Friday, December 31, 2004


That's it -- happy New Year! May we all have a productive 2005, and may the Royals and Giants meet in the World Series (can't blame a guy for dreaming, can you?).

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Comparison Part 3: The Replacement Catcher

The final comparison I'll do is at the catcher position, where Mike Matheny will wear the mask in 2005 in lieu of A.J. Pierzynski.

I'll say from the start that this move was a strange one -- strange not only in the signing of Matheny, but strange in the amount of money Matheny received. Matheny will now make more money than he ever has in his career, coming off a season which saw his OPS drop 36 points (not to mention Matheny's never had a .700 OPS season in his career -- no, not once). Just for the fun of it, let's look at what Matheny and Pierzynski did head-to-head in 2004:

Pierzynski: .272/.319/.410, 11 hr, 19 bb, 27 so in 471 ab's
Matheny: .247/.292/.348, 5 hr, 23 bb, 83 so 385 ab's

Okay, not even close -- A.J. is a hands-down better offensive player, even after having his worst full season as a pro. Let's all get the idea of Matheny doing anything significant offensively out of our minds now, because it won't happen...unless maybe they bat him 3rd in front of Bonds (just kidding).

And it actually gets worse offensively, because the Giants wouldn't have had to go outside of their organization to downgrade offensively at catcher:

Yorvit Torrealba, career: .256/.322/.402, 12 hr, 45 bb, 90 so in 512 ab's

So, Sabean had a catcher already on his roster that has a career .724 OPS offensively, would cost millions cheaper, and yet went out and got a worse offensive catcher and paid him 3.5 million dollars a year.

Defensively, it's difficult to argue with Matheny's skills. He's won the Gold Glove for catcher in the NL the past two seasons, and had another GG besides in 2000. It's hard to equate exactly how much a good defensive catcher helps, but I'll go out on a limb and say that Matheny's defensive advantage over Pierzynski about makes up for the offensive advantage Piersynski possesses.

But how about Torrealba? This is a difficult one, because Yorvit just hasn't caught enough games to be seriously compared to Matheny. For what it's worth, both Matheny's and Torrealba's range factor and career fielding percentage are both very close, so one could say that Torrealba could be as good of a defensive catcher as Matheny, but it would be hard to prove until Yorvit was able to play a full season at the position -- something that does not seem possible with the Giants organization.

So, in essence, the signing of Matheny isn't a bad move in and of itself, but the amount he was signed for and the probability that the Giants already had as good of a catcher as Matheny (or better) on their team who makes millions less -- well, that makes it very questionable move.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Comparison Part 2: Can Moises lead the Giants to the promised land?

This comparison will be more difficult than the previous one, since Moises Alou isn't exactly replacing any one player, per se. However, we can still make a comparison -- we'll just do Alou vs. a two-headed right field monster: Michael Tucker, and Dustan Mohr.

Mohr is gone, much to the surprise of many Giants faithful (including yours truly). It makes sense if one thinks of Mohr as a right fielder and a right handed bat -- two roles that Alou will now occupy. However, we all know that Mohr played all three outfield positions during the course of the season, and played them well (though his range is a bit lacking for more than spot duty in center). Tucker is still there, of course, and it looks like he'll be in Mohr's role as Outfield SuperSub, in addition to Tucker's usefulness as a left-handed batter. Adding Tucker's and Mohr's at-bats and comparing them to Alou's isn't the best way to do things, but I'm too lazy to do anything else, and it'll still accomplish what I'm looking to do -- seeing if Alou is an upgrade over the Tucker/Mohr platoon.

Alright, it's obviously an upgrade, no stat comparison needed. But how much of an upgrade, and was it worth Moises' phat contract? Hm, perhaps Moises' sugar daddy had a hand in the final numbers...

Anyhow, here's our two-headed monster, rightfielder Tucker/Mohr:

.262/.371/.420, 20 hr, 116 bb, 170 so in 727 ab's.

And here's Moises of the Alou:

.293/.361/.557, 39 hr, 68 bb, 80 so in 601 ab's.

One thing that I really, really liked about the Mohr/Tucker combo was that they both knew how to get on base via the walk, something that Alou isn't nearly as good at. However, table setting has never been Alou's role, nor should it be in 2005. His job will be to drive runs in -- his higher batting average, lower strikeout rate, and gargantuan advantage in slugging will do nicely to help that cause.

So, end of discussion, right? Well, no...see, the problem with comparing Alou straight up with Mohr and Tucker is we're not taking into account where these players played half their games last season. For Mohr and Tucker, obviously, this was SBC Park. For Alou, however, it was Wrigley Field in Chicago. And this presents a bit of a problem. Let's look at Alou's home/road splits in 2004:

Home: .339/.405/.714, 29 hr
Road: .247/.316/.400, 10 hr

Ouch. One can only hope that the disparity has something to do with the home cooking in Chicago, but a statistic comes into play that probably explains it better: park factors.

SBC: 1.069
Wrigley: 1.123

It doesn't sound like much, but when we focus on one particular aspect of the park factor for each field, Alou's huge disparity in power numbers at home and on the road becomes impossible to ignore:

SBC Home Run Factor: .899
Wrigley Home Run Factor: 1.329

That, my friends, is huge. What it means is that SBC park gave up about 90% of the average number of home runs hit in all the parks in the league -- in other words, it's more difficult to hit big flies at SBC. Wrigley, however, sees 133% more homers than the average in the other parks -- in layman's terms, they be hittin' a whole mess more round trippers at Wrigley than just about everywhere else. Only park better (or worse) at having home runs hit? Try Cellular One Ballpark on the Southside of Chicago. Hm, maybe Alou should've signed with the White Sox.

This isn't to say that Alou isn't an upgrade, and that he won't do well. However, expecting 40 home runs and .550 slugging could be a bit much, considering how much more difficult SBC will likely be for Alou to hit home runs -- perhaps an increase in doubles and triples will compensate a bit, but 30 home runs and .500 slugging will probably be a more accurate estimate. Unless of course, Alou increases his production on the road, or better yet, unless Alou bats in front of Bonds, which, as we all know, is a good spot to see some fastballs down the plate.

Defensively, while I believe that Mohr and Tucker both play a better defensive right field than Alou will, I don't think Alou will embarass himself out there. The problem will not be him, it will be a collective problem of him, Grissom, and Bonds all playing in the oufield together. I'm just guessing that their combined range factor would rank near the bottom league wide -- look for Alou to shade right center on anyone except dead pull hitters, as Felipe Alou will likely be looking for a way to cut down on the number of balls hit into Triples Alley. Moises Alou will also have fun learning the caroms off the various surfaces in right field, I'm sure.

So, will Alou prove to be worth the money? In a word, yes -- it's only a two year deal, and like the Vizquel and Matheny signings, Alou has been brought to San Fransisco to help the Giants make another run at the Series. Brian Sabean probably would have rather had Steve Finley, but heck, Alou's two years younger and millions cheaper, so I can't knock Sabean's hustle at this point.

But I can still wish he had gotten J.D. Drew instead, can't I?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Comparison: Part 1 - Whaddya think of Neifi? HE'S A BUM!!

Let's get down and funky with some statistics (I can dance to stats, you know), and really see who's better: the New Guys coming in, or the Old Bums going out.

We'll start with Neifi Perez, and Omar Vizquel.

Neifi Perez in 2004 (Giants only): .232/.276/.295, 21 bb/35 so in 319 ab's
Omar Vizquel in 2004: .291/.353/.388, 57 bb/62 so in 567 ab's

Okay, this is obviously no comparison. How Neifi was allowed to acquire over 300 at-bats while having the trifecta of sub .300 batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging is beyond me, but suffice it to say cutting bait on Neifi was necessary (he promptly went right over to the Cubs and posted a .948 OPS, of course, but that just proves how much of a bum Neifi was). As some of you may remember, though, Deivi Cruz did an admirable offensive job last year after Neifi left, so we'll throw in Deivi's statline as well...

Deivi Cruz in 2004: .292/.322/.431, 17 bb/32 so in 397 ab's

So, in essence, Cruz and Vizquel interchange offensively. Cruz has more pop, but Vizquel finds his way on base better than Deivi does. The on-base percentage advantage plays to Vizquel's base running abilities -- 19 steals last year, which of course about evens up the gap between the two in slugging. Defensively, however, is where Vizquel smokes Cruz -- Gold Gloves, especially in as high volume as Omar possesses, do not lie.

Well, where does that leave us? Either way you slice it, Vizquel is indeed an upgrade -- an offensive upgrade over Neifi, and a huge defensive upgrade over Cruz. The next question would be, was it worth paying Vizquel 12.25 million for these upgrades? If your team was the Pittsburgh Pirates, no -- but the Giants are likely to be in the top 10 in payroll again this year, so perhaps it's palatable for 2005. Nomar Garciaparra would've been nicer, though.

The San Francisco Giants, or Geriatrics?

Well, I think it's safe to say that Brian Sabean likes old guys.

He has a few on his team already. By Opening Day in April, 2005, the following Giants will have the following ages following their names: Barry Bonds (40), Marquis Grissom (37 until April 17th), and J.T. Snow (37). It doesn't seem like that was quite enough, because over the offseason Sabean has added Moises Alou (38), Omar Vizquel (37 unitl April 24th), and Mike Matheny (the "kid" at 34). If nothing else, the Giants GM has upgraded in age over last year's team. Consider this: the Giants starting outfield next season will average about 39 years old, their infield, including 3rd baseman Edgardo Alfonzo (31), and 2nd baseman Ray Durham (33), will average about 35 years of age. Of course, Matheny will start most games behind the dish, so...

This leaves us with S.F. fielding a team that will, in effect, be about 36 years old. Is this really good for the Giants? Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for veteran presence and experience players, but the lack of youth is really astounding when you look at it. Do these acquisitions make the Giants better in 2005, or do they set them up for some potential heartache?

I don't know quite yet, so I'll use the best tools available to get an idea: stats! Next time, we'll compare the new players (I use the term "new" loosely) with the players they replaced.