Giants Trade for Two Relievers, Call it a Day
You know, the Giants are looking pretty good this year. For the first time in years it feels like we have a strong chance at making it in to the playoffs, which means we have a shot at winning our first World Championship since 1954. That gets me really excited. What makes me even more excited is that, for once, it feels like things are finally going right for the Giants’ offense. Let’s face it- most of the hitters we have on the roster really just aren’t very good. But we’re getting some brilliant production from two unlikely players- Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres, both of whom should receive MVP consideration at the end of the year. There’s a possibility that both players have reached new standards of performance, but…there’s also a possibility that we’ve caught lightning in a bottle. Now is the time to go for broke rather than rebuild or stand pat; now is the time to make a move that ensures our chances of making the playoffs. This means that we should not sit and twiddle our thumbs, hoping for Pablo Sandoval to figure things out and hit like he did last year. Huff, Torres and Posey cannot carry the offense by themselves, although they’re doing an awfully good job at it. We need a bat, and we need one now. It doesn’t have to be an elite hitter a la Adam Dunn, although that would be nice. No, a simple above average hitter would do the trick.
But they didn’t do that. Rumors were floating about that the Giants were pursuing Dunn- okay, that’s a nice thought, if we’re an American League team and the Nationals aren’t asking for the Moon in return for a few months of his services. I can’t blame the Giants for not pursuing him harder. Kelly Johnson? Well, that idea got me really excited. I’m a Johnson fan, and I think he’d be a lovely fit in our lineup, even if he’s not the big bopper we’re all craving. Scott Podsednik or Jose Guillen? No, thanks. We’ve got enough free-swingers here, and I don’t feel like overpaying for either. Jose Bautista would have been nice, obviously, but the Blue Jays’ asking price may have been too high for us- they were, after all, asking for the equivalent of a first-round pick for reliever Scott Downs. I’m relieved that the Giants didn’t make a poor move- Shea Hillenbrand, anyone?- but on the other hand, it would have been nice to see a bat of some sort come to San Francisco. I mean, the Padres essentially acquired Ryan Ludwick for two prospects, neither of whom strike me as being world-beaters, and the Giants couldn’t have beaten that price? Mind you, the Giants can still make a trade, but the players would have to clear waivers- and I don’t see that as being easy for them.
Today, the Giants dealt for two middle relievers. They dealt for left-hander Javier Lopez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a 32-year old, 6’4″ soft-tosser with a career 1.33 strikeout to walk ratio, and right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox- a 28-year old, 5’11” flamethrower with a nice career K/BB ratio of 2.04. Those brief descriptions by themselves make them sound like polar opposites. In any case, let’s take a look at their repertoires (courtesy of BIS’ Pitch F/X data found on Fangraphs) and their strengths/weaknesses:
Lopez offers an underwhelming fastball that he throws often, and a slider and change that are both usually 8-10 MPH slower. He sure seems to like that slider, as he throws that pitch the most when he’s not lobbing his fastball over the plate. Ramirez throws quite a bit harder and seems to mix his pitches a bit more. His slider and changeup are both faster than Lopez’s fastball, which I find rather amusing. Ramirez loves that slider of his, although he mixes in the changeup a fair amount as well.
Now, how about the effectiveness of their pitches? Again, we look to Fangraphs’ Pitch/FX data and run values per 100 pitches:
Interestingly enough, Lopez’s fastball, while markedly slower than that of Ramirez, is also more effective. Funny how that works, no? Both pitchers possess above average changeups, with Ramirez getting the nod and miles ahead in his slider’s effectiveness. As of right now, I’d have to say I like Ramirez more than I like Lopez- the kid’s younger, throws harder, and has better offspeed stuff. But how about overall performance? How well do hitters do against them?
A few things to note: wOBA coefficients were generated for 2006-2010 for Ramirez and 2003-2010 for Lopez, and it’s fixed so the league average wOBA is exactly .330. That is our baseline. That said, it would appear that Lopez is, overall, a slightly below-average pitcher over the course of his career- but with a noticeable platoon split of .046 points. It’s as if every right-handed hitter he faces is Derek Jeter, and every left-handed hitter he faces is A.J. Pierzynski. What’s even more interesting is the split Ramirez shows; his split of .061 is even larger than that of Lopez. To Ramirez, it’s as if all right-handed hitters are Yuniesky Betancourt and all left-handers are around league average hitters, or slightly better. In short, Lopez is really nothing more than a LOOGY. Ramirez, despite the larger split, isn’t what I’d call a ROOGY- he’s too good against left-handers to be relegated only to relief duty against righties.
Lopez’s career inLI is .73, meaning that he’s not the type of player that is accustomed to high-leverage situations. Ramirez hasn’t been in the toughest of situations, either, with a career inLI of .93- but he’s had two consecutive seasons of being between 1.06 and 1.18, and he performed admirably well in both seasons (2008 and 2009). This gives me some confidence that he can handle the later innings.
The Giants gave up Minor Leaguer Daniel Turpen for Ramirez. Turpen has a pretty live arm, but I like the deal. Lopez, on the other hand, doesn’t make as much sense to me. Yes, the Giants needed a left-handed reliever- but to pay Joe Martinez and John Bowker for him seems like something of a steep price for a LOOGY that has very limited upside. Bowker, even though he is 27 years of age, has never been given consistent opportunities to perform in the Major Leagues. I feel like a change of scenery will do him some good, provided that the organization he goes to is patient with him and doesn’t give up on him- I get the feeling that he is a product of ironic processing and is simply pressing too hard. It seems like trading him for a low-upside LOOGY is really selling low on a guy that has the coachability and athleticism to become something good. I’m beginning to wonder when Nate Schierholtz will be on his way out.
So, another trade deadline has passed without the Giants acquiring a difference-maker. I’m sad to say that this doesn’t surprise me one bit.