After the recent signings of Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, the Giants look much stronger for 2015. As pointed out by Craig Goldstein on FanGraphs, the Giants infield looks excellent, but the Giants outfield looks pretty bad.
Hunter Pence is obviously excellent, but the rest of the outfield is underwhelming. Gregor Blanco had a great year but he doesn’t have a great track record of doing so. Angel Pagan completely rolled over in 2015, leaving many to question his long-term future. So what are the Giants’ backup plans? Rather than just show you some numbers and projections, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to give comparisons to each of the options in terms of delicious cookies. You may call me obtuse, short-sighted, or you may just look at me as that guy who is doing his grocery shopping while he’s hungry. Those are all fair comparisons, in reality. I want to talk about the Giants’ outfield, but I also want cookies, so here are both.
Oreos are kind of like the standard for store-bought cookies. Everybody likes them, they’re pretty much exactly what you expect they’d be. They bring consistency in a world filled with change. That said, you have to go all the way to the store to get them (unless you use Amazon Now for cookies, in which case you might want to talk to somebody), and you usually don’t want a whole package of Oreos. You usually eat one row’s worth, and then the other two get stale as you move on to other desserts. There do exist gourmet Oreos, such as one I recently had at Homeroom in Oakland, CA, but they’re more expensive and you have to pay big for the enjoyment. So you know you’re going to be satisfied, but you either have to deal with some waste on the purchase or pony up big for gourmet quality.
Cespedes, Gordon, and Upton are the cream of the free agent outfield class now that Jason Heyward is off the market. We don’t really know if the Giants can afford to sign these guys without hitting the luxury tax, so it may be a moot point. That said, if they could, this would almost certainly solve the problem. They’d gain a middle of the order bat, and all three would deliver good defense in all likelihood. It’s all a matter of whether or not the Giants want to make the plunge now and try to maximize their window, or roll the dice with someone internally.
While Oreos are the standard for store bought cookies, Chocolate Chip are the default. Everybody likes Chocolate Chip, and everybody has their own version they claim is the best version. You can buy a chocolate chip at literally like fifty places in your town, even if your town has 300 people in it. The great thing about Chocolate Chip is that a really great Chocolate Chip Cookie has huge upside; they’re not difficult to make and extremely satisfying. Right out of the oven they make the whole house smell great, and make you super popular with your friends. That said, a bad Chocolate Chip Cookie is extremely underwhelming. The market is flooded with these types of cookies, and they’re just not worth eating if they’re bad. So while they’re readily available, and it’s really convenient if they’re good, they’re often just bland.
Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are the default. These guys will probably get run out there on Opening Day, and it’d be super convenient if they worked. One will play Center and one will play Left, and it’s anyone’s guess who will end up where. If Pagan could go back to 2010 form with a 6.7 WARP (or even 2012 with 4.7), that’d be super duper. If Blanco could replicate 2015 with a .368 OBP, fantastic. That said, they probably won’t. They’ll probably be underwhelming, but serviceable. This team can tolerate that from left field, since they’re so strong at every other position on the diamond, but that doesn’t mean we won’t all notice the gaping hole there.
Ahh, Macarons. They’re incredibly enticing, and pose huge upside. There probably isn’t a more inviting cookie in the store, and they’re easy to dream on. A really well made Macaron can be quite satisfying, and even though it’s so small, it can really pack a punch. Macarons are a ton of fun, not just because they’re tasty, but they’re colorful too. Macarons, though, are pretty dang tough to make correctly. They take a lot of practice, and if done poorly, are kind of a mess. They end up just being blobs of colored sugar, and man there are a ton of dishes to do. Figuring out how to make Macarons is an investment, but if they pay off, they’re really awesome.
A platoon of Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson is kind of like that. Parker has hit for around a .900 OPS against RHP the previous two years in the minors, and clubbed three home runs in a game last year. That’s pretty sexy, right? Plus, he’s a homegrown dude, and it’s super fun when those work out (looking at you, entire infield). Mac Williamson hit for a .935 OPS in the Fall League this year, and owns an .862 OPS in the minors. He looks on the surface like the perfect platoon partner. That said, there’s a reason these guys aren’t the first option. The 2015 Baseball Prospectus Annual only gave Parker a line-item note, saying that “holes in his swing will prevent him from emerging as a regular.” They gave the same treatment for Williamson, saying “he might lack the pitch recognition to become more than a dangerous bench bat.” FanGraphs concurred, with Kiley McDaniel saying he can’t do much against offspeed pitches, and he didn’t even mention Parker. There’s a high likelihood that these two guys are AAA filler, but there’s a chance they’re both awesome in tandem, giving the Giants production at a dirt cheap price.
Brandon Belt – Oatmeal Raisin
Oh, the Oatmeal Raisin. Much maligned by many, it still holds its status as a very solid cookie. The Oatmeal Raisin has a very high floor; you know you’re probably going to be reasonably happy with the Oatmeal Raisin, and rarely outright disappointed. The cookie at least gives the illusion of healthy eating, as “Oatmeal” and “Raisins” are both healthy sounding things, even if “Cookie” isn’t. The downside is that I don’t think there exists an 80-grade Oatmeal Raisin. Like a good knuckle-curve, the Oatmeal Raisin is nice, but it can’t be your only pitch. It’s a complementary piece, and it adds stability, but it won’t win you any baking contests.
Three of the last four years, Brandon Belt has posted an OBP around .360. In a different set of three in the last four, he’s posted an ISO around .200. Coming into his age-28 season, it’s safe to expect similar production. The book is mostly written on Belt; he’s a solid lefty with mostly-even platoon splits who can veer a bit towards “three true outcomes” at times. He’s not a great Left Fielder, but he’s not that bad either, with basically break-even values at UZR, Range Runs, and ARM according to FanGraphs in 366 innings. Moving Belt to left field also creates a bit of a hole now at first base. This could be facilitated by giving Buster Posey more time over there (37 starts in 2015) and going after a bargain-bin option like Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, or Steve Pearce. However, this essentially shifts the problem, and leaves little room for upside as the market is much more top/bottom heavy at this point (either you pony up for Chris Davis somehow, hope the fans embrace David Murphy, or roll the dice on a reclamation project). Brandon Belt the left fielder is fine, just like Brandon Belt the first baseman is fine, but ideally you’d like something a little more exciting.
Kelby Tomlinson – Double Chocolate Chip
The Double Chocolate Chip sounds amazing. Sometimes you really want something sweet and satisfying, and a Chocolate Chip sounds bland. Then this bad boy stares back at you; so much chocolate you know that the first bite will be amazing. It usually is a very satisfying first bite. However, it quickly gives diminishing returns. It’s too much chocolate, really. You’re left hoping for something that can break the monotony; maybe some sea salt, or caramel, or even a nut. Alas, there is only chocolate. It’s got way more calories than other cookies, so you already feel guilty. Heaven forbid you bought a whole box of these things; there’s no chance you’re going to finish it. That first bite sure was great, but the Double Chocolate Chip doesn’t deliver in the long game.
Kelby Tomlinson was pretty great filling in for Joe Panik at second base last year. In 193 plate appearances he batted over .300, and would have tied for 6th in 2B wOBA with .335 if he qualified. He only showed a little bit of it, but he’s also got borderline 80-grade speed, stealing 49 bases in 2014. When Panik returns, though, Tomlinson is without a job. While he hasn’t played the position before (other than a few innings in the Fall League in 2014), there’s little doubt he’s capable of learning the position. That said, Tomlinson offers little substance. His batting line was propelled by a .380 BABIP in 2015, and if you don’t like the idea of low power from Pagan/Blanco, you won’t like Tomlinson. His batting ceiling is probably Nori Aoki, and the Giants decided against keeping him around. While Tomlinson might show some great flashes, he isn’t a reliable player, though he should probably learn the position this year so he can better his role as a utilityman.
I expect both of the pressing needs to be addressed with relative speed. I imagine the Giants will have a plan for left field, and with Christmas right around the corner, I expect to be asleep shortly with a belly full of sugar. Unfortunately, it’s likely both results will leave me sad in the future, as I pine for the past (both in left feld and cookies).Next post: Mop-Up Duty: The Off-Topic Podcast – Force Awakens
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