Zack Greinke Might Be a Giant When You Wake Up Today


I’d like to direct everyone’s attention to this bit of genius from my Twitter feed almost exactly one month ago:


Exactly 24 hours from now that prediction might go up in an inferno. The Giants are apparently extremely close to signing free agent star pitcher Zack Greinke. Some of the latest reports have it that Greinke has basically boiled it down to the Giants and Dodgers, and it’s just a matter of him making up his mind whether he wants to stay put or uproot to Norther California.

I’d first like to state that I firmly support the Giants signing Greinke. Primarily because of this story, but also because he just led the world in ERA and posted an ERA+ over 200 for the second time in his career. In fact, only thirteen pitchers in history have posted a better ERA+ in a single season than Greinke’s 225 this past season. He also finished in the top ten in the National League in pretty much every category that anyone should care about. I’ve avoided singing his praises for three seasons, but now that he might finally be free of the Dodger Blue shackles, it’s fair game.

I generally hate the idea of giving out large, multi-year deals to pitchers, for myriad reasons that I’ve ranted about incessantly over the years. However, if there’s one pitcher to give a gargantuan free agent contract to…well, it’s probably Clayton Kershaw. But the next guy is probably Greinke. With his high pitching IQ (described in some circles as Madduxian) and his filthy changeup, it seems, intuitively, that he’d age better than your typical 30-something pitcher who has gotten by on pure stuff for most of his career.

There’s even some talk that Greinke might accept a five-year deal for a higher average annual value than the contract David Price just signed with Boston. If that’s true, the Giants should have no reservations whatsoever about doling out cash to Greinke. As we all know, it isn’t the dollars of a bad player contract that kills teams, it’s the years, and five years is a lot easier to swallow than seven. I mean, we never thought that Barry Zito contract would end, and some mornings I wake up still thinking it hasn’t!

I’m skeptical that Greinke would take less years, because if you’re coming off of one of the best seasons ever, why the hell wouldn’t you insist on two extra years of security? My initial (some might say drunken) prediction of a Cliff Lee signing stems from the Giants’ general conservative approach (ever since Zito) to signing free agent pitchers. With some money coming off the books, though, GM Bobby Evans might be more willing than his predecessor, Brian Sabean, to make a big-dollar free agent splash and get into an arms race with the hated Dodgers.

A one-two punch of Greinke and Madison Bumgarner would probably make the Giants favorites in the NL West again. Heck, maybe the Giants would forgo re-signing Leake, make my C-Lee prediction come true by signing the aging ex-Phillie to a cheap, Randy Johnson 2009-esque deal, with Lee coming back and pitching like the Lee of old and then the Giants would have three Cy Young-caliber starters. Now wouldn’t that be something?

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Brandon Crawford Wins Gold Glove, Gets Really Rich


Miguel Tejada was a terrible Giant. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great player for the A’s and, later, the Orioles, and he was solid with the Astros for a couple of years. In his brief time with the Giants, though, he just flat out blew. By the time the Giants signed him as a cheap stopgap shortstop solution in 2011, Tejada’s power had vanished and his range in the field was a joke. The 69 OPS+ that he posted as a Giant was the worst of his career. On top of that, he had the PED stink on him (he’d later be suspended for over 100 games for PED-related shenanigans). Tejada was basically cooked before his Giants career even started.

Despite having no real immediate shortstop options (which is why Tejada was signed in the first place) the Giants finally jettisoned Tejada in September of that year. In his place, they handed the shortstop keys to a slick-fielding non-prospect named Brandon Crawford, and gave him two simple orders: field your position well, and don’t mess yourself with the bat in your hands. Basically, keep the position warm until the front office can swing a trade and find someone better for 2012. Needless to say, no one saw the second coming of Cal Ripken.

Welp, now it’s the year 2015, and Crawford just finished the season leading all major league shortstops in fWAR. How did he do in Baseball Reference’s version of WAR? Oh yeah, he led all shortstops in that, too. By far. He also won his first Gold Glove, and probably not his last, what with Andrelton Simmons relocating to Los Angeles’s less-evil, American League franchise. Just a remarkable season for a player who has become, amazingly, not just a Giants stalwart but one of the best overall players in the National League.

Crawford’s first Gold Glove is cause for celebration and is well-deserved, but it’s not, in my opinion, the most impressive part of his season. When Crawford first arrived in the majors, fans felt that there was a pretty good chance that Crawford had a Gold Glove in him at some point. With good range and one of the best arms at the position in the business, Crawford was Gold Glove material from day one. The fielding part of his game was never in dispute.

No, the accomplishment that would have blown my mind three years ago is the Silver Slugger Award that Crawford won this year. Crawford earned this by leading all NL shortstops in home runs, RBIs, doubles, and slugging percentage. That’s a pretty amazing feat considering that at one point most of us figured that Crawford’s baseline was a .230 hitter who might fluke his way to a ten homer season one year. Crawford’s home run output has gone from four in 2012 to 21 in 2015. Pretty incredible, and pretty unexpected, to say the least.

Here is a snippet of the player comment for Crawford in the 2012 Baseball Prospectus annual (following Crawford’s rookie year):

Unlikely to ever stray too far above replacement level, but a good bet to play a half-dozen seasons, and about as good now as he’s ever going to get.

This coming off of a season where Crawford’s batting line was .204/.288/.296. They weren’t exactly bullish on his major league prospects, clearly. Obviously that was very wrong, but don’t go picking on BP, because everybody thought this about Crawford back then. At least, everybody who wasn’t a rose-colored-glasses Giants apologist thought this. I certainly did. His minor league stats screamed utility guy, and there wasn’t exactly a long line of scouts waiting to tell the statheads that the numbers had him all wrong.

Whatever the reason for Crawford’s adjustments, be it good ol’ fashioned hard work or the unrecognized genius of hitting coach Hensley Meulens, Crawford’s development into an All-Star-caliber baseball player has been one of the more pleasant surprises in recent Giants history. Where once it seemed like anything the team got from his bat was gravy, Crawford is now a legitimate offensive asset.

The Giants rewarded Crawford for his big season by handing him his inevitable contract extension, worth $75 million over six years. The deal buys out Crawford’s final two seasons of arbitration and locks him up through his age-34 season. It means he’ll probably (hopefully) retire a Giant, short of some offensive decline stint with the Rays at age 35 or something.

Crawford will be making $15 million in each of the final four seasons of the extension. That may seem like a lot to alarmists who think the sky is falling every time baseball player contracts rise, but $15 million in 2021 dollars won’t be the same as $15 million in 2015 dollars. The Giants will probably get equal value here, at worst.

Crawford will probably lose some range and he might not hit 20 home runs again, but have you seen the state of the shortstop position in the NL in the year 2015? There’s a very, very good chance BCraw will be worth much more than the $75 million he’ll be making over the next six seasons. For starters, he’ll make $5.8 million next year and will almost certainly be worth three times that amount.

All this because Miguel Tejada sucked one time. Securing Crawford’s services is the first step toward locking up this insanely good, homegrown infield the Giants have developed and riding it to another championship (or two). Next up: Brandon Belt.

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2015 World Series Recap


“Why make sense when the world around refuses?”

That’s a lyric from the latest album of this British band called Hot Chip, who I’ve been sorta obsessed with for going on a couple months (an obsession that has led to me dressing as Star-Lord and dancing around in the front row at one of their concerts. If you really want the gory details, check my Instagram).

Anyways, I can think of no better line to describe playoff baseball, and the art of predicting playoff baseball. Why make sense of playoff baseball when, year after year, it just bloody refuses? We were one non-terrible Lucas Duda throw from gearing up for a Game Six in Kansas City tomorrow, and instead of basking in Eric Hosmer’s hustle, we’d be frowning at his idiocy. The Mets very could easily have won this Series in five games instead of the Royals, and then the Giants would be sending them pizzas instead. The Royals won because Jeurys Familia made one bad pitch to Alex Gordon and the Mets made two horrific defensive plays in the final two games. That’s basically the difference between the Royals’ first championship in 30 years, and the Mets’ first championship in 29. Why predict baseball when it refuses to be predictable?

With the small sample size shenanigans of playoff series pretty much well understood now, the managers get put under the microscope by analysts the most in these postseason battles. Terry Collins is going to get scrutinized forever for not taking Matt Harvey out after eight innings in Game Five, but he was just doing what we all would have done in that situation. I think it’s really hard to blame him. Stick with your best, especially when your best appears ready to murder you on camera if you don’t let him go out for the ninth inning. I wouldn’t say there were any blatantly stupid managerial decisions (except maybe Collins leaving Yoenis Cespedes in to hit in Game Five after he almost destroyed his knee on a foul ball) in this one.

No, in the end it all came down to a couple of plays the Mets didn’t make. The Royals were good and a little bit lucky and they came out ahead in three games that were basically toss ups. Let’s take a gander at how my predictions came out.

“Daniel Murphy will hit zero home runs”.

I’m a genius! Not only that, but Murphy had just three hits in 20 at-bats in the series and made two errors, one of them being the crippler in Game Four. Amazing how one man can go from superhero to epic goat in a matter of four games. I think it’s safe to say that Murphy won’t be back in the Mets pinstripes in 2016. Baseball, man. It’s merciless.

“Bartolo Colon will start, and win, Game Four”.

Not even close. Rookie Steven Matz took the ball and pitched very well, and should have gotten the win. It’s silly to think that Colon would have pitched any better, so shame on me. See, this is why the actual baseball men make the baseball decisions and jerks like me only write about it in their Ninja Turtle jammies way too late on a work night. Colon made three appearances out of the bullpen and gave up one unearned run (again with the Mets and their errors). I have no idea if Colon is going to come back and pitch somewhere next year, but if he calls it a career, this wasn’t a bad performance to go out on.

“Michael Conforto will have a big Series”.

He almost won Game Four by himself with his two home runs and he slugged .733 in the Series, so I’ll go ahead and pat myself on the back for this one. Not for nothing, he came up as the potential final out of the whole series in Game Five against Wade Davis and lined a single. I hope for the sake of awesomeness that he quoted Gary Carter from 1986 and told the first base coach “There’s no way I’m making the last fucking out.”

“Ned Yost will make one bone-headed, game losing decision in the Series”.

Wrong on this one, too. The epic Game One was a microanalyst’s dream, but Yost didn’t hit any false notes in that one. It wasn’t even like last year’s AL Wild Card game, where the Royals won in spite of some amazingly awful Yost moves. He pretty much pulled all the right strings, managed his bullpen as well as could be expected, and, for one winter at least, got all the writers off of his back.

“The Royals will win in seven games”.

I was off by two.

I did correctly predict one storyline that played a huge part in the series: the Royals’ contact-heavy offense vs. the Mets’ troika of strikeout pitchers. Sure enough, the Mets’ starters averaged far less than a strikeout per inning against the Royals and a recurring theme seemed to be their constant inability to put away the Kansas City hitters on two-strike counts.

The hot term for the Royals now is “relentless” and maybe that’s a bit overblown, but when hitters make contact stuff happens. Stuff like Daniel Murphy flubbing a slow chopper and Lucas Duda airmailing a throw to home plate and the Mets’ miserable infield defense just making a general shit show of things all series long. If there’s one thing good contact hitters do, it’s put pressure on bad fielders, and the Mets’ shaky infield was totally exploited in this series.

You can bet that, in this new baseball world where strikeouts and walks are so prevalent, some front offices are taking note of the Royals’ contact-and-speed philosophy and the success they’ve had with it. Could a new brand of Moneyball be on the horizon, one that’s sort of the exact opposite of what a lot of people still incorrectly think the original Moneyball was about?

The series was fun and included three great games, one of which (Game One) was an all-time classic. I just wish it could have lasted at least one game longer. Now we wait six months and ponder who the 2017 champs will be. Next year, of course, is an even year, so we know who will take home the crown in ’16. I mean, why even play the games?

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Five World Series Predictions

Here’s the thing about the 2015 World Series and its two participants, the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets: I like both of these teams. I’ve liked the Mets franchise, really, since I was a kid. Darryl Strawberry is my favorite player of all time, and I’ve been pretty obsessed with the ’86 Mets since 8th grade (just check this out). The Royals? I’m happy that this once-proud franchise, that was always near the top of the standings from 1975 to 1985, is back winning pennants again, after almost three decades of futility, with those years featuring some of the most egregious front office incompetence in baseball history. I’d be happy for fans of both teams, really if either of these teams won the crown.

That makes it all well and good in the interests of good sportsmanship, but bad for someone who wants to have some kind of rooting interest here. I mean, this is a bit too bi-partisan for my tastes. Give me someone to hate. It’d be easier if the Royals were facing the Dodgers, because then I’d root like a maniac for the Royals, because screw the Dodgers. If the Mets were playing the Blue Jays, it’d be easy to root for the Mets because, again, I’ve always liked the Mets, and it’s easy to root against the Blue Jays after the way their drunk fans behaved in ALDS Game Five against the Rangers. Bad form, French Canada. Instead we’ve got two likable teams and I don’t know what to do with myself. Root for a good, friendly match with handshakes all around? Everybody’s a winner! We all get trophies!

Regardless, I’ll still watch the Series religiously, and it should be a pretty good one. One team isn’t head-and-shoulders better than the other. The Royals won 95 games and basically won their division wire-to-wire. They were six outs away from losing to the Astros in the ALDS, but came roaring back thanks to their death-by-1000 singles offensive attack (more on that in a second). The Mets won 90 games in a crappy division, but came on strong late and, through better health and some deft trades, they were pretty much a totally different team in August and September than they were in the season’s first four months.

Instead of doing a long position-by-position World Series preview here like I did last year, I’m just going to make five predictions. Before I get to those, I’d like to point out a couple of interesting little narratives that I think might come into play this Series.

First, the Mets’ starting pitching. It’s awesome. The Mets have maybe the best front three starters in baseball. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey all throw hard as hell and rack up a ton of strikeouts. The Royal offense, meanwhile, almost never strikes out. Kansas City’s hitters put the ball in play, hit a lot of singles (as mentioned earlier), and use their speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. It’s not a great offense by any means, but a team that can put the ball in play can at least make things happen, as seen in the Royals’ comeback against the Astros. The Mets’ infield defense is, other than David Wright, pretty terrible, so if the Royals can put bat on ball and poke enough grounders into the outfield, things could get mighty uncomfortable for deGrom, Thor, et al.

The Royals had the fewest batter strikeouts in the American League, and only had two hitters, Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales, strike out more than 100 times, which is kind of unheard of these days. The Royals don’t have a lineup as powerful as the Dodgers or Cubs, but theirs is probably way more irritating. It should be interesting, is all I’m saying.

Second, the two teams are almost polar opposites in terms of the usage of their respective pitching staffs. The Mets have their studly troika of fireballers, and they’ll rely on them more or less to pitch as deep as they can into games, avoiding a questionable bullpen (Addison Reed? Really?) as much as reasonably possible.

The Royals, meanwhile, almost use their pitchers backwards. Their starters, Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Johnny Cueto, are pretty much only asked to go five, maybe six innings just to get the game to the untouchable bullpen. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis will probably be maxed out if need be in this series, going multiple innings when asked to, and justifiably so. Flags fly forever, and the frayed UCL can be repaired after the World Series parade.

The Royals’ top three starters can be brilliant at times (witness Cueto carving up the Astros in ALDS Game Five), but they can also be wild and terrible (witness Cueto in ALCS Game Three), and you just never know what you’re going to get out of them. If the Mets get to them early it will probably be no contest. Then again, if the Royals keep it close and get into the Mets’ bullpen, they have a huge advantage. It’s a matchup, kind of, of the newish standard, post-LaRussa model of pitching staff usage vs. the new new, bullpen-centric model that baseball as a whole may be gravitating towards.

Anyways, those predictions I had promised earlier…

1. Daniel Murphy will hit zero home runs.

Baseball is a funny sport. Murphy came into the 2015 postseason with a career high single season home run total of fourteen. He’d basically established a yearly home run baseline in his career in the single digits. He’s been a good, not great, hitter, often maligned for his poor defense, and it was pretty much a given that the Mets would let him walk in free agency without a second thought.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the franchise’s fifth-ever National League pennant. Murphy began channeling his inner Strawberry as soon as the playoffs started, and hit seven home runs in the first two rounds. He set a record by homering in six straight playoff games, and it’s not like he was taking advantage of some beleaguered mop-up man coming out of the bullpen in the late innings. Murphy was hitting bolts off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester. Not exactly a group of scrubs.

Perhaps Murphy made some adjustment in his swing, or is seeing the ball better. Perhaps he just has this inherent ability to pwn the best pitchers in the world in October. Perhaps this power momentum will carry into the World Series and continue on into next season, where some front office-types expect him to get a five-year deal in free agency.

Sadly, this being baseball, it’s highly likely that Murphy doesn’t leave the yard once in the World Series. Baseball has this weird ability to restore balance to its world (like Godzilla!) and stop cool narratives dead in their tracks, much to the chagrin of sportswriters everywhere. Remember when, last postseason, the Royals ran the A’s, Angels, and Orioles ragged on the basepaths on their way to the World Series, and the dominant storyline headed into the Fall Classic was “how will the Giants stop the Royals’ running attack”? Remember then when the Royals attempted just two steals that whole series and it wasn’t even a factor at any point? Yes, just when we think we know something, baseball has a way of showing us that we know nothing, after all.

The real culprit behind Murphy’s home run binge probably isn’t some October adjustment or newfound insight into Clayton Kershaw’s soul. It’s small sample size, the bane of any baseball writer trying to milk a compelling storyline. Murphy squared up seven pitches and hit them out of the ballpark. That doesn’t wipe away years of evidence that he’s not really a power hitter. Murphy may well hit .400 and win the Series MVP, but don’t be shocked at all if his sudden Ruthian output comes to a not-so-mysterious halt.

2. Bartolo Colon will start, and win, Game Four.

Right now, Steven Matz is slated to start Game Four, with Colon working out of the bullpen. Matz has made two starts this postseason and has pitched pretty well, though he didn’t lasted past the fifth inning in either of them. Including the postseason, he’s made eight big league starts, total, in his career.

Colon has pitched in 18 big league seasons and has won 218 big league baseball games. His career looked dead in the water at least twice, and I’m not sure how he gets anybody out by basically only throwing 88 mph fastballs (seriously). Through it all, he’s had quite an impressive career, one that’ll qualify him easily for the Hall of Very Good. It may surprise some, then, that this will be his first World Series. Coming into this postseason, Colon had made ten postseason starts, but none of them in the Fall Classic.

Sentimentality is a big deal in baseball a lot of the time, and often it gets in the way of rational decision-making (remember the Giants and that Aubrey Huff contract?). If the Mets go up 3-0, or if they go down 3-0, I expect sentimentality to win out, and for the big guy with 467 big league starts to get the ball over the guy with six. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s something to be said for a nice gesture to a player who has had a long and terrific career.

3. Michael Conforto will have a big Series.

I freaking love Conforto. The kid can flat out rake, he’s been a darling of scouts since his college days, he slugged .506 in his first taste of big league action, and I’m not just singing his praises because I nabbed him in a fantasy keeper league. With the DH in effect in four games and with the Royals throwing nothing but right-handed pitchers, there’s absolutely no reason for the Mets to bench Conforto in lieu of Michael Cuddyer. Conforto has struggled thus far in the playoffs but, again, small sample and I think he’s primed to have a World Series breakout party against Kansas City’s right-handers.

4. Ned Yost will make one bone-headed, game losing decision in the Series

Poor Ned Yost. I really hope he doesn’t frequent the baseball blogosphere. Yost gets a lot of grief for his in-game decision making and, to be honest, a lot of it is probably merited. Yost is, by many accounts (here’s one), well-liked by all of his players, and he’s a manager capable of maintaining a loose and fun clubhouse. When you consider the way the Washington Nationals self-destructed under Matt Williams this season, that’s no small feat.

Tactically, though, he’s kinda shaky. Yost is getting torn a new one by scribes for his in-game moves (or non-moves) against the Blue Jays in ALCS Game Six. Among the numerous sins: he left Yordano Ventura in an inning too long; he pinch-ran for Kendrys Morales, basically their top slugger, in the eighth inning when the team had a lead and there was a runner in front of him; and, worst of all, he sent Ryan Madson to start the eighth when he had a well-rested Wade Davis capable of going two innings for the save. Only the latter move burned the Royals, but they won the game anyway, in spite of Yost’s blundering.

The questionable moves didn’t cost the Royals the game or the ALCS, but there’s certainly a pattern. Yost made a number of eyebrow-raising bullpen decisions on the way to the World Series last year, and his unquestionably terrible moves in the Wild Card game last season against the A’s should have cost them that one. Yost is also notorious for getting fired by the Brewers with twelve games to go in the 2008 season with a playoff berth at stake. He is certainly not going to be mistaken for Earl Weaver any time soon.

It is worth mentioning, however, that one Bruce Bochy was responsible for a never-ending string of gawdawful in-game moves the helped the Padres lose the 1998 World Series. Fast-forward to now, and Bochy is seen as one of the best on-field tacticians in the game. Some managers just learn from their mistakes and improve as the years go by. To be fair to Yost, too, he managed Game Seven of last year’s World Series just about as well as you possibly could in a losing effort. Given his history, though, and given some of the goofy decisions he’s made with his bullpen just this postseason, odds are that he makes at least one dumb decision that costs the Royals a game and then subsequently gets raked over the coals on the Internets for it.

5. The Royals will win in seven games.

It’s the Royals’ year. That’s what I think. Then again, maybe I would have thought that last season if their World Series opponent hadn’t been the Giants.

Honestly, I’m so done predicting playoff series outcomes. It’s an exercise in pointlessness. Take this year’s Phillies and pit them against the 1927 Yankees and, just by sheer luck, they’ll win four out of seven games at some point if they play often enough. Many times the best teams don’t win short series, which is true in any sport, so it’s hard to sit here and pick out which team’s strengths or weaknesses will make a difference, when it could all come down to a play where Lucas Duda loses a ground ball in his jock strap or something. Who can predict that? Who could have predicted that the Dodgers would lose a playoff series because their infielders forgot to cover third base on an exaggerated infield shift? Again, baseball is great at showing even the smartest people that they don’t know squat.

Micro-analyzing and then attempting to predict a seven-game series is ultimately ridiculous, so I’ll just make my prediction of the outcome on narrative, and narrative alone. The Royals came within 90 feet of winning it all last year. They rolled into the playoffs this season, they’re a fun team to watch, they play in a cool ballpark, and they’re a franchise that deserves a run of success like this after so many years of being held up by Bud Selig as a bullshit example of how small market teams can’t compete and blah blah blah.

I think it’ll go seven, with four of the games being decided by a run, and the Royals’ bullpen ultimately proving to be the deciding factor. It’s not crazy to think these two teams might meet again in the World Series next year, and if the Royals win this year and win another one of these people will start throwing the “dynasty” word around, and just two years ago even the most ardent defenders of Royals GM Dayton Moore would have thought that totally insane.

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Odd Year Blues: A Ballad


Instead of writing a long-winded essay about what went wrong with the Giants’ 2015 season, from the injuries to the rampant crappy pitching, I decided to simply eulogize the 2015 Giants with song. This is a song I call “Odd Year Blues”. If it seems strangely reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”, that’s just coincidence talking right there. However, you can totally sing along to it to the tune of “Tombstone Blues”, and you should totally do it. Come on, no one’s watching…

Odd Year Blues

The 2015 season is dead now of course
Sunk in a slew of injuries and remorse
Now we just reminisce about Mike Morse
To the odd year, we are averse

The teeth of the fans began to violently grit
As their Carolinian ace began pitching like shit
They lost to a team that comes from a dank pit
In my 2010 bluray, I will immerse

MadBum’s on the YouTube
The Royals ain’t got no clues
Pablo’s out in Boston
He’s rediscovered food
I’m knelt down over porcelain
With the odd year blues

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