Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Monday, June 30, 2003
 

Computer, Please Don't Eat This Post Like The Last One



1) Damian Moss has been dropped from the rotation. By law, I'm required to add he was unceremoniously dropped. His replacement, temporarily Jim Brower, isn't likely to be much better. For all of the young arms in the Giant organization, there aren't any close to the majors. Noah Lowry's ERA has soared over past weeks, and titular sensation Boof Bonser isn't striking anyone out. Both were the closest prospect-types to the majors, but they obviously have a ways to go.

In Fresno, there aren't very many attractive options. Matt Blank, the player to be thanked later in the Livan Hernandez deal, isn't embarrassing himself. Kevin Jarvis has a nice ERA, but Rueterish strikeout totals, which works only if you're Kirk Rueter. Jeff Urban is the closest thing to a pitching prospect in AAA now, though he's 26, and is having a typically above-average Jeff Urban year. There's also another guy at Fresno, but I can't remember his name. Roy Something, or Rick Whosit. It'll come to me.

Aside from Bonser and Lowry, there's Kevin Correia and Greg Bruso at Norwich. Bruso has a grand total of two starts above A-ball, and lacks anything resembling a third pitch by his own admission. Sounds great. Welcome to Pac Bell, kid. Correia is doing well for being rushed, but it's pretty obvious that either Moss gets all his joeys in one pouch, or the Giants are going to have to go outside the organization. If someone wants to take a chance on Moss, he'll surely be included in any deal.

Wait...Robbie Something. Damn, almost had it.


2) Out of the Big Three, I would have predicted Jerome Williams to have the least amount of success this season, mostly because of his young age. Kurt Ainsworth was on his way to rookie of the year contention before trying to crack walnuts with his shoulder blade, but Williams has been very impressive in his stead. He Madduxed the A's into submission on Friday night, picking up a complete game shutout. While a complete game shutout is always impressive, I can't remember the last time a Giants pitcher was able to throw one in under 100 pitches. I'll guess Mark Gardner, but it might go back even farther.


3) The comeback against Barry Zito was beautiful, especially considering the majority of the hits against Zito were cheap ones. That's exactly the sort of frustration the Giants have been suffering through this season, so it was good to see how the other half lives.

I respect Zito, and enjoy watching him pitch, but is there a petition I can sign to prevent any more feature pieces on him? If he skipped around the clubhouse yodeling songs from Entombed's "Wolverine Blues" and playing a mandolin, maybe he'd be interesting. But no, he plays Dave Matthews songs on his guitar and takes yoga. Uh-oh! Those wacky lefties! Get the straight jacket out, we got a live one here!


4) Edgardo Alfonzo is just another piece of $6 million bench flotsam now, which isn't helping anyone. Alfonzo isn't going to work out of a slump from the dugout, and Pedro Feliz isn't going to continue to hit like he has been. If Felipe Alou knows to pull Feliz from the lineup at the first whiff of a slump, I can understand this for a short while. There's going to be a Feliz/Tony Torcato platoon starting at first in 2004, I can feel it.


5) What hurts a young pitcher more; throwing 120 pitches through eight innings, or 90 pitches through four? Jesse Foppert is more than game in helping us find out, bless his heart. I'm agnostic when it comes to the pitch count debates, but I'm incredibly happy to have a manager who will yank a young pitcher after four innings because of a high pitch count. Dusty Baker surely would have left him out there for at least another inning, which isn't comforting to Cub fans, but at least the Cubs don't have any young pitchers worth treating carefully.

posted by G at 1:33 AM





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     Monday, June 23, 2003
 

Sub .500? Bring 'Em On!



1) Unless the question is the famous riddle, "What has two legs and can age two years overnight?", Pedro Feliz is still no sort of answer. He had a mighty nice roadtrip, though, maybe his best stretch as a Giant. The odds of Feliz suddenly becoming a useful major leaguer at the age of 28, following a professional career with only one above-average season at any level, are long. It would be outstanding if he had suddenly morphed into a Vinny Castilla circa 1998, but he didn't.

If Feliz continues to hit well, he might work his way into the 2003 first base picture. As the right-handed half of a platoon, the Giants could do worse, because Feliz's one talent as a hitter is his ability to hit lefties. The best-case scenario of a Feliz/Tony Torcato platoon is somewhere south of Mark Carreon, but if it frees up money for, oh, Vladmir Guerrero, I'll find a way to tolerate it.


2) Baseball Prospectus did a nice article on the success of Kirk Rueter, who has been riddle wrapped in an enigma within a goofy-lookin' win machine for those with a statistical leaning. They studied Woody's performance with and without runners on base, finding he has consistently performed better with runners on base. The authors didn't claim to find a Grand Theory of Rueter Unification, but wrote:
He challenges hitters when the bases are empty, giving up hits and home runs in the situations where they hurt him least. And he dodges them when the bags are full, giving up walks in the situations where extra base hits would be far more damaging.
I've had a theory for about six years which makes similar sense: Woody's delivery from the stretch is more deceptive or effective than his windup delivery. And his odd gyrations used to keep runners close are certainly distracting as well. Whatever the case, he pitched a good game against the Dodgers tonight, and has been a source of stability in a shaky rotation.


3) Peter Gammons briefly notes the team is wating to see if Damian Moss improves and how the bullpen holds up before trading for either a starter or a reliever, with Gammons claiming Brian Sabean has been authorized to add payroll. The bullpen has been awful lately. Ace closer Tim Worrell just walked Ron Coomer -- with a two-run lead, no less -- to start a ninth inning Dodger rally as I write this. The rotation is also a shaky group, as Jesse Foppert and Moss are making fans long for the proven consistency of a Shawn Estes.

Some candidates, with what it might take to get them:

Bartolo Colon

What it might take:
At least one of Jerome Williams/Jesse Foppert/Kurt Ainsworth. Probably a couple of Ryan Hannaman/Boof Bonser rated prospects too.

Would it be worth it?
If there was a guarantee of reaching the World Series again, sure. Otherwise, Colon is a free agent after the year, and the Giants are going to need that cheap pitching. Colon and Jason Schimdt would be something to watch, though.

Chuck Finley

What it might take:
Some money, as he's still a free agent. With the June draft already over, I'm pretty sure the Cardinals wouldn't get a first-round pick from the signing team, which is a pretty big concern.

Would it be worth it?
He was pretty solid for the Cardinals, and wants to pitch for a West Coast team. The price is probably right, but there could be some bidding for him. There are no guarantees he can still pitch, and the Giants have never been mentioned as possibilities.


Curt Schilling

What it might take:
Some good PCP and an active imagination.

Would it be worth it?
Drug laws vary by state, but probably not.


Ugueth Urbina

What it might take:
A package of young arms, probably. Maybe a Boof Bonser or "Merkin" Valdez anchor, though the Rangers might want someone closer to the majors from another team.

Would it be worth it?
Doubtful, as the whole trading-prospects-for-middle-relief gag rarely works out. Urbina is a nice pitcher, and if the price is just Bonser and a lesser couple of arms, it wouldn't be a terrible deal. If the Giants reach the playoffs again, it would be nice to have a Browerless bullpen.

Armando Benitez

What it might take:
Maybe one of The Big Three, though that would be a shame. More likely a package of lesser arms, depending on what other teams are offering. Really, the Giants have nothing else to offer. Lance Niekro, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Would it be worth it?
Same answer as Urbina, though Benitez has a higher trade value without being much better. There's no way I part with Foppert or Williams, though that's what it would take to pry him from the Red Sox.


As more possibilities come to mind, I'll try and post on others as well.

4) In the meantime, the Giants are one game up on the Dodgers as of Monday night. Sit on that, Gagne. Congratulations to Barry Bonds for being the first 500-500 man in history, though he was already the first 600-400 man in history, as well as 620-450 man. Nice time for a milestone.


5) I mean, really sit on that one, Gagne.

posted by G at 10:53 PM





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     Wednesday, June 18, 2003
 

Even. Damnit.



1) Blogger hasn't been too kind to me lately, so I apologize for the lack of updates. They switched over to a new format, temporarily lost all of my archives, and wouldn't let me post. Weak. I blame George Bush.

I also decided to go with a new format as long as things were all screwy.


2) The Dodgers will not continue to have the best pitching in baseball history. Kaz Ishii will soon watch those walks score. Kevin Brown will tire, if only because I say so. One of the bullpen members will hit a rough patch. Eric Gagne will burn his thumb in a freak crepe accident. Hideo Nomo will take a kick in the groin from Tony Gwynn's wife while partying at The Viper Room, leaving his fastball straight and hittable.

Or not. Stupid Dodgers.


3) Somewhere, there is a Cardinal fan laughing hard. In last year's NLCS, the Cardinals were a flukish 3-for-39 with runners in scoring position. The ineptitude seemed surreal during the series, and even more so in retrospect. Now the Giants are hopeless with runners in scoring position, hitting a little better than .240. Other teams are hitting .286 with RISP against the Giants. That's a recipe for some frustrating baseball.

If the abacus-toting types are to be believed, this sort of thing is little more than bad luck. Everything should regress toward the mean, and the Giants should hit about as well with RISP as in any other situation. Sigh.


4) Here is how 5/8ths of the lineup is doing with with runners in scoring position:

Batter     Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging Percentage

Jose Cruz .139/.309/.278
Benito Santiago .265/.346/.324
Edgardo Alfonzo .242/.321/.455
Rich Aurilia .200/.280/.308
Ray Durham .222/.378/.259



The other three starters have been doing well:

Barry Bonds     .324/.648/.595

J.T. Snow .304/.414/.413
Marquis Grissom .288/.328/.492


Maybe I'm way off here, but I'm getting the feeling teams are just pitching around Bonds.

Then there are the bench players doing well:

Andres Galaragga   .500/.538/.792

Pedro Feliz .368/.429/.895


And the bench players who haven't been doing as well:

Neifi Perez    .229/.282/.286

Marvin Benard .167/.267/.250
Ruben Rivera .125/.263/.188, 1 CS



When the Giants have had runners in scoring position, they have been making outs. On the few occasions they aren't getting out, they aren't getting hits.


5) Marvin Benard is on the disabled list again, with the Giants calling up Francisco Santos, a.k.a. Deivi Santos, a.k.a. Deivis Santos, a.k.a. Dr. Nguyen Van Falk. Santos entered the season as a fringe prospect, but those pesky bean counters working for the government discovered he was 29. Suddenly, his 2002 season in AA wasn't so impressive. It really wasn't in the first place, but in this organization you take what you get.


6) When the Joe Nathan bandwagon was rolling by in March, I scoffed. When the Joe Nathan bandwagon looked like a Calcutta freight car, I jumped on and pretended I belonged. Now, with the Joe Nathan bandwagon consisting of Mrs. Nathan and her dog, "Sandals", it might be a good time to stick it out. The 95-mph fastball is still there, the curve is still nasty, and while he's missing, it is usually not by that much. His future is in the bullpen, and the Giants should be rewarded for their patience, but, man, he is not getting good results right now.


7) Todd Linden is slumping a bit now, but he really pulled himself together after a horrific start. He's hitting .278/.359/.396, still pretty poor until you remember he went about a month before his second extra-base hit. All bow down, because he is the only position player prospect in the minor leagues, though Tony Torcato has an outside chance of becoming a bankrupt man's Randall Simon.


8) The Giants/Dodgers debacle on ESPN2 was slow to air because of the College World Series. Giants' first rounder David Aardsma -- the extra "A" is for "surprise overdraft" -- pitched a couple of innings, and picked up the win. His fastball gained velocity over the last inning, and his breaking ball looked crisp, with a lot of aluminum bats swinging over the top. He looks like a good pitcher, no doubt, but I don't see a starter in the making. He comes from a 3/4 delivery, and only has the fastball and slider. The Giants made a starter out of a closer in Russ Ortiz, so I'll play along, but I don't anticipate Aardsma ever starting for the Giants. I hope I'm wrong.

posted by G at 11:51 PM





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     Monday, June 09, 2003
 

Five Games Up



1) Once I saw a movie where Gary Coleman was being harrassed by a bigger kid for the entire length of the film. When he stood up to the bully at the end of the movie, Coleman said something like, "Look, if we fight and you win, everyone will say, yeah, so? But if I win, you'll never live it down. So what's it going to be?" The bully, realizing it was a lose/lose situation, backed off. And there was much rejoicing among Gary Coleman and his schoolmates.

Now, after watching the incredibly entertaining Giants-Tigers series, I realize it would have been much more satisfying if Gary Coleman went to rush the bully, tripped over a sprinkler head, and was subsequently pummeled. The Giants were in danger of dropping the series finale, but the Tigers booted two balls to start the eighth, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Giants continue their trend of abusing the bad teams, and laying down for the good ones. The Giants are 15-18 against teams with a record currently at .500 or above, and 24-6 against teams below .500.


2) The biggest need for the Giants is for a left-handed hitting outfielder who can handle center, but there aren't many available. Jacob Cruz is tearing up AAA for the Reds, but he's no one's idea of a quick fix. Other than Cruz, I can't think of anyone good enough and cheap enough for the Giants to bother with. Suggestions are welcome, because I'm sure I'm missing a few possibilities.

First base, on the other hand, is a position the Giants can upgrade easily. The only contending team not set at first is Montreal, so there shouldn't be too many teams fighting over Derrek Lee or -- should the White Sox continue to stumble -- Paul Konerko. Konerko is sort of the Edgardo Alfonzo of the AL so far, but I'd take a chance on him. The only catch with the first base solution is there is no way anything will happen. The Giants would have to release either Snow or Andres Galarraga, or carry three first basemen on the roster. Neither is likely, and only the most bitter of fans would like to see Snow released after seven mostly solid years. If the Giants do trade, it will be for a reliever.


3) Felipe Alou is going to treat Barry Bonds like a fabrige egg, that much is obvious. However, Alou needs to remember the only advantage of not having Barry Bonds in the starting lineup is the option to insert the team's best hitter into any situation Alou wants. In the last game of the Tigers series, the bases were loaded in the sixth inning, two were down, and a left-hander was brought in to face J.T. Snow. Andres Galaragga was already used as a pinch-hitter earlier in the inning, and would have been out of the game if he didn't replace Snow in the field. Snow is useless against lefties. This isn't rocket science, here. It's nice to have Bonds lurking for a tie game in the ninth, but the Giants were down by two at the time of Snow's at-bat. Snow stayed in and popped up, leaving the bases loaded.

Bad enough, but then Alou took Snow out of the game anyway. If the Giants were tied in the fifteenth inning, though, Bonds would have been able to hit for the pitcher. Unless, of course, there was a lefty on the mound, and Jim Brower was up. You wouldn't want to give up the platoon advantage in that situation.


4) And what is going on with the lineup? Marquis Grissom is on fire right now, and he's hitting for power. Ray Durham is back, and is getting on base. So Alou is leading Grissom off, and having Durham bat fifth behind Barry. Of course. That's like putting a tuxedo on Denise Richards and having her play James Bond, with Pierce Brosnan as a cocktail dress-clad Bond girl.




The Draft


The Giants spent their first round pick on a college closer, which are statistically as likely to succeed as individual sperm. This college closer wasn't expected to go in the first round, mostly because he had lost a bit of velocity over the season. Those are some huge red flags there, but I can't help but feel optimistic about David Aardsma. The Giants are planning to use him as a starter, which makes the pick a better one right away, and felt he was the right combination of good and cheap. Some big name hitters were still on the board, like Carlos Quentin from Stanford, or Aardsma's teammate at Rice, Vince Sinisi, but the Giants didn't deviate from their pitching first, hitting fifty-eighth philosophy. If Dick Tidrow sees something in a power arm, I'll just shut up and listen as if he's the E.F. Hutton of identiying young pitching talent.

Though the idea of drafting high school pitching is viewed as risky and outdated in some circles, the Giants made a good pick with Craig Whitaker. When a team has four draft picks in the first two rounds like the Giants did, it makes sense to roll the dice on a talent like Whitaker, who can already throw a 97 mph fastball and good breaking ball. The current Giant organization has done nothing but show an aptitude for identifying and developing pitching talent, so it's encouraging to see a pitcher like Whitaker, who might have been a top fifteen pick in the less college-centric drafts of yore, join the system. Whitaker is 6-foot-4, with his lower torso making up 5-foot-8 of that. His legs are so freakishly long compared to the rest of his body, he looks like a character from Yellow Submarine. As I understand it, that's generally a good thing for pitchers. With Jerome Williams, Matt Cain, Ryan Hannaman, and Boof Bonser already having substanial value as trade bait, if nothing else, the Giants' track record with high school pitching is impressive.

The Giants can't afford to dish out early round bonus money to every early pick they make, so they reached for their second round picks. Todd Jennings from Long Beach State wasn't expected to go before the fourth round, but the Giants need catching. In the NCAA regionals this weekend, I was able to watch him play a little bit against Stanford. On an infield hit in the late innings, he trailed the runner to first, and when the throw from short was errant, smothered the ball on a headlong dive to prevent the runner from advancing. It was an amazingly athletic play for a catcher, and it came at a crucial point the game, impressing the bejeebus out of me. His hitting, not as impressive. He only hit .293 with an .339 on-base percentage, and that's with a aluminum bat. Right now, I'm not optimistic about his chances, but he seems athletic enough to surprise.

The other second-rounder, Nate Schierholtz, at least according to Google, didn't exist before the draft. Maybe the Giants are like the indie-rock nerds of the draft, trying to drop the most obscure name possible. "Oh, you've never heard of 'Famous Greenies, Go Forth'? They've got a Modest Mouse meets The Shins kind of sound." "Oh yeah, Nate Schierholtz. He's a cross of Eric Chavez's power with a Robin Ventura-style line drive swing. We would have taken him in the first if we didn't think he'd fall."

I know even less about the later round picks. South Carolina third baseman Brian Buscher hit .384/.435/.612 in his senior year, which is impressive for the SEC, though Baseball America referred to him as a poor man's Dave Hollins, and that isn't exactly reason to book a flight to San Francisco for the 2006 World Series. The Southpaw did a great job compiling and linking to information about the Giants draft, so if you want something from sources that know what they're talking about, that's the site to go to.

It will be a few years before this draft can be accurately judged, but the Giants had a definite plan, and they adhered to it. It's not a very exciting plan, but it is a plan. If you can afford it, drafting the best talent with each pick is obviously the way to go. If you can't, there's something to be said about targeting a player, and making sure you get him, no matter how much of an overdraft they might be. Schierholtz might have been a tenth-round pick, but if a scout was blown away by his talent, they were able to make sure they got him in the second, and can probably pay him fourth-round money. It will take a while to determine if the Giants are being prudent or stupid.

posted by G at 1:58 AM





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     Monday, June 02, 2003
 

Lookin' Up



1) Marquis Grissom and Benito Santiago have been carrying a good part of this offense, just like we all predicted. Continuing to count on them is goofy, but Barry Bonds, Rich Aurilia, and especially Edgardo Alfonzo are all capable of more. Bonds might just be great now, and Aurilia's '00 might have been more Brady Anderson than I wanted to admit, but Alfonzo is not a .220 hitter. If Alfonzo is truly a broken player, this will be a long four year stretch.


2) In case you missed Jon Miller's radio call of Ruben Rivera's baserunning, here's a transcript:

Grissom hits a fly ball deep into Death Valley, Delucci is going back...going back and it's over his head! He missed it! But Ruben Rivera missed second base! He goes back to touch it, and streaks for third where he's going to be out by ten feet. But the throw into third is botched! The ball is kicked into the infield, but Rivera is now tangled up in a garden hose! He's dragging around the hose, and has managed to swallow a two foot section, but now he's trying for home! The throw comes into Chad Moeller, and now Rivera has somehow managed to duct tape his own left foot to his ass! He's simply sobbing and hopping around the pitcher's mound now, his face absolutely covered in rosin somehow, and Moeller is almost too disgusted to tag him. He does tag him, though, and makes the sign of the cross, reaffirming what must be a shaky belief system right now.

And that was the worst baserunning in the history of the game.



3) The amateur draft is on Tuesday, and Baseball America is predicting the Giants will go with high school pitcher Craig Whitaker. The first rule of the baseball draft is that a team should always pick the best available talent in the first round, regardless of depth. Great, but I can't think of anything more boring than another pitcher. I want a sweet swinging middle infielder, like Aaron Hill, or a offensive-minded catcher with suspect defense, like Mitch Meier. At least it seems like the organization knows what they're doing in evaluating amateur pitchers. If a known, highly regarded hitter slips to them for one reason or another, like Todd Linden did in 2001, they could get lucky. Otherwise, it's another high school pitcher in the mold of Matt Cain and Boof Bonser.

As Giants scout and regional crosschecker David Wooderson noted, "I keep getting older, but the pitchers stay the saaame age." He also added, "Let me tell you what Whitaker is packin' here, alright? We got a 93 mph heater he can sink or ride, 12 to 6 curve, workable circle change, plus-plus control, and a delivery that grades a 60 on the 20-80 scale. We're talkin' some f**ckin' muscle."


4) Kurt Ainsworth and Jesse Foppert have been impressive as of late, especially Ainsworth. I can't help but feel that Ryan Jensen would be in the rotation if Dusty Baker were still the manager, though that's more gut feeling than solid hypothesis. Carving up the Rockies in Pac Bell isn't exactly one of baseball's greatest hurdles, but both were able to do so efficiently, working deep into the game. After Foppert's gem, he had to give a post-game interview in the vicinity of a strategically placed, fart-noise making gadget. Now that's funny on it's own, but it's funnier if you picture Kirk Rueter in a Spencer Gifts store, discovering the Fart Machine and braying hysterically. "Oh, boy! I'm gonna get that Foppert good!"

Man, I love this team.


5) Tim Worrell only being used in bases-empty situations might be one of the best things to happen to this bullpen. Unfortunately, he bequeathed his uncanny ability to allow inherited runners to score to Joe Nathan, who generally spends his bullpen time covering himself in oily rags and playing with his Zippo. If Felipe Alou isn't going to trust Jim Brower in close games, not that he should, the team's first trade target should be a right-handed reliever to take Brower's roster spot. Maybe Nathan's recent struggles are a fluke, as I'm hoping, but his workload could certainly catch up to him. It might have already.


6) Some players aren't missed until they're gone. Some are like the last roll of toliet paper in a bomb shelter, as you know not having them around will just get messy. Ray Durham is most certainly the latter. Welcome back.

posted by G at 12:09 AM





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