A Band of Misfits: Chat with Andy Baggarly

| April 9, 2011

Today I sat down in the Giants dugout with Andy Baggarly, author of A Band of Misfits, the definitive story of the 2010 World Champion Giants. I just started reading the book and so far I like it. I obviously followed the Giants pretty closely, and I’ve already learned a few things.

Funny story: When my review copy arrived, I showed my wife and her first question was: “Isn’t that the book that you should have written?” My initial thought was that I didn’t write it because I was simply too lazy. Really, though, it’s more than that. I couldn’t have written it. Not as well as Baggs, anyway. This is a book that could only be written by someone who covered the Giants on an everyday basis for years. The story didn’t just start in 2010. It started years before that, and Baggs was there the whole time.

Anyway, here’s my talk with Baggs. Enjoy.

Tidbits from the Giants exciting home opener

| April 8, 2011

Quite a day at the old ballpark. It was nice to get back and see so many folks and get a chance to participate, just a little, in the pregame ceremony. (A little video at the end of this post.)

I was on the field to present Tim Lincecum with the Babe Ruth Award, which I’d actually never heard of. Given by the New York chapter of the BBWAA, it goes to the player who is the most outstanding performer during the the postseason. (The plaque actually said “World Series” so I don’t know the deal with that.) Anyway, I’m an officer of the local chapter of the BBWAA, so I gave him the award. While we were standing on the field watching the little video of Cody Ross’ two homers against Roy Halladay — Ross got his NLCS MVP award — I noticed Lincecum in the on-deck circle, so I said to him: “Doc didn’t want to walk Ross because you were on deck.” He laughed. Here’s the official video showing my part.

But enough about me. That was quite an interesting ballgame. Let’s dig into it a little.

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I’ll be live blogging from AT&T Park

| April 7, 2011

Since it’s a work day and many of you will be stuck to your desks on Friday, join me during the Giants home opener. I’ll be at the ballpark, live blogging and answering questions during the game, which starts at 1:35. Click to the jump to enter your email address and you’ll get a reminder.

After the game, be sure to watch me on Chronicle Live.

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Now playing left field…

| April 2, 2011

Did you notice, in between all the Giants defensive gaffes on Friday night, that Pat Burrell came out for defense in the sixth inning? Continuing a trend that he started last October, Bruce Bochy used the earliest moment possible to lift Burrell. Last October it was basically three-(ABs)-and-out for Burrell, if the Giants had the lead, even if that was as early as the sixth inning.

That worked last year, partly because the Giants bullpen was nails. A two-run lead in the sixth was money in the bank. However, this year could be different. I’ve made it pretty clear that I think the Giants bullpen is not going to be as good this year, and it may even be a problem. So the ripple effect of that could be that defense may suffer because Bochy feels he has to leave his offensive players out there for longer. (Yes, I realize that Jonathan Sanchez blew this one, not the bullpen. That’s not the point.)

And, what happens when Cody Ross comes off the DL? Presumably Aubrey Huff just goes to left field. So will Bochy then remove Huff for defense? Last night he moved Huff to left and put Nate Schierholtz in right. If he’s got Ross in there, would he pull Huff and put Ross in left and Schierholtz in right?

Or he could do something really radical, and move Huff to first and take out Brandon Belt. That would weaken the team at first in exchange for strengthening the outfield. I think Huff’s a better first baseman than he is a left fielder, so you’d probably gain more in the outfield than you’d lose at first. Besides, a fly ball that isn’t caught is probably two bases, while a ground ball that isn’t caught (or a throw that is bobbled) is probably one.

While we’re on the subject of defense, you had to be a little disappointed with Pablo Sandoval last night. Being fit and agile helps a lot, but playing good defense goes beyond simple mobility. You have to use your head. Like, take a look at Matt Kemp when he’s rounding second, just to stop him. And don’t bother throwing that ball that you picked up charging in, because you’ve got no shot at an out. Those were both mental mistakes, not physical ones.

The offensive projections in one handy place

| April 1, 2011

Here are my highly scientific OPS projections for the A’s and Giants everyday players. I used these numbers in coming up with my forecasts for the teams (Giants here, A’s here). I figured it would be nice to have them all in one handy place, so at the end of the season we can go back and see how smart/stupid I am.

How did I come up with these? Well, there’s no formula. It’s just common sense, based on two main concepts:

  1. Players who have more than a few years in the big leagues will tend to drift more toward their career averages.
  2. Older players will tend to get worse.

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A detailed look at the Giants

| March 31, 2011

Happy Opening Day. Now that I’ve given my picks for the standings and the individual awards, it’s time to take a really hard look at the Giants, and how good they might be. (I’ll do the A’s on Friday, since that’s when they open.) This is all very scientific, as you’ll see.

First, let’s ignore the fact that the Giants won the World Series last year. As Billy Beane so famously said, the playoffs are a crap shoot, and that applies when you win as well as when you lose. (How different might things have been if they hadn’t benefited from a bad call in Game 1 against the Braves and Brooks Conrad in Game 3?) Anyway, let’s just say they were a 92-win team that actually should have been a 95-win team based on their runs scored and runs allowed.

The Giants allowed only 583 runs last year.  I think it’s going to be pretty tough to expect them to do better than that. About the only personnel change is having Madison Bumgarner for a a whole year instead of starting with Todd Wellemeyer. But Wellemeyer only made 11 starts last year, so if you combine Wellemeyer’s starts and Bumgarner’s starts, you get a No. 5 starter who had a 3.67 ERA over 30 starts. Yes, Bumgarner had a 3.00 ERA last year, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to think he’d do that over 30 starts. Only 10 pitchers in the majors started 30 games with an ERA of 3.00 or below. If Bumgarner’s ERA goes up to, say, 3.50, then the difference between Bumgarner ’11 and Bumgarner/Wellemeyer ’10 is not that much. Let’s also not forget that Bumgarner went way over his previous innings limit, so it would not surprise anyone if he struggled or got hurt. Truth to be told, all the starters threw a lot of innings, so they’re all candidates for problems.

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Brandon Belt makes it

| March 30, 2011

Well, the Giants are ready for the Brandon Belt era to start right away. I’m a little surprised that they would allow spring training performance to have this much of an impact — as I said, you have to be very careful to avoid over-analyzing what you see in these “games” — but I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised in light of the Cody Ross injury. The hole in the lineup was going to be filled by Belt, Travis Ishikawa, Aaron Rowand or Nate Schierholtz, so in that sense it’s a no-brainer who you want to see.

But Ross isn’t going to be out forever. Maybe just a few weeks. So is Belt here for good? Or is this just an extended tryout while Ross is hurt?

It will be interesting to see what the Giants do when Ross comes back, if Belt is not doing well. (I’m not saying he won’t. Just that there’s no decision to make if he is playing well.)

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