Boston Wants the Ball; Mientkidnapper should give it up

I don't recall if I ever wrote on this last year but I think Mientkwicz should return the ball to the team. I understand that the legal precedence is that the player grabs the ball and usually take off and keep it. But really, the ball belongs to the MLB and its time they start to recognize it and enforce it. This would be a good start to do before the 2006 season.

This, of course, leads into a topic regarding the Giants: Bonds 715 ball and, perhaps, 756 ball. We are all familar with the scrums that erupt whenever Bonds hits any homerun ball of historical significance. I don't know if the boy was lying - I'll accept his word - but there was a sobbing teenage boy on TV distraught over how some grown men overpowered him for a ball (can recall which one). Then there is the spectacle of some "humble" unemployed man, lording over all because he had the ball, telling everyone what he's going to do with it, and how he's sharing none of it because he "deserves" it (I think he's the one where the boy was crying) whereupon his employed friends who gave him the ticket to the game sued him for a cut.

This is where MLB has fallen down on the job, like the wild fans reaching for their jackpot ball. The ball belongs to the MLB. It is by their largese that the fans gets their souvenir. They needed to set the rules of acceptable behavior when such a historic ball is up for grab.

They can put up the rules for behavior and start passing it out to people going through the turnstile. They can put it into every book and magazine the MLB publishes and sells. They can broadcast it over the speakers before the game. They can put it into every game broadcast for TV and radio, just like "This broadcast is a copyrighted blah de blah blah, de blah blah" that they have the announcers read off every game. They can play the message right after the National Anthem. Not all have to be done forever, but since the rules have been quasi-known, unknown, they need to make the legal effort to make sure everyone, I mean EVERYONE, knows the rules.

They should have thought about this during McGwire-Sosa race to 62. The craziness after that went up to 70 homers should have rang a bell in their heads that something is not right. Each subsequent craziness since then with each of Barry's milestones should have made them think about it. And yet, still nothing.


I'm no lawyer and I don't feel like spending a great amount of time thinking more about it - obviously I've been thinking about this for a while now. Here are some ideas on rules they should institute:
  • People are allowed to bring their gloves.
  • People are not allowed to get up out of their seats for balls.
  • People are not allowed to get out of their seats for balls.
  • People are not allowed to reach into other people's seats to get a ball.
  • People are not allowed to hit other people while trying to get a ball.
  • Anyone not following the rules are kicked out of the game and lose all rights to any ball they may have gotten, through the kindness of major league baseball - children under 10 are exempt from leaving their seat but must follow the rules on courtesy above.
  • There will be cameras catching the action, the Ball Police will be viewing the replay to catch people who flaggrantly did not follow the rules - obviously, human nature being what it is (Steve Bartman addendum), some natural reactions will cause some people to violate the rules above. The Ball Police will have the power to enforce or not, depending on what they think was the intent of the violator.
  • In any case, the ball belongs to the MLB, we have the right to refuse to allow a person to leave the park with one of our balls.

Hopefully, this way, the ball is a pachinko machine ball, bouncing around. If you are lucky enough that it is near you and you can glove it, great, else it gets to bounce around to the feet of some lucky person. There probably needs to be rules governing people out of their seats, probably like the NBA, you need to set your position and not move from that spot in trying to get the ball. The objective is to discourage people from chasing the ball all over the place just to get it.

Grown Men, Pleuth!

I'm going to end with a perfect example of why this rule is necessary even in regular games. A ball is hit into the stands, a child about 5-7 years old goes for the ball but a grown man around his mid-20's proudly leaves his seat and slamdunked the kid to get the ball. It is all captured by the TV cameras. The child is inconsolable in the arms of the parent. The crowd is booing the guy. He acknowledges the booing and mugs for the camera, very proud of his behavior, as his girlfriend/wife looks at the jerk sitting next to her with disdain, but not enough disdain to make him give up the ball. He holds the ball up as a trophy of his triumph, his arms outstretched.

In a perfect world, the Ball Police picks his sorry ass up and kicks him out of the stadium and take the ball away and gives it to the child. While the crowd cheers on...


Giants sign Worrell for 2 year, $4M - no big whoop

It has been reported that the Giants signed Tim Worrell to a 2 year, $4M contract. That's $500K signing bonus, $1.5M in 2006, $2.0M in 2007.

I was initially aghast at the signing, given I knew that Worrell imploded early last season but when I went to check his numbers, it actually wasn't that bad. Checking other people's reactions, some people complained about his pitching when there are inherited runners - that's not quite true, while it was horrible last season, his BAA and WHIP with runners on and RISP has actually been much lower with runners on base the previous few years (I know, not inherited runners but as long as he's pitching well overall when runners are on, that's a relatively minor flaw).

Another segment of the crowd couldn't understand spending the money on another reliever when there are other pressing needs. The majority of this crowd advocates getting a bigger upgrade at pitching or 1B, but with just $10M or so to play with, even if he didn't get Worrell, that's $5M average between these two additions anyway, you aren't really going to get a premium player even if the Giants didn't spend the money for Worrell. In addition, this also reflects the viewpoint of this segment that the Giants shie away from the big salary guys - they need to face the reality that unless they pull out the Maddux money, $10M is not going to get you one premium guy at either position and then you still have no money for the other position.

This fits in with what's been said all off-season: they wanted a reliever so when they lost Eyre, they got Worrell, and his money is not that bad, his numbers were skewed by two horrible hitters home parks, The BOB/Chase and Citizens Bank; they want at least one starter and apparently they missed out on Loaiza (yeah!) and apparently is pursuing Morris right now (risk because of his very poor second half, but the reward is pretty high if he returns to his previous performances prior to 2004-5); and they wanted a lefty power-hitting 1B/OF to play part-time with Niekro and soaking up ABs from the aging outfield. Oh, fit in except for one thing, they said that they weren't going to lose draft picks this season but they lose their second round for Worrell, who is rated an A-free agent.

Lastly, there is a segment who are TOTALLY pissed that Sabean lost the draft pick and are losing faith in Sabean - I saw one person who thought perhaps Ned Colletti was to blame for previous mistakes but now this clearly means that Sabean is the one to blame and so we should replace Sabean.

My Take

Obviously, I don't really agree with the general sentiment regarding this deal. It is much ado about nothing, when you get down to the nitty gritty. Sure, I would prefer that Sabean marshall all our resources and get one big acquisition, a big bopper, a big-time pitcher. But we all can see that this is not the way the Giants want to play it, they want to get multiple contributing pieces, instead of one big kahuna and a bunch of minimum salary players.

And Worrell can be a very valuable contributor. He pitched outstandingly at the end of the 2005 season, getting over the personal problems that were besetting him earlier in the season. He has pitched well on the road, outside of his two hitter-home parks of the past two seasons. He walked a bit more than I would have liked to have seen with Arizona but overall for the season, he was OK in his strikeouts to walks ratio. His main problem was that he was basically pitching batting practice while he was with the Phillies.

Cheap Contract

And the contract is pretty cheap for what he has accomplished in his career. Carrasco, who had a stupendous year in 2005, is 36 years old, was either so lousy or so injured that he didn't play in the majors in 2002 and 2004, is looking to get a $6M contract for 2 years. Eyre had one nice season and one stupendous season where he wasn't the LOOGY he had been all his career and got 3 years, $11M contract. Bob Howry got 3 years, $12M for two great seasons, following 3 seasons where his ERA was in the mid-4's overall. B.J. Ryan had two great seasons, but only one as a dominant closer and got a 5 year, $47M contract. Worrell has pitched very well to great for five seasons, except for his glitch last season due to his personal problems, so he has a longer track record of doing well. Admittedly, his being 38 is not comforting, but he was stupendous with Arizona last season, he should at least pitch well in 2006.

Rounds out the Bullpen Well

And he rounds out the bullpen. Benitez is the closer and Hawkins and Worrell are the key setup men. Walker will pitch anywhere and everywhere. Same with Fassero. Munter, Taschner, and Accardo will battle for two spots.

And I admit I've been a little too rose-colored glasses about our rookie relievers. Really, the odds of all three doing well again is probably pretty low, whereas the odds that two will do well is better. Munter is still coming off his arm problems; hopefully he is well, but we haven't heard anything. Accardo had his problems even while he was up; he's a great story too but there's a strong possibility that he won't be able to deliver as hoped, he was a bit inconsistent, perhaps that might persist in 2006. This way, the odd man out will be waiting in AAA, ready to jump in if someone should falter. In addition, Brian Wilson will be waiting as well.

In addition, we got the insurance we should have had last year with Hermanson: if Benitez, for whatever reasons, are unable to fulfill the duties of his role, Worrell will be there to pick up the pieces and close again. In addition, for the moment, Tyler Walker will be there as well, he would be additional backup at the closer position (unless he is traded; he should be a valuable commodity, having closed successfully, not great, but he was adequate).

Draft Pick Not That Valuable

Lastly, about the draft pick. We lose our 2nd round pick. In 2004, it would have been the 51st pick overall and he was paid $675,000. In 2005, it would have been the 58th pick overall and he was paid $615,000. So we are probably losing a pick somewhere in the 51-60 range, which would cost us about $650,000.

First, that $650,000 offsets, basically, Worrell's bonus for 2005. I know fans hate the Giants for being penny-ante about this, but they are able to convert draft picks into useful players for today in this way, or at least make them cheaper in terms of overall cash outlay. They need to keep to the budget and the budget is tight.

Yes, it is tight because of the various mistakes that have been made in contracts. Alfonzo being the one most mentioned. But the fact of the matter is that no GM will be perfect. For every mistake like this one, hopefully there is a Marquis Grissom, who was worth more than we paid. Or when you are really lucky, a Barry Bonds or Jeff Kent or Jason Schmidt, all of whom made less than they were worth. Hopefully they tend to even out, Bonds great, Nen lost for the season, Kent great, Benard we should hope that he was lost for the season, if only.

Plus that's the reality of the situation right now. We only have around $10M to spend. We didn't NEED a reliever, but given the points I made above, it improved the bullpen greatly by providing redundancy and backup plans should things go awry, as they often do. We still need a backup catcher, a better than average starting pitcher, and a lefty power 1B/OF who will play less than full-time but still play significant amount of ABs. Losing a draft pick helps the team afford to get more quality in a player today, in exchange for losing the chance to get help 4-6 years out.

30 to 1 odds Against Drafting a Difference Maker

And the draft pick isn't even that likely to produce a major league player of consequence. From my draft data that I had collected for my study of the draft from 1986 to 2003, only 12% of the picks from 51 to 60 were ever useful (made arbitration by playing 3 years), good (made free agent plus good stat, either batting average or ERA), or star (great stat) and that's as of the results of the 2004 season. That is basically a 1 in 8 chance of finding a player who made arbitration. 8% were only useful players, the Marquis Grissom's and Michael Tucker's of the world, they didn't hit very well but have long careers.

It is even worse for players who would become significant contributors, a good or star player. Only 1 in 60 become a good player, 1 in 60 become a star player. So the second round pick has a 1 in 30 chance to become a difference maker, a good to great hitter, a Vernon Wells or Albert Pujols, not a complementary piece. The way some people were complaining about the loss of the pick, you would have thought that Sabean threw away A-Rod.

Maybe he did, but you are talking about a 1 in 30 chance of getting such a player, which is rather long odds to convert into such a player. This is once in 30 years type of odds. Instead, Sabean converted the pick into a very capable setup reliever, someone who has excelled at the job over the past five seasons, not someone who had just one or two good years or was dependent on the pitching coach to make him good.

Free Agent Signings Not Crippled

And this doesn't cripple the Giants chances of landing a significant free agent. Their chances were crippled even before this signing. It is wishful thinking on the parts of many, including myself, that the Giants will shock and awe the fans by picking up someone significant like a Burnett via free agency or Delgado (I've been salivating over a purported Schmidt for Abreu rumor) via a trade.

But the reality is that we don't have much available budget, we don't have much available talented prospects who are spare parts that can be traded. The most valuable ones we are relying on to contribute significantly to the major league team in 2006. And those are the ones the other teams will be most asking for.

We Still Have a Number of High Picks

Plus this is not like last year where we didn't get a pick until the 4th round. We still have our 10th pick overall. My study found that 22% of the 10th picks became good or star players, 33% became a useful player. So we have a greater than 50/50 chance of getting a valuable player with this pick, a 1 in 5 chance of getting a difference maker.

And our picks have gotten better and better since 1999, which is coincidentally two years after Dick Tidrow took over a head of player personnel, so I believe that the Giants have gotten much better at picking, especially compared to our record from 1990-1998. We also get a supplemental 1st round pick for Eyre plus, at the moment, a third round from the Cubs (could get lower if they sign another free agent better than Eyre in the rating system).

Sure, all things being equal, I would wish they would have waited to sign Worrell and kept the pick, hopefully. The D-backs would not have chanced arbitration as Worrell probably could have gotten a $2-3M salary through arbitration and, according to what I read, the D-backs only offered him $1M for one year. Given how penny pinching they have become, they would not risk having to pay double or triple what they wanted to pay for him.

However, given that Sabean wants a reliever, waiting would have enabled another team to suddenly decide that they got to have Worrell and drive up the price. Or worse yet, from Sabean perspective, convince Worrell to sign elsewhere. Then he would have to go after the Carrasco's of the free agent world and I would much rather have Worrell at $2M per year than Carrasco at $3M per year.


All in all, the fans have overreacted. It is not the end of the team, they are still pursuing starting pitchers, then they'll focus on a 1B/OF and a C, which I'm guessing now is probably going to be from the non-tendered group of players. We did not lose the future Albert Pujols or even the future Michael Tucker with the lost draft pick, we most probably would have gotten someone who would have filled a spot on one of our minor league teams for a few years then retire; he will in all likelihood (83% of the time), never do much in the majors besides a cup of coffee and 5% of the time only last less than the three seasons necessary to make arbitration. Is that someone we should cry over in losing the draft pick?

Sabean took a calculated risk which, net, costed us around $1.3M in 2006. They obviously are still planning on spending $7-8M per year on a starting pitcher (Morris is the next target), though his first year could be deferred such that only $4-6M will count against 2006. Then $1-2M for the 1B platoon buddy and $1M or less for the backup catcher. Yes, I would prefer the big splash, which puts at risk the bullpen because we'll be relying on three sophomore pitchers in relief but I understand Sabean's approach and at least it makes some sense, as I outlined above.


Loaiza Gets an A's

Wow, the A's beat out the Giants for the services of Esteban Loaiza, signing him to a contract of $21.4M over 3 years plus a $7.5M team option/$0.375M buyout (as reported by AP). Loaiza was one of a number of free agent pitchers that the Giants have targeted for signing - Matt Morris is another pitcher who the Giants are pursuing, according to reports. Apparently the Giants offer was very close, basically the same deal only without the option year.

Thank goodness! Loaiza has great stats overall in 2 of the past 3 seasons, so that probably fooled a lot of people into thinking he reached a new plateau or something. But he is a career 4.60 ERA, 1.41 WHIP; his ERA has been above 4.50 in 8 of his 11 seasons in the majors, but 2 of the 3 below 4.50 has been in the past 3 years, hence the interest in him.

But his 2003 season was a confluence of good factors, one of which was his pitching 3 games in Detroit, one of the best pitching parks in the majors. Then he benefited from pitching another 3 games against them at home, as they were one of the worse offensive teams in 2003. But still, overall it was a terrific season, one unlike any other that he had pitched, basically it was his Brady Andersen 50 homer year, when he just was able to put it together for most of the season. But even that year, it was mainly a dominating pre-All Star performance - 2.21 ERA, 1.06 WHIP - that carried him through the year as he was closer to career post-All Star - 3.84 ERA, 1.19 WHIP.

And his 2005 season was totally a home-made creation. He had a 2.86 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .233 BAA at home, with 110 IP, 96 hits, 23 BB, 95 K. However, on the road, he had a 4.71 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, .306 BAA, with 107 IP, 131 hits, 32 BB, 78 K. And, guess what, surprise, that is very close to his career road numbers: 4.54 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, .288 BAA with 926.1 IP, 1047 hits, 276 BB, 581 K. A comparison of his skills rates between road in 2005 and career:

Skills Rates - h/9 - hr/9 - bb/9 - k/9 - k/w
2005's Road - 11.0 - 0.8 - 2.7 - 6.6 - 2.4
Career Road- 10.2 - 0.9 - 2.7 - 5.6 - 2.1

As one can see, his skill rates was virtually the same in 2005 as for his career. He gave up almost 1 hit per 9 IP more but countered that with 1 more strikeout per 9 IP. So his 4.54 ERA is about what the A's can expect to get for their $7M/year. That is not worth that much money.

Overall, these rates are OK. His h/9 is very high (9.0 per 9IP is the max for good performance, in my opinion), but his hr/9 is just under the 1.0 maximum for a good performance and his bb/9 is just under the 2.7 maximum for a good performance. His k/9 career (5.6) and k/w (2.1) career are borderline acceptable but his k/9 2005 was good at 6.6, resulting in a k/w of 2.4. However, despite his improved skills rates for 2005, his ERA and WHIP was much higher than usual for his career.

Thus, I think the A's (and especially their fans) will not be very happy with his performance given his $7M average salary. Some are currently happy because it deepens their rotation and perhaps allow the A's to trade Barry Zito for some more offense. But that would leave a rotation of Harden, Loaiza, Haren, Blanton, and Scarloos/Kennedy. Loaiza is no better than a middle of rotation guy, he shouldn't be one of the aces of the staff.

Better them than us. Hopefully the Giants can get a better deal for a pitcher than that.

ADDENDUM: some websites note that Loaiza learned a new pitch in 2003 which allowed him to do so well. As we Giants fans know from our Tomko experience, this can be all bull (2003, spoke to old coach; 2004, spoke with sports psychiatrist; 2005, he worked out during off-season so that he can get to a fast start out the chute; none stuck, he couldn't continue success), performance will be the key. And he didn't perform well at all in 2004 plus in 2005, while his road stats were pretty much what it was previously, he benefited from RFK's pitcher-oriented stadium. Assuming he can continue to strikeout people at this higher rate, he could perform OK, have to check the charts in the Ron Shandler book to see what they say about his stats in 2005.


How the Giants 2006 Season Looks Right Now

Many Giants fans are restless and I can see why some many are restless right now. Starting rotation could be golden or it could be crap and both look equally likely. Same for the bullpen, now that we lost Eyre. And, of course, Bonds casts a huge shadow over the offense that could sink it again if he is out for more than the expected 30-40 games. And for the calvary, we are expecting just a mid-tier starter (at best) and a journeyman 1B to join us and help us to the promise land? Doesn't seem plausible. Or does it?

Of course, any chance of us making hay is predicated on Bonds playing and contributing. So we have to assume that and, from his history, he should be healthy and ready to rock and roll in 2006. Any mention of his 2005 stats have to be asterisked with the fact that he was basically running with one and a half legs, that had to have had some effect on his hitting and his base running when he did hit the ball.

Fans need to remember that while our team is different, I think it is very similar to the 2004 version, which I have noted before was 2nd in runs scored. Vizquel is an improvement offensively and defensively over Neifi/Deivi. Winn is arguably an improvement offensively and defensively over Grissom.

While we lose with Matheny over A.J. offensively and probably at 1B with whomever we get over Super Snow of 2004, I think we gain a lot of that back with Alou in RF over Tucker and Mohr, plus the gains noted above. Even if Durham is injured again, he only played 120 games in 2004; we should not suffer a sharp drop in production at 2B, not with Neifi getting 40 games there, Durham still hit well in 2005 and should continue to do so, as long as he is in the lineup. And Feliz vs. Alfonzo, probably a push overall, give up additional runners vs. a lot more power.

Plus any dropoff from Bonds both in less games played plus reduced production. All the other factors look, at face value, like they balance out for the most part, with the main decline being whatever Bonds don't produce. As long as he doesn't fall off the cliff, we should still have a potent offense with him in there, relative to the league.

Pitching, I expect Schmidt to rebound in 2006 - his stats weren't all that bad relative to his overall career, he mainly needs to get his walks down and he'll be fine. Lowry looks like he will be fine in 2006 with a middle of the rotation role, his second half numbers were very good, it shows that he can adjust back and with great success. I think Hennessey will do well at the #5 starter, he was dominating at times and very hittable other times, basically a #5 starter in 2005, the upside is that he could be a middle rotation guy if he just improves his consistency a little, perhaps higher if he improves a lot.

With a middle rotation guy expected to be picked up, that leaves Cain as the tipping point of the pitching staff, just as Bonds is the one for the offense. What do we have in Cain? Can he pitch well enough to be a top of the rotation guy that we need to be competitive during the season and especially during the playoffs?

I will admit going overboard on Ainsworth and Williams but I cannot help but gush over Cain. As I've noted, he wasn't solvable enough for Colorado or Arizona to figure him out in their second game against him. He had that beautiful game against Chicago. Despite his walks, he dominated otherwise. And he was only just short of 21 years of age.

And hearing him talk about himself on the radio, he's really level headed, feels he has a lot to work on, in spite of the way he really dominated major league hitters in his short stint, he seems hyper mature for not only his age, but any age. He'll never need a sports psychologist to help him. So as long as we acquire a decent starter I think our starting rotation will be fine.

The bullpen is a question mark, from aging Fassero having a role to losing Eyre to having Walker, Hawkins and Benitez as our top relievers to Munter, Accardo, and Taschner having their sophomore season. As much as people don't like Hawkins and Benitez (particularly their pay), they have been successful in their roles, for the most part, throughout their careers. And I think at least one of the three sophomores should be able to break out and, along with Hawkins and Benitez, anchor the bullpen, taking Eyre's place. With Fassero and Walker probably doing competant work, the bullpen should be OK during the regular season (playoffs, we'll see) and could be good if the sophomores could duplicate what they did in 2005.

Overall, I see the concerns that people have but think that the odds favor a return to the playoffs for the Giants in 2006, particularly if the other NL West teams don't improve themselves much. Obviously Bonds is a huge IF, but I think the odds favor good production overall (remember, he's essentially replacing Alfonzo's offense, since Feliz is taking over 3B) as long as he's playing 120+ games in 2006. And the pitching rotation should be not much worse than 2004's (Rueter, Hennessey, and Hermanson got a lot of starts and poor stats, something that Hennessey and the free agent starter should be able to duplicate if not improve on, plus Cain/Lowry is an improvement over Tomko/Williams, leaving Schmidt probably doing a lot worse but balancing out improvements in other areas). And the bullpen, while possibly worse than 2004's, we need to remember that Herges, Christiansen, and Franklin got a lot of innings to mangle in 2004 and that Benitez/Hawkins is a huge improvement over Hermanson-Herges/Brower, as the top relievers; if the young guys can build on their 2005 season, we could possibly have a better bullpen. So the playoffs should be doable; advancing, as always, will be the bigger question.