At least the Padres lost; the damn number is now 4

Wow, that's pretty bad, getting shut out by the Rockies in Mile High. Luckily the 'Dres lost so we didn't lose a game in the standings, just another game that we could have gained a game and get closer. Bad game all around, nothing much to say about it.

Now we will probably not see Bonds playing tomorrow either so it will be that much harder to win tomorrow as well; the Giants always seem to have problems winning there.

Speaking of Bonds, some local columnists (and yew know who yew are), are against lambasting Bonds for not playing the game against Washington, with one stating something like, "all you're doing is standing around for 3 hours and take a few swings." One, if it was so easy to do, then you would see more 40 year olds play in the MLB. Two, Bonds just got over a limb threatening disease and never got an opportunity to build up his stamina and conditioning much, so if any of these columnists have ever gone through something like that and can state that they were hale and hearty and able to "just" play a game, then they can complain that Bonds was a shirker.

Third and most incredibly, now we know what they really think of the greats of baseball. Shirkers of the first order by their reckoning! Hank Aaron, started playing less games when he was 37 and even when he was mainly the DH in his last two seasons, did not play a full slate of games; I guess they thought he was dogging it because, after all, all he was doing was sitting on the bench and taking a few swings every game. Ted Williams last played a full slate of games when he was 32 years old. He played in about 100-110 games in his last two seasons. They must think he was losing his head, him being only 40 years old and not playing a full slate of games; why all he was doing was standing in the field for 3 hours and taking a few swings. And it wasn't like he wasn't playing well when he did play, he had 29 homers in 310 AB, hitting .316/.451/.645/1.096, pretty good for any age, so the team wasn't not playing him because of performance problems, which could have been one reason Aaron didn't play a full slate (but really, Hammering Hank, lousy record, not getting into playoffs, last in the division, what else did they have to attract a paying crowd?).

Glad to know what these columnists really feel about the greats of baseball, these columnists must really be something special to put down the greats because they were old and not playing all the games in the season. I'm losing a lot of respect for columnists I used to have a lot of respect for...

The Damn Number is 5

Can't the D-backs do anything right? Sure, they swept the D-gers and that's always good but then they lose to the 'Dres and reduce the "magic" number to 5 games - any combination of 'Dres wins and Giants losses adding to that forces the NL West title into the 'Dres hands. Basically what Felipe Alou said about the Giants needing to win the rest of their remaining games is now essentially true. While that's theoretically possible, the odds are probably better that one of us win the new Mega-Jackpot Lottery that California had joined recently (Baseball Prospectus list the odds of winning the pennant as a bit better than that, at 1.69%, but that's a slightly different situation as it also involves 'Dres losses as well).

So it is gut check time. I understand why some people were mad that Bonds sat out Thursday's game; I trust that Bonds would not sit out a game like Washington's without good reason but unfortunately we needed him big time then and lost a close game. Then again, what people forget is that if he didn't push to get back to us in the first place, we wouldn't even be able to say that right now, we probably would have been eliminated already (or close enough) if he didn't come back and hit homers in four straight games plus affect games just with his presence.

To show how powerful a presence he is (not that any Giants fan wouldn't know this), but while at Baseball Prospectus, I checked out their runs differentials and runs scored W/L records to see how the season might have been different with Bonds in the lineup (yeah, spilt milk but I couldn't help myself). Assuming he would have added 1 run per game (or approximately so), I changed the record for each Run Scored category to the percentage (roughly in my head) of the next higher. So they were 1-21 when they scored 1 run but were 5-18 when they score 2 runs, which results in an additional 4 wins (5-1=4, roughly). That worked out to approximately 20 games or so, making the Giants record 91-61 right now and running away with the division. And 1 run per game seems totally reasonable; if anything, it seems a bit short, like it should be at least 1.5 runs. (And for something completely different, a daydreaming sidenote here: sigh, just think where we'd be if the Giants would have signed Vlad and not traded for Pierzynski, we probably would have survived Bonds' and Benitez' extensive DL's, that is, since Benitez wouldn't have been signed).

Anyhoo, OK, wishful thinking, but even if the Giants could sweep 'do-Rockies and the 'Dres lose the two games to the D-backs, the Giants are still 3 games back and would need to sweep the 'Dres to have a good chance of winning the division; going 3-1 would leave the Giants still 1 game back with 3 games left in the weekend. Still not eliminated but the chances are not great with that either and the 'Dres will probably win one of the remaining games with the D-backs and that would essentially force the Giants to need to sweep.

Nope, the Giants have to win at least 6 straight now if they hope to take the division and that is not likely as Bonds will probably take Sunday off; however, luck is with us in the San Diego series, all the games are night games, so Bonds should be playing all those games. So his next rest, assuming he only rests on day games after a night game, would be the last Saturday game of the season; he might play that, however, if the Giants are still in contention, reasoning that he has all off-season to rest.

Poor guy, he works his ass off all season to try to get back, endure the horrors of imagining losing his leg and what that would entail (think about it yourself...), only to have columnists accuse him of lazing by 1) waiting until the homestand so that he start off with adoring fans and 2) skipping day games after night games. How ridiculous, no wonder he treats reporters rudely. But that's a losing battle because most of them probably were neutral towards him until he treated them rudely because of some of the rude brethren they have and so on and so on.

Then again, none of them are willing to call out the journalists who cross the line, like all the ones who reported he snapped at reporters at a press conference after the World Series but neglected to add that he was saying that only because some of the them were about to step on his son (I would have bitched slapped them for doing that) or the ones who reported his "dissing" of the Babe when he was just joking around. For the latter, one columnist came close to putting down her fellow journalists by writing that anyone who was in the interview room knew that Bonds was kidding (Ann Killion, I like her writing for the Merc) but stopped there and did not take the next step of giving her colleagues a good tongue lashing by rebuking their actions.

I was just reading over this and realized that the Giants have a magic number as well. Perhaps that would be a better way for us to look at it. Our magic number is currently 15 as far as I can tell. That's because even if the Giants win the rest of their games (9), the 'Dres would have to go 3-6 for the Giants to take the division. The 'Dres going 4-5 clinches at least a tie with the Giants.

Yep, any way you slice it, the odds are very long of the Giants doing it. But just like this game against Pittsburgh about 30-something years ago - the Giants were down like 7-8 runs in the bottom of the ninth and came back to win the damn game - you never know. Or like Mauch's Phillies (1964?) which collapsed and lost what was a sure pennant in the last weeks of the season. Plus look at the ChiSox and Cleveland right now, basically neck and neck when the ChiSox had this "wrapped" up long ago. So there is a chance.

As it is not impossible for the 'Dres to go on an extended losing streak, but just not likely. So I'm holding out hope until we are officially out of the race but my hope is tempered by the fact that our Giants are pretty much out of it and the 'Dres will inevitibly win the pennant without trying much or very hard.


Post on another blog about Yahoo columnist calling Giants fans "naive bumpkins"

I was going to send the following to the Yahoo columnist (Wetzel) who called Giants fans "naive bumpkins" but then figured that he would selectively quote me and try to make me look foolish; they've done that enough times to Bonds. So I'll post here and you all can make me look foolish. :^) Go Giants!

I understand why you wrote the column you did and I understand why people place Bonds under strong suspicion for taking steroids. I don't blame them for taking that position, there is plenty to be suspicious of.

But I don't look myopically at only all the bad stuff. I also understand that Bonds has passed all his tests for steroids, despite examples like Mike Morse who is still testing positive after around 1.5-2 years of last taking it, which shows that usage lingers. I also understand that his hitting thus far, while a small sample, is not unlike what he hit the past 5 seasons, now "free" of the steroids that have been "helping" him.

And he never admitted to taking substances, only stuff that appear to be illegal in hindsight. It is possible that Anderson didn't use the illegal stuff with Bonds - why should he? Bonds was already going good. But for those who don't have Bonds genes, he can say "Bonds takes this and look at him. And he says good stuff about us, why don't you use our stuff." And his performance, while appearing to be an outlier, have other explanations as well.

If you examine his pre- and post- ASG stats from 1993-2004, you can see that his HR/AB rate is pretty consistent with what he claims: that after his injury he realized that his career wouldn't last forever.

It is not like he never had Ruthian power - in his leaner years he had a number of seasons where he hit so many homers that the newspapers tracked his rate against Maris and Ruth. And if you examine his record, he normally hit at a higher HR rate in the second half, which I think is when his superior in-season conditioning pays off. {I posted these stats on my site if anyone are interested, on my last post on Bonds and steroids}

It appears that what he did after his injury in 1999 was to start preparing himself to be ready for the baseball season from the first pitch of the season, instead of rounding into shape the first part of the season and then kicking it into a second gear in the second half. And he also boosted his performance by being able to do this all season long, instead of being inconsistent during the season. In addition, players like Aaron and Williams also experienced jumps in HR/AB rates in their late 30's, probably from the added weight that comes with age, so that also contributed to Bonds' improvement. Add all these together and you get a big jump.

If you don't believe the "naive bumpkins" in SF, why don't you read the column of your fellow Yahoo columnist, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg? "He has completely perfected the swing from the left side. He has the quickest bat that I've ever seen and he has more plate coverage than anyone in the history of the game. His eye is better than anyone ever, too. Barry is still one of the top-five players ever to pick up a bat." And he doesn't caveat the quickness by saying anything like "much quicker than when he was younger" or anything like that. And I haven't see anywhere that says steroids helps the eyes.

He has actually played with him and observed him from the beginning of his career. And he has no ulterior motive to his opinion, unlike Andy Van Slyke, who has had personal problems with Bonds previously. Bob Walk and his former manager Jim Leyland still think that he didn't take steroids, Walk being more credible because he is more of a neutral observer, like Sandberg, with no axe to grind like Slyke or friendship like Leyland.

You can also explain Bonds emergence by using Ted Williams' techniques from his book on batting. If you focus your swings only on the pitch locations that maximizes your hitting, you not only improve your batting average and power but also get a lot more walks along the way. And you can see the benefits of this hitting technique with the Splendid Splinter. In fact, Bonds hitting has drawn comparison with Teddyball's most frequently as a similar hitter.

Bonds has clearly become more selective with his swinging in recent years, just look at his strikeout rates, his batting average improvement came with his dramatic reduction in his strikeout rate in 2002, whereas his K rate was within career norms during his purported "steroid period" starting in 2000.

So how does steroids explain that? Taking it should have helped with that starting in 2000, shouldn't it, pushing up batting average and improving his strikeout rate at the same time as increasing his homer power? That's what happened with that Houston player, Caminiti, got power and improved batting average at the same time. But his improvement in hitting came later, once he adjusted his hitting discipline, as shown by his career stats. Else his hitting would have improved earlier if he were taking stuff.

But if you are going to condemn the records of people who have been medically enhanced to produce records un-medically enhanced, then you are thinking too small, you pretty much will have to take away all the records produced since probably around WW II, when the soldiers came home with the knowledge of the use of amphetamines.

From my understanding, the use of such drugs are rampant in baseball, that players would revolt if that were taken away. And unlike steroids, which has no studies proving what the exact effects on a human is, there is a lot of evidence on the clear benefits of uppers: they allow humans to perform normally when they are tired.

That gives them a huge advantage over players who don't or won't take them to "give them a pick me up." Based on that, I would say that any season and career record over the past 60 years could have been tainted greatly by the use of amphetamines, which allows players to play normally, and not as the tired human beings that they are.

Without such help, pitchers would not be as strong at the end of the year and give up more runs as they would make more mistakes on location of their pitches and not throw as fast. And the batters would swing and miss more often because their bat speed would be slowed. The ones with superior conditioning and genetics will pummel the ones who don't have them by the end of the season. That improves not only players' stats over a season, but over a long career.

The way I see it, you cannot separate the wheat from the chaff with any of the records. Despite all the strong suspicions, Bonds hasn't been tested positive even though testing has been going on for a few years now. And just because public opinion condemns Bonds doesn't mean they are right. I think the Salem witch trials, American's struggles with racism, and McCarthyism proved that.

And that's just with the illegal stuff with suspicion abounding but hard evidence relatively lacking. What about the lack of non-white players pre-Jackie Robinson (besides the rare token Jim Thorpe)? How about the change from using balls until the cover comes off to bringing in a new ball when the ball shows enough wear and tear?

How about the juiced ball that was introduced in the 20's? Many of the players who played pre-1920's felt that the "new" records being set were as bogus as people think today's records are.

Pre-spit ball and post? How about Gaylord Perry's records, because he admitted to doing illegal things publicly in a book? He was put in the Hall of Fame without question.

I think you have to leave the numbers alone or you go back and adjust everyone's, that's the only fair way, the only logical way or else everything may as well get asterisked too. However, baseball writers can have a say in history's judgment of players like Bonds and Palmeiro by not voting for them when it is time for them to get into the Hall of Fame.

I think Palmeiro shouldn't get in but I don't see why Bonds shouldn't. There is simply no proof yet, just hearsay and innuendo. I need more evidence than a reporter's obviously slanted bent against Bonds.

If this was something important, then maybe we need to observe the smoking gun stuff, but this is just the Baseball Hall of Fame and frankly, even if you took out his disputed numbers of recent years, he already had a Hall of Fame career. Hang the ones who have been caught, not the ones suspected but not proven. I'm willing to change my opinion once there is proof, then I'm all for it, but until then I need proof.

Addendum/epilogue: Thinking more about this, I guess I just feel greatly offended by the article. My eyes are not closed, I do not have blinders on, and I am not naive. I know that if I wasn't a Giants fan, I would probably be part of the lynch mob wanting to hang Bonds from his toes.

But I don't because I am a Giants fan and I've been following Barry's career since it began in Pittsburgh because I was mad that the Giants lost him in the draft because of a measly $5-10,000 difference in bonus money. So I read all the articles I could on him. I listen to all the interviews that I can. I've read in-depth interviews with him.

And I know that those bits of information doesn't necessarily allow me to know Barry Bonds or how he ticks. But from what I do know, it doesn't make sense that Barry took any drugs, at least knowingly. He seems too smart for that. Just because he can be incredibly rude to people, journalists in particular, does not mean that he takes steroids.

And he doesn't exhibit the psychology of someone who would take a short-cut like steroids to get better. Why ask David Eckstein's brother while on tour in Japan for a batting tip? Why wake up during the off-season earlier than people who actually have jobs, force yourself to mercilessly exercise your body, all before 7 AM? No, he would be like Canseco, uncaring about his defense or his hitting, it was all about the HOMER for him.

And especially after Bonds got his $90M contract, he could have just coasted after that, it was a career ending contract, he would be 42 years old at the end of the contract. But he didn't settle.

He could have just took it easy this year and not come back at all, no one would have blamed him, what with all the expected boos and jeers and taunts expected from fans. In fact some of his critics would have been happy if he stayed away, because he brought the "stench" of Balco with him and sullies the good name of Major League Baseball with his presence.

I lost some respect for a columnist for the Merc, Tim Kawakami, when he insinuated that Bonds waited until the Giants homestand to rejoin the team in order to avoid the road crowds. Why did he bother working out to get himself back here just to wait to avoid the road? He eventually had to go on the road anyway. And if he could face playing baseball while his dad laid dying in the hospital and still performing at top form before and afterward, that's more pain than anything a crowd can throw at him.

And look at him. He is not the picture of health. He has to leave games early. He can't move as well as he used to. He didn't need to come back at all. The Giants season was essentially toast by that point anywhere, with only a slight chance. It hasn't gotten much better, it is probably worse now, so he could have just mailed it in after the last homestand and say, "screw this, my leg don't feel good, I am calling it a season, I got a couple of homers under my belt so I'm satisfied, now I'll just rehab and get ready for 2006, good luck guys."

And people like to take vague things like head-size as "proof" that he took steroids but people's head get bigger as they get older, it can happen. And they point out the 73 homers, but that's one peak year in his career, there are so many players who just have one of those years, Darrell Evans being one of them. And there are players who suddenly start hitting more homers in their late 30's, again Darrell Evans being one of them, but also Ted Williams and Hank Aaron - they just walked more so it didn't show up as heightened production, like it did with Barry with his 2001 - if he didn't have that year, his end of his career progression would be very similar to Aaron's and Williams'.

So I do only what I can do: try to divine from the baseball stats evidence either way, whether he did or not. Taking it should show up in the stats, that is the whole point. And he didn't look like a user at the start of his career, so there should be a point in his stats that just SCREAMS "steroids now being taken." And from what I know, and what I have dug up so far, I still don't see it. It is not clearly in the numbers, not like Rafael Palmeiro's jump in production in the first full season right after Canseco joins the Rangers.

I've looked at career peaks. True, one of the higher ones in history, but I don't think outrageously so. I've looked at aging patterns. Aaron and Williams had a peak OPS late in their careers, Williams when he was 40.

Now I've looked at half year homerun rates just the other day. That showed that his outrageous homer rate didn't start until 2001, after the accepted start of his usage, prior to the 2000 season, that 2000's results could be explained by his half year rates not being that far off and indeed within the bounds of his career up to that point, only he was able to start the year on fire, instead of waiting until sometime after the All-Star Game.

And today I looked at his strikeout rate relative to his hitting. That I explained above but the gist again is that his batting average did not start rising until he stopped swinging at so many bad pitches, once he became more selective at the plate and swinging only at those pitches that he could handle, did his batting average go up.

Given the accepted start of his usage, being 2000, I don't see anything in his HR rate or strikeout rate that suggests anything other than self-improvement. If someone can show me proof that he took something to improve himself chemically, then I would not be the "naive bumpkin" as the columnist accused and condemn him as well.


Comments on Winn's new power and batting 3rd I posted on blog elsewhere

Alou has said that he might bat Durham 1st and Winn 3rd in 2006; he didn't do that this year because he didn't want to mess with success for Winn (see recent article on Winn on sfgate.com's Giants section).

The only reason they are thinking of him in the power position is his unusual spurt of power once traded to the Giants. He has averaged 20 AB/HR at SBC, 17 AB/HR overall, since joining the Giants.

Reasons why he's been hitting better and for more power? Maybe being able to go to his home in nearby Danville and seeing his wife and getting home cooking has really relaxed him and released his potential. Perhaps newness in the league but I would have to assume that this would quickly be figured out. I thought this when he started out hot but then cooled off. Then he suddenly got even hotter.

Sabean thought that Winn was more suited for the NL-style of pitching (see article). Winn himself said that he hasn't noticed more fastballs in the NL but that pitchers are more aggressive due to their need to keep their pitch count low, in order to stay in the game. Thus, even if they throw an offspeed pitch early in the count, it is usually a strike. And being an aggressive hitter himself, that has played into his way of hitting.

It also helped, him moving away from SAFECO, as he had a career 48 AB/HR there, but an OK .284/.364/.395/.759 hitting line despite the lack of homers, I guess he made up for it with doubles and triples that didn't become homers.

Not as scientific but certainly fanatical :^) I went to the Giants website and pulled up Winn's hit chart, which shows the location of each of the balls he hit and the result, whether hit or out, at each ballpark. Each field looked like they are scaled the same so I pulled up his hit charts for SBC, SAFECO and Tropicana, his three home parks (for some reason they don't allow an option to see all the hits where they landed with a fenceless field), printed them out, and eyeballed them aligning the diamonds together.

From that admittedly unrobust analysis, I would say that the move from Tropicana and Safeco to SBC would roughly double Winn's homer totals at home.

For Safeco,%2

Thoughts on Giants 2006 posted on another blog

This repeats stuff I've already posted, but all my thoughts are in one place. Also, some disputed my $82M figure; major difference I think is I have Bonds at $20M and lately I've seen $18M.

The Giants have at least $82M allocated already based on current contracts and expected young players but Magowan said that $85M is the budget target: so you can forget about signing any big free agent unless they have a change of heart and do what they said they might do, which is increase the budget, or somehow unload Alfonzo and/or Durham for salary relief.

I think their main needs are another starter and a power hitting 1B. Schmidt, Lowry, and Cain make a good three-some; trading any of them would be suicide for 2006 unless you get a better pitcher back. Lowry has been as erratic if not more so than Schmidt. Cain has proven that he is ready for the spotlight, Lowry got a starting spot at the start of 2005 with less performance highlights in the previous season.

About the last two rotation spots, Hennessey/Correia will battle for the 5th spot, leaving a free agent for the 4 spot in the rotation; I expect Hennessey to get the spot, he has been Dr. Hennessey and Mr. Hyde both this season and last, so he has to be given the shot in case he can harness it consistently because when he is good, he has been dominating. Matt Kinney will probably get a shot as well but unless he's lights out in spring training, I would rather go with Hennessey and give him more experience in the majors.

Positionally, we have players signed (or with options that will be picked up) for every position except 1B. We have enough minor leaguers to take backup positions on the bench plus Feliz as uber-utility guy.

Random comments on things said above:

I don't see the Giants cutting Alfonzo and his $8M contract but he could be traded for some other team's contract mistake.

Durham has been great... when not injured and he's been injured too much, resulting in a poorer offense when his replacement is in. I can see the Giants trading him for salary relief only, the either move Alfonzo to 2B (if he isn't traded) or perhaps let Frandsen get a chance there.

Vizquel's late season fade has hurt their offense since he has batted 2nd all season. But he%

Giants News From 9/19 Merc and Bonds is not real

Forgot to note that the San Jose Mercury had a little interview with Magowan where he revealed some tidbits about the 2006 season. First, they said that he reiterated that the payroll will be around the same as this year's, which was $85M. That is actually a slight backtrack from a prior statement where he said that the Giants might raise the budget for 2006 so that they could acquire a free agent, since the budget is already pretty tight as it is.

Second, he said that Randy Winn will return because they want him back, they are sure he wants to come back, and somehow that will work itself out. From what I remember, he has a mutual option contract, Giants can pick up their option for $5M or, declining it, he could pick up his option for a $3M. I would expect that they will work out some sort of longer term contract, probably about 3 years at anywhere from $3-4M per year, backloaded, naturally.

Bonds is not Real

Washington's home park is one of the hardest parks to hit a home run at and he has made it his own personal Mile High Stadium, blasting homers in his first two games there. The one last night was the eventual winning runs as Dr. Hennessey showed up today and pitched a beauty, retiring something like 14-15 batters in a row in the middle innings; hopefully the Doctor is in and Mr. Hennessey is out on vacation. He went 7.2 IP, with only 3 hits, 2 walks, 1 R/ER, with 4 strikeouts - almost seems like it should be Cain's line, not Hennessey.

So that makes four straight games that Bonds has homered in. And the Giants now have a five game winning streak, which will be tested on Thursday as it is a day game following a night game, so Bonds will not be in the starting lineup, and Washington is throwing out their version of Matt Cain, Hector Carrasco, only Hector is 35 years old and been around the block quite a few times already and probably have gloves older than Cain. But he has a 2.01 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .197 BAA, only 49 hits in 71.2 IP, so that is a line that Cain could possibly have.

And the Giants will send out sad-sack Brett Tomko, who has pitched well of late but the Giants bullpen has failed him numerous times, costing him some victories that appeared to be in the bag. He has had a much lower ERA post-ASG, 3.73 but his WHIP is virtually the same (1.37 vs. 1.40 in pre-ASG) and so is his BAA (.271 vs. .277 in pre-ASG). And like last year, he is having a great month, this year in September, 2.18 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, .187 BAA; however, in August, he was 4.70 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, and .327 BAA (ouch!). I guess he's this year's Ponson, getting the lineup without Bonds in Thursday's start. Then again, Bonds could PH and hit one out...

Oh, while the Giants won, the 'Dres also won, keeping us back 5 games.


His name is Bonds, Barry Bonds (plus a little Cain)

I was remiss in not devoting some space yesterday to Barry Bonds. 3 homers in 3 games, 3 homers in 19 total ABs so far. Still not 100%, still going through spring training getting his swing down, still not conditioned well enough to play a full 9 inning game, and he has still hit a FREAKING THREE HOMERS IN THREE GAMES, 19 TOTAL ABs SO FAR. He is an amazing hitter, the quote about him hitting when he is 50 is totally believable.

What more does his detractors need to know? If there was ever a time that Bonds is unaided by any suspicious substances and indeed should be handicapped by not being 100%, now is when they can see how well Barry Bonds can hit when he is "unaided". Because, as I noted in a prior post, Barry has been tested this season for steroids and he has been found to be clean all this season and as the Mike Morse case shows, the remnants linger in your system for a long time. So, at minimum, for those who don't believe in Bonds' ability to hit the baseball, they should at least accept the premise that Bonds is clean now and even handicapped by his bum right knee still recovering. And based on the results so far, there is no difference between the Barry Bonds of today and the Barry Bonds of the past five seasons, as far as hitting goes.

The question for Giants fans, however, is a puzzling one: when should Barry Bonds retire? Obviously, he's aiming for 2007 at minimum, in his chase of Hank Aaron. The way he is hitting, he could conceivable reach Aaron by the end of 2006 and not need 2007, if pitchers feel forced to face him with Alou hitting behind him. With 12 more games to play, he could hit anywhere from 3-6 more homers, which at the high end means that he "only" needs around 45 homers to tie Aaron; not likely but looking at the way he's hitting now, why not, especially if he puts in PH appearances regularly in 2006 when on the bench and be put in situations where the other team don't really want to walk him.

The way he is hitting, I don't see why he couldn't play beyond 2007, but with the main caveat being where do we play him? He says he doesn't want to play 1B but that would be best for the team since we have no power on the corners right now and our best position prospects are in the outfield - Linden, Fred Lewis, Dan Ortmeier, EME, Schierholtz, Timpner, Bowker. Travis Ishikawa is probably our best 1B prospect and he was only at high-A San Jose this season and still have strikeout problems, but he only turns 22 in a couple of days so he still has time to figure things out and could man 1B long term right after Bonds retires.

And no talk about DHing him with an AL team, he has stated over and over again recently that he wants to retire a Giants, that he cannot be traded away. The problem with most journalists is that they need to follow Bonds regularly, as many Giants fans do, and realize that Bonds often has an ulterior motive to what he says: show me da money, honey. Watching him push for his last contract and for the option vesting, I've seen that he will use the leverage of him leaving as the stick to get the Giants management to give him more money. If he presented himself consistently as someone unwilling to leave the Giants, what happens to his negotiating leverage? Nothing, as he would have none.

So he would openly talk about leaving, stirring up the reporters and the public, when he wants to create leverage against the team, but I think what he said after he signed his 5 year $90M contract represents what he really feels. He said that he really didn't want to leave the team and was glad that push did not lead to shove because he wasn't going anywhere. That mirrors what he has said recently when, again, he is not leveraging to get more money, him saying that he wants to retire a Giant, he has a no-trade contract, 10 year/5 year privileges.

I think it will start to change next spring training, when he starts angling for a 2007 contract. Actually, thinking further, he will probably say something to that end in his final interview of this season, whenever that will be, after the last game of the season, then put the full on push for a 2007 contract in spring training. Because it will come down to da money again.

I'm hoping the Giants can restructure his last year of the contract and tack on a year or two in order to free budget in 2006 for a mid-tier starter to round out the rotation, assuming Schmidt, Cain, Lowry, Hennessey/Correia is the other four or to get a better 1B than Sno-Kro. The budget is pretty much used up already, around $82M already allocated and Magowan recently said that the Giants will stick to the $85M figure of this season, so there is not much space for free agent acquisition. We might be able to trade one problem player for another (say Alfonzo/Durham for a starting pitcher/1B) who might fill one of our needs if they ever get themselves straight, like the 'Dres trading Nevin to the Rangers for Chan Ho Park, or how Atlanta ended up with Mike Hampton and Colorado with Charles Johnson (don't remember the full trade). But as one can see from these examples, you are trading one problem for another and at least Alfonzo has been relatively productive and useful, not like Chan Ho Park in Texas or Hamption in Colorado.

That's basically the only places I see openings for improvement, not that this is anything hard to figure. I think the bullpen is pretty set with the people we currently have on the roster, based on who is healthy, naturally. And our bench is likewise covered. And of course the starting lineup is pretty set unless we are able to trade someone, except for 1B. And we have three starting pitchers pretty set with the other two spots up for grabs.

And as Sabean said in a recent interview, he sees the benefit of going with young guys over getting a $1-2M free agent veteran, so probably most supporting roles will be filled internally, leaving the 4/5 spots in the rotation and 1B. Bonds could help immensely if he could fill the 1B spot, allowing Linden to play RF and Alou to play LF, leaving more budget for a better starting pitcher. Plus he could platoon with Niekro as Lance mashes LHP. But Bonds appears unwilling to do what other aged outfielders have done, which is to play 1B to account for his reduced speed and defense.

Cain Still Dealing the Pain

Another sterling start for the young man wonder: his 7 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, 2 R/ER, with 7 strikeouts was again dominating but missed by one inning of getting the win. He is 2-1 in 34 IP, only 15 hits (!), but 14 walks (3.7 BB/9!), with 23 strikeouts (6.1 K/9) and only 2 HR (0.5 HR/9), 2.12 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, .130 BAA. Still dominating! With only a walks Achilles Heel.

Mike Krukow noted this morning that this is all because of his natural "stuff" that his pitches have, particularly his fastball. He said that right now Cain is doing this with just a 4 seam fastball and a curveball and has so much more to learn still. He hasn't learned a 2-seam fastball yet nor another breaking pitch nor learned how to work the corners nor how to work a batter. He has basically been throwing it up there and major league hitters have not been able to hit it at all. All at the tender age of 20 years old and with a poker face of the ages, stoic no matter what the situation he is in. There's no telling how good he can become.

Assuming Schmidt is physically able to pitch next season and Cain can continue this dominance (big if, look at how Lowry struggled the next year), he and Cain would make a pretty good double ace combo for the Giants. Then if Lowry could figure out how to pitch like he did in August consistently, the Giants could potentially have the one of the better starting 3 in all of baseball. Cain's breakout this season makes the Giants re-tooling decisions much easier, as we only need another starter, which doesn't necessarily have to come from outside, though that probably would be better.

Whereas if he wasn't doing well, the Giants would absolutely HAVE TO GET a good starting pitcher to round out the rotation. And that would have sucked up a lot of budget away from perhaps upgrading at 1B plus there is that other starter for the rotation that would be nice to get as well. The team would have looked a lot more vulnerable - besides the age/injury problems - vis-a-vis the rest of the NL West or even all of the NL without Cain manning one of the top starting pitcher spots. His success means the difference between a tough off-season of chosing where to fix and where not to fix and a relatively easy off-season of picking and chosing among the free agent class, chosing to fix from within if nothing is appealing on the market, a huge difference.

This replay brought to you by TiVo

Alou up, Bonds having just taken a four pitch walk, essentially four wide ones, putting runners at first and second, top of the ninth, two outs. I rarely think about a homerun in situations like this, at least not seriously, usually just a fleeting moment and then it is gone, like an ephemeral dream, as reality returns and the announcer announces what really happens (like a strikeout or a popup or a dribbler to the pitcher).

But like a dream, this time the ball just rises and BOOM - 3 run homer!!! Giants lead 4-2!!! I am fist-pumping like mad as the drivers next to me wonder what the hell happened.

Sorry, I just had to relive that moment again (and give a plug for TiVo: my family can't live without it; no stock, just love the gadget). This season has not had many grand moments like that, there were many more "oh that gotta hurt, another 1 run loss, fall another game back" type of games this season. I still got a buzz going.

And it was made a bit sweeter by Bonds making that Yahoo columnist look like a buffoon. The "true" baseball fans in Washington D.C. sure showed Bonds, didn't they, booing him and giving him the asterisk, like their neighboring fans booed Palmeiro. But then he homers deep, the crowd erupts with cheers for him. Ooops, not so true baseball fans here either, it is not just the SF fans who cheer for Bonds, who are blind (according to this columnist).

And the cherry on top was that it happened to Livan, pitching a beautiful game up to that point, sticking it to the Giants and the Giants fans after we ran him out of town, by finally harnessing the potential that was so evident before but that he couldn't or wouldn't do until he was a few months away from becoming a free agent and he finally realizes that if he doesn't get his fat butt pitching well, he was going to get nada from any team. In that moment, it brought back the Livan who failed us miserably in that final game of the 2002 World Series, when Dusty could pull Ortiz while he was doing great but would not pull out Livan when he obviously didn't have anything that day. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Whew, now that we return back to 5 games back, the Giants playoff chances are still on life support, but the pulse is a little bit steadier, though still very weak, though still considered terminal. If they can keep it up at D.C. and Mile High, and get another game or two off the lead, they could head into SD with the possibility of taking the pennant out of the 'Dres unsteady grasp by sweeping the four game series in Petco.

But what are the odds of that with Schmidt possibly out for the season? Nothing official, mind you, but do you really think he's going to be able to go out there and pitch another game? I have to admire the guts to go out there and not be able to throw 90 MPH and still shut down the other team enough so that the team could win, but why didn't he just skip another start and wait for the next one? Admittedly, that win is the difference right now between miniscule hope and almost no hope (which is where they would be at 6 games back and only 12 games left and 4 against SD), but still, this could have ramifications into 2006 if he injures himself bad enough to need surgery or something.

Gotta give it up to Linden too for that great catch, that was the game right there if he didn't make that catch.

Go Giants!!! Pray that Hennessey can do his "good cop" routine this time and not his "bad cop" one, he has been so inconsistent all season, and we will need him at his best since the Giants are facing John Patterson, who has been outstanding this year at home. Imagine, though, if he can just harness himself and his slider consistently, we could have an awesome foursome in 2006, with Schmidt and Cain the two fire-ballers, Lowry the changeup artist, and Hennessey the slider specialist. Alternate them in the rotation and opposing teams will go loopy adjusting back and forth between them. But this is this season, this is reality, and we don't know which Hennessey will show up...

And the ball flies over the fence for a 3-run homer for Alou!!! Boo-yah!


San Jose Giants win the California League title

Congratulations to the 2005 California League Champs!

I would be remiss not to use my lunch time to congratulate the San Jose Giants for coming from behind 0-2 games in a 5 game playoff and sweeping the three games at home, winning last night, 3-1 behind the stout pitching of Jeff Petersen and Jason Waddell, who got the win after taking a loss earlier in the series. Petersen pitching 6 strong innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 BB, 1 R/ER, 1 HR, with 5 strikeouts. Waddell was even stronger, going 3 innings, giving up 2 hits, 0 R/ER, with 7 strikeouts to take the win after the Giants rallied in the bottom of the 7th for 3 runs, with Nate Schierholtz driving in the eventual winning run with a single and Travis Ishikawa driving in the insurance run with a sac fly.

Many of these players will probably be promoted to Double-A next season, Norwich Navigators presumably (I recall the Giants renewing their operating agreement with Norwich last season), so we might be looking at a championship there next year. At minimum, they will have a premium hitting club as that was what drove this club this season, with EME, Frandsen, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Clay Timpner, Eliezer Alfonzo, Jake Wald, Todd Jennings, Brian Buscher, and John Bowker who were all hitting well at SJ. However, Frandsen and Alfonzo were promoted to AAA by year's end, having both did well at Norwich-AA, so they should be at AAA to start next season, if not higher. And EME might get a chance at AAA depending on how he recovers from the surgery by spring training (that was what was holding the Giants back from promoting him from SJ, as he would need to field a position in the higher leagues).

Analysis of Winn and Matheny I posted on McCovey Chronicles

I thought, why not put that stuff here as well for people who don't read that blog, sorry to those who come to both here and McCovey Chronicles.

Winn Analysis

From BP's 2005 edition, they first criticized his defense early in 2004 season but then he pulled himself together and did much better, both defensively and offensively. Says that his contract, based on what he was doing at the end of the 2004 season, doesn't look so bad, saying it is a good deal.

They said that there was a 7% chance of a breakout, a 32% chance of improvement, and a 25% chance of collapse. Overall, with this late burst, looks like an improvement, especially with such low chances of a breakout.

One point about Winn's "flukey" month. Unlike what I wrote about Matheny below, Winn has been doing it both at SBC and on the road as his SBC stats are similar to overall stats, which means the road is very similar:

Total .345/.380/.667/1.046 16 AB/HR
SBC .347/.389/.634/1.023 20 AB/HR

But it doesn't hurt leaving SAFECO Field:
SAFECO .284/.364/.395/.759 48 AB/HR {correction, had incorrectly posted 95}

His road right now:
Road .287/.332/.478/.810 27 AB/HR

As noted, his road hitting stats while a Giants isn't far from his SBC (don't have time to calc exact but since total is approximately SBC, the road while a Giants should be close) but his AB/HR is much better at 12 AB/HR vs. 20 AB/HR at SBC. Of course, smaller sample with only 77 AB (with a visit to homer-happy BOB but he also liked hitting in LA) plus he's about to visit RFK Stadium, which has severely depressed HR rates, many of (all?) their starters have starkly different success rates with homers home vs. road. However, he had hit well there in his only trip there while a Mariner, 5 for 9 with a double.

Matheny has benefited greatly from SBC in 2005

Where he has improved, overall, is via his hitting at SBC and specifically his HR hitting.

Whether it is:

Pre-ASG or Post-ASG at home for 2005 (23AB/HR and 31 AB/HR respectively; I compiled this by hand for those who are curious) or

Pre-ASG/Post-ASG career (26 pre/45 post AB/HR in 2005 vs. 66/62 pre-2005) or

hitting situations All/Empty/Runners/RISP (34/32/37/27 AB/HR in 2005, 68/62/81/94 pre-2005; just interesting, not explanatory) or

Home/Road (27/41 in 2005 vs. 58/72 pre-2005).

By homefield (career):

Mil .257/.303/.380/.684 47 AB/HR
STL .256/.323/.347/.671 64 AB/HR
SFG .255/.292/.428/.720 37 AB/HR and
SFG .250/.290/.442/.732 27 AB/HR for 2005

He just loves hitting HRs in SBC this year. And I specifically compiled his HR hitting at home after the ASG to see if he had kept the pace up; he has pretty much has with a 31 AB/HR rate vs. the 23 AB/HR rate pre-ASG. So that suggests that he would be able to continue this into 2006.

However, he had 85 ABs without a homer at SBC while with the Cardinal's. So it could just be some lucky year for him, like his version of Brady Anderson's spike. Or maybe Giants pitchers were good at preventing HR at home while other teams aren't.

In addition, his spike has happened mainly when there were men on base, in particular RISP where he has hit .340/.424/.577/1.001 with 4 HR in 97 AB vs. .264/.341/.372/.713 with 14 HR in 809 AB, which has helped his RBI total greatly this season vs. his career.

It will be interesting which Matheny we get next year. According to Baseball Prospectus, there was a 13% chance of breakout, 28% of improvement, 43% of collapse for the 2005 season, so I guess he ticked off in the 28% who improved for 2005.

Speaking of BP, they noted that defensively, he has been almost a win and a half better than Pudge over the last six seasons, but that his poor offense during his career does not make it worth while (at least according to their defensive measures).