Brandon Belt broke his left thumb yesterday on a Paul Maholm pitch that missed its target big time, and now the Giants are looking at their options for a replacement for somewhere around six weeks. The beat writers talked last night about the possibilities of whom would be manning first base: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Michael Morse, and current Fresno Grizzly Adam Duvall. Recently, Brandon Belt just went through a slump where he was ice-cold, and so it my give the impression to the casual fan that losing Belt may not be a big deal. Overall, I’d say losing a .357 wOBA, 9 HR/3 SB regular is going to put a dent in the scary factor of your lineup. Belt’s defense is very good as well, the only one that might be able to match him is Posey, but then you lose a better than average catcher behind the plate. There are some names that can step up in Belt’s absence until the thumb of the taller Brandon is all healed and ready to go, and we’ll begin with the most obvious.
Surprise! Pablo Sandoval‘s .171/.250/.276 line with a .235 wOBA and 49 wRC+ are all well below career averages, and having Sandoval average all of that out would be a treat to the Giants lineup, probably helping them continue their winning ways despite the loss of Belt. If everything else stays constant with the offense and Pablo puts it together, watch out. However, asking everything to stay constant might be a little bit to ask of players like Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford.
I know, it might be surprising to see this player on this list, but knowing what he’s capable of, that’s why he’s here. A .252/.342/.374 line with a .321 wOBA is probably OK for a decent extra OF with great defense, but I’m sure the Giants were hoping for a little more from the bat. Pence is still playing everyday, currently holding the longest consecutive games streak in the NL, but that wOBA is about 30 points below his .352 career average. Now, his walk and strikeout rate are well below career averages, as is his BABIP (.284 to .318). Hunter Pence could be due, and if he continues to be in the 2 spot, that could mean more early leads, which the commentators have noted lead the Giants to more wins.
This one is definitely a question mark because who knows if he gets called up. You hope that his destruction of Triple-A pitching continues into the bigs, as he’s put together a .259/.329/.541 line with 11 home runs. The question with Duvall has always been his glove, so I wonder how effective Duvall would be in his first taste of baseball at the Major League level. I figure the bat will show up, but to what level? Brandon Hicks-like? I think it’s unfair to expect a lot out of a rookie in a short time period, but that’s what this would be.
As I was noting earlier, it’s possible Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford could be overachieving a little, so if their cloud of success floats down closer to the earth a little bit, disappointment should be tempered. Buster Posey is swinging at the area of awesome that lines up with his averages, so we’ll see with him. If the Giants are going to continue their winning ways, they’re going to need one of the bolded players to make some bigger contributions, whether in extra base hits, getting on base, or both. Giants fans are just left hoping that Belt’s absence won’t be the beginning of something 2013-ish, and I think it can be avoided if Morse and Crawford keep hitting, and somebody steps up in a big way.
Pablo Sandoval will be younger than 30 if/when he hits the Free Agent market after this season. As long as the Panda stays healthy, the Giants will very likely attach a qualifying offer to him, guaranteeing at least a draft pick out of him if they aren’t able to guarantee more years and less money in the bank by bringing him back. While beat writer Hank Schulman suggests the Hunter Pence deal could be a template for Pablo’s contract, another beat writer hears something else related to Hunter Pence’s contract:
I heard Pablo Sandoval’s asking price was well north of Pence’s 5-year/$90M deal. No wonder Sabean told @hankschulman the club will hold off
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) March 23, 2014
Maybe that isn’t All The Money, but it is a lot. The Giants already have six players in 2015 that will get paid more than ten million in Matt Cain, Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Tim Hudson, and Angel Pagan, so I’m sure the club will have no problem giving off the front that they want to save some money. However, the market of those that could be there, doesn’t look too appealing. As Hank reminds us, Pence didn’t get an extension before the 2013 season, so let’s not pretend that this means this is the end of Pablo Sandoval and San Francisco. The risk the Giants run by not meeting the rumored sky-high demands, is that the demands will get higher if Pablo returns to 2009 or 2011 form, which really isn’t all that long ago, or asking too much of a player coming into his age 27 season.
If the Giants see a repeat of 2013 in 2014, I would hope the Giants look at trading the Panda because the possibilities from there can be pretty good, especially for finding some relief at the hot corner. Then again, I also hoped the Giants would have traded Javier Lopez in 2013 and that didn’t happen, but their asking price was also too high for the market. I expect the Giants to hold on to Pablo Sandoval in the end, perhaps six years with an option for a seventh at Hunter Pence money.
Wilile Mac Award winner Hunter Pence and the San Francisco Giants have agreed to a deal that will keep Pence employed with lots of money to buy all the healthy food he wants through 2018. At $18MM/year, he can probably afford to go to Whole Foods every day for two years, give or take a couple days.
Pence’s accolades have been celebrated this year with his 20-20 season, his playing every game, and his power to ignite slow-clapping and sunflower seed tossing. Pence has had six straight seasons of at least 22 home runs, and has used all his brain power to set a career high in stolen bases, his previous high being 18 in 2010, his last full season with the Astros.
Hunter will turn 31 in 2014, and $18MM/year does make his contract pricier than another NL West outfielder that plays for a California team in Andre Ethier. If Pence can continue to put up slash lines, mainstream and advanced numbers like he did in 2011 and 2013, of course this deal will be worth the Giants while. This deal would very much take the Giants out of any sort of sweepstakes for any other big name outfielder like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, providing they hold on to Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong, which I believe they will.
As for my thoughts on the deal: I think this was a deal the Giants had to get done, and they got it done. I was wondering if the deal would touch $20MM/year in annual average value, so that it didn’t makes me happy for the self-imposed cap Giants management will set. I believe it’s fair for both sides, but of course it does cost a pretty penny. As with all deals for future 31-year-old players, you expect the earlier part of the contract to be what you paid for, and the latter years to be those years where you’re going to be saying things like “LOL Giants.” But congratulations to Hunter Pence and those closest to him on a great day for him — all reports from fans suggest he is an absolutely fantastic human being, which makes you happy that a good thing is happening to a good person.
Every fan has their own strategy for voting for choosing whom they would like to don the All Star patches in New York in July. The strategies I know of are:
- Voting for the statistically best on both leagues (usually that’s pretty subjective though)
- Voting for the best in the league of the team you support, voting for the worst on the other league
- Voting for the players you want to see play
- Voting for only your team in one league, and then a variety of choices for the other league (e.g., just the Astros, nobody, etc.)
Of course, every team wants you to vote for their players, so now for Giants fans that want to justify their all-Giants ballot, how will you do that from a statistical point of view? All stats are within the context of their position within the National League:
- Buster Posey: tied for the NL lead in fWAR (1.8), leads in OBP, wOBA, wRC+. Possibly the easiest vote for the ballot within the Champs’ roster.
- Brandon Belt: According to Fangraphs fielding value, is the very best. Also, number of baby giraffe hats to other headgear of NL 1B very much in favor of Belt.
- Marco Scutaro: Leads in highest BABIP, lowest K%, AVG, Contact% (making contact with the pitch — 95.3), lowest rate of swinging strikes (1.4%)
- Brandon Crawford: Tied for having the highest positional value on Fangraphs. Most handsome.
- Pablo Sandoval: T-most HR (8), leads in RBI (see if you can sneak this one past somebody), AVG, WPA all despite seeing the lowest ratio of pitches in the strike zone.
- Gregor Blanco: Because he makes great catches in the outfield to save the game, that’s why you vote him in. You may also use the fact that he’s been much better than replacement level overall this year
- Angel Pagan: Makes the highest rate of contact on balls outside of the strike zone. Also could have the best hair of all NL center fielders.
- Hunter Pence: T-most SB (8), has seven dingers, and his defense hasn’t been all that bad.
I’m just glad I did this with the Giants and not some really awful team. Pitchers get selected by people that wear the uniform, except for that Final Vote stage. Even if you’re not voting for the Giants, and voting for the best in the NL, they still have some pretty good options to choose from. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on that someday.
With Spring Training happening now, prospect lists are coming out, from Baseball America and MLB most notably, fans start to compare farm systems and search within themselves how much that farm system matters to how they feel about their team. If you’re the Cardinals, you take pride in knowing the club you have at the major league level is of very good quality, and your farm provides plenty of promise. If you’re the Padres, you hold out hope for the future, because your farm has been good for some time while fans in San Diego have been left with a 2010 rush but not much else recently. If you’re a fan of the Giants, you’ve been given proof in postseasons and parades that the team at the major league level is worthy of being taken seriously, while the system may not be as top-heavy as it has been in the past, so you wonder how long the current MLB club can hold on until you will need reinforcements from the farm, not just on journeymen AAAA players.
While many of the Top 10 prospects of national lists have an estimated time of arrival in 2013, the MLB should expect to see plenty of new, highly-touted arms and bats before the end of the season, we’re not sure who from the Top 10 lists (or really any list) of San Francisco Giants minor leaguers that haven’t had their shot will crack the 2013 rosters AND be a useful piece.
Sure, Francisco Peguero could be useful here and there if one of the corner outfielders find the disabled list, but I haven’t seen a recent report that suggests he has the profile for an everyday spot. Gary Brown, the former number one prospect of the Giants could be that guy, especially with his strong second half he put up in Double-A Richmond. Roger Kieschnick‘s name got whispered last year by some fans, and he’s on the 40-man.
Conor Gillaspie has 48 PA across three different seasons, and you just hope he’ll be a good backup when the time comes, and you hope the same for the featured Fanfest kid Nick Noonan. All we’ve heard about Kensuke Tanaka is from Marty and his “Japanese feet.” Brock Bond has a cool name. That’s pretty much it when it comes to Giants prospects and who makes their living on the dirt.
The big names are all years away, although Chris Heston could be of use if one of the five go down. If he’s no good, then the Giants will probably draw from the AAA well, none of the others being prospects, mmmmaybe before checking in on Michael Kickham. Eric Surkamp is the wild card in all this, who says he’ll start resuming activities in July. Keep all this in mind as you consider whose contracts and service time with the Champs could be coming to a close after 2013.
If there’s anything we’ve seen with Sabean in the last few years, it’s that he’s got this, and this year he may not have to even trade any fringe major leaguers to shore up the ‘pen. Prospect Heath Hembree, still thought by Jonathan Mayo to be a potential closer, could start the year in Fresno and then force the issue after the first month of the season if someone in the bullpen goes down or gets consistently lit up. Perhaps Bochy sees that the front office calls up son Bret Bochy. Jason Martinez of MLBDepthCharts (who also wrote a “window of opportunity” article for ESPN that you should read) also has minor leaguers Jake Dunning and Fabio Castillo as other names to watch that haven’t had a taste of the Major League coffee yet.
Whose Swan Song Might 2013 Be
The Giants have about $70MM of their nearly $140MM budget committed to their rotation this year, but this could be the last year San Francisco pays to have two guys in Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito on their roster. Unless Ryan Vogelsong magically disappears this year, his $6.5MM option will be picked up, and the Giants will still be left wondering who to fill in to the 4th and 5th spots of the rotation with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner still leading a formidable 1-2 punch out of the gates. Do they commit the money that comes off the books to pitching? Posey? (<–the right answer. your argument is invalid.) Other offense?
The Giants got Hunter Pence for his bat, but his price tag is also very high, but one wonders how much it goes down if he continues what he did as a Giant in the regular season in 2013. If it doesn’t, though, do the Giants put out? Andres Torres, Javier Lopez, and Jose Mijares might also be tipping their caps to SF when the last game ends.
The Future is, and has been, now
Since the Giants have had a stable of young arms (plus Zito), people wondered what would happen if a team drew San Francisco in a best-of-series. 2010 was pretty much what some thought could happen, even if it did with a group of misfits. 2012 was a different set of happenings because the Giants went from three guys they could rely on with Jonathan Sanchez either walking everyone or finding his release point in ’10 to now in three guys and omg what about Lincecum and Zito? Still though, if you have a good to great rotation, and a strong top three for the playoffs, life might not be so bad for you (part of the reason why teams like the Nationals and Tigers should scare you). After this year, the questions arise: Who will be that #4? #5? Who will pick up the offense for an aging Marco Scutaro? (I’m pretty certain he isn’t going to be hitting what he did from acquisition & playoffs throughout his contract time.) Can Gary Brown be an answer?
This doesn’t mean that this is the very last year the Giants will compete in forever, but I believe if Lincecum is let go (which could be the right move in the long-term), and another offensive piece is not found/brought on, 2014 will be a difficult year with some of the top prospects starting to knock on the door for 2015. Therefore, if any big injuries happen to the rotation, or to the offense in 2013, Giants fans could find themselves grumbling for a couple of years before they can realistically start dreaming of parades again. Hopefully, health will be on their side, and everyone’s side, for that matter.
For those that have been off social media or the San Francisco Giants home website, the Giants, along with a slew of other teams, have avoided salary arbitration with some of their players, all of them one-year deals announced today, for SF at least. Every year, fans go through a period of confusion as to what all this salary arbitration means. Plenty assume that avoiding salary arbitration means that a team has kept a player from signing with another team. However, avoiding salary arbitration is not the same thing as free agency. For more extensive reading on it, I’ll direct you here. If you follow Henry Schulman on Twitter, you’ve seen he’s been pretty good about being civil in educating them on the process. What you need to know is this: the players listed are due raises from what their 2012 salary was, and guys with names like Pence and Posey are probably going to see bigger raises than Mijares and Blanco, in terms of the dollars. Also consider that since Pence has been around longer as a bigger name, his salary will be more substantial. To put it in Hank’s words, with my own added emphasis: “Player$ love thi$ proce$$.” I’ll list the players, their service time, their 2012 salary, then their 2013 salary for you.
Hunter Pence — 5.156 years, $10.4MM in ’12, $13.8MM in ’13
Buster Posey — 2.161 years, $615K in ’12, $8MM in ’13
Jose Mijares — 4.024 years, $925K in ’12, $1.8MM in ’13
Gregor Blanco — 2.164 years, $516K in ’12, $1.35MM in ’13
The remaining Giants left to deal with are:
Sergio Romo — 4.097 years, $1.575MM ’12
Update: Romo and the Giants have exchanged numbers for the other side to look at. Romo’s side has filed $4.5MM, and the Giants have filed $2.675MM.
Joaquin Arias — 3.071, ?? in ’12
This has predictably opened up a conversation about a long-term contract with Buster Posey, and there are plenty of options: year-to-year, buy out the rest of his arbitration years (through 2016), super long-term deal that buys out some of his free agent years at a high price. The Giants and Posey’s camp have expressed interest in a long-term deal, but it remains to be seen if something gets done.
As this Alden Gonzalez article mentions, the Giants and Romo+Arias have until February to get something worked out, and both sides would really rather not go to arbitration court since some not nice things can be said and feelings could get hurt. Sometimes, sides can agree on something at the last minute, like when the Giants and Tim Lincecum did right before a hearing once upon a time.
My numbers might be different than other people’s, but I have the Giants 2013 payroll commitments at $133,149,999.66 between 17 players, 16 of them active for the Giants (Huff being the odd man out). Larry Baer has said they’re looking to be closer to $140MM, and they’re on track for that.
The sun and the sky may tell you it’s just another day, but we’re in the playoffs now, baby. What’s beautiful about the postseason is you don’t have to have the best team on paper, nor have had to be the best team in the regular season to win the three sets of series. Familiar face Dusty Baker and his pretty powerful pitchers and position players will come marching in to AT&T for Game 1 on Saturday. All we know about the Giants rotation is that Cain and Bumgarner are going with the other three starters available in the pen in case one of the Game 1 and/or 2 starters have a bad outing. We could potentially see some pretty interesting managing in these Games 1 and 2 from Bochy if he decides to use his starters for more than a side session’s worth of pitches. Over the course of the season, the Reds took 4 of 7 from the Giants, and they’ll try to continue having that little bit of the edge as they work to get through the 2010 Champs for their own chance at a trophy.
Game 1: Saturday, October 6th, 6:30PM PST, TBS — RHP Johnny Cueto vs. RHP Matt Cain
One sentence summary: Cueto’s one of the year’s best, but his last two starts on that came on 5 days rest saw only 8.1 IP, 18 H, 10 ER, 8 K’s combined, while Matt Cain was just fine in his last start where he got 4 days of rest, thank you very much — this Game 1 should be a good one.
Game 2: Sunday, October 7th, 6:30PM PST, TBS — RHP Bronson Arroyo vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner
One sentence summary: In the last four Arroyo starts the story is not Arroyo’s pitching, but the average of one run of run support provided by his team, and for Bumgarner the last two opponents he has shut out were the Dodgers, and the Reds when he CG SHO’d them, but that was in late June.
Game 3: Tuesday, October 9th, 2:30PM PST, TBS — I’m guessing RHP Tim Lincecum vs. RHP Mat Latos
One sentence summary: Latos in his last 3 starts (20 IP, 13 H, 14 K’s, 2 BB, 2 ER) has been pretty sharp, and that could be a problem as he goes for revenge against old division rival… who could be any one of Lincecum/Zito/Vogelsong.
Game 4 (if necessary): Wednesday, October 10th, Time TBD, TBS — I’m guessing LHP Barry Zito vs. RHP Homer Bailey
One sentence summary: If the name “Homer Bailey” sounds familiar, it should, because he just threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh and hasn’t seen an earned run cross in one of his starts since they played LA.
Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 11th, Time TBD, TBS — RHP Matt Cain vs. RHP Johnny Cueto
The Playoff Bats Are Loaded
The Reds and Giants both clinched their division on September 22nd, so their pitchers and bats have had plenty of time to rest and turn it down a notch, so I beefed up my small sample size from the normal “past seven games” to “past fourteen games” to give an idea of the work that’s been put in since around the time the clinch happened.
You may have heard Joey Votto had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus on July 17th, and while he did return on September 5th, he has not homered since June 24th. But don’t be fooled by his lack of four-baggers as he’s still proving productive (.410 wOBA L14, .436 wOBA overall) in the Reds lineup, and finished 1st overall in the NL in OBP. Had he stayed healthy, I imagine he would’ve been in the MVP discussion. Xavier Paul has also proved useful of late for the Reds (.386 wOBA L14, .364 wOBA overall), but he’s typically an extra OF so you might not see him regularly tending the grass out in AT&T and GABP. Drew Stubbs (.128, .278), Ryan Hanigan (.168, .304), and ROY candidate Todd Frazier (.174, .352) have all been underperforming of late. The Reds have seven guys with double digit homer counts and they are: Jay Bruce (34), Ryan Ludwick (26), Todd Frazier (19), Brandon Phillips (18), Zack Cozart (15), Drew Stubbs (14), and Joey Votto (14). Drew Stubbs (30) and Brandon Phillips (15) are the only guys the Reds have with double digit SB.
You’ve come to know the Giants pretty well after 162 games with them, so you know where the power and the speed can come from. Of late, the most productive guy over the past two weeks has been by wOBA…. Hector Sanchez (.448) in 25 PA. I know. He probably gets a start behind the plate for Game 3 or Game 4 with Posey at 1B. Other Giants of over .400 wOBA in the last 14 are Marco Scuatro (.439, .328 wOBA overall), Buster Posey (.425, .404), Pablo Sandoval (.413, .336), and Brandon Belt (.403, .342). Nobody’s been as cold as the coldest Reds players have been for the Giants, but guys that could get a start that have been underproductive are Gregor Blanco (.239, .309), Brandon Crawford (.254, .279), and Hunter Pence (.257, .322). While the Reds are beefy with power, the Giants are not defined by the long ball. Buster Posey (24), Hunter Pence (24), and Pablo Sandoval (12) are the only guys on the active roster with double digit dingers. The Giants can run a little bit, as evidenced by four guys having double digit steals like Angel Pagan (29), Gregor Blanco (26), Ryan Theriot (13), and Brandon Belt (12).
I expect this to be a series that will really test the Giants confidence in their own abilities as this set of games with shift back and forth, ultimately with the Giants coming out on top.
Game 1: Giants win (Cain bests Cueto in pitcher’s duel that gets the nation’s attention)
Game 2: Giants win (Arroyo sees little run support still, MadBum rolls)
Game 3: Reds win (Lincecum hangs too many, gets overpowered by Reds)
Game 4: Reds win (Zito and Vogelsong can’t hold down Reds in high scoring affair)
Game 5: Giants win (Giants solve Cueto while Cain keeps the Reds in the park)