Holy Crap! Giants trade for Randy Winn, giving up Yorvit and Foppert

"Are the Giants going crazy? They are three years too late in getting Winn!" Those are probably the thoughts of many Giants fans right now (besides those already asleep :^). They are my thoughts as well. But what a shock, there was totally no media rumors about the Giants interest in Winn, though many fans noted it (and hoped it wouldn't happen).

But what did we get and what did we give up? As much as fans apparently loved Yorvit (I guess the fans talk about trading Matheny will have to end), I haven't seen him walk the talk yet, his batting has always been the big question, defense aside. Frankly, it would not have taken him much to put the pressure on the Giants to make him the starting catcher: start hitting RHP. I agree that he hasn't been giving a lot of chances but neither were Ellison or Niekro and both hit well enough to force the Giants to play them more.

At minimum, however, Yorvit could have hit well to create value so that the Giants would trade him, but he couldn't do that. I also think that his mind really wasn't into the game this year with the Giants after the disappointment of the Matheny signing. And he'll be getting a raise again in arbitration and Matheny is clearly playing the majority of the games.

Foppert I really hate giving up and he's the main reason I don't like the trade unless there is something the Giants see about his makeup that says that he's not coming back and doing what he did before. There can't be anything physically wrong else the Giants could get in trouble, so I have to assume, like with Jerome Williams, there was some unwillingness to fix their mechanics so that they keep from injuring themselves sometime long-term. Except for a few glitches, Nathan being the latest and greatest one, Sabean has been pretty on target on in terms of who to jettison and who to keep so I keep my fingers crossed on that one and see what happens, what's done is done.

Now what? Winn does provide something that Sabean has been looking for: a good hitter vs. RHP. Winn is hitting .288/.366/.404/.770 against RHP this season, .281/.345/.401/.746 against RHP during his career. But there are two anomalies this season that suggest he could hit better.

One is that he normally hits better vs. LHP but has done poorly there this year, suggesting that his hitting could perk up with the Giants vs. LHP. In addition, he normally hits better on the road than at home but this year, while his home numbers are about the same, his road numbers are down, again suggesting that his hitting could perk up with the Giants if his hitting on the road catches up with his career average.

Of course, counterveiling these possible improvements is the fact that his stats are on a three year decline, as many fans have noted, also suggesting that the Giants should not exercise their option for him next season at $5M and let him exercise his option for $3.75M, which I think he would have to, his stats are not that much better than Tucker or Grissom and they got much less and his stats have been in a decline.

However, perhaps the decline was because the Mariners haven't done much the past two seasons - won't be the first time a player has played down to his teams problems. Plus his main decline the past two seasons vs. his career year is that in his career year he really hit well at home with Tampa Bay, much better than he has the past two seasons with Seattle - perhaps his hitting is not suited for Seattle's home stadium. Unfortunately, he hasn't hit well either at SBC in his career, hopefully that was because of the few ABs he has had here and he had the misfortune of facing Schmidt many times.

Back to comparisons, in fact, his stats are not that different from Ellison except that he hits RHP much better whereas Ellison mashes LHP. (Looking at his stats, Ellison looks like a great platoon buddy with Grissom except that Grissom hasn't hit anyone this season. However both Ellison and Grissom love hitting at SBC, or at least Grissom used to until this season). And, as noted, his stats are not better than Tucker's RHP hitting: .281/.366/.438/.804 for 2005, .265/.348/.438/.786 for his career. Grissom, this year however, even Mario Mendoza wouldn't have any problem hitting better.

The only difference is that Winn has not hit that poorly vs. LHP - during his career he has hit both well (not great but well), whereas Ellison and Tucker and Grissom are clearly platoon players. So that is the main value of getting Randy Winn, Felipe can put his name in the lineup every day and the offense won't feel a let down depending on the handedness of the pitcher pitching.

In addition, I guess the Giants think that he and Omar would make a good pair at the top of the lineup (I guess that means Durham stays hitting behind Alou). However, looking at his stats, the Giants would be better off with this lineup: Durham, Vizquel, Winn, Alou, Feliz, Snow/Niekro, Alfonzo, Matheny. Winn, for his career has hit .296/.353/.423/.776 with runners on, .288/.348/.416/.764 with RISP, vs. .273/.336/.398/.734. Whereas Durham during his career has gone back and forth on whether he hits better with runners on or not (this year not, at least earlier, he has gotten hot lately) and seems much more suited for leadoff, except that now with his leg problems he hasn't stolen that many bases and perhaps won't so as not to jeopardize his legs.

Overall, I think Winn will help the Giants get over the hump vs. RHP. The lineup above has the following OPS, respectively: .803, .763, .770, .834, .745, .697, .767, and .725. Only Snow now is hitting RHP poorly and while that is a huge anomaly for him, he IS 38 and could be having his final steep descent to retirement, even his poor years prior to this had him mashing somebody but this year, nothing. But at least he is still better than Niekro, who has an OPS of .632. Other batters OPS vs. RHP, who has hit in the lineup this year: Tucker .804 (but poorly vs. LHP, hence why he would be a good platoon buddy with Ellison), Cruz .623, Ellison .632, Grissom .547, Linden .593, Torrealba .375.

Lastly, I have to assume the Giants made this trade with the idea of keeping Winn for next season as our starting CF with Moises in RF and Bonds in LF and Ellison and Shabala as backups, because Sabean said that any move will be made in mind for both this year and next. Unfortunately, googling around, I saw complaints about Winn's loss of coverage skills in the outfield. Hopefully that is related to him playing out of position in LF (perhaps another reason why his hitting has dropped, look at how well Feliz hit playing 3B).

However, the rumors of fielding problems are not fully supported by stats. According to ESPN's data, his Range Factor is above his career average (2.58 vs. 2.36 in LF) while his Zone Rating is down (.867 vs. .886) (his CF is both above but only 6 games is not a good comparison). Baseball Prospectus has his fielding in LF to be good, about 8-11 runs above replacement for a 100 games, though his rate is considered average at 100. This year is about what he has done before when playing a particular position full-time.

Overall, not a blockbuster but not entirely a ho-hum deal either, as he will definitely improve our offense vs. RHP (OPS of .770 vs. Ellison's .632), replace Ellison's speed on the paths, and is pretty good in the outfield as well. I don't like the trade because of the loss of Foppert and it is not clear whether Winn can make that big a difference for our offense so that we could win the division, there would have to be another deal to bring in a starting pitcher to reach that and I fear what we may lose next in a prospect. But his addition is not surprising given what Sabean has said and the trade could work out, I just didn't like giving up on Foppert, he seems like a good kid and is a local boy.

Sidenote, in the wake of the trade, I forgot that the addition of Winn (plus the replacement of Torrealba with AAA catcher Yamid Haad), who is expected to join the team on Monday, means that somebody will have to be dropped or sent down. Does that mean Grissom will get the hammer or would they send down Ellison (which I am not sure they can do any way without putting on waivers, does he still have an option)? I guess we will have to learn more later today.

Go Giants! Only 5.5 games back now, inching closer and closer, tantalizing us fans, hopefully they can continue winning, or at least winning more than our NL West competitors are (we had the best record in NL West since June 1 but was something ridiculous like 22-31 in that time).


The end is nigh, sigh...

At least it seems like the apocalyspe is near when a vet like Rueter is openly complaining about his lack of pitching and his request for a trade if he isn't going to be used as a starter.

Et tu Rueter? Alas poor Rueter, are ye like all der rest of da ballplayers, oblivious to the obvious, which is: you stink! And stink badly this season! And for nearly $7M!

Isn't the equation pretty obvious? You pitch well, or well enough, you play. You stink, or stink mostly, you sit. If we are trying to win - and the Giants management is still leaning that way - you need to go with the pitcher who seems to be doing it best and consistently. Neither Rueter, Hennessey or Correia have been doing their best consistently, it has been a lot of ups and downs, so none of them has earned a spot in the rotation.

Teams that are falling apart have players complaining about playing time, in particular veterans doing the complaining because the youngsters haven't been doing it, at least to the vets satisfaction. Unfortunately, these same vets don't usually look deeply into the mirror to see that they haven't been exactly setting the world on fire either, and in fact, might be freezing the world by not doing well.

Given how poorly Rueter has pitched, I wouldn't mind trading him to another team and accomodating his feelings. But the sad fact is that he is not performing very well so to trade him to another team, the Giants would basically have to cover his salary minus the minimum salary in exchange for a low-level prospect. That is not worth it, may as well keep him around in hopes that he finally figures it out or just to take the long relief role.

I still think the Giants have some chance but it is dwindling daily and hasn't looked good since April. The Giants need someone to step it up and start performing great and carry the team. I was hoping that Linden would be that turning point, but unfortunately, he has not been able to translate his MILB success into MLB success. Or if the young pitchers could suddenly start pitching well, that would boost the Giants as well.

Instead, we get Rueter grousing publicly and players getting injured and/or going on the DL again...


Can't have it both ways

Those who deride Sabean's strategy of going with older vets always seem to forget that this means that you have to go with young, unexperienced players (young, experienced players are hard to come by...). Young players who have not established a baseline performance level. Young players who are still trying to figure out the MLB, as well as themselves oftentimes. Young players who are maddingly inconsistent in their performances. The last two days illustrate nicely.

Hennessey and Correia probably will turn out to be good 3/4 and 4/5 starters, respectively, eventually. They have shown that when they are on, they can be good starters. I recall one baseball expert saying that once a player has displayed a skill, he owns that skill. However, young players, like Hennessey and Correia, frequently are trying to figure out how to be "on" on a regular basis, how to harness and utilize his skills properly.

Hennessey is a good example. When he has been good, he has been very good, shutting down the mightly St. Louis offense, for example, in a quality start. However, as the nursery rhyme goes, when he has been bad, he as been very bad, as he just showed in his last start on Saturday, giving up 8 runs in only 4.1 IP. In fact, if you go through all his starts, he has displayed this Jeckyll and Hyde tendency.

Correia has been a little more consistent but closer to the mean. Nothing flashy or dominating but good games pitched, for the most part, with one bad pitch separating the good starts from the bad. That is probably why Hennessey got moved back to the bullpen when Reuter was returned to the starting rotation and Correia is now the #5 starter.

Ellison has been another good example. Over the season, he has had his ups then his downs then more downs, dropping in OPS from 1.201 to .733 to .660 to .503, month by month. Grissom is coming back at the right time, Ellison should sit a while and regroup and provide a spark from the bench.

If Sabean is not using old, experienced vets, he is basically forced to go with young, inexperienced players because young experienced vets are costly, either in terms of salary or prospects traded for him (see A.J. Pierzynski). And young, inexperienced players do not have consistently good performances unless you really got a gem. They are hot and cold, all the time. And it is hard to fight for a pennant when you have players who turn cold regularly like most youngsters do. Hence why Sabean goes for the grizzled vets who have a body of performance data that gives a clue as to how the player will perform if playing regularly.

Something old, new again

I heard something on KNBR the other day (Thursday if I remember right or was it Tuesday?)that made me realize that the A's philosophy is similar to Ted Williams hitting philosophy. FP Santangelo noted that the A's do not teach their hitters to take pitches and take walks to accent OBP, they are taught to swing only at "your" pitch, the pitch you can do something with, and to take all other pitches. That is totally Ted Williams hitting philosophy, hitting only the pitches in the zone (he has the strike zone marked out with your "batting average" if you swing and hit a ball in a certain area).

Well, not totally. Teddy Ball also advocated taking the first few pitches that you get in your first AB in order to get a feel for what the pitcher can throw that day, especially if it is the first time you ever face that pitcher. In addition, you give your following batters a chance to see a few more pitches from the pitcher, both in terms of number of pitches, as well as variety, because the more pitches and situations the pitcher has to face in that first inning, the more likely he is to throw all his pitches. He also advocated having an upper cut to your swing to get loft in the balls you hit, because he believed in getting home runs (obviously).