Phoenix Reborn: I'm Now ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive

I am taking the unusual step of abandoning my Biased Giants Fanatic nom de plume and taking on a new one: ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive. I will be switching all my IDs around the place to reflect this new ID but I might either forget one or another or have a technical glitch.

I am doing this for a number of reasons. One is that I've found that people get a bit confused about my intentions and motivations when they see the "biased" part of the name. Hence my having to try to explain it in my description. I try (don't always succeed, but try) to be fair in my logic and rationale in assessing the Giants but I'm human and I make mistakes - I just try my honest best. I find my greatest pleasure not in seeing my team with rose-colored glasses, but in knowing how good or bad my Giants are and setting my expectations accordingly. Hopefully I'm succeeding more times than not. In any case, my new ID reflect my mind-set more aptly.

Two, I'm not proud but I've gotten into some flame wars with this ID on a discussion board. I try and try to have a civil discussion with certain board members but for some unknown reason they decide to pick a fight. The first few times I took the high road and let them go, but eventually it came to this old proverb: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

I decided to defend myself because the moderators there were either weak or a friend of these people who sink down to name calling and insults when their logic is not sound enough to convince anyone of their position (one sunk low enough to use my dead father to try to insult me). But this left me feeling all negative and life is too short for that type of stuff. Plus the moderators' lack of discipline and tolerance for these baseless insults grew tiring as well. I decided to leave for other discussion boards, it wasn't the only one in town, and it was good for my mental health.

Three, I think this name has served its purpose and has outlived its origins. The BGF moniker was a lark that started when I volunteered to help out somebody who started up their Giants website on Yahoo and was looking for contributors - so I had to have a name for my column and came up with Biased Giants Fanatic, which was funny to me because I try so hard to not be biased, but you know how good (NOT!) inside jokes are, that other people don't get.

Initially, I just did that column on an irregular basis. But I ended up posting articles pretty regularly. Then soon I was helping out with farm system reports, which evolved the next year into contacting the Giants farm clubs for interviews. It just grew from that and eventually became my online identity and I dropped my prior on-line ID that I had at that time.

However, soon my publisher left and one of my tormenters from the board took over. I decided then to try out blogs and publish via both channels. I found that I enjoyed the freedom of blogging plus my work would go out the day I'm done, not delayed because there was a queue of other articles ahead.

Of course, the thought of working under this person made my skin crawl but I felt I owed it to the former publisher, who was very nice, to still post there so that her baby could live under the new publisher, instead of leaving them high and dry because I was the only one regularly writing stuff beyond the usual game recaps plus doing original research. But, when I thought they were ready to fly on their own, I just stopped sending articles.

I am for the better for the experience of helping out with that website because I know so much more about the Giants (and baseball in general) today than I ever did before. I love swimming in numbers and there are numbers galore on the Internet and I love to analyze things. But now it's time for me to move on.

Last, but most importantly, I've found an ID that fits me to a T and I am very happy with it. I have thought about this move for a long time now, since the dark days of my on-line battles. But it never felt right to change my ID plus I never found a name I wanted to move to. Until now.

And while I like this BGF ID - as it feels like it has become a part of me, weirdly enough - it recently reminded me of the bad times when I was getting into battles when that person came back into my life and I hated the feelings that was engendered by that. So I've made the difficult decision to stop using this ID and switch to another.

To get a clean start. To be re-born. I won't forget the abuse nor the illogic of these people. I was going to list and provide links to the stupid advice this person had put out there, but I've decided that going forward from this point on, now that I got this off my chest, I will finally try to move on from all that. (But I was really tempted to post the links - really, keeping Snow at $6.5M was better than getting Vlad?!?)

So I'm going to switch to a new ID and hopefully it has a better karma but I really like this new ID and feel real good about this move. Take care and hope to see you at my new blog: ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive. (And sorry to those who have to switch their RSS links, I know what a pain that is, I had to redo all my RSS in switching IDs plus having to redo my whole format of myYahoo for my new ID)


Your 2006 Giants: The Wright Man for the #5 Starter

I could have done this earlier. I've written extensively on why I think Jamey Wright should be the 5th starter and with each successful outing that he has had in the spring, he pretty much pitched great, winning the position, as Hennessey has been so-so this spring and while Correia has done well too, Wright has been that much better plus has the "seasoned vet" status that Sabean appears to love so much, so I guess I can put up this post now.

Here are other posts on Wright:

  • http://biasedgiantsfanatic.blogspot.com/2006/01/giants-doing-wright-thing.html: covers most of the arguments I am making for Wright as #5 starter for the Giants in 2006, particularly his success on the road, how there were aberrations in 2005 that made his road stats look worse than usual, and the need to give Hennessey every chance to have a breakout year in 2007 because he proved to be so dominating but not in a consistent manner.
  • http://biasedgiantsfanatic.blogspot.com/2006/02/article-on-wright-in-chron_114092823767679317.html: has interesting comments on Wright from his former catcher in Colorado who happens to be our leading candidate for backup catcher this season.
  • http://biasedgiantsfanatic.blogspot.com/2006/03/rueter-retires-and-wright-speculation.html: speculation that Wright would be in line for long relief if he don't make starter, seems like that would be one too many relievers or that means only one of the three rookie relievers from last season will make this season, most probably Munter. But it looks like Correia is now up for this long relief role, which makes sense given how poorly Fassero did as a starter in 2005 plus the need to leave Hennessey alone in AAA to mature and learn to be consistently as dominating as he showed he could be in 2005, but would follow up with very poor outings.
  • http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/comments/2006/3/7/153944/0953/3: in addition I posted on McCovey Chronicles, which has become my blog home away from blog home, that when you look at Ron Shandler's PQS rating for Wright's starts in 2005, while he was a mediocre 30% DOM overall, when you looked only at his road games, it was a sterling 47% DOM with only 7% DIS, both very good rates from top of the rotation guys, not something you would expect out of a bottom of rotation guy.
  • http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/comments/2006/3/28/171936/410/4#4: I got my elevator speech on Wright down pat, this one repeats much of the first post, plus I threw in a new twist: since he is an extreme groundball pitcher, he should get more doubleplays probably. If you subtract his DP/GS from his BR/9 figure, oops, I should have used his DP/9 rate of 1.2 instead of the 0.8 DP/GS rate - I quoted a reduction to a 1.42 WHIP but it should have been reduced to 1.38, which is a good WHIP rate for a starter. Also, I noted that given his road numbers and potential at AT&T, he should do no worse than the various #5's we have trotted out over the past few years - Jensen, Foppert, Moss, Hennessey - while giving Hennessey a chance to concentrate on getting himself ready to take a rotation spot in 2007, because when he is going good, he is dominant, but unfortunately he was inconsistent the past two seasons, going from bad to great to back to bad in successive starts. We need to harnest his strengths and maximize his potential. As I noted in another thread above, 77% of all minor league starting pitching prospects fail when they come up without a full year of AAA pitching, whereas only 33% fail with a full year, or looking at it the other way, without a full year, only 16% do well, with a full year, 56% do well. Compelling numbers to just keep Hennessey in AAA in 2006 and get him ready for 2007.
2006 Wright

He has shown the stamina and ability to throw 180-200 IP in a season, which will be good for saving the bullpen, though he has not done it often, so I don't know if it was stamina/injury or just poor pitching that stopped him, though I've read that he has had an injury history (according to Baseball Prospectus' team health report, fee but most of it is readable for free). With a low 4 ERA lifetime on the road and potentially under 4 ERA pitching at AT&T Park in 2006, he may be able to get his overall ERA into the high 3's and perhaps better, depending on how much of an advantage he gets from pitching in AT&T Park. But at worse, he should be as good as any of the #5 starters we have had over the past few years.

He's not going to get a lot of strikeouts but it should be decent enough rate (5-6 K/9) and his walks will be horrendous, but he gets an extraordinary number of ground balls to fly balls, his GB rate is 10 percentage points better than Schmidt and he had a similar looking chart to what Matt Morris did his last four seasons, that should deliver a lot of double plays and force outs. His past DP/9 rate reduces his WHIP nicely into the 1.3 range, which is good for any pitcher, let alone #5 pitchers. Plus he keeps his H/9 down around 9 or one per inning, which helps a lot with his high W/9 rate. He seems like Rueter in that way, Kirk would rather walk you than give up a hit.

He could potentially pitch as well as Morris did last season on an overall basis, making Wright the new Kirk Rueter of the rotation: high walks, low strikeouts, somehow gets batters out enough times to keep the score close enough for the team to win eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a W/L record like what Rueter used to put up for the Giants regularly. At worse, he will be an adequate #5 starter and won't harm the Giants playoff ambitions, though he won't help either if this occurs. At best, he could put up Rueter-like number of wins with horrible other stats, looking like he did it with mirrors. His sinker and groundballs will be the keys to his success or failure. I think most of the signs point to him succeeding and possibly doing very well for us in the starting rotation, assuming he can stay healthy.


Your 2006 Giants: Vizquel and Matheny, Hidden Icebergs of Disaster But Relief/Rest Arrives

Vizquel and Matheny were considered to have had a better offensive year for the Giants than expected. However, if you look at their monthly performances, they just had a really good first half of the year for the Giants before settling in to the poor performance that Giants fans were fearing. Vizquel hit the following pre and post ASG, but his 2005 season was about spot on his career numbers:

Period - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Pre-ASG - .305 - .359 - .397 - .756
PostASG - .229 - .318 - .292 - .611
2005 - .271 - .341 - .350 - .691
Career - .274 - .341 - .358 - .698

Matheny main drop was in his sharp drop in HR power he showed in his first 3 months, many in SBC, but his numbers were much improved in power overall relative to his career:

Period - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Pre-ASG - .245 - .305 - .455 - .760 with 9 HR in 233 AB (26 AB/HR)
PostASG - .238 - .283 - .352 - .635 with 4 HR in 210 AB (52.5 AB/HR)
2005 - .242 - .295 - .406 - .701 with 13 HR in 443 AB (34 AB/HR)
Career - .239 - .293 - .344 - .638 with 64 HR in 3717 AB (58 AB/HR)

So which player will we get, the pre-ASG or the post-ASG? Is this a sign that the player is losing ground vs. the competition and pitchers were finally figuring out how to get him out, i.e. is this a sign of his age decline? Or will he do better under different circumstances despite his age and difficult position?

2006 Vizquel

Vizquel had a bookends of the season that matches his career somewhat in a backward way. He hit as well as his recent career numbers in the first half of the season but ended the season hitting as well (that is as poorly) as he did early in his career. In fact, he was great in April and June, with OPS in the low 800's, which is great for his position, but then from July on, his OPS tumbled down the stairs: .819 in June, then .708, .642, .534. There was probably some correlation with the trade of Deivi Cruz and Felipe feeling the need to play Vizquel more, resulting in him playing 25 games, 25, 27 in the final 3 months, whereas in the two months Vizquel ruled, he only played in 23 and 24 games (he played in 26 games in May and had an OPS of .617). Perhaps giving Vizquel enough rest will help him out in 2006 so that he can play near his peak vs. near his end.

Vizcaino will certainly help with that. With a career .664 OPS, and recent OPS in that range, which is not good but looks great compared to Vizquel's post-ASG stat-line, Vizquel has a replacement who will not bring the offense down too much taking Vizquel's place. So hopefully Felipe will feel confident resting Vizquel more frequently in 2006 in order to keep Vizquel's bat potent and his legs - which stole 24 bases, much more than recent SF teams have been able to muster - fresher.

In addition, Vizquel suffered from a malady that hits most new SF Giants hitters: trying to figure out how to hit at SBC. Some conquer it fast but most struggle with it to some extent during their first year with the team. Vizquel hit much better on the road, in fact, it was better than for his career, which is a good sign that his hitting ability was still sharp on the road:

Place - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Home - .252 - .333 - .307 - .640 with 0 homers in 274 AB
Away - .289 - .348 - .391 - .739 with 3 homers in 294 AB (98 AB/HR)
Career- .272 - .339 - .359 - .699 with 39 homer in 4247 AB (109 AB/HR)

Assuming he gets some uplift from figuring out how to hit at AT&T and from getting more rest from an adequate replacement like Vizcaino, Vizquel should be able to counteract whatever decline he might experience due to his age and position, and do at least as well as he did in 2005, and perhaps a bit better. He has kept his body in very good shape from all the accounts I have read about him so that will help as well.

In addition, for his career, he has hit better with men on base than with the bases empty:

Career - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Empty - .260 - .333 - .337 - .670
Runner- .294 - .351 - .387 - .737
RISP - .279 - .337 - .374 - .711
Loaded - .278 - .272 - .451 - .723

And, frankly, he probably came up too often with no one on base as the season went on. The Giants didn't really have a good leadoff hitter, after Ellison took over from Durham who was moved lower to help protect Moises Alou, until Winn came in and was on fire. This season, Winn should be on base a lot when Vizquel comes up to bat.

2006 Matheny

While Matheny had a second half fall-off, it was relative to the lofty heights he reached earlier in the season. His hitting after the ASG, while bad, was more in line with his career numbers, his first half was the aberration. In addition, looking at his monthly stats, it is clear that he started to tire by the end of the season. His OPS was steadily in the mid-700 range for the first four months of the season, with him playing 19-22 games each month, but then after Torrealba was traded away for Winn, Alou didn't trust Haad, so Matheny played 24 and 26 games, respectively, in August and September, driving his OPS to .699 in August and .560 in September. Again, a few extra games played appear to sap the strength out of Matheny, just like Vizquel in 2005.

With an established backup catcher in Todd Greene this year, Matheny should get plenty of rest to keep his hitting up. In addition, he apparently loves hitting at SBC/AT&T, particularly for power via a homerun rate double that of his career, than at Busch and he loves hitting in the NL West more than he did hitting in the NL Central, regarding divisional rivals he played most of his away games against. So Matheny should do no worse than he did last season, and there is every reason to hope that he might do better, given proper rest.

In addition, he hits much better with men on base than without, just like Vizquel:

Career - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Empty - .226 - .272 - .335 - .610
Runner- .256 - .318 - .356 - .674
RISP - .261 - .339 - .369 - .708
Loaded - .319 - .340 - .451 - .790 (about 100 PA)

Not sure how that will pay off for Matheny since, while Alou will bat 5th and get on base a lot, then Feliz and Niekro will follow. If they both start walking more and hitting better, as I think they will, then Matheny will face more of the key runners on situations and hit better overall, but if the two of them fall back to how they did in 2005, then Matheny's hitting will probably suffer as well, creating a domino effect at the bottom of the lineup and perhaps affecting into the top of the lineup with Winn and Vizquel at the top.


Your 2006 Giants: Worrell and Kline, Two Setup Men, Not Settling For

Tim Worrell and Steve Kline came to the Giants with poor performances in 2005. Worrell had personal problems that took him out in the early 2005 season and Kline just never adjusted to his new team and league. Some Giants fans question the acquisitions of these two relievers, particularly since Hawkins is pretty good against LHP, reducing the need for a LOOGY like Kline plus they gave up cash as well. But there were extenuating circumstances in both cases.

In Worrell's case, after he resolved his personal issues, he pitched well, compiling 2.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .261 BAA, 6.9 K/9, 2.3 W/9, 3.0 K/W, and 1.3 HR/9. This was very good and in line with his performances over the previous past 6 seasons. It was particularly good since he pitched at a hitters park like the BOB (now Chase).

In Kline's case, he had been a good reliever for 7 seasons prior to his poor year in 2005, with ERA's in the low 3's or lower and WHIPs under 1.40, plus strong strikeout rates and low HR rates, his main problem had been walks. But in Baltimore, where not only was he not very happy, but he publicly let that be known and the fans rightly crucified him for it, and he didn't know the hitters or the parks, which all added up to a horrible year all around for him. His return to career norms is not as assured as Worrell but he did do better the last two months of the 2005 season, compiling a 1.96 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, with low 2.7 W/9 though very poor 2.7 K/9 and 1.2 HR/9. However, Felipe Alou was his manager when he first did well and Kline has expressed confidence that Alou will know how to use him to best effect - often and in key situations.

2006 Worrell

He's been like the energizer rabbit for the most part over the past 7 seasons except for his personal problems early last season - hopefully he is over them and from his record afterward, he was. He may be old but he's never relied on a blazing fast ball nor been injured in the recent past. He's happy to be back - he didn't want to leave in the first place he said then and now and is glad to be back - and as noted he pitched well after he returned to action, so there's no reason to believe that he won't continue to do as well as he has over the past 7 seasons, he'll be a bulldog in the bullpen like he was when he was here with the team his first time around.

2006 Kline

He was very good for 7 seasons, with dominance in 2 of the prior 4 seasons for the Cardinals, but then stunk up the joint in 2005? And he's only 33 years old. We know how unhappy he was in Baltimore plus he started finally coming around the last two months of the season for the Orioles and now he's back in the league and hitters he is most familiar with plus the catcher he had his biggest successes with in Matheny plus a manager that he first enjoyed success with and who he is looking forward to relieving for because he believes that Alou knows how to use him best for performance and will use him often, which is the way Kline likes it.

In addition, there were flukey elements to his 2005. His HR/FB was 20% whereas the mean that all pitchers show fall to is 10%, so it was a huge outlier in terms of this metric, particularly since he didn't give up that much more flyballs than usual. In fact, his GB/FB ratio actually was pretty high as his LD was down from historic norms. And he actually pitched OK in Baltimore, it was on the road that he was not doing well at all, his BABIP was off the charts when normally it should be in the .300 range (generally plus based on career norms for prior three seasons). Plus he was about normal against RHH but just blew it against LHH, which I would consider to be an aberration given he was still OK vs. RHH, it was just one of those years.

The Giants fans complaining about the trade of Hawkins forget that despite the Giants giving up cash in the deal, they saved that much in salary after all is said and done. And that amount is approximately the salary that they paid for Vizcaino over Angel Chavez. So look as it as a trade of Hawkins with Chavez as backup MI to Kline with Vizcaino as backup MI. Plus while Hawkins could be very good at times, even with us he seemed flakey to me, I would not have been comfortable knowing he was coming into a high pressure situation whereas Kline has a history of doing well in pennant situations with the Cardinals.

2006 Setup

I think the Giants set up situation is going to be fine in 2006. Worrell and Kline has a history of doing well, with just a poor 2005 season to show for their troubles. I think Kline will replace Eyre's production for the most part, he has had 3 seasons similar to Kline over the previous 7 whereas this was Eyre's first good season so there was no guarantee that even had we retained Eyre that even Eyre would have replaced his 2005 production. He should return to his effectiveness against LHH and do well in AT&T where his groundballs will be gobbled up by a good defensive infield. Worrell will be the ace in the hole should Benitez falter in any way but will be a pillar in the setup role like he was in the past for us.

Your 2006 Giants: Durham and Alou - Got (not enough) Games, a Tale of Two Old Men

That's the irony here, both Durham and Alou "got game" but "don't got games." Both are excellent hitters for their positions, a great addition to any lineup but that's the rub, they have to be in the lineup to contribute. And while Durham did get into the most games in a season as a Giant in 2005, that was a false promise because he played at less effective levels because his power was missing, particularly against LHP, whom he usually killed, pushing his overall hitting from good to average. And Alou missed a boatload of games in his first season as a Giant, which is not unusual for him, as earlier in his career he missed a lot of games each season, it was rarer for him to play a full season than to miss games. So now that he' breaking 40, there's no reason to believe that he will suddenly play a full season, he will be like Bonds, getting rest frequently, to keep him sharp and relatively healthy. Hence the cruciality of Finley returning to his prior form as I noted in my post on Finley.

2006 Durham

So there's not much more to say. Durham is in his last year of his contract so he'll be playing for his new contract. With Frandsen and perhaps Sanders pressing for 2B in the next year or two, he probably will not be resigned by the Giants so he will have to make a good show of it in 2006. He changed his conditioning routine before the 2005 season to the one recommended by the Giants training staff because the one he was following didn't really do much for him the two prior years, but he still didn't do it under the staff's supervision so that probably undercut their effectiveness. That's probably why it didn't seem to do much for him, even if he didn't go on the DL, he was still hampered by aches and pains still and missed 20 games still, plus, more importantly, despite playing 22 more games than in 2004, he only got 18 more plate appearances so the extra games were only pinch hit appearances - we don't pay him $7M+ to pinch hit for us.

He will probably hit well again for the games he does play but Vizcaino is his backup this year so there will be a big drop off in offense when that happens, and it has basically happened for 40-50 starts each year he has been with the Giants. Hopefully if there is any hint of problems, instead of hobbling through it by keeping him on the bench and hoping, just put him on the DL and bring up Frandsen, if he recovers early great, he can use the extra time off getting into better condition.

His hitting vs. LHP should return to normal "killer" heights because his RHP hitting was right in line with his recent career norms, which suggests that the dropoff vs. LHP was just a case of small samples. In addition, over the past two seasons, Durham has been able to curb his strikeouts and has kept his walks high, so he has been in the top 20% of batters in terms of BB/SO ratio, and those are the best hitters. Thus he should hit close to his career norms across the board, because he has been relatively consistent in that way, it is just the number of games he does this in that is the problem. If his hammy squeaks, just bite the bullet and sit him down and let Giants fans see the future with Frandsen called up.

2007 Alou

Again, not much to say. 40 year olds - which Alou will join this season - will rarely play over 120-130 games in a season and he only played in that many last season. In addition, they eventually succumb to age and have a decline in production. So expect at most 130 games and hope that he only suffers from a slight decline because all players will eventually have a steep decline in production if they play long enough.

He is also in the last year of his contract and has said that he would still like to play another year, even if not with the Giants (hey, if I knew I could make $3-5M, I would play another year too.). So that should help to boost his production, though that did not do anything for Grissom last season. His hitting vs. RHP was in line with his recent career norms and his LHP hitting was in Barry-Land (1.157 OPS), so he played with strength in 2005 and that's a good sign for 2006. However, he had a very slight second half slump so that's a bad sign, though it was so slight, it could just be a hiccup. He also hit much better on the road than at home and he was still very good at home, his power did not suffer much at SBC, except perhaps for homers.

The Bill James rule for old players at the end of their careers, and he certainly has passed through that gateway, is that you assume he'll continue to hit well for another year, so I expect something close to what he did in 2005, which was close to what he did for the past three seasons, so there's that continuity and consistency there that is comforting. In addition, looking at his peripherals, if anything, his walk and strikeout rates have been rising over the past few years, the only thing negative I could see was that he had a decline in power vs. RHP in 2005 but that was only in context with how great he did in 2004 vs. RHP, else 2005 would have been in line with previous seasons.

There are only two caveats. One is that I would also throw in a slight decline to account for his age. Two is that the main problem, as with Durham, is how many games he will play, though if Finley can hit anywhere close to his recent career norms before his horrendous 2005 season, he (or rather Winn) would be an adequate replacement for Alou in RF, unlike the problem of what happens when Durham is out of the lineup.


Bonds Lawsuit Against "Book of Shadows"

Well, the lawsuit the Against-Bonds contingent was been clamoring for has arrived, though probably not in the way that would appease them. Bonds is suing not for libel but for something arcane called, "California's Unfair Competition Law." Sports Law Blog gives their take on it here. Though they say that libel is very hard to prove - "Generally, libel is difficult to prove, and as you can tell by their more burdensome standard for proving guilt, public figures have an especially difficult time winning libel suits." - then they say that others have won before, which paints Bonds, to my reading, with a guilty color.

I'm not a lawyer, but the two examples given as winners were cases where it can be proven that the defendents were lying. In Carol Burnett's case, all she needed was Henry Kissinger and another uninterested party at that restaurant to attest that she was not "drunk and arguing." In the other case, all the guy needed to do was have a copy of the interview and prove that he was misquoted. Both cases involve incidences where the plaintiff could prove their version of the story.

But how does Bonds prove a negative? As I noted in a comment in response to another comment on this on another post, if I ask any guy whether he still beats his significant other, he cannot prove that I'm wrong and being malicious. So it seems to be fallacious for people to demand that Bonds sue for libel, when there is no chance to win against claims that you used an illegal substance because there is no way you can prove that, this is a claim on a continuous length of time, not a pinpoint period of time as in the two cases that were won.

In addition, look at the example in the Sports Log Blog of a suit that didn't win. Jerry Falwell sued when Hustler parodied an ad but putting Falwell in there discussing partaking in incest, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was protected by the First Amendment, no matter how upsetting the satire may be. That was pretty heinous and Falwell couldn't do anything about that, partially because he cannot prove maliciousness, but I would assume there is no way he could prove he was not partaking.

Not a Bonds Believer, But A American System Believer

Again, not that I believe that Bonds is innocent. I've been beaten down and agree that it certainly looks suspicious and, in any case, I've always acknowledged that the anti-Bonds side had some good ammo, only that there is now more ammo and bigger. However, there is enough "buts" out there that suggest that that Bonds could do what he did legitimately, so it is not like I believe he is absolutely guilty either, though right now my suspicisions (and that is all they are) is that he is using human growth hormone which is untraceable. In addition, some of the logic people have been using for Bonds could also be applied to Hank Aaron as well and to Ted Williams, so does that mean they were using too?

So if we are going to claim he is guilty, we need more conclusive evidence than that provided so far, we need unimpeachible sources. And there is enough issues of impartiality to say that the "evidence" exposed in the books are not actually truths. How do you trust the word of a woman who is scorned and looking for money? Particularly since it has been over a year that she accused him of hiding baseball card signing income and yet the government has not lifted one finger yet to bring Bonds to justice, which would blow a big hole in the only other blockbuster claim that she made about Bonds.

And fraud like this is not new. Pete Rose was caught and sent to jail in the early 1990's. Duke Snider and Willie McCovey was caught around the same time and had to plead guilty to tax evasion. This is something the government is experienced in ferreting out and prosecuting famous people for this. And putting them behind bars when necessary.

And Bonds, given how fast he got a lawyer just for the steroids controversy, obviously uses experts to guide him when he needs help. Does anyone really think he would risk going to jail to pocket $80K in baseball card income when he was making $10M per year at the time? Especially with old family friend Willie McCovey to warn him to watch out for the government, or he could get thrown in jail like Pete Rose? No, he would get a tax lawyer who will lay it straight for him so that he does everything right and not risk that.

How do you trust the word of a man who claims to be a friend but, according to Sheffield, had problems with the way Bonds was treating him - Bonds made him look really bad by correcting his instruction in front of a client - and could have been jealous of his much more successful friend, particularly since Bonds appeared to be stingy with what he paid Anderson for his services.

If you are going to accuse someone of such a serious accusation, you need to have more proof than "well, it looks like he did it." You need something that the government can put him in jail for. And they have the perfect opportunity to do it, Bonds testified that he didn't use and the government has all these schedules and other "proof" that is trotted out in the book. If the proof was good, then why isn't Bonds convicted? Why isn't he in jail, they have had this information for years now. That is how our system works, innocent until proven guilty.

Inconsistencies Kills the Story Woven

And even if you believe all the stories told, there is a huge inconsistency between the stories. The reporters would have been better off just focusing on the Balco leak, but that wasn't enough so they included the mistress. But she claims that he was totally paranoid and worried about his legacy as a ballplayer. And Sheffield showed that Bonds was not above openly correcting his hired help - and they hated Bonds for it - if he thought they were screwing up plus was a control freak who tried to control Sheffield, who was none too happy about it; his story is probably the most unimpeachible of the three.

If you believe those, then how can you believe that Bonds would allow Anderson to have any evidence linking Bonds to drug usage? If I was paranoid and worried about my legacy, I would barge into Anderson's home like a SWAT team and shake everything down to make sure that he wasn't being stupid and leaving evidence. And I would randomly do it too, just to be sure he isn't screwing up - again - and do anything to incriminate me. And I certainly wouldn't allow an invoice to be issued under my name for these drugs, I would force Anderson to buy them under his name and I pay him under the table in small bills over time. In addition, I would have laughed in the face of Conte when he asked me to advertise for his vitamins in a Happy Happy Joy Joy ad. I took the liberty to put Bonds smiling face here but the link is here if you want to see it as it exists on-line.

None of this holds together when you put all the logical implications of the various stories out there together. But when you go into this with the hypothesis that Bonds is guilty, you don't bother to work out the inconsistencies in the stories and just accept what the reporters say, or rather, what the government prosecturos were saying, since they were the ones who leaked the information to the reporters - the reporters would have nothing if they didn't get those illegally released documents.

Prosecutors Not Infallible

Also, because the information is from a Grand Jury investigation, it lends weight to the findings because most people believe that our legal system is infallible (I believe in our system but know that it is definitely fallible) . However, the San Jose Mercury recently had this big expose about prosecutors who made all sorts of errors in their trials, particularly in favor of their hypothesis:
Here's a opening quote from the article:

The three cases are among hundreds examined in an unprecedented three-year Mercury News investigation of the Santa Clara County criminal justice system
that shows a disturbing truth:

A dramatic number of cases were infected with errors by prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges, and those errors were routinely tolerated. In dozens of cases, the errors robbed defendants of their right to a fair trial. And in a small number of the very worst cases, they led people to be wrongly convicted.

The study reveals "a basic truth about how the criminal justice system operates," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law and ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Levenson was one of seven experts in criminal procedures and ethics who reviewed the Mercury News findings. "A lot of sausage gets pushed through that machine. Errors that help the prosecution are common. The uneven nature of criminal justice is a serious concern."
I think this shows that prosecutors are not infallible in pursuing their trial convictions and, in particular, their zealousness blinded them to the truth. I don't doubt that there are a lot of prosecutors, even among the ones who committed these errors, who care about justice and who do their best to do what's right, but this article shows that there are problems with the system that need to be fixed. And for a government employee to be unable to prosecute because they didn't have enough evidence, then illegally releasing this information to reporters, shows how zealous he or she was.

Also, this paragraph was very eye opening (my bolding): "The review established that in 261 of the appellate cases reviewed -- more than one in every three of the total -- the criminal trial had been marred by questionable conduct that worked against the defendant. In only about one in 20 cases did the defendant win meaningful relief -- either a new trial or a significantly reduced sentence -- from higher courts." That is a huge rate of problems! And brings into question how valid these suppositions (not truths) proferred by the authors are given the likelihood that the investigation was compromised by an overzealous government prosecutor.

Taking the Higher Moral Ground

In addition, I just heard one of the reporters rationalizing why he had to circumvent U.S. grand jury laws and release the grand jury testimony: to save the children from the scourge of steroids. I had to laugh at that one. It is the news that glorifies and publicizes all this stuff. If the news were operating the way it was in the 1920's, we wouldn't know about Bonds taking steroids, we would just know he was hitting homers at a great pace. We would see him hulk out over time but assume that he earned his muscles the old fashion way.

If anything, they will now contribute to widening the use of this. They are laying out what is claimed to be his entire regimen of taking the drugs. Before, kids could wonder if they were doing the right thing, or taking too much. But if they go over the whole regimen in their book - and it is my understanding that they laid that all out according to all the marketing hype I have heard about the book - then they have a ready recipe that a superstar player "reportedly" used to get bigger and stronger and they don't have to worry as much about poisoning themselves, as long as they hold to the recipe and get a clean and reliable source of the drugs.

If they don't want to add to the scourge, then stop reporting on baseball games that Bonds play in. F' the readers of your newspaper, you are doing something to save their children's souls, they will thank you later that they are not hulked out loonies using steroids. While they are at it, don't report all the various evils of society that happens on a daily basis, just report news as if we live with Beaver Cleaver as neighbor and "Father Knows Best", because the news just teaches the kids new ways of breaking the law, of how to mis-behave.

Also, how does the book discourage the youth of America from using steroids any more than the newspaper articles did? Even with all the proselytizing on how bad Bonds is from this book, I don't see the youth of America being saved in any incremental way by the book over the newspaper articles. There was already all the news about Balco the past two years, the kids would have to be living with their heads in the sand for them not to get the message. In addition, there were the blowups with Palmeiro, Giambi, and Sheffield at various times to further drive the point home.

And yet the point is actually being driven another way for some of these youths: these stars probably used, made a lot of money, and they still look pretty healthy to me, just not held in high esteem by society, but remember the millions of dollars. How does that convince kids not to use? It would have been much more effective if they wrote a book discussing all the horrible things that would happen to you if you took steroids. But that don't sell books - however, a tell-all book on Barry Bonds, well, that's a horse of another color!

So the only reason to do a book would be to make money as authors, not this high moral ground of saving the youth of America, because there is a lot of other more effective ways of accomplishing this. Not that there is anything wrong with making a buck, but don't make it seem like a noble cause by saying you are doing it for the kids when there are better ways of influencing the youth of America.


Your 2006 Giants: Niekro Just Fine, Maybe Better Than Fine

After a nice long run, JT Snow was let go by the Giants after his road power finally left him, and the Giants gave the 1B job to Lance Niekro. Niekro, who has been in our system since being drafted in 1999, has always been a good for hitting .300 all the way up the minors and just recently the power kicked in and he started pounding them out more often, a lot more.

He had a nice start to his MLB career in 2005 but he ended the season on a very poor note, bad enough that the Giants have qualified their support for him as starter. In addition, there is his long history of injury which struck him again last season, and happen to strike right when his stats started declining, so it was not clear whether the injury caused it or if the league happened to finally figure things out around that time. Normally, this bad second half is an indicator that pitchers had figured him out but the injury muddles the analysis enough to make it not clear what happened.

Not Quite Day and Night

Like Finley, there are signs either way that he's bad or good. He was hitting .308/.336/.564/.900 with 7 HR in 117 AB when he got injured. After that he hit only .211/.266/.385/.651 with 5 HR in 161 AB. And that does seem abnormal because his minor league stats translated into him being a .250-.270 hitter in the majors. So he did really well early in the season before his injury seemed to put a cramp into his hitting style plus he wouldn't be able to hit .300 in the minors if he couldn't hit RHP to some extent, so perhaps it was a flukey thing in the latter half of 2005.

Also like Finley, his injury appeared to affect his hitting vs. the opposite thrower. While his hitting vs. RHP did suffer initially, he was able to hit to his normal level for much of the season until the last month when perhaps fatigue set in since it was his first full MLB season, which is longer than what he did in the minors. Whereas his LHP hitting slowly sunk from the point of the injury. Conversely, however, he starting striking out a lot more, off the charts, against RHP at the end of the season, after being in the good zone most of the season. And he was able to stay pretty good vs. LHP, particularly his ISO, until, again, late in the season.

Again like Finley, Niekro's home park did him in. His great start was almost entirely driven by his road numbers. Possibly because he had to leave hitter's havens like Colorado and Arizona, his road numbers fell like a rock. And I don't know if it was a coincident or not but once he had his injury, his road numbers dropped off the clift whereas his numbers at home stayed in the same crappy range. And his strikeout rate just exploded after that on the road, whereas at home it was relatively consistent. He was in the "good" range on the road until around August, same with his ISO.

And while he had problems at home, his ISO at home rose from average to good as the season progressed, suggesting that he slowly figured out how to hit at home. This is similar to the struggles that Grissom, Durham, and Alfonzo ran into their first season in SF, there was an interview with Grissom where he talked about the trio's difficulties figuring out SBC/AT&T. So his power stayed, only he couldn't buy a hit, but he started figuring out how to get walks.

Other factors that affected his hitting was three things related to his injury. One was that because he started less, it was harder for him to get into a groove and, at the same time, harder to get out of slumps because he wasn't playing as regularly. Problems at the plate tends to weight on players longer that way. In addition, by being on the bench, he had to pinch hit a lot, about 30-35 times after his injury. The pinch-hitting after the injury killed his numbers and masked his adequate peripherals. Spliting it out (I took his game stats and I assumed 3 PA or higher was a start, else PH), I got this (plus I threw in his before numbers too so one can see how much he dropped):

his role - OPS - BB% - Contact% - BB/SO - AB/HR
Start - .667 - 7.7% - 80.3% - 42.3% - 26.4 AB
PHing - .578 - 3.3% - 58.6% - 8.3% - no HR
(Before - .900 - 4.1% - 87.2% - 33.3% - 16.7 AB)

As you can see his peripherals as a starter were OK, BB% was about average, Contact% was about average, his BB/SO was a little low (50% is min for acceptable major leaguer). Plus his HR rate was still good, 20+ homer pace. But his hitting performance did not truly reflect his OK peripherals. And pinch-hitting just totally killed his numbers in the second half and for the season.

Third is that his ISO showed that he had power when he connected, but as his sky-high strikeouts showed, his contact rate went way down, resulting in a huge drop in his fly ball rate. But the good news there is that his fly ball rate returned in the last weeks of the season. And recent research has shown that a batter's HR rate is related to the number of fly balls he hits.

Niekro 2006

Given small samples and extremes, his 2006 numbers will probably end up between the extreme of what he was hitting when he got injured (had a .900 OPS) and of what he was hitting after the injury (had a .667 OPS if you exclude all the pinch-hitting). I know, big whoop, it doesn't take much to say this. The significance of this range is that he will be batting 7th mainly for the Giants in 2006. Even if he hits poorly, while that is bad relative to most team's 1Bman, he would fit right in with the other 7th place hitters across the league. The median OPS was .702 for the NL, which is not far from the .667 OPS he had as a starter after his injury.

Even a minor uptick from recovering from his injury would cover that difference and put him in the middle plus be better than what the Giants got in 2005. If he can either consolidate what he was learning in the second half regarding walks or hit like he did before the injury, he only needs to hit .713 to be 7th in the NL and only needs to hit at least .800 to be in the top 3 in the NL. However, he needs to avoid the injuries, which, unfortunately, he's already got something this spring, hopefully this gets it out of his system and he can be healthy during the season.

And frankly, successful winning teams don't rely on a good hitting 7th place hitter, they are a luxury. The teams with the best 7th place hitters were, for the top half of the NL, were Mets, Brewers, Reds, Cards, San Diego, Florida, Dodgers, and Cubs. Most were .500 or worse teams, only the Cards were much over .500. Out of the other playoff teams, the Braves were 9th, so they were in the bottom half of teams and that was an OPS of .695. And Houston was 16th or last with .610.

People are focused too much on Niekro as a weak link because he's a firstbaseman and not hitting like other firstbasemen. While that is of some concern, the Giants have a pretty good top of the lineup with Winn, Vizquel, Durham, Bonds, and Alou, with Finley as an adequate substitute if he bounces back to his previous hitting performance. And Feliz could make it even stronger if he does breakout like I think the indicators appear to be saying. If the other hitters hit like they are suppose to, we don't need Niekro to hit as well as other firstbasemen, though that would make our lineup even better.

Lastly, and I think very importantly, he seems to be taking very seriously this opportunity to start. He has made adjustments in his hitting that has been evident even in the small sample spring stats. His dad told him it might be his one and only chance to start, which he appears to have taken to heart. He at least is talking the talk by saying he's working hard to earn 1B, not just take it by default, not just take it because he is being given it.

According to this well timed artice on him, he added on 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason. That should help him with hitting with more power and that should help him with lasting deeper into the season, assuming some of his late season decline was related to insufficient conditioning. The article also confirms much of the above paragraph. He noted, "I'm trying to be more selective and find a pitch in the zone." That's straight out of Ted Williams hitting book, which I loved as an instructional for hitting, it tried to make a science of hitting (and coinky-dink enough, that's the title, The Science of Hitting) and helped turn a 90 lb weakling hitter like me into the Pete Rose of our 8-1 intramural college team (FYI: if you just love hitting balls over and over again, I got to do that 25 years ago at Chabot College taking their summer baseball class - there wasn't enough people for a game so the 3-4 of us just fed the hitting machines to each other. Pure joy.)

In addition, it noted that he has made adjustments. He has altered his stance so that he's now staying over the ball better, according to the Giants batting coach, and it's a much quicker path to the ball with a lot of power. The coach feels that since he is stronger now, it has given Niekro confidence plus when you are weaker you have a tendency to lose your mechanics quickly. Hopefully that will keep him out of the funk that he admitted affected him greatly, whether lefty or righty. He noted, "there were a couple of pitches they were getting me out on, even lefties, and once they found that spot they started attacking me." And it showed in his stats, with the huge jump in strikeouts at the end of the season. But now it looks like the pitchers will have to adjust back, so it will be a battle this season

So when I add that all up, even at his worse, he's around the league middle for 7th place hitters. And if you assume he can hit better than he did in the second half, taking out injury and PHing, then he's pushing above the median. And if he can return to his pre-injury hitting, he'll be one of the top 7th place hitters. And if he can hit in the low .800 OPS, he would be in the middle of the pack among firstbasemen. Lastly, his .900 OPS to start last season would have put him 6th and close to the 4th and 5th spots. He should be fine starting at firstbase for the Giants this season and there are a number of signs that he could be better than fine.


Lefty's Post on SF Prospects

There is a great post at Lefty Malo's yesterday, titled "Temperance Movement," it discusses not the woman anthropologist on the TV show Bones, my favorite new show of the TV season (only because Grey's Anatomy technically started up last season), but how most farm systems normally only hold at any time eight future major leaguers: two position starters, two bench players, two starting pitchers, and two relievers. Or, as Lefty put it, only 4 (or 3%) of the 150 or so prospects will be valuable starters in the majors.

This backs up what I've been saying with my draft studies, that it is very hard to draft regular major leaguers. Because if it was so easy or so likely, you would have more than 3% of your farm system be valuable starters in the majors in the future. If I had the time, the corollary study to do would be to see how many players "graduate" to a starter's position in the majors each year.

I wish I had a database program, the data is probably available via retrosheet, you just have to pull up each players' first season with X number of games played/Y number of plate appearances, where X is somewhere between 120 and 140, not sure, or Y is 300 or 400 AB, or even Z for PA/game, which is at least 2.5 or 3.0, all these will need to be determined. And for pitchers, it would be the number of games started, 16 (half a season of starts), 24 (3/4 season starts), average over 5 IP per game, again, something to be thought about and determined what's the right criteria, for how do I handle, say, Francoeur, Ryan Howard, and Zach Duke, who clearly were starters at the end of the season, but played less than half. I guess if the database also covered whether they were still eligible for the ROY award, I guess that would be a great delineator.

Lefty also had a good discussion starter question: who among the Giants current prospects (excluding Cain and Hennessey) are our future two position starters and two starting pitchers. I chose EME and Marcus Sanders, both have been described in superlative terms that went beyond just themselves as players but to span the minors in Sanders case, cause he was described by one of the prospect services as the fastest prospect in the minors. For pitchers, I went with Valdez and Sanchez, as both have been described in superlative terms, Valdez for his 100 MPH fastball (rare to combine such speed with good results in the minors) and Sanchez as I noted yesterday in the Hiatt interview. I would also throw in Frandsen and Brian Wilson as just missing (assuming Wilson is slated back to starting again since he is now fully recovered from his arm surgery).

He also had two other interesting questions. One was who was the last ROY for the Giants who was a position player. I blanked on that until Lyle noted Speier as a possible one. That jogged my memory because I remembered that he started a string of three ROY awards for the Giants, Speier, Gary Mathews Sr., and Garry Maddox, if I remember the sequence right (maybe swap the last two). The only other possible ones would be Clark (Jack that is, Will definitely didn't win) and maybe Matt Williams but I don't really recall either of them winning it, they had nice first years but not outstandingly good ones that I recall, but my memory lately has been pretty bad.

The other was the last Giants prospect to make the All-Star Game in a Giants uni. My best guess would be Matt Williams since he challenged Maris' record in the strike year, which is after Clark left, they would be the only ones I would think would have a chance to play in the ASG, because after them, the best Giants position prospects were probably Marvin Benard and Chris Magruder, oh and Armando Rios, and two of them are suspected steroids users.

And lastly, technically, you have to count Cain in the mix for the starters, because he's still eligible for the ROY award, I assume the Giants purposefully held off bringing him up in order to give him a chance to win it this year. The Giants farm system looks to be in pretty good shape with so many possibilities, but this is only making up for the multi-decade slump the Giants have been in since the 1970's, with only the Clark/Thompson/Williams/Clayton brief respite we had in the late 80's/early 90's. While I know that they haven't proven to be major leaguers yet, let alone starters, so I might be jumping the gun, I truly think the farm system today is probably the strongest it has been since I started following the Giants 35 years ago, when it had all those ROY awards plus Ron Bryant, John "the Count" Montefusco, Ed Halicki, Jim Barr, coming up.