2008 Giants blog entries

March 29: tradesports.com has over/under lines on wins for each major league team; the Giants were listed at 73 1/2 (i.e. expecting 15 games under .500) and no one is more responsible for driving the price down to 34.5% than I. I am the most pessimistic on the Giants I have ever been (not that they'll necessarily be the worst SF Giants team ever, but they've got a shot.)

The Giants figured they'd "model" themselves after the Diamondbacks and Rockies and "put young talent on the field." I believe by now they have noticed they don't have any (aside from pitchers). There's a useful concept: "replacement level player" -- that's the level play you can get anytime near free from waiver wires or otherwise unwanted free agents. Giants thirdbaseman Castillo was in fact just obtained by waivers. I'd say the Giants are just about at replacement level at 5 of 8 starting positions -- all infield (apparently Aurillia, Durham, Vizquel, Castillo), and left field (Roberts). Aurillia is ridiculous, Durham could have a big bounceback year but is real iffy, Vizquel has refined skills I admire and may be a hall-of-famer but he's injured and about to turn 41. Pedro Feliz was a good fielder, and had power (though perhaps the least discipline of any major league hitter) and I assumed when I Giants let him go that they had a plan, but no.
Young outfielders Lewis, Davis, Schierholz and Ortmeier did well last year, but their minor league numbers suggest they really aren't that good. Bocock and Velez have their good points but are far from major leaguers on an overall basis. The pitching staff is probably above average. Lincecum is good, and a refreshingly good interviewee; he's my favorite player, and Cain is darn good too.
But geez, this team is TERRIBLE.

July 29, comments on season: The season has gone very nearly as expected. One game short of the 2/3 point the Giants are 43-60, somewhat worse than preseason consensus expectations but close. As expected the offense is the main culprit, 14th of 16 NL clubs in runs scored, largely because they are dead last in MLB in home runs. The other telling statistic is that although the pitching staff is a close 2nd in MLB in strikeouts, it is 18th among the 30 teams in ERA. This is largely because they are fourth in walks allowed. They have to learn to trust their stuff. Sanchez has joined Lincecum and Cain as the solid young starters that form the team's hope for the future. The bullpen has been well below average. Despite his great save percentage, I don't think Brian Wilson is very good. The ERA and walks allowed are better indications of his level (i.e. better predictors of future results) than the save percentage, which is fluky.

July 29, comments on Zito: His value is about that of a replacement level player, i.e. nearly zero. (Well, maybe he'll find his way back to mediocrity). That makes his contract near a $126M loss (except that future dollars are worth somewhat less); to put in perspective the franchise was recently valued at $500M, so this tosses out near 1/4 the value of the franchise.
At least the Giants are not alone. Between Jason Schmidt ($48M for 3 injury years) and Andrew Jones ($38 for potentially 2 mysteriously horrid years) the Dodgers have flushed away $86M.

July 29, comments on Durham trade: Batting .293 with .385 OBA, I might assess Durham's value as about commensurate with his contract ($7M this season, final year of deal). The deal values him lower than this, as the Giants apparently are paying half the contract and settled for near-zero value players. The "prospects" the Giants got are Darren Ford (now batting .228 in A ball at age 22, though 50/61 in SB), and Steve Hammond (mediocre in AAA at age 26). The trade was a salary dump. The Giants save $1.5M and open up a position for young players, but appear not to have bargained effectively. I think they have to receive some players to make the league office approve trades, even when they are of very little value.
Bengie Molina's contract has positive value; how much would the Yankees give?
Dave Robert's contract has negative value so the Giants would have to pay someone to take him (more than they paid off on Durham); he is their most-want-to-dump player (aside from Zito).

I think Eugenio Velez will never be a decent player. He has poor instincts in hitting, fielding and baserunning. Giants management is in love with his speed and being excessively hopeful otherwise.

Quite on the other hand, Emmanuel Burriss has impressed with his abilty to adapt to new positions (2B and one fine play from RF), a sharp awareness running the bases (where Veliz unfortunately seems oblivious though fast), and quite decent hitting (in limited action, BA is likely to fall). I think E.B. has the best potential of the Giants' young position players (which isn't saying a lot).

0907: Revealing moment: I tune into Giants game as 2nd batter hits a soft linedrive to second. An alert secondbaseman is in position for a very quick throw to first as he catches the ball, and I immediately know that is NOT Velez playing second today. If he caught it, it would take him a while to decide what to do; he plays with his head who knows where. It was Ochoa at 2nd.

0916: Evidence the Oakland A's are right about onbase average being important for scoring runs: Entering play today the A's are dead last in both categories.