Splash Hits: 8/21/12

The Cool Things That Madison Bumgarner Does | Getting Blanked | Blogs | theScore.com
Madison Bumgarner does cool things.

San Francisco Giants pitchers excel at ‘stealing’ strikes – ESPN
Giants pitchers have excelled at “stealing strikes” early in counts, as Chris Quick notes.

Scouting Report: Kyle Crick (RHP) | Baseball Prospect Nation
A scouting report on Giants pitching prospect Kyle Crick.

Pence’s Impatience Costing Him with Giants – Baseball Analytics Blog – MLB Baseball Analytics
Pence has been chasing lots of pitches since coming over to San Francisco.

Melky Cabrera’s Positive Test, Not Performance, Proves PED Use – Pinstripe Alley
There’s no concrete evidence to suggest that Melky’s use of PEDs was responsible for the uptick in his production.

What’s San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera worth now? – ESPN
Jayson Stark on what Melky Cabrera is worth now.

Splash Hits: Post-Melky Edition

Bay Area Sports Guy – Deflated Giants lose first game after losing Melky Cabrera
A recap of yesterday’s events, with video interviews of several Giants players.

Big, Important Opinions on Melky Cabrera – McCovey Chronicles
Not an easy topic, but Grant knocked it out of the park.

On Melky And Morality | Getting Blanked | Blogs | theScore.com
A well-reasoned look at the moral implications of Melky’s actions.

Baseball Prospectus | BP Unfiltered: Melky Cabrera, PEDs, and the Giants’ Playoff Odds
How much did Melky Cabrera‘s suspension affect San Francisco’s odds of appearing in October?

Is 50 Games Too Weak a PED Punishment? | FanGraphs Baseball
Alex Remington explores whether the 50-game suspension is too weak a punishment for PEDs.

Should S.F. sign Cabrera after this? – SFGate
Should the Giants re-sign Melky? I say absolutely yes.

Melky Cabrera Receives 50-Game Suspension for PEDs

Melky Cabrera has been suspended for 50 games without pay, effective immediately, for testing positive for Testosterone. Here’s the Giants’ statement on the suspension.

I’m shocked. I’ve just been sitting here, staring at a blank computer screen for the last five minutes. Just as the Giants’ offense was starting to look really good, there’s no more Melky for the rest of the regular season. Wow.

Not even a week ago, I wrote about Melky Cabrera’s historic hit pace. Not only did he look like a lock for 200 hits, but he also appeared to have a solid shot at breaking the San Francisco Giants’ single-season hit record.

All of that is gone. Melky is gone, at least for the remainder of the regular season. Instead, we’re talking about PEDs. I hate talking about PEDs. Instead of appreciating Melky’s contributions, we’re now speculating on how much they were impacted by his use of testosterone. I don’t want to speculate on that.

The Giants are tied for first place in the NL West. With fewer than 50 games remaining, they have just lost a major piece of the puzzle, and will now have even less room for error in what will likely prove to be a tight race.

It’s all too easy to react as though the Giants are doomed; that’s not the case. For one, the Giants likely lost 2011 Melky, not 2012 Melky — which is to say, he probably wouldn’t have kept playing at this level down the stretch. Secondly, the Giants aren’t exactly replacing him with garbage. I guess the assumption is that Gregor Blanco will take over most of Melky’s playing time; that’s certainly discouraging — it’s hard to feel confident in any corner outfielder that can’t muster a .350 slugging percentage, but realistically, the difference between Blanco and Melky over what amounts to roughly 40 games is, what, half a win?

The Giants took a major hit, no doubt. But they’re still in this.

On another note, I can’t help but wonder what the future now holds for Melky. I’d have to imagine he just saw tens of millions of dollars flushed down the drain. What a mess all of this is.

Melky Cabrera and 200 Hits

A couple days ago, Jon Heyman published an article noting that Melky Cabrera and the Giants will put aside contract talks until after the season is over; the article inevitably started up another wave of speculation and discussion on what kind of money Cabrera should and/or will receive this offseason. But oddly enough, I’m not concerned with that — at least for the time being. The Giants don’t seem to be, either. Once the season has come to an end, we’ll all have an even clearer picture of what Melky is. For now, I’m inclined to just sit back and enjoy what Melky is doing.

We’re four months into this thing. He’s come to the plate nearly 500 times this season. And he’s currently rocking a .352/.395/.527 slash line. What’s more, he’s got a pretty comfortable major-league lead in the hit column, at 154. Andrew McCutchen, who stands second in the majors in hits, trails by six.

Melky is just 46 hits away from 200. The 200-hit mark is a frivolous milestone, for what should be fairly obvious reasons: it’s a counting stat, so it’s largely dependent upon opportunity — sheer quantity of at-bats; and secondly, it doesn’t account for important factors in a player’s production, namely walks and power. As such, “200 hits” doesn’t automatically mean “good season.” Juan Pierre compiled 204 hits in 2006, a year in which he posted an 82 OPS+.

But the frivolities in baseball are fun. That’s part of what makes the sport enjoyable. I mean, hitting for the cycle is a frivolous feat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch a player accomplish it.

Assuming Melky remains healthy, he’s all but guaranteed to reach 200 hits. There are 50 games left in the season, so he’ll likely get another 200 or so plate appearances. ZiPS projects 182 at-bats for him over the rest of the season. If that’s the case, Melky would need to hit .253 from this point forward. He’s hit .352 so far. He’s hit .285 over his career. ZiPS projects him to hit .308 the rest of the way. Even in his notoriously terrible 2010 campaign, he hit .255. Melky essentially has this locked up.

A complete list of every San Francisco Giants player to eclipse 200 hits in a single season:

Rk Player Year H Age Tm Lg G PA AB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Rich Aurilia 2001 206 29 SFG NL 156 689 636 .324 .369 .572 .941
2 Bobby Bonds 1970 200 24 SFG NL 157 745 663 .302 .375 .504 .879
3 Willie Mays 1958 208 27 SFG NL 152 685 600 .347 .419 .583 1.002
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/10/2012.

 

Not only is Melky set to join an exclusive group of Giants hitters, but at this rate, he looks like he could best each of them in terms of hit totals. Willie Mays holds the San Francisco Giants’ single-season record for hits, at 208. He’s held that record since the Giants’ very first season in San Francisco. Cabrera needs just 55 hits over the final 50 games of the season in order to overtake Mays. Pretty cool, eh?

Splash Hits: The Giants Are 61-50

Scouting Report Giants Prospect Kyle Crick | Bullpen Banter
A comprehensive scouting report on Giants prospect and Augusta GreenJackets pitcher Kyle Crick.

Bonds is right: No-doubt Hall of Famer – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
It almost goes without saying, but Barry Bonds is deserving of Hall of Fame induction, and there’s no doubt about it.

2012: Year of the Catcher? – Beyond the Box Score
A brief piece I wrote on the strong showing that 2012 catchers have put together. Buster Posey, along with Carlos Ruiz, leads the way.

In (Almost) Support of Lyle Overbay – McCovey Chronicles
Should the Giants sign Lyle Overbay? At first glance, no. At second glance, maybe. At third glance, no.

New Theory: Ryan Vogelsong is a wizard « Bay City Ball – A Giants Blog
Go for the Ryan Vogelsong analysis. Stay for the Brandon Crawford GIF.

Emerging star Melky and Giants agree to pick up contract talks after the year – CBSSports.com
Melky Cabrera and the Giants will put aside contract discussions for now, reports Jon Heyman.

Maybe Coors Field Isn’t So Bad After All

After the way that homestand went, I was kind of dreading this Rockies series. Sure, the Rockies have been battling it out with the Astros for the title of “worst record in baseball” this season, but the last thing the Giants needed after losing seven of eight was some quality time at Coors Field. That’s like a classic setup for hitting rock bottom: you could just imagine one of those hellacious marathon games in which the Giants scratch and claw for twenty innings and eventually lose to a last place team.

Except the way these past two games have gone, I’m almost beginning to — gasp — like Coors Field. The Giants scored a grand total of 29 runs over that ten-game span at home. They’ve scored 27 after a couple of days in Colorado. No lead is ever safe here — I mean, was anybody really comfortable with that five-run lead when Brad Penny took the mound in the seventh inning? Still, in back-to-back games, the Giants have managed to avoid that meltdown, padding the score with enough runs here and there to keep the Rockies at bay.

And so an offense that looked so helpless just a few days ago has now scored 10+ runs for two days in a row; it’s been two years since that happened.

Notes:

Giants Make Moves, Lose Ballgame

Following last night’s loss to the Mets, the San Francisco Giants made a few roster moves. Hector Sanchez, who was out with a left knee strain, was activated and caught Barry Zito‘s start today. In a corresponding move, the Giants optioned Eli Whiteside back to Triple-A Fresno. Additionally, Justin Christian was optioned to Fresno, with Shane Loux reinstated to take his spot on the roster. In other words, the Giants will go with a 13-man bullpen for now. Lastly, Emmanuel Burriss, as expected, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Fresno.

For the first time in what seemed like forever — it had actually been a monthBrandon Belt and Hector Sanchez were both in the starting lineup. The last time it happened, Barry Zito tossed seven scoreless innings and the Giants ended up defeating the Dodgers by a score of 8-0. Today’s game was like the polar opposite of that.

Zito’s first inning included three consecutive three-ball counts, followed by a David Murphy HBP and back-to-back hits from Jason “.157 average” Bay and Ronny Cedeno — although in all fairness to Zito, Cedeno’s double arguably should have been scored as an error on Melky Cabrera. Melky was able to get to the ball in time, but failed to snag it. Anyway, Zito miraculously pitched into the fifth, but ended up finishing today with the following line: 4.1 IP, 7 ER, 6 H, 1 K, 3 BB. He brought a shiny 3.89 ERA into this start, but it seems like that didn’t entirely reflect how bad he’s been. Before today, his ERA+ (90) was the second-worst mark he’s ever had over a full season, the worst being the 85 ERA+ he carried in 2008. And after today’s showing, which raised his ERA by 38 points, Zito’s ERA+ has assuredly dipped below 85.

The lone bright spot in today’s blowout was Melky Cabrera, who collected three of the Giants’ four hits. With a triple, an opposite-field ground-rule double, and a single, Melky fell a homer short of the cycle — which was refreshing to see, considering he’s been pretty quiet lately. Before today, Melky had gone 10 for 37 on this homestand without a walk or an extra-base hit.

But of course, it wasn’t nearly enough. And so the Giants finished this disheartening homestand 3-7, with those seven losses having come over their past eight games. The D’backs have quietly cut the Giants’ division lead to two games, and the Dodgers remain just half a game back. I wrote a week ago (over at Beyond the Box Score) that Arizona is still in the thick of the playoff hunt, and it’s pretty clear at this point that they pose a big threat to San Francisco. Both Arizona and Los Angeles have the day off, though.

Notes:

  • The 13-man bullpen is excessive, but I think it makes sense for the Giants right now. They’re about to start a three-game series at Coors Field — and knowing how those games tend to go, it’ll be convenient to have an extra arm in the ‘pen. After the Colorado series, they’ll begin a four-game set at St. Louis, against an offense that has been historically good thus far – so again, it makes sense to have some extra help. Besides, Justin Christian had been utterly worthless during his brief major-league stint.
  • The only non-Melky to get a hit was Brandon Belt, who obliterated a ball into right field for a triple. He later deposited a ball into the bay, but it was foul (and he ended up striking out on a weak-looking hack).
  • For someone that hasn’t played third base since 2008 (when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays), Marco Scutaro has filled in pretty nicely there for Pablo Sandoval — he made a couple good picks there today. And this was just the first time since joining the Giants that Scutaro has failed to get a hit. It occurred to me that I never got a chance to write up my thoughts on the Marco Scutaro trade, so to quickly sum it up: I loved it. I don’t think the Giants gave up much of anything in Charlie Culberson, who couldn’t even muster a .700 OPS in the PCL; and in return, San Francisco got a decent and necessary contact bat that can play third, short, and second without looking silly.
  • Have we reached the point where Andres Torres is having a better season than Angel Pagan? Torres is hitting .238/.352/.323, 94 wRC+. Pagan is hitting .272/.317/.389, 94 wRC+. And there’s no question that Torres is the far superior defender.