Your 2006 Giants: Vizquel and Matheny, Hidden Icebergs of Disaster But Relief/Rest Arrives
Period - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Pre-ASG - .305 - .359 - .397 - .756
PostASG - .229 - .318 - .292 - .611
2005 - .271 - .341 - .350 - .691
Career - .274 - .341 - .358 - .698
Matheny main drop was in his sharp drop in HR power he showed in his first 3 months, many in SBC, but his numbers were much improved in power overall relative to his career:
Period - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Pre-ASG - .245 - .305 - .455 - .760 with 9 HR in 233 AB (26 AB/HR)
PostASG - .238 - .283 - .352 - .635 with 4 HR in 210 AB (52.5 AB/HR)
2005 - .242 - .295 - .406 - .701 with 13 HR in 443 AB (34 AB/HR)
Career - .239 - .293 - .344 - .638 with 64 HR in 3717 AB (58 AB/HR)
So which player will we get, the pre-ASG or the post-ASG? Is this a sign that the player is losing ground vs. the competition and pitchers were finally figuring out how to get him out, i.e. is this a sign of his age decline? Or will he do better under different circumstances despite his age and difficult position?
Vizquel had a bookends of the season that matches his career somewhat in a backward way. He hit as well as his recent career numbers in the first half of the season but ended the season hitting as well (that is as poorly) as he did early in his career. In fact, he was great in April and June, with OPS in the low 800's, which is great for his position, but then from July on, his OPS tumbled down the stairs: .819 in June, then .708, .642, .534. There was probably some correlation with the trade of Deivi Cruz and Felipe feeling the need to play Vizquel more, resulting in him playing 25 games, 25, 27 in the final 3 months, whereas in the two months Vizquel ruled, he only played in 23 and 24 games (he played in 26 games in May and had an OPS of .617). Perhaps giving Vizquel enough rest will help him out in 2006 so that he can play near his peak vs. near his end.
Vizcaino will certainly help with that. With a career .664 OPS, and recent OPS in that range, which is not good but looks great compared to Vizquel's post-ASG stat-line, Vizquel has a replacement who will not bring the offense down too much taking Vizquel's place. So hopefully Felipe will feel confident resting Vizquel more frequently in 2006 in order to keep Vizquel's bat potent and his legs - which stole 24 bases, much more than recent SF teams have been able to muster - fresher.
In addition, Vizquel suffered from a malady that hits most new SF Giants hitters: trying to figure out how to hit at SBC. Some conquer it fast but most struggle with it to some extent during their first year with the team. Vizquel hit much better on the road, in fact, it was better than for his career, which is a good sign that his hitting ability was still sharp on the road:
Place - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Home - .252 - .333 - .307 - .640 with 0 homers in 274 AB
Away - .289 - .348 - .391 - .739 with 3 homers in 294 AB (98 AB/HR)
Career- .272 - .339 - .359 - .699 with 39 homer in 4247 AB (109 AB/HR)
Assuming he gets some uplift from figuring out how to hit at AT&T and from getting more rest from an adequate replacement like Vizcaino, Vizquel should be able to counteract whatever decline he might experience due to his age and position, and do at least as well as he did in 2005, and perhaps a bit better. He has kept his body in very good shape from all the accounts I have read about him so that will help as well.
In addition, for his career, he has hit better with men on base than with the bases empty:
Career - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Empty - .260 - .333 - .337 - .670
Runner- .294 - .351 - .387 - .737
RISP - .279 - .337 - .374 - .711
Loaded - .278 - .272 - .451 - .723
And, frankly, he probably came up too often with no one on base as the season went on. The Giants didn't really have a good leadoff hitter, after Ellison took over from Durham who was moved lower to help protect Moises Alou, until Winn came in and was on fire. This season, Winn should be on base a lot when Vizquel comes up to bat.
While Matheny had a second half fall-off, it was relative to the lofty heights he reached earlier in the season. His hitting after the ASG, while bad, was more in line with his career numbers, his first half was the aberration. In addition, looking at his monthly stats, it is clear that he started to tire by the end of the season. His OPS was steadily in the mid-700 range for the first four months of the season, with him playing 19-22 games each month, but then after Torrealba was traded away for Winn, Alou didn't trust Haad, so Matheny played 24 and 26 games, respectively, in August and September, driving his OPS to .699 in August and .560 in September. Again, a few extra games played appear to sap the strength out of Matheny, just like Vizquel in 2005.
With an established backup catcher in Todd Greene this year, Matheny should get plenty of rest to keep his hitting up. In addition, he apparently loves hitting at SBC/AT&T, particularly for power via a homerun rate double that of his career, than at Busch and he loves hitting in the NL West more than he did hitting in the NL Central, regarding divisional rivals he played most of his away games against. So Matheny should do no worse than he did last season, and there is every reason to hope that he might do better, given proper rest.
In addition, he hits much better with men on base than without, just like Vizquel:
Career - AVG - OBP - SLG - OPS
Empty - .226 - .272 - .335 - .610
Runner- .256 - .318 - .356 - .674
RISP - .261 - .339 - .369 - .708
Loaded - .319 - .340 - .451 - .790 (about 100 PA)
Not sure how that will pay off for Matheny since, while Alou will bat 5th and get on base a lot, then Feliz and Niekro will follow. If they both start walking more and hitting better, as I think they will, then Matheny will face more of the key runners on situations and hit better overall, but if the two of them fall back to how they did in 2005, then Matheny's hitting will probably suffer as well, creating a domino effect at the bottom of the lineup and perhaps affecting into the top of the lineup with Winn and Vizquel at the top.