Vizcaino Signed for $1.25M

Sorry if this is late but it's the season plus, really, I don't have much angst over utility players - though others apparently do, from what I've seen in various discussions. I don't see what the problem is. He signed for a little more than I would have paid but I can understand why he got more - he can play all four IF positions and he switch hits. Of course, he does not hit well overall but that is not that big a deal because, well, he's only a utility middle IF and if he could hit, well, you wouldn't get him for $1.25M and he would be a utility player, he'd be a starter.

Looking at his hitting, he's played at hitters haven Houston the past five seasons so his road numbers are probably the best indicator of what he can do: .261/.296/.345/.642, which is Neifi like without the gold glove fielding - but without the $4M/2 year contract either! I then took the ratio of his hitting vs. LHP and RHP and applied it to his road numbers and while he hits for a better average against LHP, he hits for more power against RHP (he walks about the same against either), resulting in almost no change in OPS (.643 LHP vs. .641 RHP).

Then I compared him to Vizquel, his main replacement, he's not that far off as a replacement for what Vizquel did overall last season: .271/.341/.350/.691, though he's mainly missing in the all important OBP area, so that makes it a bit worse (some view OBP as anywhere from 1.5 to 3.0 times as valuable as SLG). That's not too bad a drop for a replacement. Plus it's a middle infield position, so hitting is hard to get there anyway.

However, I think the key to Vizcaino for the Giants is his ability to give Vizquel frequent rests during the season. Vizquel hit .305/.359/.397/.756, which is adequate offense for a #2 hitter, pre-All Star Game, but only .229/.318/.292/.611 post-ASG. That's a result of him playing 152 games last season. Thus Vizcaino is an upgrade over the tired Vizquel we saw in the second half of 2005 and if he allows Vizquel to keep his strength throughout the season, that would be a big boost against what Vizquel did last season.

Defensively, I turn to my newly arrived Bill James Handbook and see that Vizcaino did OK overall. He took some games at 1B and didn't do great there, but given that Niekro hit .206/.251/.335/.587 vs. RHP, he'd be an offensive upgrade over Niekro at 1B (I don't see how Sweeney will get all the RHP ABs at 1B, nobody has ever played him over 200 AB in a season until last season, and he was barely over. Plus his fielding percentage would have been last in the MLB for starting 1B, .988 vs. .989 and .991 and .992). At 2B, his FP was 1.000 and Range was 5.66 in 109.2 innings played at 2B - obviously his FP won't stay that good but his range would have ranged 2nd in the MLB. At 3B, his FP was .786 and his range was 2.45 in 40.1 innings- I don't think his FP would stay that lousy and his range would have been last, whereas Feliz' FP was .970 and range 2.91, good for a tie for 7th and 5th, respectively. At SS, his FP was 1.000 and range of 3.82 in 101.1 innings - again obviously his FP won't stay that good but his range would have ranged 2nd to last in the MLB (ouch!). Hmmm, let's see, his 2004 stats show a little better with FP of .969 and Range of 4.31 in 455.1 innings, which is a bit better, ranking tied with Izturis for 20th in 2004.

So overall, he's an adequate offensive replacement at SS and perhaps could lead to Vizquel hitting much better (quality over quantity), would be a defensive upgrade at 2B though obviously a downgrade in hitting vs. Durham, and would help take away RHP AB from Niekro at 1B when Sweeney is not starting there. All for only $1.25M. Looks like a good deal to me. Let's worry more about who we're going to have as our #5 starter or perhaps picking up a better lefty hitting 1B.


Interesting Question: Alou Abuse (first in series)

This is the first in a series of Interesting Questions (or eventually IQ) that I will periodically write. The main reason I started blogging was just as an experiment to see what the experience was like. But the other one was that, as a Giants fan, there are certain questions that I would have liked to see answered so, when I have time, I look into these questions and write on them, like the matter about the draft pick and Sabean's GM style.

Alou Abuse

I'm a regular at McCovey Chronicles lately and a question that popped up there is one that I've seen often whereever Giants fans post: does Alou abuses Giants pitchers. And the arguments made some sense, about letting starters go too long, about jumping from relief pitcher to next in one or two batters, etc. So I've always wondered about that, whether it's true or not.

What follows I would not call definitive but just some data for thought. I got the latest edition of Bill James annual stats book (he doesn't really do much in there, not like his wonderful annuals in the 80's, but if you feel a debt to him, you should pick one up and, in any case, it's good so pick it up anyway) and there is a section on how managers use their pitchers, both starters and relievers.

The stats I will discuss are Quick Hooks, Slow Hooks, Long Outings, and Relief Appearances. For Quick and Slow Hooks, each game is scored by calculating this - add the number of pitches to 10 times the number of Runs Allowed for the starter - and the bottom 25% of scores are Quick Hooks and the top 25% are Slow Hooks. Long Outings are the number of games in which the starter threw more than 120 pitches. And Relief Appearances are simply that.

Given what fans have been saying about Alou, I would think that he has a lot of quick hooks but very few slow hooks, plus a lot of long outings and a lot of relief appearances.

In the 2005 season, that's not quite true. In Quick Hooks, he was 13th highest out of 16 NL teams with 28, but the three below him were close so I would call it about even (27, 26, 26), essentially a dead heat for last by a clear margin (12th was 40). In Slow Hooks, he was tied for 13th lowest out of 16 NL teams with 47, though clearly not last (47, 55, 66). So in two key categories, Alou is the model of patience with his starters compared to the rest of the NL managers.

However, he was not so good in the other two categories but I don't think they are as bad as it first appears. He was on the high side on the Long Outings (LO) with 7, making him 3rd highest (behind 16 and 10 and just before 6 and 5; average was 4.4 and the median was 3.5). I decided to see who he might have abused and included any game close to LO:
  • Schmidt had 2 of the LO with another 6 in the 115-120 pitch range in 29 starts (one 131).
  • Lowry had 2 of the LO with another 6 in the 115-120 pitch range in 33 starts (one 128).
  • Tomko had 2 of the LO with another 1 in the 115-120 pitch range in 30 starts.
  • Hennessey had 0 of the LO with another 2 in the 115-120 pitch range in 21 starts.
  • Rueter had 0 of the LO with another 2 in the 115-120 pitch range in 18 starts.
  • Cain had 0 of the LO with another 0 in the 115-120 pitch range in 7 starts.

So it does not seem like he really abused any of the starters. Despite having the 3rd highest in the NL, I would not say that any one pitcher was terribly abused, both Schmidt and Lowry tied with 8 LO or close-LO, only about 1 every 4 starts, only 2 each over the 120 threshold.

The last stat, Reliever Appearances, we all know that he's up there - and he is. He had the #1 rank, with 511. And Cincinnati's managers together was 2nd with 487. But the #3 manager was very surprising to me: it was Bobby Cox with 484. So the difference between him and the acknowledged "pitchers manager" is 27 relief appearances, or about 1 extra every 6 games.

To see if there was a one year aberration, I checked Alou's Giants career. His Quick Hooks averaged 34 per season, which would have ranked 13th still. His Slow Hooks averaged 42 per season, tied for 12th. His LO averaged 9 per season, still good for 3rd and a bit higher still than 2005, but does not seem killer. Lastly, his relief apperarances averaged 498, still 1st but Bobby Cox averaged 485 himself and no one has accused him of pitcher abuse that I'm aware of.

Curious pattern for his Giants career, his first year here he was as people expected, high Quick, Low Slow, high Long, high Relief, but then the last two years he swung the pendulum and had low Quick, high Slow, and, as I've tried to show, his Long and Relief, while high in rank, doesn't look that bad, comparatively.

So, no, based on these stats, it does not look like Alou abuses his pitchers any more than other managers do, and, if anything, has been babying them the past two seasons. True, his relief use is high, but so is Cox and I don't see any such criticism aimed his way for his reliever usage.