Giants execs Baer and Sabean should applaud these five over-achievers
Dr. Shiller here, with a prescription for your dour mood: a summary of the Giants' best-valued performers in 2011.
Last week I presented the lowest-value 2011 San Francisco Giants.
The Drab Five, if you will.
For $23.3 million, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez have made a combined 27 starts, thrown 148.1 innings, and gone 7-11 with a 4.74 ERA, with 18 HR surrendered, 85 walks, 130 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP.
Aaron Rowand, Miguel Tejada and Mark DeRosa have been paid (can't say earned) $26.1 million to hit a collective .238 with eight HR, 50 RBI, 24 walks, 114 strikeouts and a .258 OBP.
All that for a mere 42% of the club's $118 million 2011 payroll!
My Giants-loving and innately optimistic son cautioned me to downgrade the cynicism, and view the black and orange through rosier glasses.
He was right; it was easy to identified five Giants—including the team's best hitter, most consistent starting pitcher and stingiest reliever—performing at extraordinary levels for minimal pay.
Their paydays are coming. For now, we celebrate the accomplishments of the five highest-value 2011 Giants.
At 22, Bumgarner is already a key rotation stalwart
2011 salary: $450,000 (one-year contract)
To fully appreciate Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, you need to look a bit beyond the top-line numbers.
Entering Monday's start at Atlanta, his 7-11 record equaled the combined work of Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez.
They have little else in common.
Since a rocky 0-6 start, Bumgarner has gone 7-5 with a respectable 3.53 ERA (over a run lower than the 4.74 put up by Zito/Sanchez.)
He's a workhorse, eating up 145.1 innings over 24 starts. He pounds the strike zone—134 Ks with 33 walks—on a staff that has issued the third-most bases on balls in the NL.
His WHIP of 1.25 mirrors the Giants' staff-wide 1.22.
At age 22, he figures to be a rotation mainstay well into the future.
At one-tenth of Sanchez's pay and 2.5 percent of Zito's, Bumgarner is a phenomenal bargain, as valuable as any NL starter (except one).
And a very deserving 2011 Giants high-value honoree.
For Romo, the sky's the limit
2011 salary: $450,000 (one-year contract)
Sergio Romo has stayed well below the radar during his transition from a small-town high school to the majors, where he's now established as one of the game's top late-inning specialists.
Romo's journey took him from Brawley, California to Mesa St. College in Grand Junction, Colorado to the University of North Alabama before the Giants stole him as a 28th-round pick in 2005.
Since landing in San Francisco in 2008, Romo has quietly compiled a set of eye-popping career stats. The highlights: 16-7, 2.42 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, 197 Ks in 167.2 innings. Awesome.
Romo has been better than awesome this season as the Giants' designated right-handed eighth-inning specialist: 3-1, 1.67 ERA, 53 appearances, 0.64 WHIP and an otherworldly 53 Ks against 4 BBs. Right-handed batters have hit just .120 against him.
Brian Wilson has the gaudy stats and celebrity rap. Romo, though, has arguably been the Giants' most indispensable late-inning reliever this season.
His sore elbow, which rumors say could land him on the disabled list, is reason to worry.
For now, though, Romo's amazing high-value season is something to behold.
Schierholtz has emerged as an outfield mainstay
2011 salary: $432,500 (one-year contract)
After spending six seasons patiently navigating his way through the Giants' farm system, Nate Schierholtz finally put Fresno in his rear view mirror for good in 2009.
Since then the 2003 second-round draft pick quietly matured into a superior outfielder and one of Bruce Bochy's (few) consistent offensive producers.
Schierholtz's numbers—eight HR, 40 RBI, .276 BA/.751 OPS—would be pedestrian in most lineups. On the 2011 Giants, they're been exemplary—and critically important.
Which has made Bochy's reluctance to play Schierholtz on a regular basis especially vexing to this writer.
Perhaps the manager has felt compelled to justify Aaron Rowand's generous $13.6 million 2011 salary (third-highest on the club). Rowand has taken some starts from Schierholtz.
Opportunities haven't been handed to the Danville, California native. Neither has big money—yet.
Considering his tremendous range and arm (his seven outfield assists lead the team) and top-three ranking in virtually all team offensive categories, he easily qualifies as a 2011 Giants high-value performer.
Now, if only his manager stopped platooning him.
The Panda is an indispensable source of offense and energy
2011 salary: $500,000 (one-year contract)
The Panda is back.
After a lackluster sophomore season, Pablo Sandoval did the offseason conditioning equivalent of a home makeover (at times in 2010, he looked as big as a house).
PandaMania has gripped San Francisco so pervasively since his arrival in 2008, it's hard to comprehend that the 2003 free agent signee is only 25.
It's also hard to comprehend what the Giants' offense would look like without him.
Despite missing nearly six weeks after hand surgery in late April, Sandoval entered the week leading in several offensive categories (14 HR, .310 BA, .353 OBP, .517 SLG, .869 OPS) and second in hits (93), runs (39) and RBI (44).
On a club as offensively challenged as the Giants, Pablo's agile, sure-handed and cat-quick play at third base has been less celebrated, but it might be better evidence of his offseason conditioning work.
Sandoval is so valuable and valued, a case easily can be made for ranking him No. 1 on our list.
That honor, however, goes to a pitcher whose value to the Giants is as incalculable as his salary.
Ten-game winner, All-Star and highest-value performer
2011 salary: Unknown (minor league contract purchased by Giants)
My research revealed something revelatory: The Internet is not the repository of every piece of desired, if not useful, data.
Despite searching high and low through every database known to your average baseball geek, the 2011 salary of Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong remained a closely-guarded secret.
We'll estimate it at $400,000, typical minor-league contract, plus a sweetener from the Giants. For that, or more, the Giants are getting far more value from Vogelsong than they or anyone imagined.
Vogelsong's year to remember is more impressive when reviewed in context of what preceded it.
A 1998 fifth-round draftee of the Giants, Vogelsong pitched his way out of baseball after seven forgettable years in San Francisco and Pittsburgh (forgettable = 10-22. 5.86 ERA).
He returned to the Giants this spring. An injury to Barry Zito opened the door for Vogelsong, who earned his first win as a Giant—13 years late—in late April against Pittsburgh, naturally.
In a single magic season with the team that drafted him, Vogelsong has double his career victory total, going 10-2 with a 2.47 ERA, becoming an All-Star in the process.
Grander awards and greater recognition lie ahead. But with six weeks remaining in the 2011 season, it's enough to celebrate this 34-year-old's unimaginably valuable performance.