The Non-Tender Deadline

So this is the Giants’ offseason. The biggest remaining decision, Mike Fontenot or Jeff Keppinger, will be made today. And after today, the roster — give or take a spring training invitee — will just about be set.

No Jimmy Rollins. No Jose Reyes. No Carlos Beltran. Not even a Rafael Furcal.

In an effort to keep payroll down, the Giants are going the “Law of Averages” route; they’re depending on fewer injuries, better offensive performance, and more situational luck. To an extent, this makes a lot of sense. There’s really no telling what Buster Posey will look like next season, or how many games Freddy Sanchez will play, or if one of the Giants’ frontline starters will finally go down. But I suppose it’s fair to assume the Giants will be healthier in 2012, if only because the injury toll seemed so abnormally high in 2011.

And the hitting, well, it can’t get any worse. …wait, it can? Oh god.

In any event, the team posted a .561 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position. That’s 30% worse than those hitters did overall (70 tOPS+), and it’s thus a figure that’s bound to go up. As bad as the hitting was, they’re certainly due for a healthier dose of situational luck.

So a little luck in those departments, and maybe the Giants are in business. Maybe.

They missed out on Willie Bloomquist (hooray!), but in Emmanuel Burriss, they’ve got someone equally terrible. Buster Posey, coming off that season-ending injury, will be (presumably) backed up by Chris Stewart. And Brett Pill will probably be getting at-bats at the major-league level in April. That’s a thin bench. Scary thin.

The fact that it’s gotten to this point — where Jeff Keppinger v. Mike Fontenot is such an important decision for the organization, speaks volumes about the Giants’ offseason. The team scored 570 runs in 2011, but they have done little to improve upon that. It’s neither an expensive strategy nor a sound one. And it guarantees that 2012 is going to be a loooong season.

As for today, hopefully the Giants make the right decision. Keppinger is a singles hitter, and that’s about all he does. No walks, no strikeouts, no homers. He’s basically bizarro Pat Burrell. He’s not useless with the bat, and he can hit southpaws pretty well…but he only profiles as a second baseman, and it’s not a position he plays very well. Give me Fontenot.

Now, how many days until pitchers and catchers report?

Giants Rumors: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran

Very busy day for rumors. Here’s the latest on Hiroyuki Nakajima, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran, and more:

2012 Bill James Projections

It’s the offseason. That means hot stove rumors. That means prospect rankings. And that means projections. Bill James’ projections, which he publishes in his yearly handbook, were added to Fangraphs player pages about a week ago. As far as I know, they’re not all published in one place (besides, of course, the handbook, which I highly recommend you purchase), so it’s hard to just look at all the Giants’ projections unless you want to dig through all the individual player pages.

Anyway, do note that they are widely considered to be overly optimistic, but I think that’s overstated.

Here are the Giants hitting projections.

A few thoughts:

– The best thing on here is the Brandon Belt projection. A .363 wOBA would do wonders for this offense, and it’s right up there with Buster Posey (.363) and Carlos Beltran (.367). Belt is one of the huge keys to making next year’s offense better than it was this year.

Andres Torres (.327) is projected for a higher wOBA than Melky Cabrera (.325). This is precisely why I wasn’t a big fan of the Cabrera trade. The Giants gave up rotation depth for a worse (arguably, and I’d make that argument) centerfielder.

Nate Schierholtz is projected to hit .328 — roughly as well as he did in 2011 — confirming that there’s good reason to believe he can be a quality everyday right fielder. Fangraphs had him at 1.4 WAR in 362 plate appearances last year (.327 wOBA), and that was with negative fielding value. I’m fairly certain that he’s capable of being a 2-3 WAR player in 2012.

– There’s not much to be hopeful about with Brandon Crawford. I’ve gradually become less enthused about the prospect of him as the Giants’ starting shortstop, and this doesn’t help. He’d have to carry a lot of value with his glove to be a viable everyday option, and I just don’t know that his fielding is good enough to stomach a .282 wOBA.

Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey form a pretty respectable heart of the order, and if the rest of the lineup carries their weight (granted, a big “if”), this offense could just be good enough.

And here’s the pitching.

Thoughts:

– I’m a little disappointed by the Madison Bumgarner/Sergio Romo projections, but that’s only because I have such high expectations when it comes to those two. I’d bet they beat their projected FIPs.

– These projections only make me dislike the Javier Lopez/Jeremy Affeldt moves even more. It seems like that’s where most of the Giants’ offseason spending will have gone, when all is said and done. That doesn’t look too good.

– At first glance, the Barry Zito projection (sub-4.00 ERA!) looks quite nice, but it’s a) mostly pitching out of relief, and b) a small sample size.

Giants decline to offer arbitration to Cody Ross, Pat Burrell

Via John Shea:

No surprise, but #SFGiants are not offering arbitration to Pat Burrell and Cody Ross. Contractually, they can’t offer it to Carlos Beltran.

Burrell and Ross were both Type B free agents, and would have brought back compensatory draft picks had they declined arbitration then signed elsewhere. So…no comp picks. Burrell’s expected to retire, but Ross could still re-sign. Even with the Melky Cabrera acquisition, I could see the Giants bringing back Ross on a cheap-ish one-year deal. He does have interest in returning, but I’m sure he could find more playing time by signing with another team.

Giants Rumors: Priority is Extending Tim Lincecum

News and Notes: Gold Glove Awards, Elias Rankings

Let the Offseason Begin

And with that, the Giants are no longer reigning world champions. The Giants failed to defend their title, failed even to make the playoffs, and didn’t even come close to winning their division. But 2011 was quite a ride nonetheless, and one of the best baseball seasons ever, culminating in a particularly exciting World Series.

Now, focus turns to the future. The Giants have an immensely flawed offense, and it’s not going to be easy to fix. That said, the NL West does appear to be somewhat wide-open, and with the right moves, the Giants can put themselves in good position to do what they failed to do this year: make the playoffs.

Over at the Chronicle’s Giants blog, Henry Schulman has some interesting information (and speculation) on the offseason to come:

Oh yeah, and the Indians are expected to decline Grady Sizemore‘s option.

Anyway, the free agency period doesn’t begin until 12:01 AM ET on October 30th, as it has been delayed 24 hours. Via Troy Renck, the MLBPA will release the list of Free Agents and potential Free Agents on Sunday, October 30,” and “Players can sign with new teams on Nov. 3.”

This should prove to be a much more interesting offseason than the last one (remember when Miguel Tejada was the Giants’ biggest new addition?). Until then, congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans on a fine season, and well-deserved championship.

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.

Game Recap: Seven Straight

Giants 6, Rockies 5.

After a seven-game winning streak (tied for the Giants’ longest this season), the Giants are now just five games back in the NL West. On September 10th, the Giants had a run differential of -23, but they’ve improved to +1 over this streak — and they’ve gained 4.5 games on Arizona. They’re finally scoring runs. This is actually the first time they’ve scored 6+ runs in three consecutive games since August of 2010. With their 82nd win today, the Giants clinched their third winning season in a row (the Rockies, meanwhile, clinched a losing season).

Player of the game honors go to Brett Pill, who knocked in three runs with a pair of triples. Not exactly as rare as the cycle, but a relatively unique occurrence nonetheless — this is the 27th time it’s happened in San Francisco Giants history, and just the fifth time since 1997.

Carlos Beltran collected three hits, including a game-tying double. I’m with @HangingSliders here — that was a remarkably beautiful swing. It’s funny…not too long ago, Beltran was becoming the symbol of a lost season. Now, with the incredible September he’s having, he’s one of the only reasons the Giants even have a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs.

Though he only allowed three hits and one run in his 4.2 innings of work, Eric Surkamp was once again unexceptional. To his credit, this was a more impressive start than last time. The strikeouts (4) and swinging strikes (5) were there this time; the control, on the other hand, was not — six walks, five of them unintentional. Despite a shiny 2.95 ERA in four starts, Surkamp has as many unintentional walks (10) as strikeouts. And he’s had the benefit of facing some pretty weak lineups. When he inevitably regresses, it won’t be pretty.

In any event, a great game: seven wins in a row, a clinched winning season, a gained game on the DBacks, and the run differential is now positive. Things are really rolling.

And now…for your stats of the night:

Sergio Romo has the best SIERA in baseball, and it’s not even close.

Eric Surkamp allowed six walks tonight, five unintentional. Sergio Romo has allowed five walks THIS SEASON, four unintentional.

The Week That Was: Bill Neukom retires

They do something similar to this over at MLB Daily Dish, and since it was a busy week at the blog (and with the Giants, for that matter), I figured I’d take a brief look back at what happened this week (well, a little more than a week, to be exact):

Thanks for reading!