15 May 2009

The Dodgers vs. the Career-Year-Giants

The Dodgers are dominating the NL West standings right now. They are 10.5 games clear of the Snakes and Padres, 9.5 games clear of the Rockies. Only the Giants at 5 games back are even in the picture. I'm not saying that it's impossible for those bottom three teams to challenge in the race again, but they're going to have to show a really dramatic turn-around before it's worth even considering. They're just too far back, with too many problems. That leaves the Giants as the Dodgers' only competition.

But what kind of competition are the Giants? They're 18-16, but they've been outscored 136-148. The pitching is good, maybe even great, but the hitting, oh that hitting --- the Giants right now only wish they could follow the path of the 2003 Dodgers, who rode great pitching and a terrible offense to fringe contention. The Giants have been outhomered 18-33 this year, have been outwalked 96-138. Does this sound like a team that can compete with the Dodgers, even the Manny-less Dodgers?

So, what if one gives the Giants a good offense? Who says they have to keep hitting so poorly? The easiest solution would be for them to trade for Albert Pujols and Ryan Zimmerman, or have the Barry of 5 years ago, but since that's not going to happen, what if one just assumes that every Giants starting position player has a career hitting year from here to the end of the season? The Giants as they are right now can't compete with the Dodgers, but perhaps the Career-Year-Giants can!

So here they are, in no particular order: the Career-Year-Giants of 2009, listed with on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Benji Molina -- 0.330 -- 0.570

There's no need to go to the record book to find what a Molina career year looks like --- he's having it right now! His slugging percentage of 0.569 is well higher than anything he's ever done before. His on-base percentage is right at his career average, even with only two walks on the year. The highest he's ever gone is 0.336, so I'll give him close to that. I don't know, maybe pitchers might start to pitch around him a little if he keeps on a 40 HR pace, but the truth is Benji just hates to walk.

Pablo Sandoval -- 0.360 -- 0.500

Sandoval is only 22 years old, so there isn't much to look back on. Last year he split time between high A, AA, and the big leagues, and held his own at each level. He's doing fine this year, though not as well as he did in limited big league time last year. I'll give him last year's major league numbers for his career year percentages, though I suppose this is one case when my estimate of best case stats could be too low.

Fred Lewis -- 0.400 -- 0.450

Lewis is 28, so he's not really a candidate to get a whole lot better, but neither does he have much of a big league history since 2008 was his only full year as a starter. He's having a career year this year in on-base percentage, so I'll give him that, and then take his slugging percentage from last year, add just a little bit, and call it good.

Emmanuel Burriss -- 0.360 -- 0.340

Rookie Sandoval may look like a catcher, but rookie Burriss hits like one. I guess he must have a hell of a glove because I just don't see it with him. He came up for a bit last year and didn't do much with the bat. Nothing has changed this year. There's nothing noteworthy about his minor league record except for the bizarre fact that he was skipped past AA. But I guess this is all the Giants have. Maybe they could try to reacquire Vizquel from the Rangers, who has a ~0.900 OPS in limited action this year.

Edgar Renteria -- 0.400 -- 0.480

This is an easy case. His career year came in 2003 with the Cardinals, and I'll just use his stats from that year.

Randy Winn -- 0.360 -- 0.500

Winn was amazing when he came over to the Giants at the end of 2005. Marlon Anderson out of nowhere amazing, I mean. He had an OPS over 1.000 for those two months after being traded from Seattle. Except for that magical stretch-run his OPS has always been below 0.800 since 2002. So what did Winn's magical stretch-run get the Giants in 2005? Well, it helped the Giants finish only 7 games back of the 82-win Padres. So, he falls a bit short of the Marlon Anderson experience there.

I'm not going to give Winn his numbers from those two months in 2005, but I will go with his full season stats from that year.

Aaron Rowand -- 0.380 -- 0.540

He had career years in 2004 and 2007, and I've combined them for maximum benefit. He is really struggling this year, so much that I wonder if I shouldn't lower his career year ceiling. But he's still only 31, so you never know.

It's Rowand, Winn, and Renteria who are really dragging down the Giant offense right now, along with the horrible offense they're getting from first base.

Travis Ishikawa / Jesus Guzman -- 0.340 -- 0.480

Two fringe prospects, one of whom is already failing at the big league level. Ishikawa is the starter at first for now, but he's really struggling, and there are rumors that Giants may call up Guzman at mid-season. Guzman doesn't look like a great prospect to me -- to old, too few walks, you know the drill. But maybe he can hit anyway. He's tearing it up at Fresno right now. So I'll give the Giants some decent career year numbers here. This is really the biggest leap of them all, because right now the Giants are getting nothing from Aurilia and Ishikawa.

So what would the Giants have if all their starting position players had career year numbers from this point forward? I kept the bench stats the same, except that some of Aurilia's future plate appearances went to the new and improved first baseman combo platter. Otherwise I preserved the current ratio of plate appearances each player is getting to come up with new team-wide stats, which are shown below along with real stats of the Giants and Dodgers so far in 2009.

-------------------------------- OBP -- SLG
2009 Real Giants ------------ 0.317 -- 0.363
2009 Career-Year-Giants ---- 0.345 -- 0.442
2009 Real Dodgers ----------- 0.374 -- 0.433

So the Career-Year-Giants still come up plenty short of the real Dodgers in on-base percentage, but they do pass LA in power. Overall the Career-Year-Giants still can't score as many runs as the Dodgers, but maybe if we also gave Randy Johnson a career year ( he currently has an ERA above 5 ) they might have enough to make up 5 games on the Dodgers.

Now, the Dodgers could still collapse due to injuries and slumps and suspension. Or they could stumble a bit, especially from that awesome team on-base percentage. Nothing is certain. But if the Dodgers keep playing they way they have for the first 36 games, or even reasonably close, they are certain for the NL West title. Even the Career-Year-Giants would fall just short of these Dodgers. As for the real Giants? The Giants if they keep playing like they have been? They're DOA. They're going to sink like they're wearing cement shoes and sleep with the Snakes.

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