Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You Don't Shea. Hillenbrand's A Giant.
By Blogger

When the Giants traded Jeremy Accardo for the recently DFAed Shea Hillenbrand and middle reliever Vinny Chulk, I felt a twinge of sickness in my stomach. Giants fans had started to regard Accardo as the team's closer of the future; they could have traded Proven Closer(tm) Armando Benitez for whatever they could get this offseason, inserted Accardo into the role and put the salary savings into signing a hitter or starting pitcher. Though his minor league numbers are far from overwhelming, they're decent--and man, is his stuff electric. To sum up, this is not Gary Majewski. More like Bill Bray. And the Giants got a LOT less than the Nats did.

This may be the first time I'm in agreement with Bruce Jenkins about something baseball-related, but at least I can take solace in knowing his reasoning is completely different from mine. While Jenkins thinks the deal was bad because Hillenbrand is a bad apple and could contaminate the team's chemistry (a conclusion he could only reach from personal contact with the players, affirming his role as "expert" voice), I'm much more concerned about a little thing called on-field production. Though some people seem to be comparing Hillenbrand to Lance Niekro, and it's really no comparison with Niekro's putrid season with the stick, Sir Lancelot is toiling for Fresno in the PCL; the comparison should be between what Hillenbrand will likely do down the stretch and what Mark Sweeney will likely do. Let's look at the numbers as I laid them out in a diary on McCoveyChronicles, slightly edited for clarity:

2006 Hillenbrand: 1.1 WARP
(80 games, 316 PAs, God knows how much DHing kept the WARP from sinking, as he's firmly below average--1B--to awful--3B--with the leather)

2006 Mark Sweeney: 1.3 WARP
(73 games, 215 PAs, defense in LF actually hurts him, but defense at 1B has been excellent)

(Sh**s and Giggles) 2006 Lance Niekro: 0.4 WARP
(52 games, 191 PAs, best defensive 1B in the game)

2006 Vinny Chulk: 4.66 FIP

2006 Jeremy Accardo 2.50 FIP(!!!)
For reference, of NL relievers who had thrown more than 35 IP through 7/22, that's THIRD, and it's roughly in line with Bobby Jenks and Scot Shields's FIPs.

Using more HardballTimes metrics, not taking fielding into account:

Sweeney: 28 RC in 215 PAs (5.4 RC/G)
Accardo: 16 PRC in 40.3 IP
Total up to date: 44

Hillenbrand: 38 RC in 319 PAs (5.0 RC/G)
Chulk: 7 PRC in 24 IP
Total up to date: 45

So, the total Runs Created is about equal up to this point in the season, and it appears that Hillenbrand is the best player changing teams. However, after adjusting for playing time, Sweeney has outproduced Hillenbrand, and Accardo has still outproduced the Vincredible Chulk.

While Sweeney has been shielded from facing lefties for the past few years because he simply can't hit them, he's better than Hillenbrand against righties. Coupled with his superior fielding, it makes sense that the two ought to be paired in a fairly strict platoon, with Hillenbrand also spelling Pedro Feliz at third base on occasion. However, that's not how the Giants plan on using them. Hillenbrand will get the bulk of the starts, and Sweeney will once again be relegated to bench duty. But even if the Giants were to employ a platoon, they already had a legitimately decent right-handed partner for Sweeney in backup catcher Todd Greene.

Greene L/R Splits 2003-05
vs. R: 235/258/421
vs. L: 288/335/540

Hillenbrand L/R Splits 2003-05
vs. R: 285/329/438
vs. L: 315/353/516

In other words, Greene, who has played some first base this year, has a comparable line against lefties and could have stepped in as a Matt Lecroy clone, a lefty-mashing 1B/C combo. But no. The Giants had to trade a young guy with nasty stuff for a superfluous rental whose previous manager challenged him to a fight. I would have much preferred if the Giants traded one of their less heralded young middle relievers for a bench upgrade; Jose Vizcaino shouldn't be on anyone's roster, let alone getting important pinch hit opportunities.

It looks like there's a wide variety of opinion on the deal, but in this household, I come down on the "Oh God no!" side of the equation.

But I can still see the "Sure, why not?" side from here.


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