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October 3, 2012

Western Front

If It Wasn't for Accountability, I Wouldn't Have Any Ability

by Geoff Young

Oh, navel. Thou art so lovely and so perfectly placed. I could gaze upon thy glory fore'er and still not grasp all the intricacies of thy splendor. Or I could point at stuff I said earlier this year and laugh. Yeah, let's go with Plan B.

January 31: Fixing a Bug in the Mariners
What I said
The Mariners did not score enough runs in 2011 to field a competitive team. There was no single point of failure; rather, this was a systems-level issue, with nearly all components contributing. The solution is to add a promising young hitter, Jesus Montero, to the lineup. His strong minor-league track record and pedigree suggest that he can provide a boost to the offense in 2012 and beyond.

What happened
Montero hit a little—his 15 homers (all stats are through September 28) are good enough for fourth on the Mariners this year—although the .296 OBP leaves much to be desired. He spent more time at DH than at catcher, a trend that figures to continue into the future.

On the bright side, Montero doesn't turn 23 until the end of November, so there is plenty of time for him to plug the holes in his offensive game. Comparisons in the original article to Paul Konerko and Mike Sweeney seem off, mainly due to Montero's lack of plate discipline. Still, he should improve and become a middle-of-the-order force, particularly if playing a defensive position is removed from his list of responsibilities. Or not:

Pos

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

HR

BB

K

C

221

.311

.339

.500

10

11

37

DH

312

.223

.263

.308

5

15

59

As for the Mariners, their offense did improve, thanks mainly to John Jaso, Michael Saunders, and Kyle Seager. Seattle scored its 557th run in its 147th game, beating 2011's total with 15 games left. Even though Montero wasn't the catalyst, the Mariners at least showed signs of life on offense:

Year

G

R

R/G

TAv

2010

162

513

3.2

.242

2011

162

556

3.4

.246

2012

157

591

3.8

.251

Oh, and then there was this nugget about Michael Pineda, the guy traded to the Yankees for Montero: “He will get hurt at some point.” Pineda missed the entire 2012 season due to right labrum surgery, so yeah. But I can't take comfort in this because a) taking comfort in someone else's pain is sick and b) getting hurt is what pitchers do.

February 21: Runs? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Runs!
What I said

We don't know how this will play out, but the Giants responded to their miserable offensive showing in 2011 by letting Carlos Beltran, Mark DeRosa, Cody Ross, Jeff Keppinger leave via free agency; watching Pat Burrell and Orlando Cabrera retire; trading Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo to the Royals for Melky Cabrera; trading Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres to the Mets for Angel Pagan; and signing Joaquin Arias and Ryan Theriot as free agents.

What happened
Melky Cabrera hit well enough that he will lead the National League in batting average (but not be recognized as winner of the batting title) despite being suspended for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. Pablo Sandoval didn't hit like Adrian Beltre v. 2004, but Buster Posey did. Pagan contributed, as did my pre-season breakout pick, Brandon Belt, once he was finally given the opportunity.

And perhaps the most baffling improvement came when Marco Scutaro came over from Colorado on July 27 and forgot that he isn't much of a hitter. Add it all together, and the Giants made huge strides on offense this year, scoring more than they did in their 2010 World Championship season:

Year

G

R

R/G

TAv

2010

162

697

4.3

.259

2011

162

570

3.5

.251

2012

157

701

4.5

.272

All this despite nearly being outhomered at home by the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, who held a 27-23 lead with seven home games remaining for each before the Giants went on a rampage to win, 31-28.

Go figure.

February 28: Post-Moneyball Randomness
What I said

Here are three things that probably won't happen, but conceivably could happen, in Oakland in 2012.

  1. The A's Will Win Exactly 75 Games
  2. Tyson Ross Will Have a Breakout Season
  3. Manny Won't Be Manny

What happened

  1. The A's have won 89 games and appear headed to their first playoff appearance since 2006.
  2. Tyson Ross? That was a typo. I meant Josh Reddick. PECOTA had Ross at 64.2 IP, 4.45 ERA. CRABS (CRazy Ass Breakout Scenario) had him at 170 IP, 3.60 ERA. Reality has him at 73.1 IP, 6.50 ERA. Chalk one up for reality.
  3. Manny wasn't Manny, in any sense of the word. He hit .302/.348/.349 in 17 games at Triple-A Sacramento, with three extra-base hits (all doubles), five walks, and 17 strikeouts. The A's released him in June, and at last check, Ramirez has become a basketball dad, although Peter Gammons notes that Las Aguilas expects Manny to play for them this winter. ¿Quien sabe?

In my defense, nobody saw the A's approaching 89 wins this season. Ross was a terrible pick. I'm not sure I could have anticipated Reddick's power surge, but you know what I might have been able to see?  The emergence of Chris Carter. Given his track record, that would have been a better guess, and not just because it turned out to be right.

March 27: No Country for Old Pitchers
What I said

What a veteran pitcher offers a team like the Mariners, who don't appear to be headed anywhere in particular this season, is the luxury of not having to rush the young guns. He gives them innings, and even if they aren't brilliant innings (they won't be), they are good enough and cheap enough not to keep anyone awake at night.

[Kevin] Millwood has won the fifth spot in the rotation and will be paid $1 million to do his thing and buy the kids a little time.

What happened
Millwood did his thing and bought the kids a little time. It may not have been pretty (161 IP, 4.25 ERA, 0.6 WARP), but it was functional.

We also examined Bartolo Colon and Jamie Moyer in this article. Colon pitched beautifully for the A's before being hit with a drug suspension in August, while Moyer pitched like a 49-year-old who had missed the previous season recovering from surgery.

I make that last smart-ass comment with all possible respect. Moyer has six years on me, and I can't imagine trying to do what he did this season, let alone actually doing it. I'm rooting for one more shot.

April 3: Is Will Venable Underrated or Overrated? Probably.
What I said

It isn't that Venable is a bad player (he isn't). And it isn't that his offense doesn't suffer from Petco Park (it does, but not to the degree that some believe). It's that he's that guy who did that thing that one time and now you think he's great.

Late bloomer? Possibly. It isn't unprecedented. Again with my unavoidable Padres bias, a few that immediately spring to mind are Steve Finley, Matt Stairs, and John Vander Wal. It could be that Venable is another for whom things fail to “click” right away, but given the frequency with which players don't follow such a path, those are long odds.

More likely, Venable is what he is going to be. He is a useful enough player if deployed with discretion. Don't be misled by what you see on the field and start dreaming on possibilities. The flaws are part of his game.

What happened
Venable being Venable. His full seasons all look the same:

Year

Age

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

TAv

HR

BB

K

SB

CS

WARP

2010

27

445

.245

.324

.408

.273

13

45

128

29

7

2.8

2011

28

411

.246

.310

.395

.274

9

31

92

26

3

1.4

2012

29

452

.262

.333

.426

.281

9

40

89

23

6

2.0

This is who he is, this is what he does. Underrated? Overrated? I dunno, he's just Will Venable.

April 17: They Came from Across the Sea
What I said

When they [Yoenis Céspedes and Yu Darvish] finally do meet, it will be a joy to witness—not only as a human interest story, of two men with radically different backgrounds coming together to share the same stage, but also as a great baseball moment between two elite players who, a couple of decades ago, might never have had the opportunity to compete against one another on said stage. If that isn't good for everyone, I don't know what is.

What happened
On June 7, at Oakland, Céspedes singled to right on an 0-2 pitch from Darvish in the first inning. Nearly a month later, in Arlington, Darvish struck out Céspedes swinging in the second and the fourth. In the sixth, Céspedes drove an 0-1 pitch down the right-field line for a double.

Céspedes has gone 2-for-4 with a double and two strikeouts against Darvish in their respective rookie seasons (they could meet once more in Oakland over the season's final weekend). As you can see from Dan Brooks' handy and hypnotic Matchup Analysis Tool, the hits came on sinkers, while the strikeouts came on sliders.

April 24: Five Giant Themes
What I said

When [Bruce] Bochy still managed the Padres, I compiled a list of young hitters who played under him. This was before Adrian Gonzalez (who was ticketed for Triple-A in 2006 and got the call only because of a Ryan Klesko injury in spring training), but the names are less than inspiring. The most successful among them were Brad Ausmus and Khalil Greene.

The point of my diatribe back in 2005 was to bemoan the fact that Bochy wouldn't play a promising young hitter who had enjoyed a terrific collegiate career at Cal. His name was Xavier Nady, and he slipped to the second round of the 2000 draft due to signability concerns, aka Scott Boras.

What happened
The Giants signed Nady in August. He is playing for Bochy. I don't understand anything. Then again, as my wife points out, Nady is older now and not as good as he used to be.

May 15: La Casa Sucia
What I said

Here are my guesses as to what the Padres will do:

  • Trade Street when healthy, recall Boxberger; let the “Babylon 5” jokes begin
  • Release Hudson and Bartlett, recall Gyorko and Amarista
  • Trade Quentin when healthy, install Darnell as staring left fielder
  • Keep Richard; he's still cheap and he makes for a nice, if unexciting, insurance policy
  • Keep Volquez; his price tag, relative youth, and upside are enough to keep him around a while
  • Keep Venable; the demand just isn't there

What happened

  • They extended Street, which I didn't see coming at all. They recalled Boxberger, who has been “effectively wild” during his brief stint with the big club. “Captain Sheridan” hasn't caught on as a nickname, nor has “Scarecrow,” which would be acceptable as well.
  • They released Hudson and Bartlett, albeit too late. They recalled Amarista, who garnered regular playing time as a “super-sub” of sorts. This looked better before he stopped hitting in the second half (.215/.270/.319). They did not recall Gyorko, despite his 30 homers combined between Double- and Triple-A.
  • They extended Quentin, which was a mild surprise—although given his connection with GM Josh Byrnes, not as much as some folks might have thought. Darnell got hurt and saw his season end after 19 plate appearances.
  • They kept Richard, Volquez, and Venable. In the cases of Richard of Volquez, it was more out of necessity than anything else. They are the only two pitchers who made more than 15 starts for the Padres this year. No other team in 2012 has had fewer than four pitchers meet that criterion. In fact, not since the 2009 Mariners—Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn—has a team had only two pitchers make more than 15 starts in a season. Before that, you have to go back to the 1995 Reds—Pete Schourek and John Smiley, if you're wondering.

June 19: Angels Rush in Where Rangers Fear to Treat
What I said

On May 16, after Pujols' second homer of the year, Hamilton led him in that category, 18-2. The gap has closed to 22-10. I'm not saying I'd want to bet on Pujols to end the season in the lead. But I'm not saying I'd want to bet against him, either.

What happened
Hamilton wins. As of this writing, he has 43 homers to Pujols' 30. However, since May 16, Pujols has out-homered Hamilton, 28-25.

* * *

This article would have worked better had I made more bold predictions. Maybe I'll try that next year. But I predict not.

2 comments have been left for this article.

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