Morris' ranking among pitchers

I wrote some of this in a post on McCovey Chronicles, but thought I would post it here as well.

It started with someone comparing Tomko to Morris and stating that there' only a marginal improvement. I don't agree. I have listed other reasons in other posts but here's some more data I dug up to show how Morris is differentiated from Tomko.

Ron Shandler's book, my favorite baseball stat book the past two years, breaks down pitcher's game performances into three categories, the two main important ones being DOM (for dominating) and DIS (for disaster). Here are their lines for past three years:

Year - DOM - DIS
2003 - 44% - 15%
2004 - 41% - 16%
2005 - 48% - 16%

Year - DOM - DIS
2003 - 21% - 18%
2004 - 35% - 26%
2005 - 40% - 17%

Scanning the pitchers records (no average or distribution was provided unfortunately) for the past three seasons, the worse to average pitchers have DOM under 40%. Good pitchers have DOM between 40-50%. Better have 50-70%. Best have 70%+.

The list of pitchers in the categories I roughly created looks pretty good, in terms of breaking down the starters:

40-50: Burhrle, Eaton, Maddux, Millwood, Morris, Mussina, Sabathia, John Thompson, Wells (David and Kip)

50-70: Burnett, Carpenter, Clement, Colon, Escobar, Halladay, Harden, Lieber, Oswalt, Peavy, Penny, Pettitte, Prior, Vazquez, Webb, Willis, Carlos Zambrano

70+ : Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Santana

Notes from looking over everything:
  • Schmidt had been in the 70+ for the three seasons before a horrible 2005 (Schilling and Woods too, all were injured in some way and would have been 70+ as well).
  • Other Giants (year by year, past two years): Lowry (43%, 58%), Cain (57%), Hennessey (14%, 29%), Wright (14%, 30%), Correia (36%). I would be inclined to almost double Wright's rate because pitching at Colorado, DOMs are probably pretty rare, though I think Cain might have gotten one there.
  • Beckett was wild: 43%, 73%, 58%, 76%. He could join the elite if he could be consistent.
  • Bonderman with a bullet: 29%, 47%, 55%
  • Kevin Brown going down: 70%, 36%, 31%
  • Hudson fell from 60-70 in two previous seasons to mid-30's the past two seasons.
  • Leiter fell from 50's to 40% in 2004 to 19% in 2005 (plus 38% DIS).
  • Mulder fell from 40-60 in three previous seasons to 19% in 2005 (plus 25% DIS).
  • Rogers was in the 30's and quickly declining: 39%, 31%, 30%.
  • Sheets need another year to join the 70+ club.
  • Weaver would actually fall in to the middle group if not for his horrendous stint with the Yanks.
  • Zito has been jumping from 60-40-60 so it was hard to categorize him as either but if not for last year, he would have been in the 40's group.
  • Free Agents competing with Morris this off-season: Byrd (37%, 39%), Loaiza (71%, 21%, 59%). I would be inclined to nearly halve Loaiza's 2005 figure because it was at Washington's extreme pitcher's park.


Spring News on Prospects

Two nice articles on sfgiants.com about prospects.

First is specifically on Fred (Freddie to friends) Lewis. It is a typical Rich Draper story - even though the stories are not subject to the MLB or team approval, he tends to be pretty much a homer when he writes, so there's nary a cloudy day when it comes to the Giants. And this one was no different, for the most part.

There were some interesting tidbits of info there. First, our new Giants Minor League hitting instructor, Bob Mariano, who, unlike his predecessor, is willing to travel and go help his charges, did a good job with Lewis. Lewis was struggling to hit in the first half, compiling a .226 average. Then Mariano works with him, getting him to move his arms, and he raises his average to .273. (Oddly enough, since Lewis is known more for his speed and leading off, Draper noted Lewis' "career-high 47 RBI" instead of noting his runs scored. BTW, neither was a career high, he scored 79 runs in 512 AB but in 2004 scored 91 runs and drove in 59 runs. He did have a career high 28 doubles.)

That was quite a climb. From my stats, which only capture week by week stats, I had him at a .227/.311/.337/.648 batting line as of June 27, which was about the closest I could get to the .226 that was quoted - after that his average took off, so I think that June 30 was the half way point used (most people use the ASG as the "first half"; also, the minor league season is shorter than the majors so the first half is reached before the end of June, about a week before). From June 28 to the end of the season, Lewis had 78 hits in 239 AB and 64 games, scoring 40 runs and driving in 28 runs, with 16 doubles, 4 triples, and 3 HR with a batting line of .326/.423/.464/.887, which was more like what we Giants fans were hoping from him in 2005.

Mariano said that Lewis listened, learned, and produced. That's good, if true, I have seen some observers note that he sometimes was lacksidaisical about learning or applying his learning. He also noted that Lewis "caught fire and hit some balls harder than I've seen in 25 years." Don't know Mariano enough to know if that is total B.S. or what, so take that with a grain of salt. He is, after all, talking about one of the team's top prospect, you can't really rip him in the press yet but, on the other hand, you don't shine them on either, or at least you shouldn't, since he can read this as well, so there must be some truth in that statement.

Interesting, Lewis boasts "I know in my heart I'm ready to play here, but it's not up to me." That's big talk for someone whose batting line in Norwich was only .273/.361/.396/.757 with 7 HR in 512 AB. Hopefully he can back up the talk in AAA in 2006 and be ready to come up in 2007. Alou or Bonds could be gone, or both, leaving just Winn in CF and Linden, Lewis, Ortmeier, and perhaps Ellison to battle for the two positions, assuming Sabean doesn't sign someone to play either or both corner OF positions.

He also appears to be taking advantage of being in spring training. He says he watched Barry Bonds and other Giants LHH (are there any other LHH we want him learning from? :^) and learned to use his lower body at the plate, boosting his power by using his legs more, generating more power from the bottom half of his body. He says it feels like the ball is jumping off his bat. Again, the proof in the pudding is if he can do this in AAA. And this is the year to do it, he is getting old for a baseball prospect, raw or not, at 25 years old.

The discouraging part of the interview comes at the end. He says, "I feel I've learned the game more and I'm still learning about hitting and running, knowing when to move the runner over, which base to throw to from the outfield." Well, after 4 professional seasons, one would hope that he would have learned such elemental things already. Hopefully he's not that polished a speaker and misspoke on that. He's got two seasons to show that he belongs in the big show before his prospect status becomes null and void when he turns 27 and the spector of journeymanship beckons.

Bits About Other Prospects

The second article covers a number of prospects. First off is Matt Cain. He's still saying all the right things. Though he has been labeled the fourth starter for the team, he noted maturely, "The way stuff has happened in the past and in general, you won't believe you're on the team until you're there -- in San Francisco" (FYI, he tossed 2 IP of shutout 2-hit ball today). "That's the way I have to think about it. If I don't throw well, somebody else will be throwing good, so I feel I have to throw the ball well to guarantee that spot."

That's well and good, but really, unless he totally loses it, there is almost no chance that he won't make the team. But I'm glad he's not taking it for granted, he is going to work to earn it, and that's great. But if he is not in the starting pitching rotation, our chances to win the pennant will take a hit.

There was also good news about Scott Munter. After being put on the DL for his arm problems last season, shutting him down for the season, fans would have to wonder how he will do coming back, there's always that question mark for any player coming back from injury. Well, his sinker is back and working well, he was three up, three down, all on grounders in his relief appearance today.

Apparently, SS Jake Wald has caught Felipe Alou's eyes. Alou likes Wald's power to the opposite field and will be playing him semi-regularly in Cactus League play. That's one of the benefits of the World Baseball Classic, Vizquel is playing for Venezuela and that opens up a lot of ABs for SS prospects like Wald and Angel Chavez. Chavez played 3B, however, in the first game, so it appears that they are grooming him more for a utility role at the moment. Alou noted Wald "had a big season in San Jose and earned respect as a player."

And boy, did he. He hit .293/.357/.493/.850 with 15 homers in only 304 AB, or 20 AB per homer. He also drove in 62 runs and scored 56 runs. His main flaw - as it is with most hitters - is that he strikes out a lot - 87 in those 304 AB. That's a horrible contact rate and he needs to reduce strikeouts while increasing his walks. Plus he's 24 years old in a league where most top prospects are 21-23, like Ishikawa, EME, Schierholtz, and Frandsen were. But he still ranked highly in a number of statistical categories. His SLG ranked 26th in the league among players with over 250 AB and his OPS ranked 33rd. His highest rank was in AB/HR, where he was 13th (tied with Ishikawa).

He's an interesting prospect, one that I consider underrated given the lack of notice he got. But that is kind of understandable because a lot of our top prospects were on that San Jose team. Players like EME, Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Frandsen, Bowker, Timpner, Jennings, Coutlangus, Hedrick, and Reina. Also, Bateman, Espinelli, and Waddell did well too, so it would be hard to get much notice there. But with his homerun rate, it would be very hard to ignore those numbers.

His future with the Giants, though, is foggy because Marcus Sanders is the heir apparent at the moment for the SS position. But in the event Sanders' injuries keep him from performing his duties, Wald look to be in the right place to take over that slot because Angel Chavez looks like he is going to be a utility player for the moment. Plus the Giants could use a 3B as well, as our top 3B prospect is so far down the farm system, that it could be years before he makes it to the big show, so perhaps, with his power, he might switch over to 3B, much like how Matt Williams did many years ago. The article noted his excellent defense - not sure if just game or always - so he might be able to shift to 3B without any defensive downgrade.


Play Ball!!! First game of Spring Training 2006

Giants win the first game of spring training, 10-5, over the Brew Crew, sans Le Barry Show, which had a big hit the past couple of days with his Paula Abdul impersonation for a "Giants Idol" rookie hazing exercise, forcing the rookies to croon, William Hung style, for the approval of the vets. Barry was the only one to dress up for the occasion, wearing a moo-moo type outfit the first day and a halter top "an-saam" the second day, replete with actual fake boobs (according to one account I read, he got a boob job in between because he seemed bigger the second day), and apparently speaking like and acting like Paula, seemingly unscripted and improvised. I loved one comment on this: "I see it but I can't unsee it". If this don't boost the Giants morale enough to go on and win the World Series, I don't know what will! :^)

Here is one pretty good first-person account of the event - just scroll to Feb 28/Mar 1st - complete with pictures of various rookies and Barry in his get-up. Travis Ishikawa apparently stole the show among the rookies (how could any of them compete with Bonds?) with his sexy rendition of "I'm Too Sexy", stripping down to his very brief undies. Quite a hoot! Plus it benefited a charity as well, the Giants Foundation, as they passed a bucket that fans could donate into and the Giants and Rob Schneider (actor-comedian, "Deuce Bigalo", SNL "Going to the copier, the Copy Meister").

This was also the start of the Barry Bonds Reality show that ESPN is taping. I presume Bonds is preparing for life after baseball with this. He once appeared on "90210", playing golf with Steve Sanders, maybe he wants to go the Jerry Rice route. Or maybe he wants people to see the "real" him and soften people up as he starts his run for Ruth and Aaron. But still, dressing up in drag when you know its going to be broadcast nationwide takes a lot of guts.

Anyway, back to the game. There were a variety of highlights, given the blowout. Winn led off the spring with a homer. Knoedler (I cannot begin to pronounce his name correctly), went two for two and had a 2-run homer to finish things off in the 9th. Linden went 4-4, run, RBI, 2B, SB, plus a fielding error. Ellison went 2-2, run. Durham had a 3-run double in two ABs. Matheny 2-2, RBI. Lots of rookies getting playing time. Shabala 0-2; Delarosa 0-2 (never heard of him); Ishikawa 0-1; Frandsen 0-3; Busher 1-1, 2B, run; Nunez 1-3 (who?); Lewis 0-1; Chavez 0-4; McMains 0-1; Schierholtz 1-1, run, SB; plus Knoedler above.

Pitching was pretty good overall, though obviously bad for someone given the 5 runs. Lowry started, 1.2 IP, 3 H and 1 W, with 2 K and 3 R/ER. Miller (picked up from Pittsburgh I believe) went 0.1 in relief of Lowry and got the win. Worrell (1IP, 1H, 1W), Hennessey (3IP, 1H, 1W, 2K), Reina (1 IP, 1H, 1K) shutout, but Matt Anderson (former #1 pick overall, 1997) gave up two runs on two hits in 1 IP. Then Taschner closed things down 1IP, 1 hit.

Go Giants!!!


Winn signed (finally) for 3 year extension at $23.5M

When I first heard the news, I had to catch my breath. "$23.5M for 3 years?" I was expecting something like Jacque Jones $16M over 3 years deal. "Almost $8M per year?" I thought $7M per year would have been the range for him. I was not too happy with Sabean's negotiations on this deal, I had been hoping that it was Colletti who was the driving force behind the problems with contracts that we have been having (or so in Giants fans thoughts at least).

But after reading comments by other fans and calming down a little, I finally realized that this was an extension for the years 2007-2009 with some built in inflation for future years, not quite the same as Jacque's, which starts in 2006. So I thought that we could look at Winn's contract, instead, as a 4 year contract for $28.5M or about $7M per year, which I could buy (see above). But it still seemed like a lot, it almost seems like the Giants were giving him extra to make up for the $5M in 2006. But the Chron noted that it was similar to Mark Kotsay's 3 year $22M deal, so that makes it a little more platable.

Then I recalled the sad fact that the Giants don't really have anybody who looks like they'll be a front-line starter for us in the next few years coming up the farm system. Fred Lewis' status as a regular starter prospect is starting to look gamey, kind of like Linden - they both need to excel this season if they are to get on the 25 man roster in 2007-8. Clay Timpner looks like the next in the long line of "great glove, not so good bat" CF, along the lines of Calvin Murray and Jason Ellison. There has also been talk that perhaps Marcus Sanders, possibly our second best hitting prospect (after EME), might be forced to play CF if his injuries don't heal properly, but for now he's at SS with 2B as his first alternative and CF as next. So if the Giants don't sign Winn now, particularly since he's looking for a deal now, they would have to go into the free agent market for that, and who is out there who would be a better choice?

So I'm feeling better about the deal now. It's obviously not a great deal but it appears to be a fair deal, in line with the marketplace, somewhat, relative to Kotsay's and Jones' deals. In addition, he gets a no-trade clause for 2006-2007 plus can veto 10 teams as trade destinations in 2008-2009. Hopefully we don't need to come to that anyway, it would mean that either the Giants somehow get really lucky with their 10th pick and get their future CF and he moves up fast or, more likely, Winn does an Alfonzo and we need to swap salary. Winn is the first player signed out to 2009, beyond Matheny and Vizquel now.


As the Chron noted, Winn has been a very steady player and Sabean noted his durability. But, then again, so was Ray Durham when we signed him and he has been all aches and pains since. But that's something we cannot predict, or we could retire and buy our own baseball team.

He has a career .288/.346/.425/.771 batting line with a so-so walk rate of 7.7%, good contact rate of 82.5%, borderline OK W/K percentage of 47.7%. Showing that consistency, that is approximately his rates for the past 3 seasons: .296/.350/.450/.801 with a so-so walk rate of 7.2% (average of 8% in AL and 9% in NL), good contact rate of 83.9% (85%+ is considered best, he had 85.3% in 2005; 82% was the average), borderline OK W/K percentage of 47.8% (Under 50% is considered bad but average in AL is 50% and NL is 54%, so he not far off from the average player; over 100% is considered best). His homerun rate is slightly better lately than career but that huge output for the Giants skewed his numbers, but only a little, he's been basically hitting 14 homers per year for the recent past: homer every 53 AB for career (11.3 HR/season) vs. homer every 41 AB for past 3 seasons (14.7 HR/season).

According to his baseball-reference profile, he has hit over league average in a number of areas. His BA of .288 compares well with the league BA of .267. That helps makes up for his lower walk rate in keeping his OBP above average: .346 vs. .334. If he could continue the .391 OBP he had while a Giants last season, then he'll be obviously better, but that .346 is kind of low for a leadoff hitter. His SLG of .425 is about league average, which was .427, even though his homerun binge pushed his SLG to .680 with the Giants. His OPS+ is only 103 for his career but he improved lately and has been in the 105-126 range the past four seasons. His SB% has been bad for his career, at 67% when 80% is considered the mark of excellence. Over the past few seasons, he generally been around 75-80% except for 2005 when it was a low of 63%, though still better than it was early in his career. His similar batters don't look great, but through 31, these players show up: Roberto Kelly, Steve Finley, Jose Cruz, Mule Haas, Dom DiMaggio, and Bake McBride.

Defensively, Baseball Prospectus' profile shows that their defensive methodology shows that he is very slightly above average and is worth about 1 win or 10 runs above a replacement player, just for defense. Most descriptions I've seen on him basically states the same, that he is about average defensively as a CF. These descriptions usually also note that he is a much better corner outfielder.

Quoting from Ron Shandler's blurb on Randy Winn: "...skills are as consistent as they come." I couldn't agree more. Since becoming a full-time starter, his AB has ranged from 600-626, his runs from 84-103, hits from 177-189, 2B from 34-47, 3B from 4-9 (mainly 4-6), HR from 11-20, RBI from 63-81, SB from 19-27, BA from .286-.306, OBP from .346-.360, SLG from .425-.499, contact rate from 82.5%-85.3%.

Only, $8M per, whew, salaries just get higher and higher, it's getting to the point where you just leave it in Giants management hands and just wish them luck and keep a blind eye towards all that. But I like numbers, just not those numbers, though the sticker shock is slowly going away. At least it wasn't as bad as I thought it was at initial look.


Giants Invite a Number of Prospects and Vets to 2006 Spring Training

Note: I've had this hanging for a long while and spring training has already begun, so I'm just publishing this without finishing off other prospects that caught my eye.

The Giants announced the invitation of prospects and MLB veterans to their 2006 Spring Training. Chief among them, as I've already noted, is Jamey Wright. I thought I would point out some interesting ones:

  • Joe Bateman: Don't know exactly why I've liked him from the start, didn't know much about him, didn't know his stats when I first learned of him, but my gut says to watch him. He's been pretty good for the Giants the past two seasons, don't know why Brian Wilson flied to AAA while Bateman, after a good season in A plus a good stint in AA in 2004, gets sent back to high A in 2005 and stays there all year despite totally dominating the batters there, ranking first in a number of stats (which was partly expected since he's older than most players there but still he was in the top 5-10 among all pitchers in a number of categories).
  • Justin Hedrick: Steve turned me on to him and he had a real nice season in San Jose in 2005. He was in the Top 10 of a couple of categories. Assuming he's in Connecticut, the team should have a real nice bullpen as San Jose had a great one in 2005 and most of them are moving up.
  • Billy Sadler: Had a nice season in Norwich (writer forgot that the AA team was called Norwich last season, not Connecticut), improving his walk rate, and therefore his K/W ratio, greatly, but it was still lacking (1.9 vs. the 2.0 minimum to be good and the 2.2 one would like to see ideally).
  • Brian Wilson: flew up the organization in 2005, it was his first full professional season healthy and he did not disappoint. He's probably the reliever to watch in 2006, the second guy up out of the system after whomever among Munter, Taschner, and Accardo is sent down. He is relieving because of his recovery from surgery, he could end up trying out for the starting rotation in 2007 if there is a need. And he loves Brian Wilson music, natch.
  • Jonathan Sanchez: lefty strikeout machine. His name is showing up on the lips of fans, his stats are electrifying. Could fly up the system in 2006 if he can continue to dominate like that.
  • Kevin Frandsen: Future 2B of the Giants? Probably not if Marcus Sanders continues to progress, as his injury probably pushes him from SS to 2B. Sabean mentioned 3B and SS as possibilities - for him to have a long career as a starter, he's probably going to have to do it at SS as he has not shown much power and 3B is normally a power position. Plus this next guy might make 3B his home for many years if he continues to develop.
  • Pablo Sandoval: As noted, he's only 19, a 3B, and will be the youngest player in camp. He had a great season in Salem-Keizer, hitting .330/.383/.425/.808 with 3 homers in 294 AB. That seems and is low but he's middle of the pack as players in this league are young and undeveloped, perhaps their first year in pro ball, and 3 homers looks to be in the middle. He was a Baseball America top prospect pick for the Northwest League.
  • Jake Wald: Had a quiet season but he hit .293/.357/.493/.850 with 15 homers in 304 AB. His HR/AB rate ranked 13th in the league out of 82 hitters with over 250 AB.
  • John Bowker: Not sure why he got the call, he had a down year in 2005, which took some lustre off his prospect status, but I guess it wasn't bad enough. Plus he was only 22 last season.
  • Brian Horwitz: Had a great season in Augusta and his hitting prowess got him this invite, though at 22, he was a little old for the Augusta crowd, he really should have been in San Jose, but as an outfielder, he is probably being held back by all the good outfielders we had in San Jose. They probably want to assess him carefully this season and make sure he isn't held back any more, they could be comparing him with Bowker to see who gets to AA Connecticut and who gets to San Jose.
  • Clay Timpner: He had a nice season, good speed, no ability to take a walk or hit with power though, but great bat control otherwise, he doesn't strike out that much, making a lot of contact. Looks like a typical Giants CF: all glove, no bat, though maybe he'll hit a bit better than Calvin Murray or Jason Ellison because of his ability to make contact.

Schierholtz Played Injured 2005, Now Healed

Wow, like Nate said in the interview on SFGiants.com, "that wasn't smart." He was lucky his bone didn't get worse by playing, Conte said it could have broke. So he was in pain all year and it sounds like his bone could have broke eventually but all he did was hit .319/.363/.514/.877 with 15 homers in 502 AB.

Some of his rate stats looked worse in 2005, so I thought he was on a down trend but this could be a brand new ballgame with this confession. 2006 should hopefully be even more interesting than 2005, especially since he feels his time is running out since it's his fourth year. Motivation could help him break out. But he's only 22, so there's still time, unlike Linden, who is probably nearing his shelf-date as a serious prospect.