The Kids Deserve Better than Brian Sabean

September 19, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Posted in Giants | 4 Comments
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Chronicle writer Henry Schulman says prospects look good for a re-sign of GM Brian Sabean. If Sabean is re-signed, he will waste the grand opportunity presented by the young stable of arms, just as he wasted the prime years of the greatest hitter in baseball history.

Ten years from now, historians will look back on Sabean’s tenure and scratch their heads at the fact that he couldn’t win a championship with Barry Bonds, even in the year the man hit 74 homeruns in a pitcher’s park. With a player like that, you have to go for championships, then re-tool and save money after he’s gone. The Giants kept the payroll steady throughout, and blowing their chance to pair Bonds and Vladimir Guerrero is only the most popular example of missed opportunity. Sabean brought Jeff Kent to the Giants, but since then his  moves have been not only awful, but bizarre and illogical. Of course hindsight is 20/20 and injuries can curtail even the smartest baseball moves. But Sabean’s moves lead to head scratching even if you leave out the abysmal returns on investment that have actually occured.

Bill Neukom: do not repeat history! Find someone with the brains and boldness to give the greatest pitching staff in baseball what they need to win. And if Sabean and the businessmen around you have clouded your memory, here’s a run-down of Sabean’s latest gaffes:

Barry Zito, 2009 Salary:18.5 Million

Zito’s record the four years prior to coming to the Giants: 14-12, 11-11, 14-13, 16-10. For a winning team, the A’s, that hit.  Sabean analyzed these medoicre stats and awarded him the highest contract, ever. If you look at the numbers, Zito has performed about as good as one could expect: mediocre. Head. Scratch.

Randy Winn, 2009 Salary: 9.6 Million

Randy Winn came over near the end of 2005 and batted .359 overall with 14 homers and 26 RBIs in only 58 games. Apparently this short tryout in meaningless fall games had a profound effect on Sabean’s evaluation:

“I thought the ballclub was really energized and had a different look when we acquired him,” said Giants general manager Brian Sabean. “To get a switch-hitter [who is] a leadoff hitter with a lot of dimensions — power, speed — [and] the ability to play the outfield as he does is really a godsend to the organization. [article]

Unfortunately, what Sabean neglected to mention, or perhaps even analyze, was that Winn’s  .680 slugging percentage during the short stretch was over 200 points higher than his best full season of .461, and 250 points higher than his second best. And Winn was no up and coming player: Sabean had seven years of evidence to look at. Instead, he based Winn’s salary on a late-season hot streak.

As a leadoff man, Winn is serviceable, with a decent but still mediocre .345 career on-base percentage. Of course the Giants don’t use him there, instead inserting him in the middle of the order where his .419 career slugging percentage make him one of the least productive players in the baseball  (As of today, he ranks 41st out of 45 right fielders in slugging percentage). Head. Scratch.

Dave Roberts, 2009 Salary:: 6.5 Millon

Yes, Dave is still on the payroll, big-time. This time Sabean was fooled by  a 2005 world series stolen base followed by a career year in San Diego, where Roberts had career highs of a .293 average and .363 on-base percentage. But let’s give Sabean a break and venture back to 2006: go as with Winn, Sabean might have been a servicable lead-off man and center fielder, and though he was older, one wouldn’t have expected the injuries that did occur. So, O.K., but then you take into account that Sabean has just spent 9+ million a year on another powerless outfielder, Winn, and Barry Bonds is near retirement. This is where the head-scratching begins: How do you possibly decide you need to overspend on a second powerless outfielder with little up-side?

Aaron Rowand, 2009 Salary, 9.6 Million.

This time Sabean is fooled by Rowand’s career year with Philadelphia in 2007, a year in which he had 27 homers, 89 RBIs and a .309 batting average. He ignores the fact that Rowand’s previous three years had produced: 24 homers  and 69 RBI, 13 homers  and 69 RBI, and 12 homers  and 47 RBI, respectively. Note that Rowand attained these less than Ruthian numbers  while playing in hitter’s parks and averaging over 500 at-bats a year.

The RBI totals are especially disconcerting, given the players he was batting behind. If Sabean had cared to look, Baseball Prospectus would have shown tha in 2007, his best year by far, Rowand batted in just 12.4% of the runners who were on base, good for 11th on the Phillies. One slot behind the great Wes Helms.

Here’s what a huge Phillie and Rowand fan said about the Giant’s signing of Rowand:

Despite all the stats mentioned above about Rowand’s fantastic 2007, I personally think that the Giants grossly overpaid for a career .286 hitter who is on the wrong side of 30 years old.

Here’s what a Phillie fan said about Rowand’s gold glove:

J-Roll’s award is long overdue, but I think Rowand’s is a joke. He’s a solid outfielder, but not a gold glover. Heck, our best CF plays RF. I know he only had 2 errors, but how many times have you seen him take poor routes to balls or flat out misplaying them; they don’t count as errors.

Now I apologize for using quotes from random bloggers, but anyone who has watched as the slow-footed Rowand manned centerfield flanked by the fleeter-footed Winn, Torres, Schierholz, and even Velez know exactly what this dude is saying.

Go back even further, and you read this from a Whitesox fan arguing with another who thought Rowand should have won the Gold Glove:

Instead of trying to change his appearance to get a gold glove, I suggest aaron Rowand stop taking diving swings at sliders low and away.

Apparently our friends from the South Side see things a bit clearer than Brian Sabean.

Like with Zito and Winn, the return on investment for Rowand has met expectations: his 13 and 70 last year and his 15 and 62 this year are exactly what a statistician would predict based on the past, and probably higher given the dimensions of AT&T.

Edgar Renteria: 2009 Salary, 9 Million

Though he had slipped to .270 with 10 homers last year, Edgar hit .330 with 12 homers in 2007, so its reasonable that Sabean would have expected more this year, maybe .290 with double-digits in homers. Worth 9 million? Not in the buyer’s market that existed, especially given that he has clearly lost a least one step and maybe two.

But what really makes the Renteria move a head scratcher, in terms of analyzing Sabean’s decision-making process, is that it was made at a time when he should have been despartely searching for a power hitter or two. If you’re the Cardinals and need to get over the hump by upgrading at shortstop. Renteria for 9 million is an overpay, but its not unreasonable. But if you’re the Giants, and you hit 94 homers the previous year, 17 less than the second-worst team in the majors, signing Edgar Renteria for $9 million is plain crazy.

And for Renteria-money look who was available: Adam Dunn who had hit 40 homers for, ummm, five straight years, and Raul Ibanez, who’s averaged 24 over the past four? Head. Scratch.

Giants owner Bill Neukom needs to get away from Larry Baer and the other suits and find some baseball people to talk to. Take a look at the decisions that Sabean has made, and realize they’ve turned out poorly, not because of bad luck but because they were illogical at the time they were made. Fire Sabean, and keep your scouts.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathon Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner are awaiting your decision.

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On Brad Penny, Jim Thome, and Buster Posey

September 1, 2009 at 11:05 pm | Posted in Giants | 5 Comments
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If you’re not the Yankees, you have to go for it when you get a chance. Right when your young players ripen, before you have to open the bank. For the Giants, that time is now. The signing of Brad Penny is nice, but they could and should have done more, including bringing up Buster Posey.

The Giants came in second-place with the Penny signing, whose a bit worse than  John Garland, signed by the Dodgers, but who should out-pitch the Rockies pickup, Jose Contreras.

Penny speaks his mind

Penny up: Went 16-4 in 2007 with a 3.03 ERA. Hates the Dodgers.
Penny down: 6-9 and 7-8 in 2008 and 2009, and has had problems in the clubhouse

Garland up: Won 60 games the previous four seasons and went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two postseason starts for the White Sox in 2005.  He pitched 7 innings of shutout ball his last time out.
Garland down: 8-11, 4.29 this year.

Contreras up: Helped WhiteSox win a world series in ’05
Contreras down: Hasn’t had an ERA under 4.27 since that ’05 season, around 5.5 this year.

Penny chose SF because of the spaciousness of AT&T Park and what that might do to his ERA and chances for a new contract. He also may want to stick it to the Dodgers, given the bad blood before he left there a couple of years ago. As reported in the 3-Dot Lounge, Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa had this to say about Penny:

Bowa dissed Penny

“You mean the same guy who was never on time, out of shape and has one complete game? He has more stuff to worry about than me. He has to worry about getting people out. He was never on time, never helped the kids out. You go right down the line, everybody who was on the DL watched the games. But not him. He was out of there. Put that on the f—ing dot-com.”

Don’t be surprised if Penny pitches extra hard against his former team. Or makes an errant pick-off move to third.

Bench Additions

The Dodgers signed future hall-of-famer Jim Thome, who has hit 23 homers in just 345 at-bats this year. GM Coletti and Thome were both careful not to ruffle the feathers of youngster James Loney, saying Thome will only play first in an emergency. Me thinks, however, that James Loney’s .274 average and paltry 9 homers might just be that “emergency”. Even if he can’t play first, Thome and Juan Pierre still form a devestating one-two punch off the bench.

The Giants responded by activating Rich Aurelia. Bringing up Buster Posey would have been a far superior move.  He’s hitting .328 with 18 hr and 62 walks in his 422 minor league at-bats this year. I know, I’ve heard the old baseball adage about bringing a kid along slowly so he doesn’t get his feelings hurt. But Posey is 22, not 19, and he’s had success at every level, including three years of all-world college play.

The most important consideration is the position Posey plays. Molina is hurting and also happens to be the slowest major leaguer ever. Whiteside is playing great defense but can’t hit. A third catcher would be huge late in games, and the Giants happen to have one that, um, almost won the triple crown of college baseball!

Sabean, why don’t you call the kid and ask him if he’d like to take the chance? See if  if he’s worried about being scarred for life if he strikes out a few times. I’ll tell you this– if we need some big hits late in the season or in the playoffs, I’ll take my chances with Posey over Aureilia any day of the week.

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