Interesting Question: Will Schmidt Rebound

A burning question for Giants fans is whether Jason Schmidt will return to past glory or if he's on the downside of his career. That is very important because of a number of factors. First and most importantly, he's the ace of our staff. Secondly and also very importantly, we are paying him $10.5M this season. In addition, this could be Bonds swan song season with the Giants and it would be sabotaged by another Schmidt Magical Mystery Tour. Lastly, our pitching staff does not have the depth to replace a Jason Schmidt at the moment (though we hope Matt Cain will) and if he doesn't do well, it is not like we could drop him mid-season like we did with Rueter and replace him.

Analyzing Schmidt's 2005 Season

Schmidt definitely wasn't the Schmidt we knew but he was good most of the season. Unfortunately, he had a few oddities in the season that made his overall seasonal stats look poor. If you cut out his bad May, his overall ERA was 3.96. Alternatively, if you cut out his poor outing at Great American (since he won't pitch there in 2006) and his lousy PETCO performance (normally a strong pitchers park, he did well before there), he had a 3.82 ERA overall otherwise. Taking out those anomalies dropped his ERA considerably; taking out both would have returned his stats to near what we normally see from Schmidt.

Most projections and indicators I've seen so far pegs Schmidt for a good to great rebound. For one, his FIP was 3.86 in 2005, which means his performance was generally in that range. According to Bill James projections, Schmidt will have a 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 3.5 W/9, 0.8 HR/9, 2.5 K/W, all pretty good except for W/9, which is a little on the high side (3.0 is the ideal minimum for that but his high K/9 rate makes up for it in a big way. Also, his post ASG stats was 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .216 BAA, which was pretty good for almost anyone else, but poor based on his past performances for the Giants. Second half stats are good indicators for the next season.

Schmidt Should Be OK in 2006

I think by most indications Schmidt had a year that in most years would have been a mid to high 3's ERA, which is good, not great. It looks bad in particular compared to what we fans have been expecting from him. In addition, he kept his K/W ratio at 2 or above for most months, he really only had one bad month with that and that was May again. Keeping it above 2 is key to keeping his ERA in the right range, below 4 and ideally below 3.5, if he is going to be our ace. Plus it is his free agent year so he will be motivated to perform well and get a huge contract.

Picking up his option was a no-brainer. Given that the Giants already owed him a $3M buyout if they did not pick up his option, his effective net cost in 2006 is only $7.5M, which would have only bought us a Loaiza or Byrd at the going price for starters. He should be much better than either of them. I think he'll be fine in our new reconstructed starting rotation, hopefully we can get another decent starter to round things out at the bottom and provide our system with some starting pitcher depth with Hennessey and Correia backing up the starting rotation in AAA.

Food for Thought: Trade Schmidt?

Given that this is Schmidt's free agent year, do the Giants trade him? Sacriligious one might say, particularly if the Giants are trying to win the World Series, but do we risk losing him for nothing but perhaps draft picks after the season? But there are scenarios where I can see it happening.

Obviously, it would be a no-brainer if the Giants self-destructs again and are at or near the bottom again by mid-season. He would bring a lot from a contender, particular if he is pitching as well as I've painted above. Plus the move would save a lot of money from this season that could be used next season. The prospects would help set us up for 2007, like how the A's did it with Hudson and particularly Mulder.

But what if the Giants are competitive or even leading the division? It will definitely be a tough choice and a bold risk. But if things are going well, then what if Morris is putting in a good season as expected, Lowry continues to build upon his August, and Cain just continues to amazes? That would give us the three strong starters most teams would need to get through the playoffs. That could allow the Giants to trade Schmidt for a good young starter to a contender who needs experience over youth plus pick up a few other prospects in the deal as well or to fill whatever other needs we might have at that time, whether relievers or position players.

Because Schmidt, if he performs even moderately well in 2006, will probably be looking at getting a contract in the $12-15M per year range, based on what we've seen this off-season, and a multi-year contract, probably 3 years with a team option for the 4th with a buyout. The Giants could afford that with all the free agents leaving after the season but they probably will balk at the money and the years, particularly given Schmidt fragile status over the years.

Besides, if Bonds does retire or, worse, perform poorly, Sabean will be looking to spend his money on a young hitter to replace Bonds in the lineup. And I would think Derrek Lee would be very attractive unless the Cubs resign him beforehand. But I would think that they would have announced a deal with Lee by now, like how the Pirates handled Jason Bay, or the Cards with Rolen, unless Lee is looking to both enjoy free agency plus look to get back closer to home, which is Sacramento. Which is not that far away from SF. Keep your fingers crossed!


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