by Gregg Pearlman
Buckle up for a long, long slog through the numbers -- or, to quote Neil Innes, I've suffered from my art; now it's your turn.
I did a lot more statistical "research" this time than in previous Postmortem articles, resulting in dozens of spreadsheets that I really didn't want to look at anymore by the time I began writing. (The numbers came mostly from ESPN.com.) I'd be happy to send you my Excel files, if you're interested. However, I don't have hit-by-pitch stats, for some reason, so the numbers are approximate, but they can't be far off. Also, I don't have defensive numbers. Sure, I could get them, but the fact is, I don't want to.
I've got statistics for right/left, home/road, finesse/power, day/night, turf/grass, and dome/no dome splits, along with by-month stats, pre- and post-All-Star, the count on which the plate appearance was settled, innings 1 through 6, innings 7 and thereafter, close-and-late, bases empty, bases loaded, as a pinch-hitter, runners on base, runners in scoring position, the same thing with two outs, and place in the lineup. There's no way I could, or would, cover all these situations for every hitter, so I'll try to limit comment to stuff that's interesting. We'll see how I do.
Also, you'll see occasional references to My Insiders. These are people who, in fact, are not insiders -- I don't know any insiders, but they do, and they are able to glean the occasional nugget. These are trusted sources, but I won't reveal their identities, or even how many people they comprise.
The Giants at the Plate and, Sort of, in the Field
Rich Aurilia: What a season this guy had. Remember when a San Francisco Giants shortstop needed something like 18 home runs to break the team record? Richie laughs at this. The overall numbers are astounding enough: 37 home runs, 97 RBIs, 114 runs scored, a .324 batting average, a .572 slugging percentage (and .941 OPS), 206 base hits, and the one that might be the most astounding, 364 total bases (as he churned out 37 doubles and five triples, too) -- The Big Guy had "only" 411. If there was a weakness in Aurilia's offensive game in 2001, it's that he didn't walk much: only 47 times. Still, his on-base percentage was .369, which ain't exactly chopped liver. Also, he's not real quick, and he doesn't steal much (one steal in four tries), but who cares?
Aurilia stomped both lefthanders and righthanders, but lefties got a particularly nasty thrashing (1.010 OPS, including a .650 slugging percentage). The stats I downloaded differentiate between "finesse" and "power" pitchers, and I'm not really sure what "average" is against these two types, or even how the types are defined. Usually a "power" pitcher is someone who struck out more than, say, 6.5 batters per nine innings, and a "finesse" pitcher is someone who didn't, but would you call, say, a Julian Tavarez a finesse pitcher (at least while he was here)? To me, finesse implies good control, and I'm not sure that's what's considered here. In any case, Aurilia, in only 92 at-bats against finesse pitchers, did somewhat better than in his 493 against power pitchers (.959 OPS vs. 921).
Though quite good during nighttime games -- an .891 OPS, with 23 homers and a .538 SP in 431 at-bats -- the sun truly shined on Aurilia: 14 home runs in 205 at-bats, with a 1.047 OPS (.403 OBP, .644 SP) and a .356 batting average. In only five games on Astroturf, he pounded three homers in 22 at-bats and slugged .909 (1.326 OPS). He also liked domes (but at the same time was probably pretty pleased to play only 13 games in them), with eight dingers, a .375 average and a 1.275 OPS in 56 at-bats.
His most noteworthy split, though, tells us that in 78 home games he went .351/.400/.587/.987 (that's batting average, OBP, SP, and OPS), compared to .299/.340/.559/.899 on the road, which is impressive enough. Pac Bell Park sure didn't seem like a pitchers park to Aurilia.
He started out red-hot in April (.390/.432/.610/1.042), walking six times and striking out five. That's the only month in which he walked more than he struck out -- note, for instance, four walks and 17 strikeouts in June, and eight walks and 18 whiffs in July. I'd call him reasonably consistent from month to month, with April being his highest OPS month and June being his lowest (.859). that's a pretty big disparity, but we're not talking about a lot of plate appearances.
You could argue that he tailed off in the second half -- .356 batting average before the All-Star Break, .288 after -- but that wouldn't really tell the story. It's true that his OPS dropped (.956 and .925), but that was mostly due to the drop in batting average. (He walked 24 times in the first half and 23 in the second.) However, he slugged .589 in the second half after a .558 first half. In fact, it's worth noting that he was voted to an All-Star starting spot with only 12 home runs at the Break, which means that he smoked 25 afterwards. He drove in 38 runs in the first half, 59 in the second. His doubles and triples went way down, however (24 and 4, then 13 and 1).
It should be no surprise that Aurilia hit much worse with one or more strikes on him than without. When swinging at the first pitch of an at-bat, Aurilia homered 11 times and doubled 12 times in 114 at-bats. (What's weird, though, is that my stats say he walked twice on 0-0 pitches, which, if true, truly puts Richie into a class of his own. Either that or it refers to intentional walks, which makes sense since the stats have Bonds at 28 walks with 0-0 counts.) His OPS reached 1.247 (.421 batting average), and he was even better on 1-0 counts: 1.275 OPS (.438 batting average), with seven homers in 64 at-bats.
(Quick digression: You know, I really don't study this stuff, at least not like I used to, say, 20 years ago, but while I've always had a pretty good idea that hitters do much better with no strikes than otherwise; and while the best count tends to be 0-0, it never occurred to me that hitters often swung at the first pitch. Aurilia, however, did so in 17% of his plate appearances, compared to 15% for the rest of the team. By the way, when I say "rest of the team," that's what I mean: the entire Giants team, not counting Aurilia.)
Only 38 at-bats were settled on 0-2 counts, which is pretty amazing (4% of his plate appearances, compared to 8% for the rest of the team. On 3-2 counts (84 plate appearances), he did far better than anyone else on the team (wait till you see Bonds), with a .986 OPS. The rest of the team, on 3-2, hit .189, but with a 1.045 OPS. (That sounds weird to me, too, but hey, if the stats are bad, blame ESPN.com.)
Aurilia did far better through the first six innings of games than afterwards (1.000 OPS vs. .809; the rest of the team: .830, .775). Close-and-late plate appearances weren't his best friend, either (.727 OPS, compared to .784 for the rest of the team). He batted only eight times with the bases loaded, managing only one single and a walk, but not striking out, for what it's worth.
He went .331/.369/.609/.978 with runners in scoring position -- but in RISP with two outs (RISPw/2) it was .284, .796, .333, and .463 -- a funny thing, because my observation, or at least my perception, was that Bonds was forever leading off innings because Aurilia would make the last out somehow, but the fact is that with in RISPw/2, Richie came through more often than RISP with less than two outs. Not only that, but Bonds didn't lead off any more innings than anybody else, really.
Aurilia was the number-two hitter most of the season, but for some reason Dusty Baker occasionally would drop him to the six-hole, opting to move people like Ramon Martinez up and give them more opportunities to get out. Aurilia did not thrive as a number-six hitter (.226 average, .757 OPS, though in only 33 plate appearances). My concern this year is that Dusty might get some yen to drop Richie to the number-five slot or something and, God forbid, move Reggie Sanders up to number two. However, it's only a vague concern, because, whether Bonds had anything to do with it or not, batting in front of him gave Aurilia a huge shot in the arm. He was awesome -- far better than I (or anybody else, I daresay) expected. He was a joy to watch.
I'm going with two sets of ratings this year, both on a 1-to-10 scale: my observation of his contribution to the team, and how bad I want the Giants to keep him. In each case, 10 is good and 1 is Jalal Leach... except that his is really zero because he's gone. For Aurilia in 2001:
Marvin Benard: I don't have enough good things to say about Rich Aurilia, so it's strange to zip to the other end of the scale at lightspeed. Oh, I really don't think Benard was that horrible -- remember, this team has employed Kim Batiste and Alex Diaz -- but except for some wonderful moments, he didn't help the team much in 2001. What couldn't have helped him was the way he was booed at every turn for much of the season, or the way he reacted to this. See, to me Benard is a tremendously likable player, from a fan's point of view, and My Insiders tell me that he's about the most popular player in the clubhouse.
Several statements were attributed to Benard along the lines of "Screw the fans," because we (especially the Pac Bell Faithful) refused to get off his back most of the season. One reason for this is that he had the temerity to point out that we wouldn't get off his back. It's just like being a kid in school: If you want the other kids to stop bugging you, ignore them. (That doesn't work, of course, but it's what parents always say.)
But damn it, if you're watching Marvin Benard swing at pitches above his shoulders and two feet off the plate, what are you supposed to do? Shout encouraging slogans, such as "You go get 'em next time, big guy"? When you watch the man misplay yet another fly ball in center field, are you supposed to go "Buck up, pal, that coulda happened to anybody"? No. That's the job of his teammates or manager. We're fans. We're supposed to point out his inadequacy. And in theory, there isn't enough World Wide Web to point out all of Benard's inaccuracy, but in practice, I like the guy despite all that, and I keep hoping he'll do well. He strikes me as someone who works hard and won't take any crap from opposing players; someone who can come through big, even over the long haul, despite not having a world of talent. How can you not like someone like that? (Well, I guess it's easy when he won't produce.)
This guy got 318 at-bats as the Giants' leadoff hitter despite a .322 OBP in that capacity, so the Giants addressed this problem by picking up Tsuyoshi Shinjo (.320 OBP) from the Mets and retaining Shawon Dunston (.280 OBP as a leadoff hitter). I just don't get it.
I'm surprised to see that Benard had only 392 at-bats last year. He seemed omnipresent, always screwing up somehow. He did, however, bop 15 homers and steal 10 bases -- second on the club, if you can believe that. (I mean, God, this team is slow; sure, we've seen, statistically, that the stolen base doesn't help that much, but it helps a lot less when a team isn't very good at it. Benard stole 10-of-15, which is considered the break-even point in terms of stolen bases. The rest of the team was successful only 56% of the time, and that includes Bonds, who went 13-for-16.)
He walked 29 times -- that'd work out to about 47 in 689 plate appearances (i.e., the number of Aurilia's plate appearances), which is what Aurilia provided in the two-hole. The main difference is that Aurilia provided tons of power and got lots of hits. Benard went .265/.320/.439/.759. Now, in itself those numbers aren't terrible. Over a full season his 70 runs scored would still have worked out to more than 100, and you have to give him credit for that. He scored 53% of the time he reached base (compared to 45% for Aurilia, for instance, as well as 39% for Bonds and 27% for Russ Davis). I don't know that that's particularly significant, but at least when you look at that figure next to Aurilia's, you have to think speed might be a factor. (The guys behind Bonds tended to have much lower figures -- Bonds wasn't there to drive them in.)
Dusty Baker tended to play Shawon Dunston or Calvin Murray in center field against lefties, so Benard only had 46 plate appearances against them (again, I don't have HBP data). Still, he managed an OPS of 1.056 -- .422 OBP and .634 SP, not to mention a .390 average (he walked only three times; Dunston was good against lefties, but not that good, and Murray was actively bad. But Dusty seems to have this "lefty-lefty" thing in his head: it's as though he believes that, with the exception of Bonds, lefthanded hitters just can't hit lefthanded pitching. That's probably why Kim Batiste got at-bats at the major league level. And granted, teams don't face a lot of lefthanded pitching: the Giants as a team faced lefties in 23% of their plate appearances, but Benard saw them in only 11% of his. Armando Rios, who also hit lefties well, saw them in 14% of his appearances.
Pacific Bell Park (and/or its crowd) was unkind to Benard (.245/.310/.372/.683, as opposed to .286/.330/.505/.835 on the road). He had 196 at-bats at home, 196 on the road. I don't know if it's just that Pac Bell is unkind to lefties in general (except Bonds) -- I mean, stats show that it is -- or if Benard was simply better at Candlestic, or if just can't play in front of that crowd anymore. Only three of his homers came at home. In short, it just looks like he didn't want to be there.
In only 45 plate appearances in domed stadiums (namely Arizona and Montreal), Benard was pretty close to exceptional (.375/.422/.575/.997), so maybe Montreal would take him for Vladimir Guerrero. Why not? Huh?
The sad thing about Benard is that he fell victim to a phenomenon that we see every year. For instance, if you have two hitters who went .260/.330/.420/.750 (and otherwise were pretty much identical, too), and one of them started off hot while the other started off cold, the former will be perceived as having had a better year and he'll be less likely to come out of the lineup after an 0-for-12 jag than the latter player. It's like that hot start carries them all season, no matter how poorly he does the rest of the way. (Hello, Benito!) Benard's April went like this: .134/.193/.171/.364. Combine that with generally rotten glovework, and you have a walking boo target. His May OPS was more than double that of April -- but big deal: it still wasn't that good. June through September weren't bad (with peaks of .333/.404/.625/1.029 in July), and he went .331/.370/.556/.926 after the All-Star Break. But that first half (.210/.280/.341/.621), especially April, was so fetid that it tainted the rest of his season, and I wonder how many folks noticed how well he did after the Break.
One thing Benard had in common with Bonds is that within the first couple of pitches of an at-bat, he did very well. He was a monster on the first pitch (.404/.429/.638/1.067) and, amazingly, even better with an 0-1 count (.413/.426/.674/1.099). On 1-0 he went .488/.477/.651/1.128. After that, though, it was all downhill. He was even rotten on 2-0 pitches -- in fact, only 12 of his plate appearances were even settled on 2-0 counts -- and he pretty much stank (except for walks) in 3-1 counts. But despite a .207 batting average, he had a 1.104 OPS in 3-2 counts, thanks mostly to four home runs and 11 walks in 41 plate appearances.
He also picked it up a bit in the late innings, with an .805 OPS after the sixth (vs. a .735 OPS otherwiss), but he batted .272 before the seventh and only .252 afterwards. For his sake I hope that disparity isn't want people noticed. As a pinch-hitter Benard had 29 plate appearances, and he didn't disappoint: .280/.367/.720/1.087, including three home runs. I know that's not much of a sample size, but it's a decent indicator that he's still valuable off the bench -- and certainly more so than he is as a starter. And finally, despite a .291 average, he didn't give the team much with RISP (.762 OPS), and this dropped considerably in RISPw/2 situations (.213/.275/.319/.594).
His play in the field was appalling. Well, I've got to be careful with that, because this is a team that employed Glenallen Hill as a right fielder for eons, and I can't imagine a worse outfielder, mainly because (despite the stories about them) I never saw Babe Herman or Smead Jolley. But Benard looked simply befuddled out there, and at one point they even switched him and Armando Rios because Benard was "more comfortable" as a right fielder. I don't recall it helping much.
Barry Bonds: Well, Barry's got his own article this year, and if he doesn't deserve it, who does?
Felipe Crespo: You know, I liked this guy, and I really wish he'd done much better and that the Giants had kept him, because Wayne Gomes, the guy they got for him, sure reeked. Crespo departed due to the "numbers game," and I felt that the Giants lost a valuable bat off the bench. But really, the most impressive thing he did at the plate in 2001 was hit a couple of bombs into McCovey Cove -- the only Giants hitter ever to do so besides Bonds. As a Giant last year, Crespo had only 76 plate appearances, and most of them were nothing to write home about (.197/.286/.394/.680), with four home runs -- and 26 strikeouts. Dusty Baker rarely played him against lefties -- only 12 plate appearances -- and it's probably a good thing.
Crespo's most impressive split was in day games (29 plate appearances, .981 OPS, all four homers. Most of his plate appearances came after the sixth, as you might guess for a player employed mostly as a pinch-hitter. His numbers were bad (.231/.318/.385/.703), but they were far worse earlier in the game (.148/.242/407/.650). He appeared to be the kind of hitter you wanted to bring up late in an inning, as he batted .186 with a .658 OPS with the bases empty -- though that's when he chose to hit three of his home runs. As a pinch-hitter he went 6-for-18 with two homers and a 1.151 OPS, which is the main reason I hated to lose him. However, with RISP, especially with two outs, he was awful: (.652 and .429 OPS, respectively -- although in only six plate appearances with two outs). Crespo lost a fair amount of time to injuries, too.
His loss meant that the lefty power threat off the bench was Edwards Guzman, which is like saying that with Molly Sims refusing to be the cover model, your magazine has to go with Don Stark. In a two-piece.
Eric Davis: The Giants picked him up only about 15 years too late. After a very good season as a part-timer with the Cardinals, he really stank for the Giants last year, in keeping with the rules laid down in the National League Charter. I was lucky enough to see him pop a three-run pinch-homer against the Brewers to tie a game, though -- especially pleasing because (a) a fan took the ball away from left fielder Devon White, (b) he protested vehemently, (c) I'm pretty sure he was right, and (d) for once the Baseball Gods winked a blind eye, and the home run stood. But other than that, Davis provided very little on the field. (Injuries didn't help.)
Davis was bad enough overall -- so bad that well before season's end, he announced that 2001 would be his last year. It's really too bad, too, because this is one gifted athlete. But he stank anyway: .205/.269/.365/.634 in 170 plate appearances. He was supposed to powder lefties, but he still managed only a .792 OPS against them -- which means that his OPS against righthanders, in 88 tries, was .488. Good Lord.
At Pacific Bell he went .213/.262/.453/.716 (with three of his home runs), which tells you he must have been horrific on the road. And he was: .198/.275/.284/.449. Naturally, he got more plate appearances on the road. Really, his only good split was in domes, though he had only 15 plate appearances: .357/.400/.571/.971. He didn't have a single good month, though he was better after the Break than before, which is kind of like saying that three-week-old Taco Bell still tastes better than three-week-old Taco Bell with bits of glass in it.
Davis was very successful on the first pitch of a given plate appearance (.364/.364/.636/1.000), but that accounted for only 13% of his plate appearances, compared to 15% for the rest of the team. Other than then and when the count was full (.312/.522/.688/1.209), he was uniformly horrible. And not only was he fairly bad before the seventh (.240/.295/.469/.764), he was putrid in the seventh and beyond (.150/.227/.200/.427), when he got 39% of his plate time (33% for the rest of the team, which makes sense). He was, to say the least, disappointing as a pinch-hitter, going 7-for-29 with little power (two doubles, one homer) and two walks, and with runners on he was unbearable (.600 OPS). It's sad that he had to retire, but at least we don't have him anymore.
Russ Davis: Know why he was the favorite whipping boy in the Giants newsgroup? Because he was really really bad, that's why. I feel bad for the very tough year he had, losing his dad and two other relatives -- that's beyond bad, and I hope he and his family are doing better. But on the field... bleah.
At first glance his numbers don't look that bad: .257/.326/.473/.799 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 186 plate appearances. In fact, the slugging percentage is even pretty decent. Also, albeit in only 49 plate appearances, he was reasonably successful against lefties: .293/.388/.488/.876. But it pretty much stops there. The amazing split, though, is .287/.372/.463/.835 (though with only one dinger) at home, where the fans booed his defense. See that OBP? So naturally he was given more at-bats on the road.
Day games were his friend: 65 plate appearances, .302/.400/.491/.891, but of course he played more than twice as much at night (not that he could have any control over the schedule). His monthly stats were pretty uniformly boring, too.
Davis struck out a ton -- 49 in 167 at-bats (that's 176 in 600). If you got two strikes on him, the third seemed sure to follow: his 49 strikeouts came in the 89 at-bats in which the count reached two strikes (55%, compared to 46% for the rest of the team, and I'm surprised Davis' figure is that low). And he tended to do his damage with the bases empty: .281/.354/.494/.848. With RISP, especially with two outs, he was dreadful: .098/.235/.146/.382, though in only 52 plate appearances (and .091/.167/.136/.303 in 24 appearances with two outs).
He mostly batted sixth or seventh, but Dusty was shrewd enough to stick him in the two-hole on the three days all season that he decided to hit. In 16 plate appearances he went .357/.357/.786/1.143.
Defensively he was the Glenallen Hill of third basemen. The team might have been better off with no third baseman in the field at all.
Shawon Dunston: Offensively, his year was better, though not that much better, than Marvin Benard's: .280/.293/.511/.804 for Dunston, 265/.320/.439/.759 for Benard. In the entire season -- that's over 191 plate appearances -- Dunston walked twice. Twice. This guy had more triples than walks. And of his 89 plate appearances against lefties, not one resulted in a walk. So naturally he batted leadoff in 42% of his plate appearances. I wonder where he'd bat in an organization that values OBP.
In the leadoff spot he posted a .762 OPS, compared to .804 batting sixth, his second-most-regular spot.
He's completely remade himself as a defensive player. In his old life his combination of offense and defense made him one of the best shortstops in the league. Last year, with the exception of maybe three games at first base, he was exclusively an outfielder. I really don't know how he did compared to other outfielders, but mostly he looked okay to me, and he can still get off a great throw now and again.
One of his strengths on offense was supposed to be his production against lefties, and indeed nearly half of his at-bats were against lefties -- and guess what: he did do well, despite that thing about not drawing any walks. He hit .318 with a .974 OPS -- so you know his slugging percentage had to be outstanding. Unless he goes the way of Eric Davis, he truly is an asset off the bench -- against lefties. Against righties his OPS was .652, which is Guzman Country.
A decent proportion of his plate time (18% (35 plate appearances) vs. 14% for the rest of the team) came against guys who don't strike out many hitters, and here Dunston was on fire: .400/.400/.829/1.229, including four of his nine dingers. But what kept him on the team all season was his scalding April, all 29 plate appearances of it: .393/.414/.679/1.092. Without that April he has a .740 OPS -- worse, instead of better, than the season marks of Benard, Russ Davis, Rios, J.T. Snow, and John Vander Wal. This is precisely why I'm suspicious when a marginal player has a good April.
Dunston, however, was much better after the Break (.286/.306/.614/.920) than before (.276/.286/.448/.734). Sadly, though, he was also better before the seventh (.823 OPS) than after the sixth (.778), and he dropped even further in close-and-late (.725). A world-beater with the bases empty (.900), he fell off significantly with runners on (.684), especially if they were in scoring position (.655), and God forbid they should be in scoring position with two outs (.455).
On the whole, though, he was a decent bench player, and he always plays hard, which you have to like. That is not to say, however, that he's irreplaceable.
Bobby Estalella: I'm surprised that the Giants gave up on him so quickly, but I hear rumblings (and not even from My Insiders, so who knows if they have any credibility?) that he just wasn't a particularly good guy. (I mean, something must be up if you hear that the Giants have requested that Edwards Guzman start catching every day at Fresno.) However, I'll always picture him lifting Livan Hernandez off the ground after the latter's first major league shutout, and mugging Calvin Murray at home plate after his crazy run last year. Or was that Marvin Benard on another play?
Estalella was designated for assignment in June, then traded to the Yankees for Brian Boehringer. I'm not sure what that says. I gather the Yankees got some use out of Estalella, but Boehringer, well, he's a spring training invite with the Pirates this year.
Estalella actually started out the season pretty well, especially given that Dusty baker went and handed the starting catcher's job to Benito Santiago. So Estalella only came to the plate 45 times in April homered twice, drove in seven runs, and went .268/.348/.512/.860 -- numbers that are perfectly in line with what you could reasonably expect from him. May, however, was his undoing (.136/.208/.273/.481 in 48 plate appearances). This coincided with Santiago's hot start -- well, hottish, anyway, but hot enough to make the Giants think they could go the rest of the season without a backup catcher, so for Estalella, that was pretty much all she wrote.
As with Russ Davis, if you got two strikes on Estalella, the third was just around the corner, as the huge-armed catcher whiffed 28 times in the 49 at-bats he had in which the count reached two strikes: 57%, which was even worse than Davis. Oddly, though, Estalella was wretched with the bases empty (.607 OPS) and pretty good with runners on (.811), not to mention outstanding with RISP, even with two outs (.990 and 1.375, though in only 10 plate appearances with two outs). With the Giants, he batted eighth exclusively.
I don't exactly miss the guy, but the catcher situation still is awful, with Santiago pretty much owning the starting job -- after signing a three-year deal, if you can believe that -- and not really being pushed by Yorvit Torrealba or, God help us, Edwards Guzman, not to mention spring training invitee (and second-time returnee) Scott Servais. Except for maybe Torrealba, who's played so little, I'd sure as hell rather see Estalella more than any of the potential backups. On the whole, though, I'd just like a new catching corps. A good new catching corps.
Pedro Feliz: He probably could live a full, happy life without knowing that I call him "Petey." But that moniker pretty much epitomizes the way he played: ineffectually, and kind of like a set of male genitals. It's not enough to point to his dismal batting average, because he backed that up with 10 walks in 234 plate appearances, along with 17 extra-base hits: .227/.264/.373/.637. In 64 plate appearances against them (27%, compared to 23% for the rest of the team) Feliz was spectacular (.397/.413/.672/1.085, with three home runs and 13 RBIs). I'd like to believe that he's the guy against lefthanders, especially if David Bell turns out to be a hitter as bad as people say he is. Thing is, the Giants probably wouldn't have gone after Bell if Feliz hadn't been so awful in winter ball (though I'm not sure that's a fair way to assess him for the 2002 season).
Since Feliz was so good against lefties, you'll gather that he was frightfully bad against righties (.167/.209/.265/.475). His one good month last year was July, when he hit .347 with four homers and eight RBIs (.347/.365/.673/1.039). Of course, he went into a nosedive and never recovered, winding up with a 3-for-30 September. He was, at least, way better after the Break (.714 OPS) than before (.555).
Feliz was successful in limited pinch-hitting duty: 4-for-12 with two doubles and a triple (1.051 OPS). But generally he was earth-shakingly bad with runners on, in scoring position or otherwise (.518 OPS).
In the field, and even on the bases (probably due to lack of familiarity with being on base), Feliz looked unprepared, panicky, and foolish. Somehow he won the PCL's award for Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 (though perhaps it was only for third basemen), so I expected reasonable defense -- and certainly I hoped for it in the wake of Bill Mueller's departure. But according to a variety of defensive statistics, Feliz was nearly as bad in the field as Russ Davis, and nobody was as bad as Davis. (Strangely, right down there with them was Mueller.)
Andres Galarraga: I believe that the main reason the Giants picked him up was the hope that he would provide as much of a clubhouse lift as Ellis Burks did when he came here in 1998. (The chief difference would be that Galarraga was 40 and pretty much through as a full-timer.) And at first it looked that way. In fact, generally it looked that way, even after Galarraga stopped hitting. But of course it wasn't enough.
Still, with J.T. Snow mostly injured or just generally unproductive, Galarraga, I think, gave the Giants at least as much as they could expect. In 171 plate appearances Galarraga smoked seven homers and 12 doubles, drove in an astounding 35 runs (all of which you can multiply by four for a good guess at how he might've done over a full season), and went .288/.351/.513/.863. I sure won't complain about his work for the Giants. However, he certainly was no less prone to the strikeout bug than in years past: 49 in his 49 games here. (Multiply that by four and you've got a Giant breaking an inglorious record held by another Giant.)
Because J.T. Snow is so classically weak against lefthanded pitching (but wait till you see the splits for 2001), Galarraga got a lot of the at-bats. Too bad he did worse against them (.261/.357/.457/.814) than against righthanders (.300/.347/.536/.884). An interesting split to me is his showing at night (.320/.395/.602/.997) vs. day (.226/.255/.340/.594). Most of the players I've looked at so far were better during the day, or, if they were better at night, it wasn't much better.
Galarraga came here in late July and had an impact right away, with a 1.046 OPS in 28 trips to the plate. He cooled off after that (.820 in August, .699 in September), but he did seem to provide a "presence" up there. Even so, he struck out in 60% of his at-bats that reached two strikes -- worse even than Russ Davis and Bobby Estalella -- but then, Galarraga's a strikeout kind of a guy anyway.
He gave the Giants some decent production before the seventh (.297/.360/.474/.835), but he turned it up a bit in and beyond the seventh (.273/.333/.582/.915). Of his seven hits in close-and-late situations, four left the yard, one was a double, and one was a triple. With runners on his OPS was .944; put them in scoring position, it was 1.022; and in RISPw/2 it was still .971.
I assumed that we'd get the same old nimble "giant" in the field, but to me he sure looked slow and achy. However many errors he made, it sure seemed like a lot. I was hoping we wouldn't have to long for J.T.'s defense, but Galarraga didn't provide that luxury.
As much as everybody seemed to feel that Galarraga contributed last year, he won't be back with the Giants this year -- unless Snow gets hurt early in the season. (The Giants wouldn't be able to negotiate with Galarraga before May.) In any case, though I haven't heard any announcement, I'm pretty sure he's through. Still:
Edwards Guzman: He filled an interesting role, seemingly invented by the San Francisco Giants in 2001: lefthanded-batting power threat off the bench who can't hit/versatile utilityman with no postion. Sad, too, because I really wanted to like this guy. I'd still like to like him. Hell, what Giants fan didn't root for him to finally get his first major league hit after 21 straight futile at-bats? But once he got it, then homered not long after, it was pretty much all over.
If you look at his numbers, it doesn't seem that bad: .243/.273/.374/.647. That sounds a lot like a utilityman and/or backup catcher. However, while I don't know the number of double plays into which he bounced, it sure seemed like a lot.
Where he killed the Giants was at home, where in 58 plate appearances he went .175/.190/.246/.435 with a walk, a double, and a homer (which provided his lone RBI). On the road he was actually pretty good: .310/.349/.500/.849. He was even decent, for him, down the stretch, herein defined as "August and beyond": .302/.367/.419.786. But the Giants had no business using him after the sixth (.129/.154/.210/.364), as a pinch-hitter (.217/.217/.348/.565), or with RISP (.148/.226/.185/.411).
On defense he always seemed to manage to make a key error, or otherwise was unable to make a play, no matter where you put him in the infield: first, second, or third. As a first baseman he could be counted upon to drop a foul popup here and there, or to be too short to catch a key throw J.T. Snow would've grabbed easily. But it's behind the plate where he was most scary. Actually, I couldn't say how his defensive numbers stacked up against other catchers, but he sure didn't seem to have a clue out there because -- this is for you, Giants brass -- he's not a catcher. As I point out above, if this guy was brought in as the number-two catcher, the Giants must really hate Estalella. The effect, though, is one of hating the team as a whole.
The most noteworthy thing I've heard about ol' Eds is that Brian Sabean was very annoyed with him for putting on 18 pounds during the season. My question is, why is this even an issue? What possible use could there be for a player like this, to where it would even matter if he put on weight? Why is he still here?
I'm sorry, Eds; I wish you were a lot better.
Livan Hernandez: You know, a normal pitcher's supposed to hit much worse than the league does against him. Hernandez, though, was remarkable at the plate: .296/.296/.383/.679. The league was still quite a bit better: .297/.351/.456/.807. This is depressing.
Still, I'm talking just about his offense here. He had 24 hits during the year, all in consecutive plate appearances, and all against the Cubs in a single three-game series. At least it seemed like that. He homered only once and doubled just four times in 85 plate appearances, but when he was on, he seemed to have an electrifying effect on his teammates. Unfortunately, he wasn't on until after the All-Star Break: .174/.174/.196/.370 before, .457/.457/.629/1.086 after. In fact, his OPS was over 1.000 in both July and August. In July he went 7-for-14 with a double; in August he was 9-for-15 with a double and a homer. People in the Giants newsgroup said, "Why can't we put him at third base?"
I'm including Livan with the hitters, here, because he was a special case.
Jeff Kent: It's funny how, at the end of the season, he still was the best second baseman in the league. It seemed like he couldn't find his stroke all year, and down the stretch he seemed to press. By the end of the season, though, you'd note that his monthly stats were pretty consistent -- he never got real hot for a month (except for June: .365/.462/.552/1.014), and he never got real cold. He finished the season with very good numbers: .298/.369/.507/.877. He pumped 22 home runs and ripped a franchise-record 49 doubles. (The old record holder was Jack Clark, now the traitorous batting coach for the Dodgers.) Kent drove in 106 runs -- another 100-plus season -- and threw in 65 walks for good measure. He hit lefties and righties pretty equally, though against lefties his walks were up and his power was down, and against righties it was the other way around. His pre-All-Star averages were nearly identical to his post-All-Star averages, and thus nearly identical to his season averages. And yet we're all virtually praying that he rebounds.
(My Insider tells me that the word is that it was practically killing Kent to appear to be friendly toward Bonds in the dugout during games.)
Where Bonds was astoundingly great early in the count, Kent did a lot of his damage later on. True, he did well when he hit the first pitch (.340/.375/.585/.960), but his power went up a bit in an 0-1 count (.667 SP, .989 OPS); he was outstanding in 1-0 counts (.421/.400/.684/.1.084) and 2-0 counts (.441/.441/.853/1.294); and he got hits in two of three 3-0 counts (a double and a triple). He wasn't bad in 1-1 counts (.355/.359/.468/.827), but was outstanding at 2-1 (.405/.421/.649/1.070) and 3-1 (.353/.692/.647/.1.339. Even at 3-2, despite a .228 batting average, his OPS was .980.
Last year, though, Kent was much better in innings one through six (.307/.368/.541/.910) than afterwards (.277/.372/.429/.801 -- his numbers were nearly identical in close-and-late situations). He was, however, hell on wheels with the bags loaded, despite no grand slams in 25 tries: .526/.444/.895/1.339. That's when he got 31 of his RBIs. (The strangely large dropoff between batting average and OBP can be accounted for by six of his 13 sacrifice flies.) Generally, though, with runners on or in scoring position, he was a touch worse than his overall averages.
For a while Dusty toyed with switching Kent and Bonds in the batting order. In 53 plate appearances in the number-three hole he went .233/.358/.279/.638. Thankfully, this ended the experiment.
I thought Kent generally looked very good in the field last year -- we can't expect Robby Thompson-like performance from him, but he's more than serviceable. However, he's no first baseman (which is why Galarraga had to show up; otherwise it was Kent at first and Ramon Martinez at second all the time, and you sure don't want that).
At the plate, though, he seemed to be chasing the ghost of his MVP 2000 season. Now, Kent's a hell of a player -- certainly makes me look foolish for the stuff I said about him when the Giants picked him up in November 1996 -- but 2000 was a career year. It had to be. He's just never gonna play that well again (especially the next year, when teams gun for the MVP more than they would've before the player won it). The result of his pressing was that he had the Atlee Look up there. (In case you don't know what that means, just look at a tape of Atlee Hammaker pitching in a tough situation with a fast man on first base, say, in 1987.) He also seemed very susceptible to the low, outside pitch -- shades of Matt Williams.
His season might have been derailed somewhat by Rick Reilly's (very poor) Sports Illustrated article about what a complete dickboil Barry Bonds is supposed to be. Kent was quoted as saying stuff that's very reasonable, but (a) it wasn't nice, (b) it didn't portray him (Kent) in a good light, and (c) he just shouldn't have said it for attribution. Either way, criminy, folks, just let these guys play. They don't have to be bestest buddies. Why isn't it enough that they're excellent players, both on the Giants?
None of this, however, is going to stop me from assessing him thus:
Jalal Leach: I really pulled for him, partly because he'd been in the minors for roughly 600 years without a whiff of major league service time, partly because he was the last living vestige of the Trade Chain (which you know all about if you've been reading EEEEEE! long enough -- even though my article about it didn't appear in EEEEEE! But I digress). The players looked really happy for Leach as well, and I'm sure September 2001 was the happiest time in his career, by far. However, in that time he went 1-for-10 and drove in one run, and the Giants canned him after the season. I wonder if he'll rejoin the organization as a coach.
Ramon Martinez: This guy's a fine player. However, for him to remain a fine player, he really has to go back to being a utilityman. He absolutely is not a regular. Once he started playing most of the time, he pretty much stopped hitting. When August came along -- during which he had the most at-bats of any month (85), and nearly the most plate appearances -- he came up big with a showing of .153/.189/.224/.412 showing. His at-bats dropped to 50 in September, and he went .320/.424/.400/.824.
He's not a late-game player: .599 OPS after the sixth, .535 in close-and-late; he went 0-for-6 as a pinch-hitter; and if he's batting with RISPw/2, forget it (.547 OPS). When Dusty insisted on sticking him in the two-hole (either because Aurilia needed a day off or because somehow Dusty really thought he was a better choice up there than Aurilia, who'd bat sixth), Martinez went .253/.302/.367/.669. He got most of his at-bats, though, out of the eight-hole, where he did pretty well: .296/.378/.402/.780. That, plus the fact that his numbers in the seventh spot were .176/.232/.282/.514, tells me that we may well have learned something about Martinez as a hitter.
As a fielder, he might be good enough to justify his 2001 offense. However, he kind of scares me out there (despite Robby Thompson's assessment that Martinez has the best hands of all of the Giants infielders).
When the Giants picked up Desi Relaford in the Estes trade, I thought perhaps Martinez would be heading elsewhere, which would've saddened me -- mostly because as suspicious as I am of his defense, at least he's not Relaford, who strikes me as a sort of middle-income-man's Kim Batiste. But then Relaford went to Seattle for David Bell, which tells me that Martinez will return to the utility role, which works for me.
The saddest Martinez-related part of last year, as far as I'm concerned, was when the Giants roughed up Pirates pitcher Ramon Martinez, the former Dodgers star, and our Ramon Martinez wasn't even in the lineup... and the Ramon Martinez the Pitcher retired right after that game. We never saw a matchup between the two Ramon Martinezes.
Damon Minor: He went 4-for-9 at the tail end of 2000, with three long home runs, at least one of which would've hit the Cove if it hadn't hit the foul pole first. That gave a lot of us some hope -- I mean, J.T. Snow isn't exactly Jason Giambi up there, or even Frank Howard. So when Snow was injured in June, I, and a lot of other Giants fans, were... well, not giddy with glee, but hopeful, at least. In the Giants newsgroup, though, the outlook was less rosy, as judged by the comments of some of our more distinguished members -- along the lines of, "He stinks." Well, you know what? I'm going to have to start listening more closely to some of our more distinguished members. Maybe Minor was pressing, or maybe he's just plain bad, but no matter what, he sure was a disappointment.
The weird thing is that he got several hits right away: virtually all of them ground balls in the hole between first and second. It took maybe a week, but eventually everybody started to play him toward the hole... and he stopped hitting altogether. No more hits. For the year he went .156/.208/.178/.386 in 48 plate appearances. (I can't believe he struck out only eight times.) He also, just to punctuate this woeful (if brief) contribution, was no ballerina on defense.
Calvin Murray: His 2001 moment involved a game-winning dash to the plate against the Padres early in the season. Well, it wasn't exactly like that: there were about 35 throws, and he had to hit the dirt (or just hit it anyway) about five times, running both back and forth between the bases, before scoring the winning run and being mauled at the plate by Bobby Estalella. (I'm asserting myself now: it was the Murray thing, not Benard.) He also went parallel to the ground to grab a line drive in a home game against the Dodgers that you had to see to believe; indeed, he was spectacular in his ability to go get a batted ball. Murray is one of the most exciting center fielders I've ever watched. I just wish he could hit.
He had 362 plate appearances. Of these, 328 were out of the leadoff spot, where he put up an OBP of .310. I suppose that wouldn't be so bad if he hadn't walked at all -- we'd still be able to think of him as a .300 hitter somehow -- but he did walk 30 times in that spot: still not good, but enough to ensure that his batting average would be .233. Again, that's as a leadoff hitter. Overall, he hit 14 doubles, two triples, and six homers, good for a .356 "slugging" percentage. His OPS was .674.
Murray got a lot of playing time against lefties -- and he was better against righties, though still not good. His performance at Pac Bell was dismal (.214/.299/.293/.592); even on the road his offense was such that he looked like a defensive replacement thrust into a starting role because of bad planning. The sad part is that when he came up in June (after his brief trial in April), combined with Marvin Benard's horrific start, he looked like the shot in the arm the Giants needed. Indeed, at the All-Star Break he was at .293/.357/.450/.807. Hell, if he'd continued to hit like that, I would've been delighted, even though the OBP was nothing special. However, what he gave us after that was .210/.290/.285/.575.
This guy's not young, and he's no longer a prospect. I love his glove -- I mean, he's so good out there that he's almost worth a roster spot -- but I don't see him improving as a hitter at this stage.
Dante Powell: He went 2-for-6 in September and scored five runs. I'm still not sure why the Giants brought him up -- nostalgia? Earlier he played his way out of the Giants organization, then the Diamondbacks gave up on him and so did the Cardinals. He came up almost purely as a pinch-runner, kind of like a latter-day Allen Lewis. (Look him up.)
I don't think Powell's a bad player. However, I also don't think he's much more than a body to keep at Triple-A "just in case." (The Giants fired him after the season anyway.) And it's possible that his entire career was derailed by that one throw in the 1997 Division Series, the one that, had it been about an inch higher, would not have hit the mound, bounced straight up in the air, and allowed the Marlins to score the winning run.
Cody Ransom: He went 0-for-7 in September, struck out five times, and failed to put down a sacrifice in those situations where he was put up there specifically to get one down. (In one of these, Dusty chose to pinch-hit him for Andres Galarraga.) He looked like a boy among men. I think people still have hopes for him.
Armando Rios: Like Estalella, Rios (according to what I'd hear occasionally, and that may be utter fiction for all I know) was something of a troublemaker who cared only about his numbers. This is sad, because I really liked the guy when he was here, but I gather he wore out his welcome after mixing it up with Rich Aurilia in the dugout after the former failed to score on a single by the latter, thus robbing the latter of an RBI.
But more importantly, he was given the more-or-less starting right field job after Ellis Burks took a hike. Now, we all knew he had very big shoes to fill, and he didn't fill them (.259/.330/.465/.795). How could he? Still, I'd like to say that what he gave the Giants was pretty passable, but it wasn't. He just should've been better. He did give them 14 home runs and 17 doubles in 316 at-bats, along with 49 RBIs, but in trading him to Pittsburgh, the Giants didn't lose much.
As was the pattern to date, the lefthanded-hitting Rios hammered lefties (.326/.373/.587/.960) but was pretty boring against righties (.248/.322/.444/.767). He was at his best out of the six-hole (.375/.435/.714/1.150). He stank at Pac Bell (.626 OPS, three home runs) and was pretty spectacular on the road (.308/.380/.610/.989). I suspect he'll do fine as a Pirate.
Benito Santiago: Another guy acquired several years too late, and an object lesson, as they say, on the dangers of paying too much attention to an early-season hot streak. He only appeared in 14 games in April, but he went .318/.354/.500/.854. So he became the regular in May: .319 (See? He's keeping it up!)/.398/.403/.800. Along came June: .267 (Well, he couldn't keep it up forever!) /.295/.378/.673. Then July (.212/.225/.283/.508). But just as the Giants are beginning to realize that this guy cannot carry a full load (25 games apiece in June and July), along comes August: .278/.298/.389/.687 -- still bad, but better; good enough not to worry about getting some veteran catching help the rest of the way. Hence .219/.250/.312/.562 in September. Plarf. And through all of this, I'm not sure I ever saw one player hit double-play balls more frequently.
One interesting thing about Santiago is that he really doesn't have any particularly interesting splits. For instance, his overall OPS of .664 breaks down thus: .664 against lefties, .664 against righties. Home (.629) is less kind than the road (.696), but big deal; day games (.695) are better than night games (.651), but not enough to make a difference. One weird thing is that his best lineup spot was eighth, where he had 67 plate appearances and put up marks of .333/.358/.444/.803 -- and yet Dusty insisted on batting him seventh most of the time, or even sixth.
Supposedly the pitching staff loves throwing to him, which is really cool, but is it worth a three-year deal? Whether yes or no, it's probably the reason I'm rating him this high:
J.T. Snow: When he wasn't on one of his three DL trips, he sure wasn't very good. The 2001 season was really a lost one for Snow. He spent so much time out of the lineup -- he played 101 games -- that he didn't even pocket the now-obligatory Gold Glove. People hope for him to rebound, but how reasonable is that to expect? I went to a game late in the summer in which he came up after a prolonged slump and stroked a run-scoring double. The stranger next to me went, "Yeah, he's back! J.T.'s back!" Back to what? He's had one good year here: his first.
And the really sick part is, after a couple years as a Giant, he gave up switch-hitting because he simply could not hit lefthanded pitching... but last year he went .306/.386/.388/.774 against lefties, .233/.368/.377/.745 against righties. Pac Bell Park killed him -- .183/.331/.289/.620, and his road record (.308/.410/.469/.879), you'd think, would make him attractive to, say, some team that plays in a hitter's park. You'd think.
He actually hit pretty well down the stretch -- once Galarraga was in tow: .321/.431/.509/.940 in August, .282/.364/.436/.800 in September. In fact, he went .306/.403/.446/.849 after the All-Star Break.
He looked good in close-and-late situations, but he had only 50 of those; in 14 he walked -- which is good -- and he went .250/.460/.444/.904. He hit far better with the bases empty than otherwise (.290/.372/.456/.827), and he went 4-for-9 as a pinch-hitter with six walks. With runners on, he just plain stank (.637 OPS); put 'em in scoring position, and he was worse (.621); with two outs, put up someone else (.515 -- 5-for-41). Snow batted mostly fifth, but he was awful: .208/.331/.329/.660, with four home runs. The good news is that he had only 179 plate appearances there.
Believe me, I hope he does rebound. I'd love to see this guy do well. I just don't have faith that he will.
Yorvit Torrealba: Tripled in his first at-bat, but only had three others. He's supposed to be a good defender, but I don't know how important it is for him to be our number-two catcher. Still, I'd rather have Torrealba than Scott Servais or Edwards Guzman, and unless something cool happens, I'll be rooting for him. Pronounces his name "jor-VEET," just so you know. (As opposed to the way all the other Yorvits of the world pronounce it, I guess.)
John Vander Wal: He was unimpressive in about a third of a season here, but he said he didn't see the ball well at Pac Bell. What seems to bear this out are his home-road splits, which you won't believe unless you've seen them: .185/.321/.277/.597 at home, .311/.414/.459/.873 otherwise. You might say he was a sort of a poor man's Armando Rios.
And like Rios, he hit lefties better than righties (.857 OPS vs. 731), only he did all of this without power (.374 SP as a Giant), though his OBP was a fine .370.
He didn't look good on defense, I thought, and he was the center of one of the weirdest moments of the season, when he pulled a leg muscle, or something, while stepping to take a pitch. Still, I sure wish we could've gotten something better for him than Jay Witasick, whom I just don't trust.
Giants Team: Part of the problem with assessing a team's offense is that it helps to compare it with other teams, and since other teams don't matter, I don't have that data, don't want to get it, and don't want to analyze it. However, the first thing you need to know is that anybody who tells you that Pacific Bell Park is a hitter's park (Hello, Tim McCarver!) doesn't know what he's talking about. Now, this is just the Giants, but they went .256/.338/.437/.775 at home, .276/.345/.482/.827 on the road. These are pretty vast differences (except in OBP, and I don't know that you'd expect much difference there). Teams seem to like to throw lefties at the Giants, but with 24% of their plate appearances against them, the Giants had to have discouraged this strategy somewhat by going .291/.361/.507/.868 against them, compared to .259/.336/.446/.783 against righties. (Overall figures: .266/.342/.460/.802.)
April was a tough month for the offense -- some might even say "cruel," but I won't: .246/.320/.436/.756. But starting with may, things picked up, and the offense was pretty consistent the rest of the way. But before the Break they went .261/.337/.447/.785, compared with .272/.347/.475/.822, possibly thanks, in part, to the lift from Galarraga and the excitement of Bonds' season.
Offense dropped a lot once games hit the seventh inning, but you'd expect that, given "modern" bullpens. I mean, that's how it's supposed to be. But the team hit almost exactly the same with the bases empty as they did with runners on. Things dropped a bit with runners in scoring position, but OBP shot up to .409 -- that would be Bonds being walked.
The Giants on the Mound
Kurt Ainsworth: Put it this way: I have high hopes for him. That doesn't mean "lots of confidence," just that I really really really hope hell be great. For the Giants, I mean. Course, you can't tell a whole lot from his performance in September, since he pitched only two innings in two games. My recollection is that one of these appearances went well and the other didn't, hence the 13.50 ERA (three runs, three hits including a home run, and a pair of walks). He struck out three, which I guess is encouraging.
I cannot overstress my hope that he'll be great for the Giants. I'm tired of all these pitching prospects -- Grilli, Linebrink, Vogelsong -- who are highly touted throughout their minor league stay in the Giants system, only to be traded for Doug Henry in July. (Oh, to be fair, Grilli went for Livan Hernandez and Vogelsong went for Jason Schmidt, but who's counting?)
Brian Boehringer: In either his first or second game for the Giants, he looked wonderful. That was pretty much it for him, though. An overall ERA of 4.19 doesn't really do justice to how, well, "boehring" this guy was in Orange and Black. Boehringer is the guy we got for Bobby Estalella. He always seemed to pitch well against the Giants (as a Padre), which probably goes a long way toward explaining why Brian Sabean went after him. (One possible explanation, of course, is that he's all we could get for Estalella.)
He only pitched 34.1 innings for the Giants. (I'm going to use the ".1" sort of designation for thirds of an inning; it's just too cumbersome to type "-1/3" every time. So live with it.) What that means is that you probably can't take his splits too seriously because the number of innings pitched would be so small in each case. However, know that he was a run (well, an earned run) worse at home (4.91) than on the road (3.86), but he only pitched 11 innings at Pac Bell. (He was nearly two runs worse at home.) His strikeouts-to-walks ratio was boehring: 27 to 17 (1.6:1); his walks per nine innings pitched was boehring: 4.46; his 7.08 strikeouts per nine innings pitched wasn't at all bad, though.
August was his best month with the Giants, when he put up an ERA of 3.00. He only pitched 12 innings, though, and he still gave up 16 hits and eight walks, while striking out only eight.
Overall, hitters went .239/.327/.396/.722 against him, which is a surprise because he seemed to get hammered during much of his San Francisco stay. A bigger surprise is that righthanded hitters couldn't make sense of him (.206/.275/.330/.605, with two homers in 97 at-bats, plus eight walks and 20 strikeouts). Doesn't explain why he was allowed to face lefthanded batters, though; granted, we're only talking about 37 at-bats, but lefties smote him good: .324/.447/.568/1.014, with two homers, nine walks, and seven whiffs.
For the Giants, clearly he was a one-inning pitcher, at most. Over the first 15 pitches he threw in all of his appearances, he was almost dominating: .188/.265/.306/.571. After that, though, the floodgates burst: .341/.438/.610/1.047. Also, he was most effective with the bases empty (.160/.232/.280/.512), but you sure didn't want him in there with runners in scoring position (.341/.446/.568/1.015).
I can't imagine that the Giants would miss him. To me he seemed to be Tim Worrell Lite, and Tim Worrell was sort of Doug Henry Lite. Newcomer Jay Witasick -- for whom the Giants coughed up Jim Vander Wal -- probably will be Brian Boehringer Lite.
Jason Christiansen: This acquisition was a huge break for the Giants. He was pretty much spectacular once Brian Sabean picked him up from St. Louis. Again, though, we have to temper any possible superlatives because he pitched only 17 innings as a Giant -- which seems impossible, but there it is, in black and white. ("Where?" you ask. In the Excel file from which I'm plucking all this data, that's where.) Clearly Dusty thinks of him as a lefty specialist, since those 17 innings came over 25 actual appearances. But more on that in a bit.
His overall ERA was 1.59, and he gave up nary a run at home. Thing is, he only pitched 6.1 innings at Pac Bell (at least after his acquisition), giving up two hits and three walks, and striking out six. His (total) September performance was nearly identical: 6.1 innings, three hits, three walks, four strikeouts, no runs. On the basis of all this, the Giants made sure to sign him for 2002, which is fine with me, but these tiny sample sizes make me a bit wary. Still, I thought that the guy looked impressive out there. Maybe that's worth something.
Hitters went .241/.288/.310/.598 against him, and he made righties look completely silly: .179/.194/.179/.372 (5-for-28, no extra-base hits, one walk, six strikeouts). However, contrary to what you might think, based on his usage pattern, is that he wasn't nearly as successful as lefties: .300/.371/.433/.805 (9-for-30, a double, a homer, four walks, six strikeouts).
Still, the guy really did nothing wrong as a Giant in 2001.
Alan Embree: It really is a shame that he was so irretrievably awful. It was kind of like Jim Poole all over again. His season can pretty much be summed up in one of his last appearances as a Giant, when four Braves homered against him in an inning. You don't even really need to know that in 20 innings -- again, a minuscule sample size, but enough for the Giants to know that they didn't want him anymore -- his ERA was 11.25. Yes. Ten walks and 34 hits (of which seven went for the distance) contributed to that gaudy figure. (However, he still struck out 25 hitters in 20 innings, which tells me that he threw awfully hard but had no idea where the ball was going. Either that or he was so wild, especially within the strike zone, that when hitters didn't see a meatball, they fell asleep.) Interestingly, his ERA at home was about half that of his road figure. Still, we're talking 7.94 vs. 15.58. My favorite split is his daytime performance: 5.1 innings, six walks... okay, that's bad, but I haven't even gotten to the part yet about the 22 hits he surrendered -- including six homers -- not to mention the 20 runs, good for an ERA of 33.75.
Opponents batted .374 against Embree, which would be bad enough if it told the whole story, but here we're talking about 34-for-91 with six doubles and seven home runs. Opponents' OPS (OOPS) was 1.104 (.434 OBP, .670 SP). The scary part is that while he actually was reasonably effective against lefty hitters (.300/.371/.367/.738), he faced twice as many righties, who battered him to the tune of .410/.465/.820/1.284. Since Christiansen (who came on board after Embree was let go) faced a few more lefty hitters than righty (although, again, lefties hit him better); I wonder why Embree wasn't used similarly.
Also, the thing about Embree is that as soon as he got into a game, you wished he hadn't. Hitters clocked him: .404/.459/.712/1.171 within the first 15 pitches of his appearances. Granted, it hardly slowed down after that (.364/.436/.697/1.133).
It's a shame he was so horrific. He's managed to sign with two teams since the Giants canned him, which is great news for him, but I wonder how great it is for those other teams.
Shawn Estes: Why couldn't this guy have won a Cy Young as a Giant? Why did he have to top out in 1997? Why couldn't he fail to flake out? The one thing I found myself saying -- and hearing -- about him often was, "He's just not a 'money' pitcher." But instead of wringing my hands over this guy (and the fact that we traded him, and the people we got for him), I'll delve into the numbers now.
Superficially, he doesn't look so bad at 9-8, 4.02. At least the "4.02" doesn't look so bad these days. The "9-8" part doesn't really fit in with the guy we thought we had in 1997. Estes had established a pattern of pitching better at home than on the road, and 2001 was no exception: 7-2, 3.15 ERA at home, and 2-6, 5.19 on the road. And the only reason it was so high at home is that he chose that last start to completely wimp out against the Dodgers and get the Giants' asses knocked out of the race.
Estes' control was always something of a problem, but I don't know how gratified the Giants were that his walks dropped to 4.36 per nine innings while he struck out only 6.17 batters per nine innings. (At home, these figures were 3.74 and 6.21, which indicates some difficulty finding the strike zone on the road.)
April looked promising: 2-1, 4.18. (I didn't say "good," I said "promising.") May saw him go 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA, and he went 3-0, 3.09 in June. Maybe this would be The Year! Hey!
No! A 4.50 ERA in July and an 8.35 ERA in August (plus some injury time), not to mention a 1-6 record, killed his season. He came back strong in September -- that is, in only 13 September innings -- with a win and a 1.38 ERA, but then came October: two-thirds of an inning, five hits, five runs, all earned. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. AAAAAAIIIIIIYYYYYYEEEEEE!
Hitters didn't bang him around too badly overall: .253/.336/.384/.720. He was much tougher on lefthanders (.227/.285/.318/.603) than righthanders (.262/.353/.409/.759), as you might expect. He had tremendous trouble getting into the flow of a game early (.411/.434/.579/1.013 for pitches 1 through 15 of his games), but seemed to settle down right away (.217/.333/.373/.707 for pitches 16-30). After that, he seemed to get stronger, and Dusty rarely kept him in there past 105 pitches, because when he did, Estes started walking people. However, in close-and-late performance, batters went 3-for-36 against Estes with four walks and a double (.083/.175/.111/.286).
Clearly the man has his strengths, but I think it's just as clear that he Needed A Change Of Scenery. A lot of folks say they're waiting for his inevitable meltdown in New York -- he'll crack under the media pressure, etc. -- but I have this sick feeling he'll do just fine.
Aaron Fultz: You never knew what you were going to get with this guy from appearance to appearance. In 71 innings he didn't walk many guys (21, or 2.66 per nine innings), and he struck out a goodly number (67: 8.49 per nine innings). He didn't give up all that many hits (70), either, so I kind of wonder why his ERA was so high (4.56). Fultzie had his troubles at home, with a 5.14 ERA, and... okay, he wasn't really that much better on the road, despite his 4.00 ERA. In fact, the splits are almost identical, if you look at runs per nine innings instead of ERA: 5.40 at home, 4.75 away. One thing is that he gave up three more home runs at home.
If you look at his numbers by month, it appears that he improved steadily, peaking in July, then both crashing and burning the rest of the way. His ERA went from 5.27 in April to 4.02 in May, then 3.86 in June, then 0.79 in July, after which he decided to get serious and give up some runs already: 8.38 in August, 7.50 in September. He gave up a run in 5.1 innings in October, which certainly is good, but... oh, well; see Estes. But while you can put his monthly ERAs on a nice smooth graph, it seemed to me that frequently he'd follow up a very good outing with a very bad one, and vice-versa. Except in August, when he seemed to reek every time out. (Granted, he threw only 9.2 innings in 11 August appearances, but that tells you they all had to be bad, pretty much. And he threw only six innings in eight September appearances. Prior to August, he averaged at least one inning per outing.)
Opponents went .259/.307/.430/.736 against Fultz -- not bad. He got lefties out (.237/.264/.342/.606), which means, naturally, that he faced 42% more righthanded hitters than lefthanded. Opponents' offensive numbers rose steadily the longer he was in the game, but he threw more than 15 pitches in only 34 of his 66 games. He was effective in close-and-late: .191/.231/.250/.481, but other than that, his splits, either in terms of pitching numbers or offensive numbers, really stand out.
He looks like he's strong as an ox, but I'm not sure I'd ever throw him more than an inning in any given game, unless I had to.
Mark Gardner: I'm not going to go into much detail about his off-field problems, namely that his wife has been in such poor health. I really hope things look up for her and their family. But Gardner retired before Spring Training 2002 with 99 wins; I'd love to have seen him get that hundredth -- especially if it had been the 1998 playoff against the Cubs. Oh, well.
Overall he went 5-5 with a 5.40 ERA in 91.2 innings. His April was horrific (0-3, 9.78), but his May was fantastic: 1-0, 1.69 in 32 innings (despite walking 14 and striking out only 12; he gave up only 15 hits). He pitched frequently in June (6.67 in 27 innings), but threw only 11 innings the rest of the way, and not 11 particularly good innings, either.
Hitters had a .263 batting average against him and only a .327 OBP, but when you see that that OOPS was .811, you know there was trouble, and there was: a .484 slugging percentage, thanks to 19 doubes, four triples, and 17 homers in 353 opposition at-bats. That's some pretty hefty isolated power. He faced lefthanded and righthanded hitters roughly equally, and lefties gave him a lot of trouble (.290/.363/.511/.874, compared to .237/.289/.458/.746 against righties -- but again, check out the isolated power numbers).
In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, let me digress for a moment to say that "isolated power" is just SP minus batting average, which tells you how many extra bases a hitter gets per at-bat. I don't know that it's a great gauge of a player's contribution, but it does give you a sense of how "hard" his batting average is (in the sense of, say, Willie McGee having been a "soft" .300 hitter). Whether I'm right or wrong, an isolated power number of .200 suggests pretty good pop to me -- for instance, an Armando Rios type (.206 as a Giant). Jeff Kent's isolated power, in a good year (albeit a far less good year than his MVP season), was .209. Rich Aurilia led all non-Bondses with an isolated power of .248, followed by Shawon Dunston (.231) and Andres Galarraga (.225). Marvin Benard's was .174, followed by Bobby Estalella at .172 and Pedro Feliz at .146.
Let me try to provide some sense of perspective regarding isolated power: First, Barry Bonds had a high batting average, and his isolated power alone -- .535 -- exceeded that batting average by over 60 percent. But let's throw him out because his season was thoroughly psychotic.
Rich Aurilia's isolated power tells you that he added one base per four at-bats over and above his considerable batting average. It took Ramon Martinez 10 at bats to add that one base over and above his batting average, because his isolated power was .100. J.T. Snow's isolated power was .133 (an extra base per 7.5 at-bats), which is okay if you bat .400; in this case, it's barely better than Juan Guzman's (.131 -- an extra base per 7.6). These low figures, if accompanied by low batting averages, cannot possibly bode well in contract negotiations.
And just so you know, John Vander Wal's isolated power was .122 (that's an extra base per eight at-bats); Calvin Murray's was .111 (an extra base per nine); Benito Santiago's was .107 (an extra base per 9.3); and Damon Minor's was a comical .022 (meaning that extra base per 45-plus at-bats).
Against Gardner, both lefthanded and righthanded batters' isolated power was .221 (Galarraga). Batters' overall isolated power against the Giants was .146 (Feliz). That includes .157 against Boehringer, .069 vs. Christensen, .131 vs. Estes, .171 vs. Fultz, .159 vs. Livan Hernandez, .153 vs. Ryan Jensen, .105 vs. Robb Nen, .096 vs. Russ Ortiz, .092 vs. Felix Rodriguez, .182 vs. Kirk Rueter, .085 vs. Jason Schmidt, .177 vs. Ryan Vogelsong, .111 vs. Tim Worrell, and .151 vs. Chad Zerbe. Oh, and .283 vs. Wayne Gomes and .296 vs. Alan Embree. We won't count the .334 against Ainsworth because he only faced 11 batters.
But let's get back to Gardner, who'd been pretty well known for having lots of trouble in the first innings of games. In 2001, pitches 1-15 saw hitters go .269/.306/.403/.709, which isn't bad. Pitches 16-30 were a pretty sparkling .192/.312/.308/.620. Pitches 31-45 more or less equate to the third inning of a given appearance, by which time a pitcher might be facing the top of the order again, so it comes as no real surprise that in pitches 31-45, hitters went .464/.459/.714/1.173, not to mention .275/.321/.804/1.125 for pitches 46-60, all of which means that the second time through the order was not a pleasant time for Gardner However, the third trip through the order seemed to help him settle down: .222/.321/.378/.699 in pitches 76-90.
In close-and-late situations, Gardner faced 13 hitters, walking one, striking out three, and giving up zero runs on zero hits.
I'm sorry his career ended pretty much with a whimper, and I'd sure like it if he stayed in the organization.
Wayne Gomes: This is the guy the Giants got for Felipe Crespo, and man, was he vomitrocious. The former closer for the Phillies put up horrendous numbers, albeit in only 15 innings as a Giant. His 8.40 ERA was enough incentive not to keep him, though, to his credit, his ERA was much better at home: 7.00. In his 15 innings he gave up 21 hits (including three home runs), seven walks, and 14 runs. He managed to strike out 17 hitters, suggesting that, like Embree, he threw hard but for no apparent reason.
Gomes gave up four doubles and two triples, en route to an opposition slugging percentage of .633. Opposing hitters batted .350 against him, with a .400 OBP, so the OOPS was 1.033 -- admittedly worse against lefties (1.128) than righties (.990).
Interestingly, hitters (all nine of them) did very poorly against him in close-and-late situations: .222/.222/.222/.444. I doubt, however, that I'll really be thinking wistfully about him while watching Jay Witasick or somebody else get tattooed in close-and-late.
Livan Hernandez: What a disappointing season. And just when you thought he'd gotten it back together, bam! His 5.24 ERA was bad enough, but the fact that it was 5.13 at home, in 124.2 innings (in a pitchers' park, yet), is an unhealthy sign, to say the least. Apparently he's under the gun to lose some weight in the hope that looking less like a dugong will lead to better results on the mound, but I remain skeptical. If he's receptive to the edict from above, I'll be pleased, albeit a little surprised because he doesn't seem to like to be told what to do, as judged by comments he's made in the papers (along the lines of "I'm not gonna throw 88 mph; I'm gonna keep throwing 84," back in April or May when he was getting hammered throwing 84) and the way he behaves when he's denied a complete game.
His splits are fairly unremarkable -- 5.13 at home, 5.38 away; 4.97 in day games, 5.41 at night -- and that's the sad part: he was just plain not good.
However, at least he wasn't consistently not good. He had a dreadful April, going 1-4 with a 7.83 ERA, and May was only slightly kinder to him: 2-4, 5.98. Come June, you couldn't say he exactly turned things around, but at least they were on the upswing: 3-2, 5.30. He wasn't exactly Pitcher-of-the-Month material in July (3-1, 4.65), but in August he started to look like Our Livo (2-2, 3.75), and he looked even better in September (2-1, 3.52). His one start in October didn't go so well, so let's not talk about that (mostly because I don't remember the details). The most encouraging aspect of his season is that before the All-Star Break he was 6-11 with a 6.07 ERA, and afterwards he went 7-4 with a 4.20 ERA. He had less of a workload in the second half, though: 126 innings in 19 starts, compared to 100.2 innings in 15 starts in the first half.
Batters pretty much teed off on Livan, going .297/.351/.456/.807 for the year. Righthanded hitters treated him about as badly as their lefthanded counterparts, though Hernandez walked righties way less often: opposing lefties went .299/.379/.456/.836 against him, and lefties went .296/.325/.455/.780. Hernandez had terrible problems getting settled, as hitters minced him to the tune of .345/.369/.603/.972, including 14 doubles, two triples, and four dingers in 121 plate appearances during the first 15 pitches of games. He calmed down quite a bit through the next 30 pitches (16-30 pitches: .245/.354/.377/.732; 31-45 pitches: .243/.269/.360/.629), but he suffered from midgame blips (which is what I think we should call it from now on): .351/.429/.495/.924 during pitches 46-60. On pitches 61-75 hitters went .284/.320/.403/.723, leading, I think to a false sense of security on the part of Dusty Baker, because hitters toasted him during pitches 76-90 -- .327/.365/.559/.812 -- and it was even worse in pitches 91-105: .320/.371/.524/.895. He actually did a little better after that (.284/.354/.478/.832 during pitches 106-120, and .200/.333/.400/.733 on those ten occasions in which he threw more than 120 pitches), but it all translates to poor late-inning and and fairly weak close-and-late stats. In innings 7 through 9, hitters blasted him: .321/.376/.565/.941; his close-and-late numbers: .268/.354/.451/.805. He also fell apart a bit with runners in scoring position: .354/.414/.473/.888.
He'd sure as hell better drop some of that poundage and come up with something that doesn't get belted all over the lot all the time. In his 226.2 innings, the man gave up 266 hits (that's 10.56 hits per nine innings, kids). He walked only 85 (3.375 per game), but then he struck out only 138 (5.48 per game). He's gonna need to find a way to keep guys off bases.
For some reason I keep picturing him going to Philly in a trade. I don't know why.
Ryan Jensen: I have the feeling he's destined to wind up in a Giants Tweaks song, but he wasn't bad with the big club last year in 42.1 innings. His ERA was 4.25, but those 25 walks (and only 26 strikeouts) are troubling. That's really going to have to change.
Because of the small sample sizes (given the fact that seven of his 10 appearances came as a starter), the splits don't tell us much, but in his three starts in July he had a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings. That's the good news. The bad news is... how? He gave up 21 hits, walked 11, and struck out only 8.
If you don't look at the walks and strikeouts, though, Jensen did quite well as a starter, with a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings. However, out of the bullpen he was wretched: seven runs in 7.1 innings, and 8.59 ERA.
Overall, hitters didn't exactly tee off on him: .268/.378/.421/.799. Well, righthanded hitters didn't, anyway (.219/.286/.396/.682); lefthanded hitters did, though (.338/.489/.456/.945). The first couple of innings were his undoing: .292/.452/.458/.910 during the first 15 pitches, and .371/.436/.714/1.150 during pitches 16-30. So it seems as though he had trouble with his control at first, and then once he found the strike zone, he found it all too well. However, he settled in for pitches 31-45: .167/.265/.200/.465... only to let himself get beaten up again: .407/.467/.630/1.096 during pitches 46-60. However, the point at which Dusty would pull him was the point at which he was beginning to sparkle: .154/.290/.192/.483 during pitches 61-75, and .176/.364/.176/.540 during pitches 76-90. In innings 1 through 3, opposing hitters went .282/.378/.435/.813, and in innings 4 through 6 they went .204/.339/.245/.584.
Jensen looks to be a candidate for the number-five starter's slot, but I don't know that I have much confidence in his future. That and the job appears to be Ainsworth's to loses (which I expect him to, at least for a while). I'm guessing that Jensen will be up and down with the team again, probably at least two or three times.
Robb Nen: If he continues his pattern as a Giant, he'll have a terrific year in 2002. He likes those even-numbered years, apparently. Not that he was any dog last year: he saved 45 games and posted an ERA of 3.01. Sure, that's a bit high for a closer, but still not bad. Were it not for two spectacularly miserable failures at home against the Astros after baseball resumed in September, the numbers would look a lot better.
In any case, he struck out 93 hitters in 77.2 innings (that's 10.78 per nine innings), which is nothing to sneeze at. He walked only 22 (2.55), which is awfully good considering how wild he was at times; and even at that, he gave up only 58 hits.
His ERA at home, though, was 2.56, compared to 3.66 on the road. However, he threw 45.2 innings at home and only 32 on the road. And nobody worried about him at all in April, when he gave up a run in 11 innings (0.82 ERA) and saved six games. He went south in May (4.63 and June (4.80), but he still saved 13 games in June somehow). He got back on track in July in August (1.80), but those games against Houston in September gave him a 3.65 ERA for the month. He gave up no runs in three October appearances, but he did cough up three hits.
Hitters really didn't get to him at all. Sometimes the longball would hurt him early, but that was about it. Overall, opposing players went .203/.260/.308/.567, and righthanded hitters didn't have a chance: .162/.221/.272/.494. However, of course, it was the righthanders who hit four of the six home runs he gave up, despite the fact that he faced more lefties. Pitches 1-15 hurt him the most (.220/.279/.335/.614, with seven doubles, two triples, and five homers). Of course, it stands to reason that in most of his appearances, the game would be settled within that time span. When it wasn't, he did exceptionally well: .138/.188/.207/.395 from pitches 16-30. He struck out the only batter he had to face after 30 pitches.
Being the closer, Nen generally entered games with the bases empty, and hitters did most of their damage then, such as it was: .182/.282/.233/.515. Those numbers increased, however, with runners in scoring position: .216/.307/.324/.631. What happened was that with Nen on the mound, a lot of runners ran themselves into scoring position. His motion is such that he simply can't keep them at first base, and I'm not all that confident that he'd enable his catchers to throw out elephant seals consistently.
Still, I really have no problem with this guy, no matter how much he scares me, which is a lot.
Russ Ortiz: You know, with the 2001 season ending so long ago, I've generally thought of Ortiz as having had a "fine" season, and I've pictured his ERA somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2. It wasn't. It was 3.29. I still can't believe it -- not because I don't think Ortiz is a good pitcher, but simply because I didn't realize he was that good. While Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia were tearing it up on offense, this guy was going out there and getting people out, and fairly quietly, too. Maybe my perception was based more on his road performance, where he went 9-6 with a 4.08 ERA. But at home he was 8-3 with a 2.49 ERA. I'm afraid to say so here because of the automatic jinx that comes with it (Giants fans and The Baseball Gods being what they are), but this guy's pretty much a stud.
I'd like to see his walks come down a bit: 91 in 218.2 innings (3.75 per nine), and I wouldn't mind seeing his strikeouts go up (6.96, which isn't bad), but he only gave up 187 hits, which is 7.70 per nine innings, which is impressive.
I wouldn't say he was "consistent," exactly, from one month to the next, but he was good, at least: 3-1, 2.73 in April; 4-2, 3.89 in May; 1-2, 3.41 in June; 4-1, 3.58 in July; 2-2, 3.63 in August; 2-1, 2.42 in September, and 1-0, 1.35 in October. Not a single month above 4.00, which tells you how faulty my memory must have been. (Oh, and 3.28 before the All-Star Break, 3.30 after.)
Hitters batted .232 against him, slugging only .238, and posted a .305 OBP for an OOPS of .633. Lefthanders hit him harder than righthanders did, but that's not to say they hit him hard: .276/.348/.377/.726; against righties, .190/.264/.280/.544. He faced about an equal number of lefties and righties, and overall he gave up only 13 home runs. I was also surprised to see that only 12 baserunners tried to steal off him, and half of them were gunned down.
Ortiz was very strong in the early stages of games: .220/.305/.293/.598 in the first 15 pitches, .185/.269/.261/.529 in the next 15, and .223/.273/.298/.570 in pitches 31-45 (and .207/.287/.284/.571 in the first three innings). Once the hitters settled in, they started to cuff him a little, but not much: .264/.349/.427/.776 in pitches 46-60, .237/.300/.316/.616 in pitches 61-75, and .265/.345/.333/.678 in pitches 76-90. Even after that, they never hit him particularly hard: .243/.331/.359/.672 in pitches 91-105 (where he may have been a tiny bit more susceptible to extra-base hits), and .235/.304/.373/.676 in pitches 106-120.
One of his more unfortunate splits was close-and-late (.264/.299/.431/.729), which still isn't chopped liver. As you can see, opposition OBP dipped some but SP went way up, which makes me think he either tried to be too fine and lost some control within the strike zone, or he pretty much maintained his control throughout the game but lost some movement. Or both.
I suspect he had to be pretty good at getting the leadoff hitter out in his innings, as opposing hitters went .229/.301/.320/.621 with the bases empty, but he suffered a little with RISP: .237/.336/.362/.698. I would suspect the OBP would go up -- walking someone to set up the force, say, because the batting average hardly went up -- but the SP went up quite a bit (proportionally, I mean; it's not like he completely lost it out there with runners on).
This guy's pitching more like a Number One than anybody the Giants have had in a long time, showing overall consistency and dependability. In his bad games, he walks five hitters in the first inning and gets yanked. (We really didn't see that in 2001, though.) Otherwise, he doesn't tend to drop off suddenly, the way a Kirk Rueter might. When it's time for this guy to go out into the world and see who wants to show him the most money, I hope it's the Giants. He's a core player on this team.
Felix Rodriguez: You talk about core players. When Rodriguez has a bad game, usually it's due to overuse or underuse. I guess that's easy for me to say, but those are the times I get the most jittery when he comes into a game. And you can't really say he was overused all that much. He did appear in 80 games, but threw a total of 80.1 innings -- mainly because his job was to come in in the eighth inning and hand a save to Robb Nen.
He throws tremendously hard, but I don't see much movement on his fastball, which isn't going to help him later in his career, but at the moment, who cares? Hitters can't see it. Well, to be honest, there's some movement, a "bite" of sorts, and when that bite is absent, it's a long night for Rodriguez. That and those weird, tomahawked home runs he gives up to Eric Karros are about all that keep his ERA above 1.00.
Not that it was much above that: 1.68 for the season, 0.91 at home, and 2.43 on the road. Calling him dominant at home would seem redundant, based on ERA alone, but he struck out 52 in 39.2 innings (11.80 per nine). In away games, though, he struck out "only" 39 in 40.2 (8.63), which leads me to guess that the visibility in Pac Bell at 10:30 p.m. is worse for hitters than in other parks at that time (locally). That theory, however, would be compromised by the fact that he struck out 37 in 28 innings during day games (11.89), and 54 in 52.1 nighttime innings (9.29), but I can't be sure because I don't have breakdowns such as home/night and away/day. I find it odd, though, that he walked 16 at home (3.63) and 11 on the road (2.43).
Rodriguez' only poor split came in domed stadiums (though I'm not sure which teams roughed him up): four games, four innings, four hits, three runs, two homers, 6.75 ERA. I don't know that that's significant, though, and the hits and runs may all have come in the same game. But 1.29 in day games and 1.89 at night? Man.
His worst month for ERA was April: 3.09. However, it was 0.68 in May and 1.29 in June, then jumped to 2.31 in July and 2.25 in August, and finally 0.68 in September and 1.59 in October. He really did everything a closer should do except rack up saves.
I'm not sure that a lineup consisting of guys like Kim Batiste and Alex Diaz could've done much worse against him than the Giants' opponents did: .188/.258/.280/.538. Lefties fared worse as a group: .150/.246/.221/.467. Perhaps buoyed solely by Eric Karros, righties went .213/.266/.320/.586 against him, which still is outstanding (for Rodriguez, I mean).
Though he's mostly a one inning pitcher, hitters didn't do much better against him after 15 pitches than before: .189/.238/.281/.519 within the first 15, and .188/.301/.287/.589 in the second 15 -- the difference coming almost entirely in OBP because that's when he'd start walking people.
My concern about Rodriguez is that he throws a hell of a lot of pitches -- the numbers for which I don't have -- and while you can point to the strikeouts as one reason why, it sure looked as though he has trouble putting hitters away in only three or four pitches. Also -- and I'm not sure whether this is anything to worry about -- his strikeout rate dropped significantly after the All-Star Break: 12.05 per nine innings before, 10.09 after, hitting a low of 7.50 in June (after a high of 12.41 in May). In no month, though, did he pitch more than 14 innings, so I'm not sure if those numbers are meaningful.
Either way, unless he gets hurt, you can continue to expect him to be an awfully good pitcher, though I suspect this year won't be as good as last year.
Kirk Rueter: Every year he goes out there and throws quite a lot of innings, gives up quite a lot of hits and quite a lot of runs, and racks up quite a lot of wins. Last year, for instance, he went 14-12 with a 4.42 ERA in 195.1 innings, giving up 213 hits, walking 66, and whiffing only 83. I don't know how much longer he can keep this up.
He was 5-6, 4.33 at home, 9-7, 4.50 on the road, and he was fairly inconsistent from month to month: 2-2, 7.36 in April; 2-4, 5.35 in May; 4-0, 3.23 in June; 2-1, 4.88 in July; 2-3, 2.57 in August; 1-2, 5.73 in September, and 1-0, 1.46 in October (though that's only two starts). In his 34 starts, he averaged only 5.75 innings pitched, and my perception is that he is only a five-inning pitcher. However, that may be disputed by these offensive numbers against him: .297/.354/.494/.847 within the first three innings, .263/.313/.426/.739 in innings 4-6, and .302/.362/.488/.850 after that. Course, it could be that in innings four and five he settled down considerably, then started getting hit in the sixth.
Let's see if the number of pitches tells us anything: .289/.343/.505/.848 within the first 15; then he gets the third out of the first inning and settles down a tad for the second (i.e., pitches 16-30): .252/.348/.417/.766. Along comes the third inning, and it's the top (or the heart) of the lineup, and they look like they know what's coming (for pitches 31-45): .361/.382/.630/1.012. Luckily, pitches 46-60 seem to be thrown at the tail end of the order (.240/.299/.355/.654). Then when the top of the order comes up again (61-75), Rueter makes some adjustments (.272/.727/.416/.311). However, he's only through the fifth inning at this point, and fatigue starts to set in: .286/.331/.486/.816 in pitches 76-90. Doggedly, though, Dusty sticks with him about half the time, and he stays at that level in pitches 91-105: .286/.348/.476/.824 -- well, actually what we see is that he starts to get a tiny bit wild.
Oh, and Rueter might have the most consistent righty-lefty splits I've seen in a long time: .344/.456/.800/.287 against lefties, .282/.335/.467/.802 against righties -- but he faced only 187 lefthanded batters, compared to 649 righthanded batters. Looks like managers must think he's a lefty-killer. (Estes' lefty-righty disparity wasn't as large: 171 lefthanded batters and 517 righthanders faced him -- righty-heavy, sure, but only a 1-to-3 ratio, as opposed to Rueter's 1-to-3.5.)
The main thing I think we need to like about Rueter is that he buckles down with RISP more than many of his colleagues: .259/.327/.365/.692 -- meaning that he gets out of jams better (but probably creates them more frequently).
Jason Schmidt: We may have caught lightning in a bottle with this guy last year, but you never know if it's going to carry over, especially since the Giants subsequently signed him to a multiyear deal. But if last year's performance here indicates anything, we ought to be very pleased. As a Giant he went 7-1 with a 3.39 ERA, and his only loss came shortly after the Giants acquired him, meaning that he was tremendous the rest of the way.
Pacific Bell Park helped him a lot -- 2.42 ERA as opposed to 4.02 on the road (as a Giant; I don't have his Pittsburgh numbers because, well, they're not the Giants and therefore are irrelevant). On the other hand, he pitched 40.2 innings on the road and only 26 at home (in four starts), so I'm not sure what to think. His ERA was 3.50 in August, 2.85 in September, and 5.29 in October (three runs in 5.1 innings). I really don't think this team finishes only two games out without his contribution.
As a Giant, Schmidt gave up only two home runs in 248 opposition at-bats, which impresses the hell out of me. Hitters went .230/.317/.315/.631 against him overall, including .253/.362/.333/.695 for lefthanded hitters, .215/.286/.302/.588 against righthanded hitters.
Dusty Baker seemed to keep him right around the 100-pitch level, but he was inconsistent within groups of 15 pitches: .357/.419/.464/.884 within the first 15, .250/.372/.306/.678 in the next -- that's reasonable: he's settling down by the end of the first inning -- and .108/.190/.135/.326 in pitches 31-45. Pitches 46-60 are where I suspect that the opposition is seeing him for the second time: .312/.452/.469/.921, but he settles down for the lower hitters in the lineup: .235/.278/.353/.631 for pitches 61-75. Even better, he buckles down and adjusts for pitches 76-90: .184/.262/.237/.499. After pitch 105, Dusty calls it a day: .290/.343/.419/.762.
Either way, I'm glad to have this guy. For the moment. I sure don't see him as a staff ace, but maybe he's a viable number-two starter -- that's how I'd think of him right now, after Ortiz and followed by Rueter and Hernandez -- but unless he gets hurt (and injury is not foreign to him), Schmidt could be a major contributor to success.
Ryan Vogelsong: He's the guy who kept finding his way into those horrific extra-inning losses, getting a key hit but not scoring, and, in his third or fourth inning, giving up the winning run on a tough-luck double or something. I would have liked to see how he'd do as a starter for this team, but I'm not going to get that chance, at least not until after he's won a few Cy Youngs for other teams and we pick him up in 12 years hoping to recapture the magic.
There wasn't a lot of magic in his performance last year, though: 0-3, 5.65 in 28.2 innings -- not that that's enough to judge him by. He walked 14 and struck out 17, neither of which impresses me. Oddly, he had a 1.38 ERA on the road, which means he saved up all his bad games for the home crowd: 9.19.
Hitters didn't exactly smoke him: .257/.346/.434/.780 overall -- better for lefties, worse for righties -- but I suspect that when he entered ballgames, he faced the lower part of opposition lineups: .250/.341/.361/.703 for pitches 1-15, then .364/.436/.606/1.042 for pitches 16-30. Then he adjusted a little but stayed wild in the strike zone: .214/.312/.464/.777. And then he got to dominate the tweak hitters again: .154/.231/.267/.497 for pitches 46-60.
His close-and-late performances were impressive, though: .214/.250/.312/.562. However, if he'd stuck around, my advice to Dusty would be to have him enter games with runners on base, because though his RISP numbers were .303/.385/.394/.779, hitters clocked him to the tune of .333/.419/.630/1.049 with the bases empty.
I hope I don't rue the day Brian Sabean traded this guy.
Tim Worrell: I think of him as "Doug Henry Lite," based on Henry's season where he was unhittable for two months, then disappeared. Worrell was unhittable for two or three weeks, then the roof caved in, then he got hurt, then he came back and did reasonably (though not earth-shatteringly) well down the stretch. Overall his ERA was 3.45 (2.75 home, 4.04 away), but he sure started out well. He had to get hit a little in late April to bring his ERA up to 2.00 in 18 innings, by which time he was showing signs of wear and tear. His May ERA was 6.00 in 15 innings, followed by 4.50 in June. He pitched only 8.2 innings in July -- all scoreless -- and was used at what I think is a "comfortable" pace the rest of the way: 3.77 in 14.1 August innings, 3.60 in 10 September innings. As good as he was in April, his first-half ERA (3.51) was higher than his second half ERA (3.34).
He wasn't hit hard: .240/.316/.351/.667 overall -- like Vogelsong, slightly better against righties and slightly worse against lefties. When he did get hit, the damage came right away, though it still wasn't devastating: .264/.323/.393/.716 through the first 15 pitches. He settled down nicely for the next 15 (.179/.262/.268/.530), but usually Dusty Baker would forget to take him out at that point (.273/.500/.273/.773 in pitches 31-45), and that's when he'd start walking people -- though to be fair, he faced only 16 batters after 30 pitches (but walked five of them).
He was a bit worse both with the bases empty (.255/.312/.395/.707) and with RISP (.261/.378/.364/.742), but in 15 bases-loaded scenarios, batters rang up eight hits (including a double and a triple).
Worrell's one of those very replaceable righthanded relievers that Dusty likes to use in the seventh inning, sometimes even the eighth. I think of predecessors such as Doug Henry and John Johnstone as better pitches, but I don't know that that was ever true of Henry, and Johnstone -- well, he was superb at one point, then injured, and now gone.
Chad Zerbe: When my son was a baby, I played moronic little games with him of the type you'd expect from most parents. (And on this occasion we're not even talking about "Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen.") I'd lay down and hold him on my chest, then lift him quickly, crying "Up!" You might not have anticipated this bit, but next I'd bring him back down and go "Down!" He loved this. See, the key was timing: you had to know when to pause, and for how long, like: "Up!" (Pause for seven seconds.) "Down!" (Pause for 30 seconds.) "Up!" (Then keep him up there for, like, 45 minutes, shifting my eyes suspiciously, heightening the suspense.) "Down!" He'd laugh and laugh. Then I'd throw him a curve by following an "Up!" with another "Up!"
That was almost, but not quite, like Chad Zerbe's season last year. At one point he got sent out because the Giants hoped fervently, and vainly, that Alan Embree hadn't lost it, but this guy reminded me of Greg Litton, whom Hank Greenwald dubbed "Boomer" during his first year with the Giants -- because he was a human boomerang.
Zerbe seemed pretty inconsistent from game to game, but what do you expect from a guy who never knows where he'll be the next day? He pitched during each month with the big club until August, then came up for only 1.2 innings in September and one in October. I don't think that means he'd lost favor with the club, but then again I don't know what it means.
He had a 3.92 ERA overall, to go with a 3-0 record, and he looked good in his early trials: seven innings, 2.57 in April, and 16.1 innings, 2.76 in May. Then the walls came tumbling down very quickly: four runs, 12 hits, 3.2 innings in June (9.82), followed by a 5.79 ERA in 9.1 innings in July.
His splits were odd, too: opponents went .281/.321/.432/.752 overall, but lefties murdered him: .396/.414/.509/.923. (They didn't walk much -- only twice in 57 plate appearances -- because their eyes lit up so much when they saw his pitches that they didn't want to wait around.) Righties (all 104 of them) went .215/.269/.387/.656, however, which is nearly spectacular on Zerbe's part.
He had trouble settling down upon entering games: .293/.329/.533/.862 in the first 15 pitches, .361/.390/.444/.835 in the next. Unfortunately, only four of his 27 appearances lasted longer than that.
Zerbe was more or less an ideal guy to start an inning (.208/.265/.325/.590 with the bases empty), and not at all bad with RISP (.271/.309/.375/.684). However, you didn't want him in there in close-and-late situations: .294/.350/.588/.938.
He's not a bad pitcher, but he's not young, either, and might not continue in the organization too much longer. Unless Aaron Fultz goes completely south, I'm not sure I expect Zerbe to spend much time with the Giants this year, if any.
Giants Team: Pacific Bell Park, by all accounts, is very much a pitcher's park; only Barry Bonds makes it look otherwise. (The Giants gave up 49 home runs at home, 96 on the road. They hit 97 at home, 138 on the road -- without Bonds that'd be 60 and 102.) Still, the Giants' ERA last year was 4.18: 3.79 at home, 4.60 on the road. The home figure's okay, but that road ERA needs to come down. I think it can if Schmidt remains healthy, Ortiz and Rueter do what they do (only better, for Rueter), and Hernandez gets his act together. The bullpen worries me less, though I don't know if it should.
The team put up a 5.46 ERA through April despite a 12-12 record, but May showed a nice turnaround: 3.90 (despite a 14-15 record). A minor blip in June (4.29) accompanied a 17-10 record, and they went 15-12, 3.99 in July -- and kept it up in August: 16-12, 3.91. In September the Giants' ERA was a nifty 3.44 ERA, but their 12-9 record wasn't good enough because the Diamondbacks refused to lose ground all season. The team ERA was 4.83 in the six October games -- 3.68 without the devastating 11-10 loss to the Dodgers that knocked the Giants out of the race.
The team ERA was 4.48 before the break, 3.82 after, and Jason Schmidt had a lot to do with that. Starters put up a 4.26 ERA; for relievers it was 4.02. Opposing hitters went .258/.326/.404/.729 against the team; lefthanded hitters gave them a bit more trouble (.272/.346/.406/.751) than righthanded hitters (.249/.312/.402/.714).
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