Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Tuesday, April 27, 2004
 

1) It's easy to picture. Two guys, with horn-rimmed glasses and mussed hair, bouncing ideas off each other. Several sheets of wadded up paper on a conference table, framing the mugs of cold coffee.

"Okay, how 'bout: Runner on third, one out. A hitter bounces back to the pitcher. The runner at third breaks for the plate. The pitcher throws to first, and then the first baseman comes home for the double play."

"That's stupid. Why would the pitcher go to first?"

"Uh, well, he looks the runner at third back, then, uh, just screws up."

"And even if the pitcher freezes the runner at third, they wouldn't have time to nail him at the plate after they get the out at first."

"Well, uh, the catcher blocks the plate, or something."

They're thinking up double plays, you see. Pitching the ideas back and forth, trying to present new ways for the Giants to hit into double plays. Twenty one games into the 2004 season, and the Giants have already hit into a squajillion double plays; more than a fropillion more than the next closest team. This his hard to do when your team is near the bottom of the league in on-base percentage. Come August, and the pitch sessions will be even more ridiculous.

"So, after the grounder hits the unicorn, it caroms to the third baseman. He then throws home, and the runner at third, who is allergic to hazelnuts and a hypochondriac, starts to wonder if his throat is swelling up...."

How about a 1-4-2 double play, as described above? Sure. One where the double play isn't actually turned, but is given because a runner was out of the base line? Why not?

In Tuesday's game, the Giants had runners at first and second with no outs in the eighth inning. Michael Tucker grounded a ball up the middle, just eluding Rafael Furcal's glove. Maybe next time, Michael. The following hitter was A.J. Pierzynski -- Polish for "weak groundball", in case you were wondering -- who tried his best to hit into a double play, but Furcal bobbled the play, and was only able to get one out.

So, after hitting two straight grounders in the middle of the infield, Neifi Perez finally gets the job done. He hits a weak grounder to second, and even though Furcal can't handle the exchange, Pierzynski was trying to tackle J.D. Drew in right, which leads to a deserved interference call. Inning over.

It was like watching some nature show about salmon trying to swim upstream to spawn. The double play grounders, like the fish, have this innate sense of direction and purpose. It's almost beautiful in a way.

If you have the good fortune to know a Yankee fan, and this Yankee fan is complaining about how they have no second baseman, please kick them in the groin. There have been instances of spoiled Yankee fans complaining on the internet, but You've Been Virtually Kicked in the Crotch! cards from Blue Mountain don't have the same effect.



2) It must be hard to be a beat writer, with tens of thousands of people scrutinizing your every word. There is probably an ongoing struggle not to be repetitive, as well. With that honest disclaimer out of the way, it's time to check in on the voting for the Nobel Prize for Ridiculous Understatements. The winner is Contra Costa Times writer Joe Roderick, and it wasn't even close, for the following gem:
The way things are progressing, it may take more than (Deivi) Cruz to get the struggling Giants playing their usual brand of baseball.
That is a distinct possibility. It may take more than Deivi Cruz. It's not something we thought we'd ever have to consider, but there it is, in print for everyone to see. We'll just have to check back in July.

Brian Dallimore is hitting very well in Fresno, again, but Cruz was called up. Cruz can stand at the shortstop's position, and is able to reach about a groundball every five games which Pedro Feliz wouldn't have been able to reach. Well, five games if Cruz were a starter, which he isn't. This team isn't losing games because the backup shortstop isn't handling grounders, it's losing because it can't hit. Or pitch, but that's another matter. Any glimmer of offense would be welcome, and Dallimore is the most accessible help the Giants have.

A reasonable projection for Dallimore: .275/.330/.410. If he could do that, the Giants would have finally found some protection for Bonds.



3) Number of homers for the Giants, not including Bonds: Eight, spread out between Ray Durham, Marquis Grissom, and Pedro Feliz.

Number of two-run homers, not including Bonds: Two.

Number of three-run homers, not including Bonds: Zero.

Amazing. After 21 games, there are still five regulars who haven't homered. Other than quasi-starter Feliz, there isn't anyone homering off the bench, either. Not one stray fastball. Not one hanging breaking ball to any of these clowns. And when one of the Non-Bonds Three gets a hold of one, there certainly isn't going to be anyone on base.

These are the sort of stats which scream "fluke". There were legitimate doubts about Michael Tucker, but he isn't the game's worst hitter. Same goes for Pierzynski, Alfonzo, and Snow. They could all have bad years, sure, but they aren't likely to be the worst hitters in the game. It only seems like it right now. Between the double plays, and everyone other than a select quartet having the worst slumps of their respective careers, this team appears worse than they are. For the most part, that is.

The pitching doesn't look like it's going to get much better. though. Wayne Franklin, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.


4) Optimism break. Ahhhh. Dan Ortmeier is doing well in AA. Matt Cain is doing very well in San Jose. The giant volcano that is Yellowstone did not cover the continental United States in several feet of ash and soot after a violent eruption. Yet.

Tune in next week for another optimism break.


5) Comment starter of the week: This team is bad.

How bad is it?

This team is so bad, ___________.

Fill in the blank, you amateur Henny Youngmans, you....

posted by G at 11:40 PM





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     Tuesday, April 20, 2004
 1) As the first Dodger series of the year approached, the Giants furrowed their collective brow, and screamed, "Not in our house!" Then the Dodgers let themselves in, as the Giants said, "Well, okay, you can come in. But you'll have to take off your shoes!" The Dodgers did no such thing, and tracked mud over the very expensive, non-publicly funded carpets. "Okay," said the Giants, "you don't have to take your shoes off, but please, we beg of you, don't crap in the aquarium." This, of course, was a request not honored, and began the desperate search for anything resembling a fish net or pool skimmer.

The above paragraph could have been lifted from a description of the 2000 season's start. Kevin Elster hit three homers in the first game ever at Pac Bell Park, the first strike in an eventual sweep by the Blue Horde. The Giants shook off the tough start, and went on to post the best record in baseball that year. The subtle difference between that team and this year's version is the 2000 team was good.

That may be an overreaction, but one which is completely warranted. It's hard not to want off this carousel of bad hitters, and the pitching isn't all-world either. The lineup is like an unplugged, intimate show with John Lennon, with the rest of the bill including Ratt, Starship, Nickelback, Saxon, Kwame and a New Beginning, and a solo Mike Love. There isn't a quick fix in sight, either.
New, Revised Predictions for 2004:

San Diego 90-72
Los Angeles 86-76
Arizona 85-77
Colorado 69-93
Giants 6-156
If March is the time for irrational optimism, April is certainly the time for needless panic. Hitting into sixteen double plays per game is not something a team can expect to do for a whole season, but it seems as if the Giants are well on their way. Brett Tomko is not going to give up back-to-back-to-back homeruns every game. Just every other game. The Giants' hopes are hinging on retreads and injury-cases, players who aren't as good as they once were, and players who never were very good. Check back in a month, because it is still extraordinarily early, but this start is ominous.

If you're feeling charitable to this roster assembled by Brian Sabean, remember the 2002 Angels started the season 3-8, and looked bad doing it. If you, like a good number of Giants fans, are more comfortable wading through a bog of pessimism, remember that sort of thing is generally the exception, and not the rule.



2) With the bases loaded and one out in Sunday's game, Felipe Alou had Pedro Feliz pinch hit for Dustan Mohr. Keep in mind, Feliz was one of the last pinch-hitters on the bench. Feliz and Mohr both bat right-handed. With Mohr out of the game Feliz had to play rightfield, which is not his natural position. There was no reason to bring up Feliz in that situation, unless Alou believes him to be some sort of secret weapon.

As far as secret weapons go, Feliz isn't exactly a prototype X-7 rocket. He's more akin to keeping the pull-my-finger bit in your cache of jokes on a first date, just in case all your other jokes are bombing. Sure, it might do the job. And maybe you'll end up marrying that person. However, most of the time -- about 72% in Feliz's case -- the desired effect will absolutely not be achieved. His approach to hitting is less than cerebral, and frustrating to watch. He's also been about the third-best hitter on the team so far, and probably about 39th down on the list of things to worry about.

Of the three-headed beast patrolling right field, Mohr seems to have the best chance to pleasantly surprise. By pinch-hitting for Mohr as if he were Rey Ordonez in an American League game, Alou seems determined to not find out what he can do.



3) Barry Bonds is good.



4) One of the brighter points of the new season has been Dave Fleming. The new voice of Giants radio seemed capable in limited action last year, but he is quickly proving himself to be a fine announcer. For Monday night's game, Jon Miller was in one of his goofier moods, hilariously riffing on yoga positions. When Miller is in one of these moods, it would seem all too easy to screw it up; either by not giving Miller enough room to do his thing, or by completely ignoring the action on the field, trying too hard to join in on the jokes.

Fleming held his own, showing some restrained wit, and never losing his place in the game. His voice is very announceratorial, to make up a word, but that doesn't mean a thing if you can't call a good game. Fleming can, and considering the smooth delivery and respect he already has from the rest of the announcing team, seems like someone who will be around with the Giants for a long, long time.



5) The bold David Aardsma experiment looks like a failure. Credit Brian Sabean and Alou for throwing someone as green as Aardsma in the fire, but he hasn't looked steady at all. Even in the outings where he holds the opposition scoreless, there are usually a couple of baserunners to be found. Send him down to Fresno, or even Norwich, and call him back up if he finds his sea legs.

The roster spot will likely go to Scott Eyre, which would leave the Giants with three left-handers in the pen, and none of them especially qualified to pitch against right-handed batters. Franklin might be a casualty in that case, but the Giants don't have any right-handed pitching of any note to call up. Look for Leo Estrella, Part II: The Inheritance Comes Around, at a park near you, if Aardsma is indeed demoted.



6) Fear of Looking Stupid Theorem:
If you agree with the acquisition of a player when he first joins your team, you will be more patient with that player than others. Especially in comparison to a player whose acquisition you didn't agree with.
Michael Tucker strikes out in his first game, he's a no-good bum. Edgardo Alfonzo inches closer and closer to becoming one of the biggest free agent flops in recent memory, and in my mind he's perpetually about to turn the corner. I doubt I'll begin to throw A.J. Pierzynski to the sharks until 2005, even if he continues to hit at his current level.

The theorem doesn't apply to players who you were lukewarm on. J.T. Snow had a decent on-base percentage last year, and there weren't too many options to replace him, so it wasn't the worst idea to bring him back for another year. After a week of swinging the bat like W.C. Fields, Snow's polls are dropping. Even a whopping 65% of 13-year old girls who think Snow is cute -- historically his strongest demographic -- have "little to no" confidence in him, according to Zogby. Snow is an October morn, in the fair year of 1929. Sell.



7) Comment starter of the week: Who is your favorite forgotten Giant? I will always be partial to Felipe Crespo, but Tom O'Malley gets my vote here. No reason, either.

posted by G at 10:33 PM





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     Wednesday, April 14, 2004
 
1) The Giants haven't won a World Series since they moved to San Francisco. This fact is thrown in the face of the Giants fan often, usually when arguing with a fan of either the A's or Dodgers. Bah. Keep your Bud Light World Championship commemorative posters from the late-'80s. We've watched Barry Bonds for the past decade. We win.

The milestones are nice. Watching him chase 755 is going to be one of the best periods in Giants history. It's more than that, though. For over ten years, the Giants have had the most exciting player in the game. He's a player who, more than any other, prevented people from going to the bathroom when their body told them to. A player who, once his name was announced over the P.A., made people run away from the concession stand with nary a napkin or mustard packet. Stadium hot dogs generally taste like feet, but eating one dry isn't a bad price to pay for watching Bonds hit.

Bonds forced a manager to walk him with the bases loaded. That was something to talk about for days, and he didn't do anything. He's hit home runs in All Star Games, won a home run derby, and dominated a World Series. When another team's fire-breathing closer came into the game, everyone in the stands got busy figuring who would have to get on base for Bonds to have a chance to hit. Bonds is the garden hose stashed in the bushes, while everyone else is screwing around with water balloons.

My favorite Bonds moment, drawing from the non-obvious division, was a 1995 game where he hit a three-run homer to win a game against Trevor Hoffman. There's a section for comments, just for questions like this: What is your favorite semi-obscure Bonds moment? Maybe it's one the rest of us have forgotten.



2) If there is a book on Michael Tucker, it seems like the Giants didn't waste time trying to find it in their scouting library. No, that time was spent idly leafing through a Maxim. Sure, the first week of the season can be wacky. Tigers are in first. Neifi is, you know, useful at the plate. There isn't much which can be definitively learned from the first week of the season.

Except....

Tucker can't hit a changeup. This can't be an early-season mirage, because he just looks too bad. Trevor Hoffman threw three change-ups in a row, and Tucker swung through all three. Every pitcher with a changeup has thrown it against Tucker, and the end result is always Tucker waving his bat as if he were holding a dead otter. This is known in some circles as a bad omen.

The position of Official Waiting for Boof Scapegoat is a hotly contested one, but it doesn't look like much of a race at this point. Consider that Tucker:
* Will end a lot of innings directly in front of Bonds.

* Cost the Giants a draft pick.

* Is signed for next year too.

* Has a very real chance to be the worst rightfielder for the Giants since Dave Martinez, depending on your affinity for Glenallen Hill.
The only thing standing in his way are some clutch hits; perhaps a walk-off homer or two. From here, though, his candidacy looks "strong to very strong". Tucker for Scapegoat in '04!



3) How bad was the lineup used by Felipe Alou on Wednesday afternoon? Here are the career on-base percentages of the group:
Neifi, .301
Snow, .353
Grissom, .319
Feliz, .274
Tucker, .338
Pierzynski, .341
Mohr, .319
Ransom, .248
That was the worst lineup fielded by a Giants team in recent memory. They were fittingly shut out by Wes Obermueller and the vaunted Brewer relief corps. Last year, in a game against Roy Oswalt, Alou ran out this group:
Eric Young
Marvin Benard
Jeffrey Hammonds
Andres Galaragga
Pedro Feliz
Neifi Perez
Todd Linden
Yorvit Torrealba
That's the '27 Yankees compared to Wednesday's lineup. To find a worse lineup in the Bonds Era, you'd have to go back to 1996. For the first game of a doubleheader, Dusty Baker started:
Benard
Bill Mueller
Glenallen Hill
Rick Wilkins
Kim Batiste
Jacob Cruz
Desi Wilson
Rich Aurilia
Note that Aurilia wasn't good in 1996, so it even looks worse than at first glance. Batting fifth...Kim......Baaaaatiste! That has to be the worst lineup of the Bonds Era. However, rooting through the bowels of Retrosheet might uncover something even worse. If you can find a lineup more putrid than that of the 9/15/96 game from the 1993-2004 seasons, you'll win a shout-out in the liner notes of my next album.

Last year, I wrote the Giants "had the depth of David Lee Roth in a wading pool." Yeah, well, it isn't any better this year. An injury to the disintegrating Ray Durham, a day off for Bonds, and suddenly the Giants are fielding something worse than the Greek Olympic team.



4) Against a left-handed pitcher, J.T. Snow should not bat second. You don't need some pithy blogger to tell you that, but apparently Felipe Alou does. To get ready for his at-bats against Chris Capuano, Jon Miller mentioned Snow had "studied some film". Judging by his at-bats, it seems a fair guess that the film was, "The Bad, the Ugly, and the Fucking Terrible." I tried to write one without the swearing, but did you see those at-bats? Sometimes you just have to calls them as you sees them.

That isn't even the worst lineup abomination Alou has presented. Neifi Perez -- who is like a fine European artisan, except he makes outs instead of handmade leather shoes -- is the de facto leadoff hitter when Durham isn't in the lineup. Neifi has had a fine start to the season, sure, but don't peel back the foil on that Swanson's Salisbury Crow just yet. It is still very, very early.

Back in 1998, Rey Sanchez had a hot start to his year. Someone in the Giants newsgroup, and I can't remember exactly who, made the bold proclamation that he'd eat a baseball if Sanchez hit .310 for the year. Wackier things have happened than a random fluctuation of a player's batting average, so I'm going to hold off on anything like that. No "walking from one city to another city several hundred miles away" gag, either. But if Neifi Perez hits above .280 this year, or has an on-base percentage of over .350, I will eat a box of black licorice. Black licorice, of course, being the flakes Satan brushes off his shoulder before a date.

Which all obscures the larger point, that Neifi should never ever ever ever ever ever ever lead off a game. Alou is setting his lineup so his worst hitter has the best chance of getting the most plate appearances. You know this. You know I know this. I'm wasting my time. Preaching to the choir. The only way to make a difference is to get out the picket signs, and do this '60s-style. Storm the administration building, as it were. "Hey hey! Alou! Neifi shouldn't lead off for you! Hey hey! Alou..."


posted by G at 6:22 PM





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     Tuesday, April 06, 2004
 From the first page of the Giants Opening Day Playbill:
Cast of Characters:

Craig Kilborn as A.J. Pierzynski
Rich Aurilia as Tony Torcato
Gallon of Kerosene as Leo Estrella
Sweaty Computer-Animated Cowboy as Kirk Rueter
My 16-year Old Nephew as Cody Ransom
Vengeful Jehovah of the Old Testament as Barry Bonds

and introducing Livan Hernandez's Gut as The Soft Dirt in Front of Home Plate
If you didn't sit through the performance, the Cliff's Notes will serve you well enough. Rueter was looking very poor in the first two innings, but he settled down. The fringe member of the pitching staff, Leo Estrella, looked like someone who would clear waivers when Schmidt comes back, and who probably lost his ranking on the trust totem to David Aardsma. Two of the bullpen's key cogs were outstanding. And the dictionary called; they ran out of adjectives for Barry Bonds.

The most impressive part of the game, apart from the Bonds homer, was the performance put in by Felix Rodriguez. The first out came quick, but then Felix fell behind Brad Ausmus 2-0 despite throwing two obvious strikes to start the at-bat. After getting to a 3-1 count, Felix was brilliant. He got Ausmus -- whose name Chris Berman insisted on pronouncing like the should-be illegal holiday of "Assmas" -- to pop up. Then he made Jose Vizcaino look like, well, Jose Vizcaino. Ausmus and Vizcaino aren't exactly Ruth and Gehrig, but Felix looked like someone to trust in the late innings. Getting that Felix back would go a long way toward a division title.

Opening day wins are just nice.



2) The December 26th of spring training came, and it found Brian Sabean dragging several trees from the curb into his living room. "Who would throw these things out? Look, this one still has some tinsel!" Some of the acquisitions were inspired; Dave Veres and Mike Crudale are worth the minimal investment the team is putting in. Leo Estrella, on the other hand, looks as promising as The Whole Ten Yards.

With Wayne Franklin around to serve as a mop-up man and emergency starter -- now I'm washing lettuce...in a week or two I'll be on fries -- Chad Zerbe would have been a situational lefty. Nice in theory, but Zerbe has been worse against left-handed hitters over his career. Enter Kevin Walker, who has battled injuries throughout his career, but more closely fits the profile of left-handed setup man by actually retiring left-handed hitters. He looked good on Monday night, retiring Lance Berkman to keep the Giants in the game.

Rotoworld wrote Sabean has long coveted Walker, and if there is one area where Sabean commands respect, it is in his ability to sew a bullpen together. From Doug Henry, Rich Rodriguez, and Felix Rodriguez, to the more controversial deal for Tim Worrell, Sabean has been able to find key contributors to his bullpen in unlikely places. There are notable failures in this particular legacy -- some Giants fans still can't go to sleep without first checking their closet for Alvin Morman -- but they are few and far between.

Jason Christiansen hasn't looked good since 2001, so an efficient Walker could be crucial. Not only for his contributions on the mound, either, as anything which allows the Giants to become less reliant on Christiansen is a good thing. Christiansen may have a good season in him, but having no backup plan other than Jeff Urban could have been ugly.



3) Neifi. Oh, Neifi. The LeMaster of his domain was in midseason form tonight, striking out in a crucial spot with two runners on base, and failing to get a ball out of the infield. Somebody's mom once said, "If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all". It wasn't my mom, though, as she was too busy yelling things at Jeff Brantley to teach me such a thing. Who knows what she was screaming at Neifi after this game.

Some mother, somewhere, said such a thing and meant it. So from now on this blog will be free of all but the most necessary Neifi-bashing. It gets tiring, I'm sure, to read the same thing over and over. Yes, Neifi can't hit. You get it.



3.5) Boy, Neifi Perez sure can't hit. When scouting from behind a computer, it seems easy to look at a player like Marquis Grissom, and say, man, he should learn to walk. It can't be that easy, though. Maybe if Grissom consciously tries to take his walks, he loses his effectiveness, going from a .300/.320/.450 hitter to something more along the lines of a .240/.320/.380 level. Maybe Grissom has reached his ceiling as a hitter, using his wild aggressiveness as his best tool. Those aren't ideas which should be automatically subscribed to, but it is a valid counterpoint to those blithely prescribing more walks to cure a player's shortcomings.

Neifi, now that guy's got nothing to lose. He's one of the worst offensive players of all time. He's not going to get much worster. Someone should grab him by the lapels, and say, "Neifi, your glove is great, but you stink as a hitter. Try to work out some walks, because nothing else is working." Worst case, he drops from an empty .250 hitter to a .200 hitter, ditches the idea, then goes back to just being in the running for worst hitter ever. The possible rewards are obvious. You already have both feet in the dumpster, Neifi. There's no harm in digging a little bit for the recyclables.



4) Tony Gwynn, a superb color man, was in the booth for the Giants opener. When the camera was on him, it was easy to see the guy has a big melon. He's also gained a lot of weight since he broke into the league. A lot of weight.

I'm just putting the dots out there for everyone to see. It isn't my fault if people start connecting them.

posted by G at 1:38 AM





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     Thursday, April 01, 2004
 I've added a link for posting comments now. Thanks to Honest Wagner, a new Pirates blog, for alerting me this stuff is free.

Possible idea for the first discussion: Your feelings on abortion.

posted by G at 2:28 PM





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