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2006 Giants Team Review!
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Mailbag: Big on Bochy?
by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
November 7, 2006

Roger:

What do you think of the hiring of Bochy?  And what moves would you like to see the Giants make in the off-season?  If the Giants don't bring back Bonds, Alou or Durham, how will they score runs?  In 2005, the Giants dropped off 201 runs in scoring when Barry missed almost all the season.  Last season when he returned, even at less than he had been previously, they regained about half of the loss.

Richard:

 

Well Rog, I like the hiring of Bochy though really, none of the candidates (Piniella included) excited me all that much.  In the end I felt that Bochy was the best qualified for the job (Pinella included) though I also felt that - though not overwhelmed by any of them - there were several good candidates.  Manny Acta would likely have been my second choice with Bud Black not far behind him.  I'd like to see Ron Wotus get a shot at managing someone but I felt at this time it would have been better to start fresh with a new, outside approach.  He may still be back as a bench coach which could be a good thing as far as continuity.  I'm hearing Righetti has agreed to come back and that is good news.  Hopefully Mark Gardner will be back in the bullpen as well.
 
Bochy did a very good job in his time with San Diego, winning four divisions in 12 years without any overpowering lineups or high payrolls.  The Padres in fact won the West last year with the 17th highest payroll in baseball (the Giants were 10th).  He's a player's manager and has consistently gotten a lot out of little.  I think it even says a lot that he withstood five straight losing seasons; management realizing that he was doing a good job despite their failure to field a terribly competitive team. 
 
It will be interesting to see how well he works out.  This is only Sabean's second crack at hiring a field boss, having inherited Dusty Baker.  I have to admit excitement when Felipe Alou was first announced as manager but within a half a season I was already having my doubts.  By the middle of '04 I had realized that Alou needed to go.  Sadly we had to wait far longer than I had hoped so I am a bit more reserved this time around although I do have a good feeling about him. 
 
As far as off-season moves, aside from letting Pedro Feliz go far, far away, I think they need to work on getting guys with better on-base ability.  The Giants were second to last in the NL in OBP in 2005 (with Feliz' historically low .281 mark - the 14th lowest in ML history among all hitters with at least 640 PA - leading the way) and that is an area that needs to get a lot better. 
 
Obviously they have holes to fill - 3B, 1B, 2B, left, center and/or right field and quite possibly catcher - and of course they'll have to address Jason Schmidt and if he's not back, who would replace him.  However I'm not as concerned about the state of the pitching staff as the rest of the roster.  They need obviously to get younger.  I've remained a supporter of Sabean despite my constant angst last off-season over the age of the ball club, but I am glad to see that they say they will abandon the extreme veteran philosophy - though given the early Luis Gonzalez rumors I remain a tad skeptical of that claim.  At the same time, I am mindful of the fact that 19 players drafted by Sabean played with the Giants in 2006 so I definitely see younger days on the horizon. 
 
At third base, one guy who I feel the Giants would be wise to go after via the trade route would be Morgan Ensberg of Houston.  Coming off a down year and still, I believe, only arbitration eligible (he made $3.8 million in '06), he would be affordable and would not cost as much to acquire given his poor showing this past season.  He gets on base a lot (.396 OBP in '06 despite his .235 BA) and I feel that it was last season rather than the '05 season that was an aberration.  He would be a significant upgrade over Feliz.
 
I'm certainly not against bringing back Durham but that would depend on whether he prices himself out of the Giants range.  With Frandsen waiting in the wings, they should not go overboard on him.  An alternative choice that intrigues me would be Mark DeRosa.  Though he didn't see a lot of time at second base in '06, he can play there and could be a cheaper stop-gap to Frandsen. 
 
At first base, Hillenbrand obviously was a bit disappointing after they acquired him and his lowish OBP does concern me though given the right set of circumstances and surrounding players, I'm not against bringing him back.  He is a career .287 hitter and before joining the Giants, his OBP was .342 and the previous two seasons it was .343 and .348.  Not real high but not all that low either.  Getting traded mid-season - even at your own request - can be hard enough to adjust to (we often forget these are human beings and not robots) and he obviously had an extreme set of circumstances with all that led to his departure in Toronto. 
 
I've seen that they seem to be chasing Gary Matthews Jr. to play CF though I expect he'll return to Texas should they hire Wakamatsu as their manager which I expect they will.  I'm not so sure though that he didn't just have a career year and I would be a bit apprehensive about him.  Still he might be a better CF choice than anyone else who is available on the free agent market.  I like Juan Pierre's speed a lot and I think that's something the Giants could use more of but he sure made a lot of outs last year (11th highest single season total in history) while recording just a .330 OBP.
 
Of course Alfonso Soriano's name is the hot one on the market and the one many Giants fans seem to covet.  I'm not as big on him as other people are but then again I'm not against him either.  But I do think the price range he's seeking (he supposedly wants Beltran type money) will keep the team out of the running and probably for the best.  He's a very good player but not one to build a team around.
 
As far as free agents go, the market is kind of thin, especially in the outfield and Sabean may just have to work his magic through trades.  Given his prolific track record in that regard (A.J. Pierzynski aside), that does not concern me.
 
As for Mr. Bonds, well, what can you say?  He had a fantastic final two months of the '06 season but struggled badly before that.  That however could be expected of any player who missed nearly an entire season.  Still, he is going to be 43 next July and you have to wonder how much he is worth and even more importantly, how much you would get back from him?  The Giants have plenty of money to spend but nonetheless need to spend it judiciously.  Spending $14 million (what he most recently is rumored to be seeking for '07) on him would not be wise and if he were to continue with that type of demand, I can't see him returning.  I personally hope they can bridge the gap because I have enjoyed watching him play all these years and would like to see him break the record in a Giants uniform.  Still, if he's not reasonable financially, then it may be time to move on.  I've never been one to fear the post-Bonds years, perhaps because I'm old enough to remember the Giants in a World Series without him. 
 
As for Moises Alou, I really can't say I'm going to miss him.  What a disappointment he was.  Whether it be him missing time due to injury or his lackluster numbers in the clutch in '05, he just didn't pan out liked we'd all have hoped.  I wish him well but feel it would be best for him to move on.  They need to get younger and healthier.
 
As for Schmidt, I don't expect him back because I think some team (Seattle) will offer him too much to turn down and more than the Giants can/should spend on him.  He's been fabulous but with his recent history of injury concerns, I'd be very reluctant to go overboard on him.  Then again, the options are once again limited in an unspectacular free agent year.
 
Daisuke Matsuaka would be a neat addition but he'll be way too expensive.  Barry Zito on the other hand presents an atractive alternative (and a nice way to zing the A's at the same time).  Still, as I said, with Lowry, Cain and Morris and with Lincecum on the way, I'm not too concerned about starting pitching.  Obviously they need to address the bullpen though, especially if Kline and Stanton are not resigned but bullpen guys are a dime a dozen and a crapshoot at best it seems nowadays. 
 
Finally, the catching position needs to be addressed in the likelyhood that Matheny will not be back.  As we've discussed, Alfonzo is not a starting catcher.  I would not be opposed to him as a backup by all means but they need to find a better starting alternative.  Among free agent possibilities - and again they are limited - the two best options are either Bengie Molina or Mike Piazza.  Piazza would help with the need for an offensive weapon but does not fit the "getting younger" profile and is a liability behind the plate which doesn't make a very good compliment to Alfonzo.  Molina would be my choice because he's younger and much better defensively.  And he's no slouch with a bat either though his OBP does not fit the profile I outliined earlier.  Still, he is more of an offensive weapon than Matheny and catcher is a position where a little offense can be sacrificed in favor of defense. 
 
One other option though that could be a cheaper, more viable one would be Gregg Zaun who provides a nice blend of offense and defense at a more affordable price.  However, he'll be 36 and has limited starting experience.
 
Where will the offense come from in '07?  Well we're a long way away from knowing that.  We should certainly begin to start finding out soon as Sabean has always been proactive at this time of the year.  I'm sure he has a plan of attack and I'm not worried.  The Giants have averaged nearly 89 wins a year since Sabean took over and  have every confidence in the Giants management to put together a team that can compete for the western division title. 
 
Good to hear from you again and keep in touch.  Go Giants!

 





Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, CA, and can be reached at richard@baseballevolution.com.

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