3.26.2006

Your 2006 Giants: Durham and Alou - Got (not enough) Games, a Tale of Two Old Men

That's the irony here, both Durham and Alou "got game" but "don't got games." Both are excellent hitters for their positions, a great addition to any lineup but that's the rub, they have to be in the lineup to contribute. And while Durham did get into the most games in a season as a Giant in 2005, that was a false promise because he played at less effective levels because his power was missing, particularly against LHP, whom he usually killed, pushing his overall hitting from good to average. And Alou missed a boatload of games in his first season as a Giant, which is not unusual for him, as earlier in his career he missed a lot of games each season, it was rarer for him to play a full season than to miss games. So now that he' breaking 40, there's no reason to believe that he will suddenly play a full season, he will be like Bonds, getting rest frequently, to keep him sharp and relatively healthy. Hence the cruciality of Finley returning to his prior form as I noted in my post on Finley.

2006 Durham

So there's not much more to say. Durham is in his last year of his contract so he'll be playing for his new contract. With Frandsen and perhaps Sanders pressing for 2B in the next year or two, he probably will not be resigned by the Giants so he will have to make a good show of it in 2006. He changed his conditioning routine before the 2005 season to the one recommended by the Giants training staff because the one he was following didn't really do much for him the two prior years, but he still didn't do it under the staff's supervision so that probably undercut their effectiveness. That's probably why it didn't seem to do much for him, even if he didn't go on the DL, he was still hampered by aches and pains still and missed 20 games still, plus, more importantly, despite playing 22 more games than in 2004, he only got 18 more plate appearances so the extra games were only pinch hit appearances - we don't pay him $7M+ to pinch hit for us.

He will probably hit well again for the games he does play but Vizcaino is his backup this year so there will be a big drop off in offense when that happens, and it has basically happened for 40-50 starts each year he has been with the Giants. Hopefully if there is any hint of problems, instead of hobbling through it by keeping him on the bench and hoping, just put him on the DL and bring up Frandsen, if he recovers early great, he can use the extra time off getting into better condition.

His hitting vs. LHP should return to normal "killer" heights because his RHP hitting was right in line with his recent career norms, which suggests that the dropoff vs. LHP was just a case of small samples. In addition, over the past two seasons, Durham has been able to curb his strikeouts and has kept his walks high, so he has been in the top 20% of batters in terms of BB/SO ratio, and those are the best hitters. Thus he should hit close to his career norms across the board, because he has been relatively consistent in that way, it is just the number of games he does this in that is the problem. If his hammy squeaks, just bite the bullet and sit him down and let Giants fans see the future with Frandsen called up.

2007 Alou

Again, not much to say. 40 year olds - which Alou will join this season - will rarely play over 120-130 games in a season and he only played in that many last season. In addition, they eventually succumb to age and have a decline in production. So expect at most 130 games and hope that he only suffers from a slight decline because all players will eventually have a steep decline in production if they play long enough.

He is also in the last year of his contract and has said that he would still like to play another year, even if not with the Giants (hey, if I knew I could make $3-5M, I would play another year too.). So that should help to boost his production, though that did not do anything for Grissom last season. His hitting vs. RHP was in line with his recent career norms and his LHP hitting was in Barry-Land (1.157 OPS), so he played with strength in 2005 and that's a good sign for 2006. However, he had a very slight second half slump so that's a bad sign, though it was so slight, it could just be a hiccup. He also hit much better on the road than at home and he was still very good at home, his power did not suffer much at SBC, except perhaps for homers.

The Bill James rule for old players at the end of their careers, and he certainly has passed through that gateway, is that you assume he'll continue to hit well for another year, so I expect something close to what he did in 2005, which was close to what he did for the past three seasons, so there's that continuity and consistency there that is comforting. In addition, looking at his peripherals, if anything, his walk and strikeout rates have been rising over the past few years, the only thing negative I could see was that he had a decline in power vs. RHP in 2005 but that was only in context with how great he did in 2004 vs. RHP, else 2005 would have been in line with previous seasons.

There are only two caveats. One is that I would also throw in a slight decline to account for his age. Two is that the main problem, as with Durham, is how many games he will play, though if Finley can hit anywhere close to his recent career norms before his horrendous 2005 season, he (or rather Winn) would be an adequate replacement for Alou in RF, unlike the problem of what happens when Durham is out of the lineup.

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