Your 2006 Giants: Finley Rebound Key To World Series

Steve Finley was Giant property finally after years of free agent and trade foreplay when the Giants traded Edgardo Alfonzo for him this past off-season. A trade of expensive contracts and players no longer useful to their former teams, it was haled by Giants fans not for Finley but for ridding the team of Alfonzo, who took the mantle of most hated Giant by Giants fans from Neifi (who inherited it from Marvin Benard). But could Finley also paly a key role for the Giants in 2006?

Sign of Decline or Injury Induced?

Finley injured his shoulder diving for a ball in the 2nd game of the 2005 season. He tried to suck it up and play through it but despite a good month in May, he wasn't able to handle it anymore and went on the DL in mid-June. He still could not do anything after coming off the DL until September, when he hit .271/.300/.500/.800 with 3 HR in 48 AB. That would suggest that he finally was healed by the end of the season.

So I looked at his charts on FanGraph, suddenly my favorite analytical tool. Looking at his R/L splits, he appeared to hit LHP as well as before (though small samples he still hit .271/.317/.441/.758 with 3 HR in 118 AB, not far from his career hitting vs. LHP) but his hitting vs. RHP really suffered, particularly his power. So it appears that the injury took away from his abilities to hit RHP. But there is clearly a downward trend, going down over the past three seasons so maybe it is a real trend. However, his BABIP (batting average balls in play) was still normal vs. LHP whereas it was very poor vs. RHP, which suggests that it was just bad "luck" in that balls that normally went for hits became outs instead, as BABIP is a metric that most players fall to the mean. Either way, something affected his hitting vs. RHP, but it appears likely that it was either due to injury or "bad luck bounces" since his hitting vs. LHP appears to be at career norms.

Another factor which made 2005 such a bad season was his pattern of reaching his offensive peak during the summer, basically at the time he went on the DL. And it is quite a peak based on past years' data. So that added to his reduced performance overall.

Lastly, the move to the Angels hurt him two ways. The Angel's ballpark really did a number on his home stats, obviously sinking his overall numbers. But his away wasn't something to write home about either, though he really truly was terrible at home: home .204/.263/.331/.594 with 3 HR in 181 AB vs. away .236/.278/.409/.687 with 9 HR in 225 AB (or 1 HR in 25 AB, still pretty good power). However, that's not necessarily going to get better with the Giants because our home park affects left-handed hitters like Finley much more than right-handed hitters plus he hasn't historically hit well in SF. Secondly, he has been an NL man, since 1991, and moved to the AL, where his experience with pitchers and defenses is not as useful as it was playing in the NL. Returning should help him in that regard.

World Series Factor

I believe that Finley being the hitter he once showed is key to the Giants World Series hopes, presuming they get there first. One, he will be getting a lot of playing time behind the top three outfielders during the regular season. If he can keep pace with their offensive production, overall, then the outfield contribution to the offense will be on a high level; if not, because he'll be seeing so many games (or a lesser replacement), he will drag down the offense.

Two, he will be a dangerous PH off the bench for the games he is sitting for veteran presence, hitting savvy, and HR power. That's something we haven't had except when Galarraga was here. In addition, if he's starting, then one of the other OF will be that dangerous presence on the bench. Third, in the 2002 World Series, we were relying on Dunston, Feliz, and Shinjo for DH, but if he's hitting the way he can, he can play LF while Bonds become our DH, which is a win-win there, both offensively and defensively. If we had a good hitter DHing for us in 2002, we would have won it.

2006 Finley

Overall, it appears that Finley should return to form if he has recovered from his injury. His September rebound suggests that he returned to health because he could hit for power, which he couldn't do the three months before. In addition, he had a strong year hitting vs. LHP whereas his BABIP vs. RHP was abnormally low, around .220 when his BABIP vs. RHP has bounced around around .300 the previous three seasons, which suggests that he should rebound somewhat towards his established mean, though not necessarily all the way back, given his age plus rebounds don't revert to the mean as fast or as well as fall backs. The main negative is his poor history hitting at SBC, but small samples again.

Looking over his L/R splits over the past 10 seasons plus H/A splits, he has been able to do well overall whether hitting poorly at home or hitting poorly on the road. For his career, he has been amazingly similar whether at home or away. His L/R splits, assuming his hitting vs. RHP reverts back, even if he can duplicate his previous worse vs. RHP in the last 10 seasons - .277/.328/.453/.780 with 12 HR in 422 AB - that would be adequate production for a replacement during the season and great if we are good enough (and lucky enough) to make it to the World Series.


Your 2006 Giants: Winn-ing Combination

Randy Winn came to the Giants in a controversial - for some fans still but not me anymore - trade where we gave up Jesse Foppert and Yorvit Torrealba, but then won the fans' hearts with his superlative hitting (he hit 11!!! in September, it was like Bonds was reincarnated!), which earned him getting his option picked up and a 3-year extension at $24M {EDIT: correction per Allfrank; thanks!}. While that $8M per year average appears high, it is basically the same as the A's deal with Kotsay, both getting $8M in salary in 2008 (not including any pro-rated bonus).

Winn's Power Surge: Real or Mirage?

Another reason is that I think his power surge is not all mirage and small sampling. I know that this is a bit far out but, as I had posted before but somehow lost most of it, I compared SBC with Winn's other home parks using the MLB.com's Hit Chart feature. This chart shows where each hit and out was made in the ballpark. They appear to be proportioned the same so I printed out the hit charts for each park for all the years available and eyeballed where the hits at his old home park would have landed in SBC.

I saw that his homer total would have roughly increased between 50 and 100 percent, meaning that he would have had approximately 20-25 homer power in past years had he been playing in SBC instead of Safeco or Tropicana. And there were a number of hits that were borderline which I did not count, I only counted the ones clearly past the fence outline.

In addition, many of the additional homers were in the band of stands in SBC that the fence is inner relative to Safeco; many of his hits ended up being doubles or outs at Safeco instead of homers because of that. So SBC's odd RF wall shouldn't affect his power much, based on the small sample results of the 2005 season - where he blasted a lot of them into RF - and where the hits landed in the comparative hit charts.

To check this, I took out Adrian Beltre's hit chart for 2004 Dodgers and 2005 Seattle and compared the home runs changes. If he had been playing in Dodger Stadium instead of Safeco in 2005, there were clearly 4 homers taken away plus 2 borderline ones. He had 23 in LA in 2004 and only 7 in Seattle. He wouldn't have duplicated his LA stats, but he could have had 11-13 homers at home instead of the anemic amount that he had, almost double, to echo what happenned to Winn. Whereas Sexson wasn't affected as much because his old home park, Miller, is actually bigger than Safeco, so if anything he benefitted, as there were around 6 homers Miller would have took away and another 4 borderline ones, so his age and injury reduced his power, but the park gave him enough to make up for that, relative to him hitting in Miller.

I think there were a multitude of factors which worked towards him hitting more homers on the road as well as he did at home. One is that part of his surge was just one of those months where everything clicked. In addition, another contributing factor to his surge is that he hits better later in the season and with more power, he either brings it up a notch or he's just better conditioned than the pitchers. Also, he has had one outlier homer month during the season in, I think 3 out of the past 4 seasons. There is just one month every year where everything clicks and he just goes crazy, relatively, homer hitting-wise. Plus, even taking out this year's data, he has normally pushed things up a notch homer-wise previously in his career, not just SLG, averaging 1 every 76 AB pre-ASG vs. 1 every 52 AB post-ASG, or approximately a 50% increase in the homerun rate. With all these factors combined, that added up to one incredible short-run results for the Giants in September.

Looking at his homer ratios showed that his homer rate was severely depressed playing in Safeco as he hit only 1 homer in 90 or so AB in the 2005 season at Safeco. Even looking at his career rates, he hit 1 every 65 AB in Safeco, 1 every 58 AB in Tropicana, and 1 every 18 AB in SBC. If the hit chart is correct, he should have been hitting at around double the rate before, or 1 every 30-32 AB or so, which would work out to 20-25 homers per year.

In addition, his homer rate on the road vs. NL teams were not really outlandish, giving us hope that his road hitting will continue as a Giant. He has hit homers mainly at homer oriented parks: 2 in Chase, 2 in Turner, 1 in Miller, 1 in Great America. He also has 2 in Dolphins but in 57 AB, 0 in Coors despite 17 AB (so he is due big time), plus 1 in Dodger despite only 10 AB, so those last two could balance out over time. But 0 in PETCO, Shea, RFK, Busch, PNC, which is not unusually either (mostly in 10-25 ABs total) plus they are all harder to hit homers in except for Busch.

Overall, I would say, obviously, he won't hit 11 homers every month (else we found Barry's successor! :^), but his improved power is no mirage either. Plus, as was noted in various newspaper articles, he is a fastball hitter who is finally in the fastball league. His aggressiveness showed by his drop in walk rate after joining the Giants (from 8.8% to 4.6%; career 7.7%) plus his striketout rate when up high as well (12.5% to 15.7%; career 16.2%, but previous season was 14.4%)

Hitting Fundamentals Appear to Back His Growth

With a 3 year trend of lowering strikeout rates, from slugger rates to hitter rates, until coming to SF, plus a generally downward trend over his career, he has been gradually becoming a better and better hitter. Perhaps Ichiro was rubbing off on him. His contact rate (times he hit the ball into play instead of striking out) has gradually risen from a so-so 80% range to MLB-average 82%, then jumped the past two years to 84.4% and then 86.3% with the Mariners, before dropping back to 83.6% with the Giants. The best hitters have a contact rate of over 85%.

In addition, the BB/SO ratio, or batting eye as Ron Shandler's books have coined it, has risen in recent years as well. He was right around the 50% marginal point, below which the batter is considered a poor hitter, and he was under in 2 of 3 years, but again Ichiro appeared to help him out. In his second year with Seattle, he pushed it up to 54.1% then had it up to 68.8% when he came to the Giants, whereupon his reduced walk rate and increased strikeout rate dropped him back down to 29.0%.

Interesting Facts at FanGraphs

Looking at FanGraphs yielded some interesting facts. His batting average has been above the MLB average for the past five seasons and has been in the good territory for the past four. His OBP has been above the MLB average for the past six seasons, but only in the good area three times in those years. His SLG has been at or above for four seasons, only good last season.

His BB% has been basically slightly under the MLB average, he typically is above early in the season, then gets aggressive later, going under but then hitting for more power. His K% has been at or below the average for six seasons, with there being a sharp separation the past two years, showing his progress as a hitter. His BB/K ratio has been basically at the average for the past five seasons. Again, he is in the good area to start the season but then falls below to the average. His RC/G has been sharply above average the past four seasons, showing how valuable a hitter he is.

His LD/GB/FB chart (Line Drive/Ground Ball/Fly Ball) shows the spike I was talking about earlier about homeruns. Homeruns are correlated to fly balls and every year he suddenly starts hitting a lot of them, way above average, leading to his homerun spikes every year. Spikes appear to happen more frequently at the end of the season for him.

Despite being a natural RHH, he seems to hit better against RHP than LHP. Perhaps it has to do with the preponderance of ABs against RHP. Only in BB/K does he perform better vs. LHP than RHP. He is an unusual hitter in that way, this makes him more valuable than a hitter like Grissom, who mashes LHP but sucks vs. RHP. Being consistent against both LHP and RHP makes our lineup that much better, there's less highs and lows, there's more evenness in the team run scoring distribution, in my opinion (and obviously), if your hitters are able to hit either handed pitchers relatively equally. That was one of the assets of Rich Aurilia, he could hit either relatively well.

Looking at Home/Away splits, it is clear that during his time with Seattle, Winn's stats have been depressed by the fact that he is playing at Safeco, which has been a pitchers park, overall, the past few years according to Bill James' Handbook. However, in keeping with the trend towards AT&T/SBC/PBP Park becoming more a neutral park the past few years, his hitting home and away were either close, or even better, at home.

In particular, his K% had been slowly getting better and better on the road during his time in Seattle, whereas it was high and all over the place at home, probably because pitchers can challenge hitters better because of the depressive effect it has on homers. However, it got back to his old ways once he came to the Giants, jumping back to where he was about two years back. Also, according to THT stats, he was not swinging earlier in the count in being aggressive while with the Giants, his P/PA according to The Hardball Times was almost identical, in fact, it was higher with the Giants at 3.6 vs. 3.5 with the Mariners, despite having one whole percentage point less combined walks and strikeouts, meaning he hit that much more balls into play than in Seattle.

Especially impressive is that his BB/K ratio, which has been so-so for much of his career, it was clearly in the good range for much of the past two seasons on the road, only dipping again to the poor region while with the Giants and mainly in the last month or so. This shows that Winn clearly made a leap in terms of his hitting "I.Q." starting in 2004 but it was masked by his playing half his games in Seattle plus a good number of games against the A's and Angel's, two other tough pitcher's parks the past few years. Shandler's research has shown that hitters in the good zone hit significantly better than other hitters, this is where .300 hitters usually come from. Lastly, his batting average on balls-in-play (BIP) has clearly been in the good range the past three seasons on the road, but either average or poor while at home in Seattle.

I think that is the biggest clue to how Winn will do going forward, his BB/K ratio. This has been generally getting higher and higher on the road. This would normally result in him showing much better stats the past couple of years. However, his improvement as a hitter has been masked by Safeco's big park, which then affected how pitchers pitched to him there. Most probably because homers are reduced, they don't worry as much about walking batters since the homers won't cost them and gave less strikes to swing at. Once he got out of that environment to other parks, he was able to do much better at the fundamentals.

Now why all these fundamentals left him when he went to the Giants and yet he not only didn't do poorly but actually did great is puzzling. That would suggest that he will revert backwards towards the mean and do worse with the Giants going forward. However, one rule that has made sense to me on players is that once a player has shown an ability, he owns it. He has shown the ability to hit on the road so I think he owns it, you cannot know how to hit on the road then shut it down mentally at home. So I think the end of last year was just a fluke oddity, particularly since it was a small sample, but his hitting ability should be evident to Giants fans going forward and I'm feeling a lot better about his big contract now.

2006 Winn

I think he will do better than people think (i.e. his career), though obviously not as good as his career month-long spree when batting with Barry in the lineup - I don't think it is all a Brady Anderson type of fluke. He's been hampered by hitting at SAFECO and Tropicana and thus far he apparently is one of those rare LHH who can muscle up homers in SBC (like Bonds). We need to lock up players like that. He should be good for .290-.310, 20+ homers, 20+ steals, OK defense in CF, and be equally adept at scoring and driving in runs, you know, like what we expected from Durham at lead-off the past three seasons.

In addition, offense is a hard commodity to find in the CF position. His road OPS was .824 in 2005, .821 from 2002-2004; that would have ranked 7th in terms of overall OPS after Junior, Andruw, Edmonds, Jose Cruz Jr, Milton Bradley, and Grady Sizemore in the Majors for guys with over 300 PA, 5th if you counted only players who were qualified. Looking only at road OPS, he would have ranked 10th for hitters with significant ABs, 7th for those with over 250 PA.

In addition, we don't have much coming up soon in the CF pipeline. Fred Lewis took a step back last season and he was already old as it was for his league. However, he appeared to have been able to figure out what was wrong early in the season and he hit well after his early struggles. And Clay Timpner doesn't deliver much offense already and he just finished high-A league play. He smells like another Calvin Murray type, all defense, all speed, little hitting. So signing Winn guaranteed that CF will be set for the next four seasons, at least if he isn't suddenly injury prone.

One thing I don't like is Winn batting leadoff. Vizquel should be batting leadoff. Vizquel has much less power whereas Winn appears to be coming into his own power-wise with the Giants as a happy confluence of a number of different factors. This way, Winn has a better chance of hitting one out with someone on base. In addition, Vizquel apparently tired after the first month because his hitting was not that good after April.

Vizqeul has historically hit better leading off, however, so that could help offset whatever weakened him - perhaps it was all the stolen bases he did in April, I think there was a sharp dropoff after that. In addition, it bunches up our best hitters - Winn, Durham, Bonds, Alou - consecutively, so that pitchers cannot relax for an extended period. With Vizquel hitting 2nd, if he hits poorly again, he'll be a resting point separating Winn from the other batters.

So I see a good year for Winn in 2006. He should be headed for career highs in a variety of offensive measures. He should be driving our offense from the top of the order, though I would prefer that he hit 2nd. Getting runs early will help our starting pitchers to relax and not worry about having to be too fine in their pitches. We all saw how he drove the offense late last season. And I think, finally, now that I've crunched through all these numbers, that it was a great deal to get Winn and a great deal to sign Winn for a three-year extension. As long as he stays injury free and continues to progress as I've outlined above, the contract could be a deal once everything is said and done.

ESPN Excerpt of Another Book Attacking Bonds

ESPN has a quote from another explosive book on Bonds:
On an otherwise ordinary night, over an otherwise ordinary meal, Griffey, Bonds, a rep from an athletic apparel company and two other associates chatted informally about the upcoming season. With Griffey's framed memorabilia as a backdrop, and Mark McGwire's obliteration of the single-season home run record a fresh memory, Bonds spoke up as he never had before. He sounded neither angry nor agitated, simply frustrated. "You know what," he said. "I had a helluva season last year, and nobody gave a crap. Nobody. As much as I've complained about McGwire and Canseco and all of the bull with steroids, I'm tired of fighting it. I turn 35 this year. I've got three or four good seasons left, and I wanna get paid. I'm just gonna start using some hard-core stuff, and hopefully it won't hurt my body. Then I'll get out of the game and be done with it."
This is a lot more damning, to me, than the other book, particularly since the author said he got it from multiple sources. At least at the surface it is, that's how these authors seem to suck people in, they make their arguments sounds so authoritative. "We have 200 sources." "I got multiple sources confirming this conversation."

Why Would Bonds Do This?

But it got me thinking: would anyone as controlling and paranoid as Bonds has been described by the Chronicle writers' book really discuss taking steroids in front of 3 strangers? From most accounts, it is agreed that Bonds' sense of humor is not always apparent to the ordinary people. Could this be a case of that? And if he was serious, again, would he really talk in front of three strangers?

What I find more realistic is that Bonds was joking around with his close childhood friend but was a total boor with the other three and they are pissed at him. He makes a joke about taking steroids, which gets the others attention and maybe they get it but maybe they don't and think Bonds is serious. Either way, they will remember that conversation.

Because this is like the "wiping out Babe Ruth" quote all over again. He was kiddingly saying that but a lot of reporters took that to be serious and lambasted him in print all over the U.S. but a reporter here in the Bay Area backed him up on this, that these other people didn't understand Bonds was teasingly saying that, that he was saying it out of respect, not to demean Babe Ruth.

So maybe years later, these apparel reps, hearing about all these investigations and thinking they can screw around with Bonds since he was so rude to them, they contact the author and offer their "scoop". How else would an author researching Barry Bonds will run into multiple sources confirming this story, what is the odds that he gets in contact with one of these reps, let alone all three of them. It only makes sense if they coordinated their story together and then contacted the author. At least that is how I imagine the journalistic process working, perhaps I don't understand this part of journalism.

But obviously it was these three people who are associated with the athletic apparel company that Pearlman got in contact with and got their end of the story. There is no way I can imagine how Pearlman somehow finds out that Bonds met with three nondescript athletic apparell personnel on an evening almost 7 years ago and record their run-in with Bonds years later.

Why Didn't They Speak to the Grand Jury?

Why didn't they come out with this explosive information earlier? I suppose that it would just be their word against Bonds. But how about when the BALCO investigation started? Particularly with the way it was obvious that the government wanted to railroad Bonds. Wouldn't these people realize that the Grand Jury would want to know this? If they can figure out that Pearlman wanted this info, why didn't they step forward then when it could have made the difference in the grand jury investigation? If they wanted their anonymity, the Grand Jury testimony was suppose to be secret, they could have had their say and go, why a book which does nothing but blasts Bonds instead of testifying to the grand jury and really burying him?

Oh yeah, you can be prosecuted for lying to the Grand Jury. No, they chose the anonymity of being quoted sources in a book whose purpose is to blast Bonds instead. They do it so that they can get back at him for trespasses, real or imagined, but not have to answer to their testimony.

I find their choice to be troubling, why hide behind a book author if you have such explosive information? Why not really zip Bonds and see that he gets in bigger trouble? Particularly by the time Bell testified in 2005, they would have known that Bonds appeared to be in trouble legally.

I can see Novitzky starting up the war drums again and trying to pry the names of these people out of the author's hands. I wonder how that would work, legally. I guess Pearlman would protect his source but then get threatened with being jailed over it. I hope Novitzky does it, I wonder if they would still testify to what they told Pearlman, but I'm guessing not else they would have step forward already.

Tired of the Lynch Mob Mentality

I just want the truth. All this stuff takes a leap of faith, either you believe or you don't. Most people leap because it is easy to believe that Bonds is everything the authors say he is. I don't necessarily don't believe that he did Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), but I'm not going to accept other people's words just because they say it, people are motivated to do a lot of stuff they shouldn't, their story has to make sense to me.

But I don't see how you can paint someone as being so controlling a personality, a monster really, and he NOT harange Anderson, who he obviously treats as a flunkie, to make sure that there is no evidence of his usage. If he is calling Ms. Bell at all hours, I would see him go over to Anderson's place and say, "let me see all your stuff for BALCO, I'll bet you're messing it up, I want to see what you're doing for them, your records, I don't want anything to get out." And he would be like the TV character Monk, obsessing over this, coming over to Anderson's frequently to make sure he's not doing something stupid.

I mean, he openly corrected Anderson on working out in front of people - talk about demeaning him, that's his main job - and in front of a client, Sheffield. Sheffield noted this in his interview with SI. That shows Bonds' contempt for Anderson's abilities and intelligence. If he's like that for something Anderson is suppose to be the expert in, I don't see him going "whatever" regarding the BALCO stuff.

I see him going over to Anderson's and demanding to see what he's doing regarding BALCO. "You dumba--, you have a folder with my initials on it what were you thinking! You also have a bill in my name - NOT SMART!!!" Some people with the biggest ego in the world might think that that they won't get caught and thus do all the things Bonds is alleged to have done according to these books, but Bell testified that he feared getting caught, which means he should be paranoid about being caught.

This puts a big hole (for me) in the foundation of truth across all these stories. After all, he feels that the media is out to get him (and that may not be far from the truth the way the sportwriters in the Bay Area has been piling on top of him) and no one has questioned the sources the way I have. I would like answers for these questionable witnesses and their motivations to lie when testifying against Bonds.

Stories' Logic Not Holding Up

Their stories do not feel whole to me, I am seeing all these contradictions. I'm hoping this will get Novitzky to demand the names of these apparel people and force them to testify on the grand jury because I assume they are going to fear getting thrown in jail over what was said, particularly since Griffey doesn't share their version of the story, unlike Bell, who is in the classic "he said/she said" situation and cannot really be caught in a lie regarding what she testified to be true about their conversations (but really, after reading them, anybody with internet search skills could have dug up all that information and testified the same things that she did in 2005). These people who want their anonymity obviously don't want the fame or money involved with their explosive testimony, so testifying will the be a good litmus test whether they are telling the truth or not.

I wish someone would ask Griffey specifically whether he recalls that meeting with the athletic apparel company reps or not. He claims to have never heard Bonds speak on steroids, it would be interesting to see if he recalls this meeting and conversation. How many times does he meets Bonds with apparel representatives in Florida in 1999? If he backs up Bonds, that would put a big hole in these guys story because he has a lot more to lose if he is pulled into the grand jury and attest to his version of the story under perjury. If he claims to not remember that meeting, then it will be that much bleaker for Bonds.

Even though this is just an excerpt that came out, there are already two people key to the excerpt who say that what's in the book is not true. Ken Griffey Jr., when confronted with this passage, said that he does not recall Bonds speaking on steroids at any time with him. However, he is a close friend from childhood, so there is some bias there, an additional reason, beyond being a fellow baseball player and superstar, to not tell the truth.

However, Jay Canizaro, a former Giants prospect, who only came up for a cup of coffee, has a big part in this article as well. Here is what he is claimed to have said, from the Chron:
According to the excerpt, Bonds told teammates he used androstenedione, which McGwire admitted to using in '98, and little-used infielder Jay Canizaro estimated as many as 13 players on the '99 Giants were steroid users and that he was sure Bonds was a user because of the signs, including his body size and acne on his back. Canizaro said Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, gave him details about Bonds' steroid intake.

"The Giants that year were really out of control," Canizaro is quoted as saying.
However, he has already come out and said that he didn't say what was attributed to him.

Here's another quote from the book:
And in Bonds' case, it seemed to be working. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, the peak age for players with at least 200 career home runs is 27. After 30, a noticeable decline begins. At 35, the decline becomes a steep hill. But here was Bonds, at 35, hitting the ball harder and farther than ever. He started the 1999 season on a tear, leading the Giants with an April average of .366. "One of the things I noticed was how fast he was able to put the bat on the ball," says pitcher Russ Ortiz. "He could recognize the pitch well before he had to swing, and then he would get around so fast, so hard." Equally amazing was Bonds' indifference to fatigue. He could lift weights, play, lift more weights, then arrive early the next morning to pump more iron.

From my research and just general baseball knowledge, I have found at least three other hitters who fits the description that the author notes about after 35 peak: Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Darrell Evans. This is true if you measure by HR/AB or if you are going strictly by OPS or OPS+. So is he claiming that these three players were using as well? Or would he be willing to accept that, while most players deteriorate at any early age, Bonds and the others were outliers physically.


Your 2006 Giants: Cain Rising or Bust?

Cain is probably the best prospect to come out of the Giants farm system since Will Clark and definitely is the best pitching prospect to come out of the Giants farm system and do well out of the 35 seasons I have followed and enjoyed the Giants. Not that there were a lot of them, Montefusco, Bob Knepper, Scott Garrelts, John Burkett, Jerome Williams, and now Noah Lowry. He had a meteoric rise through the system since he was drafted out of high school, culminating in 7 starts at the end of 2005, to allow management to kick the tires and see how good he really is. Boy, was he good.

Wunderbar Wunderkind

Late season, 20 years old, never really pitched into September before, and only two years removed from his season being cut short because of elbow problems, Cain shouldn't have the conditioning to pitch this late in the season, he should have been tiring already. However, he was strong enough to pitch well for 7 games at the MLB level: 2.33 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, extremely low H/9 (4.7), low HR/9 (0.8), but borderline bad W/9 (3.7) and borderline good K/9 (5.8). This after playing well in the hit-happy PCL: 4.39 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 1.4 HR/9, 4.5 W/9, and superlative 10.9 K/9.

Not only that, but he also faced Colorado and Arizona twice in those short 7 games and, given that they should have learned something for the second time around plus he should have been even more tired, plus was in Colorado for the second game, he still did well against them the second time around, though just a hair worse:

1st games: 12.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R/ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 6 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.92 WHIP

2nd games: 12.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R/ER, 2 HR, 5 BB, 7 K, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP

Lastly, you throw in a masterful 2-hit, 1-walk, 8-K complete game, giving up only 1 run on a homer, and this is against a veteran Cubs team fighting to reach .500, fighting to stay in 3rd place, and fighting to extend a 3 games winning streak into 4 games, but was shut down totally, you have a bunch of giddy Giants fans over their young prospect starting pitcher.

Cain Predictions

We'll start with the bad stuff. FIP is not kind. Whereas his actual ERA was 2.33 in 2005 at the MLB level, FIP analysis rates his performance out to be a 4.06 ERA type of performance for the average pitcher and xFIP, which takes into account standardized HR rates, his xFIP is 5.23, where FIP and xFIP are indicators of how well he pitched relative to other pitchers and are better indicators of where his true ERA lies, not his actual ERA.

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster had a better view of Cain. This is because FIP relies only on his short MLB experience whereas his and Bill James systems should account for his AAA performance as well. The Baseball Forecaster sees Cain pitching 160 IP, 148 K, 10-6 record and 3.61 ERA, 1.18 WHIP. Rates predicted were 8.4 K/9 (very good), 3.7 W/9 (so-so, ideally want under 3.0), 2.3 K/W (good, minimum of 2.2 is best), 0.8 HR/9 (under 1.0 is good). They have a propriety Pitching Quality Starts (PQS) system where games are rated and then the games are labeled DOM (for Dominating), DIS (for Disaster), and other - Cain had 57% DOM/0% DIS for the seven games he pitched in the majors. As I had shown in the Morris post, anything over 50% appears to be the elite pitchers, over 70% appear to be the top pitchers.

Bill James was very high on Cain for 2006. His book sees Cain starting 30 games for 184 IP, 142 hits and 17 homers, with 74 walks and 181 strikeouts, leading to a 14-7 record and 3.16 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. That translate to 8.9 K/9 (very good), 3.6 W/9 (so-so, ideally want under 3.0), 2.4 K/W (good, minimum of 2.2 is best), 0.8 HR/9 (under 1.0 is good), which are all very similar to Ron Shandler's, which is not too surprising, Shandler is a disciple of James and used James' techniques to start with and went on from there.

Not that Shandler's book wasn't also high on Cain. The author, Patrick Davitt, of Cain's description noted, "Walks are a small concern, but he has the stuff to be an elite, high-K, front-of-rotation starter." Music to this Giants' fan's ears.

2006 Cain

Hard to say since he hasn't had much MLB experience to extrapolate off of, hence why I include some predictions from a variety of methods. I expect Cain to do well, the only question is how well he will do. A 3 ERA is definite but low-3 or high-3, I could go either way - I won't dare dream of a sub-3 ERA but I think that is a possibility if he can get off to a good start.

Since he will be pitching lower in the rotation, as long as the top three of Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, do as they are expected, he should not feel too much pressure to be superlative, he should be relaxed enough to just let his talent to shine. Even then, he is finally the first Giants prospects out of the Sabean prospects that have been described to be "mature beyond his years" to actually appear to be "mature beyond his years." He appears to be a dream come true, a prospect who is good but well grounded and polite, confident but willing to learn, humble but confident of his abilities and talents.

I think the sky will be his limit. And if you point a gun to my head and force me to guess what he will do, I would say that there is a good chance that he will have a better performance than any of the starting 3 of Schmidt, Morris, and Lowry. He is that good, he is that strong, he is that smart, enough to concentrate on just how well he does, not in comparison to anyone else, not to show off anyone, just to build upon, little by little, his expertise. His goals are equally to do well and to learn something, continuously, with every game he pitches. And he has done well at every level of the game he has played at. And he's only 21 for the 2006 season, he should be the leader of the Giants post-Barry period, leading by example. I expect him to be signed to a long term contract covering his arbitration years after the 2006 season, if not during.

Why the bias in the media on steroids? Players' Advisors Share Bigger Blame

{Sorry, somehow my save didn't work out right so I've gone through and fixed up obvious errors and tweaked it, nothing substantive but just thought I would point this out.}

Why is the media so biased in their assessment of the steroid scandal? Obviously you should focus on the cheaters who took steroids. And MLB management has gotten a nice black eye on this as well and rightfully so, they should have brought this issue to the fore much earlier than this, but better late than never. But there seems to me to be this inequality inherent in most of the articles I have read.

Why Bonds and Not McGwire?

Some have been calling for Selig to start an investigation along the lines of the John Dowd investigation that was done for Pete Rose. I don't like to use the race card, but where's the equality in outrage for McGwire? He basically admitted that he used steroids in his testimony, or lack thereof, when he could have shown the world, like Palmeiro (oops!).

Why no outrage for that? Why no call for investigating that? While I understand that he isn't challenging Ruth's and Aaron's records, he did set the season record before Bonds took it and he also set the rookie HR record as well, and is in the Top 5 of all time homerun hitters, pushing down players like Schmidt and Frank Robinson out of the top.

And he was caught with androstenedione, whereas Bonds hasn't been caught with anything yet, it is all hearsay and innuendo thus far, very circumstantial, whereas McGwire basically told the world he took because he took the 5th and the only reason to do that would be that you could be caught in a lie and yet nothing like this happened to him. He is a liar and a cheat too, circumstantially like Bonds, so why no outrage for him?

Why MLB Management and not Players Union?

And I don't understand the piling up on the MLB management including Selig. Not that I'm particularly pro-management, nor do I care for Selig, baseball needs a real Commissioner not a puppet like him, but have they seen the last umpteen strikes that have happened? The players are in control, the inmates have control of the prison. I have seen Selig say in public that they tried to get the Players Union to do stiffer drug testing but they refused. All the weak penalties are the work of the Players Union and Donald Fehr.

This recent review of a book on Selig's tenure as commissioner backs me up on this. Here is the pertinent quote:

And by working in concert with Congress (a large consideration) to get the players' association to open up the collective bargaining agreement not once but twice, a substantive drug testing policy has been implemented, with steroids as the chief target.

What this all means is that the MLB commissioner and management could not do much of anything to get the players union to agree to a better drug testing procedures and had to work with Congress in order to get the player's union to agree to a much better drug testing policy.

Why don't the newspapers attack the Players Union, they have got to know what was happening in their ranks, they have got to know how it would eventually play out (with scandal), why didn't they push for stronger penalties? Why didn't they make a stand? Why did they protect the cheaters?

And why don't the newspapers point this out? Probably because they are union too and they watch out for each other, I've seen very little criticism of the Players Union in this mess, all this tsk-tsking of the owners and management but really, the players have had the power, if they wanted stronger penalties and testing, they could have put it in, because management would not have fought that.

Why not Donald Fehr and his Management Team?

And why not put bigger shame on the management of the Players Union, particularly on their leader, Donald Fehr? Should they not be looking out for the long term health of their union members? Shouldn't they try to stop destructive behaviors as well as illegal behaviors? Don't they owe it to their membership to make the competitive landscape equal for everyone? Don't they want their players to not feel like they have to take illegal substances in order just to stay even?

Oh, wait, the 'roided players make a lot of money now, they're bringing in the dough, they have a lot of say and power now, particularly the agents making all that money, like Scott Boras. Any way you look at it, the players side look even worse than the management side in this whole mess. Does anyone really think that management would turn down strict penalties and a tougher testing regiment if the players agreed to something like that? No, the players' union never did anything like that to stem the rumors and innuendo swirling around the game.

Players' and Their Agents' Complicity Worse Than Management

And what about the players' agents? Why doesn't any of the reporters ask why Boras didn't make a big stink before? He has a large percentage of the top baseball players as clients. Shouldn't he want to prevent the use of steroids, because that would make his clients less valuable. Given his renown for extremely detailed work in putting together a free agent player's prospectus, wouldn't he have figured out at some point, given all the speculation that was in the press and discussed among fans and players, that there were significant number of users and that would make his clients worth less in a contract?

He would unless HIS clients were taking and thus he stayed quiet because he couldn't kill the golden goose. I have no idea whether any of his players are or were using but given his fanaticism in working for his clients, this seems like a rather big rock that he left unturned in making sure his clients are the best paid in baseball. Why don't the newspapers point this out as well? Why no calling out of this discrepancy?

If a prominent agent like Boras made a big stink about this problem, do you think he would be ignored as a crackpot? And he must have known about this problem, he has so many clients, he gets so involved with the training and development of his clients, there must have been one who let him know that either 1) he's a steroid user or 2) he'd seen steroid users and it's not fair or 3) he's heard of steroid use and he's worried about the pressure to use it. Wouldn't an agent hearing stuff like this be pushing hard with the players union to get penalties and testing put in because allowing steroids would make your client significantly less valuable?

Plenty of Blame But Why One-sided to Management?

So there is plenty of blame to spread around, only, conspicuously, none of the player's advisors, the people who should be looking after their best interests, whether the union or their agents, have been put on the carpet for this and they are probably the most culpable because they had the power to do something, the worse the owners could do would be to cancel out a whole season, but I don't think that they would get a whole lot out of that one, let alone stiffer drug penalties.

Look at how baseball tries to invoke a stiff penalty on Kenny Rogers for his cameraman incident. Did the players union accept that this act was a horrible act and accept the punishment? No, it appeals it and then gets it reduced in arbitration. That's how impotent MLB management is, what a load of hooey reporters are shoveling.

The Players Union and their agents are fiduciarily responsible to the players on the whole and to their clients, respectively. If there is anything that damages the people they are representing, whether physically or monetarily, it is their responsibility to protect their client, unlike management who has more of a hands-off relationship with the players. Why aren't the newspapers attacking these people, they were the ship captain on the Valdez oil tanker, driving the ship, MLB management was the flunkie the ship captain delegated the steering to before it crashed.


Your 2006 Giants: Lowry Year to Shine

Noah Lowry is the one who finally did it. Unlike the greater heralded starting pitching prospects to come out of the Giants farm system before him - Ainsworth, Williams, Foppert - Lowry was the one who finally made the rotation at the start of the season and had a good year overall. Ainsworth's first season ended with a freak break of his shoulder blade. Williams, after a superb mid-year promotion, was up and down for his first season as a starter, and after a second straight year of not being in good condition coming into spring training, he was traded. Foppert rose like a meteor through the farm system, leaving the rest in the dust, but when he got there, he injured his arm and kept quiet about it until the ligament broke and Tommy John beckoned.

Noah outdid them all and he left them in the dust where it counted: in the majors. He had 33 starts in 2005, winning 13 games, with a 3.78 ERA in 204.2 IP and 1.31 WHIP. But it was not all sunshine and flowers everywhere in 2005 for Lowry, he had an ERA of just over 5 after three months, he looked like a pitcher headed for the dreaded sophomore jinx. He didn't have good control and he was giving up too many homeruns. He was lucky there wasn't anyone waiting to come up or he might have been sent down.

But then he finally straightened himself out in July. And he followed that up with as dominating a month as a pitcher will ever have in August: going 5-0 with 39.1 IP, giving up only 22 hits and 9 walks, with 33 strikeouts and 0 HR, he had a 0.69 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP and .167 BAA. He then regressed in Sept, but it was still an OK month, just not great.

And 2005 Could Have Been Better

There's the old saying, "if it wasn't that I had bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all." That was slightly his plight in 2005. While Tomko got 3 starts in LA and 2 in SD, two of the best pitchers parks in the majors and Schmidt got 2 in SD (though 3 in AZ) and even Hennessey got 2 games in LA, Lowry got to enjoy 3 starts in Coors and 2 starts in Chase (though he pitched well at Chase). If he would have gotten only 1 start, pro-rated, at Coors, which is what all the other starters did, removing those stats reduced Lowry's overall ERA to 3.47 and WHIP to 1.26 (from 3.78 and 1.31, respectively) and reduced his road ERA to 3.75 and WHIP to 1.34 (from 4.43 and 1.45, respectively). Suffice it to say, he got his butt whooped pretty good there in 2005 but if he got less starts there in 2006, his overall numbers will look better.

In addition, as a pitcher playing in the majors for the first time, he most probably was not conditioned to last a full MLB season. Even the minor league seasons are not as long. And this showed in his September stats. After two months of under 1 hit per IP and low HR rate and high strikeout rate, he gave up more hits in that month than in any other month, even the three months when he was pretty lost at the beginning of the season. And his K9 rate fell to the levels of his first month.

2006 Season

Prospect books say that the 2nd half is a good leading indicator of how a young prospect will fare in the intervening years. I hope that is true because Lowry had a great second half of pitching:

Period - ERA - WHIP - H9 - HR9 - BB9 - K9 - K/BB
Pre-ASG - 5.07 - 1.52 - 9.9 - 1.4 - 3.8 - 7.5 - 2.0
Post-ASG - 2.43 - 1.10 - 7.0 - 0.4 - 2.9 - 7.7 - 2.7

He improved across the bar, some dramatically so, and was totally dominating. I think a low to mid-3 ERA is within reach, if he can get some lucky breaks and if he could ever figure out how to bottle the stuff, he could get into elite status with an ERA under 3.00. And like Morris and Schmidt, a low to mid 3 ERA should enable Lowry to win a lot of games, somewhere between 15-19. I think the possibilities of the Giants having a formidable 1-2-3 in Schmidt, Morris, and Lowry is very good.


Your 2006 Giants: Morris is HEALED!

I'm not a doctor but I play one on my blog.

Remember when it was a big deal when you were a "6 Million Dollar Man"? It got you a beautiful wife like Farrah Fawcett Majors and powers like you couldn't believe. Well, Morris is the Giants' 9 million dollar per year man and, of course, Giants fans are curious about who we got. What exactly did we get for our money, a bionic man or damaged goods?

Obviously, we've gotten a pitcher with an injury history. We also got a pitcher who was a hands down ace once upon a lifetime (for a pitcher) ago, but not quite Tomko-rrific the past two years if you look at his ERA. Are we doomed to his FIP of around 4 ERA?

What's Under the Hood?

I decided to check his recent history in order to try to read the tea leaves about what type of pitcher we are going to get in 2006. What people (and I include myself in this) sometimes forget is that FIP is an idealized ERA based on his skill components, i.e. everything being equal (and we know they never are) his ERA should look like FIP given his components. But what if his components were compromised? FIP works as an overall, odds favor aggregate basis, but not always on an individualized basis, if there were extentuating circumstances. And I believe there is in Morris' case.

Here's the chronology as I see it. He has a number of good years after returning from his Tommy John surgery, relieving for one year in 2000, then starting from 2001 to 2003. But 2004 was a bad season overall for him when it was discovered why he pitched so badly: he got arthroscopic shoulder surgery, where his frayed labrum was cleaned up on November 30, 2004. He then follows with a mediocre (for him; good otherwise) season in 2005 that is marred, however, by a very poor second half after a very strong first half. So which is the real Matt Morris, the first half or the second?

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

Here comes the doctor part: I think the first half is closer to the "real" Matt Morris than the second half. I did some research on-line looking for recovery periods for that type of surgery and found that he didn't have a lot of time to build up his muscle afterward. He had nearly 3 months - about 11.5 weeks - before he started throwing on February 19th, 2005. According to one site, the patient is asked to refrain from using the shoulder and arm - even if feels good - for 3 to 4 weeks after the procedure, except for a strict, limited set of exercises. After perhaps 2-6 weeks, when any pain has settled, the resistance can be increased and weight training started, but initially, for the first 2-4 weeks of weight training, only very light weights should be used. It was also noted that recovery would continue over a few months.

So the net I get from that is that he couldn't really use his shoulder for anything for one month, then could not do any heavy lifting for another month and a half (6 weeks), meaning that after his shoulder had atrophied for a couple of months, he could start exercising unhindered, meaning he could actually start throwing, in early February.

There was no way he got his shoulder back to game shape by spring training given all the restrictions on his usage of his shoulder post-surgery. And I think that was reflected by his needing to be placed on the disabled list to start the 2005 season. So once he started the season, his arm was finally built up enough to match his strength that he had before but, and I think this is a key but, he was not able to build in the endurance that would be necessary to pitch well throughout the season.

Statistical Evidence

If you split his season by the point at which it is clear he started his slide down, which is the second game after the All-Star Game (and his first game, while OK, was marked by a large number of hits) which was on July 23rd, here is the difference:

2005 Split Point - H9 - W9 - K9 - HR9 - WHIP - ERA
Pre-July 23rd - 8.5 - 1.4 - 6.2 - 0.6 - 1.10 - 3.09
Post-July 23rd - 10.9 - 2.1 - 4.3 - 1.4 - 1.45 - 5.06

However, looking at his game stats closely, there was even another split within, splitting the season into 3 parts. He was very dominating, similar to his post-TJ career, when he started the season, but as the season wore on, his stats got worse, though the last third looks better in some ways but note that his key K9 rate fell by nearly 1 K:

2005 splits - H9 - W9 - K9 - HR9 - WHIP - ERA
First third - 8.3 - 1.5 - 6.5 - 0.6 - 1.09 - 3.13 (ending Jul 4th; actually nearly half the season)
Second third - 11.1 - 2.0 - 4.6 - 1.4 - 1.45 - 5.01 (ending Aug 20th)
Last third - 10.3 - 1.9 - 3.8 - 1.1 - 1.36 - 4.43 (ending Sep 27th)

An interesting data point that suggests that it was only his arm strength affecting his pitching, he was able to keep his K/W ratio at or above the 2.0 ratio that is the minimum you want to see from your pitcher. So despite his arm strength being so weakened by the end, he was able to keep his control good enough to keep that ratio in good stead.

You can see further how up and down 2005 was month by month, as his strength deteriorated during the season:

Mon - H9 - W9 - K9 - HR9 - WHIP - ERA
April - 6.9 - 1.6 - 10.1 - 0.5 - 0.94 - 2.12
May - 8.9 - 1.6 - 6.8 - 1.1 - 1.18 - 4.07
Jun - 8.8 - 1.6 - 4.4 - 0.2 - 1.15 - 3.23
Jul - 10.1 - 0.8 - 5.7 - 1.4 - 1.21 - 4.36
Aug - 11.6 - 1.9 - 4.0 - 0.9 - 1.50 - 4.96
Sep - 9.9 - 2.9 - 4.1 - 1.3 - 1.42 - 4.15

He was like a battery, though, his strength would ebb and flow through the months. And while obviously there is the small sample effect happening when going by month, particularly for a pitcher, it does show that he was generally trending downward throughout the year as he weakened.

Morris is Healthy

Given that he is a veteran starter who has shown the resiliency to bounce back from adversity and continue to do well, the downtrend is more a sign that his shoulder, while now healthy, was not 100% in terms of fitness and it tired as the season wore on, particularly by June. His second half fade, which could be a sign of a pitcher in his 30's starting their path towards retirement, does not appear to be age-related based on how well he did initially in the season. He was dominating those first few starts he had and I find it unlikely that someone who could be so dominant could suddenly find it switched off and start on the downside of his career.

I don't know about future years - don't know how soon a labrum fraying would recur - but for 2006, I think Morris is entering into his first healthy year after the shoulder surgery so he should be back to normal. Based on how well he did in the first part of the season, he should be able to return to what he had been able to do from 2001-2003, which was very good.

In addition, he has shown an intelligence about his abilities and capabilities, as shown by how he was able to adjust from the flame-thrower he was early in his career to flourishing while a softer thrower, plus learning and mastering a variety of breaking pitches, like a changeup , to help him stay relatively effective. In addition, his problems with the gopherball should be ameliorated because he is now pitching at AT&T Park for him home park. Homers vs. lefties have been a problem and AT&T will help fix that for him.

Morris 2006

So I think he should be able to return to the form he had from 2002 to 2003, where he ERA ranged from 3.42 to 3.76 with a mean around 3.60 expected from him. His K-rate might be as high but his walk rate has dropped since then as well, plus pitching at AT&T will help lower his homerun-itis that has afflicted him the past 3 seasons. With a strong offense humming again in SF, he should be winning anywhere from 15-20 games this year while providing good pitching. Schmidt and he will make a good pair at the start of the rotation, quite a contrast in style.

I think Morris will be worth the extra money he got over mediocrities who were getting $7M per year in 2006 and will be worth it over the life of the contract if he is able to avoid the injury bug. I am a bit worried that it might rear its ugly head by 2008 but by then hopefully all our young pitching prospects would be ready to take over the mantle at the top of the rotation, Cain, Lowry, maybe Hennessey, Valdez, Wilson, Sanchez, and we won't need Morris to be a top rotation guy, he'll just be overpaid or injured.

Giants Prospect No-Hitter in WBC: Shairon Martis

Now that's a name for Giants fans to remember: Shairon Martis. He no-hit the Panamanian team (both teams were 0-2 going into the game) in 7 innings exactly on the 65 pitches he was limited to and the game ended due to the mercy rule, 10-0. MLB description here.

However, it is a little flukey. One, the Panamanian team is not exactly filled with major leaguers, though they have one or two good hitters. Only major league hitters were, in order of accomplishments, Carlos Lee, Olmedo Saenz, and Ruben Rivera. So, star, journeyman, below-replacement level. Which means all the rest were even worse. And the three only had 5 AB between them (Saenz had the walk so 6 PA) in the 7 inning game.

Second, he had ZERO strikeouts plus 1 walk. Apparently they swung at pitches early in the count and got themselves out. Or hit into a double play, which Martis needed in order to finish the game because it came on his 65th pitch with him needing two outs to finish the game. Reminds me of the no-hitter Babe Ruth was involved in. He walks the first guy and gets thrown out for arguing with the umpire. His relief pitcher came in and I think picked off the runner then proceeded to set the rest of the lineup down for a 27 batter no-hitter, perfect for him but imperfect because of Ruth's walk.

Martis, a soon to be 19 year old RHP from Curacao, pitched for the Giants' rookie-league Arizona League farm team last season. Baseball America rated him the 10th best prospect in the league. In 34.0 IP, he gave up 28 hits (1 HR) and 9 walks, getting 50 strikeouts, and giving up 10 R/7 ER for a 2-1 record with 1.85 ERA. Not only was his hit rate and HR rate very low, his K-rate was extremely high and he still had a very good BB-rate, around 2.4 per 9IP, which obviously all led to a low WHIP of 1.09. According to this article, he is likely to begin the season at Augusta in the low-A Sally League.

Too early to get all that excited about a prospect but still a name to keep your eye out for: Shairon Martis. Maybe in 3-4 years?

Steroids... again

Two items today, both on steroids.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

First, I am just flabbergasted by how journalists who say that "I" or "we" who still say that evidence has not been found that Bonds used steroids are blind to his faults when they themselves are blind. Case in point, Susan Slusser, whose writing I normally like.

I have to quote from her Sunday article: "Frank Thomas is 52 homers shy of 500, and he is one of the few sluggers of the past decade and a half who is untainted by performance-enhancement speculation. Because he's been a behemoth since his days playing football at Auburn, there hasn't been any sudden weight gain that can arouse suspicion in a player."

How could she have written that with a straight face? Hello, all the talk about teenagers taking steroids in high school, he could have gained all his suspcious weight before he played at Auburn. And football in the 80's, steroids were probably all over the place, Lyle Alzado said he was doing it around then. At least she then quote his high school coach as saying that he's always been like that, but really, does she think that middle school students were not taking back then either? This is football we're talking about, not baseball, and they were more likely to be regulars at the gym where you can get your cocktail sans steroid, particularly HGH which appears to be the PED of choice among the smarter ones because it is so far undetectable.

And look at Thomas. He has been affected by one injury or another for the past whatever years, very injury prone, his body seems to be failing him. And just because he said that he hasn't used and everything, look at Palmeiro, he said he didn't use either. And not to knock Thomas, he is clean as far as I know, but these are all signs that a non-fan would use to say, "see, there's some smoke there." Same as many has and still do with Bonds.

And again, I'm not saying Bonds is clean, I've finally been worn down by everything and think that he probably used, but I'm going to join the lynch mob until I get good proof that I can believe, not stories that a jilted woman who wants money has told to two journalists who was ready to listen to anything that fits their story.

The Logic is Not There

One of the interesting facts that I read in the excerpts is one from the mistress, Bell. She said that Bonds was very concerned about his place in history, that he didn't want his "secret" to get out. Well, most people doing something illegal generally don't want the secret to get out, kind of messes things up because, well, they're illegal.

OK, add to that this point: raise your hand if you think Bonds is very suspicious and paranoid about the press, and generally angry at them? I think most of us Giants fans would agree that is true. So if he had a secret, he would do anything to keep it from the press.

In addition, it appears that Bonds is very controlling. I think the Sheffield interview revealed that Bonds often overruled his trainer, Greg Anderson, or worse, show him up and correct him as he was working with Sheffield. Bell also noted that Bonds was not very happy when she did not do as she was told by him (again, assuming she is telling the truth here).

Lastly, most close observers of him have said that he is very intelligent. I would agree, from the interviews I have seen or heard him, he has been articulate, thoughtful, intelligent, very charming.

When I mix those together - intelligent, paranoid, controlling, don't want his secret to get out - I don't get a story where Anderson would have a bill naming Bonds purchasing illegal drugs or a folder naming Bonds and his drug schedule or Bonds cheerfully advertising for BALCO or even Bonds telling his mistress about his steroid usage woes. I see Bonds warning Anderson to never have anything remotely associating him with BALCO and the drugs he was taking, I see Bonds warning Anderson to not have a schedule with "BLB" on it, I see Bonds refusing to advertise anything for BALCO, I see Bonds telling his mistress nothing that can ever get out on him, because loose lips sinks ships. That's what a paranoid would do.

Not that intelligent people with big egos never make mistakes, some think that they can do anything and get away with it. However, most of these people don't always have journalists coming up to their face and asking you rude (to your sensibilities) questions that is insulting to someone who works out honestly every day to be the best he could be. In this day of paparazzi and journalists who want to be Bernstein and Woodward, breaking the big news, the big scandals, the big secrets, wouldn't an intelligent paranoid be extra secretive?

I guess one could say, "he's already cheating with another woman, what is the big deal about him confiding in her his illegal usage." But she herself said that he was very afraid of getting caught. Someone so afraid of being caught wouldn't want any evidence at all at BALCO or Greg Anderson that could finger him. Perhaps Anderson slipped up and thought he didn't need to be careful anymore, he could be the weak link in the chain for Bonds, so that makes some sense.

But why would he tell a mistress that he wouldn't even shell out $100K to keep quiet, wouldn't you think he would know that she could squeal about the steroid usage, if she had told him? Again, big ego could do that, but given the explosive information she would have on him, she should be able to get a lot more than $100K off of him without resorting to a very public trial to get $100K out of him.

If I were her lawyer - and I'm not a lawyer - first thing I say is "what has he told you in confidence that he would want you to shut up about? I've researched him and he's been accused of using steroids - that would be big news that he would want to shut you up on. If you got that, I can probably get you millions of dollars for that, let along the $100K you want." And if I were Bonds lawyer and she was threatening to do that, I would say, "pay her the $100k and make her go away, sign the damn papers and keep her quiet."

Yet here we are, she's the star witness for a personal vendetta by a government official who probably broke the laws of the land releasing grand jury testimony and, oh yeah, she's writing a tell-all book about her relationship with Barry, so it is not like she doesn't have any motivation to embellish her story in certain ways. Bonds has made over $100M just from playing baseball, he's probably kept over half that (taxes you know) plus invested it along the way to make even more money, he could have easily paid shut up money to the tune of $5M, which is more than she'll ever see from her book and claim that it was to protect his family from his shameful dalliance.

And yet he wouldn't even pay $100K to make her go away. He knows the press, he knows they wouldn't let it go if she blabbed about anything and everything. He knows that they would believe every word she said. Plus that and the BALCO investigation, it would be a huge mess.

Maybe he just didn't care, or his ego thought it wouldn't be any worse than what he was already going through. But given the vendetta that the IRS agent was waging against him, she could become his star witness. Why take that risk if you were a paranoid bent on protecting your legacy? Letting her go out and do this doesn't protect your legacy, it would cheapen it greatly. Ego might make you think you should have to do that, but the controlling paranoid inside him would say that $100K is cheap to keep her relatively quiet, do it, or else there would be this huge PR disaster which will make your legacy in doubt.

Not that I would know what a controlling paranoid would do, but that's how I see the logic falling out on Bell's accusations, it doesn't add up for me the actions she claim he did, based on stuff she had said plus other facts known about Bonds.


Nice article on Travis Ishikawa

There was a nice article on Travis Ishikawa on sfgiants.com. I've been following his career closely ever since someone challenged me on my assertion that Ishikawa was a prospect to watch because of his ability to take walks and hit for power; he thought Jason Columbus was a better prospect. Obviously, any prospect getting $1M (or nearly so) in bonus from your team is going to be of great interest to any fan of that team, but that challenge has made me view Ishikawa with a microscope.

Not that I think I'm all that great in judging prospects, there are many more qualified people on McCovey Chronicles who could spin me in circles on prospects, but I wanted to see if there is anything about him to justify the other person's logic. Obviously, Travis strikes out a lot. But that is not that great an evil if he can keep his walk rate up and his HR rate up, there are plenty of major leaguers who strike out a lot but make up for it with walks and homers. Plus I had read that he has a great swing ("sweet" I've seen it described; and his stance did remind me of Will Clark when I first saw it) and plays good defense.

One reason that I said that Ishikawa should be kept is because he is overmatched at that time because he was facing players who were a few years older than he. I said that most players mature physically to a greater degree during their 18-22 phase and yet he was doing OK despite that disadvantage to him, he would have spurts of dominance followed by a period where he's totally lost. I couldn't get anyone on that board to agree with me or to defend my position, so I thought maybe I was out there on a limb alone. So this quote from the article was sweet music to my ears:

Although 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Lefebvre says Ishikawa has yet to be
fully formed physically and mentally. When he does, watch out.

"He has a great swing, and I think as he physically matures, there's going
to be more power in the swing and a lot of quickness in his bat," said
Lefebvre. "And he's real solid around the bag."

So I don't feel as dumb as I did back then, plus more importantly, Ishikawa is sounding like a great prospect who is only going to get better. Niekro better not get too comfortable with 1B; too bad Niekro could not stay at 3B, we don't have any 3B close to the majors and Feliz is probably not going to last much longer with the team, he'll be a free agent after this season and I don't see the Giants signing him for big bucks unless he gives a home discount.

I particularly like this quote from him, which ends the article:
"I've got the confidence now I can put up numbers -- at times I was scared
I was never going to be able to hit," he added. "I'm a perfectionist, and
I know I have a lot more room for improvement."

I like seeing that from prospects. He is confident enough in his abilities and yet humble enough to know that he has a lot more room for improvement. Plus he's a perfectionist, so he's always going to try to improve himself and try to get better, instead of coasting on his abilities and talents.

I had no idea when this whole thing started whether Ishikawa was that great a prospect, I just knew that we shouldn't throw the towel in on him so early, it was at the start of the 2004 season. But none of that matters, what matters is that Ishikawa looks like he has a bright future ahead of him and he could be starting for the Giants by 2008-9, if he continues progressing nicely.