Posted February 04, 2013

Winter report card: San Francisco Giants

NL West, San Francisco Giants, Winter report cards
Angel Pagan

Angel Pagan’s key role in last year’s World Series title run helped earn him a four-year, $40 million deal from the Giants. (Getty Images)

With just a couple weeks before pitchers and catchers report, we’re checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there’s still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2012, and I’ll revisit and adjust their grades to account for late-winter deals as spring training begins.

For all previously published report cards, click here.

San Francisco Giants

2012 Results: 94-68, 1st place in NL West (Hot Stove Preview)

Key departures: OF Melky Cabrera, RHP Clay Hensley, 1B Aubrey Huff, RHP Guillermo Mota, OF Xavier Nady, RHP Brad Penny, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 2B Ryan Theriot, C Eli Whiteside, RHP Brian Wilson

Key arrivals: RHP Boof Bonser, RHP Chad Gaudin, RHP Scott Proctor, OF Andres Torres, IF Wilson Valdez

The Giants do it their way, and although general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy may drive statheads crazy with their counterintuitive personnel moves and willingness to play hackers like Hector Sanchez (.295 OBP) at the expense of Brandon Belt (.360 OBP), it has resulted in two world championships in three years. In that context, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Sabean is largely standing pat with the mix of players that won the World Series last fall, with only one player who was recently a regular — Andres Torres — added to the roster this winter, and Torres was a member of their 2010 championship squad.

Several of the Giants who have departed figure prominently in their recent history, but most of them had been reduced to bystander status by October, including the suspended Cabrera, the benched Huff and Theriot, the mop-and-bucketman Mota, and the injured Sanchez and Wilson, America’s most heavily bearded cheerleader. Meanwhile, Sabean paid handsomely to retain centerfielder Angel Pagan (four years, $40 million), second baseman Marco Scutaro (three years, $20 million) and lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt (three years, $18 million). He also awarded Santiago Casilla a three-year, $15 million deal that bought out the righty’s first two years of eligibility for free agency, and avoided arbitration with Hunter Pence by signing the rightfielder to a one-year, $13.8 million deal.

Though it’s the longest and most expensive deal, the Pagan one, which covers his age 32-35 seasons, may make the most sense. In a market where B.J. Upton received nearly twice the overall commitment and around 50 percent more per year, it’s worth noting that Pagan has been the significantly more valuable of the two players over the past four seasons on both sides of the ball. In addition to his 112 stolen bases, he has hit .285/.337/.427 with 32 homers, for a .278 True Average, while Upton has stolen 80 bases and hit .242/.316/.420 with 80 homers for a .267 True Average. Both WARP and WAR (Baseball-Reference’s version) peg Pagan as worth 3.5 wins per year over the past four years, with WARP valuing Upton at 2.5 wins a year, and WAR at 1.8 — roughly half as much. Still, the early-to-mid-30s timespan does make Pagan’s contract a risk, and if his OBP falls off much from last year’s .338 mark, he’s not a particularly great choice for a leadoff hitter.

The Scutaro deal is lower stakes but riskier given that it covers his age 37-39 seasons and that he spent the first two-thirds of this past season looking as though he was done, hitting just .271/.324/.361 in 415 PA for the Rockies. His sizzling .362/.385/.473 in his 268 PA for the Giants isn’t sustainable, but taken together, his overall performance wasn’t all that out of character; his .268 True Average and 2.6 WARP was right in line with the .264 True Average and 2.5 WARP he averaged over the previous two seasons. If he keeps that up, he’ll be well worth the money over the life of the deal.

As for Pence, his contract looks like a significant overpay in light of his 2012 showing. Though he did rack up 24 homers and 104 RBIs, he hit just .253/.319/.425 in 688 PA between Philadelphia and San Francisco, for only 0.3 WARP. That said, he has averaged 3.6 WARP over the previous five seasons, and will be only 30 years old as of April 13. If he doesn’t rebound, the Giants won’t be stuck with him for a longer period of time.

Affeldt, 33, has proven to be a reliable and durable reliever in his four years with San Francisco, with last year’s 67 appearances, 2.70 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine representative of his work in that span. Though stronger against lefties, he’s able to get righties out as well, and Bochy will use him to close out a game if the occasion suits. That said, $6 million a year is a stretch for a pitcher who has only one season in the past six in which he’s been worth more than 1.0 WAR. Casilla, 32, is coming off a 2.84 ERA and 7.8 strikeouts per nine; he has averaged 1.1 WAR over the past three years, so his contract is a bit less of a stretch.

As for the newcomers, the 35-year-old Torres is a late bloomer whose 2010 season with the Giants represented the first time in his major league career he received even 200 plate appearances. He hasn’t been able to live up to that year’s .268/.343/.479 showing; last year, he slipped to .230/.327/.337 in 434 PA with the Mets. For $2 million, he’ll serve as the short half of a leftfield platoon with Gregor Blanco, which doesn’t look like a bad move if he can approach last year’s .286/.382/.381 line in 171 PA against lefties.

Valdez, Bonser, Gaudin and Proctor are among the more recognizable names from the list of players being brought to camp on minor league deals, which isn’t to say that they’ll be particularly helpful. Valdez hit just .206/.236/.227 in 208 PA last year, and owns a lifetime .236/.281/.313 line; there’s a reason his fame on the baseball field centers around an emergency pitching appearance in 2011. Bonser, 31, is a former Giants first round pick (2000) who has been limited to just 15 major league appearances since 2008 amid ongoing arm woes including 2011 Tommy John surgery, which limited him to 39 1/3 innings in the Giants’ chain last year. Gaudin, 29, spent the year with the Marlins but put up a beefy 4.54 ERA in 69 1/3 innings. He owns a career 4.63 mark and has already toiled for eight other major league teams; nine through his age 30 season might be some kind of record. Proctor, 36, is back from a year in the Korean Baseball Organization. He hasn’t been the same since Joe Torre made him pitch his arm off with the Yankees and Dodgers from 2004-2008; he was thoroughly battered (2.5 HR/9, 6.9 BB/9, 7.14 ERA) in 40 1/3 innings for the Braves and Yankees in 2011.

Unfinished business: Backing Buster Bouncing back from a season-ending ankle injury, Posey enjoyed a remarkable season in 2012, hitting .336/.408/.549 with 24 homers in 610 PA, good enough not only for a batting title but NL MVP honors. Bochy was able to get the most out of him by giving him 29 starts at first base, which kept his bat in the lineup but cost them the services of Belt and usually subjected the team to the presence of Sanchez, who hit .280/.295/.390 with an appalling 52/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 227 PA. Bochy started him batting fourth, fifth or sixth in 27 of his 49 starts, creating a significant drag on the offense, and it’s not as though his defense was much to write home about, either. In addition to pitch-framing tendencies that left much to be desired, he nabbed just 23 percent of opposing base stealers (the league average was 27 percent) and ranked fourth in the majors in missed pitches (wild pitches plus passed balls) per nine innings among all catchers with at least 400 innings behind the plate at 0.55. By comparison, Posey nailed 30 percent of runners and missed just 0.26 pitches per nine.

In addition to his major league experience, the 23-year-old Sanchez had just 50 games under his belt at Double-A and Triple-A. If the Giants are serious about developing him as a longer-term alternative to Posey, he’d be better off going back to Triple-A to work on his approach at the plate and behind it on a regular basis while a more experienced catcher wiles away time on the bench waiting for Posey’s days off. At this point, that would require Sabean to make a deal given how picked over the free agent ranks are, which isn’t to say that it should be terribly difficult to do so.

Preliminary grade: C. The Giants certainly haven’t done anything radical this offseason. The money they’ve spent has been to keep together a team that just won a world championship, and while that generally doesn’t yield high dividends — no team has repeated as World Series winners since then 1998-2000 Yankees — the largest risks they took aren’t exorbitant ones. They bypassed the easy temptation of overpaying the high-profile Wilson, didn’t overcommit to Pence and don’t have any glaring weaknesses as spring training nears. Whether that will be enough to keep up with the overhauled Dodgers and Diamondbacks remains to be seen.


"Whether that will be enough to keep up with the overhauled Dodgers and Diamondbacks remains to be seen."


First of all, this same Giants team beat the current Dodgers down the stretch to win the west. Lets not foget Gonzalez came onto the first place Dodgers at the time. Add Greinke to that, they are better but lets not just assume they're better.


As for the Diamondbacks. They just trashed one of their two best SP prospects and their best player. They might be more consistent, but are they better than the Giants who won 94 games last year?


This Giants core has won 2 of last 3 WS and hasn't lost in the playoffs yet. Maybe staying pat was what the doctor ordered. A C is harsh.


Without Melky this team would not have even made the post season last year.


Giants need the following, which does do not show up on StatMonkey analysis:


1) Sandoval for the full season, in shape, hitting like he can.


2) Young players Belt and Crawford showing consistency at the plate (Belt with power), rather than occasional flashes.


3) Bounceback from Pence who is much better, historically, than he showed in his time with the Jints.


4) Bounceback from Lincecum.


With these, they have a significant upgrade over last year's team, although this bonehead writer would probably still find a way to say it didn't matter.


Pitching and clutch hitting win in the postseason. The Giants have a ton of both. When you have a great hand you don't trade in your cards.


pdubbstrem...well seems as though everyone forgets the "prize"!

If there was a 'formula" that guaranteed victory the teams with the most

money would would surely purchase the rights...however that being said

the SF Giants have come as close to the definition of "team win" as any

sports franchise in the current millenium....let the rest of the pack keep

to the chase....the Giants are the best for a reason!!!

pdubbstrem 2 Like

The Giants have won two of the last three titles.  The adjective "counterintuitive" is rather ignorant.  Unless the point is to not win championships.  The Giants' method isn't "counterintuitive"; it's called "beating the market."  Also, as it relates to "In that context..." Tell me: WHAT OTHER CONTEXT IS THERE?  Last I checked, WINNING the World Series was the point.  Unless I'm missing something.  Just because a team didn't win it YOUR WAY doesn't mean it's any less impressive.  However, winning it a different way DOES mean that your way, Jay, was, in fact, wrong.

CaryA.Cardinale 2 Like

"Whether that will be enough to keep up with the overhauled Dodgers and Diamondbacks remains to be seen. "


LOL the 2 time world champions do not try and keep up with lesser teams, they try to keep up with the Giants. Wake up.


 @CaryA.Cardinale This was a poorly written article that wreaks of anti-stat undertones.  "Counterintuitive" and "In that context."  In the context of, you know, winning it all twice in the last three years, perhaps it's not so counterintuitive.  

TA1 2 Like

Key Arrivals:  Boof Bonser???  You lost me right then.  Do you watch the games????  So Pence didn't have a high BA, but those RBIs are what the Giants want out of him - which he did quite well.  Hector is better than you think.  Gibson will maime the D'Backs and Hanley will might cause riots in  the Dodgers dugout...  By the way, how is chemistry accounted in your WAR ratings???   I will take my chances with the Giants!!!

EdCallaert1 2 Like

I think you are mistaken about the readiness of Hector Sanchez. He showed a lot of promise and development at the plate, including increased discipline as the season progressed and a similar improvement behind the plate as well, especially blocking low throws. If you look around at backup catchers around the league, few have more talent or more promise than Hector. I think you're really off base on this one.

GiantsG 2 Like

 @EdCallaert1 I agree. Sanchez in the second half hit.306/.333/.429. His .306 average was the 4th highest in all of baseball for catchers in the second half(PA >75). Sure his OBP leaves a little to be desired, but you are talking about a guy with 250 plate appearances in his career.


 @GiantsG  @EdCallaert1 you reward a catcher "promoted" from Double A ball, helped his team WIN the World Series as a ROOKIE by sending him to Triple A??? And to sign an old veteran catcher? Give me a break, Hector was one of if not THE best backup catchers last year especially the second half, he will only get better!!! Hail to the Orange and Black!