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Bay Area Baseball

Report Card

I'm writing this on Monday morning. The A's are four back with seven games to go, including a four-game series against the Angels. By the time the column is published on Friday, we'll all know the outcome. I will not jinx the A's by discussing their plight!

On the other hand, I could care less about whether the Giants make the playoffs or not, because if they do, they will be the worst team in the history of baseball to do it. And when the worst playoff team in the history of baseball has to play the Atlanta Braves, bad things happen. Hopefully, the Giants will mercifully be on the golf course just three short playoff losses from now.

What a difference a division makes -- Seattle has scored 30 more runs than San Diego and has allowed just 10 more. Seattle is 67-87 and firmly mired in last place in the AL West, while San Diego is 77-78 and will be representing the NL West in the playoffs. And I won't even mention how unlucky the Mets are. This disparity is the only reason the Giants -- who would be 14.5 games back in the next weakest division -- so presumptuously printed playoff tickets and had the nerve to sell them to people. When they don't make the playoffs, the Giants won't refund the Ticketmaster service charges. Nice.

One thing that's been bugging me: why doesn't Barry Bonds bat leadoff when he starts? If he has to get pulled from the game in the 5th to save his knees, why don't the Giants try to get as many at-bats for him as possible? I understand that he doesn't have the opportunity to drive in any runs when the game starts off, but if he bats 4th, he usually loses one plate appearance per game. Is it better to have him not bat at all?

Anyways, this is as good a time as any to evaluate the Giants and look to 2006. Without further ado, here's the G-men's report card:

Noah Lowry: A. Lowry has been the Giants' best player this year by a wide margin, which is pretty impressive for a 24-year old guy with 113 career innings under his belt before the season. He combined a solid strikeout rate and reasonable control, and his 13-12 record reflects nothing more than the Giants pathetic offense. He is a good one and, for the next year at least, one with a low salary…

Moises Alou: B+. Alou ended up performing around what he averaged over the last three years, but for different reasons than I expected. Rather than declining at the plate, Alou hit better than he has in years. But his inability to remain in the lineup reduced his overall contribution, and when your replacement is Michael Tucker or Todd Linden, your being injured does not help the team win.

Ray Durham: B. Durham has become the poster child for what happens to a fast guy who loses speed. He has four stolen bases and zero triples in 2005, and his defense is well-below average. His hitting remains very good for a second baseman, but his inability to stay in the lineup and avoid leg injuries has reduced his value to almost half of what he did during 1996-2002. His contract ends after 2006, but he has played well enough that he will have been worth approximately what the Giants paid for him.

Mike Matheny: B-. Is it a great accomplishment when in your best hitting season, your on-base percentage is .297? Matheny no longer throws out 60% of runners like he did in his prime, settling for a more pedestrian 40%, and offsetting his peak at the plate.

Brett Tomko: C+. Did you notice that he's had just as good a season as Jason Schmidt despite being banished to the bullpen? Of Tomko, much is expected, and his inability to be the biggest bargain on the market is seen as a huge failure. What gives? Schmidt makes five times as much money, and the Giants are debating picking up Schmitty's $10 million option.

Omar Vizquel: C+. He jumped over Jeff Kent on opening day and he dives into first base. So what? He played no better than Neifi Perez did this year. Three home runs, poor percentage base stealing, not so many walks, and the kind of "good" defense you'd expect from a 38-year-old shortstop. He's signed for a few more years, and they may not be as kind to the Giants.

Jason Schmidt: C. Schmidt hasn't been this bad in years. His numerous injuries finally caught up with him and he's no more than a league average pitcher. Not that that's bad -- there's a lot of value in being average in the majors, and if all of the Giants were just average, they'd have won their division.

Pedro Feliz: C-. Don't let the 20 home runs fool you. Feliz has been terrible this year --his hitting stats are way off, he has grounded into 20 double plays (a 20-20 guy, so to speak), and all of the starts in left field have reduced his fielding value. He brings so many negatives to the table that he more than offsets the occasional mistakes he punishes. Vote Against Pedro.

The bullpen: C. Armando Benitez had his worst season ever. La Troy Hawkins regressed to his old self. Tyler Walker proved that absolutely anybody can be given the title of "closer". Matt Herges, Jason Christiansen and Jim Brower were cast aside – but not before they could do real damage. The positives have been Scott Eyre and Jeff Fassero, who were fourth and seventh on the depth chart to start the season. Jack Taschner, Scott Munter and Jeremy Accardo pitched reasonably well as a group, and showed – yet again – that you don't need to pay good money to a veteran relief pitcher. These guys are a dime-a-dozen, and the money could be better spent on the real skill positions.

The "young" guys: C-. Todd Linden, Jason Ellison, Lance Niekro, Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia finally got a chance to show what they can do and it wasn't pretty. But they provided a lesson in roster management. Michael Tucker, Marquis Grissom, J.T. Snow and Kirk Rueter cost the Giants $13 million this year, and these guys would have provided more value for just $1.7 million, which would have freed up a ton of cash to sign a player who could have really helped the team. Was it somehow more honorable to lose with veterans who've lost their skills?

J.T. Snow: D+. Is this guy still in the league? He combined the worst hitting of his career with the injuries that have plagued him for the last five years. The Giants cut ties with all of their other non-performing veterans, so why is Snow still around?

Felipe Alou: F. 73-82. That's his record with a week to go in the season. The Reds -- considered a failure in every corner or the universe -- have the same record. Alou deserves a lot of the blame, his reliance on veterans who can't produce is legendary, and now that every pitcher on the roster has been on the DL, his handling of the pitching staff is suspect. When he was with the Expos and he had a good young team to work with, he just looked bored. He batted guys with 285 on-base percentages and no power leadoff and let them play left field. Now he's just as bored managing the Giants. When you invest $90 million in your team and need a winning record to get fans in the stands, the manager can't be bored with his job.

Edgardo Alfonzo: F. Two home runs and 27 walks? No one thought it was possible, but Alfonzo is even worse than he was in the first two years with the Giants. His remaining value is as a singles-hitting pinch-hitter. His contract may go down as one of the worst ever.

You might notice that Barry Bonds and Randy Winn are missing from the report card. Bonds may play 15 games by the end of the season, but his overall value to the team will be no more than Edgardo Alfonzo's (though obviously Alfonzo got 8 times as much playing time.) Winn played as he normally does for the month of August, and then over his head for half of September. The Giants would be stupid to sign him to a long-term contract based on a good month, but this is a team that signs people based on one good game, so I wouldn't hold my breath for a new streak of rationality.

At any rate, there weren't a lot of positives this year, and that implies that there won't be a lot of positives next year unless some fundamental changes happen. With the bulk of the team still under contract, and the payroll artificially limited by Peter Magowan and the rest of the ownership team, the changes will be few and far between.