12 September 2002

"I Am Not an Idiot"

Brian Sabean, the GM of the San Francisco Giants, has some work to do. Rob Neyer wrote about how the Jeff Kent for Matt Williams trade, which villified Sabean back in '96 when it was made, but has made him a hero in retrospect. But, as they say in France, "What have you done for me lately?"

Only Baseball Matters continually harps, and rightfully so, on the fact that much of the Giants' lineup is pretty pathetic, especially their firstbasemen, and particularly JT Snow. He is not, however the worst hitting firstbaseman in the majors, as Perricone contends. That (dis)honor belongs to Tony "The Kitten" Clark, whose .214/.266/.306 line is easily the worst in the majors for firstbasemen with at least 250 AB, even worse than Snow. However, no 1B with a worse OPS has gotten more at-bats than Snow, which is Dusty Baker's fault, not Snow's. Look at how the Giants rank in OPS in the Majors by position:

P: 5th
C: 8th
1B: 28th
2B: 1st
3B: 20th
LF: 1st
CF: 29th
RF: 26th
DH: 1st (9 games, probably all Barry Bonds)
PH: 25th

Holy inneptitude, Batman. Four starting positions ranked 20th out of 30 teams or worse in OPS, plus their bench. The only other team with that many hitters who are that bad is...the Dodgers! But they have somewhat better pitching than SanFran.

Left field and second base are head and shoulders above anyone around, and catcher's been pretty good, even though Benito Santiago didn't belong on the All-Star Team. Shortstop is just above mediocre, though they've grown to expect much more from Rich Aurilia in recent years. Their pitchers are even better than they look here, because three of the teams ahead of them are in the AL (no more than 13 games each) and the other plays half its games in Denver, so really they have the best hitting pitchers in the majors, albeit with only a .430 OPS. But nobody wins anything because their pitchers hit relatively well. Just ask Mike Hampton.

Sabean has really got to clean house for next year, regardless of what happens this year. I don't know what the contract situations are for Snow, Kenny Lofton, Marvin Benard, David Bell, Bill Mueller, Shawon Dunston or Reggie Sanders, but I think they might all be free agents except Snow. They've got to let Damon Minor play regularly, hope Aurilia bounces back to his career levels, and get some outfielders who can hit. Santiago isn't likely to repeat this year's production at the age of 38, so picking up a Todd Greene or Bobby Estalella might help. (Perhaps their current backup catchers are of similar ilk, but I don't think so.) David Bell's hitting about 50 points above his career OPS, and still isn't even having a "good" season for a 3B, so he's gotta go. Edgardo Alfonzo, Scott Rolen and, more realistically, Robin Ventura will be free agents next year, and Sabean might want to look into their services. If he can get Ventura for around $5 or $6 million, he should do it, unless they're gonna let Pedro Feliz play. Ventura will probably only hit .250, but at least he'll hit for some power and take a few walks. And there have got to be more guys like Dave Roberts and Raul Ibanez in the minors somewhere, who have some talent, with perhaps a hitch or two in their games, who just need to be given a chance to play. I mean, what do they have to lose? They've already got one of the worst lineups in the majors, besides Bonds and Kent. Just getting guys who are average at each of the aforementioned positions (3B, 1B, CF, RF)should help them win four or five more games over the course of the year. Getting a field manager who knows how to evaluate talent and juggle a lineup wouldn't hurt either. Maybe Sabean's not an idiot. Maybe the Kent trade wasn't just luck. This off-season is time to prove it.

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