Sunday, December 10, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Post-Setback Post

With the embers of being rejected by both Ohtani and Stanton wafting down around us like the major fires that has been damaging California homes over the past month (hope you and your's are safe), the Giants head into the Winter Meetings bent but unbroken, with the goals of the off-season still to be addressed, basically in this order:
  1. Improve CF defense
  2. Find a 3B starter
  3. Improve the bullpen
Some have worried that these two setbacks had affected their efforts to address the three objectives, but as the Giants are wont to do, they like to multi-task, as nothing is ever guaranteed until someone signs the dotted line.  So while they were meeting and greeting Stanton and then Ohtani, they were also burning the phone lines talking with clubs and agents about their defensive CF, 3B, or bullpen upgrade.  If Stanton and Ohtani were Plans A and B, they were also working on Plan L, M, N, O, P, as well.

As one person noted on the Internet, the Giants signed Samardzija within 24 hours of losing out onPit Greinke, and from what I remember, Cueto was not that far behind, maybe a week after.  Let's see how they do this time.  (unfortunately, it was the Marlins who started first, having the Yankees jump in and work out a deal in a matter of days, a deal structured much like the rumored Panik for Stanton deal, which as been reported by Hank Schulman as nothing but rumors; he's digging around to see who was in the deal, but most of the well-known names appears to not have been part of the deal)

I had thought I'll be writing something new, but it turns out I'll be referencing my post on 2017's Post-Mortem.  And my business plan as well, though that's a given with most things I post.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Ohtani and the Magnificent 7

In the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, it is down to seven finalists, which was leaked out over the weekend, and confirmed by meetings this week.  The Good (Giants), the Bad (Dodgers and Angels), and the Ugly (Padres, Rangers, Cubs, Mariners) will have met with him by today, Thursday, leaving him roughly two weeks to make his decision, though some reports notes that he might, in deference to other free agents, make his decision before the Winter Meetings begin next week, so as not to impede the market any more (a more agent driven thought is that he would make the decision in order to make a big splash next week; I lean more towards the latter based on what I've read).

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Oh Oh Oh Ohtani: His Magic

With the owners approving the new posting system, the race for Shohei Ohtani is on!

Shohei Ohtani (his preferred spelling, not Otani; which should have been obvious:  that's the name on the back of his uni) is a very talented Japanese player - not only a great pitcher in the Japanese League, but also a great hitter there as well, a modern day Babe Ruth.  There is a nice article talking about him on the MLB, highlights:
  • Humble but athletic upbringing:  rural background
  • Koshien arrival:  excelled in key tournament
  • Decision Time:  The Nippon Ham Fighters win his heart with long-term strategy for his MLB dream, as well as supporting his two-way ambitions. 
  • The Two-Way Game:  Precocious pitcher whose stout hitting came to the fore in last couple of seasons.  "Recurring and nagging leg injuries" in 2015 and ankle injury in Feb 2017. 
  • Ohtani Revealed:  "All-around great guy" who is the total package Athlete, with a "A", 6' 4", 215 lbs, who can run 3.80 sec home to first (Dee Gordon average max effort home to first per Statcast is 3.81 sec).  Lives in team dorms so he can get to training facilities quickly, and is diligent about exercise and nutrition.
Only 23 YO, he could wait two years and enter the majors via the usual posting system and he was projected to get a $200M contract had he took that route.  Instead, he wants to be a major leaguer sooner than later, and because of his age, is covered by the international free agency rules instead, which means that teams are limited in the bonus that any team can pay him (Giants are limited to $300K) and could offer him only $545K in his first MLB season.  So, clearly, money is not driving his decision.

Though money will be coming soon enough.  As this Fangraph article analyzed, he is covered by our usual arbitration system, so while he'll get minimal salary for his first three seasons, if he got the highest arbitration awards up to now, he would make $36M over his first six seasons (team's total commitment would then be $56M, as they would have paid a $20M posting fee to the Japanese team.  Looking at a Giants example, Lincecum got $64M (Giants signed him to a contract before meeting with the arbitrator; since he earned two Cy Youngs to get these contracts, call this the true max he might get), and if Ohtani reached that height, $84M team commitment.

In addition, it could be coming even sooner with endorsements.  An article I read noted that endorsements was a specialty of the agent Shohei hired from CAA to represent him.  A Bob Nightengale tweet notes that marketing agents believe Ohtani could be the top endorser in the MLB, making over $20M per year from endorsements.   So Ohtani will not be hurting for money by coming over now, and in fact, might be accelerating it by coming over now.

What is driving his decision is complicated.  Mostly, he wants to play both ways, he wants to hit as well as pitch, which is his more interesting talent (I've read that he can get up to 100 MPH).  Still, he's a top hitter on top of being a top pitcher.  DH has been his main way of being in the lineup (only has 62 games experience in OF and none in the past few years).

He has asked each team to provide him with their plans for how they intend to use him, how they view him as a pitcher and hitter, information on the team's player development, medical capabilities, training facilities, organizational facilities, as well as other factors related to how he would fit into that team and city.

Here is the full list of the seven questions (from this Fangraph article, though this is the original source, and he would like both a Japanese, as well as an English, response):
  • An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter;
  • Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities;
  • Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities;
  • Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation;
  • A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization;
  • Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play;
  • Relevant marketplace characteristics.
In this SI article on him, early this season, it was noted that the Nippon Ham Fighters used a similar method to get him to sign with them back when he was 18 YO and choosing between signing in Japan and signing with a U.S. team.  And the MLB interest was so strong that Japanese teams were not sure that drafting him was wise, as then it would be a wasted pick if he went to the U.S.  The Fighters wrote a "McKinsey-style presentation" with a plan for realizing his dreams, which was to play in the MLB, and convinced him that it was better to start his career in Japan and then move on to the U.S. when he was ready (which is good for Giants fans because he reportedly was close to signing with the Dodgers back then). 

Found a lot of recent info on Ohtani on a site called 2080 Baseball:  Part OnePart Two.   They have written extensively on him:  see all the articles from a search I did.  More than I can get to, I want to publish before he gets posted.  But this is probably the best source materials I can find that discusses in very detailed, scout-language terms, how good a hitter he is, as well as how good a pitcher he is.

Here is another great article:  Ringer provides a great sabermetric viewpoint of the great performances of Ohtani and calls him a "10-tool player", a play on the much coveted 5-tool player that scouts love.  Too much to list, a lot of stats regarding how great he is as a hitter, as well as a pitcher.  It emphasized the point that while he's been great as a pitcher, he has had his struggles with hitting, at least early on.  They referenced this older article from Vice, which mentioned that he almost signed with the Dodgers back when he was 18, before signing with the Nippon Ham Fighters (also has extensive interviews with a former scout, who wrote up scouting reports on Ohtani for 2080 Baseball, which I reference and link to below).

Also, two articles from ESPN:  Revolutionary, which discusses the difficulties of being two-way (good interview with and discussion of Micah Owings, last MLB pitcher/hitter), and a cautionary tale regarding two-way, with a nice discussion about the costs of using him as a hitter, as well as what a team might gain, which oddly ends on a positive note regarding trying, "Uncertainty shouldn't always have to lead to caution."

Also, the MLB released a bunch of articles:
There was an interesting interview with a former MLB player who was a teammate of Ohtani's, plus a note from a scout that he likes pitching more than hitting, as well as this interesting note by one of the authors:
Ohtani is coming now because he wants a transformative challenge -- on his terms. 
This is exactly what I've been thinking.

In addition, the Q/A interview with him was very enlightening, I would recommend reading that.  He noted that the most important factors in deciding which MLB team is:  "The people on the team and in charge of the team is what matters most. I need to have a feeling of wanting to play for them."  That's about as touchy-feely as you can get.  The teams' submissions in answer to his seven questions should be very interesting given this.

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