Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday baseball post

Well, Friday Giants fan post. Steven Rubio has been on a roll Sabean-bashing lately, and while I'd remind him that Sabean's regime is also responsible for Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez...well, here's the thing:

Y'all know what OPS+ is, right? It's just league- and park- adjusted OBP + SLG, on a scale where 100 is league average. Now, it's not position-adjusted, so one would expect catchers and second basemen to be a below 100, right? On the other hand, virtually anyone who can play any other major league position can play first base, which means that the easiest thing in the world would be to find a first baseman who can at least hit league-average.

Here are the OPS+ of National League 1Bs this season, for the other teams. I'm using the guy listed as the regular at baseball-reference...I'm just going to list the numbers, not the names:

199, 164, 161, 141, 136, 133, 133, 114, 106, 105, 102, 98, 87, 66

The Giants have Travis Ishikawa, OPS+ of 83.

So, they have the second worst guy. Well, you have to have one lousy hitter, right? Is it all that bad?

Oh, that's just the surface. Let's dive through and keep going.

First: expectations. That 66 is Arizona, with Chad Tracey. Tracey is 29 this season, and including this year his career number is 99. So he's way worse than they might have expected. But he wasn't even expected to be the full-time 1B. He also played despite not hitting partially because a better hitter, Connor Jackson, got hurt. Also, Arizona was never a contender this season, so fixing the problem short-term was not a priority. Similarly, James Loney of the Dodgers is way off his career numbers at 98.

On the other hand, sometimes a team has a hole because of an injury. That's the story with the "87" there -- it's Daniel Murphy of the Mets, who only played because Carlos Delgado (an excellent hitter) got hurt along with half the team.

On the other hand, Travis Ishikawa is basically doing what one would expect him to do. He's just a bit off his PECOTA projection (from Baseball Prospectus). Perhaps it was realistic to hope he'd be at a 100 OPS+...but remember, that's still pretty awful for a 1B.

OK, so the Giants stink at 1B this year.

Except it's not just one year. From 1997 through 2005, J.T. Snow was the Giants 1B. He had a couple excellent years, including a terrific 2004. But he was old by then, and he collapsed the next year. Fine; a great GM will get rid of a guy a year to soon, but we're not talking about a great GM. Because here's what Sabean has given Giants fans since then:

2005 Snow 85
2006 Hillebrand 74
2007 Klesko 92
2008 Bowker 83
2009 Ishikawa 83

I really don't know how to convey just how bad this is. To go five years without a regular first baseman reaching a 95 OPS+...how about this. If you're old enough, you might remember Mark Belanger, a famous non-hitting SS for the Orioles. Belanger's best five seasons? 100, 97, 95, 75, 64.

How do you wind up with a five-year stretch of first basemen who hit like Mark Belanger?

And yet...that's still not the worst. Because the regulars, bad as they were, outhit the other guys out there every year. So the team OPS+ for guys playing 1B in those five years?

74, 69, 79, 69, 77

That's unreal.

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