Friday, March 29, 2013

Buster Posey, Forever and Ever

From here

Today it was announced that the Giants have signed Buster Posey to a deal that has the potential to make him a Giant for his entire career, or at least until 2022. Alex Pavlovic writes:
The nine-year, $167 million contract is the longest ever for a catcher and is a record deal for a player with fewer than four years of service time. It also easily surpasses Matt Cain’s deal as the biggest in franchise history.
The deal includes a full no-trade clause and awards bonuses (he is the MVP, after all), and guarantees a yearly contribution of $50,000 from Posey to Giants charities.
I'm sure in the coming days, there will be lots of analysis concerning this deal, with various people worrying or concern-trolling about Posey's health and that whole thing about being a catcher.

As a fan, I can't say anything other than I am elated. I thought about posting a photo essay about the various teams for which Posey will not play (in all likelihood...or, at least until he's 35), but I realized I did that last year with Matt Cain. Then I considered that I don't even know what I'll be doing when I'm thirty-five, and that's only a few months away, but that's not really a topic for this blog.

This contract cements the fact that Posey is part of the long-term plans of the Giants, in ways that other position players aren't. Of course, part of this has to do with his offense, with a career slash line of .314/.380/.503, not to mention a 12.9 WAR (according to Fangraphs).

Part of this is perhaps that intangible aspect of how he handles the pitching staff, but it's not difficult to figure out that he won't be spending a majority of his time behind the dish by his thirties. We know he plays first, but now is also a good time to recall that Bochy was grumbling something about Posey being able to play third because he's that athletic.

Speaking of third base, we know that one of Posey's favorite players growing up was Chipper Jones. There's no time like the present to be a fanboy, so let's take a look at those Jones BARVES...19 years, all with the same team, .303/.401/.529 slash line, 85.1 fWAR. Chipper would be one hell of a comp. Especially concerning spending his whole career with one team, never becoming a Dodger or a Yankee.

Who knows if these are realistic expectations. They might not be. They probably aren't. However, there's time to worry about that later. Right now it's a great day for Giants fans.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Thousand Words on Cody Ross

How about we settle on a picture instead?*

It turns out I probably can't hate the guy unless he's wearing pinstripes or Dodger blue. We'll have to check back on this later in the real season.

In his lone at-bat today, he struck out looking against the 2012 postseason folk hero, Barry Zito. 

Damn, now I'm curious about his slash lines...let's see...
  • His career against the Giants: .253/.301/.421.
  • His career at AT&T Park: .262/.331/.417.
  • And we might not want to get too used to him striking out looking against Zito. In 18 PAs, Ross has batted .333/.389/.667 with a dinger. He's also hit a home run against Matt Cain (and the video reveals that he does the home run hop/skip against the Gigantes, too), but unless we're talking about RHPs named Roy Halladay, I'm more concerned with Ross's lefty-mashing power.

*See what I did there?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Fake Games Begin

The fake games begin...and the Giants defeat the Angels 4-1. The Dodgers fall to the White Sox, 9-0. Before we get caught up quibbling about the fake games narratives, a reminder of their ultimate significance:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Getting the Band Back Together

Saturday was the first full team workout. That means it's probably time to start getting my thoughts together about the 2013 Giants. The most obvious aspect of the the 2013 team is that it looks remarkably similar to the 2012 team that won the World Series. 

There's a part of me that says: isn't that what the front office did for the 2011 team? However, I think that the 2012 team had much stronger players than the 2010 team. There's an easy way to encapsulate the difference: the continuity of 2012-2013 is based on a core set of players who've come up through the Giants' system, who I'd like to think have not hit their ceiling. It's still possible, for instance--and this isn't just spring training talking--that Brandon Crawford could improve on his .248/.304/.349 slash line. Admittedly, he struggled during the first half, but showed a marked improvement during the second. I'd take either his August (.281/.329/.359) or September (.288/.351/.409) for 2013--although there's no way that September .380 BABIP is sustainable; August's .327 is a more modest request. To put the numbers in perspective, his season BABIP was .307, while ZiPS projects a .230/.292/.340 slash line for 2013, which I think is too low given that Bruce Bochy seemed to be fairly careful with platooning Crawford to get the best performance out of him. (See also Hank Schulman's piece on this subject here).

And Brandon Belt has room to improve as well. Eno Sarris at Fangraphs has an interesting piece on Belt's turning point, about learning to love the line drives, during 2012 if you're interested. And you should be.

By contrast, the strategy for 2011 seemed to be: 'We just need to catch a few career years as the veterans role downhill, just like last year.' Aaron Rowand. Aubrey "Infield Fly" Huff. Miguel Tejada. Orlando Cabrera. Okay. That's enough of 2011.

Well, not exactly. The Giants, to get the band back together, have also brought back two important pieces of 2010, who were traded after the 2011 season to the Mets for Angel Pagan: Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. You probably don't want to look at their 2012 numbers. The odds are that Ramirez, who is a non-roster invitee, will be competing for the longman role in the bullpen, which admits of numbers that are closer to his 2012, but it would be nice for him to settle into a season like 2011, with a 2.62 ERA (133 ERA+) and 8.7 K/9. It might help his case that the competition--the likes of Chad Gaudin and Sandy Rosario--aren't exactly inspiring (inspiring yet...?).

And Torres, the fan favorite of 2010...what is there to say? He was a crucial part of the 2010 team, and while he struggled in 2011 he never caught the ire of fans as did Rowand, Huff, or Tejada. As for 2013, he'll be judged on his ability to platoon against lefties to Gregor Blanco's right handed opponents. Over his career, Torres' numbers as a right handed batter are slightly better than him batting left handed, thought the splits are much more drastic in 2012:

vs RHP as LHB 262 226 44 7 5 3 .195 .292 .310 .602 .246
vs LHP as RHB 171 147 42 10 2 0 .286 .382 .381 .763 .362
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/17/2013.

Yes, drastic. But since I'm currently obsessing with BABIP, look at the difference there. While that's not sustainable--his career number is .309--the OBP is impressive enough. Nevertheless, left field could get crowded this season, with Belt, Brett Pill, Blanco, and Torres potentially spending time out there. As we know with Bochy, that's determined by who has the hot bat. Until then, Torres is saying all the right things:
Torres said the Mets tried to bring him back and the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers expressed interest. But throughout the process, he was eyeing only one destination.
“This is home for me,” he said. “San Francisco gave me an opportunity when I was in the minors to make the team, and gave me a job. I won the World Series here. I really appreciated those things."
Speaking of 2010 post-season heroics, Cody Ross will be patrolling the outfield for the Diamondbacks for the next three years. Would we really want to see Torres in Dodger blue?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Was There Any Question?

Buster Posey is the National League MVP in 2012. Did you have any doubts?

I'm pretty sure the Giants won something important at the end of the season. Oh, of course, the World Series!

But that's not supposed to be a factor. It must be his .336/.408/.549 slash line. That looks very good, but Baseball Reference says he's got a league leading OPS+ of 172. I guess the National League baseball writers aren't afraid of fancy numbers.

But we're here for GIFs. Maybe I'm late to the party, but I just discovered this. It includes classics like:

And while I could look at that grand slam off of Mat Latos for hours, we shouldn't forget this gem:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Giants Take Two, Two To Go

Admit it. There's a masochistic side to you that wanted to see the Giants win a handful of elimination games in the World Series.* Sure, that was by turns anguishing and exhilarating, but I'll take the Giants exactly where they are now, heading to Detroit with a two game lead. I promise that if things work out, I won't even lament that they might have just played their last game of the season at home. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, I know two words that should give you pause: Anibal Sanchez. He's been known to mow down the Giants and induce high amounts of spectator stress for doing so, especially at AT&T Park. Fortunately, the Giants have two things going for them: first, Ryan Vogelsong, and second, Sanchez is not invincible outside of AT&T: in Miami on May 24th, he pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on seven hits and two walks. If we could cherry-pick a few things from the boxscore, you'll note that Ryan Vogelsong was the starting pitcher, and that Emmanuel Burriss was playing second. I think the Giants found an upgrade at second somewhere along the line, but I just can't recall. Was it Ryan Theriot? And don't look at the part about Javier Lopez. Don't do it!

What I'll need to remember when I look back at this years from now:

GAME 1: 8-3 Giants

First, Barry Zito has become The Junkball Superstar. Bronson Arroyo would write a nice tuneful tribute, but he's still a bit upset at the whole NLDS thing. Sure, we can stare at Zito's Baseball Reference page for hours and try to puzzle it through, considering the 4.15 that in 2010 got him left off the post-season roster, and that in 2012 made him the go-to guy for Game 1 of the World Series. We could even talk about how his ERA+ was 94 in 2010, and 84 in 2012. Is he actually a lesser pitcher this year? Or does it say more about the (temporary?) fall of Tim Lincecum? Or, that Bruce Bochy was prepared to use all the tools of psychological warfare against Justin Verlander? Or, with a more proficient offense this year, Zito's flaws aren't nearly as glaring?

Was the crowd chanting Bar-ry and then Zi-to? Did I really get an email from a friend who actually wrote:
Forget about Panda's feats last night. It was Zito's night. It wasn't necessarily pretty,  but he had a plan that he stuck to. I suspect this will be a long series, but my prediction is Zito will be WS MVP.
For such a bold prediction, I will let you remain anonymous, Mark. Oh, whoops! That's set in stone like the rest of the Internet, so I can't change it now! Never forget, however, that this is Verlander (the first two times) and that's Pablo Sandoval:

I've never heard of those other guys who've hit three home runs in a World Series game, but I'm sure they're good people.**

By the end of this game, I was convinced that Lincecum's post-season calling is to be a super-reliever. He faced seven batters and struck out five. What, would you rather see Guillermo Mota in the middle innings?

GAME 2: 2-0 Giants

Fact: Doug Fister struck the fuck outta the Kansas City Royals and set some kind of record. Fact: Fister struck out only three Giants. For allowing a rare hit to the struggling Hunter Pence, he's the losing pitcher of record, although if baseball recorded assists, I'd say Drew Smyly cemented that one.

Otherwise, we got the Madison Bumgarner that we all remember from earlier in the season: 7IP, 2H, 2W, 8K, 0ER. One of the biggest fears of this post-season was the diminished capacity of the starting rotation, but over the past five games, Giants starters have allowed two earned runs in, hmmm, add the numbers, carry that one to the other one, 33 innings pitched. (Tack on Lincecum in Game 1 and it's 35 1/3). In case you're wondering, that went Zito, Vogelsong, Cain, Zito,  Bumgarner. Looks like everybody's in: next up, Vogelsong and Cain.

No time to look back now, just two more wins to go... 

* Make no mistake, they'll obviously have to win a game that includes eliminating Detroit, but how about not making it a handful?
**That would be Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and some guy who just cashed in with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rooting Against the Tigers Begins Today

What exactly just happened over the month of October? Had you told me in March that the Giants would win the National League pennant after fighting back in six elimination games, and that Barry Zito would be a crucial component of the playoff rotation, I would have thought you were high as hell. And you might have been. But here we are. Barry Zito's starting Game 1 of the World Series against Justin Verlander. 

Though I haven't written anything about the playoffs. I'm sure it has something to do with going back to work at the university, and working on a book and an editing project that have nothing to do with baseball. But it also had to do with how exhausting watching the Giants win six elimination games. Including that time I was attending a conference talk, sweating Sergio Romo's twelve pitches to Jay Bruce. To tell the truth, it wasn't that nerve wracking to watch Ryan Vogelsong. In fact, I could watch those games with some obstinate idea that Vogelsong wouldn't accept not going to the World Series after his now-storied return to the Major Leagues. But, wow, the rest of the rotation has been a far cry from their shut down performances of 2010.

Yet the offense has been able to pick them up, at least until the Cardinals got shut down offensively in games five, six, and seven, when the offense picked up the pitching just on general principle--not to mention that the possibility of the the Cards coming back from a six run deficit would leave a very bitter taste.

Instead, the Giants are going to the World Series, and I've got to start mustering my baseball fury against the Detroit Tigers (even if I chose them for the World Series last year). May they under perform in the next four to seven games. 

Before the fall classic begins, never forget:

For that grand slam, Buster Posey is the official NLDS Exceptional Comrade of The Left Field Line.

The NLCS Excellent Comrades (a shared prize!) are Marco Scutaro and Ryan Vogelsong. In 30 plate appearances, Scutaro hit .500/.533/.607, with fourteen hits, most of those coming after being run over by Matt Holliday. 

Vogelsong destroyed the Cardinals with that fiery death stare. Oh, and he pitched 14 innings and gave up only eight hits, three walks, and two earned runs. If you throw in the hit batter, that's 12 baserunners, compared to 13 strikeouts. 

If he wants to go Satchel Paige and pitch night after night while decimating the opposition, I'd say let him.