Archive for the ‘San Francisco Giants’ category

An Ugly One Ends

October 2, 2017

The 2017 San Francisco Giants couldn’t even do losing right.  After coming back from an early 4-1 deficit to win yesterday, the Giants finished 64-98, the second worst record in San Francisco Giants history.  They tied the Tigers for the worst record in baseball, but the Tigers will get the first pick of the 2018 Draft, because the Tigers were half a game worse than the Giants in the final 2016 standings.

The silver lining is that the No. 2 overall pick is still pretty good.  Also, the Giants typically draft the player whom they think is the best available, regardless of cost, and have yet to sign a first round draftee for less than slot in order to have extra money to sign high school prospects drafted much later in the draft.  I feel certain the Giants will select the player they believe is the best available when they choose, and that may well be someone different from whom the Tigers select at No. 1.  As far as I’ve heard, 2018 won’t be a draft class in which one player is a prohibitive favorite to be drafted No. 1, regardless who does the choosing, although that could change sometime next spring.

The Giants still have a host of problems and a very thin farm system, but next year’s No. 2 pick and the second pick in each subsequent round of the draft should net at least a couple of players who produce for the Giants down the line.

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Maybe Chris Stratton Will Amount to Something After All

September 30, 2017

Earlier this season, I was about to throw in the towel on former SF Giants 1st Round Draft pick Chris Stratton.  He is an old 26 this season (he turned 27 in late August), and his performance at AAA Sacramento failed to impress.

Stratton finished his Pacific Coast League campaign with a 5.11 ERA in 15 starts, which certainly does not suggest a future major league starter.

However, with 6.2 shutout innings in his final 2017 start this season, Stratton finishes his major league season with a 3.68 ERA, a 4-4 record, and a pitching line of 58.2 IP, 59 hits, 5 HRs and 28 BBs allowed, and 51Ks.  Not overwhelming, but at least Stratton looks like a reasonable bet to have a 2018 season similar to Chris Heston‘s 2015.

That may not be saying a whole lot, but it would be a distinct improvement over what the 2017 Giants got out of their 5th rotation spot.  Madison Bumgarner will almost certainly have a better 2018 season than he did this year, and Johnny Cueto (assuming no opt-out), Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Moore could all reasonably pitch better than they did in 2018.

After a season in which the Gints will lose at least 98 games as I write this, you have to look for your silver linings where you can.

The Race for Last Place

September 24, 2017

Call it the Toilet Bowl.  However, it is also the race for the 1st selection of the 2018 Draft.

The Giants and Phillies are tied at 61-94 for the worst record in baseball, with the Tigers and White Sox within a game and a half of last, last, last place with seven games (eight for the ChiSox) remaining.

As a Giants’ fan, I can’t quite bring myself to root against the Giants, but I have certainly been rooting for the Phillies, White Sox and Tigers to win as many games as possible.  Also, the Giants’ losses, at this point, don’t hurt all that much at all.

I’m rooting for the Giants not to lose 100 games.  That would tie them with the 1985 Giants, and as bad as the 2017 club is, I just don’t believe they are as bad as the 1985 squad.  The 1984 Giants had lost 96 games, so the 1985 team was no fluke. This year, the Giants have scored more runs and allowed fewer runs than the Padres, who are presently nine full games up on the Giants, adding an obvious element of hard luck to this year’s Giants.

On the other hand, this is a bad, bad Giants’ team.  The Tigers and the White Sox traded away an awful lot of talent last off-season and this year, explaining in part why they are now so bad.  The Phillies are in the middle of a painful rebuilding process, which is at least giving opportunities to youngsters who will contribute mightily in the near future.  Even if the Phils finish with MLB’s worst record, the team’s fans can go into the off-season with visions of Rhys Hoskins‘ future dancing in their heads.

Meanwhile, the Giants are still old, overpaid and have little they can successfully trade away.  The team hopes to “reload” for 2018, rather than “rebuild,” and I do think most of the team’s starters will pitch better next year than they did this year.  However, there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver given the payroll already committed to 2018.

At this point, it is virtually certain the Giants will receive at least the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, so that’s at least one thing to look forward to.

 

Why Is Mark Melancon Still Pitching?

September 7, 2017

A few days ago, it was reported that Mark Melancon needs surgery to release pressure in his forearm.  Apparently, it is something he can still pitch through, and Melancon reportedly wants to finish out the season with the team and have the surgery in the off-season.  I don’t understand why the Giants think it’s a good idea for Melancon to do so.

Melancon lasted pitched on September 5th, giving up two earned runs and bumping his ERA for the season up to 4.50.  Theoretically, allowing Melancon to continue to pitch could keep the Gints from finishing with MLB’s worst record.  There is something to be said for that.  However, there is more to be said for receiving next year’s overall No. 1 draft pick and getting the first selection in each of the next four or five full rounds, particularly when the team’s farm system is as short on talent as the Giants currently are.

Now that we are in September, there is no argument to be made that the team needs Melancon to keep the other arms in the bullpen fresh.  Just call up another minor leaguer to take his place.  If Melancon can be put on the 60-day disabled list this late in the season, the Giants could open up another spot on the 40-man roster and promote either D.J. Snelten or Tyler Rogers, both of whom deserve a look after fine years at AAA Sacramento.

I also don’t see a down-side in having the surgery as soon as possible, so Melancon has that much more time to recover and begin rehabilitation before Spring Training 2018.  It’s not like a veteran pitcher like Melancon, who has now made 32 appearances this year, needs the extra work to keep himself sharp going into 2018.  Better to call this season a wash and hope that Melancon can be the pitcher in 2018 the team hoped it was signing when they gave him the big money last off-season.

Chris Sale’s Tired Wing

September 5, 2017

I read this article on espn.com this weekend regarding Chris Sale‘s history of pitching poorly after September 1st, and in fact, his first September start this season was not up to his pre-September standards.

It is hardly surprising that a pitcher listed at 6’6″ and 180 lbs would get tired late in the season.  I found a couple of articles on the internet from March 2016 about how Sale was trying to get his weight up to 200 lbs in order to improve his strength and stamina later in the season, based largely on a diet of cheeseburgers, steaks and his wife’s “taco nights.”  He was able to get his weight to 190 lbs when he reported to camp that year, but at least one teammate opined that he thought Sale would never reach 195 lbs, let alone 200.

My guess would be that Sale probably arrived at training camp closer to 200 this year.  Sale is 28 this year, and his metabolism has to slow down eventually.

I also think that Sale will pitch better this September than he has in the past, his Sept. 3 start notwithstanding.  Sale is experienced enough now that he should be able to get hitters out even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.  Also, this is his first opportunity to pitch in the post-season, and secure his status as one of MLB’s absolutely best pitchers.  I have to think he will rise to the occasion, even it has longer term consequences on his career going forward.

One of the reasons that even the best major league pitchers don’t last longer is that in contending years like this one, the pressure is on them in spades to do more than any one pitcher can reasonably be expected to do.  Despite the fact that Sale is not built to be a workhorse, he’s currently leading MLB in innings pitched and is second only to Rick Porcello, another pitcher already showing the signs of prolonged overwork, in number of pitches thrown this season.

On that note, I wonder if Madison Bumgarner‘s injury this year won’t end up being a positive thing.  But for the dirt bike accident, it’s almost certain MadBum would have pitched 220+ innings this season.  At the very least, it would have been his seventh consecutive season throwing at least 200+ innings.

Bumgarner has only recently turned 28 and with all of those innings pitched under his belt already, I wouldn’t count on him to last too much longer.  Maybe being limited to half his typical innings pitched total this year will mean at least a season or two longer that he’ll remain one of MLB’s top arms.

In fact, I am less sanguine at this moment about Clayton Kershaw‘s future prospects than I am about Bumgarner’s.  This will be the third year in the last four that Kershaw hasn’t pitched 200 innings, but his lost time has mostly been due to back problems rather than freak accidents.  It’s hard to imagine those back issues not cropping up again in Kershaw’s professional future.

As a final note, in these days of eight-figure annual salaries for front of the rotation starters, it’s a whole lot harder to feel sorry about the fact that they are routinely overworked and that their careers don’t last longer.

The Demise of the Everyday Player

August 10, 2017

Years and years ago I read a piece by Bill James in which he argued that Cal Ripken‘s decision to keep his consecutive game streak alive was actually detrimental to the Baltimore Orioles’ ultimate goal of winning as many games as possible.  The article made a lot of sense to me: playing every single game, even by the very best players, means that the player plays a lot of games when he’s exhausted and/or has minor injuries, which can’t heal properly because the player is playing six days a week; under those circumstances, even the best major league players aren’t necessarily playing as well as the replacement-level player sitting in the team’s bench would.

[In fairness to Ripken, the Orioles’ true ultimate goal was putting as many cans in the seats as possible.  Being Cal Ripken, playing every game every day for a generation, probably was pretty good for Orioles’ attendance during that streak.]

Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak is a record that probably never will be broken because it seems that MLB teams now agree whole-heartedly with what James argued all those years ago.  In contrast to the Asian leagues, where playing every day in leagues that play shorter schedules and have more rain-outs is still commendable, MLB teams have clearly decided that the occasional day off is more valuable than playing every single game.

Looking at the 17 full seasons from 2000 through 2016, the shift from playing every single game seems to have taken hold after the 2008 season.  In the nine seasons from 2000 through 2008, an average of 6.33 players per season played in all 162 games.  In the eight full seasons since then, only 2.5 players per season have played 162 games in a season.

Even players who manage to play at least 160 games in a season seems in decline.  In the 14 seasons from 2000 through 2013, an average of 13.6 players played at least 160 games per season.  In the last three seasons, that average has dropped almost in half to seven per season. The recent low seasons could be a result of a small sample fluke, but I don’t think so.

Just as teams have learned that using more and more relief pitchers pitching more and more total innings results in fewer runs scored by the opposition, teams have also learned that keeping their stars properly rested and their bench players sharp results in better won-loss results.  The good managers, and I consider the Giants’ Bruce Boche one of them, realize that keeping the stars fresh and the bench players sharp has a lot more value than riding the race horses until they inevitably drop.

For what it’s worth, Justin Morneau is the last player to play 163 games in a season.  Morneau’s 2008 Twins lost their 163rd game to the White Sox, sending the latter team to a brief post season and former team home.  The all-time record for games played in a season is Maury Wills‘ 165: he played all 162 regular season games and all three games to decide the pennant against the Giants.  That was the year Wills set then records for plate appearances and stolen bases in a season.

 

 

Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez Update

August 9, 2017

In what has been a bleak season for the San Francisco Giants at all levels, one bright spot has been the strong starts of 1st and 2nd Round 2017 Draft picks Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez in the Rookie Arizona League.

CF Ramos, age 17, currently has the fifth best OPS (.975) in his league, and the third best OPS among hitters under the age of 20.  3B Gonzalez, age 19, has the league’s 9th best OPS (.911), and the 4th best among hitters under 20.  Their batting averages are also high, which you like to see in your prospects.

We are only 35 games into the Arizona League season, and Ramos and Gonzalez have played in only 26 and 28 games, respectively.  Even so, it’s better to get your professional career off to a strong start than a slow one.

The AZL Giants are currently 23-12, with the league’s best overall record (the league plays a split season in spite of being a short season league), which is a pleasant change from the sorry records of the Giants’ full season minor league squads this year.

The best of the rest of the AZL Giants’ position players so far in 2017 is 18 year old Nicaraguan Ismael Munguia.  He’s hitting for average and has an .881 OPS after 24 games, mostly in left field.  He’ll have to hit to move up at that position, although there are suggestions he may have enough arm to play right field.

Weilly Yan (21), Camilio Duval (20), Franklin Van Gurp (21), and Keenan Bartlett (21) have all pitched well in terms of ERA and strikeout rates.  2017 3rd Round Draft Pick Seth Correy (18) has a 1.88 ERA and has struck out 14 in 14.1 innings pitched, but has been wild, allowing 13 walks.  Correy is obviously the best prospect here, with Duval, who is in his age 19 season and only just turned 20, the second best as of this moment.