A Question

Why did the Giants trade for Melky Cabrera?

Originally, the trade made sense. The organization wasn’t content with the in-house options, and I can definitely understand that. I wasn’t personally a fan of the trade, mostly because the plan was supposedly to install Melky in centerfield — where his defense negates a lot of his value. I argued, in fact, that Andres Torres wasn’t a much worse option (if at all) for that role than Cabrera. In the context of when it was made, it wasn’t a bad trade — just uninspired.

But with San Francisco acquiring Angel Pagan, the Giants’ offseason plans become somewhat of a mess. Pagan slides into center, presumably moving Melky over to left. Aubrey Huff, who will inevitably assume a starting role, would then presumably become the first baseman. I like the Pagan trade. But it took me a while to realize — or for it to really sink in — that the Giants don’t plan on putting Brandon Belt in their starting lineup.

So it begs the question: Why did the Giants feel the need to acquire Cabrera? What was the rush? It seems pretty clear to me that the Giants are better off just starting Belt.

Jon Heyman: Giants eyeing shortstops, first basemen, outfielders

According to Jon Heyman, there’s no belief that San Francisco will pursue Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. They are, however, focused on the market for shortstop, first base, and outfield:

No belief #sfgiants will make play for reyes or rollins. They are eyeing ss as well as 1b and OF. but pitching still the focus

We’ve heard this again and again: the Giants, due to budgetary constraints, are not in on Reyes or Rollins. They’ve really embraced the pitching-first philosophy (although it’s almost like a pitching-first and pitching-second and pitching-third philosophy).

Anyway, they seem focused on finding a backup option for Brandon Crawford, and Clint Barmes seems like the obvious target (at the right price, that’s not such a bad thing). The market for middle infielders is shaping up to be pretty ugly though; bad ones, the likes of Willie Bloomquist, are making more money than they should. Hopefully the Giants don’t fall down this trap.

It’s a little odd that they’re looking at first basemen — as they have both Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff – but they could definitely stand to add an outfielder. I’m guessing they’ll re-sign Cody Ross, who would like to return in 2012. He’ll be cheap, and seems like a good fit (if he can still play a serviceable centerfield).

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.

Splash Hits: 2010 World Series Game 5 Anniversary Edition

Season in review: Believe the impossible – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
Remembering an awesome, unpredictable 2011.

Lefty Malo – Happy Birthday, Coco Crisp. Sort Of.
Crisp is injury-prone, potentially expensive, and has sub-par on-base skills.

Wednesday Infographic: Things you already painfully know « Bay City Ball | Giants Baseball with a Side of STATS!
A graphic representation of the Giants’ sOPS+ at each position.

King of Little Things 2011 | FanGraphs Baseball
Aubrey Huff.

2012 Top 50 Free Agents With Predictions: MLB Rumors – MLBTradeRumors.com
MLBTradeRumors’ 2012 FA rankings/predictions. They have Crisp signing with the Giants.

The Top 10 World Series Games, Including (Of Course) 2011 Game 6 – Baseball Nation
Some are calling Thursday’s Game 6 an “instant classic”. Where would you rank it among the greatest World Series games of all time?

2011 Season in Review: Aubrey Huff

Expectations for Aubrey Huff entering this season were reasonably low. He would be in his mid-30s, and a healthy dose of regression was inevitable, coming off of his incredible 2010 season. Out of nowhere, he had managed to hit .290/.385/.506 (.388 wOBA, 143 wRC+) on a measly one-year $3MM deal; he had posted the best walk rate of his career (12.4%) by far, and had even managed to steal seven bases without being caught at all. What’s more, he’d held his own defensively in the outfield — a position he hadn’t played since 2006 — after being asked to move there on short notice. He was, of sorts, the emblem of the Giants’ 2010 championship story, rally thong and all: a cheap one-year signing that had instantly revived his career with an all-star caliber season.

On November 23rd, the Giants rewarded him with a two-year $22MM contract; I’ve thought about this one a lot, and revisited it a while back. Conclusion: it was perfectly justifiable:

On November 23rd, the Giants re-signed Aubrey Huff to a two-year $22MM deal — one that was made, I think, under a few assumptions:

1. That Brandon Belt was not major-league ready; he had only played in thirteen games in Triple-A in 2010, and the organization is generally strong when it comes to internal scouting evaluations, so this seems like a fair — albeit early — assumption.

2. Aubrey Huff could fake it in the outfield. In 2010, his defense in the outfield was passable, and the Giants had strong defensive outfielders (Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz) surrounding him, so this was also (arguably) a reasonable assumption.

3. Huff would be okay in 2011; again, another justifiable assumption. From 2008-2010, he had averaged ~2.5 WAR/600 PA, and the contract paid him — at market value — like an average player ($10MM/yr).

Unfortunately, there’s no greater emblem of the Giants’ offensive struggles this season than Aubrey Huff. One of the few Giants to remain healthy throughout the entire season, Huff struggled at the plate day after day:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2011 34 SFG NL 150 579 521 45 128 27 1 12 47 90 .246 .306 .370 .676 90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2011.

His .676 OPS was the worst ever by a San Francisco Giants first baseman (min. 502 PAs), and it’s not even particularly close. All in all, he made a strong case for the National League’s least valuable player, and Tyler Kepner of the New York Times even named him such. It was an awful season, far worse than I’d have ever expected (in fact, I had him penciled in for a pretty respectable .280/.350/.460 this year).

His struggles came at quite a price, too: in addition to his integral role as a member of one of the worst-hitting teams in recent history, the organization’s handling of Huff created a poor environment for Brandon Belt’s development. Huff was penciled in the lineup on a daily basis, with Belt tossed aside as somewhat of an afterthought. Belt’s inconsistent playing time — as he was yo-yoed between the majors and the minors — most likely made it harder for him to work through his struggles at the major-league level, and it’s pretty easy to point at Huff, or rather, the way the organization handled Huff, as a major roadblock in Belt’s maturation.

The one positive aspect of Huff’s season that’s mostly overlooked is his solid defense at first base. FRAA, the defensive metric based on objective play-by-play data, had Huff at +7.1 runs above average, and he’s pretty good at scoops.

Nevertheless, his season was nothing more than a massive disappointment, and one of the major reasons the Giants missed out on the playoffs this year. It’s hard not to be frustrated with both Huff and the way he was handled this year, especially since news came out that he was out of shape this season.

Splash Hits: Brandon Belt, Aubrey Huff, Prospects

Giants

Brandon Belt and Summer School – McCovey Chronicles
On Brandon Belt playing winter ball.

Shopping list (and predictions) for next year’s team « Bay City Ball | Giants Baseball with a Side of STATS!
BCB’s offseason shopping list.

Mike Krukow Says Giants Clubhouse Turned On Aubrey Huff – Frisco Fastball – A San Francisco Giants Blog
On the Murph & Mac Show (KNBR), Mike Krukow recently said that Aubrey Huff lost a lot of credibility in the clubhouse this season for his offseason conditioning.

The Five Longest Giants Home Runs of the Season – McCovey Chronicles
Along with video, a list of the five longest Giants home runs of 2011. Spoiler alert: Pablo Sandoval is good.

Four Giants Among Cal League Top Prospects | San Jose Giants News
Four San Jose Giants were recognized among the top 20 prospects in the California League by Baseball America last week. Gary Brown was rated the third-best prospect in the league by the publication while Zack Wheeler (#4), Tommy Joseph (#11) and Chris Dominguez (#17) also received mention on the list.

The time I was Brian Wilson’s stand-in » Bay Area Sports Guy
Another interesting story from BASG.

15,000 days since a rare Marichal feat | The Hardball Times
A look back at Marichal’s 200th win.

MLB

When You Should Ignore the Data | FanGraphs Baseball
The meaninglessness of batter v. pitcher splits.

Introducing Weighted Pythagorean Winning Percentage | Getting Blanked | Blogs | theScore.com
The Giants had a weighted Pythagorean record of 73-89 in 2011. Yikes.

Joe Blogs: Verlander and Narratives
Another fantastic Joe Posnanski post.

Baseball Prospectus | Manufactured Runs: The O-Swing of Things
Rolling out new PITCHf/x stats as a taste of things to come

How to Scout First-baseman – Beyond the Box Score
Dave Gershman continues his excellent series on scouting players.

Jon Heyman’s Airline Tweets | NotGraphs Baseball
Jon Heyman’s airline complaints.

Game Recap: DBacks Clinch NL West

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1.

Well, there goes the NL West. Orlando Cabrera accounted for the Giants’ lone run with a solo shot in the fifth inning, and the Giants failed to add to that. Matt Cain took a one-run lead into the seventh, but a Chris Young RBI double, and a Paul Goldschmidt two-run triple in the eighth inning, gave Arizona all the runs they’d need.

Congratulations to the DBacks. They’ve earned it. Justin Upton has had a hell of a season, and up until recently, was the favorite for the NL MVP. The pitching duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson have combined for nearly 10 wins above replacement, even more if you account for their bats (it’s looking like Hudson will win a Silver Slugger). DBacks position players, meanwhile, have combined for 30+ wins in value, which is roughly twice that of the Giants (15.3).

This entire season has come as somewhat of a shock (and, of course, a massive disappointment). I figured Buster Posey would lead this team to another division title; I knew Aubrey Huff would drop off, but nobody could have seen this coming: his .675 OPS is the worst ever by a San Francisco Giants first-baseman, and it’s nearly 100 points worse than the previous worstTyler Kepner just named him the NL’s least-valuable player; I thought that, by now, Brandon Belt would be a mainstay in the lineup, and a strong candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year; and I expected the Giants to get something — anything above replacement level — out of the shortstop position.

You can’t predict baseball. You just can’t.

Game Recap: Clayton Kershaw does Clayton Kershaw things

Dodgers 2, Giants 1.

Same old story. This time, Kershaw kept the Giants to one run over 7.1 innings — his lone mistake a home run to Chris Stewart (you really can’t predict baseball). It was the first homer he’d allowed to a Giant this season (in five starts).

The Giants also got a taste of Kenley Jansenwho’s been doing pretty amazing things this season — in the top of the eighth; he struck out the two hitters he faced — Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Beltran — on seven pitches.

Javy Guerra is a right-handed pitcher. He threw the entire ninth inning for the Giants, and faced two right-handed hitters — Mark DeRosa and Brett Pill — followed by Aubrey Huff. Brandon Belt, who’s homered in three straight games, sat on the bench the whole time. I mean, I can understand not putting him in the lineup against Kershaw. That’s defensible. But to have Pill and DeRosa face a righty, over Belt, and then to have Huff pinch hit for Orlando Cabrera — over Belt……enough is enough.

Well, the season’s almost over. The Giants have eight games left. If they win every single one of those games, they’ll finish the season at 91 wins. The DBacks, currently at 89 wins, have seven games left. It’s simple math — barring some kind of miraculous come back, Arizona will win the NL West. With the wild card, it’s closer…yet pretty much the same story. The Braves are at 88 wins, with seven games left.