as the aforementioned non-tender candidacy of Andres Torres, and a fairly extreme buyer's market is emerging for centerfielders, at least until the first couple of dominoes fall.

With Gregor Blanco already on the roster as a first year arbitration eligible player, Brian Sabean is sitting in the catbird's seat here.  Worst case scenario is he can move Blanco's plus D, his Bill James' projected .346 OBP and 30+ SB's to CF and leadoff in the lineup.  Blanco won't hit with quite as much authority as Pagan, but Pagan was not exactly an OBP machine leading off.  Sabes can then look to fill LF which is generally easier and cheaper, thought not necessarily this year.

Of course, if Sabean waits until someone is left standing when the music stops and all the chairs are taken, he can get his CF on a contract that does not block possible future CF's such as Gary Brown.  Blanco might not be the ideal LF, but his defensive value was evident in the postseason.  With a middle of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and an emerging Brandon Belt, the Giants may have the luxury of turning LF into a huge defensive plus with Blanco patrolling out there.  Then again, Blanco also makes an ideal 4'th OF who can play all 3 defensive positions, be a late inning defensive replacement in LF and allow both a Pagan and a more offensive LF to really juice this lineup.

Gregor Blanco puts Brian Sabean and the Giants in a commanding position to wait out the OF market this offseason while also not worrying about how much Hunter Pence is going to cost in arbitration.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Josh Hart

Here's a draft prospect to warm Shankbone's heart.  Josh Hart is a toolsy HS OF who has been hovering on the fringes of the first round in early mock drafts.  He's got nice size at 6'3", 190 lbs(Minor League Ball has him at 6'2", 180 lbs) with some room to fill out his frame.  He bat and throws lefty.  Right now his plus tools are hit, run catch.  His arm is average to slightly above and he has power potential. Perfect Game radar has him at 83 of the mound and 89 on a throw from the OF.  John Klima of Baseball Prospect Report thought he looked better at the plate in real games than in batting practice and laid a Andrew McCutchen comp on him.  Minor League ball had him more as Denard Span which I think is more realistic.  He is a bit old for his HS draft class at age 18.8 on draft day.

BA has him ranked at #44 in their HS Top 100 and has him at 6'0", 180 lbs.  Draft Site has him ranked #95 in their top 200 draft prospects.  Big League Futures has him ranked higher at #42.

While I like him as a player, I would stay away from him in the first round.  He could just as easily end up like Wendell Fairley as Denard Span and I think the McCutchen comp is unrealistic.  Would make a nice flyer in round 3 and who are we kidding here?  He's not coming to the Giants!

Hot tips:

A couple of nice articles to check out here.  Hardball Times, which is now part of Fangraphs, has an analysis of how well managers handle bullpens.  Bochy comes out ranked #7 for 2012.  Interesting how the rankings fit my impressions from watching games with Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin ranked #1 and #2 as well as Mike Scioscia and Bud Black ranked #4 and 5.  Not hard to guess that Don Mattingly ranked # 28, Kirk Gibson ranked #25 and Charlie Manuel at #26.  The big surprise for me was Davey Johnson ranked dead last!  Maybe that meltdown in NLDS game 5 wasn't an accident.  I know I had serious questions about his management of the bullpen in that game, although it did not appear he had all that many options.

High Heat Stats has a nice article looking at the historical significance of Buster Posey's MVP season.  Now THAT is chicken soup for any Giants fan's soul on Black Friday!  I just can't get enough of Buster being compared to the great Johnny Bench who was probably the greatest catcher to ever play the game.  And when you look at Buster's WAR numbers so far and realize they accumulated with him missing over 2/3 of one season, well, that's pretty awesome too!

PS: 1.  There are a few video clips of Josh Hart on Youtube and one at BPR.  2.  There's a funny video clip over on of Giants players impersonating Rev. Hunter Pence's postseason pregame speeches.  I bet when these guys are 80 yo and telling their grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the World Series they won, those speeches will be what they remember most!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fantasy Focus Prospect Edition: Wil Myers

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all you die-hards out there.  I know you can't resist a quick surf before navigating the jungles of family get-togethers.  You're not going to find much on the baseball oriented sites today, so hopefully I can give you a little something to feed the craving here.

Several years ago, the KC Royals embarked on a long term rebuilding plan anchored by drafting high ceiling HS position prospects.  Most of those draftees have graduated, but just barely, and most have struggled with the transition to MLB.  If the strategy is going to work, we should be seeing breakout seasons from Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas or both.  Wil Myers, who may well be the best hitter of the bunch, is the last major piece of the puzzle and he should be entering the picture in 2013.

Myers will turn 22 yo in December.  He is 6'3", 190 lbs.  He started out as an offensive oriented catcher in the Royals system but is now an OF projected to play RF after trying 3B and 1B along the way. He has made steady progress up the Royals minor league ladder capped by a breakout season last year.  Here are his stat lines from his minor league career"

2009:  Rookie  .426/.488/.735 with 4 HR in 80 PA.

2010:  A   .289/.408/.500 with 10 HR, 10 SB in 294 PA.
          A+ .346/.453/.512 with 4 HR in 247 PA.

2011:  AA   .254/.353/.393 with 8 HR in 416 PA.
          AFL .360/.481/.674 with 4 HR in 106 PA.

2012:  AA    .351/.421/.739 with 13 HR in 152 PA.
          AAA  .304/.378/.554 with 24 HR in 439 PA.

Myers obviously hits for average and power with excellent walk rates to boot.  The areas of caution are his slow adjustment to AA level and rising K rates which have climbed from the mid-teen % into the 20's at higher levels.

The question from a fantasy perspective is whether to jump on this guy the minute you know he's coming up.  If you are in a keeper league with any depth, the answer is obviously yes, possibly even earlier than that(if you are in a deep keeper league, it's probably already too late).  If you are in a re-draft league, you might be more cautious, but if you wait, somebody in your league will probably beat you to him.  He won't steal bases like Mike Trout, but he could hit every bit as well and from the get-go.

From the Royals perspective, Myers is the linchpin of their long term rebuild strategy. If he is what he appears to be and if Hosmer and Moustakas come along as they should, the Royals will be a force in the AL Central for several seasons starting very soon.  All the Dayton Moore hate will go away.  If Myers is anything less than an offensive force, the rebuild could stall and Moore will go down in history as just another GM who failed and all the haters will be gleefully gloating.  BA will probably post another cautionary article about the risks of trying to build with HS draftees.

Giants note:  Dodgers signed RHP Hector Correa as a minor league FA out of the Giants system.  Correa was obtained in a trade with the Marlins for Ronny Paulino who had just been acquired from the Philllies for Jack Taschner.  I had Correa ranked as the Giants #20 prospect last year but he was dropped from the 40 man roster due to injuries during the 2012 season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Down on the Farm: Final AFL Statistics

The 2012 Arizona Fall League is in the books.  Here are the final stat lines for Giants prospects with some comments:

Chris Dominguez(OF)- .317/.364/.585, 3 HR, 2 BB, 17 K's in 43 PA.  We've seen Chris hit like this in small samples in the past, but the frightful K rates eventually catch up to him.  You could say you'll accept a very low BA in return for the dingers, but when he's not hitting, he doesn't hit HR's either.  At age 26, time is running out.  He probably needs a full season at Fresno to see if there is any ray of hope.  If not, then he needs to take his incredible arm to the mound.

Gary Brown(OF)- .313/.357/.375, 0 HR, 2 SB, 3 CS, 5 BB, 14 K's in 69 PA.  Much better results than last year's AFL.  With a full season of AA experience plus a successful AFL under his belt, he should start the season in Fresno where I expect him to put up very good numbers.  The CS continue to be an issue and are starting to be a serious concern as SB's figured to be a significant part of his value.

Ricky Oropesa(1B)-  .234/.373/.362, 2 HR, 11 BB, 16 K's in 58 PA.  Considering he was coming off his first professional season and has not played AA ball yet, I think Ricky did OK.  He has a relatively high K rate but also draws a lot of walks.  My personal observation is that Ricky's selectivity gets him into a lot of 2 strike situations which inflate his K's.  Given the Giants overall philosophy, I wouldn't be surprised if they work on getting him to swing earlier in count.

Joe Panik(SS)-  .205/.295/.269, 1 HR, 10 BB, 7 K's, 4 SB, 0 CS.  Once again, fascinating numbers from Panik as he hit for a low BA while putting up reversed K/BB.  The fantastic K and BB numbers had Fangraphs Scout Leaderboards ranking him as the 4'th best hitter in the AFL!  Oh, and he had twice as many SB's as Gary Brown.  Again, Panik has not played AA ball yet hopefully this experience against more advanced competition is good preparation for 2013.

Chris Gloor(LHP)- 2-2, 2.70, 30 IP, 11 BB, 22 K's.  Gloor had a successful conversion to SP in AA Richmond last year and he built on that here.  Does that get him a AAA gig next year?  Nice write up in current BA.  He says relieving helped him develop his slider and now he has 4 pitches he can command.  Ceiling is a back of rotation starter or left-handed relief specialist.

Jacob Dunnington(RHP)- 0-1, 6.75, 9.1 IP, 4 BB, 14 K's.  He allowed 3 runs in 0.1 IP in his next to last outing to inflate his ERA.  K rate looks promising.  Very small sample size.

Heath Hembree(RHP)- 0-0, 3.00, 9 IP, 3 BB, 12 K's, 2 Saves.  I think the main thing Hembree proved here is he is healthy.  I see him starting out in Fresno with a high probability of a mid-season callup. Outside shot to make the 25 man roster out of spring training.

Dan Runzler(LHP)- 1-1, 3.38, 8 IP, 7 BB, 11 K's, 1 Save.  Not really a prospect anymore.  This was more of a rehab assignment for Runzler who got a special dispensation to play in the AFL.  Overall, he pitched really well except for his next to last appearance when he gave up 2 runs and 3 BB's in 0.0 IP.  With 2 bullpen lefties under contract and Mijares probably coming back too, it's not clear where Runzler fits in with the Giants.  With a shortage of LH pitchers in MLB, it would seem like a trade could be in the offing.

Ryan Bradley(LHP)- 0-0, 9.00, 2 IP, 2 BB, 2 K's.  Bradley was a late add to the AFL roster appearing in just 2 games.  He's the son of Giants minor league pitching coordinator Bert Bradley.  I would expect to see him pitching in Richmond in 2013 as younger pitching prospects will be flooding the roster in San Jose.

In other winter league action:

DWL:  Juan Carlos Perez- .265/.292/.426.  Todd Linden- .253/.380/.493.  Roger Kieschnick- .228/.308/.391.

VWL:  Ehire Adrianza- .268/.378/.390.  Boof Bonser- 0-2, 3.65, 24.2 IP, 8 BB, 14 K's.

Roberto Clemente League(Puerto Rico)- Johnny Monell- .273/.429/.409.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Phillip Ervin

First off, thanks to Shankbone for finding this guy.  Phil Ervin may be the best college player nobody has heard of, although a few draft oriented websites are starting to pick up on him.

Ervin plays for Samford University, a place sometimes referred to in college baseball circles as a mid-major program.  He is listed as a P/OF, but has played CF for the last 2 seasons and knocked the snot out of the ball while displaying 5 tools.  What has perked up everyone's attention is his performance in the Cape Cod League this summer where all he did was win MVP honors. He's a compact 5'11", 190 lbs. Hey, wasn't Willie Mays about that size?  Here's a listing of his college and off-season stats:

2011 Samford  .371/.440/.516, 4 HR, 7 SB, 25 BB, 28 K's in 244 PA's.
2012 Samford  .327/.406/.519, 10 HR, 16 SB, 23 BB, 39 K's in 298 PA's.

2011 Northwoods League  .305/.392/.523, 6 HR, 9 SB, 16 BB, 21 K in 153 PA.
2012 Cape Cod League      .323/.429/.631, 11 HR, 10 SB, 17 BB, 29 K's in 154 PA.

Notice there is little, if any dropoff in BA/K/BB numbers hitting with wood and even more power!  I'm guessing his build makes him a tough guy to tie up on the inside corner which is where most hitters have the toughest transition from metal to wood bats. Caveat:  offensive numbers were up significantly in the Cape Cod League this year leading to some speculation about juiced balls.

At this point, it's a bit tough to get a read on Ervin's draft ranking.  Big League Futures has him at #32 which would put him just outside the first round.  Maybe he's there somewhere, but I could not find his name in the top 200 at  MLB Prospect Guide has him at #49. Baseball Prospectus has him probably going in the top 2 rounds and a near lock to be top 100 if he performs well in his junior season. I will be interested to see where BA has him ranked in the college top 100.  The rap on mid-major guys is quality of competition and Ervin is on the smallish size with little room for projection in his body.  The Southern Conference has some serious baseball programs in it such as Coastal Carolina, Western Carolina and Georgia Southern.  Samford will be playing several series against SEC schools in 2013.

My feeling is he might be a tweener where the late first round is a bit rich for him but maybe he won't be around for the second round?  Or he could drop to the mid single digit rounds due to lack of elite competition in college.  At any rate, I will definitely be keeping tabs on Phillip Ervin as college baseball gets started in the spring and as the draft approaches.

There are videos available on Youtube, mostly from the Cape Cod League.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fantasy Focus Prospect Edition: Gerrit Cole RHP

I've had a soft spot for Gerrit Cole ever since he stiff-armed the Yankees, refusing to even listen to an offer after they drafted him in the first round out of HS, in favor of enrolling at UCLA.  3 years later, after a stellar college career, Cole was the #1 overall choice in the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011.

Gerrit signed late in 2011 and did not make his pro debut until 2012.  He started out on the high A Florida State League, moved up to AA mid-season and made one AAA appearance on Sept. 1.  His composite line for the season was 9-7, 2.80, 132.0 IP, 45 BB, 136 K, GO/AO= 1.42.  His college ratios were similar.

Gerrit has a classic pitchers frame at 6'4", 220 lbs.  His facial features are reminiscent of Roger Clemens while his stance, windup and delivery are somewhat similar to Matt Cain's.  His ticket is a fastball that sits in the high 90's and has touched 102 MPH.  He is strong enough to take his velocity deep into games.  He also has a wipeout slider and a solid changeup but throws mostly fastballs.

From an eyewitness scouting report in Minor League Ball from 7/2/2012, Cole's FB ranged from 93-99 with low effort.  His velocity increased as the game progressed and he hit 99 MPH with his 86'th pitch.

The rap on Gerrit is that he has never put up numbers quite as dominant as it perhaps seems he should given his stuff.  In other words, he scouts better than he performs. He can occasionally lose his release point and get wild and gets hittable at times.  Oh, and Ricky Oropesa took him deep twice in college as  Ricky's mom loves to remind me.

It seems almost certain that Gerrit Cole will make his MLB debut sometime in 2013.  The only question is whether he will start the season with the Pirates or in AAA.  It seems that unless there is something specific the Pirates want him to work on in AAA, he would be an upgrade to their rotation while at the same time polishing his game in the majors.  From a fantasy perspective, I play in a H2H league with no limit on IP.  I use all my bench spots as an extended starting rotation.  Gerrit will almost certainly be an upgrade on my 10'th best SP.  I will be watching him closely and looking to add him to my fantasy roster as soon as I know he is coming to the majors.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Down on the Farm: Minor League Ball Giants Top 20 Prospects

John Sickels has posted his Giants Top 20 prospects for 2013 over at Minor League Ball(  Here they are.  You might want to go check it out for his comments.

1.  Kyle Crick, RHP
2.  Chris Stratton, RHP
3.  Clayton Blackburn, RHP
4.  Gary Brown, OF
5.  Joe Panik, SS
6.  Heath Hembree, RHP
7.  Mike Kickham, LHP
8.  Martin Agosta, RHP
9.  Andrew Susac, C
10. Francisco Peguero, OF
11.  Mac Williamson, OF.
12. Chris Heston, RHP
13. Steven Okert, LHP
14. Stephen Johnson, RHP
15. EJ Encinosa, RHP
16.  Josh Osich, LHP
17.  Adalberto Mejia, LHP
18.  Edwin Escobar, LHP
19.  Adam Duvall, 3B
20.  Ricky Oropesa, 1B

Others:  Ehire Adrianza SS, Bryce Bandilla LHP, Brett Bochy RHP, Gustavo Cabrera OF, Jesus Galindo OF, Ian Gardeck RHP, Conor Gillaspie 3B, Joan Gregorio RHP, Cody Hall RHP, Tyler Hollick OF, Chuckie Jones OF, Rogers Kieschnick OF, Chris Marlowe RHP, Shilo McCall OF, Mason McVay LHP, Keury Mella RHP, Nick Noonan INF, Shawn Payne OF, Eric Surkamp LHP.

Around the League:  Melky Cabera agreed to a 2 year/$16 M contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.  I think Melky is the best value on the FA market and will tear it up in Toronto and the AL East where he should hit more HR's than in the NL West.

Giants are reportedly still focused on re-signing Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro who are testing the market.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Buster Posey: MVP!

Buster Posey joined a long list of Giants to be awarded the NL MVP award yesterday.  I posted my Thoughts on Buster Posey fairly recently, so I'll keep this on short.  You can look it up in the archives.  Just a few random thoughts to add:

Giants fans have been blessed over the years to cheer for some amazing players.  Previous winners include Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Kevin Mitchell, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.

What?  Will Clark never won a MVP?  That is just wrong!

What sets Buster apart from the previous Giants winners(except for Willie Mays while the team was still in New York) is that he led them to a championship in the process.

My favorite factoid:  Buster is the first catcher to win the NL MVP since Johnny Bench in 1972.

It would seem to be a strong possibility that had Buster not been injured in 2011, the Giants would be celebrating a 3-peat.  Think about THAT!

What are your thoughts on Buster Posey winning the NL MVP?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Oscar Mercado

BA came out with their High School Top 100 list yesterday.  Oscar Mercado is a shortstop who has been linked to the Giants in at least 1 mock draft.  Other mocks have him going significantly higher.  BA has him ranked #11 on the HS list which means he is borderline for being available at #27 for the Giants.  Of course, chances go up if they can move up in the draft as teams lose picks for signing FA's with qualified offers.

Mercado is a  6'2", 175 lb HS SS out of Florida.  He is committed to Florida State.  He bats R and throws R.  Big League Futures rates him as the top SS in the draft.  BA ranks him second behind JP Crawford.  He does not have any one outstanding tool but is an excellent all-around athlete.  Projects more as a line drive hitting with gap power than a slugger.  He is projected as a true SS who will stick at the position.

Big League Futures has a more complete write up as well as some video.  You can find video on Youtube also.

Check it out and tell me what you think.

I really like the kid and would be happy if he fell to the Giants and they grabbed him.

AFL Update:  Chris Gloor pitched 5 shutout innings yesterday to lower his ERA to 2.70.  Saw a note in BA that LHP Ryan Bradley was assigned to the AFL.  Not sure who, if anybody, got sent home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Marlins Complete Firesale

Wow!  Hard to know where to start with this one.  The Florida Marlins, who just one year ago were among the biggest spenders of the offseason, just completed the razing of that team by sending Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto for SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, and 3 prospects:  OF Jake Marisnick, LHP Justin Nicolino and RHP Anthony DeSclafani.  In prior trades, the Marlins had unloaded Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Edward Mujica receiving among others, RHP Nate Eovaldi, RHP Justin Turner 3B Zack Cox and C Rob Brantly.

The trade created an immediate firestorm of protest from almost all observers as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria once again dismantles a team for apparent financial gain.  At the same time, some of the same people criticizing the trades from a PR standpoint admit that the moves make sense from a purely baseball standpoint.  What raises a stench about the whole thing is the new stadium, revenue sharing and the fact that the Marlins heavily backloaded all those contracts last year while refusing to give no-trade clauses.  It would appear that perhaps they were planning a 1 year splash and one of their patented firesales no matter what the outcome of last year's campaign was.

I'm going to refrain from jumping on the condemnation bandwagon for the time being.  To be sure, Jeffrey Loria seems like a terrible owner who is in it only for the money and has found a bottom feeding way to make lots of it. On the other hand, you can look at it as a very smart way to build a team for the future.  The Marlins did get a a boatload of fairly good prospects in these deals, prospects they would not have had a chance of getting had they not had those players to trade.  They essentially parlayed a relatively small amount of upfront money into a lot of prospects and now let some other team pay the expensive parts of the FA contracts.  If Billy Beane had pulled that stunt it would be hailed as the latest Moneyball breakthrough!

It just seems a bit hypocritical to me that Billy Beane has just been named Executive of the Year for doing essentially what the Marlins just did.  Remember last offseason when Billy was being criticized for his own firesale which was seen by some as trying to manipulate MLB into speeding up approval of the new stadium in San Jose?  Well, look who got the last laugh on that one!

What's your take?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hot Stove Update: 3 Year Deal for Affeldt

MLBTR is reporting that the Giants and Jeremy Affeldt have agreed to a 3 year contract for a total of $18 M.  Affeldt has been a vital part of 2 Giants World Series championships.  He has been durable throughout his career except for a penchant for bizarre injuries that have nothing to do with pitching. Fortunately none of them have involved his left arm or hand and have not cost him significant DL time.  Affeldt is a versatile reliever.  He can get middle of the order LH batters out in high leverage situations, but he is also serviceable against RH batters as he showed against strongly RH leaning lineups in the 2012 postseason.  He is capable of pitching full innings at a time, even more.  He can close if he has to and probably even start.

When the Dodges gave Brandon League a 3 year $22 M contract to fire up the hot stove, it probably set Affeldt's market value.  Although I hate to see teams do business that way, the Giants had to follow suit and get this deal done.  Of the 3 major FA's, Pagan, Scutaro and Affeldt, Affeldt was probably the one the Giants could least afford to lose and the most difficult to replace.

Approximately 70-90% of the world's population is right-hand dominant while only about 10% is purely left hand dominant.  There appears to be some selection bias for lefthanders in baseball with up to 25% of baseball players being naturally left-handed.  Being able to hit lefthanded against a right-handed throwing pitcher is enough of a competitive advantage that more and more young aspiring ballplayers learn to swing the bat from the left side.  Last year, 50% of the top 100 OPS hitters in MLB either hit exclusively from the left side or were switch-hitters.  Many of those batters throw the ball right handed when on the field.  By contrast, just 25% of the top ERA's in MLB were by LH pitchers.

The most common way for analysts to measure player value is by a calculated statistic called WAR(Wins Above Replacement).  Analysts who depend on this method have long complained that many teams in baseball overpay for relief pitchers, particularly lefthanded relief pitchers.  Here's why these analysts are wrong:  WAR does not account for differences between high and low leverage situations.  Leverage is a recognized concept in sabermetrics.  Sabermetricians have long believed that teams should use their best reliever in high leverage situations rather than saving him for the 9'th inning which is usually relatively low leverage.  With 50% of the top hitters in baseball swinging the bat from the left side or switch-hitting, and left-handed pitchers having a competitive advantage against those batters, you have to have left-handed pitchers available to get those hitters out in high leverage situations late in games.  Because WAR does not account for leverage, it underestimates the value of those lefthanded relievers.

The thing that makes Affeldt special is that he brings much more than his lefthandedness to the table.  Not only can the Giants use him in high leverage situations to get lefthanded batters out, but he is serviceable against RH batters.  They can, thus leave him in against RH batters so he can face other LH batters later in the game.  While Affeldt pitched approximately 1 inning per appearance last year, Jose Mijares and Javier Lopez, the other two LHP's in the bullpen only pitched approximately 0.5 innings per appearance.

Even the most hardened naysayers are muting their criticism of this contract due to Brian Sabean and the Giants track record with Affeldt and the role he and the bullpen have played in their 2 WS wins.  Some are objecting more on the grounds of the length of the contract.  Affledt is 33 years old until June 6.  He will be 37 when this contract runs out at the end of the 2015 season.  While pitchers can break down physically any time, Affledt has proven to be durable.  He appears to take care of himself and stay in excellent shape.  Relievers put less cumulative stress on their arms than starters and therefore tend to have long careers often pitching into their 40's.  Thee length of contract is an issue but an acceptable risk to take given the market for relievers and the alternative options available.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts on Brandon Belt

As I have said many times, and many of you readers too, one of the more satisfying subplots of the 2012 season was the establishment of two additional homegrown starters to the Giants roster, The Brandons.  We've already discussed the growth and contributions of Brandon Crawford, so it's time to turn our attention to the other Brandon, Brandon Belt.

Before doing that, though, let's just consider for a minute just how significant the successful graduation of these two talents is to the reputation of the Giants farm system and to their future.  Brandon Crawford was drafted in the 4'th round in 2008 while Brandon Belt was drafted in the 5'th round in 2009.  Now, ogc has correctly pointed out the relative futility of drafting later than the top 10 picks in the draft, let alone in the 4'th and 5'th rounds.  Many teams, including the Giants,  go a decade or more without having picks in that range get so much as a cup of coffee in the majors, let alone develop two starting players.  Being able to fill 2 of 8 offensive positions with homegrown players taken that late in the draft is an enormous competitive advantage for the organization going forward taking pressure off the draft and farm system as well as the FA budget.

Back to Brandon Belt.  Belt was drafted in the 5'th round in 2009 out of the University of Texas where he had a rather undistinguished college career.  The Giants had a scout who saw something and advocated strongly for Brandon in the draft room.  The Giants knew about his plate discipline and ability to hit for average, but the scout had seen him crush a ball to dead center and knew he also had the power potential.

Belt did not play pro ball in 2009, instead going to instructional league where the Giants got him to open up his batting stance and put some loft into his swing.  What followed in 2010 was one of the greatest breakout seasons by a prospect in the entire history of baseball!    Starting at high A ball in San Jose, Belt put up a batting line of .381/.491/.626 with 10 HR and 18 SB in 334 PA.  He moved up to AA Richmond, a place where hitting prospects go to die, and went .337/.413/.623 with 9 HR in 201 PA.  He then played the last 13 games of the season in Fresno  hitting just .229 but with an OBP of .393 and a SLG% of .563 with another 4 HR's in 61 PA.  In the fall, he moved on to the Arizona Fall League and hit .372/.427/.616 in 96 PA's.

Belt was the toast of the prospect watching world and expectations had become impossibly high.  He had a strong spring training to begin 2011.  The Giants debated whether to put him on the 25 man active roster from day one, and when Cody Ross came up with a calf strain in the last week, it sealed the deal.  The Giants even moved an obviously out of shape Aubrey Huff to the OF to make room.  That didn't work out so well as Belt struggled to a .196 BA in the first month of the season while Huff was a disaster in the OF.  A dejected Belt was sent down to Fresno to work on some things and the criticism of the Giants handling of the situation was loud with some saying Belt should not have been rushed and others saying he should not have been sent down and some saying both!

Belt was recalled at the end of May and appeared in 2 games before breaking his hand and missing the next 6 weeks on the DL and rehabbing in the minors.  He was called back in July and was better, hitting .263 in the month.  Overall, from the time he came back from the injury to the end of the season, he appeared in 42 games with 142 PA's putting up a slash line of .231/.300/.469 with 8 of his 9 HR's.

After some initial lineup juggling, Belt settled in as the starting 1B for the Giants in 2012.  The first 4 months of the season were a roller coaster with Brandon looking lost at the plate for stretches and occasionally earning a day of two off to pull himself back together.  The Giants stuck with him as the starting 1B, though, except for occasional days when Buster Posey slid down to first base to rest his legs but keep his bat in the lineup.

Belt seemed to finally find himself down the stretch batting .329/.390/.418 in August and September.  Something that went almost unnoticed down the stretch with everyone focusing on the exploits of Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey was that the Brandons, along with Gregor Blanco, had become an offensive force at the bottom of the lineup.  It appeared to me just from eyeballing it while watching most of their games down the stretch, that the bottom of the lineup was producing about a run per game which was taking a lot of pressure off the top of the lineup.  Looking up the RC stats, it appears that indeed, over the last 2 months of the season those 3 batters created a total of 58 runs in the last 59 games and they did not all play together every day.

As for the future, Belt should start next season knowing he is the starting first baseman.  Although he looked lost again at times in the postseason, he showed an ability to make adjustments and correct his approach on the fly.  That, combined with his strong finish to the regular season should bode well for 2012.  Most likely we will still see struggles, but they should be for shorter periods of time with longer periods of success.  I would expect to see more power as he gets more confident and comfortable at the plate.  There is the potential for a huge breakout along the lines of what we saw in the minors, but more likely a solid progression from his 2012 performance.  All of which makes Brian Sabean's job a whole lot easier this offseason.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fantasy Focus Prospect Edition: Oscar Taveras

Over the last few years, I've give a friend of mine who also plays fantasy baseball a few tips on prospects coming into the league which have worked out well for him.  Now he periodically asks me if I know of any good ones coming along.  I figure if he's that interested then maybe there are readers out there who might be too.  I thought I would write a series of mini-profiles of some of the top prospects who I think will become fantasy relevant within the next year or two.  This is a different exercise than simply reviewing top prospects as you would not be interested in 17 year olds who haven't played above rookie ball unless you are in a deep dynasty league.  These will be in no particular order.  

First up is St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras.  As if he Cardinals don't already have enough talent at the MLB level, they also have one of the better stocked farm systems in the game.  Taveras is an example of how you don't necessarily have to spend 7 figures on international players to get high ceiling prospects as he was originally signed as a 16 year old out of the DR for $145 K in 2008.  He bats and throws lefthanded.  He is not particularly big by today's standards at 6'2", 180 lbs, but is compact and wiry strong.  He's got a quick, powerful swing on a fairly level plane, maybe a minimal uppercut.  Every scouting report I've read absolutely raves about his eye-hand coordination and his ability to "barrel" the ball in all areas of the strike zone.  Despite that, he seems to have a god eye at the plate with excellent walk rates at all levels.  He has played all 3 OF position, but profiles as a RF.  He's not a speed burner and will probably not steal a lot of bases, but is also not a base-clogger. The Cardinals have been deliberate in how they have promoted him despite the eye popping numbers he's generated at almost every level.  

Here is a summary of his pro experience starting with his age 16 season in the DSL(his BD is June 19. I  will list his age from the start of each season):

Age 16  DSL  .257/.338/.392, 13 2B, 8 3B, 1 HR, 28 BB, 36 K in 237 AB.
Age 17  Short Season  .322/.362/.526, 13 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 12 BB, 42 K in 211 AB.
Age 18  Low A(MWL)  .386/.444/.584, 27 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 32 BB, 52 K in 308 AB.  
Age 19  AA  .321/.380/.572, 37 2B, 7 3B, 23 HR, 10 SB, 42 BB, 56 K in 477 AB.  

His .386 BA in the MWL was the highest in that very tough league for hitters since 1956!  He is currently tearing up the Dominican Winter League with a .339 BA.  

Taveras could probably start for a lot of MLB teams right now.  The Cards are pretty well set in the OF with Holliday, Jay and Beltran out of the gate, so they can afford to be conservative with Taveras and start his age 20 season in AAA.  Beltran is fairly fragile, though, so an opportunity could arise mid-season.  The other possibility is that Taveras could force the issue and trigger some kind of trade to make room for him.  If and when that happens, he's somone fantasy owners will want to consider rostering from day 1 of his MLB career.  Keeper leaguers may want to draft him and stash him on the bench.  He will likely be a big asset in 4 categories with a relative lack of SB's keeping him from being a 5 category stud in the Mike Trout/Matt Kemp/Bryce Harper club.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Chris Oakley

I thought I would do a series of bios and scouting reports on some of the prospects who might be available for the Giants to draft in 2013.  With the draft order set for the first round and set for everything but some possible trades of supplemental round picks and a FA or two re-signing with their team, the later rounds are close to set, at least close enough to look at players who might be available in that general area of the draft.  Of course, it's easiest to project players for the first round, but as we go along, we'll try to find hidden gems who could be good pickups later in the draft.  I think we did a pretty good job of that in 2012.

Overall, the 2013 draft is shaping up to look similar to the 2012 which has been labeled by many observers as relatively weak, but I think will prove to be underrated.  One thing you have to understand when reading about a draft is that most draft experts rate a draft based on the top 5-10 picks, and there are very good reasons for that.  What I find interesting about the 2012 and 2013 drafts is that while the top 5-10 picks are indeed relatively weak, teams found and will find prospects that are almost as good as the top picks as late as the 2'nd and even third rounds.

Ordinarily, you would not want to be holding a top pick in a year like these, because you would be spending $$$ on a player who is not much better than one you could get for a lower bonus much later in the draft.  With the new  bonus cap rules, though, teams with high picks can do what the Astros did and draft a player who will sign for significantly under slot and then use the leftover money to draft overslot players later in the draft.  This proved to be the likely best strategy for the 2012 draft and 2013 will likely be similar.  On the other hand, if you have a year in which the top 2 or 3 picks are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack such as a Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, a team might want to use the lions share of their bonus cap to pay the top pick and then draft college seniors with the rest of the top 10 picks.  Drafting as late as the Giants have in the last few drafts takes away the luxury of moving money around in the draft, mostly because there is not much money to move around!  In this situation, it's probably better to just go vanilla and take the best player available at each spot.

The Giants have been careful to avoid losing draft picks in recent years and with changes in free agency rules that is likely to be the case in 2013 too.  I did raise my eyebrows just a tad when I saw a note on MLBTR yesterday that the Giants may have interest in signing Nick Swisher who was offered a qualifying contract by the Yankees.  Swisher does not seem like a great fit for AT&T Park to me and that may keep him from signing with the Giants even if they are interested, but if he were to sign with the Giants, they would lose the 27'th pick in the draft, which I suppose is a small price to pay for a solid MLB player like Swisher.

The first prospect to catch my eye in early draft prognostication who seems to be hovering on the fringes of the first round and thus might be available for the Giants to draft is HS RHP Chris Oakley.  You all know how much I like big pitchers and Oakley is certainly big, listed at 6'8", 230 lbs.  Oakley is from St. Augustine Prep in New Jersey.  He is committed to North Carolina, so could be a bit tough to sign.  His BD is 8/20/1994, so will turn 19 shortly after the draft, although I don't worry about age as much with pitchers.

The scouting report on Oakley is a fastball that runs 89-92 and touches 94-95.  He has projection for more velocity in the future.  He has a pretty good bender already that projects as a possible plus pitch and he's working on a split-change.

From videos I've seen, he is very well proportioned for a big, tall kid.  He has a very simple, upright delivery with a short stride that he seems to repeat well.  The uprightness of the delivery gives his pitches a nice downhill plane. He might be able to add velocity with a longer stride and more drive in his legs, but would he lose command?

There are multiple videos available on Youtube.  I'd urge everybody to check them out and make your own judgements about him.  I would be happy to see his name next to the Giants at #27 on draft day.  There are many other players that would make me happy though.

I have to acknowledge Matt Grabusky and Big League Futures for much of the information for this writeup.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughts on Brandon Crawford

One of the many joys of watching Giants baseball in 2012 was watching Brandon Crawford blossom in front of our eyes.  Yesterday, there was an article on Fangraphs/Rotographs dismissing Brandon as a fantasy player which did not really do him justice.  Now, I'm not saying I'm going to draft Brandon Crawford in my 10 team league next spring, but that does not mean he is not on an upward career trajectory or that he should be forgotten about in deeper leagues.

Crawford played solid defense in 2011, but struggled mightily at the plate.  At times, he was almost an automatic out.  Still, when the Giants traded for Orlando  Cabrera, Giants fans were soon more than happy to look the other way with Brandon's offensive struggles if they could just get his defense back on the field.  Not only did he get back on the field, he hit a respectable .256 in the month of September.

The Giants made an offseason decision to not go outside the organization to fill the SS position and put their faith in Crawford.  They wanted his defense at the position and any offense he gave would be extra.  His preseason projections came in with BA's in the .230-.240 range.

Over the course of the 2012 season, Crawford did play solid defense that got even better as the season progressed.  He also outperformed his projections, hitting .248 despite hitting in the 8 hole all season. Skeptics, including the guy who wrote the Rotographs piece, point to poorer K and BB numbers from 2012, but season long numbers don't tell the whole story.  When a player is in the early stages of their career, progression in monthly splits means something and Crawford did progress.  Here are his monthly BA splits:  Mar/Apr- .203, May- .231, June- .260, July- .235, Aug.- .281 and Sept.- .288.

OK, maybe BA is not your cup of tea.  Let's take a look at those K and BB rates that were supposed to be so bad. His 2011 rates were 14.1% K and 10.5% BB.  Those are very good numbers and reflect the kind of quality AB's we saw from him despite his low numbers.  His overall 2012 numbers were 20.0% K and 6.9% BB.  Clearly not nearly as good as 2011.  Let's take a closer look:  In the first two months of the season, he struck out 43 times  and walked just 9 in 174 PA's.  Over the last 4 months of the season he struck out 52 times against 24 BB's in 302 PA. Over the last 4 months, his 17.2% K rate against an 8% BB rate is significantly better than his overall season numbers and not nearly as far off his 2011 numbers when his actual production at the plate was not as good.

Let's also take another look at his defensive numbers.  For most of the season, Crawford hovered in the upper part of the middle of the pack in defensive SS rankings.  His defense down the stretch was noticeably better than in the first half of the season and the numbers bear that out. He finished the season with a UZR of 8.7 which is 6'th in all of baseball and he finished 5'th in UZR/150 at 9.7.  In order to vault over at least 5 or 6 SS's in the last 4-6 weeks of the season, he had to have performed much better than his final UZR numbers in the process.

There is strong sabermetric support for the idea that Brandon Crawford made significant gains during his first full season of MLB play and his career trajectory is still on a steep upward swing.  An advance in 2013 to a BA in the .260-.280 range along with concurrent improvement in his secondary numbers appears to be a perfectly reasonable possibility.  Shortstops who hit .260-.280 start to have fantasy relevance in deeper leagues, but more importantly, Crawford promises to contribute even more to the Giants winning ways next year, both on offense as well as defense.

PS:  Crawford has approximately equal L-R splits so as he improves his overall numbers, there should be no reason to platoon him

Comment: Sabermetrics and Political Forecasting

I have steadfastly avoided off topic posts on this site and fully intend to continue to do so.   There is a fascinating subplot to the just completed Presidential election that has a baseball connection which I would like to call people's attention to, if you are not already aware of it.  The discussion will be limited to the science of politics.  I will strive to keep it non-partisan.  Policy discussions will be avoided.

Nate Silver is a baseball sabermetrician, or at least he was one until recently.  He made a name for himself in baseball sabermetric circles by developing a forecasting system for player performance that he called by an acronym, PECOTA(Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm).  In 2003, Silver became a regular contributor to Baseball Prospectus and soon after sold PECOTA to BP for a partnership interest.  These projections are eagerly awaited each spring by baseball fans, possibly more so by fantasy baseball players hoping for an edge in their fantasy drafts.

In 2007, Silver began writing analyses and predictions of the 2008 Presidential campaign under the pseudonym "Poblano" for the Daily Kos, a liberal political website.  In March of 2008, he established his own website and revealed his true identity later that summer.  He quickly gained notoriety in the field of politics when he correctly predicted the outcome of the Presidential contest in 49 of 50 states and in all 35 Senate races.

Silver left Baseball Prospectus in 2009 to devote full time to his political blog which was licensed for publication by the New York Times with a new name:  FiveThirtyEight:  Nate Silver's Political Calculus.  He continued to publish regular updates through the 2010 mid-term elections, the primary season of the 2012 election, and the 2012 election itself.

Silver is an open supporter of Barack Obama and reportedly has even shared information with the Obama campaign, at least in the 2008 election cycle, but insists that his methodology is based on science rather than opinion.  He has been particularly critical of the methodology of the Rasmussen poll which has consistently favored Republican candidates.  His criticism is based on Rasmussen's methodology which tends to select and older, non-tech savvy population than polls which use more modern means of communication than just telephones.  In terms of results, Rasmussen has been spectacularly wrong in both 2008 and 2012, so Silver certainly has results to validate his criticisms.

One of the more interesting sideshows of the 2012 election came when former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, now a commentator for MSNBC and host of a political talk show called Morning Joe, called out Silver who was confidently predicting a repeat win for Barack Obama saying it was impossible for anyone to call the election as anything more than a tossup.  Silver responded by offering to bet $1000 to be donated by the loser to the Red Cross that his forecast would prove to be correct.  Scarborough countered by offering a joint donation with Silver of $2000 to the Red Cross.  Silver responded by upping the ante to $2000.  The bet offer landed him in hot water with the Editor of the NY Times, the parent company for his blog.

As election day approached, Silver became increasingly confident of an Obama win and posted a 90.9% chance of of the President being re-elected.  In the end, Silver accurately predicted the winner in all 50 states(I believe Florida is still unofficial, but appears to be safely in the Obama column at this time), while Ramussen Reports missed 6 of 9 swing states.

Nate Silver appears to be a restless soul and has indicated that he does not expect to continue political analysis for the rest of his life, or even into the near future.  He has already delved into other areas such as quantifying the "Most Livable Neighborhoods in New York." He has also indicated some interest in returning to his first love, baseball.

Bloggers Note:  By way of disclosure, most of the details of for this post were found in Wikipedia, verified from my own memory of things I have read elsewhere.

I will accept comments that are limited to the science of politics, and of course, baseball.  I will delete comments on political opinion, policy and any and all rants or diatribes.  This is not a political opinion website.  My reason for posting this is to draw attention to the connection between the statistical analysis of baseball and politics.

Here's an interesting factoid I read today:  Mitt Romney got exactly the same percentage of the white vote in this election as George H W Bush got in the 1988 election when he beat Mike Dukakis in a landslide.

Factoid #2:  This is the first time the United States has had 3 consecutive 2-term Presidents since Jefferson, Madison and Monroe!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hot Tips

Gary Brown is finishing his AFL stint strongly.  Last night he went 3 for 6 to raise his BA to .333.

Joe Panik went 0 for 5.  Observation:  Prospects with at least AA experience performed better in the AFL.

LOL Yankees dumpster diving players waived by the Giants.  Eli Whiteside is now a Yankee.

Free content article on BA, a cautionary tale about emphasizing HS prospects in the draft and how that approach may have contributed to the decline and fall of the Boston Red Sox.

Also on BA, a list of 2013 minor league FA's.  No real surprises from the Giants and nobody they can't live without.

There has been a flurry of mock drafts for 2013 now that the draft order has been set.  Here's a few just to give you an idea of what type of player may be available to the Giants at #27(I think they are going to get a good player):

Big League Futures V.1:  Jonah Wesely, LHP, HS.  Big hard throwing LHP.

Big League Futures Composite Mock:  Marco Gonzalez, LHP, Gonzaga.  Don't know much about him.

Bleacher Report:  Oscar Mercado, SS, HS.  I'd be ecstatic if the Giants drafted him, but likely will go higher.  No single outstanding tool but solid all around and can stick at SS.

Through the Fence Baseball:  Brett Morales, RHP, HS.  Hard throwing HS arm.  Love this kid, but some other mocks have him going higher, although he is the only prospect listed at #27 on multiple mocks.

Draftsite:  Brian Ragira, 1B/OF  Stanford.  Love the power potential.  His swing reminds me of Hank Aaron.  Very wristy.  Stanford tends to ruin hitters, though.

Any other news out there?

PS:  Ricky Oropesa goes 3 for 4, HR(2), BB.  BA= .250 in today's AFL game.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Comment: Brian Sabean's Place in Baseball History

Brian Sabean has been the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants for the past 15 years.  During that time, I think it is safe to say that he has been one of the more polarizing figures in Giants history, possibly even in baseball history.  Throughout most of baseball history, except for a handful of groundbreaking thought leaders, most GM's labored behind the scenes out of the public eye receiving little praise for success and little blame for failure.  Success and failure in the field of general managing is difficult to quantify because there are so many confounding factors, such as payroll constraints and meddlesome ownership, and because many of the activities that characterize a good general manager, such as building and maintaining a good scouting staff often bear fruit long after the GM who executed these duties has retired or moved on to anther organization.  GM's serve at the pleasure of team ownership, a notoriously fickle, self-centered, short-sighted and meddlesome lot.  Brian Sabean is a bit unusual in that he is one of a very few GM's with a long enough tenure at one team to be able to assess his full body of work, and even then the story gets murky at times.

Brian Sabean's career in baseball management started out in scouting for the New York Yankees and he rose to the position of Scouting Director with them and played a major role in scouting and drafting the nucleus of the great Yankee teams of the late 1990's.  In 1993 he was hired by Giants GM Bob Quinn to be scouting director and assistant GM and succeeded Quinn as GM in 1997.  At the time, the Giants had suffered through losing seasons 5 of the previous 6 seasons despite the presence of Barry Bonds on the team since 1993.  Sabean immediately set about to distribute payroll more evenly throughout the roster and traded Matt Williams for several players including Jeff Kent.  He used the draft and farm system as a source of trading chips to acquire multiple players such as JT Snow, Livan Hernandez, Robb Nen, Jason Schmidt and others who would help send the Giants into postseason competition multiple times over the next several seasons including a bitter World Series loss to the Angels in 2002.

With Barry Bonds career moving into its final stages, Sabean foresaw a post-Bonds team built around homegrown pitching and had a cadre of young pitchers in place headed by first round draft picks Kurt Ainsworth and Jerome Williams plus 4'th round pick Jesse Foppert known to Giants internet fans as AFW.  In a run of monumentally bad luck, the Bonds era ended prematurely when Barry got a nasty infection in his knee after arthroscopic surgery and all 3 of Sabean's prized young pitchers careers were cut short by injuries and poor conditioning.  Sabean desperately tried to hold things together by signing multiple veteran free agents at the expense of draft picks, the whole thing collapsed into 90+ loss seasons in 2007 and 2008.  Big money contracts to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand with poor on-field production from these players helped to fuel fan anger and frustration.  Calls from internet based Giants fans and local media for Sabean to be replaced as GM mounted.

Giants ownership refused to fire Sabean, though, and instead gave him a contract extension.  Meanwhile, Sabean stuck to his plan for the post Bonds era by continuing to draft and develop pitchers such as Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.  After the 2007 draft, he hired John Barr a more offensive minded scout, away from the Dodgers to be the his scouting director and Barr drafted Buster Posey in his first draft in 2008.  The Giants improved to 88 wins in 2009 and broke through with their first World Series Championship in 2010 and repeated that feat in 2012 largely on the strength of the young pitching core that Sabean constructed after the end of Barry Bonds' career and the unfortunate collapse of AFW.

So, where does all this leave Brian Sabean in the history of baseball GMs?  As I said earlier, GM's have only recently operated in the public spotlight as the Information Age has made their work more accessible to the public and the rise of sabermetrics and fantasy baseball has created millions of people who literally think they know as much about building a baseball team as the people who do it in real life.  I was able to identify just 4 modern GM's who are current members of the Hall of Fame, Larry MacPhail, Lee Macphail, Branch Rickey and curiously, Pat Gillick.

BRANCH RICKEY, of course, was probably the greatest GM in the history of the game.  He invented the concept of the farm system in building the St. Louis Cardinals into the "Gashouse Gang" of the 1930's.  As GM of the Dodgers, he broke the unwritten rule prohibiting the hiring of African-American players by hiring Jackie Robinson  and he was an early pioneer in signing international prospects when he signed Roberto Clemente while he was GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

LARRY MACPHAIL was an executive with the New York Yankees who brought in some innovations such as regular televised games and flights between cities for road games as well a maintaining excellent Yankee teams.

Larry's son, LEE MACPHAIL was also a Yankee executive and later laid the groundwork for the great Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 60's and 70's.

PAT GILLICK built the Toronto teams of the 1990's and later contributed to a WS win for the Phillies in the 2000's.  Gillick's resume seems a bit thin compared to many other GM's who are not in the Hall of Fame.  It remains to be seen if Gillick is an anomaly or the first of many modern GM's who are eventually inducted.

What about other GM's who are not in the HOF?  I started out researching this by trying to think of teams who have enjoyed sustained success in the past 50 years or so, thinking that maybe there was a pretty good GM behind that successs.  Here are some of the names I came up with:

BOB HOWSAM- Howsam was a Branch Rickey protege who was almost singlehandedly responsible for building the great Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970's known as the "Big Red Machine".  Prior to that, he played a role in putting together the Cardinal teams of 1967 and 1968.  Howsam was particularly a thorn in the collective Giants fans side as he was responsible for acquiring Orlando Cepeda and George Foster from the Giants for the Cards and Reds respectively.  Howsam was extremely conservative in his general outlook and was not able to adjust to the realities of free agency and he was unable to carry the success of the Big Red Machine to a new generation.

BING DEVINE- Devine built the Cardinal team that won the World Series in 1964, but was curiously fired before the end of that season by an impatient Gussie Busch when the Cards fell way behind the Phillies before the Phils' epic collapse.  He went on to build the groundwork for the "Amazing Mets" teams of the late 60's and early 70's before returning as GM of the Cardinals when Busch and Howsam had a falling out.

HARRY DALTON- Dalton carried on the work of Lee MacPhail with the Baltimore Orioles and guided them to sustained success through the 70's and early 80's.  He later had an undistinguished stint with the Angels, but then built the "Harvey's Wallbangers" team with the Milwaukee Brewers.

AL CAMPANIS- Campanis was the Dodgers GM from 1966 through the late 1980's, putting together a team that enjoyed sustained success.  His career came to an unhappy end with some unfortunate comments about race and the lack of African-American managers in the major leagues on Nightline.  Campanis probably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame based on this baseball accomplishments, but the legacy of his Nightline comments may keep him out.

JOHN SCHUERHOLTZ- Schuerholtz has built teams with sustained success in Kansas City and Atlanta with a total of 15 postseason appearances and 2 World Series wins, 1 each with KC and ATL.

CHARLIE FINLEY- amazingly, Charlie Finley was his both owner and GM of the Oakland A's and personally built the great A's teams of the 1970's.  Finley was a classic old-school owner who was not able to adapt to free agency and ended up selling the A's and getting out of baseball.

In Brian Sabean's 16 years as GM of the Giants, his teams have had 12 winning seasons, 6 postseason appearances, 3 NL Pennants and 2 World Series championships.  He as able to completely rebuild a team after the end of Barry Bonds career and has been able to adapt his approach to financial and personnel realities.  His record compares favorably with many of the top GM's in the history of the game.  Hall of Fame induction for GM's is very sparse so it is difficult to project him as a future Hall of Famer at this point.  His record certainly compares favorably with Pat Gillick who has been inducted, but is no better than several GM's who are not in the HOF.  It remains to be seen how GM's are treated in the future by HOF voters.

Sabean is certainly the most successful GM in Giants franchise history since the great John McGraw and easily the most successful GM since the team moved to San Francisco.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hot Stove Update: State of the Giants Roster

While winning a second World Series Championship in 3 years is more than enough chicken soup for any Giants fan's soul, the season also could not have gone better if the team was in the depths of rebuilding as the Giants made  significant additions to the long term core of their team.  It was winning while reloading all at the same time as Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford survived numerous ups and downs to solidify starting positions into the future while Hector Sanchez, Gregor Blanco, Joaquin Arias, and George Kontos added seemingly long term solutions to team depth.  The result is that GM Brian Sabean goes to the hot stove poker table with a strong hand and very little need to make risky gambles.  Here's how it stacks up:

C   Buster Posey- This is Buster's first year of arbitration eligibility, but he is under Giants control for 4 more years.  Only decision for Sabes is whether to go year-to-year or sign a long term deal.  MLBTR's projected arbitration salary:  $ 5.9 M.

1B  Brandon Belt- Belt is pre-arbitration eligible meaning he will play for near minimum MLB salary next year.  Made significant progress in his first full season as a starter.

2B  Marco Scutaro?- Scutaro is a FA who has said he wants to re-sign with the Giants who have said they want to re-sign  him.  The extra money from the postseason should help get a deal done unless some other team wants to overpay like crazy.  Ryan Theriot could be a cheap fallback option or there are several other decent 2B FA's on the market.  Joe Panik is probably the 2B of the future although he's stayed at SS so far in the minors.

3B  Pablo Sandoval- Pablo is under contract for 2 more seasons.  I expect a huge breakout next year as he seems to be serious about staying in some semblance of shape and he does not have any more hamate bones left to fracture.

SS  Brandon Crawford-  Improved in every phase of his game as the season progressed. His defense was a difference maker in the postseason and he continued to get timely hits on the biggest stage possible.  Pre-arbitration eligible.

LF  Open-  Gregor Blanco ended the season as the starter and his defense was a weapon in the postseason.  Questionable whether his offense is what you want from LF long term.  Could be a fallback option for CF if Pagan leaves.  Melky could be a steal of a deal here, but if I had to bet, I would bet on him not coming back.

CF   Angel Pagan?-  There seems to be mutual interest in re-signing Pagan, but he will have suitors out there willing to spend some $$$ to sign him.  The failure of the Giants to make a qualifying offer and Pagan's comment that he has a family to take care of could be signs that a deal is not a slam dunk.  Also, it seems fairly clear that the Giants view Gary Brown as their CF of the future and they could view a long term deal for Pagan as blocking Brown and therefore problematic.  He will probably test the market and get paid.

RF  Hunter Pence- Pence has one last year of arbitration eligibility.  His MLBTR arbitration salary projection is $13.8 M which makes you pause, but whether they go 1 year through the arbitration process or work out a long term deal, Hunter Pence will be the starting RF in 2013.  Forget about any talk of moving to LF.  Like it or not, he's gonna be the RF.

SP  Matt Cain- 2013 will be the first year of a 5 year/$100 M contract with an option for 2018.

SP  Tim Lincecum- Last year of a 2 year contract.  Timmy will get a $4 M raise to $22 M in 2013.  Forget talk of him moving to the bullpen.  He'll be in the rotation, at least to start the season.

SP  Barry Zito- Last year of his mammoth non-albatross contract(can't call it an albatross when the Giants have won 2 WS with it).  He'll get a raise of $1 M to $20 M.  Option for 2014.

SP  Madison Bumgarner- Signed through 2017 for a total of $35 M but slated to make just $750 K in 2013.  Team friendly options for 2018 and 2019 to boot.  Wow!

SP  Ryan Vogelsong- Will get a well deserved $2 M raise to $5 M with a team friendly option for 2014.  I couldn't be happier that after all these years, Ryan is going to ultimately leave the game with some financial security.

RP  Sergio Romo- 2'nd year of arbitration eligibility.  Should get a nice raise from $1.5 M with his closer experience.  Do the Giants try to buy out the remainder of his eligibility?

RP  Santiago Casilla- Final year of arbitration eligibility.  Negotiations could be contentious as he gained closer experience but ultimately lost the job.  Do the Giants try to buy out his final year with a 2 year deal?

RP  Javier Lopez- Final year of a 2 year contract. At $4.25 M.

RP  Jose Mijares- Arbitration eligible. MLBTR's projected arbitration value, 1.6 M.  That might be a bit steep, but Sabes and Boch love their LOOGYs so I expect him to be tendered a contract which might make Affeldt expendable.

RP  George Kontos- Kontos is pre-arbitration eligible.  He ate some big innings and got some big outs, even in the postseason.  He's a lock for a bullpen job next year.

RP  Brian Wilson?- Arbitration eligible, but he's coming off his second TJ surgery and MLBTR projects his arbitration salary at $8.5 M.  I can't believe the Giants will tender him a contract at that rate.  If they don't, he's a FA.  He'll probably be looking for a 1 year "pillow" contract to rebuild his value.  There could be mutual interest with the Giants for something like that with some incentives.

RP  Jeremy Affeldt?-  Affeldt proved down the stretch and in the offseason that he is much more than a LOOGY as he was able to get RH batters out and go more than 1 inning in an appearance.  Giants want him back and he probably wants to come back, but he fired a warning shot by making it clear he will be looking for a multi-year deal.  He will be testing the market.  Giants have a track record of being willing to pay a premium price for LH relief pitching, but does the presence of Lopez and Mijares make Affeldt expendable this time?

RC  Hector Sanchez- Hector was an unexpected luxury in 2012 and will continue to be a luxury for 2 more seasons before he becomes arbitration eligible.  A mystifying anti-Hector sentiment arose on some Giants oriented internet sites as the season progressed, but make no mistake, the Giants know his value and their assessment is the correct one.

RIF  Joaquin Arias- Arias proved to be an invaluable reserve for the Giants in 2012.  He's arbitration eligible but should come at a reasonable price.  Expect him back in 2013.

RIF  Ryan Theriot?- Riot may have gotten frustrated with close to zero playing time down the stretch, but ended up being a World Series hero scoring the clinching run.  Could be a fallback option if Scutaro ends up going elsewhere but Riot might want to shop for a reserve role that has more upside if Scutaro does re-sign.

ROF  Gregor Blanco-  Blanco was the starting LF in the postseason, but it's hard to imagine him holding down that role for a full season.  He could be an option in CF if Pagan goes elsewhere, but his ideal role is probably 4'th OF.  Arbitration eligible, but at a reasonable price.  He'll be back.

ROF  Xavier Nady?  Frankie Pegs?  Roger K?  5'th OF is probably the most wide open roster spot on the team.  The possibility of competition for the starting LF role adds to the intrigue.

Summary:  The 2013 roster is set except for 7 positions- LF, CF, 2B, 2 RP's and 2 position bench jobs.  Probably the biggest offseason decision for Sabes and ownership is whether to use the postseason loot to buy a bat for LF.  Affeldt may be the FA they can least afford to lose with Scutaro second and Pagan third.  What to do with Wilson could get a bit dicey, but it seems clear that the Giants should not tender him a contract before arbitration.

Let the roster speculation begin(since we're trying to be a family friendly site, we won't call it by that other well known name)!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Comment: Bruce Bochy's Place in Baseball History

Like many MLB managers, Bruce Bochy is a former backup catcher who put his time sitting on the bench to good use learning game strategy and what makes a baseball team tick.  His last stop as a MLB player was with the San Diego Padres where he was a backup catcher to Terry Kennedy on their pennant winning team of 1984.  He played his last season at age 32 in 1987.  He went on to manage in the minor leagues as well as coach at the MLB level for the next 7 years before taking over as Padres Manager in 1995 at age 40.

Bochy was successful in his 12 year tenure as the Padres manager, guiding them to the most successful stretch in franchise history.  Under his management, the Padres made 4 postseason appearances and won 1 NL pennant.  He was named Manager of the Year in 1996, the only time he has won the award.  Bochy gained a reputation as being an excellent manager of pitchers, particularly the bullpen which was always a strength of his Padre teams.  At the same time, 2 specific incidents may have caused a negative perception of his overall ability as a game tactician and his ability to relate to and utilize young players.

In the 1998 World Series against the Yankees, there was one game, which seemed to be winnable, where he seemed to get outmaneuvered into giving up his DH.  Whether that occurred as a result of an unfamiliarity with AL rules or a tactical mistake or just how the game played out, may never be fully settled.  Later in his tenure, he stubbornly insisted on playing a rapidly aging Vinny Castilla at 3B over the younger Sean Burroughs who the Padres front office saw as their third baseman of the future until the Padres traded Castilla, essentially so Bochy could not play him anymore.  In retrospect, it is clear that Castilla was done, but also clear that Burroughs was not the Padres long term answer at 3B.

Despite 2 consecutive postseason appearances in 2005 and 2006, new Padres executive Sandy Alderson decided he wanted new blood in the manager's chair and allowed Bochy to interview for the Giants job to replace Felipe Alou with the distinct implication that the Padres wanted him out and would be relieved of having to fire him if he accepted a Giants offer.  The Giants, by this time were in the post-Bonds era and in dire need of rebuilding.  Many Giants fans, including I, thought that Bochy might not be the right choice for that particular time preferring someone with experience managing in the Giants minor league system who might be more patient and nurturing of young players.

Bochy's first two years with the Giants were rough as they lost 90+ games back-to-back.  Bochy came under intense criticism from many corners who saw him as a symbol of a rebuild that was much too slowly paced for fan's satisfaction.  Nicknames like "Melonhead", "Botchy" and "Bork" became part of the standard Giants fan's internet lexicon.  But while the talent challenged team struggled, you could see some qualities that make Bochy a good manager.  He brought order to the chaos that Felipe Alou had left the bullpen in, installed Brian Wilson as the closer,  and he maintained a positive attitude in the clubhouse, at least by all appearances, despite all the losing.  Things were looking up in the talent front too as Matt Cain emerged as a solid MLB starter and Tim Lincecum won his first Cy Young.

By 2009, things had started to turn around.  Cain was establishes as a solid MLB starter.  Tim Lincecum had arrived and 2009 was his second Cy Young season.  Pablo Sandoval came up mid-season and darn near carried the team to the playoffs.  They won 88 games.  We all know what happened in 2010 with the mid-season arrival of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner to expand the homegrown core and bring home the first World Series Championship in San Francisco Giants history.  With his second World Series win in 3 years, suddenly Bochy is the toast of the town as well as all of major league baseball.  Yesterday, I counted at least 6 separate articles trumpeting his Hall of Fame credentials!  During the post championship celebration, Brian Sabean declared him to be a no doubt Hall of Famer.

From a statistical standpoint, Bruce Bochy has now managed 18 seasons, 2898 games with a .502 winning percentage, 6 postseason appearances, 3 NL Pennants and 2 WS titles.  I thought it would be interesting to run down some of the managers who are already in the Hall of Fame to get a better idea of just how Bochy's record might stand up.  Here is a list by year of induction:

2010  Whitey Herzog, 18 years, 2409 games, .532, 6 postseason, 3 Pennants, 1 WS.

2008  Dick Williams,  21 years, 3023 games, .520, 6 postseason, 4 Pennants,  2 WS.

2000  Sparky Anderson, 26 years, 4030 games, .545, 7 postseason, 5 Pennants, 3 WS.

1997  Tom Lasorda, 21 years,  3040 games, .526, 8 postseason, 4 Pennants, 2 WS.

1996  Earl Weaver, 17 years, .583, 6 postseason, 4 Pennants, 1 WS.

1994  Leo Durocher, 24 years, .540, 3 postseason, 3 Pennants, 1 WS.

1983  Walter Alston, 23 years, .558, 7 Postseason, 7 Pennants, 4 WS.

That's right, Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver only won 1 WS apiece!   Durocher and Alston managed before expanded playoffs so if you went to the postseason, you were in the World Series.  As playoffs have expanded, it has become easier to build up postseason numbers. This can be seen in the records of 3 recently retired managers who are widely considered to be can't miss Hall of Famers:

Bobby Cox, 29 years, 4508 games, .556, 15 postseasons, 5 Pennants, 1 WS

Tony LaRussa, 33 years, 5097 games, .536, 11 postseason, 6 pennants, 3 WS.

Joe Torre, 29 years, 4329 games, .538, 13 postseason, 6 Pennants, 4 WS.

There are at least 4 managers with 2 WS titles who are not in the HOF and may never get there:

Tom Kelly, 16 years, 2385 games, .478, 2 postseason, 2 Pennants, 2 WS.

Danny Murtaugh, 15 years, 2068 games, .540, 5 postseason, 2 Pennants, 2 WS.

Ralph Houk, 20 years, 3157 games, .514, 3 postseason, 3 Pennants, 2 WS.

Cito Gaston, 12 years, 1731 games, .516, 5 postseason, 2 Pennants, 2 WS.

Kelly had that sub .500 winning percentage and no postseason finishes except for the 2 years the Twins won it all. Murtaugh's career was interrupted several times with health problems.  Houk won all 3 Pennants in his first 3 seasons managing the Yankees and those wins are widely credited more to the organization than him.

Where does all this put Bruce Bochy?  Well, if his managing career ended today, it would compare favorably with several Hall of Fame managers, but I do not believe it would be a "slam dunk".  Some voters might well look at his overall winning percentage and hold that against him.  At least 3 managers who will likely preceed him in being voted into the HOF have clearly stronger resumes and his resume is not clearly stronger than several managers who are not in the HOF and may never get there.

On the other hand, Bochy is widely perceived to have won with teams whose talent was not expected to get them that far, which boosts his stock in some minds.  He also still has several years left to manage in which he has the possibility of going to more postseasons, winning more pennants and WS  and increasing his winning percentage.

At the very least, it is way past time to put away the name calling meme's and acknowledge that Bruce Bochy is a very good manager who deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame even if his career ended today.