Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thoughts on Edinson Volquez and Ray Searage

Just a year ago at this time, Edinson Volquez' career appeared to be in serious jeopardy.  He had been DFA'd by the Padres in late August, picked up by the Dodgers, then left off their postseason roster.  His ERA on the season was 5.71.  This spring, he was signed to a 1 year/$5 M contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates whose pitching coach, Ray Searage, has a burgeoning reputation for being a pitcher fixer.  Volquez only added to that reputation by turning in one of his best seasons in years if not the best of his career.  This raises the question of what did Ray Searage do to resurrect Volquez' career?  Did he teach him a new pitch?  Did he notice something in his mechanics that he corrected?  I don't follow the Pirates closely enough to know the answer to those questions, but clues can be found in Volquez statistical lines that I think tell us the answer.

2010(Reds):  4-3, 4.31, 62.2 IP, 9.62 K/9, 5.03 BB/9, BABIP= .323.
2011(Reds):  5-7, 5.71, 108.2 IP, 8.61 K/9, 5.38 BB/9, BABIP= .298.
2012(Padres):  11-11, 4.14, 182.2 IP, 8.57 K/9, 5.17 BB/9, BABIP= .292
2013(2 Teams):  9-12, 5.71, 170.1 IP, 7.50 K/9, 4.07 BB/9, BABIP= .325.
2014(Pirates):  13-7, 3.04, 192.2 IP, 6.54 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, BABIP= .263.

So yes, Volquez cut his walk rate, but his K rate has taken precipitous drop at the same time.  The other outstanding feature of these lines is the BABIP which is a full .029 lower than in any of his previous 4 seasons.  I read somewhere that his BABIP over his last 12 starts is something like .225.  So, it looks like Volquez' success this season is the result of reducing his walk rate and a whole lotta BABIP luck!

But wait a minute!  Maybe Ray Searage has some secret formula for suppressing BABIP and this is all sustainable.  Let's take a deeper look to see if there is evidence that Volquez' stuff has changed  or if he might have learned a new pitch.  According to Fangraphs stat charts, Volquez is throwing the same 3 pitches he has always thrown(he ditched his slider prior to 2010), a FB that goes about 93.5 MPH which he increased in usage from about 50% to about 55%, a CB that he throws about 25% of the time,  and a changeup that he that he has reduced his reliance on from about 26% down to 19%.  His GB/FB remains at 1.5, pretty much his career average.  Nothing too earthshaking there, right?  So what else is going on here?

Fangraphs also had a nice article entitled Edinson Volquez:  Starting the Most Important Game of the Year.  The author looked at what point in the count Volquez was able to end AB's against him.  He found that in 2014, he got hitters out early in the count at a significantly higher rate than in 2013 and he got hitters out late in the count as a significantly lower rate than in 2013.  That may not seem like a hot news flash for a pitcher who lowered his BB/9 by almost a full walk, but the differences are most dramatic on 0-0, 0-1, 3-1, 3-2.

So, what did Ray Searage tell Edinson Volquez about pitching that dripped his ERA by over 2.00 if he did not show him a new pitch or tweak his mechanics?  Here's what I think Ray Searage said, "You've always had good stuff.  You need to trust it!  You don't have to nibble!  You can get soft contact if you stay out of 3 ball counts and you will cut down on your walks to boot.  Throw that 93.5 MPH fastball in the early counts and make sure it's for strikes.  Yes, they will hit the ball more, but the pitch is good enough that it won't be hard and you will get outs.  Trust me and most of all, trust your stuff!

So, is Ray Searage a pitcher fixer or did Volquez just get BABIP lucky?  The answer is, probably some of both.  Volquez dropped both his K rate and his BB rate, and that is by design.  He's getting more contact early in the count with his best pitch and it is inducing weaker contact because hitters are not sitting on a get-it-over FB on a 3-1 or 3-2 count.  Volquez and Searage also caught a perfect storm of BABIP luck that enhanced the results of what they designed.  A BABIP of .263 might be sustainable, but probably not, especially in light of Volquez' historic BABIP rates.  A BABIP of .225 which he has had over the last 12 starts, is clearly not sustainable!  I would also add that except for the BABIP part, the trends we've seen this year started last year under Bud Black in San Diego, but were ruined by an unlucky BABIP.

So, will Edinson Volquez regress in tomorrow's game?  He might.  Statistically, he is almost guaranteed to at some point in the not-to-distant future.  On the other hand, BABIP luck is no more or less likely tomorrow than any other game this season, so he may just flummox the Giants with hittable stuff that they fail to hit hard.  The Giants tend to not do so well against those kinds of pitchers.

Down on the Farm: Rookie Arizona League 2014 Giants Season Review

Rookie League is the lowest professional level in the U.S.  The Dominican Summer League would be a bit lower due to the younger ages of the players.  Historically, the Arizona League is a place for players drafted out of high school to get their first pro experience and for DSL graduates to get their first U.S. experience.  In recent years, the AZL has become a Grand Central Station of sorts where college draftees get evaluated for a few games before flying off to a more permanent assignment.  Quite a few players spend some time in the Arizona League while rehabbing injuries.   This review will be limited to players who spend all or most of the short season on the Arizona Giants roster.

2014 High School Draftees:

Byron Murray(OF)- .279/.347/.412, 68 AB.  Murray was drafted late.  I did not realize he had signed until I saw his name turn up in boxscores.  Very nice start.  I think this guy has a high ceiling with excellent power potential.

Kevin Rivera(2B)- .228/.281/.296, 162 AB.  14'th round draft pick out of Puerto Rico.  Hit .333 over his last 10 games.

Luis Lacen(OF)- .250/.321/.271.  48 AB.  Lacen started out hot, then cooled off considerably.  Played only sparingly in the second half.  Possible had a nagging injury of some sort.  Has nice size and athleticism.  As always, the question is whether he will hit.

Stetson Woods(RHP)- 5-1, 2.25, 16 IP, 4 BB, 20 K's.  9'th round draft pick out of Madera, CA.  Big kid at 6'8", 200 lbs.  Oodles of room to fill out.  Got rocked in the championship game, but Giants pitchers gave up a total of 15 run in that one.  Things like that can happen in Arizona.  I'm very high on this kid's future, but it will take time.

Logan Webb(RHP)- 0-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 3 BB, 5 K's.  Giants 4'th round pick out of Rocklin, CA.  dOnly made 3 appearances, none after 8/3/2014.  Not sure what was up with that.

2014  College Draftees:

Chase Compton(1B)- .282/.391/.342, 117 AB.  College guys who stay in the AZL usually do not have much of a future.

Richard Amion(OF)- .267/.379/.385, 135 AB, 22 BB, 36 K's.  Amion started out red hot then cooled off.  Again, college guy in rookie ball.

Matthew Gage(LHP)- 2-0, 1.89, 33.1 IP, 8 BB, 32 K's.  College pitchers should dominate Rookie ball, but it's better than not dominating.

Greg Brody(RHP)- 1-1, 0.63, 14.1 IP, 3 BB, 27 K's.  College Closer.  Pitched in relief in Arizona.

Mark Reyes(LHP)- 1-1, 3.00, 12 IP, 3 BB, 14 K's.  Don't know much about him.

DSL Graduates:

Michael Santos(RHP)- 4-3, 2.56, 59.2 IP, 13 BB, 50 K's.  Legitimate pitching prospect.  Logged the most innings of any AZL Giants pitcher this year.


Hector Mercedes(SS)- .296/.330/.469.  98 AB.  Big kid for a SS, but I don't think he's a true SS.  This was his 3'rd rodeo in Arizona.

Jonah Arenado(3B)- .250/.340/.304.  184 AB.  Arenado led the AZL Giants in AB's.  Strong walk rate.  Modestly encouraging performance for a low round 2013 draft pick who barely appeared at all in 2013.  He's a project, but I like his ceiling.

Dylan Brooks(RHP)- 2-1, 3.18, 34 IP, 15 BB, 45 K's.  Late, late round draft pick in 2013.  Another tall drink of water at 6'9".  Struggled last year in a few appearances, but looked great in 2014.  Very encouraging season!

Rayan Hernandez(RHP)- 0-3, 1.53, 29.1 IP, 9 BB, 25 K's.  Another 2013 HS draftee.  Big body who likes to pitch to contact and keep the ball on the ground.  Did that and did it well this year.  Significant progress!

Reyes Maronta(RHP)- 0-1, 4.66, 19.1 IP, 11 BB, 30 K's.  Actually dropped back from a 2013 S-K gig.  Injury rehab?


Brennan Metzger(OF)- .354/.460/.500, 16 BB, 8 K's, 82 AB.  Drafted out of Long Beach St. in 2012.  Missed all of 2013 due to an illness.  We'll see if this earned him another look at a higher level next year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Down on the Farm: Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 2014 Season Review

The 2014 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes started off their short season with a team about as bereft of talent as any I can remember in the the Giants organization for years, and that is saying something.  Historically, S-K has been rostered with mostly same year college draftees  Later drafting dates, signing rules and a subtle shift in emphasis by the Giants to taking more HS players in later draft rounds have caused a shift in roster makeup to more AZL graduates and holdovers from past partial seasons.  This year was an extreme example as the opening day roster did not include a single 2014 draftee, if I am remembering correctly.

The lack of talent took its toll on the team's performance in the early going.  Things picked up a bit as some of the 2014 draftees started trickling in and a few rehabbers showed up.  Here are some of the key players:

2014 Draftees:

Austin Slater(OF)- .347/.417/.449, 2 HR, 7 SB, 118 AB, 10 BB, 17 K's.  Early returns have Slater as the steal of the 2014 draft in the 8'th round out of Stanford.  He signed a bit late, so it's a SSS, but those numbers project to 10 dingers and 35 SB's over a full 600 AB season with a healthy walk rate and a low K rate.  Again, the low K rates and strong K/BB seems to be something the Giants are targeting in recent drafts with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy already paying dividends.  The HR's may go up if Slater can shake the Stanforditis in his bat.

Skyler(Not Skip) Ewing(1B)- .291/.417/.473, 8 HR, 182 AB, 36 BB, 28 K's.  We again see the reversed K/BB we saw with Joe Panik but in Ewing's case, there is toonder in the bat.  That is 26 dingers in a  full 600 AB season!  Not sure how many of the BB's were intentional.  Extremely interesting bat to follow next year.

Seth Harrison(CF)- .266/.298/.354, 11 SB, 158 AB, 8 BB's, 42 K's.  Obviously, the Giants do not refuse to draft any hackers.  Those K and BB numbers are no bueno for a player who projects more as a leadoff/speed guy.  The SB's are interesting if he can improve on those ratios.

Dylan Davis(OF)- .200/.269/.341, 4 HR, 85 AB, 7 BB's, 23 K's.  Not much to like in a very SSS except for the dingers.  Has lots to work on in almost every other aspect.  He did show off a cannon for an arm in RF and his future may very well be on the mound.

Hunter Cole(OF)- .239/.311/.424, 4 HR, 92 AB.  Not much of a BA, but love the power.

Aramis Garcia(Catcher)- .229/.289/.357, 2 HR, 70 AB.   Somewhat disappointing numbers from the second round pick in a SSS.

Tyler Beede(RHP)- 0-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 3 BB, 7 K's.  Extreme SSS for the first rounder who signed late.  The Giants took it very slow with him, probably because he pitched to the end of the college WS.  We'll probably see him in San Jose to start next season which will be the first big test of his pro career.

Kids With Growing Pains:

Christian Arroyo(SS)- .333/.378/.469, 5 HR, 6 SB, 243 AB, 18 BB, 31 K's.  Arroyo stumbled out of the gate in Augusta in the spring then broke a bone in a finger on a HBP.  There was also the strange position shift to 2B in favor of Ryder Jones at SS.  Arroyo resurfaced at SS in S-K at the start of short season ball and looked a lot more like the guy the Giants drafted in the first round in 2013.  The BB's could be a bit higher, but he keeps the K's down and why try to take a walk when you can rake like that, anyway?  Personally, I would ignore the stumble in Augusta when evaluation Arroyo's season and call it a resounding success!

Ryder Jones(3B)- .243/.293/.393, 3 HR, 107 AB, 7 BB, 21 K's.  Jones was part of the odd position shifting that went on in Augusta.  He started strong there, but wore down under the grind of daily pro ball.  The move to SS might have contributed to the fatigue.  He resurfaced in S-K back at 3B where he got off to a slow start, but put on a surge at the end of the season.  Big time power potential here.  Count this season as a learning experience.

Johneshwy Fargas(OF)- .240/.373/.329, 3 HR, 15 SB, 167 AB, 24 BB, 27 K's.  I don't think he was hurt at all.  Just a toolsy guy who the Giants are bringing along slowly.  Again we see the great K/BB to go with intriguing speed.  I think his frame can support more power down the road.  Started strong and finished strong.  Slumped in the middle of the season.  Lost some PT to Seth Harrison, which I did not like, but maybe the rest helped him make that late season surge.  Bright future here with some patience.

Keury Mella(RHP)- 1-1, 1.83, 19.2 IP, 6 BB, 20 K's.  Not sure what Mella's injury with Augusta was, but came to S-K for a rehab assignment.  Pitched very well.  Can't wait to see what he does and where next year.  Maybe back in Augusta?


Travious Relaford(IF/UT)- .283/.380/.372, 3 HR, 9 SB, 258 AB, 37 BB, 39 K's.  Relaford was drafted as a very raw toolsy SS in round 44 in 2011.  He has played all over the Giants farm system as high as AA in 2013.  His bat really seemed to break out this year with sustained regular AB's in S-K.  A very interesting guy to watch going forward.

Shilo McCall(OF)- .200/.287/.333, 3 HR, 165 AB, 19 BB, 53 K's.  I was hoping we'd see Shilo in full season ball.  Instead he repeated S-K and did a face plant.  K rate is downright scary!  Not sure what the future holds at this point.  He'll probably get at least one more chance next year, but he needs to have a good season.

Jason Forjet(RHP)- 7-1, 3.10, 87 IP, 16 BB, 87 K's.  Took a step back from San Jose in 2013, but put up very nice looking numbers for S-K in 2014.

Jose Reyes(RHP)- 6-4, 3.89, 83.1 IP, 16 BB, 64 K's.  Seems like just a pitcher in the organization at this point.

Ethan Miller(RHP)- 5-3, 4.60, 78.1 IP, 15 BB, 57 K's.  Starting July 17, had 5 consecutive starts with at least 6 IP and 2 ER or less.  Love his size at 6'5".

Nick Gonzalez(LHP)- 2-5, 4.06, 71 IP, 28 BB, 47 K's.  Not too exciting numbers there for the big lefty.

Andrew Leenhouts(LHP)- 3-4, 4.73, 72.1 IP, 11 BB, 71 K's.  Peripherals look better than the primary numbers.  I thought we might see him higher in the organization this year.

On Track:

Eury Sanchez(RHP)- 3-3, 3.48, 33.2 IP, 15 BB,   50 K's, 14 Saves.  Smallish pitcher with big time peripheral numbers.  On the closer track early which is usually the kiss of death for a pitching prospect.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game Wrap 9/28/2014: Giants 9 Padres 3

The Giants wrapped up the regular season with Win and a boxscore that looked more like it was from spring training.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, BB, SF.  BA= .260.  First 3 batters went 1 for 12 yesterday.  Blanco led the way with a better looking line today.

Joe Panik- 2 for 5.  BA= .305.  2-Hit Joe does his thing again.  He's the Giants 2B for at least the next 6 seasons.

Buster Posey- 1 for 2, HR(22).  BA= .311.  Buster will fall just a bit short of his second MVP, but close enough.  Very nice bounceback season for The Buster who turned it on in the second half instead of wearing down.

Andrew Susac- 1 for 3, 2B.  BA= .273.  I didn't see it, but the double was reportedly a mammoth shot off the bricks in right-center.  Baggs seems to think Bochy will carry Quiroz in the postseason roster so he can use Susac's bat off the bench.  Wait a minute!  How many postseason roster spots are there anyway?!

Gary Brown- 1 for 1.  BA= .429.  Brownie has certainly made the most of his meager opportunities.  Will he make the Wild Card roster with a couple of SP's likely being left off?

Joaquin Arias- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .254.  Arias hit .351 in the second half, .188 in the first half.  He hit .305 against LHP's and just .186 against RHP's.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 2, 2B, BB.  BA= .243.  Belt went 8 for 21 over his last 6 games of the season.  Belt one into the river, Brandon!  Oh, and there's a wind tunnel to RF in Washington!

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= .267.  Duffy continues to have a magical bat off the bench, 6 for 15 in a PH role to be exact.  With Ishikawa likely starting in LF, Duffy becomes the best PH on the team, by far.

Adam Duvall- 1 for 1, HR(3).  BA= .192.  Duvall had his moments and his struggles.  What does the future hold for him?

Chris Heston- 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 5.06.  So-so start for Hesto-Presto.  Again, an uncertain future lies ahead for him.

Tim Lincecum- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA=  4.74.  Looks like Timmy was effectively pitching to contact.  Does he make the postseason roster?

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.50.  Do both he and Strickland make the Wild Card roster with a couple of SP's being left off?  Can the Giants bend the rules that much?

In a development that the Giants had no control over, they learned that they will be flying to Pittsburgh for the Wild Card do or die play-in game.  Madison Bumgarner will face Edinson Volquez who has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball over his last 12 starts.  Of course, Bumgarner is no slouch himself and would certainly get serious consideration for the Clayton Kershaw ineligible Cy Young Award voting.  Game time has been set at 8:07 PM EDT or 5:07 PM PDT which means I will get to see most of it after work.  We'll talk a bit more about Keys to the Game in another post, but if the score is still 0-0 or better for the Giants by the time I can tune in, I like their chances.

Matt Cain had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle.  It will not delay his recovery from elbow surgery.  Figured he might as well get it taken care of in this window so as to not miss more time down the road.

Around the League:  Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals pitched a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Game Wrap 9/27/2014: Giants 3 Padres 1

The game had no relevance to the Giants placement in postseason competition, but was important to some players who may have been auditioning for a postseason roster spot and for a roster spot next April.  Brandon Crawford broke open a 1-1 game with bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 8'th inning for the game winning hit.  Key Lines:

Gary Brown- 2 for 4.  BA= .333.  Brown finally got his chance to start, ridiculously late IMO, and responded with a bunt single and another hit off an IF chopper that contributed to the winning rally.  Now, a couple of IF hits does not a major leaguer make, but man, he can get down that line in a hurry!  Not sure why he has so much trouble stealing bases with that kind of speed!  He also made some nifty plays in CF.  

This is one place where I disagree with Bochy and/or Brian Sabean.  Maybe Brownie hasn't done anything to deserve an earlier look, but we all knew Juan Perez was not the answer a long time ago.  In the KNBR roundtable discussion amongst the game announcers on Postgame Live, the consensus seemed to be that Brown just might be a better option for the postseason roster than Perez.  Kuiper, in particular, brought up how many times Brown has been passed over, so I guess I'm not the only one who noticed

Matt Duffy- 2 for 4.  BA= .254.  Duffy hit the ball hard 4 times.  His outs were on a line drive to RF that was caught and another was on a sharp grounder up the middle that Amarista made a diving stop on, made a great play to get Brown on a force at 2'nd. Spangenburg made a wild throw to first allowing Duffy to end up at 2B from which he eventually scored the go-ahead run.

Duffy is 5 for 12(.417) in his last 10 games.  .333 in 15 games in Sept.  He is 7 for 19(.368) with RISP.  He has 5 Runs and 7 RBI's in 59 total AB's.  Forget that he's walked just once.  In the role he has been given, he is not up there looking to walk.  What's important is he has good AB's and gets good pitches to hit.  Matt Duffy!

I don't know if The Duffster has enough arm to make the throw to first from behind 3B, but if he does, he has to be under consideration for the position should Pablo end up leaving via FA.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .241.  Belt is 7 for 22(.318) over his last 5 games and looks good heading into postseason play.  Good job getting up to speed in a hurry there, Big Guy!

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 4.  BA= .246.  The 2 Ribeyes gave Crawford 69 on the season.  Somebody in the broadcast booth, I think it was Kuip, pointed out that's as many as Yasiel Puig!  Crawford has also scored 53 runs on the season.  Now, I know Ribeyes and Runs are not the greatest measures of a player's value, but come on, guys!  Crawford has done this while hitting mostly 7'th and 8'th all season!(he was hitting 6'th in this game).

A reporter asked Bochy after the game if Crawford might be under consideration to bat higher in the order.  Bochy said it was a consideration, but he's done so well hitting 7 and 8, he didn't think he'd want to upset the chemistry there.  Here's how I see it.  Each place in the order has it's own characteristics in terms of what situations the batter comes up in and what types of pitches he sees.  Crawford has thrived in a spot that is extremely difficult for most hitters.  He seems to have figured out when to be aggressive and when to be patient.   Even if he doesn't get a hit or take a walk, he fouls off pitches and forces the pitcher to burn up valuable pitches on the bottom of the order.  There are likely other hitters who can bat at the top of the order, but I'm not sure there is anyone else who can do nearly as well as Crawford at the bottom.

Jake Peavey- 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 3.73.  This was basically a tune-up game for a hoped for postseason start that will come on Friday, October 3 in Washington if everything if the Giants win the Wild Card Game in either Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

Jeremy Affeldt- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 2.28.   Affledt has been very shaky and at times downright bad in September.  His last 2 appearances, including this one, seem to have him back on track, which is a very good thing for the postseason.

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Another lights out inning for Strickland.  I don't know how much leeway the rules allow for postseason rosters.  My understanding is the only way he can get on is to replace in injured player for whom there is no alternative replacement who was on the 25 man roster before Sept 1?  The roundtable did not seem to think it would be much of a problem, but who develops a mysteriously vague injury between now and 10/1?  I think it's pretty clear that Strickland is better than the 12'th pitcher on the pre-9/1 roster, whoever that is(actually, Timmy, I'm looking at you!).  First MLB W in this game for Strickland.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save(19).  ERA= 1.70.  Casilla seems pretty well entrenched as the closer for the postseason and has firmed up that grip in the last 2 weeks.

As mentioned above, this game had no bearing on the Giants postseason placement.  The Pirates and Cardinals both lost so the Cardinals lead the NL Central by 1 game going into the final game of the regular season.  Giants have to be hoping for a NL Central tie which would force those two teams to burn up their #1's in a one game playoff tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thoughts on Yasmany Tomas

Right now, the fastest and easiest way for MLB team to dramatically upgrade their talent is to sign a player who has defected from Cuba.  There are several reasons for this:  1.  Teams do not have to wait their turn in a draft cue to sign them.  2.  If they have a certain number of years of experience in Cuban baseball, they are not subject to the spending limitations of other international free agents.  3.  The MLB free agent market has all but dried up leaving very few impact FA's available from year to year.  4.  There have been enough signings of Cuban players now to know that worries about level of competition were probably unfounded.  These guys are ready to play right away, for the most part.

The latest Cuban defector to come available, or at least soon be available, is OF Yasmany Tomas.  Tomas has played CF in Cuba, but has a relatively short, heavy body type that projects more as a corner OF, probably LF.  There are a couple of videos available of Tomas on Youtube(I don't have a link, but they are very easy to find if you just go to Youtube and search his name) including one of a moonshot HR he hit against an asian team in international competition.

I made a comment awhile back that I see a very quick, short, powerful swing without much, if any extra movement in it.  With the body type and the position he plays, my comp was Kevin Mitchell, a former Giants LF who hit a few HR's in his day.  Although the body type is not exciting, I assume that if he played CF in Cuba, he has enough tools to play LF in MLB.  Beyond that, you are looking at a player for his bat and not much else.  I think the bat has a chance to be special.

Kiley McDaniel, of Fangraphs, wrote up a scouting report on Tomas on 9/25/2014 entitled Scouting Yasmany Tomas that largely agrees with what I have said about him in prior comments.  Kiley posted some video from a relatively recent international tournament which demonstrates his swing mechanics quite well, but also shows him looking heavy and slow.  Like other recent Cuban FA's, he has reportedly gotten himself into the Best Shape of His Life and looks much better now.  If you look up the Fangraphs article, be sure to scroll down into the Comments to find an in-depth analysis of Tomas' swing in answer to a questioner who thought his hands looked slow.  Here is the key paragraph that explains what I see, but does a much better job of explaining than I:

"Tomas generates above average bat speed, but doesn't load his hands as far back as most sluggers.  Almost all power hitters load their hands(maximum distance from contact) about as far back as possible….and Tomas does not do this.  This means he has the power and bat speed of a big time power hitter with the short path of a contact hitter."  Now, I have to confess that differences in bat speed through the strike zone are a very tough for me to see, but I completely agree with Kiley's description of Tomas load mechanism compared to most power hitters.  Think Joe Panik with light tower power!

Now, none of this guarantees Tomas success in MLB.  Swing mechanics is only part of the equation.  I would describe Angel Villalona's swing mechanics in similar terms, but pitch recognition and strike zone discipline have held Angel V back big time.  In the tournament where the video on Fangraphs was filmed, Tomas faced elite U.S. amateur pitchers, many of whom were eventual first round draft picks and did not fare well, generating just 3 singles and a ton of K's against them.  Of course, he also appeared to be out of shape at the time, which BTW raises other questions about his long term value.  Still, the swing mechanics combined with the track records of other Cuban players is enough to convince me that Tomas' bat is for real.

It just so happens that Tomas projects to a position, LF, that the Giants desperately need to upgrade for next season.  It also happens that the Giants have shown serious interest in other Cuban FA's such as Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo reportedly coming in second in the bidding for both.  It may or may not be relevant information that Tomas is represented by Jay Alou, who obviously has family ties to the Giants organization, and Tomas recent workout was held at the Giants Dominican baseball academy, although attended by over 100 scouts and MLB execs.

I don't know how far the Giants are willing to go to sign one of these talented Cuban FA's.  So far, their strategy seems to have been to make a strong offer, but not get involved in a bidding war.  Now, I am not one of those guys who presumes to know more about the Giants financial situation than they do, or at least what the Giants SAY their situation is.  If they don't have the money to sign another big, longterm contract, then so be it.  So far it is hard to take too much issue with the way the Giants go about their business.  Their reported behavior in the Abreu and Castillo cases would suggest that there is money in the pot to spend on the right player. I will say this:  Based on everything I know about Yasmany Tomas, if they are going to spend big on a Cuban FA, or any FA for that matter, Tomas is a guy who I think the money would be well spent on.

Game Wrap 9/26/2014: Padres 4 Giants 1

The Giants were coming off the celebration of clinching a postseason spot and it looked like it as the offense failed to sustain an attack against Ian Kennedy and Ryan Vogelsong's otherwise strong start fell apart in the 6'th inning.  Key Lines:

Brandon Belt- 2 for 3, BB.  BA= .239.   Apparently Belt's 2-hit night in the series opener was not a fluke as he looked like he was seeing the ball well again in this one.  That is good news for the Giants postseason hopes!

Hunter Pence- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .279.  Pence has been in a brutal slump, but seemed to be swinging less wildly in this game.  Hopefully something to build on over the last 2 games and into the postseason.

Ryan Vogelsong- 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 4.00.  Vogey allowed an unearned run in the first inning on a couple of hits and a PB.  over the next 4 innings he allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk  while showing off what might have been his best curveball of the season.  Like Petit the night before and Huddy the night before that, the wheels rather unexpectedly came off in the 6'th inning.  When the first batter of the inning struck out on a perfect curveball, Vogey appeared to be rolling, but then Will Venable doubled, Vogey appeared to want no part of Yasmani Grandal and walked him, but then Seth Smith delivered the big blow, a shot that caromed off the very top of the wall in RF driving in the go-ahead run and putting runners on 2'nd and 3'rd with 1 out.  The next batter was Rene Rivera, who must have put up at least half of his total 2014 production against the Giants.  Vogey made a good pitch and blew up his bat, but the ball floated out over Brandon Crawford's head for a 2 run single and Vogey's night was done.

Ryan Vogelsong made all 32 of his starts this year and pitched well for the most part.  He got very little run support for long stretches that suppressed his W-L.  He would appear to be a good value on a similar 1 year contract as this season.  On the other hand, he might command more on the open market and the Giants might not want to go that high, so this could have been his final start for the Giants.  Just one of many interesting stories to follow after the season ends.

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.80.  Cordier had a rough last appearance, so this one was important to see if he could recover and put it behind him.  He appeared to dial the FB back just a hair to 97-98 MPH and seemed to have much better command of it.   He also used a sharp breaking ball more frequently which kept the Padres hitters off balance.  Nice game from Cordier who is definitely going to challenge for a roster spot next spring.

The Loss eliminated the Giants chances of hosting the Wild Card play-in game.  The Pirates and Cardinals both won, so the Cardinals maintain a 1 game lead in the NL Central.  If the season ended last night, the Giants would face the Pirates in the WC game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.  The Giants are hoping for a tie atop the NL Central by Sunday night, which would force the Cards and Pirates into an extra 1 game playoff on Monday to determine the division winner and Wild Card entry.

Jake Peavy takes the mound for today's game facing LHP Eric Stults.  Don't expect Peavy to be out there longer than 5 innings at the most though.

Prior to the game, Madison Bumgarner was named the Willie Mac Award winner, which was very well deserved.  Willie watched from a hospital bed where he is being treated for a serious infection.  Willie's daughter presented the award as several other family members looked on.  It was great to see the parade of past winners and wow!  Mike Krukow won it 2 years in a row!  What a warrior he was and how great is it to listen to him explain the game night after night on the TV broadcasts?!  Kruk has his own physical challenges now and it was obviously an emotional night for him too.  The ladies in my family cried during the ceremony and I had a tear or two trying to come out.  The guy who just might be the proudest of all to win the award?  Andres Torres, who I'm guessing would not miss out on the ceremony for anything.  If they didn't invite him, he'd probably force his way in!

It was a strange sequence of events down in Arizonaland as Kirk Gibson got the ax as well as bench coach Alan Trammel.  The D'Backs then turned around and asked Trammel to manage the last 3 games of the season.  So, does that mean Trammel is in the running to be the next non-interim manager?  Weird!  As for Gibson, his tough guy persona might have gone a bit too far.  You need scrappy players on the team, but you also need tools and talent.  Gibby didn't seem to understand that and appeared to be the driving force for several trades that depleted the talent depth on the team.

Dave Stewart has been named the new GM for the D'Backs, though he may have a more lofty title.  This would be Stewarts first experience in an MLB front office(he has been a player representative or agent).  I am sure Tony LaRussa feels he can mentor Stewart  and the ties obviously go back to their days when LaRussa managed Stewart with the Oakland A's, although LaRussa himself does not have front office experience as he spent his entire career up to now managing in the dugout.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Game Wrap 9/25/2014: Giants 9 Padres 8

The Giants had already clinched a Wild Card playoff berth as the took the field against the Padres.  They were also able to celebrate a win after blowing a 6-0 lead with the offense finding some traction against Andrew Cashner and the Padres bullpen.  Key lines:

Joe Panik- 2 for 5.  BA= .304.  He's still 2-Hit Joe.  My pick for ROY.

Buster Posey- 2 for 2, 2B, BB.  BA= .310.  Buster seems to have busted out of his mini-slump, which is a tremendous development coming into the postseason.

Pablo Sandoval- 3 for 3, SF.  BA= .281.  Pablo went back to the basics, bashing the ball up the middle 3 times for singles that drove in a run each time after hitting a SF to LF in the first inning.

Brandon Belt- 2 for 4, HR(12). BA= .233.  Great to see the big guy unload on one.  Splash hit #68!  2 adding a second hit even better.  Giants desperately need his bat in the postseason.

Matt Duffy- 0 for 0, Sac.  BA= .236.  Duffy laid down an almost perfect squeeze bunt to drive in the winning run.  Good thing Pence can fly down the baseline, though, as the pitcher made a perfect play to almost catch him.  Pence's foot hit the plate about a nanosecond before the catcher applied the tag, but he was clearly safe.

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 3, HR(10), BB.  BA= .248.  Crawford got to double digits in HR's which allowed him to team up with Hunter Pence as the only pair of Giants to reach double digits in doubles, triples and HR's in the history of the SF era of the franchise.

Yusmeiro Petit- 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 8 K's.  ERA= 3.69.  Petit was working on a gem when everything fell apart in the 6'th when he gave up to dingers that were both crushed.  His stuff and location looked good up to that point, though.

Hunter Strickland- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  After Affeldt stunk it up and brought the tying run to the plate, the rook came in and threw BB's past Tommy Medica, a guy known for turning around fastballs.  Bochy has obviously gained a ton of confidence in Strickland.  Look for one of the veteran bullpen guys to develop an injury in the next 3 days.  As for next year, gotta think Strickland is a lock for a bullpen slot, possibly even Closer!

Gotta be concerned about the bullpen big time after Affeldt, Lopez and Machi stunk it up in this game.  They all got just one out each.  Affledt had to be rescued by Strickland in the 6'th and Lopez and Machi coughed up the lead by allowing 2 and 3 runs respectively in the 7'th.  At least Romo and Casilla had uneventful innings, but neither had a K in their appearances.

Travis Ishikawa did not get any hits, but he hit the ball hard and looked surprisingly fast and athletic in LF.  He made several catches that were a bit more than routine.  He may be the Giants postseason LF.

It was kind of nice to be able to forget about the Dodgers for awhile.  The Win left the Giants 1 game behind the Pirates for the home field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game, but the Pirates hold the tiebreaker.  The Giants are only 2 games back of the Cardinals who lead the NL Central.  The Giants hold the tiebreaker if they should end up tied with the Cards in the Wild Card race.  If the Pirates and Cards should tie for the NL Central, those two teams would play a one game playoff to determine the division winner and Wild Card rep before the Wild Card play-in game.  The most likely scenario is still the Giants going to Pittsburgh for the Wild Card game.

Ryan Vogelsong tries to keep the Giants hopes for hosting the Wild Card game alive tonight facing Ian Kennedy.

The Giants have said that they will not use Madison Bumgarner on the final day of the regular season even if the home field advantage is at stake in order to save him for the Wild Card game, as they apparently feel having Bummy on the mound trumps home field advantage.

Great to see Willie Mays take a lap in a vintage limo before the game in celebration of the 60 year anniversary of The Catch.  60 years!  The Catch was only 12 years old when I first read about it in the World Book Encylopedia at age 10!  How about that?!

Props to Covechatter for digging up an eyewitness to Gustavo Cabrera on the field in Arizona for Instructional League.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Game Wrap 9/24/0214: Dodgers 9 Giants 1

Yesterday was not a good day to be a Giants fan.  Not only did they fail to keep the Dodgers from clinching the NL West division title in front of them, but they failed to back into a Wild Card playoff spot when the Brewers won their game.  This one looked promising early on.  Huddy was dealing and Kershaw looked a bit shaky, well, at least for him!  Alas, once the dam started leaking, the whole think collapsed rather quickly  and it ended as a blowout.  Key Lines:

Andrew Susac- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .262.  Susac is now 3 for 7 against Kershaw.  It isn't just the solid numbers, but also the way he goes about his AB's.  Gotta think this kid has a bright future and the Giants need to figure out how to get his bat in the lineup more often.  It's just a better lineup when he's in it!

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 4.  BA= .262.  Blanco's nice night was marred by a couple of baserunning gaffe's.  Puig has a helluvan arm, so maybe it's better to just not run on him?  On the other hand, Puig can be goaded into making ill advised throws, so maybe it's better to challenge him?  Baseball!

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= .236.  What is this?  Something like Duffy's 5'th PH of the season and he's only been up for about 6 weeks!  This kid is definitely not intimidated at the plate at this level.  Gotta be a role for him next year too!

Tim Hudson- 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 3.87.  Huddy was dealing early on.  He started to tire in the 6'th and elevate his pitches.  Lopez didn't get his job done and it got ugly after that.  Huddy is probably a decent bet for 5 innings of a postseason game, but Bochy will need his quick hook if he doesn't want a similar outcome.  Of course, a quick hook only works if the bullpen gets it done.

Javier Lopez- 0.0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 2.72.  Lopez is being paid $4.5 M for no other reason than to get hitters like Carl Crawford out.  He's usually lights out against them, but not in this game.  This is where it all fell apart.

Erik Cordier- 0.1 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.25.  Cordier throws the easiest triple digit heat I think I've ever seen!  He walked the first batter on 4 pitches, but wasn't missing by that much.  He seemed to settle down, but then Arias bobbled a DP grounder that should have ended the inning.  After that, Cordier lost his command.  Gutierrez came in and walked 3 batters and the game was a route.  This was a better outing than it looks like on paper, though.

The Loss eliminated the Giants from the NL West Division race as they dropped to 5.5 games behind the Dodgers with 4 to play.  Their lead for the second Wild Card playoff spot slipped to 4 games over the Brewers with 4 to play.

The Giants now return home for the final 4 game series of the regular season against the Padres with Yusmeiro Petit facing Andrew Cashner in game 1 tonight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Down on the Farm: Low A Augusta Greenjackets 2014 Season Review

The 2014 Augusta Greenjackets were greeted with some anticipation in the spring as they featured a number of much younger prospects than Giants fans are accustomed to seeing in full season ball.  Unfortunately, the kids struggled, most of them ending the season in short season ball.  The top performers got promoted to San Jose.  What was left did kind of resemble a nuclear wasteland by the end of the season.

The Kids:

Christian Arroyo(2B/SS)- .203/.226/.271 in 118 AB's.  The Giants inexplicably moved Ryder Jones to SS and moved Arroyo over to 2B.  Arroyo missed time with a fractured finger due to a HBP.  He resurfaced in Salem-Keizer where he had a terrific season.

Ryder Jones(SS/3B)- .220/.272/.339, 7 HR, 338 AB's.  Jones started off strong but then got worn down by the daily grind of pro ball which he admitted he was not ready for.  After some time off, he resurfaced at 3B in Salem-Keizer and finished the season fairly strong.

Keury Mella(RHP)- 3-3, 3.93, 68.1 IP, 13 BB, 63 K's.  Strong peripheral numbers.  Missed some time with an injury then finished the season in Salem-Keizer.  Reportedly is still hitting the mid-upper 90's with the FB.

Movin' On Up:

Brandon Bednar(2B/UT)- .275/.314/.330 in 291 AB's.  Bednar moved up the San Jose and hit so-so there.

Tyler Horan(OF)- .273/.350/.481, 15 HR, 9 SB.  370 AB.  Horan got the call to San Jose too and hit 10 more dingers there.  Went to AA Richmond for the EL playoffs.

Carlos Alvarado(RHP)- 6-1, 2.03, 62 IP, 13 BB, 55 K's.  24 yo DSL veteran pitched well for Augusta.  Late season promo to Richmond where he had a ERA over 5 in a very small sample.

On Track:

Ty Ross(Catcher)- .246/.313/.347, 6 HR, 415 AB.  Ross is a D first catcher from LSU.  First full season.  Started to hit a little in the second half:  .264/331/.393, 5 HR.  If he can hit, he'll be a legitimate prospect with the good D.

Cristian Paulino(OF)- .240/.291/.332, 20 SB.  Toolsy player who may be taking too long to develop.''

Jeremy Sy(SS/2B)- .216/.324/.393, 13 HR, 16 SB, 338 AB.  If you ignore the BA, Sy had a pretty darn good season.  Probably enough to stick around in the organization for at least another year.

Craig Massoni(OF/1B)- .253/.325/.346.  Called up from S-K.  I thought he would hit better than this.

Will Callaway(3B)- .262/.327/.340.  Another callup from S-K.

Luis Ysla(LHP)- 6-7, 2.45, 121.1 IP, 45 BB, 115 K.  Hard throwing LHP with an excellent changeup. Had a great season and should move up to SJ next year.

Christian Jones(LHP)- 5-9, 3.33, 110.2 IP, 26 BB, 100 K's.  Was lights out in the beginning of the season, then stumbled a bit with a 5.01 ERA in August.  May  have been fatigue as I believe this is by far the most innings he's ever pitched.

Chase Johnson(RHP)- 4-7, 4.57, 110.1 IP, 40 BB, 94 K's.  Brilliant at times, gets shelled in other games.

Steven Messner(LHP)- 7-5, 4.17, 110.0 IP, 39 BB's, 82 K's.  Undrafted FA.  Solid, unspectacular performance.

Carlos Dias(LHP)- 6-6, 4.16, 101.2 IP, 37 BB, 76 K's.  Another guy who might have tired as the season went along.  Finished up in the bullpen.

Dan Slania(RHP)- 2-5, 3.99, 58.2 IP, 21 BB, 46 K's, 12 Saves.  Slania got a callup despite pedestrian numbers.

Luis Castilla(RHP)- 2-2, 3.07, 58.2 IP, 25 BB, 66 K's, 10 Saves.  Pitched better then Slania in the closer role.

Jake Smith(RHP)- 3-5, 2.79, 58 IP, 30 BB, 77 K's, 5 Saves.  Lights out in Augusta.  Got knocked around in San Jose in a very SSS.

Ray Black(RHP)- 1-3, 3,73, 31.1 IP, 14 BB, 64 K's.  Dominant numbers to go with a triple digit FB.  Finally got called up to San Jose and pitched well there too.   Long history of injuries.  IMO, Giants need to rush this guy before his arm falls off!

Mayor of Augusta:

Rafael Rodriguez(OF)- .273/.350/.481, 5 HR.  Finally a solid season from RafRod, but he still missed quite a bit of time with injuries.  May be too little, too late.

Game Wrap 9/23/2014: Dodgers 4 Giants 2

It was Madison Bumgarner and 8 props against the Dodgers.  The Dodgers won when Bummy took the first inning to get warmed up and gave up 3 runs off 2 dingers.  His own dinger later on wasn't enough to overcome that deficit.  Key Lines:

Madison Bumgarner- 1 for 3, HR(4).  BA= .258.  Greinke looked like he was in shock after Bummy hit the 2 run dinger.  Bumgarner stayed in the game to hit for himself in the top of the 8'th.  He was swinging so hard it was almost comical if it wasn't so sad.  You could tell how bad he wanted to tie up the game.  Alas, he struck out on what might have been the hardest swing in all of baseball this year.  Heck, it might have been the hardest swing of all time!  Vin Scully comped it to Babe Ruth, for crying out loud!  The Orange Man, Justin Turner, hit a second dinger for in insurance run in the bottom of the 8'th and Bummy's night was over.

Madison Bumgarner- 7.1 IP, 6 H 4 R, 0 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 2.98.  Bumgarner gave up a leadoff HR to Justin Turner, then hit Puig on the back foot with a pitch which triggered a delayed arm waving charade by Puig after Puig laid on the ground in a fetal position for about 5 seconds.  Bummy's reaction?  "He'll know it if it's on purpose.  I make sure of that.  It wasn't, obviously."  Matt Kemp followed up with a 2 run dinger and the Giants were behind 3-0 coming out of the first inning.  If you get behind 3-0 to either Zach Greinke or Clayton Kershaw, you are going to lose 99% of the time.  Bummy settled down and kept it close, both on the mound and at the plate, but got no help from the heart of the batting order as both Pabs and Pence appear to be trying to kill every pitch and are mostly missing.  Gutsy game from Bumgarner, but he's got to be ready for the first inning!

The Loss dropped the Giants to 4.5 games behind the NL West leading Dodgers with just 5 games to go.  Gotta somehow find a way to beat Kershaw to keep the inevitable from happening while the Giants are in LA to see it.  They also dropped a game behind the Pirates for the home field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game, but the Pirates hold the tie-breaker, so it's really a 2 game deficit.  The Brewers lost again, so the Giants lead for the second Wild Card berth remained at 5 games, again with 5 to play.

So, it's all but a done deal that the Giants will play a single Wild Card game in Pittsburgh for a chance to face the Nationals in the NLDS, while the Dodgers will win the NL West and face the Cardinals in the NLDS.  Tough, tough row to hoe.

This team reminds me a bit of the 1971 Giants team, an aging team with the Mays/McCovey/Marichal/Perry core still intact that raced to a huge early lead in April and May, held on to edge the Dodgers for the NL West on the final day of the season then lost to Pittsburgh in the playoffs after exhausting themselves in the division fight.

Tim Hudson tries to get his season back on track and will attempt to stave off Clayton Kershaw and a Dodgers clincher tonight.

Angel Pagan will undergo season ending surgery on his ailing back tomorrow.  He said he was risking permanent nerve damage if he tried to keep playing.  Hopefully the surgery takes care of the problem and he'll be ready to go next spring.  His absence leaves a huge hole in the field and the lineup going into the postseason that the Giants may not be able to fill.  Juan Perez is not the answer!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Game Wrap 9/22/2014: Giants 5 Dodgers 2

Coming off what  might have been the weakest series of the season, the Giants opened the Dodgers' series with what might have been the gutsiest game of the season, putting together the winning rally in the top of the 13'th inning after the pitching had shut down the Dodgers' offense for 6 innings.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 7, 2B, HR(5).  BA= .260.  The Giants don't get to the 13'th inning without Blanco who homered to lead off the game, then got all the way to 3B on an error by Matt Kemp in the 3'rd inning and scoring on a squeeze bunt by Joe Panik.  He later drove in an insurance run in the 13'th with a double.   Who says Blanco can't hit leadoff?

Joe Panik- 3 for 5, Sac.  BA= .305.  The Sac. was a squeeze bunt to get Blanco home in the 3'rd inning.  Later in the game, Panik returned to rapping out the hits.

Brandon Belt- 2 for 6.  BA= .231.  Belt's bat came to life with a couple of late singles.  He got thrown out at home plate by Yasiel Puig after his first hit, but came around to score the go-ahead run in the 13'th after the second one.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 5, BB, SB(5).  BA= .247.  Crawford's drive to hit .250 stayed alive.  All of a sudden, Crawford has a WAR of 2.5, good for 11'th best among SS's in MLB.

Andrew Susac- 1 for 1.  BA= .264.  Susac was apparently under the weather, but hung in there in the dugout all game and came through with a huge hit to get the Giants over the hump in the 13'th.

Jake Peavy- 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 3.78.  Gutsy, gutsy pitching performance from Peavy. He might have been tough on the Giants when he was with the Padres, but he was even tougher on the Dodgers and he kept that going in this one.  Wow!  Where would the Giants be right now without Jake Peavy?

Bullpen- 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K's.   Shut down effort by the bullpen with Jean Machi and Santiago Casilla going 2 innings each.  Like Bochy said, he'll worry about tomorrow's game tomorrow.  They had to win this one!

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's, Save(1).  ERA= 0.00.  Strickland's first MLB Save.  I am quite sure there are many more to come as I think we just got a glimpse of the future of the closer role.  99 MPH heat, Dodger Stadium, pennant race.  It doesn't get better than that!

The Win cut the Dodgers' lead in the NL West to 3.5 games.   The Giants remained tied with the Pirates for home field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game, but the Pirates hold the tie-breaker.  Their lead over the Brewers for the final Wild Card slot grew to 5 games with 6 to play.

Madison Bumgarner faces off against Zach Greinke in game 2 of the series tonight.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Game Wrap 9/21/2014: Padres 8 Giants 2

It was another ugly game for the Giants in Petco Park as once again they allowed the opposing team to score first and it all went downhill from there.  Key Lines:

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .245.  Crawford stayed hot, about the only batter in the Giants lineup you can say that about right now.

Chris Dominguez- 1 for 2, HR(1), BB.  BA= .200.  Well, if you are going to try to catch lightning in a bottle, it makes sense to do with a guy who can run into one once in awhile.  Chris showed off his enormous power potential golfing a 2 run shot off the bricks down the line in LF.  Good for him!  Now, no matter what else happens in his career and life, he can say he hit a HR in MLB.  Gotta think he's earned another start or 2 for the LA series.  Maybe having never seen Kershaw or Greinke before would be a good thing?  Sometimes knowing too much about an opposing pitcher can do more harm than good.

Not saying it was the wrong decision at all, but I still say Gary Brown was the CW guy for the start, either in CF or LF.  The fact he was passed over yet again, I think, tells you all you need to know about how the organization sees him, and it's not a good thing for him.

Ryan Vogelsong- 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 3.96.  Vogey looked quite good early on. He was done in by some bad fielding by Pablo Sandoval in the 6'th and by bad relief pitching in the same inning.

Erik Cordier- 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Easy, easy heat from Cordier who pumped 100 MPH heat like he was playing catch.  He just rocks and throws, boom!  The ball just explodes into the catcher's mitt!  If this guy looks anything like this at all in spring training, Giants better find a way to take him north!

The Loss dropped the Giants to 4.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West eliminating them from serious hope of winning the division.  It also dropped them into a tie with the Pirates for home-field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game.  Unfortunately, the tiebreaker goes to the Pirates for H2H record.  The Giants remain 4.5 games up on the Brewers for the second Wild Card slot.

The Giants now move on the LA to take on the Dodgers with Jake Peavy facing Dan Haren in game 1 tomorrow evening.

Down on the Farm: High A San Jose Giants 2014 Season Review

The San Jose Giants finished out of the California League playoffs for the first time in recent memory.  Part of that was because the Cal League was loaded with premium talent this year.  Part of it was because the Giants did not have their customary dominant pitching which has always been their advantage over the Cal League competition in an extreme hitter's league.   While the Giants did not have any single overwhelming talent, I thought it was one of the more interesting teams in the organization to follow on a daily basis with a large number of underrated prospects and "sleeper" types who had solid seasons and should progress in the organization.  Here they are:

On Track(position):

Blake Miller(2B/UT)- .299/.354/.453, 8 HR in 364 AB.  Miller was a low round draftee out of someplace called Western Oregon U.  He raked in college and has raked at every level in the pros.  He was kind of this year's version of Matt Duffy for SJ.  Got a late season promo to AA Richmond and hit well there too.  I think Blake Miller can hit!  With all the scrappy MI types the Giants seem to be drafting and developing, he may end up blocked at the MLB level.

Ben Turner(Catcher)- .298/.353/.371, 34 BB, 37 K in .383 AB.  Not much power there, but those K and BB numbers are very reminiscent of Joe Panik at the same stage.  I don't know anything about his D, but what MLB team couldn't use a backup catcher with a line like that?  Heck, there's more than a few who would be happy with a starting catcher with those numbers!

Mitch Delfino(3B)- .289/.333/.424, 12 HR, 34 BB, 77 K's in 533 AB.   Delfino maybe does not walk as much as you would like, but he has kept his K's under 15% at both Augusta and San Jose while hitting for a solid average with moderate power.  I think he can keep it going at higher levels.  May be a bit error prone at 3B but it's hard to judge D at lower levels of the minors due to poor fielding conditions.  We all know what a dearth of good 3B there are at the MLB level.

Jesus Galindo(CF)- .268/.334/.329, 31 SB in 396 AB.  Galindo is the latest CF/Leadoff/No Power/Speed guys the Giants seem to love, but never seem to get to the majors.  He started out the season as possibly the Giants top offensive prospect in San Jose then kind of got forgotten as the season progressed.  I like that he seems to be able to work a walk and he can certainly steal bases.  Got passed on the CF depth chart by Daniel Carbonell like he was standing still, though.

Brian Ragira(1B)- .260/.320/.444, 20 HR in 457 AB.  It was a tale of two seasons for Ragira, the former high school phenom and Stanford guy.  He started the season ice cold then had an enormous second half:  .297/.353/.524, 15 HR in 229 AB.  I've always loved Ragira's swing.  He has a wrist snap reminiscent of Eric Davis and, get this, Hank Aaron!  The complaint about Stanford is they teach a hitting technique that robs hitters of their power.  Well, it looks like Ragira shook THAT off in the second half!  I would think we will see him in Richmond next year and I, for one, will be watching with a lot of interest.  Unfortunately, he seems to be limited to 1B which also limits his MLB opportunities.

Charles "Chuckie" Jones(OF)- .256/.326/.404, 15 HR, 17 SB, 485 AB.  Raw 5-tool OF made a lot of progress in 2014, but is he running out of time?


Elliott Blair(OF)- .316/.381/.452 in 345 AB.  There is some reason why the Giants drafted Elliott Blair and keep him around.  He's a player who seems to have some tools but I think he has battled injuries much of his career.  Got a late season promo to Richmond where he started strong but then faded down the stretch.  He may find himself edged out in a numbers game at higher levels as the Giants suddenly seem to have a lot of promising OF prospects.

Mac Williamson(DH)- .318/.420/.506, 3 HR, 6 SB in 106 AB.  The only reason Mac started back in SJ is because he could only DH due to an UCL tear in his elbow.  He destroyed Cal League pitching until he finally underwent Tommy John surgery.  He should be ready to go by next spring and could be knocking on the door in SF very soon.  One of the top prospects in the Giants system.

Late to the Party(position):

Daniel Carbonell(CF)- .344/.390/.538, 3 HR, 7 SB in 93 AB.  Carbonell is the Cuban expat signed mid-season.  He's 23 years old and an premium athlete, built more like a football wide receiver than a baseball player.  The only question was whether he could hit.  So far, he's done that.  He got promoted to Richmond for the EL playoffs and hit well there too.  Man, if this guy plays up to his athleticism, the Giants may have gotten themselves a player for a song compared to what teams have paid for other Cuban stars!  It's all a very small sample size so far, but so far, so good!

Tyler Horan(OF)- .321/.376/.670, 10 HR, 6 SB in 106 AB.  Horan was the best hitter for Augusta this year and got a late mid-season promo to SJ and absolutely destroyed Cal League pitching.  If you figure a full minor league season is 500 AB, that projects to a 50 HR season!  Did not perform as well as Carbonell in the EL playoffs, but SSS.  Richmond should be a big test next year.

Brandon Bednar(IF)- .241/.297/.354, 5 HR in 195 AB.  Bednar is listed as a 3B, but actually played all IF positions.  Big, athletic college SS.  Probably will continue at SJ to start 2015.

On Track(SP's):

Joe Biagini(RHP)- 10-9, 4.01, 128 IP, 46 BB, 103 K, GO/AO= 1.36.  Big RHP who the Giants obviously think has potential after drafting him out of UC Davis where he barely pitched at all.  He's been whittling down his walk rates.  Projects as an innings eating SP who might have a chance at the back end of a MLB rotation if he continues to develop.  I don't have any velocities to report.

Pat Young(RHP)- 9-6, 6.13, 111.2 IP, 47 BB, 93 K's.  Young is the big guy with the jerky-jerky delivery that looks nasty.  He got hit around pretty bad in the Cal League, but the peripherals are not terrible.  He needs to cut down on the walks.  May project more as a reliever.

Kendry Flores(RHP)- 4-6, 4.09, 105.2 IP, 32 BB, 112 K's.  Flores was dominant at times, but seemed to battle injuries all season.  K/BB not the eye-popping numbers from Augusta, but not bad either.  Hope for better health next year.

Chris Stratton(RHP)- 7-8, 5.07, 99.1 IP, 36 BB, 112 K's.  Those are probably the best peripherals on the SJ starting staff but they still have not translated into results.  Got a late season promo to Richmond and pitched a bit better there.  Stratton remains an enigma with higher expectations from a former first round draft pick.

Joe Kurrasch(LHP)- 8-4, 3.05, 91.1 IP, 33 BB, 49 K's.  Nice ERA, but that K rate is not going to get it done at higher levels.

Martin Agosta(RHP)- 3-3, 9.23, 39 IP, 34 BB, 25 K's.  Agosta has just not been the same ever since missing time in 2013 with forearm and elbow issues then coming back with noticeably lower velocity.  Was a batting practice pitcher this year.  Gotta think there is something in his arm that needs fixing!

Joan Gregorio(RHP)- 2-2, 6.25, 22.2 IP, 13 BB, 27 K's.  Gregorio got hurt early in the season and resurfaced back in Augusta.  Still a nice K rate, and time is on his side.

Late to the Party(SP's):

Matt Lujan(LHP)- 6-2, 3.42, 71 IP, 23 BB, 69 K's.  Lujan got the bump up from Augusta mid-season and pitched very well for SJ.  Maybe working his way onto the prospect map?

Nick Vander Tuig(RHP)- 3-2, 5.06, 32 IP, 5 BB, 19 K's.  Vander Tuig showed up in the Arizona League about mid-season.  Gradually got stretched out and ended up pitching for SJ late.  Numbers are somewhat uninspiring so far.

On Track(RP's):

Tyler Rogers(RHP)- 4-0, 2.00, 72 IP, 22 BB, 72 K's, GO/AO= 2.11.  Sidearming RHP with a strong GB tendency.  May have to settle for a righty specialist role in the majors.

Mason McVay(LHP)- 0-5, 4.38, 72 IP, 26 BB, 83 K's.  Big strong LHP.  Love the K's, love the ability to go more than 1 inning.  I think he's a lot better than the W-L and ERA would indicate.

Steven Johnson(RHP)- 7-4, 3.65, 69 IP, 36 BB, 77 K's.  Triple digit FB in college.  I have not seen any recent velocity reports.  Seems to have gotten some command and pitched very well for long stretches.

Jeff Soptic(RHP)- 2-1, 4.60, 62.2 IP, 62 BB, 64 K's.  Another hard throwing RHP, but that BB rate is frightful!

Tyler Mizenko(RHP)- 4-3, 3.48, 62 IP, 17 BB, 48 K's, GO/AO= 1.69, 14 Saves.  Probably more of a middle reliever in terms of stuff as he depends on command and ground balls to get outs.

Steven Okert(LHP)- 1-2, 1.53, 35.1 IP, 11 BB, 54 K's, 19 Saves.  Big LHP was SJ's closer for much of the season.  Got a late promo to Richmond and pitched well there too.  Might be in line to take Affeldt's place after next season.

Ian Gardeck(RHP)- 1-2, 9.38, 24 IP, 28 BB's, 19 K's.  Another hard throwing RHP.  Terrible, terrible command!

Late to the Party:

Bryce Bandilla(LHP)- 0-1, 3.15, 34.1 IP, 16 BB, 47 K's, 8 Saves.  Another big LHP.  Washed out early in the season in Richmond, but pitched very well with improved command as a closer for SJ late in the season.

Ray Black(RHP)- 1-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 2 H, 7 K's.  Another RHP with triple digit heat.  Has battled injuries before this season.  How long can he stay healthy?  I say fast track the heck out of him and get what you can out of him until his arm falls off!  Don't waste those pitches in the low minors!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Game Wrap 9/20/2014: Padres 3 Giants 2

The Giants fell behind early to a dominant pitcher, and a 9'th inning rally fell short.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 1 for 4, HR(20).  BA= .288.  Pence has another 20 HR season.  His SB's are way off this year, though, so he won't be going 20/20.

Yusmeiro Petit- 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K's.  ERA= 3.63.  Not a terrible line for Petit, but when you are going against a guy who will soon be one of the elite pitchers in baseball if he isn't already, you can't be the guy who give up the first run.

Andrew Cashner(Padres)- 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K's.  ERA= 2.21.  The only thing that would appear to be standing between Cashner and greatness is his penchant for hitting the DL every year.  He cuts that out, and he's right up there with the top tier.

The Loss kept the Giants 3.5 games of the pace of he NL West leading Dodgers who blew a 7-1 lead to the Cubs and lost 8-7.  They remained 1 game ahead of the Pirates for the home field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game.  They are 4.5 games ahead of the Brewers for the second Wild Card spot with 8 games to play.

Ryan Vogelsong tries to salvage a game out of the series tomorrow afternoon facing Ian Kennedy.

Game Wrap 9/19/2014: Padres 5 Giants 0

The Padres took advantage of a squeezed strike zone in the first inning and jumped on Tim Hudson for 4 runs.  The rest of the game was a sleepwalk in the park as the Giants managed just 3 hits off Odrisamer Despaigne and the Padres bullpen.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .303.  Panik has a short, quick swing so was able to adjust to Despaigne's varied arsenal of pitches and speeds.  2-Hit Joe had been in a bit of a slump in the D'Backs series but had 2 of the Giants 3 hits in this game.

Tim Hudson- 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 3.52.  Huddy had at least 3 or 4 key pitches that clearly caught corners of the plate called balls by home plate ump Lance Barksdale in the first inning and it clearly affected the outcome of this game as it forced Huddy to the middle of the plate and the Padres jumped all over him for a 4 run first inning.  The zone eased up a bit after the first inning, but remained inconsistent throughout the game.  Huddy contributed to by failing to keep the ball down in the zone where he seemed to be able to get strike calls.

Tim Lincecum- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 4.81.  I did not see Timmy's innings, but reports from Kruk and Kuip and from the Postgame Live analysts were positive.  It's a clean line.

Angel Pagan- 0 for 2, BB, SB(16).  BA= .300.  Pagan did not look like he felt well and pulled up on a throw when it looked like he had a chance to get a runner at the plate.  At this point, it would appear that Pagan cannot be counted on for the remainder of this season.

The Loss left the Giants 3.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West after the Dodgers pounded the Cubs 14-5.  Their lead over the Pirates for the home field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game shrunk to 1 game as the Pirates came from behind the beat the BrewCrew.  On a happier note, the Giants lead over the Brewers for the second Wild Card slot is 5.5 games with 9 to play.

Yusmeiro Petit takes on the Padres best pitcher, Andrew Cashner, this evening to try and square up the weekend series.

A big Get Well Soon to Willie McCovey who is hospitalized for treatment of a serious infection.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Down on the Farm: AA Richmond Flying Squirrels 2014 Season Review

AA is generally considered to be the Prospect Level, the level where you find the best prospects in an organization.  It's where the men are separated from the boys, so to speak.  It's kind of like New York:  If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.  Most top prospects who do well in AA are less than a calender year from making The Show

The Richmond Flying Squirrels did have their share of top prospects heading into 2014, but the lion's share of the buzz was for the young pitchers graduating from High A San Jose.  The class was led by Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Adalberto Mejia with former college draftee, Ty Blach, also considered a serious prospect.  In the bullpen, Derek Law came in with a huge amount of buzz after putting up astonishing numbers for San Jose.  On the offensive side of the field, the only significant non-holdover was Matt Duffy, and he was not generating much interest except for, ahem, certain obscure corners of the internet.

AA "Rookies":

Matt Duffy(SS)- .332/.398/.444, 20 SB.  Duffy was an obscure late round college draftee, the kind that usually end up as roster filler in the minors.  He hit very well at 2 levels in 2013.  You had to think the most likely scenario is that the big bad Eastern League would expose him for what he really was, an organizational player.  All he did was lead all of AA baseball in BA, snag a midseason callup, and become one of the more valuable bats off the bench down the stretch of heated pennant race.  If that doesn't put you on the map as a prospect, I'm not sure what would.  Matt Duffy!

Devin Harris(OF)- .256/.310/.437, 13 HR.  Harris has been in the organization a long time, but those are respectable numbers for AA and the EL.

Myles Schroder(C/UT)- .254/.305/.367, 5 HR, 11 SB.  Schroder probably increased his value marginally by playing quite a bit of catcher.  Remains fringy as a possible utility prospect.

Ty Blach(LHP)- 8-8, 3.13, 141 IP, 39 BB, 91 K's.  Blach pitched well, probably the best of the pitching prospects, but you have to wonder about those K and BB rates.

Adalberto Mejia(LHP)- 7-9, 4.67, 108 IP, 31 BB, 82 K's.  Not an impressive line, but Mejia finished the season with a 3.22 ERA over his last 10 starts, including QS in his last 4 consecutive starts including 2 postseason starts.  He was also one of the youngest players in the EL.

Clayton Blackburn(RHP)- 5-6, 3.29, 93 IP, 20 BB, 85 K's.  Blackburn missed some time with injury, but pitched very well when fully healthy including a few dominant starts.

Kyle Crick(RHP)- 6-7, 3.79, 90.1 IP, 67 BB, 111 K's.  Crick flashed brilliance but was wildly inconsistent with severe bouts of poor command.  He pitched out of the bullpen in the EL playoffs and you have to wonder if the Giants are thinking that may be where his future lies.  I hope they don't give up on him as a starter just yet.

Derek Law(RHP)- 2-0, 2.57, 28 IP, 14 BB, 29 K's, 13 Saves.  After a breakthrough season for San Jose in 2013, Law had high expectation coming into 2014 with Richmond.  He pitched very well until suffering a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.  Expect him back about midseason next year, like Hunter Strickland this year.


Kelby Tomlinson(2B/SS)- .268/.340/.323, 49 SB.  Were it not for Matt Duffy's astonishing performance, Tomlinson would have had the most interesting line from the Richmond lineup.  I have to day I did not see 49 SB's coming.  Even though he played mostly 2B, he is also an excellent defensive SS who could have a future in MLB as a utility IF.

Angel Villalona(1B)- .227/.290/.381, 10 HR.  Angel V started out strong numbers but went into a deep mid-season slump after missing some time with injury.  He started hitting again right at the end of the season.  Villalona may still have the highest ceiling bat in the organization and the Giants have at least 2 options left, so can afford to be patient.

Jarrett Parker(OF)- .275/.370/.463, 12 HR, 11 SB.  2 seasons in High A and 2 more in AA is a rough way to go, especially for a college draftee.  Parker seemed to make progress and got a brief callup mid-season followed by an assignment to AAA Fresno.  He will probably start 2015 in Sacramento where he will need to rake to get noticed.

Ricky Oropesa(3B/1B)- .241/.315/.330, 5 HR.  This was Ricky's second try in Richmond.  Very rough season to say the least.  Seemed to be the odd man out at the corner IF positions between him,
Angel V and Mario Lisson. Not sure where he goes or what he does from here.

Jack Snodgrass(LHP)- 11-6, 3.56, 131.1 IP, 41 BB's, 86 K's.  Snodgrass probably earned himself a look in AAA next year.  Fringy SP prospect, might be a future lefty specialist.

Austin Fleet(RHP)- 8-1, 2.78, 97 IP, 36 BB, 86 K's.  Fleet earned a callup to Fresno and pitched well there too.  Hopefully he gets gig in Sacramento to start next season.

Kelvin Marte(LHP)- 8-3, 3.83, 87 IP, 23 BB, 55 K's.  Marte also got a callup to Fresno.  He has a low 90's FB and a nice changeup and breaking ball to go with it.  Has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotaton MLB starter depending on his command.

Cody Hall(RHP)- 1-4, 3.14, 51.2 IP, 14 BB, 57 K's, 13 Saves.  Hall was kind of the forgotten man this year with all the excitement generate by Law early and Strickland and Cordier late, but those are very nice numbers.

Venezuela Winter League Signee:

Mario Lisson(3B)- .266/.370/.467, 18 HR, 11 SB.  Lisson was this year's signee from the VWL.  He played well for Richmond and may have bought himself a promo to Sacramento next year.

Late to the Party:

Blake Miller(2B/UT)- .304/.373/.402, 92 AB.  Miller has hit at every level he's played at in his pro career.  He made the transition from High A to AA look easy.  Where are the Giants going to put all these scrappy MI types?

Chris Stratton(RHP)- 1-1, 3.52, 23 IP, 12 BB, 18 K's.  The enigmatic former first round draft pick got a late season callup to Richmond from San Jose.  Those are good numbers but not quite what you hope for from a first rounder.

Hunter Strickland- 1-1, 2.02, 35.2 IP, 21 BB, 48 K's, 11 Saves.  Strickland started the season on the DL but more than made up for it when he came back from Tommy John surgery.  His performance earned him a September callup to the Giants where he has dazzled with a high 90's and occasional triple digit FB.  Should have a chance to make the Giants opening day roster in 2015 if not this year's postseason roster!

Steven Okert(LHP)- 1-0, 2.73, 33 IP, 11 BB, 38 K's, 5 Saves.  Started the year in San Jose.  For those of you worried about what the Giants will do for lefty relievers when Affeldt and Lopez are done, Steven Okert is your anxiety medication.  Expect to see him in Sacramento next year where he will be a bus ride away from AT&T Park.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Wrap 9/17/2014: Giants 4 D'Backs 2

Matt Duffy hit a bases-loaded 2-run single in the top of the 9'th inning to break a 2-2 tie and give the Giants a series win over the D'Backs.  Matt Duffy!  Key Lines:

Brandon Crawford- 4 for 4, 2B.  BA= .246  Crawford continued his torrid hot streak that has seen him go 12 for 24 over his last 7 games and .452 for the month of September.  He accounted for 3 of the Giants 4 runs in this one scoring 2 and driving in 1.

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= .235.  So, Matt Duffy is hitting .308 over his last 10 games, mostly in a PH/Bench role, which might be the toughest role in all of baseball.  He is 4 for 10 as a PH.  Game winner today!  Matt Duffy!

Madison Bumgarner- 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K's.  ERA= 2.91.  Bummy maybe did not have his best stuff today, but hung tough and kept the Giants in the game.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's, Save(17).  ERA= 1.82.  Casilla seems to have tightened his grip on the closer role coming down the stretch.

The Dodgers were crushed by the Rockies today 16-2, thank you very much.  The Giants Win gets them to 2 games behind the NL West leaders.  The Pirates took it to the BoSox 9-1 so the Giants lead for the home field advantage in the Wild Card Play-in game remains at 2.5 games.  The Brewers lost so the Giants lead over them for the second Wild Card slot grows to 4 games with 10 to play.  The Braves continue their free-fall and are 8 games off the Giants Wild Card pace.

The Giants now have a day off before taking on the Padres in Petco Park for a 3 game weekend series. Tim Hudson tries to right his ship in game 1 facing Odrisamer Despaigne.  Gotta love that name!  The Dodgers, meanwhile, travel to Chicago to face a Cubs team looking to be spoilers.  Can we cue up Tommy Lasorda for a postgame interview?  LOL!

MLBTR is reporting from multiple sources that the Giants are not willing to go more than 3 years for Pablo Sandoval, are planning to make a QO and expect him to go on the market where the BoSox and Marlins are interested.

Oh, and I have one more thing to say.  Matt Duffy!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Game Wrap 9/16/2014: Giants 2 D'Backs 1

The BABIP gods were not smiling at the Giants tonight as they hit about 10 line drives for outs, but they managed to overcome bad luck thanks to a terrific, gutsy pitching performance by Jake Peavy.  Key Lines:

Buster Posey- 2 for 4, HR(21).  BA= .312.  Buster inched closer to the batting title now trailing Josh Harrison by .005 and Justin Morneau by .004.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 3, 2B, SF.  BA= .240.  Crawford had a terrific night driving in the winning run with the SF and then ranging from a left side shift on Mark Trumbo to grab a bouncer up the middle then make a nifty throw to beat Trumbo by a hair for out #1 in the 9'th.  That's gotta be worth at least 0.2 WAR points right there!

Jake Peavy- 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 3.82.  Peavy is 6-1 with a 1.13 ERA over his last 6 starts and what a pickup he's been!  Best trade of the season so far!

Juan Perez- 0 for 4.  BA= .169.  When Bochy was asked about possibly playing Gary Brown in CF instead of Perez he responded by saying Perez has the experience then adding this:  "It's hard to try to get lightning in a bottle with 12 games left."  Well, there you go!  There is a guy in the opposing dugout who might have something to say about that(Cody Ross).  Of course, Ross was not a rookie in 2010 either.

The Win brought the Giants back to 3 games behind the NL West leading Dodgers who lost to the Rockies 10-4 in Colorado.  The Pirates and BrewCrew both won so the Giants lead for the home field advantage in The Wild Card play-in game remains at 2.5 over the Pirates and the lead for the second Wild Card spot remains at 4 games over the Brewers.

Madison Bumgarner tries to close out a series win tomorrow afternoon facing LHP Andrew Chafin.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Game Wrap 9/15/2014: D'Backs 6 Giants 2

Ryan Vogelsong served up a grand slam HR to Mark Trumbo in the 3'rd inning.  That was the difference in this ballgame.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik- 2 for 5, 2B.  BA= .308.  2-Hit Joe.

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .284.  The single was a rocket off the RF fence that missed being a HR by about a foot.  Pabs also got hung up at 2B on a sharp single down the LF line by Arias and could only get to 3B.  Baggs thought Pabs might have been not moving so well on the bases, but both of those situations were very understandable.

Joaquin Arias- 3 for 3.  BA= .261.  Arias remains one of the hottest hitters on the team.

Juan Perez- 0 for 5.  BA= .177.  Perez replaced Pagan in CF and in the leadoff spot because Pagan's back was barking.  Perez set the tone of the game early when he flied out to RF on the first pitch of the game from Wade Miley.  I have no idea if Gary Brown would have been any better, but do we really need to see more of Juan Perez.  I mean, lightning in a bottle and all that.  Why not give Gary Brown a shot in a situation like that?

Ryan Vogelsong- 5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 3.98.  Vogey appeared to be cruising in the bottom of the 3'rd inning and it started innocently enough with a couple of BABIP singles.  A Wild Pitch and a walk loaded the bases with 2 outs.  Vogey backed Trumbo up a tad with a pitch in the hands, then tried to hit the outside corner.  He caught too much of the plate and Trumbo rode it on out to right-center and the ballgame was effectively over right there.  You just knew it too.

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Hey!  I got to see Cordier hit 100 MPH on TV! Seems like the Giants need to find a way to get both Cordier and Strickland onto the team next year.  I mean, there are only so many triple digit FB's in an arm and you need to take advantage of them while you can!

The loss dropped the Giants 4 games off the pace of the NL West leading Dodgers and cut their lead over the Pirates to 2.5 games in the race for home-field advantage in the Wild Card game.  Their lead over the Brewers for the second Wild Card slot is 4 games.

Jake Peavy tries to put a stop to the losing streak tomorrow facing Josh "Tomahawk Boy" Collmenter.

Down on the Farm: AAA Fresno Grizzlies 2014 Season Review

From a Won-Lost standpoint, the Fresno Grizzlies 2014 season was a miserable failure as they finished with losing 68-76 record in last place in the PCL's Pacific Southern Division, 13 games behind the first place Reno Aces(D'Backs).  As I am sure we all know, the purpose of mission of minor league teams is not to win minor league championships, although it is nice when it happens, but rather to produce players who will eventually win championships for the affiliated MLB team.

In theory, AAA is the level where prospects polish up their game to get them ready for the difficult transition to the major leagues.  Over the past couple of decades, the trend is for the best prospects to spend very little time at the AAA level and sometimes skip it altogether.  Think of the Giants core of homegrown stars.  Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford all spent little or no time in Fresno before making their MLB debut.  AAA is a level where teams like to use players with MLB experience or multiple years of AAA experience as an extended bench.  The Giants have used it in some cases as a place to send young MLB players for short stints to work on specific weaknesses exposed at the MLB level.

For those of you who have longed to see "real prospects" play for Fresno, this year was a pleasant exception with several players climbing the ladder in an orderly fashion, moving up from AA to spend all or most of their season in Fresno.  In addition, the team featured several second year AAA players who could still reasonably considered "real prospects."  Of course, the Grizzlies also had their share of AAAA players, retreads and reclamation projects and even they generated some interest!  Let's break it down:

AAA "Rookies":

Joe Panik(2B)- .321/.382/.447.  A former first round draft pick, Panik saw his stock slip a bit in AA Richmond last year as he moved off SS to the less valuable 2B position and struggled with an early hamstring injury and a harsh hitting environment.  As we all know, Panik bounced back with a solid AAA campaign and got the mid-season callup to stabilize 2B for the Giants and has been the catalyst for the Giants stretch run to the playoffs.

Andrew Susac(Catcher)- .268/.379/.451, 10 HR.  Susac missed some time early in the season with an injury, but continued to show strong on-base skills and power.  When Hector Sanchez went down with a concussion, Susac got the call and provided valuable production as a backup catcher for the Giants down the stretch.

Adam Duvall(3B/1B)- .298/.360/.599, 27 HR.  Duvall mashed the ball for Fresno but struggled in several short stints at the MLB level.  Defensively, he is probably limited to 1B which makes it harder to get established in the majors.

Edwin Escobar(LHP)- 3-8, 5.11, 111 IP, 37 BB, 96 K's.  Escobar was considered to be the most advanced of the wave of young Giants pitching prospects and a mid-season callup did not seem unrealistic at all.  Instead, he had a disappointing inaugural AAA season and was eventually traded to the Red Sox in the Jake Peavy deal.  He has since pitched impressively for the Red Sox AAA affiliate in the International League, at least in the IL playoffs.  A couple of lessons here:  1.  Prospects can bring value to the MLB club even if they get traded out of the organization.  If the Giants make the playoffs, especially if they advance past the Wild Card game, Jake Peavy will be a big reason for that success.  2.  The PCL is crazy tough on pitchers and you can't necessarily rely on numbers to judge their readiness or the quality of their stuff.

The Repeaters:

Gary Brown(CF)- .271/.329/.394, 10 HR, 36 SB, 20 CS.  Former first round draft pick Brown has become an enigma who at times flashes the tools and skills that made him look like the Giants CF of the future a few years ago, but at other times going into extended slumps, both at the plate and the basepaths and generally appearing to stall out in his development.  He finally got a September callup and has made a few brief appearances as a defensive replacement in the OF.  At this point, his future with the organization appears to be uncertain at best.

Chris Dominguez(OF/3B/1B/SS)- .274/.307/.460, 21 HR, 21 SB.  At age 27, Chris Dominguez is no spring chicken as a prospect, but has always had intriguing plus-plus power and surprising athleticism for a guy his size.  He put up the first 20-20 season in eons for Fresno and played multiple positions including fairly long stretches at SS!  He does many things well, but does he do any one thing well enough?  Huge K rates continue to be a problem.  Another September callup who has made a couple of PH appearances.

Mike Kickham(LHP)- 8-8, 4.43, 148.1 IP, 64 BB, 131 K.  Last year Kickham looked like an up-and-comer with good stuff who would benefit greatly from a season of polishing in Fresno.  Unfortunately, his command issues did not seem to improve and even got worse as the season progressed.  Another September callup.  He got torched in Saturday's 17-0 debacle.  At this point, his career appears to be rolling back downhill.

Chris Heston(RHP)- 12-9, 3.38, 173 IP, 51 BB, 125 K's.  Heston has always put up good numbers with marginal scouting reports.  Those are pretty good numbers for the PCL.  Pitched 1 inning of shutout ball in his September callup so far.  Probably a AAAA pitcher, but may get a few cups of coffee.  #5 starter on a non-contending team is his absolute ceiling.

Austin Fleet(RHP)- 4-2, 3.95, 43.1 IP, 13 BB, 33 K.  Fleet has bounced around the minors playing wherever he is needed.  That is usually not a good sign for a future MLB career.  He pitched well enough for Fresno this year that he might get a full time starting gig there next year with a chance for an emergency start or two.  Could eventually be a long man out of the bullpen too.

Brett Bochy(RHP)- 4-4, 3.83, 54 IP, 27 BB, 47 K's.  Son of the Giants skipper, Boch Jr. does not have overwhelming stuff and probably has a ceiling as a long man out of a bullpen.  Got caught up in the 17-0 debacle in his MLB debut.

Heath Hembree(RHP)- 1-3, 3.89, 39.1 IP, 13 BB, 46 K's, 18 Saves.  Another guy who looked like he just needed a bit of polish.  Those are not bad numbers for the PCL, but he was inconsistent and reportedly failed to develop a credible secondary pitch.  Got shipped to the BoSox in the Peavy trade.  The September performances of Strickland and Cordier revealed why the Giants thought Hembree was expendable.  I expect Hembree to become a good MLB reliever, although probably not a closer.

Reclamation Projects:

Erik Cordier(RHP)- 4-3, 3.59, 52.2 IP, 31 BB, 68 K's.  Hard throwing reliever, as in triple digits!  Cordier is a TJ survivor who was added to the Pirates 40 man roster in November, 2013 to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  They then tried to sneak him through waivers in the spring and the Giants grabbed him.  Has impressed in 3 MLB appearances this September hitting triple digits with some regularity.  He would appear to have a definite future in the bullpen.  Nice scouting job by the Giants!

Mark Minicozzi(OF/1B)- .298/.400/.420, 12 HR.  A former Giants draftee and farmhand, Minicozzi spent some time out of baseball and some time in indy ball.  The Giant brought him back with a spring training invite and he darn near made the team!  Probably a minor league lifer at this point,  but could catch on as a utility player/PH with somebody.

Travis Ishikawa(1B)- .271/.329/.394, 11 HR.  Ishikawa was waived by the Brewers early in the season and refused a minor league assignment because he was blocked from playing regularly even with their AAA team.  He saw the Giants had room at 1B in Fresno so signed with them.  Got a callup to replace Brandon Belt with the concussion and has been an important contributor to the Giants stretch run.

Shuttle Riders:

Juan Perez(OF)- .316/.372/.508.  Perez can definitely play at the AAA level.  Very tough to break in as a bench player in the majors.

George Kontos- 3-3, 2.08, 47.2 IP, 11 BB, 58 K's.  Kontos has made some valuable appearances for the Giants in multiple short stints.  Will he ever stick?


Dan Runzler(LHP)- 1-5, 3.30, 46.1 IP, 36 BB, 53 K's.  Pretty good season, but still with bouts of wildness.  Released so he could pursue an opportunity in Korea.

Jose De Paula(LHP)- 4-3, 4.21, 51.1 IP, 16 BB, 41 K's.  Waiver wire pickup in the offseason.  Those are not terrible numbers.  Not sure why he was released.  Maybe got caught up in a 40 man roster numbers game?

Brett Krill(OF)- .189/.246/.226.  My favorite sleeper prospect finally hit the wall and the end of the road.

Tyler Colvin(OF)- .227/.278/.344.  Colvin made a splash early with the Giants but the just tanked.  Did not do any better in Fresno and was eventually released.  Baseball future is very cloudy for this former first round draft pick by the Cubs.

Dan Uggla(2B)- .286/.444/.429 in 7 AB's.  Uggla played 2 games for Fresno before being rushed into the breach at 2B for the Giants.  We all know how THAT turned out.  Shoulda just called up Panik.

David Huff(LHP)- 0-0, 0.00, 3 IP, 0 BB, 1 K.  Started out as a bullpen lefty/spot starter for the Giants.  Got hurt, then lost in the 40 man roster shuffle.

Javier Herrera(DH)- .273/.314/.394, 33 AB.   Put up promising numbers last year for Richmond, but apparently has too many recurring, chronic injuries to expect any kind of future MLB career.

Tony Abreu and Darren Ford also had solid seasons but it is unclear where they fit in the future.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Game Wrap 9/14/2014: Dodgers 4 Giants 2

The galling part of this loss is the Giants actually had a chance to win this game.  Yes, a game against Clayton Kershaw with their own #5 pitcher on the mound!  In the end, I wonder if the Giants felt like they had to do something extraordinary to beat Kershaw and ended up trying to do to much and more than they had to?  Key Lines"

Andrew Susac- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .286.  Two knocks with a double off the best pitcher in baseball?  Very nice for the rook!

Joaquin Arias- 2 for 4.  BA= .249.  Arias remains one of the hottest hitters on the team and probably in baseball.

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= .224.  Duffy is now 3 for 8 as a PH and drove in another run with this one.  Matt Duffy!

Yusmeiro Petit-  7 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K's.  ERA= 3.64.  Petit pitched a strong game.  The key play of the game came in the second inning.  With Hanley Ramirez at 1B and 1 out, Juan Uribe singled past Joe Panik into short right-CF.  Hunter Pence threw to 3B to try to get the lead runner and the throw was offline, although Pablo Sandoval kind of just waived at it as it went by.  Ramirez then headed for home and scored on another throwing error by Petit who was backing up the play.  Later, after driving in a run with a single, Buster Posey was thrown out at 2B trying to stretch it into a double.  That's what I mean by trying to do too much.  Giants might have still lost the game 3-2, but with runners at first and third and no runs in instead of a runner at 3B and 1 run in, the outcome of the second inning might have been different.  As for Posey's out, he might not have scored anyway, probably would not have, but at least Kershaw would have had to throw some more pitches, which was an issue in this game.

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Another successful inning for the fireballer who hit 99 MPH in this one.  Bochy ratcheted up the pressure in this one.  It was not a Save or Hold situation, but the Giants were still very much in the game.  Gotta think Strickland is going to have a chance to win a roster spot next spring and might even have a chance to be on the postseason roster this year in case of an injury(wink, wink).  I mean, what Giants fan does not remember K-Rod?

The Loss left the Giants trailing the NL West leading Dodgers by 3 games with 13 to play.  The Giants are 3 up on the Pirates for the home-field advantage in the Wild-Card play-in game and they lead the Brewers by 4.5 games for the second WC spot.

The Giants immediately fly to Arizona to start a 3 game series against the D'Backs with Ryan Vogelsong facing Wade Miley in game one tomorrow evening.

Thoughts on Player Value Part III

In Part I of this series, we discussed some basic types of baseball data and statistics.  In Part II, we looked at defensive metric systems, specifically UZR and how it is derived.  Bill James, a pioneer in statistical analysis of baseball, or saber metrics, wanted a way to translate player performance into value for his team.  Since the goal of all this is to win games, he wanted to quantify how much each component of what we can measure about a player's performance contributes to his team winning.   He came  up with a number he called Win Shares.

To put it in simple terms, when a player crosses home plate and scores a run, some of that was produced by that player getting on base in the first place and some was produced by the player who got the hit to drive him in.  Even if the player hit a HR, which on the surface would appear to be 100% the work of that player, what about the player who might have gotten a hit earlier in the game who neither scored a run nor drove one in, but his hit allowed the guy who hit the HR that one extra AB late in the game?

As time went on, statisticians were able to tease out averages of how many runs a walk, single, double, triple, HR, SB would produce and how many potential runs would not score as a result of a strikeout or CS.  Since different ballparks make it easier or harder to produce runs, they came up with adjustments for Park Effects.  These parameters were then all fed into a very long equation and a single number was produced that has become known as Wins Above Replacement or WAR.  Replacement is defined as the number of wins a team made up of "replacement players" or players brought up from AAA in an emergency would theoretically win, based on historical numbers.

When you look at lists of players ranked by WAR, you find names near the top that you do not find in more lists ranked by more traditional stats.  Since WAR is a single number that theoretically tells you the global value of a player, the number has become a point of intense debate when end-of-season discussions about who should be named MVP come up.  If WAR is, in fact, an accurate measure of global player value, then it should be simple to identify the MVP.  It's the guy with the highest WAR!

There's the rub.  Just how accurate is WAR for a given player?  The derivation of the number contains so many data points, so much subjective judgement(particularly on the defensive side) and so many adjustments for things like Park Factors, the potential for a harmonic convergence of error to produce an erroneous outlier would appear to be relatively large.  The WAR apologists can point to cumulative WAR scores that closely match numbers of team wins as a validation of the statistic.  WAR critics point to surprising names at the top of WAR rankings as reasons to question whether it is always accurate for individual players.

One such name that comes up over and over is Ben Zobrist who by WAR was the second most valuable player in all of baseball from 2009-2012, trailing only Miguel Cabrera and by just a small margin.  Zobrist is a good player who does a lot of things well, but who does not do any one thing great.  Is he really almost as valuable as Miguel Cabrera who was crazy good during those years?
Since WAR is the only way to objectively measure that, the argument quickly becomes circular.  Neil Weinberg of Fangraphs wrote a recent piece in the Hardball Times section arguing that the reason why Zobrist is so valuable is because of his position versatility, except that WAR theoretically levels the playing field for different positions.

Right now, Alex Gordon is tied for 3'rd place in MLB WAR at 6.0 despite a pedestrian OPS of .792 and playing LF to boot.  Is Alex Gordon really the 3'rd most valuable position player in all of baseball? You really have to wonder, especially when you see that his defensive number is almost 4 times as high as his average for the past 3 seasons and higher than his past 3 seasons combined!

In 2012, Martin Prado, a versatile player similar to Ben Zobrist, put up a WAR of 5.5 for the Atlanta Braves, fueled in part by a similar defensive outlier.  This may have contributed to Dave Cameron's assessment of the trade for Justin Upton as being a "win-win."  As in the Prado-Upton trade, I personally do not believe that a straight up trade of Miguel Cabrera for Ben Zobrist in 2009 would have been a "win-win", and the team receiving Zobrist would not be the one with the win!

So, should WAR be the determiner of MVP?  My answer is it should definitely be a strong contributing factor in the decisionmaking process, but you cannot blindly give the award to the guy with the top WAR number.  You need to be aware of the limitations of the statistic and the potential for it to deliver outlier numbers.