2011 Season in Review: Miguel Tejada

Miguel Tejada is one of the greatest shortstops of all time — top 50 easily, and arguably top 25. Simply going by WAR (Baseball-Reference’s implementation), he’s 23rd all time. That’s not too shabby — higher than Omar Vizquel even. I wouldn’t say he’s Hall-of-Fame material, but he’s certainly Hall of Very Good material.

Anyway, 37+ year old shortstops are rare, and good ones are even harder to come by. The departures of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria left the Giants with a void at shortstop last offseason; they didn’t have many options — particularly on the free agent market — so they chose to sign Miguel Tejada. This was — without doubt — their greatest mistake of the offseason, as Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy were both available on the trade market at the time (Hardy would soon be traded to the Baltimore Orioles for next to nothing). Additionally, the contract — $6.5MM over one year — seemed a bit lucrative for a shortstop of his age, coming off a season in which he’d posted an OPS just under .700; it was a classic case of Brian Sabean outbidding himself. In any event, the Giants went with Tejada, and sad as it sounds in retrospect, he was their biggest new addition (with Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell returning after re-signing with the Giants).

Tejada, of course, fell off a cliff with the bat, proving futile at the plate in 343 plate appearances. He was aggressive — only drawing 12 walks on the season — and his power all but disappeared, as he slugged just .326 (the lowest mark of his career, by far). His defense at short, as expected, left a lot to be desired. After averaging 158 games per season from 1999-2010 — proving to be incredibly durable, Tejada missed 25 games in the late summer due to an abdominal strain.

In late August, Tejada was the subject of much scrutiny (kudos to Bay Area Sports guy for calling Tejada out), after refusing to run hard on a bunt. Soon after, Tejada was designated for assignment along with Aaron Rowand.

Fangraphs has Tejada’s season valued at exactly 0.0 wins above replacement, which is just perfect in so many ways. What a forgettable season he had. Quite a sad ending to a fine career, though.

2011 Season in Review: Aaron Rowand

Few players in franchise history have put together a greater showing of futility than Aaron Rowand in 2011 — and during his tenure as a whole, for that matter. In 2010, Rowand had hit .230/.281/.378, effectively losing his starting job — and setting an extremely low bar of performance standards. Yet somehow Rowand managed to put up even worse numbers this season: .233/.274/.347, a .270 weighted on-base average, and a BB/K ratio (0.12) of historically bad proportions.

Despite his constant struggles at the plate, Rowand had the sixth-most plate appearances on the team (351). And despite his utter inability to reach base (the man drew nine(!) unintentional walks this season), he led off for the Giants 46 times. I kid you not: fourty-six times.

As sort of an exercise for this player review, I decided to search through the archives for old mentions of Rowand. What I came upon were two one-sentence excerpts (within a one-week span) that almost entirely illustrate Rowand’s season as a whole:

Aug 23: The Giants drew three consecutive walks to load the bases in the fourth inning, and Aaron Rowand promptly took two strikes then grounded out.

Aug 19: Aaron Rowand, who hasn’t drawn a walk in six weeks, was hitless in the leadoff spot, striking out twice.

When he was finally designated for assignment, it came out that Rowand had been complaining endlessly:

But according to sources, Rowand’s complaining reached a critical level this season. “He’s doing everything possible to get out of here,” one player said earlier this week.

I’m both thrilled and relieved to never have to see Rowand don a San Francisco Giants uniform ever again. His tenure as a Giant was increasingly disastrous, and he’s without doubt one of the worst free agent signings in franchise history.

He’ll be making $12MM next year to not play for the Giants.

Splash Hits: Giants hold press conference with Bill Neukom and Larry Baer

I have yet to see the video of the press conference, but here’s what I basically gathered from Twitter:

That’s just a brief overview — there’s more that’s been written up by Tim Kawakami and John Shea (both linked below), but that’s the basic gist of it. There was some speculation from multiple astute fellow bloggers that the Aaron Rowand DFA had something to do with Neukom’s departure (see here and here); if true, that’s beyond absurd.

In the meantime, some links…

Larry Baer on Barry Zito, Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean — and more of what you didn’t see on the televised news conference : San Francisco Giants: The Splash
John Shea from the ballpark, where a few reporters spoke with new Giants CEO after today’s news conference. . . .

Tim Kawakami: The truth about the San Francisco Giants and Bill Neukom – San Jose Mercury News
No matter how hard the parties tried to spin it Thursday, this organization is not stable.

VIDEO: Understanding ‘The Giants Way’ By Bill Neukom – SB Nation Bay Area
Former San Francisco Giants CEO and Managing Partner Bill Neukom fully understood this, and was in part the reason he decided to create ‘The Giants Way;’ a simple handbook created by Neukom on how “to articulate a successful baseball program and successful business program.”

Tim Lincecum And Another Means Of Defying Baseball Convention – Baseball Nation
Every coach at every level of baseball will talk about the importance of throwing first-pitch strikes. Tim Lincecum doesn’t care. Why would he? He’s Tim Lincecum! He’s weird!

First Pitch Tidbits – Baseball Analytics Blog – MLB Baseball Analytics
Here are some nuggets about what happens on the first pitch of an at-bat:

The Platoon Advantage: Hitter vs. Position Player
During the Common Man’s opening statement, he mentions “hitter” and “position player” interchangeably, and while Bill points out the difference and TCM surely knows the difference (you all know the difference), it’s a common correlation that’s often made.

Narratives From Formulas | FanGraphs Baseball
I won’t repeat the basics, which can be looked up elsewhere. Instead, I want to address the occasional misuse of the formula for building narratives of teams being better or worse.

Previewing the 2012 Free Agent Oufield Market

Aaron Rowand‘s gone for good, and the Giants will lose several outfielders — Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell — to free agency. Nate Schierholtz will be back, in with a breakout season, could potentially see regular playing time in the outfield. In addition, the Giants will presumably tender Andres Torres a contract, though it remains to be seen what role he’ll play next season.

Anyway, the Giants will be in the market for outfielders; if they envision Nate Schierholtz as the starting right fielder, and Brandon Belt as the starting left fielder, the big void is in centerfield — where the market is very thin. A brief preview of the 2012 free agent outfield market:

Re-Signs

Cody Ross: He made $6.3MM in his final year of arbitration, and has had a somewhat disappointing season – .238/.327/.399; that said, his numbers (thanks to a very-high walk rate) are bascially in line with his career norms, and he’s posted the best BB/K of his career (0.53). He averaged roughly 2.5 WAR/season from 2007-2010, and I imagine he’ll be looking for a starting role (which he deserves). The thing that makes Ross special is that he can play centerfield — and an average hitter in center is of value. Given his versatility in the outfield, and the fact that he’s solid at the plate, Ross represents one of the best available outfield options for the Giants.

Carlos Beltran: Easily the top outfield bat on the market. It’d be nice to retain Beltran, as he solidifies the middle of the Giants’ lineup. He’s the cream of the crop though, and could command a whole lot of money. If I had to guess, I bet he’ll end up elsewhere.

The Athletics

David DeJesus: initially suggested by Zack in the September roundtable, DeJesus could provide decent value at an affordable price. Here’s what Zack had to say:

I’d love to see them make a cheap offer to David DeJesus. He’s putting the worst offensive numbers of his career, but he hasn’t been nearly as bad Oakland fans tend to think. He has the ability to take a walk, and unlike other “sluggers” on the market (Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, etc.), he still rates well defensively. I’m inclined to give DeJesus the benefit of the doubt because 1) he may still be recovering from an injury, 2) half of his games are in Oakland, and 3) his playing time has been iffy due to the managerial situation. And while he’s not exactly young, it’s not like it would be a long-term deal. One or two years would be great.

Coco Crisp: Another Oakland A’s outfielder, Crisp is an intriguing option for a number of reasons: he can still play centerfield, and despite the fact that he’ll be entering his age-32 season, he still flashes speed on the basepaths — in fact, his 40 steals in 2011 represent a career-high, and he’s stolen 72 bases in all since 2010, at an 86% success rate. Over his career, he’s pretty much been an average hitter (.276/.331/.407, 99 wRC+), but he’s been especially solid at the plate over the past two seasons (114 wRC+).

Josh Willingham: a very nice bat (career OPS+ of 121), but he’ll be 33 years old and his defensive limitations mostly restrict him to left field. Given that the Giants will probably enter 2012 with Brandon Belt as the regular left-fielder, Willingham doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

The Other Centerfielders

Rick Ankiel: Wrong side of 30 and a below-average hitter, but he’s also posted +17 DRS (defensive runs saved) in centerfield this year.

Nate McClouth: He’ll be four years removed from his all-star season, and he really hasn’t impressed of late. Over the last two seasons (609 PA), he’s posted a .650 OPS. He can play passable defense in centerfield, but he’s not a particularly good defender.

Some other CF names: Willie Bloomquist, Corey Patterson, Scott Hairston

Some Right-Field Names: Michael Cuddyer, J.D. Drew, Lance Berkman, Jason Kubel, Ryan Ludwick, Kosuke Fukudome