Results tagged ‘ Madison Bumgarner ’
It is the nature of diehard fans to be impatient. This is a good thing. They push a team’s management. Where’s the long-ball hitter we need? Where’s the rocket-armed reliever? Let’s make a deal, and let’s do it now.
But in the labyrinth of offices inside any major-league baseball organization, alongside the up-to-the-minute-what-can-we-do-now executives and analysts, are the futurists. They’re the ones constructing the team we’ll see next year and five years from now.
No team in recent years has planned for the future better than the Giants.
That’s what Baseball America concluded in its just-published analysis of the last four draft classes.
Here’s what Baseball America’s Jim Callis reported yesterday:
“We grade every draft from 2005-08 in the new Prospect Handbook, and no team outdid San Francisco’s 3.50 GPA. Vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow ran those first three efforts, with scouting director John Barr coming aboard in 2008.
“The Giants’ signature pick was stealing two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum after nine teams passed on him in 2006. San Francisco gets an A for Lincecum alone in 2006, though they also found fringe big league infielders Emmanuel Burriss (sandwich round), Ryan Rohlinger (sixth), Brian Bocock (ninth) and Matt Downs (36th).
“San Francisco was the only club to earn three As, also getting top grades in 2007 for Madison Bumgarner (first), with some help from righthander Tim Alderson (first), second baseman Nick Noonan (sandwich) and big league surprise Dan Runzler (fifth), and in 2008. That last group could be San Francisco’s best hitting crop in years, led by Buster Posey (first), third baseman Conor Gillaspie (sandwich), outfielder Roger Kieschnick (third) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (fourth).”
As fans, we don’t have to be patient. That’s not our jobs. But it’s good know it’s somebody’s job, and that the Giants happen to have some of the best people doing it.
It sure looks weird to see the clubhouse in the off-season. Even filled as it was last night with fans in folding chairs, it was like walking into an abandoned building. There’s a kind of ghostly loneliness about it without players slapping domino tiles on table tops and answering fan mail in front of their lockers and yanking down the bills of their caps as they rush out to take early BP. Is April really still three-and-a-half months away?
The next best thing to the actual baseball season, though, is talking about it.
Up on a temporary stage, erected on the far right of the room near the starting pitchers’ lockers, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was sitting next to general manager Brian Sabean and taking questions from moderator Greg Papa.
“He’s the best all-around player that I’ve ever seen because he can play everywhere,” Bochy was saying. “He has a very similar body type to Tony Gwynn.”
He was talking about Pablo Sandoval, who embarked on a rigorous conditioning and weight-loss program during the off-season, a one-man camp the Giants dubbed “Operation Panda.”
“Obviously,” Sabean cracked, nodding at Bochy and himself, “we haven’t been in the same camp.”
Packed into the room, in rows of chairs bordered by four walls of lockers, were season-ticket holders who had been invited to talk baseball with Bochy, Sabean, managing general partner Bill Neukom and relief pitcher Sergio Romo.
Asked by Papa if two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum’s stuff matches up with the all-time greats, Bochy didn’t hesitate.
“Sure it does. He’s by far the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. When you have four pitches, especially the best or close to the best changeup in baseball right now, he’s up there among the greats. He’s a thinker out there and knows what the opposing team is doing and that’s why he’s won two Cy Young Awards.”
“What’s interesting about him,” Sabean said, “is in college he would throw 140 pitches on a Friday night and then be the closer for his team on Sunday. He’s proved to have a rubber arm and has an inner strength that other people don’t have. He’s fearless and he thinks that on any given day that he’s better than anyone else.”
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Sergio Romo. He’s a player that fans don’t know very well yet, and last night they got a glimpse of his sense of humor and his boyish excitement for the game – starting with the fact he was texting his mother as he climbed onto the stage to tell he was going to be on television.
“You’re from Brawley, California, near Los Angeles,” Papa said, “so who was your favorite team growing up?”
“No comment,” Romo said, smiling. “Let’s just say I started hating the Dodgers the second I put on a Giants uniform.”
After struggling with injuries last season, he said he’s “very excited for the season to start . . . I miss my number 54 on my back.”
When Papa opened the discussion to questions, one of the first was an update on the Giants’ up and coming players.
“Peguero is a young outfielder that we just placed on our 40-man roster,” Sabean said. “He’s a lot like Sandoval in that he has a lot of energy. Thomas Neal came into his own last year and developed an all-around game. Brandon Crawford is going to be our shortstop of the future. We have a flow of talent that people will be proud of.”
As for the readiness of pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey, Bochy said, “I really think that they can start for us next year. Posey is gonna be a front line catcher and he’s on the fast track. Bumgarner did a heck of a job last year when Timmy went down. Here are two tremendous kids that stood out and both held their own. I’m curious to see how Buster looks this spring.”
One fan wanted to know about keeping Lincecum and fellow pitcher Matt Cain as Giants for the long haul.
“Cain has two more years before free agency,” Sabean said, “and Lincecum has four more and is going through arbitration right now. We are in a good situation because they both want to be Giants for a long time.”
Sabean also addressed the decision not to resign veteran pitcher Brad Penny.
“We had a short window and in our estimation we thought we had home court in our situation. We couldn’t bring ourselves to overpay when we have Madison Bumgarner in the wings.”
Still want more? Tune in to a full broadcast of the event on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area on January 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Some shots from the taping:
Giants general manager Brian Sabean is honing a skill not innate to a baseball man who cut his teeth at the New York Yankees.
“The market right now is as slow or slower than last year in developing,” he said during a break today from internal strategy meetings in preparation for next week’s winter meetings in Indianapolis.
“Whether teams are still getting their budgets together or what, the free agent market has yet to develop. Players and agents are slow to do anything. It’s a sign of the times.”
Sabean said the Giants last week offered a one-year deal to pitcher Brad Penny, and yesterday offered one year and an option to infielder Juan Uribe. Both offers were declined. “At this time I’m not sure there will be further discussion,” Sabean said. (He said veteran catcher Bengie Molina probably has been offered a multi-year deal by another team, essentially guaranteeing he would not return to the Giants.)
Sabean’s strategy in building the 2010 team boils down to three basic – but difficult — questions:
· How can the Giants maximize the talent they already have?
· What can be accomplished on the free-agent market?
· Are there smart trades to be made – and what homegrown talent is the team willing to give up in order to secure valuable immediate help (such as a bigger bat in the lineup)?
“What we’re doing right now – to get a bat, to figure out the catching situation, everything – is due diligence,” Sabean said.
In other words, there is no magic formula. No shortcuts. No blockbuster, bold-headline quick fixes. Just hours and days and weeks of poring over scouting reports and statistics, working the phones and updating the huge erasable boards with lists of free agents and players likely the trading block, plus evaluating in every possible way the Giants’ own prospects. (Who among them will blossom into big-impact major-leaguers, and when?)
“In a perfect world, you’d love to have (Madison) Bumgarner and (Buster) Posey burst on the scene,” Sabean said. “But you don’t want to rush them. So you keep at it, at the grindstone, and be ready when the best opportunities pop.”
There might be interesting “secondary free agents,” Sabean said, “but maybe that doesn’t make as much sense as giving our own kids a chance. We have to continue to identify what we really have internally and not count on the outside world.”
Sabean mentioned two “burning questions” for the Giants:
· If the Giants don’t get Penny and instead bring up Bumgarner, their top pitching prospect, they will have a particularly young starting rotation. So what do you do about the bullpen? Do you counterbalance that with a more veteran bullpen and, say, bring Bob Howry back?
· What position does Pablo Sandoval play? If he stays at third, what options are available to upgrade the situation at first base outside the organization?
“In the past, we’ve been more aggressive,” Sabean said. “But we’re willing to go at the pace of the marketplace and show more patience. Trades don’t have to be made at the winter meetings. So people shouldn’t read anything into it if nothing happens in Indianapolis. It’s just not a very sexy market at this time.
“But we’ll come home with more information. It’s a fact-finding mission to figure out who matches up with us in terms of free-agent interest. We’ll have a clearer picture of trade scenarios. We’ll find who our partners might be and how we can do business.”
Chat with Giants’ GM Sabean:
Brian Sabean will participate in a live Web chat from the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday, December 9 at 1 p.m. PT. Fans are invited to chat with the GM about his goals for the club during the week’s Winter Meetings. To participate in the chat, please register at:
Giants batting coach Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens is wasting no time diving into his new job. He has gathered John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz and minor-league first baseman Brett Pill for a six-day hitting clinic at AT&T starting on Monday. Then he’ll fly down to Venezuela with Bowker, who will play winter ball in that country’s extremely competitive league. Schierholtz is going to Puerto Rico. (I’m not sure yet what the other two are doing.)
I’ll try to grab some time with Meulens during a break in the action on Monday and share what I learn.
I’m going down to Arizona on Tuesday with some of the video guys from the Giants. We’ll be checking in with Pablo Sandoval, who is in the midst of his own personal conditioning camp with team trainers.
Pablo ended his spectacular season with the second-best batting average in the National League (.330), 3rd in doubles (44), 4th in hits (189), 6th in total bases (318) and slugging percentage (.556), 7th in extra base hits (74). But he wants to get better, so he has committed himself not only to developing a new regimen of physical exercise but also to learning how to eat healthy. He also wants to work on improving his English pronunciations and educate himself about Facebook and blogging – all for the purpose of communicating and connecting more with the fans.
Got a text-message from Tim Lincecum earlier this week. He’s in Seattle right now visiting family but will be back in SF next week and will stay through the winter. He, too, is developing a workout regimen to get even stronger. He seems to be all-muscle already – his percentage of body fat has got to be almost zero. So I’m not sure what exactly he wants to improve. I hope to chat with him when he’s back in town and will let you know.
The Giants held a three-hour meeting Wednesday of the entire staff. They went over highlights of the 2009 season and laid out plans and goals for 2010. (Orange Fridays are coming back!) There was particular focus, as you might imagine, on improving offensive production, including a better on-base percentage and a more consistent one-through-five batting lineup. Brian Sabean’s staff talked of identifying possible trades or free-agent signings. Any trade, managing general partner Bill Neukom explained, would have to meeting the following criteria:
Â· Does this player significantly improve the team’s win-loss record?
Â· How much money will he cost?
Â· How much talent do the Giants give up for him?
Â· Does this player’s arrival thwart the progress of a top homegrown prospect?
Â· Does this player fit in with the team chemistry?
What struck me most, though, in the meeting was how much was accomplished in 2009 – and what a great foundation it provides for next season and beyond.
Some 2009 facts that stand out:
Â· Best home record in the NL and improved overall record by 16 wins over 2008.
Â· Best starting rotation in baseball (fewest runs allowed, most shutouts and most strikeouts). Lincecum led the league in strikeouts for the second consecutive year, was the 2009 All-Star Game starting pitcher and again was named NL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year.
Â· Bullpen strength: Jeremy Affeldt led the NL in holds (33) and Brian Wilson tied for third in the NL in saves (38).
Â· Great team chemistry: This team – in particular, the relatively unknown group of young players — won the hearts of the fans. And they did so by working hard day in and day out and playing with excitement and energy. As a result, Giants’ attendance stayed nearly the same this year from last year – even in a down economy — and the team set record television ratings (up 37 percent on Comcast over 2008). The veterans were fantastic with the young guys – everyone from Randy Johnson to Edgar Renteria to Juan Uribe stepped up as unofficial mentors and teachers.
Â· The deepening pool of emergent talent: Five of the Giants’ seven minor-league teams reached the championship game in their respective leagues (three teams won championships). The Giants’ affiliates combined for the best record among all major-league organizations. Catcher Buster Posey was named Topps/Minor League Player of the Year. Others, such as Madison Bumgarner, Roger Kieschnick and Brandon Crawford, established themselves as exceptional prospects. This is a great sign that the Giants’ investment in the farm system is paying off.
Â· Valuable late-season experience: Playing meaningful baseball in September gave younger players a foundation on which they can build in the seasons to come.
Here’s something else from the meeting that I loved, though it has nothing to do with baseball. The Giants made a real commitment to making AT&T the greenest ballpark in the country. In 2008, it managed to recycle 40 percent of all the garbage and other waste. In 2009, it recycled 67 percent. Pretty amazing.
More next week.
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area held its annual baseball luncheon on Treasure Island Wednesday. Over chicken and tiramisu, players and staff from the Giants and A’s fielded questions from MC Greg Papa.
My personal highlight: Brian Wilson in a sport coat. My second personal highlight: Wilson and Jason Giambi showing up with the same haircut, the upswept soft-peaked Mohawk that only professional athletes and Grammy winners can pull off.
* Wilson on the increased pressure on Tim Lincecum: “I don’t think he has any pressure on him. He’s very competitive but he’s very loose. (When he was in the hunt for the Cy Young), he didn’t change anything about his game plan. He was always loose and joking in the clubhouse.”
* Wilson on nightlife with Barry Zito in the off-season: “We did nothing that would void a contract.”
* Randy Winn on his success on the bases last season: “I’m trying to get a little smarter as I get older. I’m talking a lot to Dave Roberts.”
* Brian Sabean on Jonathan Sanchez pitching in the World Baseball Classic: “He’ll be one of the top pitchers for Puerto Rico, which will be great for his confidence and his maturation.”
* Sabean says Sanchez is “bigger and stronger” and that the fifth spot in the rotation is his to lose. “(Noah) Lowry’s going to have to unseat him,” Sabean said. As for trading Sanchez: “I have a very hard time thinking he could be traded for his full value.”
* Asked whom the fans should be watching for on the horizon, Sabean said Bumgarner. “He’s on a very fast track. When this kid gets here, he’s not going back.”
* The folks at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area say the Bay Area has “the most passionate and underserved sports fans in the country and are hungry for more coverage.” So Comcast is dedicating one channel to the Giants and one to the A’s. The network will carry 134 regular-season games, including 75 games in HD. It also will broadcast 3 ½ hours of live shows every day – “SportsCenter”-type programs plus a local “Sports Reporters”-like show with Chronicle reporters — from its new HD studio in San Francisco.