Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Can the Winter Leagues Tell Us?

I spent Friday evening having a few drinks and talking baseball with Tao of Stieb, whose blog is responsible lately for most of the traffic to this site. When the conversation turned toward the fall leagues, I mentioned that I had discussed Hector Sanchez's offseason in Venezuela not so long ago. I had written:
They could rush Sanchez because he projects potential at the plate (with that .381/.458/1.030 line in Venezuela--in 21 at bats). However, Sanchez could use more time behind the plate in Fresno (I know, it does sound like a total bummer when you say Fresno) than he would get in San Francisco.
I feared that a more sabermetrically inclined reader would figure that, despite those bold numbers, I should know that it's a small enough sample to be virtually meaningless. Now, I did say projects potential as a signal that I knew better than to draw too much of a lesson from those 21 ABs. And I won't try to draw a lesson from his current sixty ABs and the .400/.446/.600 AVG/OBP/SLG line, especially because this doesn't speak to his needing regular work behind the plate (on a different note about the previous post: I admit that I can't figure out why I thought he might be used as a trade chip...but that was the pre-Melky era).

And yet I think in the case of Brandon Crawford that the Arizona Fall League can tell us something about the Giants' 2012 roster. We can safely put aside the .304/.329/.456 line (in 79 AB), because Crawford is 30 spots behind Jedd Gyorko's league leading .437/.500/.704 (71 AB). We can assume, with those numbers, that the hitting is outclassing the pitching in the AFL. Instead, we should look at any numbers that point toward aspects of Crawford's performance that require more work--or, more succinctly, weaknesses at the plate. Or, more specifically, trouble with left-handed pitching.

v. RHP: .356/.387/.542 (59 AB) 
v. LHP: .150/.150/.200 (20 AB)  

Again, it's a small sample, but the difference throws his 2011 numbers in a new light: against righties he hit .217/.301/.307, and against lefties .133/.212/.233. Which leads me to believe that we can expect the shortstop position to be a Crawford/veteran platoon in 2012. Then the question is: who? I doubt they'll be sewing "Reyes" on a Giants uniform any time soon, but there was talk of Willie Bloomquist (who ended up sticking with the Diamondbacks), speculation about Jimmy Rollins, and then Andrew Baggarly's twittering: "Giants are looking for a SS as a fallback to Brandon Crawford. I can tell you Clint Barmes has some big fans on the Giants coaching staff." I want to say something about Miguel Tejada or Orlando Cabrera, but I just can't do it. And I can't quite bring myself to end it on that 'eighth spot in the lineup' note...

So Tao mentioned that he sometimes wished they would broadcast the Arizona Fall League games, for those of us coming down from watching the Majors all summer. However, he noted then that we'd be left looking for the next league after that, until spring training, until...what? has a year round package? Maybe that's not so bad. But maybe it's too soon to cast the harsh light of the camera's eye on the Jedd Gyorko's and the others who are hashing it out in the minor leagues.

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