Getting the Band Back Together

So the Giants brought them all back: Affeldt, Pagan, and Scutaro. There are concerns of overpaying and allowing the World Series glow to affect objectivity.

Other than the years I think these are great deals for the Giants. Obviously, we would all prefer 2 years for Scutaro and Affeldt, and three for Pagan. There’s a good chance the 2015 Giants will either have three old guys who can’t do much or they will have to eat some contracts.

But that eating shouldn’t taste too bad. The Giants spent $78 million for three players (the Braves, on the other hand, spent that on one). Scutaro isn’t making any more than Freddy Sanchez did last year for the Giants (to rehab all year). Pagan is cheaper than Shane Victorino (and better). And Affeldt is cheaper (and better) than what the Reds gave Jonathan Broxton and what the Dodgers gave Brandon League.

That’s about as good as you can ask for.

Bring back Cody Ross!

(-SB)

Big Answers

Yesterday we posted 5 Big Questions the Giants face this offseason. Today we try to answer them.

1) What can we expect from Tim Lincecum:

  • a) He continues to suck, the Giants figure out something to do with him (bullpen?), and let him walk at the end of the year.
  • b) He bounces back fully and the Giants have a big decision to make next offseason about what to do with him.
  • c) The Giants try to sign him this offseason at a discount
  • d) The Giants trade him this offseason. His lowered value doesn’t get the same return as a few years ago, but it could a be a good return and it would resolve (a) and (b).

My opinion is that Tim Lincecum is going to bounce back in a major way next year. I think he will be in better shape, I think he will work out the kinks in his motion, and I think he will prove to be a better pitcher than ever (if not quite as dominant) in 2013.

Tim can’t just throw a 95 mph fastball at the top of the zone and come right back with an 84 mph change that drop off the table anymore. But he can be extremely effective by relearning his fastball and by getting his mechanics to a place where he has better control (if less velocity). He is too good, too competitive, and too young to be washed up as a starter.

  • What should happen: I think the Giants should try to sign Timmy this offseason and enjoy the bounce back at a discounted rate.
  • What will happen: I think the Giants will stand pat, let the season play out, and make a Lincecum decision next offseason.

2) Can the rotation back up their performance:

A huge part of the answer to this question has to do with Lincecum finding himself. The Giants had their worst ERA+ as a staff this year (95) since 2006. And this was the first year with a below average ERA+ during this run of success. A lot of that was due to Lincecum posting the worst ERA+ of any starter in the big leagues. Like I said, a Timmy bounce-back is the biggest way the whole team improves in 2013.

I also think Madison Bumgarner will have a huge year next year. I’m a huge MadBum fan, and I think the kid just ran out of gas this year. But he’s a big strong kid who will learn how to build strength as the year goes on. I think he takes another step forward which only makes the rotation that much more solid.

I’m mildly concerned about Matt Cain. He threw 250 innings this year, and while the dude is a horse I think some fatigue showed up in the post-season: too many home runs. However, there’s no reason to suggest he doesn’t do what Matt Cain always does: pitch well.

Ryan Vogelsong is also a concern. Late bloomers tend to fall and fall quickly. I expect Vogelsong to be very effective next year, but I think we will see more ups and downs.

Barry Zito is Barry Zito. He’ll have some starts that make you wish you had never turned the TV on and he’ll have some starts that make you think he could win the CY Young again. In the end he will have an ERA just north of 4.00 and win double-digit games. (One caveat here: If Zito hits 200 innings his 2014 team option vests…I would guess they manage that pretty carefully next year).

  • What should happen: the Giants staff should continue to be the strength of this team and Madison Bumgarner will be in the conversation for the CY Award at season’s end.
  • What will happen: I think the Giants will take a flier on a Vogelsong-like pitcher this offseason who will prove to be valuable because Vogelsong will miss time due to injury.

3) Can the lineup stay healthy: The real heart of this question, as I mentioned yesterday, is this…will this be the year we finally get to see Panda and Posey together, at full strength, in the middle of the lineup.

It is obviously impossible to predict health with any reasonable accuracy, but Panda and Posey will be in the 26-27 year old window the next two years, typically two of the most productive years for baseball players. If healthy I think we see a potent 1-2 combo in the middle of the lineup.

  • What should happen: Posey and Panda come to camp next year in shape and highly motivated for personal and team success.
  • What will happen: I think this is exactly what will happen with the addendum that the Giants sign Posey to a long-term deal this offseason.  

4) Will the Giants make the same mistakes from 2010: After the 2010 Championship the Giants just had to bring back Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez. Oops. Aubrey felt necessary because no one knew what to expect from Pablo and there were no other legitimate middle of the order hitters in the Giants lineup. But that was a frustrating signing as it seemed to block Brandon Belt. Freddy Sanchez was blocking no one and even though we all knew of his propensity for injury it seemed like a good idea.

The Giants are in a similar situation with Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Jeremy Affeldt. It is hard to imagine a Giants team in 2013 without those guys on the roster. However, they are all going to be in demand this offseason, and they are not going to be cheap. And they are not exactly young (Pagan being the youngest at 31). I’ve already heard about a Rowand (5 ys/$60 mil) type deal for Pagan, and Affeldt’s market just shot through the roof (no thanks to the Dodgers) now that Brandon League signed a 3 year/$22 mil deal.

TradeRumors has the Giants bringing back all three. I would love to see the three return, but I do wonder if the Giants will end up signing contracts that they later regret. I can’t imagine Scutaro getting more than three years (it really should be 2, with an option at most), which I think is ok, but Pagan for 5? Yikes! Affeldt at $8-10 million a year? Whoa!

Complicating matters is that the Giants have top prospects at CF and 2B. Gary Brown and Joe Panik seemed locks to make at least an appearance in 2013 (if not the opening day roster) after 2011, but they both had years that raised some questions. They cannot be expected to make an impact in 2013. But by 2014? Sure. I’d hate to see them blocked.

Affeldt is a huge weapon, but the Giants have two other lefties coming back next year (Lopez and Mijares). They also have Dan Runzler who actually could fulfill the role Affeldt plays (lefty who can get righties out too) if he can stay healthy.

All of this shapes up to be quite fascinating.

  • What should happen: The Giants should bring them all back, but at reasonable deals. I’d be ok with Scutaro on a 2-year, $18 million deal (with an option for a third), Pagan for 3 years at $36 million, and Affeldt for 2 years at $15 million.
  • What will happen: The Giants will bring them all back, but overpay severely, especially for Pagan.

5) Will the Giants make a splash in Free Agency: Assuming the above happens, the Giants will only have one significant hole and that involves Left Field. (Amazing trivia note from Baggs: did you know the Giants biggest FA signing last year was Ryan Theriot at $1.75 million. They spent a ton of money on existing guys, but that still caught me off guard).

The Giants have come up in a few Josh Hamilton rumors and there is always the possibility that another Championship could lead to (over)confident spending.

The answer to this question really lies in what happen with Scutaro, Pagan, and Affeldt, especially Pagan. If Pagan goes elsewhere the Giants might jump in on someone like Michael Bourn or BJ Upton.

The bigger question here is this: do the Giants take a flier on Melky Cabrera? Do they utilize a Blanco/Nady platoon (or some other right-handed, power hitting outfielder)? Do they have another trick up their sleeve?

  • What should happen: Assuming the “big 3” return, I think the Giants should bring back Cody Ross and use him in a platoon with Gregor Blanco in left field.
  • What will happen: This is the hardest one for me to predict and so much of it has to do with the other impending free agents. I don’t think the Giants will spend big, especially on a left fielder, so I do see them considering some kind of a platoon here, but I honestly have no idea how this one shakes out. I also wouldn’t count out a Cabrera return.

There you have it. I’m sure this will all get revised and mixed up as things progress, but that’s my very early assessment of this offseason. Good luck Sabes!

(SB)

Cody Ross, Pitchers with Long Hair, and Other Baseball Thoughts

  • I‘m going to miss this guy…oh wait, he’s going to be my neighbor now! So glad Cody will be on the Sox (wearing his sox high) and not, say, the Rockies. I will buy a seat in right field just so I can scream “thank you cody ross” at him 100 times during the game.
  • There’s been a lot of goodbyes from the 2010 Championship squad, as Grant has pointed out, and I think Cody (along with Pat Burrell) represent just how special that season was..but then so does Andres Torres, and Juan Uribe, and Edgar Renteria, and it goes on and on.
  • I run into a lot of Philly fans out here on the East Coast and hands down the two guys people hate the most: Cody Ross and Tim Lincecum. It’s a toss-up who is hated more. They hate Ross because he symbolizes how “lucky” we were in 2010, and they hate Timmy because he symbolizes how awesome we are at pitching how weird San Francisco is (his name is usually followed by a joke about weed, loose morals, or something along those lines…like the Phillies have been full of such solid dudes over the years).
  • Speaking of Tim, I’m pretty pleased with the contract he signed. The 5 year, $100 million deal would have been the best case scenario for the Giants, but I really like being able to take two years and see what he’s got before going all in. Especially if the Cain rumors are true.
  • So this is it, pretty much, for the off-season. Here’s your 2012 SF Giants. They could have done better, they also could have done worse. I still think that while it would have been great to see Beltran return, in the end, the shortstop situation is the big miss of the winter. Maybe the Giants brass know something about Crawford, or Panik, or someone else, but I this and sorting out the OF/1B as the two big issues of the early season.  

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/30-6/5)

Results:

5-2 (33-26, 0.5 game lead in NL West)

7-3 W @ STL; 4-3 L @ STL; 7-5 W @ STL; 12-7 W @ STL; 3-1 W vs. Col; 2-1 L vs. Col; 2-1 W vs. Col

Fun fact of the week: the 2010 Giants won 22 games by 5 or more runs. The 2011 Giants have only one 2 such games so far! Nonetheless, the offense broke out in St. Louis but the games were still close, then it was back to typical in the return to AT&T.

Hitter of the Week:

I posted a couple of days ago about Aubrey Huff and his four home runs this week surely are an awesome sign. But Cody Ross is my pick here because when he gets hot he is as good as anyone and can carry an offense (see the 2010 playoffs) and he is pretty hot right now. .407 average, 2 HR, 6 RBI and a stolen base this past week. Stay hot Cody Ross!

Pitcher of the Week:

No doubter here: Ryan Vogelsong has not only established himself in the rotation creating a full on Zito crisis, but he is also starting to raise the question of if he deserves an All-Star spot (remember Bochy gets the final say this year) and , dare I say, about who has been the Giants best pitcher this year. Here’s the Ryan vs Timmy line:

  • Vogelsong: 4-1, 8 starts, 53.2 IP, 42 K, 1.68 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 2.34 BB/9, 7.04 K/9, 211 ERA+ (before yesterday’s start)
  • Lincecum: 5-4, 12 starts, 83.1 IP, 88 K, 2.59 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 2.59 BB/9, 9.50 K/9, 144 ERA+ (before tonight’s start)
Interesting…obviously Timmy is still the ace, but Vogelsong has been no slouch…a truly incredible story if he can keep this up in any way.
Coming up: how about 7 home games! Feels good to have the team home for so long. After the home stand, three in Arizona, which means the next 10 games will give a lot of shape to the division outlook. Also, the return of Pablo is right around the corner!
(-SB)

 

 

Week in Review (5/2-5/8)

Results:

5-2 (18-16 overall; 1.o GB)

2-0 L @ Washington; 7-6 W @ NYM; 2-0 W @ NYM; 5-2 L @ NYM; 4-3 W vs. Col; 3-2 W vs. Col; 3-0 W vs. Col

Here’s the thing about the Giants the past two years: the don’t dominate people in the traditional sense. The Yankees won on Sunday 12-5. They hit 5 home runs. They had an inning where they scored 6 runs. It is easy to look at box scores like that and think the Yankees are a dominant team. The Giants walk a thinner line; sometimes there isn’t much difference between a 3-2 victory over Colorado on Saturday and 2-0 loss to Washington on Monday (both games featured horrible situational hitting by the Giants and a major defensive error).

And yet the pitching…the pitching is so good. 19 runs in 7 games. And some of those runs were definitely not earned. The Giants can be (are?) a dominant team. Good week.

(ps. some great insights from Carl Seward here on Baggarly’s blog)

Hitter of the Week:

Great week for Mike Fontenot. One thing that I feel has been lost in the mix so far is the way the Giants continue to thrust unlikely heroes into the spotlight and then see them succeed. I hoped the Giants would trade Aaron Rowand in the offseason. I thought bringing back Guillermo Mota was unnecessary. And I thought, more than anything, that signing Mike Fontenot on the first day of the offseason was jumping the gun in a huge way. But where are the 2011 Giants without those guys? They may not do anything for the rest of the season, but whatever happens this year, they get some huge props for helping the team hang in during the first six weeks.

Also Cody Ross.

Pitcher of the Week:

Madison Bumgarner… 13 IP, 12 K, 0.69 ERA, 0.92 WHIP. 0 Wins. MadBum is back and though his record (0-5) is ugly, it feels really, really good to have confidence in the back-end of the rotation.

Also, Brian Wilson.

I know there has been a lot of downplaying the imbalance in the schedule so far, yet it has to be said: the Giants have three at home against the D-Backs and then go back on the road…again. By this time next week they will have played 15 home games versus 25 on the road. That’s amazing. Hopefully, when the Giants see the Rockies again (May 16th) they will be doing so as division leaders!

(-SB)

Winter Inventory

February is upon us and pitchers and catchers are on their way south. Tim Lincecum told me on facebook that he is already en route to Arizona via SF. At this point, it seems fitting to put analysis to the side for a minute and just be fans.

This community post focuses on what we enjoyed last season, our impressions of the off-season, and what we are looking forward to once the 2011 season gets underway. Read it up and feel free to chime in:

Favorite Player of 2010:

  • Josh: Brian Wilson. Now I know that most of you would answer this way and let me be the first to say, you are correct. There is a right and wrong answer to this question and Brian Wilson is the correct response. Reason #1 for his brilliance is his interview skills. Do I need to elaborate? No. But I will. I’ve always wanted a player to interview the way he does. He is in this game for the good times and you can see that in the way he talks and acts. I respect that. I embrace that. I love him. Not in that way. Reason #2 is because he isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong. He is darn good. I hate it when people say “More guts than stuff.” He has stuff, it just isn’t Mo Rivera stuff. I compare him to Maddox stuff. With Maddox, you know he won’t blow you away, he just hits his pitches and somehow got you out. (I still never understood how he was so successful with an 85 MPH fastball). Brian Wilson throws harder, but has the same attitude.  At the end of games, I’d have no idea how we won, but we did. He embodies the Giants season for me.
  • Tim: I know this seems obvious, but I just can’t help giving Gerald Dempsey Posey III this honor. (He’s just Buster to the rest of us). Seeing a 23-year-old kid come in and just take charge of a staff full of huge names was something to behold. He’s got the face of a 12-year-old, and the wisdom of a vet.
  • Jon: Andres Torres. The dude has all the entertaining attributes of a young kid that blew through the minors (speed, glove, leadoff skills, etc)…but he didn’t. Instead, he has an incredible underdog story now culminating in his early 30’s. He was given a chance, he took it, and he was one of the major pieces of the G-men’s World Series puzzle.
  • Steve: So many good choices…love Huff for the value, Posey for the potential, Torres for coming out of nowhere, the pitching staff for doing its thing, Uribe for his jazz hands. I could go on and on. My favorite player of 2010 though was Javier Lopez. Thank you Javier for making me look like a dummy (I hated the trade at the time) and for winning me over with your left-handed awesomeness. I never thought a LOOGY could inspire such confidence! Like Josh, I think Javy’s unexpected greatness represents what kind of year it was for the Giants.

Player You Are Excited for in 2011

  • Josh: Brandon Belt. Oh yes boys and girls, I’m talking minor leagues. I want to see this minx in the majors this year. Are you ready for some sexy numbers? Yes, they are minor league numbers so don’t put him in the Hall yet, but: batting average .352, OPS 1.075 (how the guacamole?), 23 HR and 112 RBI in 136 games last year.  He may need to marinate for one more year in the minors but I’m excited to see what he can do in September…Possibly sooner.
  • Tim: As far as explosive players go, no one beat Cody Ross down the stretch. He was knocking round trippers like his toothy smile depended on it last season, and the team really fed off of his energy. This guy seems to be the real deal, and it makes it even sweeter that no one wanted him, which made him perfect for our squad. I love his attitude, and his knack for clutch hitting, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the batters box and on the field this year.
  • Jon: Pablo Sandoval. To say the least, last year the Panda left his faithful fan base wanting. After an electric rookie campaign (well, not TECHNICALLY his rookie year which is why he didn’t win the ROY) we still have the sweet taste of a Pablo feast on our tongues. We just want a few more courses on the table this year. Let’s just hope the feast Pablo takes part in isn’t literal.
  • Steve: I’m looking forward to watching Matt Cain. The debate about Cain (is he lucky or good) rages on, and I hope Cain keeps sticking it to those who say it’s all luck. I was on the fence until the post-season…He gets people out, who cares how he does it. In a NL stacked with great arms, is this the year Matty moves in to the elite or does it all catch up to him and get a little ugly? I am looking for eliteness: a big 2011 for Matt Cain.

Best Move of the Off-Season

  • Josh: Miguel Tejada. Read my earlier post. The more I think about it, the more excited I get. I’m really looking forward to him at SS. I hope he gels well with the team.
  • Tim: Brian Sabean is doing his best to keep the world champs intact, signing Burrell and Ross to extensions. And yesterday, it was announced that Lou Piniella will be joining the organization. His passion for the game is unparalleled, and I think his fire-spitting personality will be a great addition to the team. I’m excited to see how he settles into whatever role he takes.
  • Steve: Obviously not a ton of moves to choose from, but the thing I liked was settling quickly and painlessly with all the arbitration eligible players. Also, Burrell for a million is a sweet deal.

Best Non-Move of the Offseason

  • Josh: Best off-season non-move was the avoidance of Pedro Feliz. It is well documented that I can’t stand Pedro. He has crushed my heart and soul with so many dang double plays. I saw that he was free, and something told me that Brian was going to pick him up. I would have been devastated. You can have him Royals. Good riddance.
  • Tim: Keeping the front office intact. Alternate Universe: Imagine if Bochy had been in his last year, and we had somehow not been able to re-sign him to be our skip. Who out there would be a capable leader? It would be great to have Dusty back in the dugout, but I’m gonna go with Terry Francona. Talk about an even keel! This guy is Teflon, and that’s what we would need to repeat this year. He’s proven he can win in a big baseball market, and handle the big names in the clubhouse. Lucky for us, we do have Bochy back this year, but if we didn’t, I would hope we could land someone like Francona. Kudos for keeping the leadership together.
  • Jon: I’ll give you a two-for and get myself kicked outta the Bay. Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. Juan was worth some serious cash after his last two years, but the Giants would have been crazy to pay him more than the Dogs are giving him. 3 years @ $21 million, really? Edgar, you are forever at the precipice of Giants lore after your 3 run shot in the WS, but you’re old. Great dude I’m sure, but way too old to demand the kind of cash money you were looking for.
  • Steve: There’s a small part of me that would love to see Carl Crawford in the orange and black. Sometimes I fantasize about Cliff Lee. Also, what if the 49ers had drafted Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith. Anyway, there is a part of me that says, open the wallet and go for it, but the best non-move of the offseason was not going crazy and keeping the band together. The formula over the past two years has been pitching, home-grown talent, and wiser/shorter contracts for useful vets. Keep it going!