8.03.2005

Grissom assigned for Winn, maybe trade better than thought

Grissom has been designated for assignment in order to open up a roster space for Randy Winn, ending his tenure with the Giants. Or has it? Alou left the game early today with hamstring problems and has been battling problems lately so perhaps, don't know how the rules for how assignment works, if Alou goes onto the DL, the Giants might just keep Grissom?

However, I hope not. As much as I like Grissom and wish him the best, I hope they bring Linden up and give him more experience in the majors and prepare him for the future. The Giants would be OK playing Feliz in LF, Winn in CF, and Tucker in RF (with Linden in RF vs. LHP) if Alou is out.

I was thinking more about the trade for Winn. Value exchange aside - what's done is done and we can debate endlessly - the main values that have been mentioned for picking Winn up is his hitting vs. RHP and his defense, though I've also heard complaints about his fielding as well. How much better does he make the Giants vs. RHP?

One of the analysis that I like to do every year is to take the starting lineup and average out their expected BA/OBP/SLG/OPS to see roughly the type of offense we would get from that year's lineup. It's not exact but I'm not trying to predict the future to the 6th significant digit either. I used this to analyze how the Giants lineups would do before each season and I thought I could do the same for the addition of Winn.

I did it for Winn plus compared the averages for Ellison and Tucker, as they would have been the alternatives, using each players' 2005 stats vs. RHP. The other starters are Alfonzo, Alou, Vizquel, Durham, Snow, Feliz, and Matheny vs. RHP. Winn and Tucker were essentially the same while Ellison was back a bit:

Ellison .279/.343/.403/.746
Tucker .285/.352/.416/.767
Winn .285/.352/.412/.763

It doesn't seem like much of a improvement, at least not for $3.75M annually. However, the OPS of .746 for the lineup with Ellision is approximately that of the Giants 2003 team that had a lot of problems with RHP, the worst covering the years 2000-2004 (at .700 for 2005, this year will be the worse). And the .763 with Winn is approximately that of the Giants World Series 2002 team (which was still the second worst vs. RHP for the period 2000-2004). Of course, 2000, 2001, and 2004 had near .800 OPS or better, but only made it to the playoffs in 2000, when Burks supercharged our offense vs. RHP, so hitting vs. RHP is not totally a prerequisite to making the playoffs.

And this is even without Bonds. But there were 3 regulars in 2003 (4 if you combined Santiago's stats with Torrealba's) who had OPS below .750 whereas this year there is only 1. And that combined to counteract Bonds hitting vs. RHP, amazingly enough.

Plus you don't have to platoon Ellison and Tucker in CF and Winn has better ability to steal bases than Tucker, though his SB% leaves a lot to be desired. I recall the break even point for SB% is 80%, the elite can do better than that - Winn is only at 67%, which is also his career average, which just doesn't cut it with me.

But you can just stick with one player with some ability to steal (maybe Vizquel will teach him a trick or two?) who would hit about as well as a platoon of Ellison/Tucker plus play some defense. That would allow a little more continuity in the lineup with Vizquel and Winn at the top of the lineup consistently, perhaps who is leading off will be dictated by past performances vs. that day's starting pitcher. Plus the style of the offense doesn't change as it would switching between Ellison and Tucker, if we were to platoon them.

So there appears to be some upside there for our offense, perhaps a tipping point, despite the small increase in OPS. This plus the factors I mentioned in a prior post on his higher batting line in NL parks (though small sample) and underperformance vs. LHP this season and on the road this season, suggests that Winn's performance could improve while with the Giants, reversing his career decline and boost the lineup more than what Tucker had been contributing.

I am still not happy about the trade but it does seem like Winn has some upside to coming to the Giants, boosting our lineup from poor to OK vs. RHP, which is important because about 70-80% of all ABs are against RHP. And there won't be a need to pinch-hit for Winn, as we would for Ellison or Tucker, if we had used them in a platoon, we won't be forced into situations where we have to hit Ellison vs. RHP or Tucker vs. LHP, which would depress the offense.

We'll see what happens, though, this might be all a pipe dream now that Moises Alou appears to have a recurring hamstring problem the past week or maybe more, so we might not have our opening day starting lineup plus Winn beyond today as Alou left soon after the game started.

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