Saturday, December 19, 2009

Brian Sabean: Please don't Bring in Uggla, LaRoche, Beltre or DeRosa

Brian Sabean just doesn't understand the concept of replacement value. Blowing through the Giants salary budget on mediocre veterans is the hallmark of his tenure as GM in San Francisco. Mid-level veteran free agents rarely offer good value because their production typically isn't much better than younger cheaper players. Unfortunately, Sabean is at it again this year.

In his quest to improve the San Francisco Giants offense, Sabean has been consistently linked to Mark DeRosa, Adam LaRoche, Adrian Beltre and Dan Uggla in the hot stove rumor mills. While it would be nice to add some pop to the meat of the Giants lineup, none of these guys are worth bringing in because they just don't offer enough additional value beyond Travis Ishikawa.

Ishikawa is younger, cheaper and plays gold glove caliber defense. By adding an extra 200 ABs to project a full season, Ishikawa would have produced 16 2Bs, 15HRs and 63 RBIs. Factor in the AT&T power drain into DeRosa, LaRoche Beltre or Uggla and they all project to about 70-80 RBIs and 17-23 HRs, which just isn't a big improvement over a full season of Ishikawa. Ishikawa makes $400K. Given the salary demands (and prospects in the case of trading for Uggla), how could anyone possibly justify any these players for such small incremental benefits? I guess old habbits die hard.

Bats Age Salary AB 2B HR RBI Walks SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Ishikawa L
26 400K 326 10 9 39 33 89 0.261 0.329 0.387 0.715
DeRosa R 34 $6-7M* 515 23 23 78 48 121 0.250 0.319 0.433 0.752
LaRoche L 30 $10.5M* 555 38 25 83 81 142 0.277 0.355 0.488 0.843
Uggla R 29 $5.35M** 564 27 31 90 96 150 0.243 0.354 0.459 0.813
Beltre R 30 $10M* 449 27 8 44 20 74 0.265 0.304 0.379 0.683

*Rumored salary demands
**Uggla earned $5.35M in '09 but will likely receive a raise from arbitration

Friday, December 18, 2009

Free MiniDV Conversion From KinKast

A couple friends of mine, Raul and Tom, recently started KinKast, a family video-sharing website. KinKast was designed for parents to make privately sharing video memories as-easy-as-123 with some neat features that minimize the need to edit footage.

In order to drum-up some initial awareness KinKast has an offer you really can't refuse: Free MiniDV conversion. Once the tapes are converted to .mp4, they can be downloaded from KinKast is also throwing in 6 months free of their video hosting and sharing service so after the MiniDVs are converted, they can be easily and privately shared grandma, grandpa and Uncle Joe.

I gotta give Raul and Tom their props, there really are no catches with this offer...
  • No commitment to buy anything
  • No credit card required
  • No annoying accounts you have to remember to cancel
  • KinKast even pays to ship your MiniDV tapes back to you
Of course, they hope you'll love KinKast enough that you'll want to continue using their hosting/sharing service beyond the free 6 months, but they aren't trying to trick anyone into buying something they don't really want. Anyone whose got family memories trapped gathering dust in MiniDV tapes, would be crazy not to take advantage of this offer.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dan Uggla is Pedro Feliz

Dan Uggla won't help the Giants. Although the Gigantes clearly need to improve their offense, they would generate more wins from consistent hitters rather than a power bat. The Giants pitching is so good that consistently manufacturing 2-3 runs will win a lot of games. Uggla hits about 1 HR per week. How many games is that going to win?

To make matters worse, HRs are expensive and the Giants don't have the budgets to bid with the big boys so it imperative that Brian Sabean spends smarter.

What Uggla brings to the table is some pop (31 HRs) and the ability to draw walks, but don't confuse that for plate discipline... he struck out 150 times last year. Furthermore, Uggla absolutely cannot hit left handed pitching, his terrible .243 batting average falls to .225 with runners in scoring position and an abysmal .153 in late innings of close games. Now, about those HRs... Uggla hit twice as many at home as he did on the road, which won't translate well at the pitcher friendly AT&T Park. In fact, if one figures AT&T Park takes 5-10 HRs from Uggla his numbers start to look a lot like Pedro Feliz from 2004-7.

The Giants wouldn't even offer a contract to Pedro Feliz so why does it make any sense to trade a prospect for Uggla?

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Sabean's Wasted $52M

Its very frustrating that Brian Sabean got a new 2 year contract at the end of the season. As the sum of many years of terrible signings, Sabean spent 59% of the Giants 2009 payroll ($88M) on the following players:

$18.5M - Barry Zito
$9.6M - Aaron Rowand
$9.25M - Randy Winn
$8M - Edgar Renteria
$6M - Dave Roberts

And what did the Giants get? Well, Zito looked solid for a back of the rotation starter, which sadly is a win these days, but the hitters averaged a combined .257 avg, 7 HRs and 54 RBIs and 95 strikeouts.

To put this in perspective, if Sabean hadn't wasted the $52M the Giants could have signed all 3 of this years top free agents: John Lackey ($16.5M), Matt Holliday ($16M) and Jason Bay ($16M). Giants fans complain that ownership doesn't spend enough on player salaries but clearly that isn't the real problem.

Come to think of it Sabean's best signing was probably Omar Vizquel who was 38 at the time.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Does Wall Street Really Need More Regulation?

Obama recently said on 60 minutes that Wall Street's irresponsibility caused the financial meltdown and therefore financial regulation is necessary to prevent additional crises. This might be true, but there are scenarios were it isn't.

For example, if the late-90's financial deregulation accelerated growth rates, its possible that 10 years later the increased gains are larger than the losses from the crash. In other words, if deregulation increased growth rates from 1% to 6.5%, but also led to a 40% crash after 10 years, the overall growth achieved would be about equal. Presumably then, deregulation (and its crashes) would be the better option if it pushed growth above 6.5%.

Personally, I have no idea how much deregulation accelerated growth and its definitely possible that regulation in response to the '08 financial meltdown could be smart and targeted enough to find a better middle ground of some increased growth with fewer crashes. However, its equally possible that exaggerated boom-and-bust cycles are an unavoidable reality of globalization. Furthermore, with markets having rallied dramatically since March, the crash downsides don't seem as bad today as they did last year.

There is little doubt that TARP helped avoid a full-blown meltdown, that government stimulus dollars aided the stock market recovery (though to what degree won't be clear for years) and that a double-dip is still possible. However, from where we stand today, the S&P500 is only down 15% since its August '08 pre-meltdown value, which suggests that governance* worked on some level. If the old system succeeded enough to pull the economy back from the brink, its less clear what new regulations might be beneficial.

The point of this post is not to argue against Wall Street regulation, but rather to demonstrate that the issue is not clear cut and that a crash doesn't always mean regulation is the right solution. However, what is really scary is that American politicians don't seem to be considering any of these possibilities or even comprehending the issue at a basic level. Unfortunately, the increasing complexity of economic issues, such as financial regulations, makes it virtually impossible for voters to hold elected officials responsible, which is as big a threat as democracy has ever faced.

*Governance is both formal and informal, which isn't the same as government/regulation, which is inherently formal

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beat the Eagles and 49ers Make the Playoffs

The 49ers victory over the Arizona Cardinals was huge this evening. Combined with the Giants loss to the Eagles last night, the 49ers hopes of making the playoffs are much brighter than they appear at first glance. In the NFL, the cards don't often fall the way they are supposed to, but if the 49ers can pull of an upset against Philly, and favorites win out in the Giants, Cowboys and Falcons games the Niners nab the last wildcard slot into the playoffs. Here is how...

Cardinals (Remaining schedule: Lions, Rams & Packers)
The 49ers NFC West hopes are finished. The head-to-head sweep gives the Cardinals the tie-breaker, which means they have to go 0-3 for the 49ers to have a chance at catching them and there's no way Arizona loses to both the Lions and the Rams.
Projected Finish: 10-6

49ers (Remaining schedule: Eagles, Lions & Rams)
The 49ers need to win their remaining 3 games. If they don't, its game over. That said, of their 3 games, with the Rams and Lions a combined 3-23, the Eagles are the only difficult opponent left. If the 49ers beat the Eagles they should beat the Lions and Rams too.
Projected Finish: 9-7

Cowboys (Remaining schedule: Saints, Redskins, & Eagles)
If the season ended today, the Cowboys 8 wins would claim the final NFC wild card spot, however, they are notoriously bad in December and their schedule is probably the most difficult of any of the teams in the playoff hunt. The Cowboys should be favored against the Redskins but they will be big underdogs against the Saints and the Eagles. The Saints and Eagles are both pretty much in the playoffs so they may begin to ease off the gas pedal, but luckily for the 49ers, the Saints, who still need a win to lock-up home field advantage, play the Cowboys next week. While the Eagles will likely have locked up the NFC East by the last week in the season, when they face the Cowboys, they may still have seeding on the line. The difference between 3 vs. 4 seeding in the playoffs only has home-field advantage implications if the 3 and 4 seeds meet in the NFC Championship game but on the other hand the Cowboys just don't ever seem to win the games they need to in the Tony Romo era.
Projected Finish: 9-7

Giants (Remaining schedule: Redskins, Panthers & Vikings)
At 7-6, the Giants currently sit one game ahead of the 49ers, but their 5-0 start masks their 2-6 performance since. For 49ers fans, the Vikings game at the end of the season is scary. Its really hard to see the Vikings playing the aging Brett Farve much if they have nothing on the line and being 2 games behind the Saints and 2 games ahead of the Eagles, they are virtually assured of the 2nd seed. But since this all predicated on a little luck and the favorites winning out...
Projected Finish: 9-7

Falcons (Remaining schedule: Jets, Bills & Bucs)
At 6-6, the Falcons are effectively 1 game ahead of the 49ers because they won the head-to-head game. The Falcons have 3 winnable games left, but with Matt Ryan's turf toe injury status uncertain, its difficult to predict how they'll do. With the Jets still firmly in the AFC playoff hunt and Matt Ryan's injury its easy to see how New York could be favored. That said, the Falcons will likely be favored against the 5-8 Bills and the 1-12 Bucs regardless of Ryan's status.
Projected Finish: 8-8

Final Wild Card Standings
  1. 49ers (9-7)
  2. Giants (9-7)
  3. Cowboys (9-7)
  4. Falcons (8-8)
How the 49ers Win the Tie-Breakers
According the NFL playoff tie-breaking procedures, a 49ers, Giants & Cowboys 3-way tie would be determined in the following order:
  1. Giants eliminate Cowboys through the first divisional tie-breaker of having won both head-to-head match-ups.
  2. The 49ers eliminate the Giants by having a higher in conference winning percentage. The 49ers 8-4 NFC record barely squeaks by the Giants at 7-4.

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