Ain't it DeLovely? DePodesta DeFired

Dodgers have fired DePodesta, only 2 years into the 5-year DePodesta plan. I was worried that the Dodgers would become a stat-oriented organization but with this move, as with most human moves, it could swing the pendulum towards the other way. Which, based on recent drafts, does not seem like a bad idea, they have had a number of highly regarded drafts, though, so far, high only in potential and not in results thus far.

The speculation in the articles suggests that Lasorda might have led to the coup d'etat and that his influence could lead McCourt to hire Pat Gillick as GM and Bobby Valentine, Lasorda's longtime protege, as manager. Gillick would not fit into the non-saber mode; in an interview I read, he looks like he tries to be inclusive of both stats and scouting. He has been successful everywhere he has gone, somehow improving Seattle even while letting go of A-Rod, Junior, and The Big Unit, and previously leading Toronto to World Series victories. So he could prove to be a huge improvement for the Dodgers, both in current ability and influencing their future directions.

At minimum, this is good in that the Dodgers will be paying for 2 GM salaries over the next three seasons when the owner is in hock to his neck after buying the Dodgers; MLB does not look too kindly on a lot of debt, so this could mean less budget for the Dodgers in their player payroll budget (money gotta come out of somewhere). In addition, any GM coming in will have to question Tommy influence over McCourt and wonder if the Sword of Damocles hangs over him. Most people do not work well having to watch their back and wonder if their every move is questioned, even someone hand-picked by the person, unless they are close personal friends - as far as I can tell Gillick and Lasorda are not that close. Furthermore, if Gillick and Valentine are the picks, they will not be cheap either, perhaps soaking up $5M+ together that would otherwise be used for player payroll (again, assuming he is severely debt-ridden, he must handle all changes in payroll within his revenues).

Perhaps the best thing is that this is a sign that McCourt is a highly impatient novice owner with a little George Steinbrenner in him. DePodesta had one bad year marred by a lot of injuries. Of course, one could say that signing Drew is kind of inviting that, but I digress. He had a beauty of a year in 2004, with the Dodgers winning their first division title in many years, a situation that used to be reverse with the Giants. But it was helped by contract year drives, especially by Adrian Beltre. He did the right thing by not re-signing him but the wrong thing by signing Drew. But I thought he hasn't done anything egregriously wrong to warrant a firing. Therefore, this was a move because of a difference in opinion over how the team is general managed. And perhaps this is a sign that McCourt is one of those guys who think he knows it all.

However, this could work out well for the Dodgers. Gillick is well respected and has worked miracles everywhere he has gone, even in Baltimore where he admitted that he didn't work very well with a micro-managing owner; hopefully McCourt proves to be a hands-on owner, whether it's Gillick or someone else hired as GM. Valentine did very well as manager for the Mets, with a .534 winning percentage (which works out to averaging an 87+ win season over his 6 full seasons with them).

Obviously you know which way I want it to go.

Arizona Fall League update

Well, there's good news and then there's bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad news for the six prospects playing in the AFL: Dan Ortmeier, Jeremy Accardo, Brian Burres, Kevin Frandsen, Justin Knoedler, and Brian Wilson. Plus there's some interesting twists.

First with the sole good news: Ortmeier has gone 10 for 26 in his short stint so far. And a short stint it will stay because the injury-prone outfielder has a tender wrist and is being pulled out early; that's the bad news.

The other bad news are all performance related. All the other players have been struggling to some extent, though Knoedler has been hitting well lately and raised his batting average to .267. I won't belabor the lousy stats, hopefully they are just signs of the players trying out new things or working on weaknesses.

On to the interesting twists. First one is this line from the linked article (title) that is on sfgiants.com: "The Giants are taking no chances with Ortmeier, who may play a full-time role in the Major Leagues in 2006." Whoa! Where did that come from!?! They still call him an outfielder (you'll see why I mention this in my next twist) and the Giants currently have Bonds, Winn, and Alou signed and playing in the outfield. The Giants are looking for a 1B/OF, but he wasn't being tried out there either. Is there something wrong with Bonds that hasn't been announced? His website says everything is fine as of 10/18, and that he will be 100% for the 2006 season.

Here is the other twist: Kevin Frandsen is listed as a 3B! That probably partially explains why he is slumping and hitting a "league-low" .189 at the moment, he is concentrating on handling a new position plus he is probably a bit shakened by this move when he hit so well in 2005 regular season. And this is right after Tidrow just recently said that Frandsen is a major league player in the future and will be considered to replace Durham in 2007.

My take on this is that Marcus Sander's injuries are all much improved and everything is healthy enough such that the Giants brass has decided that Sander's arm will be strong enough for a future at 2B and won't have to move to CF. If he is at 2B, then Frandsen will have to find another position and hence why he was moved to 3B during the AFL, to get him ready for the change. It is also a reflection on the lack of 3B talent in the farm system, his main competitors right now are Brian Buscher and Todd Jennings and neither hit as well as Frandsen did in 2005. Plus this flexibility will enable Frandsen to take at least a 2B/3B utility role in 2007 at minimum (Tidrow never said that he was necessarily starting).


Just when you get used to it: SBC to become AT&T Park

According to this article, Pac Bell Park, AKA SBC Park, will eventually undergo another name change as SBC, because of its AT&T acquisition, will take on the AT&T brand name.

Another article in the Chron, makes fun of the whole thing, poking fun at the telecom companies and the changing of names so frequently. The author clearly don't understand business well, branding is very important in business, else Coca Cola (i.e. Coke) would have changed their product's name after they took the cocaine out of the ingredients list (hey, it was only for medicinal purposes!), else IBM would change their name to, say, IBS (International Business Solutions) because they are mostly a software and services firm today. AT&T is known by almost everyone in the United States, as businesspeople, they could not just bury that name too for the glory of the SBC name, which doesn't mean much to anyone. AT&T brings to mind telefony, telecommunications, they had to use that brand.

Why do they think the new sole owners of their newspaper kept the Chronicle as the company name and ditched the Examiner when the owner's famous great grandfather (or was it great great grandfather) started the Examiner (before getting depicted fictionally in Orson Welles Citizen Kane)? If brand don't matter, why don't they suggest the owners of the newspaper ditch the Chronicle name and get something more in tune with today, like News Depot, Info-Mart, or WorldWebNews?

Picky on my part but most articles got the sequence of events wrong. SBC did not buy the rights to change the stadium name just a couple of years ago, they bought it long ago when they bought Pac Bell. They decided to leave that name on the company (and therefore the park) at that time when they could have done the name change earlier. But then a couple of years ago they decided to boost the brand of SBC by changing all their operating companies to just that name instead of allowing existing local brands to continue. So they changed the park's name. Just basic business stuff.

And why poke fun at the Telecom's alphabet soup in a sports article? That boat sailed a while ago, they did that a while back, they should have complained back then, when it was fresh. And so what that the letters don't stand for anything anymore? Do they also want to make fun of all the people's last names that end in "-son" because that used to reflect that you were Eric's son or David's son or so on? Hey, that Scott Erickson, he's not Erick's son!!! Ha-ha-ha. Do they want to make fun of all the people's last names that reflected the job of the person, like Clark (clerk in England) or Doctor?

Maybe they could make the new park an alphabet soup too. Since it could be called Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T, how about concatenating that into PSA? PSA Park - has a certain ring to it, mainly deadly because PSA is a defunct airline. It was mentioned in the article about the various moves to change the name to Mays Field but I knew that wasn't going to fly, this pursuit was only windmill charging a la Don Quixote, this company paid a lot of money to get naming rights and if they want to name it "Flying Squirrel and Moose-a-rama Ballyard", that's fine with me because it meant that the Giants stay in San Francisco instead of heading to Tampa Bay.

Here's an idea: perhaps we should just name it Mays AT&T The Ballpark, maybe that will satisfy all the constituents and stakeholders.

The Giants Future Stars' War: The New Hope

In a Silicon Valley far, far away from the Major Leagues, a ragtag band of non-first round draft picks struggle to bring back the glory of the Orange and Black. Winning the California League Championship was just a battle won, but the war rages on at the Major League level as Darth Lasorda tries to re-build the Dodger's Star before the Orange and Black can bring in their reinforcements.

The Dodger Empire has had a number of good drafts, and have begun construction on their next generation of Dodgers' Stars, perhaps even more powerful than the Dodgers' Stars of the past. If their insidious plan is completed, and they have up and comers like Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, James Loney, they will be a formidable opponent for the small band of prospects at San Jose struggling to make their way to the majors.

Will the new Giants be able to use the Orange side of the Force and triumph or will they succumb to the Dodgers and their evil use of the Blue side of the Force?

San Jose Giants - The New Hope

Brian Sabean noted in his post-season conference that this batch of prospects will be kept together to build chemistry and that long-term planning of the roster will focus on NOT blocking the path of any of the possible starters to the major leagues. It also helps that most of top position prospects are on that team, including Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Nate Schierholtz, and Travis Ishikawa. Kevin Frandsen was also on that team last season but was promoted eventually to AAA by season's end. Jake Wald, John Bowker, Brian Buscher, Clay Timpner, and Todd Jennings were also on the team and performed nicely. There were some nice pitching performances as well, mainly in the bullpen, though some starters had their strengths to build on.

I decided on San Jose first because this team was specifically singled out by Sabean as the Giants top prospects of the future, so I wanted to go over how the annointed ones did in the 2005 season. In a series of posts, I will go over some data crunching I did. I pulled together the batting and pitching data for the California League and calculated some ratios. I will provide my findings over a series of posts, maybe 3 or 4 in total.

How I Did This

First, I want to acknowledge a couple of resources without which I would not have been able to do the following analysis. Critical to this is, of course, the numbers, which I got from Sports Wired's The Baseball Cube. Not only does it already have 2005's numbers on-line but it also provided the ages of each player, which allowed me another datapoint and dimension to analyze on.

In addition, I got some of the ratios for analysis from a great publication, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster. This book is available on Amazon.com and at their main subscription website, baseballhq.com. They also have a companion subscription website, rotohq.com, that focuses specifically on fantasy baseball related stuff; not sure what the difference between the two sites are as there is fantasy stuff on their main site as well. Their inspiration is Bill James' original work in the early 1980's and they provide Bill Jamesian-type of analysis in their annual books, though with a fantasy focus - there is no chapter analyzing each team, but a lot of data on every player and all AAA and AA prospects. I will be buying their 2006 edition when it comes out later this year; I highly recommend it if you enjoy discussion of baseball analysis and their findings, as I noted, it is a lot like the stuff Bill James did, more in his spirit than anything else I've read.

Descriptions of the ratios they used are available here, along with their thoughts on what is good/acceptable and bad. I've also used my ranges for the more commonly used ratios that most sabermetricians use everyday. In addition, I will note the players who were in the 80 percentile or better for each ratio. I feel that will give a nice indication of how they performed relative to the other players in the league.

Ratios Used and Ranges

These are the ratios I used and ranges of good and poor performances. Here are the hitters ratios:
  • Batting Average: everyone knows, above .300 is good, under .250 is bad; Elite is above .330.
  • On-Base Percentage: I have found that above .350 is good, under .300 is bad; Elite is above .380.
  • Slugging Percentage: I have found that above .450 is good, under .350 is bad; Elite is above .500.
  • OPS: I have found that above .800 is good, under .700 is bad; Elite is above .900.
  • BB%: Equals the percentage of total plate appearances is walks, "Walk Rate" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that above 10% is good, under 5% is bad, generally, though it depends on the hitter.
  • Contact%: Equals the percentage of AB in which a hitter makes contact, "Contact Rate" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that above 85% is good, under 75% are free swingers.
  • BB/SO: "Batting Eye" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that above 1.0 to be good, correlated to a .300 BA hitter, while under 0.50 is bad, a free swinger who either has a low BA or tends to be streaky.
  • AB/HR: I like this stat as it gives you an indication of the hitter's HR power. Players in the 20-30 AB range are 20-30 HR hitters, lower means elite HR hitter, higher means average or worse.

Here are the pitchers' ratios:

  • ERA: everyone knows, below 4.00 is good, above 5.00 is bad; Elite is under 3.50
  • h9: Equals the number of hits given up per every 9 IP. I have found that below 9.0 to be good and over 12.0 to be bad.
  • hr9: Equals the number of hits given up per every 9 IP; "homerun rate" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found homerun rates of 1.0 or less to be acceptable.
  • w9: Equals the number of walks given up per every 9 IP; "control" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found control of 3.0 or fewer to be acceptable.
  • k9: Equals the number of strikeouts per every 9 IP; "dominance" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that dominance of 6.0 or more to be acceptable.
  • WHIP: Equals the number of walks plus hits per inning pitched; a common saber tool. I have found that rates of under 1.30 to be good, above 1.60 to be bad; Elite is approaching or going under 1.00.
  • k/w: It is the ratio of strikeouts to walks; "command" is what Ron Shandler refers to this. He has found that a ratio of over 2.0 to be acceptable.

These ratios were calculated, if they were not already provided, from the data I collected from The Baseball Cube. I will be presenting some data on these ratios in the following series of posts.

23 is Not Too Old for the California League

First off, I've read that 23 is "too old" for the California League. That has been the main criticism I've seen about Frandsen's performance for San Jose, downgrading totally his .351/.429/.467/.896 hitting. However, when I compiled all the players who played in the California League in 2005, the average age for the hitters was 23.29 years and for the pitchers was 23.74 years, with 23 the median age for both (it appears that whatever was the age of the player at the end of the season, that was his age in the data). It does get younger when accounting for players who played a significant part of the season in the league, but only a bit, with 22.84 years for the hitters with over 250 AB and 23.21 years for pitchers with over 45 IP, but that is still essentially 23 years old. So 23 is not too old for the league nor is it too young, it is just average for the league.

What it is, though, is too old for a great prospect to be still playing A-ball. But that's probably why the Giants moved Frandsen up so fast to AAA, to see whether he was as good as he appeared in San Jose. As most scouts acknowledge, he only has average skills but get the most out of them because of his great makeup. It is also, unfortunately, probably a maturity and point of view driven deeply home by first the uncertainty about his brother's health for a long time and next his brother's passing, just soon after getting drafted by their boyhood team.

Frandsen is a Bonafide Prospect

So while one should take his excellent performance in San Jose with some salt, neither should you downgrade it totally either: he was playing against people mainly his age, so he was neither advantaged or disadvantaged. So instead of getting too starry-eyed over his .351 BA and .896 OPS or too downcast on his age, we Giants fans should split it down the middle and view him as a good prospect with a good chance to make the majors and contribute.

As a comparison point, he batted a combined .314/.350/.457/.807 with 4 homers in 223 AB (56AB/HR) in AA/AAA after being promoted from San Jose. That's a pretty good OPS given his lack of HR power. Robby Thompson, in his full year in AA at age 23, did not do as well, hitting .261/.358/.396/.754 with 9 homers in 449 AB (50AB/HR). And Robby hit even worse in his previous two years in A-ball, giving no hint of what was to come until his AA year.

On the other hand, Frandsen has hit pretty well almost everywhere from college to the pros, except for his short stint at Norwich, where his OPS was only .708; but Norwich is a pitcher's park. And he did very well in his 20 game stint in AAA, helping to push his stats to the pretty good ones noted above, though that too must have some salt because it was at a hitters park at Fresno. So I figured that things should even out a bit by combining the stats for the two stints and, even though he had more AB at Norwich than at Fresno, he still had nice combined stats between the two places..

As noted in a previous post, Tidrow spoke glowingly about Frandsen. He said that Frandsen is a major league player and that Frandsen will definitely be considered for starting at 2B in 2007. He will be the starter at Fresno next year at 2B and probably will be called up to start should Durham see any extended DL time in 2006. Assuming he continues his progress - unfortunately he is not doing well in the Arizona Fall League currently - he should be the Giants starting 2B in 2007, if not sooner, depending on whether the Giants end up trading Durham mid-2006 season to pick up prospects and/or to save money on the payroll.


Five veterans returning to Giants in 2006

This report just out and totally expected. Jason Schmidt and Randy Winn had their options picked up by the Giants and Moises Alou, Ray Durham, and LaTroy Hawkins picked up their players' options.

Now the Giants just need their 1B and #2 starting pitcher.

I posted this on Adrian Gonzalez as 1B to pursue

I got this from BaseballHQ.com, from one of their free samples about callups, one of them Adrian Gonzalez:

Adrian Gonzalez (1B, TEX)

The 23 year-old has been up with the Rangers in two stints: he hit .238 in 42 AB in '04 and .194 in 36 AB to begin '05. The sweet-swinging lefty is certainly much better than that, but finding playing time at 1B or DH has been troublesome. There's nothing left for Gonzalez to prove at Triple-A, but the presence of Teixeira and the contributions of Dellucci leave him in a quagmire.

Gonzalez is a pure hitter with a classic, line-drive stroke. It is short and quick and he makes very consistent contact. He's able to hit from gap to gap and has shown the ability to hit fastballs and breaking balls alike. Gonzalez has yet to show consistent long ball power, though he's added some loft to his swing and an improved ability to turn on pitches. There are major questions about the potential for average big league power and he'll need to hit more HR to be more than a Mientkiewicz type of player. Gonzalez's defense is Gold Glove-caliber and he owns soft hands and excellent agility. He doesn't offer much in the way of speed. Gonzalez profiles as a .300 hitter with outstanding defense.

The only thing he needs now is an opportunity.
Texas (AL) - 36 AB, .194/.237/.417, 2 D, 2 HR, 0 SB, 0.29 Eye
Oklahoma (AAA) - 285 AB, .316/.379/.502, 14 D, 13 HR, 0 SB, 0.71 Eye
POTENTIAL: Starting 1B

First grade represents 2005 upside. Second grade represents long-term potential.
A: MLB full-timer with high ceiling.
B: Serviceable major leaguer with moderate ceiling.
C: MLB bench player with low ceiling.

So how do we pry someone like him from the Rangers? As a possible comparable trade, they traded Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese. Not much in return, from my view, did they just get robbed? Anyway, we don't need another player thrown in, how about trading them Kevin Correia and another pitching prospect (not sure who, Misch? Valdez? Simon?) for Gonzalez?

He provides defense, power hitting and bats lefty. The Rangers have no space for him, Teixeira has 1B locked up and Nevin will probably hog the DH spot, and they can always use pitching and prospects.

We could platoon him and Niekro initially. His stats are tolerable vs RHP in 2005: .243/.286/.441/.727, 6 HR in 136 AB. Niekro vs. LHP can't be beat though: .324/.361/.657/1.019, 9 HR in 108 AB. Plus he plays good defense.

Anyone see any negatives? Think that's enough for the Rangers to bite or did their fingers get burned with Hafner?

Dan Gladden all over again, only worse

Or George Foster, Garry Maddox, Bill Mueller, Alan Embree, Dennis Cook, Matt Williams, Chili Davis, Larry Herndon, "Maddog" Madlock. I'm sure there are others but these are the ones who came most quickly to mind, players who I liked when they were playing for the Giants. Not all were stars, some never got more than a cup of coffee with the Giants, many were just complementary pieces but at one time they were a Giants player who I really rooted for. Then they moved on to another team, whether by trade or free agency, and sometime in their career they go on to the promise land and their team wins the World Series Championship, leaving my face pressed against the glass once more.

It is terrible, the ache, of seeing a player you once rooted for enjoy the thrill of World Series victory, when all we've tasted is World Series defeats. It is a mixture of joy and envy, happiness and longing, and satisfaction and emptiness. I feel happy for him, them, but it is only a reminder of what I don't have.

The Worse Part...

But for the first time for me, one is a player who got my ire after leaving the Giants, A.J. Pierzynski - I am happy for Dustin Hermanson, he did great for us and didn't feel the need to talk badly about his experience with the Giants, unlike Jeff Kent. Getting A.J. really costed the Giants. Not only did it cost us Nathan, Liriano and Bonser, but then we got zilch for him when he was released. If he could have signed to a reasonable long term contract, maybe none of this would have happened, but no, he had to go to arbitration. Sabean gambled and lost, big time.

And A.J. did nothing much while he was here to warrant any feel good feelings and that was before all the stuff hit the fan after he left, particularly his Stan Conte moment. He will go down with the others who left in disgrace, Bobby Murcer, Sudden Sam McDowell, Greg Minton, Wilson Alvarez, Livan Hernandez, Jeff Kent, earning the enmity of Giants fans for eternity.


Marcus Sanders' rising star

There is an article in SI's fantasy baseball section on rising stars to watch for in next year's draft and Marcus Sanders (Augusta-A ball) was one of the players selected. He was chosen for 2B by the author, Mike Bornhorst, which is the position Baseball America currently foresees for Sanders, assuming he recovers from his shoulder injury - he played SS this year to see if he had the arm for it but he didn't have it and there is no guarantee that his arm strength will necessarily allow him to play 2B, his eventual position might be CF.

It doesn't really say much of anything about Sanders other than "Wow, 57 stolen bases and .407 OBP!" plus mention his inclusion in the Futures Game. But it is a sign that Sanders' talents have been noticed beyond the Low A-ball observers and he has some "It" factor going for him now, based on his superlative offensive skillls that he has exhibited so far (his injury has hampered any assessment of his defensive skills, from what I've seen). The author thinks that Sanders will start 2006 in Class AA.

That would make some sense as the San Jose prospects are expected to "graduate" together and move up to AA together to maintain their chemistry/camraderie and reach the majors together in the 2008-2009 timeframe, mainly the top prospects, EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Bowker, Timpner, Wald, Buscher, Jennings, the bullpen, etc. And Frandsen, the 2B of that group, had already moved up to AAA already and played well there, so 2B is probably open for Sanders to step into that spot. The Giants have been relatively conservative in advancing position players in the minors - before Frandsen's jumps this season, the last I can remember is Will Clark and Robbie Thompson's jump to the majors from A and AA ball, respectively, and Matt Williams jump from A to AAA, 1987. Then again, the Giants really hasn't had a good position prospect since Matt Williams. Whereas they have not been shy about moving pitchers up fast, Foppert, Munter, Cain, Correia, Seung Song, Brian Wilson, and that's just over the past few years and I'm probably still missing some from this list.

The Key to Baseball: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

As I've written before, I like the Giants focus on pitching in drafts and prospect development. As much as I love home-run hitting players, I've learned that it is pitching that really determines how deep you go in the playoffs, particularly your top of the line guys. In addition, pitchers are the most tradeable commondity among players and they can fill a number of different positions (place in starting rotation, place in bullpen) whereas postion players cannot play more than two excellently, if even one. That makes it much easier to trade with other teams.

For example, compare if the Giants were to trade Cain vs. the Phillies trying to trade Ryan Howard. Arugably, Howard could be the more desirable commodity with his hitting for both power and average - what team couldn't use that? However, how many teams are looking for a young Firstbaseman? Many have an incumbent Firstbaseman who is under contract for a number of years (including the Phillies). Many AL clubs already have DH's signed to multi-year contracts. That reduces the number of teams who could use a player like Howard.

But who couldn't use a pitcher like Cain? Teams could slot him anywhere from 3 to 5 in the pitching rotation plus probably could use him anywhere in the bullpen, if they felt like wasting his talents there. There is an old saying: "Teams are always looking for pitching." That works to the advantage of a team that focuses on pitching like the Giants have in past drafts.

This works especially well when trading pitching prospects. Again, you can slot that pitcher into a team's farm system, whereever he belongs, and not miss a beat. Get a position player, then you need to figure out where to place him as he could take the place of a player with potential, just not as developed yet, with perhaps bigger potential, who could have his confidence shot if he is kept at a lower level because of this new player. True a pitcher could be displaced as well, but there are generally a number of positions the player can fill, depending on need and, as the adage goes, you always need pitching.